Photography by LP Taylor Photography

Words by Alan Snagg


Did You Know? More than 13,000 gyms across the nation are affiliated with the CrossFit brand.

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Lifting weights, aerobics, gymnastics. These are all great ways to work out individually.

And then there’s the workout that involves them all – and more.

CrossFit is a way of exercising that incorporates elements from a variety of workouts, including high-intensity interval training: Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, girevoy sport, calisthenics, strongman, and more. More than 13,000 gyms across the nation are affiliated with the CrossFit brand.

One of these is in Granbury.

“I do more now than I did at 20,” said 35-year-old Krissie Paine, who works out daily at CrossFit Granbury. “I’m stronger now than when I was a full-time athlete.”

Krissie is one of several singing the praises of working out in the CrossFit world. Not only does it bring together so many styles, it also brings together people who support each other in a group workout setting.

“If I were to do the same thing at home, I’d quit,” Krissie said. “But here you’ve got people cheering you on, challenging you. My biggest benefit here is accountability. I don’t have the motivation to work out on my own.”

Granted, CrossFit might seem a bit scary to some. After all, it is intense, and those participating should be aware that this is not an ordinary workout. However, CrossFit Granbury co-owner Jim Shelby said there is nothing to be afraid of.

“This is functional fitness. We’re hitting every part of the body,” he said. “Whether you’re a cop, a firefighter, or sit behind a desk for a living, you can benefit from CrossFit.”

Shawndi Weston, another co-owner with her husband Chris and Jim’s wife Jen, said, “Even a grandmother who just wants to carry her groceries can get something out of this. In fact, sometimes we’ll compare a deadlift to picking up groceries. You don’t even have to be in shape to get started doing this. We’ll get you in shape.”

Admittedly, CrossFit as seen on TV has frightened away some would-be participants, Jen said. But she suggested trying it for yourself before making a decision.

“People see it on TV and say, ‘I can’t do that.’ That’s like saying you can’t play catch with your kid because you aren’t in the NFL,” she said. “Everybody chooses their own intensity. Us as coaches, we help you know what intensity is best.”

And yes, people have gotten injured attempting CrossFit. This has been a source of controversy since the exercise began to rise in popularity in the early 2000s. Claims have been made that the exercise can bring on rhabdomyolysis, a syndrome that results from the death of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream, possibly causing complications such as renal failure.

But Jim said in that regard CrossFit is like other workouts. If you enter with caution, listen to your trainers, and don’t try to exceed your limitations, you should be fine.

“The egoist, we have them, especially summer when college kids come in and think they can do it all right away,” Jim said. “[Generally,] any one who comes in with an ego doesn’t last long.”

“Starting out we tell people try it twice a week, then when you’re ready, add a third day – but not before you’re ready. Most people we have are up to five days, but they didn’t start out doing that. Of course you can get hurt, but you can also get hurt running outdoors if you don’t do it properly.”

Aside from getting in great shape, CrossFit can help with other health benefits.

“…even bloodwork. We all have certifications, so we know what a person’s body should and should not be doing,” Jen said. “Exercise helps in so many cases concerning health.”

Scott Newmann, 58, said CrossFit might have actually saved his life. Almost a year and a half ago he said he was diagnosed with a liver problem described as non-alcoholic cirrhosis.

“My enzymes were way out of whack, but I don’t drink,” Scott said. “I was terrified, but my boys are CrossFit athletes, and my middle son said ‘I made you an appointment with a trainer.’

“I couldn’t do one sit up. I couldn’t walk 100 meters to the road without losing my breath. And I was scared by CrossFit. I didn’t think I could do it.”

But Scott discovered he could. He’s been doing it for over 15 months now.

“My liver enzymes went from 155 to 17, and I’m down 70 pounds,” he said. “Along with doing CrossFit I made a promise to eat no bread or desserts for a year.”

Jake Aho, owner of Ahoco gym in Granbury, said that while his facility isn’t an official CrossFit gym, he does have a few members who also partake in a form of the workout. He said the biggest benefit is working out together.

“The camaraderie is fantastic,” he said. “You’re around a lot of people, and it’s a lot of support.”

He did warn, however, that proper training should come from a proper trainer. He said sometimes in CrossFit, or any exercise, people think they are more advanced than they really are, and are not qualified to train.

“It’s gotten really popular, so a lot of people who aren’t in the greatest shape might be trying to teach other people, and that’s not how it works,” he said. “But it’s a good sport, and like anything done right, it’s going to give you great benefits.”

So why would a person choose CrossFit over other workouts. Jim said he gets that question all the time.

“It’s not apples to apples, it’s apples to oranges,” he said. “It’s definitely not a normal style. It really just depends on what you want, but you get it all with CrossFit.”

CrossFit’s popularity has grown so much that there is a nationwide network among participants. For example, if Jim and Jen are in California and want to attend a CrossFit gym for a workout, they simply find one and it’s like they’re visiting family.

“That’s part of everybody encouraging everybody,” Jim said. “It’s a lot easier to work out when you know you’ve got that support with you.”

The average age of a CrossFit participant, Jim said, is in their 30s or 40s. However, he said their gym has an oldest member who is 79 and a youngest member who is 3. His gym even offers classes for children.

“They’re just not teaching PE like they used to in schools, so kids are missing out on fitness opportunities,” he explained.

“A lot of our members bring their kids. It’s an environment of fitness,” Shawndi said.

A look around the gym at CrossFit Granbury reveals several workout stations that include a pullup bar, rings, along with bikes, a lifting rack and rowing machines.

“One day we took all the seats off the bikes so no one could sit down. That was a tough workout, but it was fun,” Shawndi said with a laugh.

“From a coach’s perspective, I love to see the athletes come in here, but I also love to see a 50-year-old do their first pullup,” Jim said.

And, like any workout, CrossFit might not be for everybody. But Krissie, for one, is glad she stuck with it.

“It’s scary at first, that’s true, but you get in, it’s not scary at all,” she said. “It’s a community.”