The walls shake as barbells hit the ground, and an elderly woman exhales after finishing another difficult WOD. Beads of sweat dot the padded floor as a disabled man completes another strenuous round of chest-to-bar pull-ups. And Dan Sullivan smiles, as his Box defies the stereotypes that define CrossFit.
CrossFit The Rack is a unique Box nestled inside a larger, more traditional health club in Paramus, New Jersey. Founder, owner and head, Coach Dan Sullivan said this set up is unlike many in the industry, but the blending of these two fitness cultures has been nothing but advantageous.
“All of our Coaches have upper-level certifications in backgrounds that precede CrossFit,” said Sullivan. “And because we’ve worked with virtually every population — from 3-year-olds, to 90-year-olds, to amputees, to cardiac rehab patients — we are able to help anyone coming from those settings to integrate CrossFit into whatever they want to do.”
Sullivan has his master’s in exercise science and has done some preliminary research that may one day lead him down a doctoral path. But, he began his life in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, in the same health club where his Box is now located. He said while he had spurts of enthusiasm, overall his interest in the traditional way of training began to wane.
“A lot of tedium, a lot of monotony, a lot of dealing with people who weren’t particularly interested in exercise,” said Sullivan. “They just wanted to say they were doing it, or justify whatever it was they were going to eat and drink in the aftermath.”
But one day while working out at another gym in New Jersey, Sullivan saw another trainer doing CrossFit. He had been hearing the chatter for a while so he decided to go home and do some research. He started playing around with the workouts, integrating them into his current regime, and soon he was hooked.
So when the gym he had worked at as a personal trainer began to expand and set up a large functional training space, Sullivan saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“I kind of played around with the idea and said ‘hey, if you all are interested in us setting up an Affiliate — in essence inside the gym — would you be game?’” said Sullivan. “One thing led to the next and we opened up a space about 900 square feet, and have subsequently expanded to about 3,000 square feet.”
Sullivan said they are basically their own entity with their own entrance and all the bells and whistles of a normal CrossFit. But, because they are attached to the larger club, they also have quality lockers and showers, as well as air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.
That’s not to mention an increase in interest from regular gym-goers, who normally would never have considered CrossFit as an option before.
“In some ways we have broken that barrier. There is still a resistance, still a misperception in peoples’ minds. Even though they see us on a daily basis, people still think we’re kind of crazy,” said Sullivan. “But we have tried our best to manage that conversation a little better, and because of that we have a truly cross-sectional representation of the community.”