Lynchburg, Virginia. Certainly a bit off the beaten path in the southwestern corner of Virginia. Probably one of the more unique and defining characteristics of this city steeped in a variety of histories is that it is the largest city in the United States not served by a major interstate. While this makes getting there a bit challenging, this city on the James River is beautiful and is home to a CrossFit gym that epitomizes “southern hospitality”.
As I travel, my goal is to do drop-ins at every possible location I can and share what I’ve found. Not just a review of programming or equipment but observations on what I feel is the most important component of CrossFit – a community of athletes who encourage others to achieve their own maximum personal potential every day.
Many times I send emails to the “info@xyz” addresses on a given CrossFit affiliates’ website to fine out the rules of engagement. Do I fill out liability forms online or when I get there? Is a drop-in considered a “first time free” or is it a paid situation? Do I pay there or online? Do you take a t-shirt in trade for a session? You’d be surprised how frequently I don’t get any response at all. Not so in the case of CrossFit Lynchburg. In less than an hour I received an email directly from the gym’s owner, Jerrod Ruhl, giving me all the particulars.
Most times I don’t get the chance to experience a CrossFit gym with my best friend, training partner and love of my life – Valerie. This was one of those rare occasions and it provided me an unexpected opportunity to observe some really good coaching – in action. I’ll cover that in just a bit.
The gym was very easy to find; located at 302 Oakley Ave, Lynchburg, VA 24501. As we came to learn, the gym had recently move to this location from another spot in the downtown area. The gym falls into what I would deem as a medium-small sized box; a shmedium if you will. It is in the warehouse section of a cinder block building. Two things struck me when I walked in the gym – my least favorite rig configuration (wall-mounted) and a really unique floor treatment. The rig configuration was made quite a bit better than the typical wall mount by being a full and not a half-rig. If you’ve done kipping pull-ups on a half-rig that is mounted to the wall, you really can’t help but do the occasional kick-cheat, particularly if you have a healthy swing. The flooring was Olympic scented – I knew there had to be an Oly coach somewhere in the mix. A center strip of smooth sanded plywood ran down two lanes of the floor surrounded by the standard-in-every-CrossFit-gym-and-horse-stall “Made in Canada” rubber flooring – but with the diamonds down. Basically, the floor layout was a 30 foot continuous lifting platform – and it worked great. The equipment was a mix of Rogue, Play it Again Sports cast iron orphans and – here comes that Oly-scent again – Werk San and Eleiko kgs and jerk blocks. But, my favorite piece of the whole bunch was the barn-bar that every one of the kids treated like one of the toys from the Misfit Island. But I knew what it was – a hardcore old-school oly bar with the patina of a 50 year old farm truck. Dibs! I later found out in a conversation with Jerrod that it was his first real bar; felt privileged to have thrown some weight around on it.
The programming was great. Jerrod’s wife Amanda was the lead coach and I liked the three part mix after stretching. First was a core set – 40 windshield wipers and 40 jack knifes. I thought this core emphasis was a nice touch. I’m convinced that many of the technique related issues in the major lifts and most of the nagging pains we universally suffer post-workout are associated to an imbalanced core. For me, my doc (the amazing Dr. Richard Ulm) has honed in on my obliques as a particular point of said weakness. I think a dedicated daily core component, no matter how brief, can only yield positive results for the athletes at this gym. Next was a strength component – 4×4/8 front squats into back squats – as in 4 front squats into 8 back squats for 4 rounds. The challenge of a drop-in is trying to guesstimate the right weight in the middle of a gym’s strength cycle. No exceptions here – we had to take a stab at it and I decided to just peg the bar at 75% of my FS 1RM. I correctly guessed that the volume would take care of destroying my later afternoon ability to climb stairs. A full class with lots of bar sharing, but it all worked out well.
This is also where that stellar coaching came in that I mentioned earlier. Jerrod pulled my wife aside and immediately pointed out a number of tips for her to overcome caving knees and heel-driving under the bar, even grabbing a PT band and showing her a pretty slick drill to push her knees out. She had one of those “Eureka” moments – and I was impressed by a coach that would take that time with a drop-in. A true coach.
Finally, we moved to the conditioning portion. A sneaky little couplet of 2 power cleans into 10 hand release push-ups, EMOM for 12 minutes; increasing weight from a 135/95 start if able. As with most gyms with great programming and a solid community of athletes, the 4:30 p.m. class was filled to the gills; resulting in moving room being very limited. Derrick was quick to yell out safe positioning of extra plates and to be attentive. Again, another high five for observant, intelligent and responsible coaching – a big pet peeve of mine.
I’ve saved the best kudos for last. Lynchburg is a college town and it shows in CrossFit Lynchburg’s athlete population. There were equal parts Lynchburg College and Liberty University students in the mix, along with a healthy dose of young professionals. Not many master’s level athletes – but that really didn’t matter. The ladies in the class grabbed my wife by the arm for the 400 meter warm-up run and chatted with her the whole way. The exuberance of the young athletes was infectious and fun – if at times a bit rowdy and chaotic (no, I didn’t tell them to get off my lawn). My wife and I felt welcomed from the first moment and we were engaged by many gym members in conversation on all types of topics. This is what I’m searching for in my travels and journeys as a CrossFit Hobo – the community of athletes willing to push each other to our own personal best each class.
- Outstanding coaching – Jerrod and Amanda rock. Period.
- Excellent community atmosphere
- Great programming
- A massage therapist in the parking lot???? (Okay, we just saw her on the way out – so RX+ on cool points only as we did not experience said bonus)
- Great programming means lots of members – so the gym is bursting at the seams
- Not much else you can complain about