Building Community, One Pull Up

“I’ve expressed to the gym that I really enjoy coming here, it’s a great community,” Wolniakowski said. “But my finances are too tight.”

JP CrossFit came to Wolniakowski with a solution: a needs-based, A floating scholarship that discounts her membership fee.

The compromise worked. So good, in fact, that Wolniakowski was able to transition from the program and now works at JP CrossFit as a social worker and part-time coach.

“If I can’t use that sliding scale, I can’t keep going to that gym,” she says. “[JP CrossFit] Really focused on being fair and finding their members and satisfying their members in terms of their financial burdens. “

Jasmine Gerritsen (left) guides Sara Garrard through exercises in a class at JP CrossFit. Jessica Rinaldi/Universal Staff

Since it started more than two years ago, the fellowship program has expanded to serve 13 members of the JP CrossFit community, “most of whom are people of color or gay or both,” says the gym’s Jasmine Gerritsen. head coach. “It’s had a major impact on our demographics.”

Improving access across racial and socioeconomic boundaries is a logical next step for a gym that prides itself on accepting all athletes. Members at the decade-old gym tend to be older than CrossFit gyms (average age 36), and most of its 200-plus active members are part of the LGBTQ community. Still, its membership is predominantly white, middle-class — the demographic that has dominated CrossFit in the U.S. since its inception 20 years ago. Now it hopes to change that, too.

The gym has become more intentional about inviting more people of color, low-income people and transgender people to better reflect the makeup of the surrounding Jamaican Plains community, Gerritsen said.

“I know these people are here. Why don’t they show up? What’s the barrier?” Gerritsen, who is Latino and from a low-income family, said she asked herself as she created the framework for the scholarship program. “In my own experience, money is a big hurdle.”

For those taking the reduced rate, they must apply to be considered and come to the gym at least two to three times a week to remain eligible. The staff checks with them every six months to see if the rate they are paying is still working for them, or if they need to go down further, or can contribute more.

But JP CrossFit doesn’t want exercisers to feel that what they pay determines their membership, so it makes who gets anonymized on the scaled-up scholarships.

Athletes in the midday class use a JP CrossFit rowing machine.Jessica Rinaldi/Universal Staff

The program isn’t the only economic move JP Crossfit has had to improve accessibility. It also hosts weekend classes, open to anyone, for $5 each, allows members to pause fees (for example, if they are going out of town for a few weeks), and offers discounts for new teachers and social workers, AmeriCorps service members, paramedics, and firefighters member.

“Once we remove the financial barriers, the next challenge is making sure that people can see each other. You know, like not having a black person in class because it’s uncomfortable,” Gleason said, adding that they also hope to make More people of color are coaching.

Damaria Joynar could be that coach. Joynar, who is black and currently on a floating scholarship, said entering JP Crossfit’s trainer apprenticeship program is “the next step for me now because I’m inspired and I feel like my community deserves that experience.”

An athlete tracks their workout in a JP CrossFit class. Jessica Rinaldi/Universal Staff

Jarron Saint Onge, associate professor of sociology and population health at the University of Kansas, studies how social determinants of health affect differences across race, class, gender and geographic boundaries.

“An important factor in sustaining all healthy behaviors is social support,” he said, and people from marginalized backgrounds often struggle to find that support. “It has to be a team effort, and it’s the same when you’re doing physical activity, you feel responsible to someone or to a team. From what I understand, that’s how CrossFit really works. It’s a social phenomenon.”

At the start of a recent midday class, Gleason asked everyone to share their names, pronouns, and highlights of their weekend: A gym-goer enjoying Christmas shopping with his daughter, another lighting a menorah for Hanukkah , the third participated in a also competition. For the guys at JP CrossFit, the idea is that a little awareness of the person sweating next to you can make a big difference.Four rounds per day During the workout, class participants encouraged each other as they struggled with the pull-up bar, gasping for breath and praising form and progress.

Ed Yu (left) performs a pull-up in JP CrossFit’s class. Jessica Rinaldi/Universal Staff

“It’s not intimidating, that’s the beauty of JP CrossFit,” says Michelle Flynn, 47, who has been coming to the gym for a year and a half.

gym owner Logan Miller said he was a “social outcast” growing up, so it was important to him to foster this sense of belonging among members. Plus, Miller said, it’s good business sense to be financially flexible with members.

“If we are loyal to our clients, our clients will be loyal to us,” he said, adding that the average membership at JP CrossFit is three years. “It comes down to that sense of loyalty. If people are deeply involved in the community, why would they hurt us because of our generosity? That’s not what communities do. Communities support each other.”

Julian EJ Sorapuru is a Development Researcher at Globe and can be reached at him on twitter @Julian Solaprue

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