Albany Crossfit

Albany Crossfit composite

Crossfitters: people, dogs, the Kool-Aid Man.

By Liz Clancy Lerner

At Albany Crossfit there is a mural of the Kool-Aid man on the wall.

It's not there because it's the gym's recovery drink of choice; it's a reference to the drinking the Kool-Aid, cult-like following that often surrounds the gym.

In its simplest form, Crossfit is a strength and conditioning program with varied, intense workouts. Its athletes are encouraged to follow the WODs (or, Workouts Of the Day) and eat a strict Paleolithic diet . They see results -- and that, according to Albany Crossfit founder Jason Ackerman, is why its members are so passionate.

Nationally, Crossfit has been around since the late 90s. Albany Crossfit was created almost four years ago - before many other cities caught on.

AOA sat in on a workout recently and talked with Jason. We covered topics ranging from throwing up during a workout, to eating like a caveman, to Marley -- their three-legged mascot.

How do you explain Crossfit to people who are unfamiliar with it?

It's hard to put into words; so our usual explanation would be come on in and we'll show you all about it. It's a lot easier that way, but the standard definition would be: constantly varied functional movements executed at a high intensity. You can tell somebody that and it still probably makes no sense to them.

To dumb it down a little bit; it's just different workouts everyday. We work really hard and we do more functional movements than you find at a typical gym.

How is the philosophy at Crossfit different than other gyms?

It works. For most people that go to a regular gym, they have no direction and no idea what they're doing. Although we've grown, we still have a very close relationship with all of our athletes and we make sure they're doing everything properly, so clearly, they get 100 percent direction when it comes to the workout because we describe it to them. But also people don't realize that nutrition is about 80-90 percent of how you're going to look, perform and feel. So that is something that we push very early on in their journey here.

albany crossfit composite 2

How many members do you have?

We're approaching 300 members. Over the last 6 months to a year it's been steady; never really losing more than we gain each week.

We don't do a lot of advertising. Our members are like walking billboards for us. We have an army of marketers; if someone's family or friend comes in here there's no convincing. They've seen the people lose the weight and they've seen them get stronger so they know it works. So the more people we have, the more people we get. Crossfit is still in its infancy.

Can the average person Crossfit?

Crossfit is for everyone, but everyone is not for Crossfit. Anyone can do it but you certainly have to have some sort of mental strength because it's not just going to the gym and moving a pin down once a week and reading a magazine on a bicycle. Everyone should do Crossfit. It would help them not just physically with their health but mentally as well. A common trend is for people to say, wow I can handle this stress better, or my boss doesn't bother me as much, or I can lift my grandkids now when I babysit.

We're more expensive than your average gym, but you're getting small group training on a daily basis. $150 a month on average is what it costs.

The workouts are cool and the nutrition is important but the community is really what makes our facility stand out. The first one done, no matter who it is, will be the first one cheering on the rest of the group.

What is the Paleo Diet and why do Crossfitters eat this way?

If a caveman wouldn't eat it, you shouldn't eat it. Or, on a most basic level: meats, vegetables, nuts and seeds -- living foods, that type of stuff. Nothing processed. Nothing in a can. It's simple and it's easy to do.

We encourage everyone to eat Paleo foods and if they can handle it, in zone (30 percent fat, 40 percent 'good' carbohydrates and 30 percent protein) proportion. We don't prescribe straight zone.

Because it works. What we like to say is that we will take anything that works and incorporate it into Crossfit -- be it an exercise, a group of exercises, or a style of nutrition. And one thing that Crossfit has found is that the Paleo lifestyle works -- it's healthier. So not only are people looking better, they feel better, they're performing better for the workouts and they're also getting much better results when it comes to their health: blood pressure, cholesterol -- we've had members get their physical and their doctors ask them what they are doing and they say it's Crossfit.

Do many people throw up during these workouts?

I wouldn't say a lot; it happens. It's not encouraged, but it is like a badge of honor to some people.

I would say, maybe less than 10 times since we've been open and I was probably two of them. A lot of time it's the right movements with the wrong foods and people next to you pushing you a little harder than you wanted to go and you went there. We used to have a puke bucket but it wasn't getting used enough so we got rid of it. It's mostly the younger men who come in with an ego and we make them check it.

You have a painting of the Kool-Aid man on the wall here, and I've heard the term cult used before when describing Crossfit -- where does this stem from?

