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New CrossFit gym in Hopedale ʽlifts’ members’ lives

By Rod Lee

One might say that the CrossFit Final Duel “box” on Rosenfeld Drive in Hopedale is where the rubber meets the road.

Rubber weights crashing with a resounding thud onto rubber mats near the end of a WOD (“workout of the day”) run by Owner Donna Lombard would be music to the ears of CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman, were he to pay a visit and see about a dozen of his disciples taking part in the hour-long program—a high-intensity combination of strength and conditioning, aerobics, calisthenics and Olympic weightlifting.

Founded by Mr. Glassman and his former wife Lauren Jenai in Santa Cruz, California, 2000, the CrossFit craze has grown to more than 13,000 gyms worldwide. The Hopedale facility already claims about 80 members since opening August 16th.

Speaking of music, Ms. Lombard’s fondness for “country” led to the seemingly incongruous words (given the setting) “sit right here and have another beer in Mexico” wafting across the room as she put her students in an 8:30 a.m. class through their paces; until, understanding that their taste might not coincide with hers, she said “maybe I should put on some Pit Bull”—and switched the dial.

Without a doubt, the energetic Ms. Lombard—a small woman with a history in bodybuilding including on a competitive level whose wiry frame resembles a coiled spring (she is a certified trainer and coach)—drives the enthusiasm for this particular CrossFit location along with her boyfriend Eric Goldman and her daughter Mariah. Mariah is a junior at UConn studying Physical Therapy and “a very instrumental piece in all this—the stars on our logo represent the three of us…Eric, Mariah and me,” Ms. Lombard said.

CrossFit Final Duel is a different animal from other gyms in a number of ways, not the least of which is that it is not an “anytime” operation but rather a gym in which classes are held at appointed hours starting at 5:30 a.m. and going into the evening with a break in between. And they have to be “coach-led,” Ms. Lombard explained. Also, there is not a plethora of equipment on the floor. People ask “where are all the machines,” she said. “I tell them ʽthere are no machines. Our members are our machines! Both inside and outside the gym we are family. 3…2…1…go!’ (the Royal Danish Life Guards and the Miami Marlins are among CrossFit’s adherents).

That said, there is more than enough apparatus to satisfy even the most hard-core practitioner: rowers, assault air bikes, kettle bells, pull-up bars, bands, jump ropes, medicine balls.

Further, in addition to the “functional fitness” and group workouts that are a staple of the program, camaraderie is readily apparent. Always to Ms. Lombard’s shouts of “way to go” or “good job!”

“I always loved working out,” Marjorie Ravitz, a stay-at-home mother, said, after finishing an hour routine one morning last week. “This CrossFit brought me to a much higher level. I came here to get stronger; and it’s community. We cheer each other on. Just the warmup is like a workout!”

“I’ve been coming here for four months,” Jim Bartolotta, who works in technology from home, said. “I met Donna a while ago. I like the variation and everything you do is hard. It doesn’t get monotonous. Sometimes I bring my daughter and I come five or six days a week.”

As Mr. Goldman put it while looking on before heading off to his regular job, “we have a lot of fun.”

CrossFit members’ progress is carefully charted and easily accessed on a computer screen mounted at the front of the gym.

Striving to compete is encouraged. Prominent on the CrossFit website is a call for participation in the upcoming “The Open: where grassroots meets greatness. Compete with hundreds of thousands of athletes in five workouts over five weeks. Do it for fun, your affiliate family, fitness or to reach regionals and fight for a chance to make it to the CrossFit Games.”

Regardless of how far CrossFit Final Duel members take the sport, they have a friend in Ms. Lombard.

“It’s family. I genuinely care about each and every member,” she says.

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.