When Paul Rahn was a runner, he would always find himself jogging past his friend’s CrossFit. Every once in awhile he would peek in and think about joining. But, what he saw always intimidated him.
“There were all these jacked muscle dudes with their shirts off, lifting these heavy barbells over their heads, and here I am this puny little gay guy,” said Rahn. “I was not about to go up there next to these massive dudes and embarrass myself.”
That was then. Now, Rahn owns three CrossFit Boxes with a fourth on the way. So how did he overcome this fear of CrossFit? After Rahn realized that running wasn’t enough for him, and that he was actually gaining weight instead of losing it, he decided to push past his fears and join.
“I walked in my first day and started swinging weight around, probably screwing it up like every other beginner. But, I saw some people I knew and they were super friendly,” said Rahn. “So I went in for six days that first week and killed my body. And I realized in those six days of CrossFit I worked my body harder than I ever had running.”
Rahn was immediately addicted to CrossFit but still felt like an outsider in the Box. “A lot of the guys, especially the more competitive ones, would avoid you. But, over time I realized it’s really not a gay issue,” he said. “They just aren’t introducing themselves to anybody.”
Remembering those first few days of CrossFit reminds Rahn to ensure his new members don’t feel intimidated. His Coaches never rudely call people out in front of the class for using bad form or force them to stand up and introduce themselves. Rahn said the most important thing is just getting people into the Box, and the results will keep them coming back.
As Rahn’s passion for CrossFit continued to grow, he decided to get even more involved — he became a partner in one Box, an Affiliate owner of another and started a CrossFit hybrid called Sweat on State. Sweat adheres to many CrossFit principles, except they use dumbbells instead of barbells and tone down the hardcore imagery, making the gym more accessible to those who may have no experience weightlifting.
Rahn said in all of his CrossFit endeavors, his personal experience has been an invaluable guide. However, it is something particularly important for the fourth Box he plans to open in the center of Boystown, Chicago, one of the largest LGBT communities in the United States.
Rahn said he has spoken with many in the community about joining some of his other Boxes, even offering them free memberships in hopes they come join. But, they always use the same excuse he used — that they wouldn’t fit in. So Rahn hopes building a CrossFit in the center of the LGBT community, where many of the members share a similar background, will help to break down some of those stereotypes. Because “at the end of the day I really do believe in the results of CrossFit,” said Rahn.