For one, how can we be a cult -- you're welcome to leave at any time. But, you do see a common trend among new people where they may be a little skeptical and then they start to enjoy it and they're full blown addicts and on the website 24 hours a day.

People become that way because it's a lifestyle and for people that work full time, this is like their fun thing outside of work and family and if you're doing something that makes you fitter, healthier and look better you're going to talk about it a lot.

To the average person that hasn't been here it seems really crazy dangerous and impossible, but as anyone that comes in and sees a typical class: we have a 60-year-old woman -- a few women in their 70s now. And you have Marines and teenagers and other great athletes doing the same work to the best of their ability.

We're probably a bit cultish, but in a good way.

Did you get many new members this month?

We're not a New Year's resolution type gym because a) We're more expensive than the average gym -- it's not something that you're going to throw $9.99 down for and not come in and, most of our new members come from word of mouth and they're telling their friends and family year round, not just January 1st so I think that's why we don't see a super influx come January. I think year round we grow steadily. We probably have our biggest growth when other gyms slow, and that's because we're outside. So at a time when most people don't want to be inside working out, we're outside working out.

Tell me about Marley, your 3-legged wonder dog.

I've had Marley almost 3 years. I have two pugs and it's too dangerous to bring them here; they're so small and can get in the way. We went over to Homeward Bound (dog rescue) and she was just sitting there and we just clicked. I didn't realize she had 3 legs at first. I also didn't realize at the time that she is very afraid of men.

She loves playing ball and is faster than most four legged dogs -- so she does Crossfit. She's become the mascot, she's on the wall, we put her logo on our newer t-shirts and she's in the background of 90 percent of our pictures.

____

Jason's got the outreach thing down. He posts on the Albany Crossfit site daily, has a podcast and makes "commercials" for members. While they don't get many New Year's resolution folks, they do have a holiday special.

Find It

Albany Crossfit
444 Sand Creek Road
Colonie, NY 12205

(518) 250-9348

Comments

You had me until the $150/month, no dairy, no potatoes or peanuts parts. I guess I'll stick with my healthy plan of $10/month gym and a balanced diet with those foods.

If you're serious about getting in the best shape of your life, Albany Crossfit is the only place to go! $150 may sound like alot, but it is essentially personally training and nutrition counseling every time you walk in the door. If you go 5 times a week or more like I do, that's a steal! You will become friends with every person you encounter too! Give it a chance!

Expense and nutrition can be indimidating, but It's worth every penny. It has changed my life!

At first the price tag sounded like a lot. But after 3 1/2 months at CrossFit, I'm addicted. The coaches and athletes are amazing group of people. I can't thing of a better place to be.

Paleo all the way - and supported by a gym too!! Its time to move to Albany! Great story, hope someone gets this idea in my hometown! And the dog ... priceless!!

Yeah, I'm with Ellsass... $150 is a lot!! Are you "locked in" to a certain number of months by signing up?

I thought the Paleo/Primal diet was just another diet fad until I read up on it. Now I'm hooked and think its the method that makes any sense.

A few of my friends are a part of the ACF world and they love it. I am so proud of them and happy that ACF can make them stronger and healthier people. Its definitely worth it if you can do it :)

Good question Jaci. It is my understanding that you can sign up in 1-month, 3-month, 6-month or 1-year increments. There is also a lifetime membership.

The $150/month is the month to month price. Their pricing scales with commitment. Pricing can be found at http://www.albanycrossfit.com/my_weblog/fees.html

It's a fun and entertaining place to workout even if you're a wall flower.

CrossFit changed my life. Go over there for a free introductory session and I guarantee you'll be hooked. I was never someone who liked going to the gym because I didn't have much guidance. I really just ran on treadmills and played around with the weight machines every once in a while. Now that I CrossFit I know 1000x more about fitness and nutrition and I laugh at the idea that I even tried using "machines" in the first place. I've lost weight, my back is healthier than it's ever been, and I leave wanting to run back the next day to hit the next workout and get stronger.

Not only will you get in the best shape of your life through the workouts and the nutrition, but you will make great friends and really have fun. You can't get the same support that ACF gives from a typical gym. It's worth it!

Albany CrossFit is the best thing I have ever done for myself in 45 years....plain and simple.

