CrossFit Review: Chicago Elite Fitness

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CrossFit is form of high intensity interval training, consisting of a strength and conditioning workout that is made up of functional movement performed at a high intensity level. CrossFit offers a full body workout in 60 minutes with their “daily workout of the day”(WOD) that all members complete on the same day. CrossFit became quite popular in the past 10 years. The CrossFit games have been held every summer since 2007 bringing a lot of excitement at the for a worldwide competition of the fittest men and women on earth. Athletes at the Games compete in workouts they learn about only hours beforehand, sometimes including surprise elements that are not part of the typical CrossFit regimen. The CrossFit Open unites hundreds of athletes around the world to compete in the world’s largest participatory event. The 2021 season kicked off March 11 with the three-week CrossFit Open.

Chicago Elite Fitness has been a staple in the CrossFit Community of Chicago for a long time. Founded by 3 friends out of the military as a place where they could expand their fitness, CEF was originally a half Rock Climbing gym, half CrossFit box in a small upstairs studio that housed no more than 50 members. It’s run all sorts of different programs over the years from Powerlifting teams, to Olympic Lifting Classes, to CrossFit, TurboCharge (a bodyweight and cardio program), yoga, many different nutrition offerings and more. The gym has moved half a dozen times over the years and while locations and offerings have changed over the years, the mission to provide a safe and accepting place for anybody to improve their mental and physical health has remained the same.

Andrew joined the gym about 3 years ago as a member through a nutrition/fitness/accountability program and got instantly hooked. He spent most of his free time there, traveling from the far north side to Bucktown daily. He felt like he finally found a home here. I’d worked in the fitness industry for years as a personal trainer and coach and when the opportunity to come on full time at the gym fell in my lap, I couldn’t help but take it full on. I quit my job, and came on working my way up through the systems at CEF from a hourly handyman/intern, to coach, head of systems, to head coach, to GM, and then through COVID in last July, had the opportunity to buy into place I’d called home for 2.5 years.

Now with about 250 members, a much larger facility, and a thriving community, Chicago Elite Fitness having opened in its new home at 2577 W Armitage seems poised to continue the tradition of helping people become their best selves for years to come.

How has Elite Fitness mitigated the impact of COVID during the Pandemic?

COVID and the Pandemic have been crippling for much of the Fitness Industry. Jobs have dropped by 40+% and it has been a struggle. We had to close our doors and go fully remote for over 3 months and lost a decent chunk of our membership base in the process. Following our reopening, life was different for us, the social events, 80 person workouts and large group classes weren’t allowed anymore, not to mention the fact that people were afraid to leave their homes in general AND the ones that were ok with coming out were very deconditioned from being inside and only being able to use dumbbells and small equipment.

We had to pivot hard during quarantine but we loaned our all of our equipment to our members so they’d have something to work with at home, provided multiple daily zoom based at-home classes, programmed tons of workouts that you could do with minimal or no equipment, and hosted social events and coffee chats to keep people engaged and give them something else to do. It worked well as a placeholder, but I can’t stress enough how excited I was to open the gym again, even though it was a logistical nightmare organize in the weeks leading up to the reopen.

We changed the entirety of our model so we could offer the best possible service to our members. We hired more cleaners for midday and overnight, provided cleaning supplies to members upon opening, brought down class sizes, created a stations system laid out with tape to social distance properly, separated all equipment so there wasn’t any sharing, changed our class times to account for cleaning time and less overlap between classes. Overall, we did everything we could to abide by the city’s guidelines and do what we felt would keep people safe to the best of our ability. Now that we’re in a larger facility we are still making sure we uphold standards to keep people safe and comfortable here!

How would you describe the Chicago Elite Fitness gym’s culture?

They gym’s culture is one of inclusivity and positivity. We tell everyone to leave their ego at the door because everyone that steps foot in here with the intention to better themselves is equal. When referring to coaching we call all of our members athletes because no matter your background, race, fitness history, or current fitness level, if you participate in a sport, in our eyes, you’re an athlete. We truly do try to create a community centered around welcoming anyone in who wants to become stronger, more confident, and overall better version of themselves, and we want to help.

With our goal being to create a safe and inclusive environment for all people no matter their background, our members truly are testament to that. Our athletes come from all different walks of life. We have people who are servers, regional managers, lawyers, doctors, real estate agents, teachers, you name it. They are kind and welcoming to new people and people genuinely want to help each other which leads to many people making lifelong friendships here. (Not to mention I met my fiancé here when we were both members).

Anything else you think people should know. 

We feel that while sometimes CrossFit and other fitness industry fields have a stigma of being intimidating with big muscly guys who scream at you, we want to give everyone an opportunity to learn all the good that some of these methodologies can do for your mental and physical health all while providing a safe and welcoming environment to do so.

Thank you to Andrew for meeting with me to talk about his gym, it has been a pleasure to be a part of this community. I joined Chicago Elite Fitness shortly before the pandemic and it became a safe place to get a great in under an hour 3x times a week. The diversity of this community is empowering and supportive. I highly recommend CrossFit to anyone who wants a challenge but has limited time available. And if you have not turned into the CrossFit games I encourage you to check it out. These athletes are unbelievable, I love watching strong women (And men too) lifting and throwing heavy weights around.

 

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Erika has been an endurance athlete for over 20 years. She fell in love with running in her 20’s in graduate school, working full time and being a single mother. Running became time for reflection. She has run over 30 marathons and countless triathlons; qualified for 70.3 World championships. To qualify for Kona is her next goal! She loves being a mom to a wonderful young lady and a fur puppy (cocker spaniel). Travel and exploring new places to train around the world is a passion. She is a licensed clinical counselor who specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression and trauma. She spent 15 years in academia and has recently taken a role as a clinical director to focus on her clinical work. Erika believes in the therapeutic benefits of endurance training for people who struggle with mental health illness and stress. She is patiently waiting until we can all travel and race safely again, until then she recommends staying active, healthy. and consistent.

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