Fit for all ages

A local cross t champ coaches young and old at her gym, CrossFit SEO.
(Lander Zook | Backdrop Magazine)
 Jolene Quirke’s CrossFit gym will be filled with a diverse group of people ready for a workout in two hours, but right now, the only people on the rubber floor are her two toddler sons, who are playing, crawling and snacking.

On the right side of the room is a huge whiteboard listing names and numbers, which serves as a record of all the people who have gone to CrossFit Southeast Ohio that day. In the back of the gym, gymnastics rings hang from the ceiling and free weights litter the floor. All of the doors are open, making the air feel breezy and cool. Between periodic glances in the direction of her kids, Quirke is preparing for her next class and restocking shelves.

She and her husband, Brandon, run CrossFit Southeast Ohio together, but Quirke makes a point to mention that the gym is first and foremost hers. Because they both work full time, their children spend a lot of time at the gym, which is evidenced by an organized mess of children’s toys and high-chairs in one corner.

Quirke graduated from Ohio University in 2005 with degrees in exercise physiology and psychology and worked at the Athens Recreation Center for about five years. But when she found CrossFit after watching her best friend compete at the 2010 Arnold Classic, she discovered the passion that drove her into the CrossFit community.

That summer, she started training at a CrossFit affiliate that was run out of a friend’s garage and was certified to be a trainer a few months later in August 2010. But before opening her own gym, Quirke spent everything she had to do some “research” and see how other Ohio Crossfit gyms, called “boxes,” were set up.

“I went to as many boxes as I could that were already opened — which at that time, there weren’t that many, so I had to travel a little bit,” she says.

In November 2011, she opened her own gym and allowed Athens to become a part of the much larger CrossFit community.

CrossFit was founded by Greg Glassman, who created a workout regimen designed around a certain formula: “The more work you do in less time, or the higher the power output, the more intense the effort.” The program was originally created for emergency personnel, the military and people who need to be ready for anything, Quirke explains. But as more people got involved, CrossFit started reaching everyday people looking for an intense workout.

With more than 13,000 affiliates on all seven continents and in 143 countries, CrossFit has turned into a global community. There are now annual CrossFit competitions widely broadcast all over the world.

Quirke has participated in multiple CrossFit competitions, two of which she completed while pregnant. According to her CrossFit games profile page, she’s 5’0 and, as of 2016, ranked 2nd in the state of Ohio and 154th worldwide. Her profile picture is her holding her sons in a CrossFit gym.

She and Brandon just recently took part in the CrossFit team series. Brandon says the pair had five days to complete and submit four workouts to be ranked as a couple.

“We don’t get to do workouts together all that often with work, the gym and the boys, but it’s fun,” Brandon says.

All CrossFit classes take place in old warehouses, loading docks and sometimes personal garages. There are no ellipticals, treadmills, mirrors or scales in a CrossFit box.

“We have to move our bodies in space,” Quirke says. “We’re not using a machine; we’re producing a machine in that sense.”

Quirke says the workouts are based on gymnastics, Olympic lifting and metabolic conditioning. The goal of the workout is to mirror the functional movements people will have to perform in their lives.

“We’re gonna jump on a box: you might have to jump somewhere in your life quickly,” she says. “We squat a lot: you’re going to have to sit on the toilet for the rest of your life. … We hang from bars: maybe you have to run and jump over a fence or if you want to play with your kids and climb a tree … We’re prepping for experiences in life where we have to be quick.”

Nicole Albers, a junior studying nursing, goes to Quirke’s CrossFit four times a week and says she goes for the planned workouts and the community aspect that places like Ping Recreation Center cannot offer.

“Going to the gym was always hard because just planning what I want to do everyday is just difficult,” she says. “… At Ping, everyone has their headphones in are doing their own thing, but at CrossFit, they’ll blare their own music … and just get you excited for your workout.”

Quirke says CrossFit was designed to have that community feel.

“Everyone is in need of the same type of fitness, but it’s all scaled accordingly for them, and as a coach we’re here to hope that everyone can finish things at the same time,” she says. “What makes it work is the group setting; … you motivate each other. It’s like a friendly, competitive atmosphere.”

Each class has a capacity of 23 people for safety reasons and so the coach can work with everyone.

“Of course we always teach mechanics over intensity,” Quirke says. “We use the whiteboard to always write down our scores no matter what. Whether you have an ailment and maybe you can’t do something, but we give you something else, you’re still up there.”

Scores are recorded to keep track of personal progress through CrossFit. What is recorded as a score varies. Sometimes the score is the amount of time it takes to complete a CrossFit workout, sometimes it’s the amount of weight lifted, and sometimes it’s the amount of reps, Quirke says.

The workouts are very difficult, regardless of how fun the environment may be.

“I did not know what I was getting myself into the first day,” Albers says, laughing.

CrossFit is a grassroots company where advertising is not the main focus, and members come by word of mouth. Quirke has tried to market her gym in the past but found the people who come to CrossFit for a lifestyle change rather than a quick fix are the people who stick with it. The gym’s numbers are increasing, and Quirke says she’s the busiest she’s ever been.

CrossFit Southeast Ohio offers a program called Gymrats that teaches kids gross motor functions, coordination, flexibility and the fundamentals of gymnastics in addition to teamwork and respect. Also, Quirke recently got certified in CrossFit Kids so she can train children between the ages of 3 and 18. With two kids under the age of 3, she believes CrossFit Kids will be what she is really passionate about.

Quirke calls having two toddlers and owning a business “a balance.”

“Some days I don’t think I’m being a good mom, some days I don’t think I’m being a good business owner, and I think that’s a normality to kind of fluctuate back and forth,” she says. “But at the end of the day, I just try to give a little bit of both each and every hour that I can.”

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