There is actually a gym i heard about and am thinking of joining in Troy - opening some time this month. I know they are in the process of becoming a crossfit affiliate but for now they will just be under the name Collar City Athletics (www.collarcityathletics.com) and teaching "crossfit" methods. I know for a fact its cheaper than $150!!

Albany Crossfit is driven by results. Personal trainers, nutritional help, coaches that provide one on one instruction. Don't try to compare the price of a Cadillac with the price of a Hyundai. The other places that cost $10/month are a waste of time...if they convince you that you can be "healthy" by continuing to eat potatoes and dairy - then you should ask for your $10. back. Simply put- CROSSFIT will change your LIFE. Kind of like hitting the Lotto - without paying the income tax.

I am surprised to hear about a gym in Troy. That is potentially great news for that community. I used to be a member of Albany Crossfit, until recently, when my work took me elsewhere. All I can say is:

The Crossfit I go to now is cheaper than Albany's, but no where near as good. I would pay double to have ACF in my backyard. I would definitely recommend Crossfit in some form to anyone, but if Albany is within reach...you will have a hard time finding another Crossfit that offers the same high end product.

Good Luck Troy City Athletics, but as someone who used to live in Troy...I would have a hard time downgrading just to save some money and time commuting. My fitness and happiness is way to important.

PS: I miss Marley too! Jay-You still owe me a birthday beer mug!

All these really positive testimonials to the wonders of Crossfit just make me more skeptical. The descriptions of the "workouts" are pretty vague -- they're "cool" and "fun"? Is there a cardio component?

And you can be healthy and fit and still eat potatoes and dairy. Diets that eliminate entire food groups are based on pseudo-science or are just gimmicks.

@Jamie The trainers at the Troy crossfit are former Albany crossfit members/trainers - so i think it will be comparable.

Regarding the diet, hey lots of people eliminate things from their diet and are perfectly healthy. The "paleo" diet has me scratching my head a bit because it sounds really similar to the Atkins diet which we now know is not good. On the other hand, people scratch their heads at vegetarian diets and many of those are perfectly healthy too. The no dairy component is the only really questionable one; how do you get enough calcium?

In the end, if people I don't know are happy with however they eat, I guess that's fine, just please don't drive up my insurance premiums.

@ A1

Thats awesome! Who? I would hate to see the coaches get split up, just because ACF is so damn good. But I guess its like when your favorite underground band gets their first hit single, at first you want them all to yourself, but then you realize they are realizing their dreams and you can't help but be happy for them.

I would never talk bad about any Crossfit, even my new one. I am just jealous of the very unique blend of community, knowledge, equipment, and skill of every coach and athlete at Albany CrossFit. (Plus my crush Austin ;-), the 6th fittest crossfitter on the planet!). I honestly didn't appreciate it till I left. Competition between Crossfits is always in good spirit. The growth of the community is never a bad thing.

Good Luck Collar City CrossFit!

Jamie - The name i know is Jessica Lasky Wold

The facilities are wonderful now but I still remember walking into Albany Crossfit for the first time. It was sordid and cramped, a one room occupation of a much larger gym. Surrounded by ten other people, sharing the next hour pushing your body and mind to new limits. Being there was well worth the money, it still is.

Crossfit is a cult. Perhaps some would prefer the term frat. Whatever the term used the point is clear, the binding element is the workout but the driving factor behind Crossfit’s recent explosive growth is the camaraderie. An example may be illuminating, the reason, as far as I can understand, fans sit out in the snow for hours at a time watching their favorite team play football is not because of the experience. After all, you can probably get a better experience watching the game at home on your high def tv. Rather, being in an auditorium with the knowledge that all other fans are there for the same purpose, they are feeling every accomplishment and defeat just as you are makes you a part of something bigger than yourself.

Crossfit is similar. “Oh God! Do you remember round two of ‘Helen’ when you have to pick up the kettlebell?” Having someone look back at you and know exactly what you are talking about is something. Perhaps I’m wrong. It could be the workouts that drive Crossfit’s growth. A way to test it would be to give every single crossfitter his or her own home gym. See how many people continue to workout despite being alone. I have my own suspicion that not many would continue.

CrossFit doesn't get boring because the workouts are different every day. But beyond the workouts, the community aspect of crossfit is great. The trainers and members of crossfit have been more supportive than any other gym I've been involved with. People are cheering you on the whole time.

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