The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 11, 2014

Living the fit life

Geneva resident opens CrossFit gym, qualifies for regional competition

Staff Writer

— As an athletic and fit person who enjoyed working out, John Fortune was a natural fit to be a regular at the local gym.

But for Fortune, running on a treadmill or lifting weight wasn’t enough.

“At the normal gym, everyone has been there and done that before,” he said. “You do your set then you relax. You go get a drink at the water fountain. You stop and talk to the cute girl in the short shorts. That’s kind of it. There’s no real competition besides, ‘Oh, hey, I lifted more than I did two weeks ago.’ ”

It was that competition that Fortune missed, and he found it when he discovered CrossFit.

Defined as constantly varied functional movements in high intensity intervals, CrossFit combined the aspects of working out that Fortune liked with the addition of competition.

Now, just a year and a half into his training, he’s qualified for the regional CrossFit competition in Cincinnati after finishing 37th in his region — which is comprised of 6,200 competitors across Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“They have a competition once a year over the course of five weeks, you do five workouts and if you’re in the top 48 of your region you get to advance to the regional,” he said. “Over the course of five weeks, they release a workout on Thursday then you have until Monday to post your best score. Then over the course of five weeks they take your cumulative score and that determines who moves on.”

What makes CrossFit unique from a regular workout, is the combination of cardio and strength, as well as the element of surprise as Fortune said you have to be prepared for anything during any given workout.

“Crossfit is about being generally prepared for any kind of exercise and workout, you don’t just specialize in benching and you can’t run or you can run and can’t lift,” he said. “The way it is, is every day you do something completely different. It’s constantly varied between intense cardio and strength thrown in, too.”

With the average gym not having CrossFit training, Fortune was so enamored with the workouts that he drove to Perry every day for seven months to train.

“I drove past three or four gyms because I wanted to do this CrossFit workout,” he said. “I drove to Perry every day because I’m a competitor and cross is an actual competition. It’s you vs. the other guy. It’s intense.”

Fortune, a baseball coach and paramedic firefighter who enjoys helping people, got so into CrossFit he decided to open his own CrossFit gym, A-County Crossfit, in Geneva.

“I got good at it and I enjoy it so I thought, ‘Why not open my own gym?’ ” he said. “I opened one in Geneva and it’s been up and down. People are skeptical about it because they’re intimidated. It’s pretty intense stuff and they don’t understand that the clients at my gym are doing it to get healthy. They see guys doing crazy things and we’re not doing that. We’re making it more so the average person who’s a little overweight can feel comfortable.

“You become really close with the people you work with. We blast music and everyone is doing the same workout. We’re all suffering through the same workouts and movements. You can see in the other person’s eyes that the workout is kicking their butt and you can tell when they look at you they’re thinking the same. Then, when it’s over you can catch your breathe and it’s a bonding thing. It becomes a community.”

Fortune’s qualification for the regional competition was quite a rise from where he was at this point last year.

“At the time of last year’s competition, I had only been doing it about three months,” he said. “I had athletic ability, but I didn’t have the technique down. So last year I was able to place 60th without knowing the form. Having opened the gym and working out, it’s definitely a tribute to getting in there and getting a lot out of it. That’s where if someone wants to get into it, come to the gym and we’ll teach you that proper form and you can see how quickly you can improve.”

As far as expectations are concerned for the competition that runs from May 16-18, Fortune said he’s realistic.

“Baby steps, I’m a realist, I’m 26 and I’ve had some surgeries and some of these kids are 18 and they’ve been doing it for longer, whereas I just started,” he said. “They’re young and fresh. I have a goal but I don’t want to be outlandish. This year, just being in the top 48 was my goal. Next year my goal would be to be in the top 25.”

Fortune said one of the difficult, and exciting, things about the competition is he doesn’t know what he’ll be doing until he gets there.

“Over those three days we don’t know what we’ll be doing,” he said. “They’ll say over the next 10 minutes we’ll be doing this workout, they spring it on you and you’ll be just as shocked as the next guy. Are we going to do five workouts or seven or eight? Last year they did eight, the year before they did seven and some will be three minutes long and some will be 16.

“You could do a 10-minute workout then get an hour break. Last year they did one then everyone was dead and flopped on the floor then they said, ‘by the way, in two minutes we’re starting the third workout.’ They put you through the gauntlet.”

So, over the next month, Fortune said he’ll just continue to train to the max to get ready for the competition.

“That’s the biggest thing with CrossFit, I can’t just prepare for one thing, you have to have general preparedness and you have to be good at everything, not just one thing,” he said. “So I have to be ready for anything between now and then. They try to be creative with how they are going to torture you so basically over the next 40 days I’ll try to keep it fresh, interesting and keep things moving.”