On any given day in the Crosstown neighborhood, you’re sure to find someone doing deadlifts, kettlebell swings, back squats, and box jumps. With two CrossFit gyms located a block apart, Crosstown is the city’s hotspot for workouts based on “constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity” — the phrase often used to describe CrossFit’s workout methodology.
There’s CrossFit Hit & Run, a locally owned gym at Cleveland and Autumn, and SoulCity CrossFit, located inside the Church Health YMCA.
So what is CrossFit? CrossFit Hit & Run co-owner Justin LaMance describes it this way: “It’s group fitness that has a comprehensive approach. It’s about balance, coordination, agility, cardiovascular endurance, and strength. We want to be pretty good at everything but not too good at anything. CrossFit is the jack of all trades, master of none approach to fitness.”
CrossFit workouts vary each time but they generally last one hour and could include any combination of weight lifting, running, rowing, and jumping. SoulCity Affiliate Manager Steve Tilleros points out that CrossFit focuses on functional movements that mimic actions people use in everyday life.
“We squat. We lift things over our heads. We push, we pull. It’s not a muscle isolation thing. There’s no leg day or arm day. We practice movements that will improve your quality of life,” says Tilleros.
One might think two CrossFit gyms located across the street from one another would be bad for business, but CrossFit Hit & Run and SoulCity CrossFit co-exist peacefully in the Crosstown neighborhood. That’s partly because the two gyms are targeting different groups of people.
“Not all CrossFit gyms are the same,” says LaMance. “SoulCity is right across the street from me, and I think that’s a really good thing. They have a lot of stuff I’ll never have, like childcare and air-conditioning. But I have stuff they don’t have: I can play whatever music I want, and my dogs are often present and often in the way. We have a more laid-back approach.”
Tilleros says, in addition to childcare, SoulCity members also have access to locker rooms and showers at the YMCA, something most traditional CrossFit gyms don’t offer.
“In 2008, it was cool to put CrossFit gyms in warehouses with no AC and crank up Metallica and flip tires. But that’s not what we’re going for here, we’re trying to remove barriers to access.” Tilleros says.
Since SoulCity CrossFit is offered as an add-on to YMCA memberships, it may offer an easier entry point for people who are curious about CrossFit but not ready to join an independent CrossFit gym, which doesn’t offer the variety of classes (yoga, spinning, etc.) the Y does.
Since SoulCity members are also YMCA members, they can get in their non-CrossFit workouts at any YMCA in town. To date, only the Church Health YMCA offers SoulCity CrossFit, but Tilleros hopes to eventually expand it to other Memphis YMCA locations.
The Crosstown location of CrossFit Hit & Run is one of the local chain’s four locations, and their members can work out at any of the four gyms. They also have locations downtown, in East Memphis, and in Collierville. Because of the gym’s smaller size, LaMance says he can only take 12 new members per month, and there is a waiting list.
CrossFit is a recent addition to Crosstown; both gyms opened in 2019. LaMance, who lives in the Crosstown neighborhood, relocated to his Poplar/McLean location to Crosstown earlier this year. SoulCity was founded this past April.
While the gyms offer a slightly different ambiance and approach, both LaMance and Tilleros agree that CrossFit is for everyone. You don’t have to be a hardcore athlete to get started.
“You don’t have to be in shape to do CrossFit. You can have people of all skill levels and backgrounds in the same class,” Tilleros says.
“The classes vary so wildly. You can have 80-year-old women and an ex-Division I track athlete on the same team,” says LaMance.
Another thing all CrossFit gyms pride themselves on: a community fitness experience.
“A big area of focus in the CrossFit world is the relationships within our communities. This is not a place where you put your earbuds in and come and do your own thing,” says Tilleros. “You really get to know the people you are working out with and in this building, that can be a very diverse group.”
That community-minded focus pairs well with Crosstown Concourse’s “Better Together” mantra, making CrossFit an appropriate fit for the Crosstown neighborhood.