Editor's Note: This is an updated version. The original story incorrectly stated the number of CrossFit affiliated gyms in Southern Illinois.

CARBONDALE — A third CrossFit-affiliated gym opened in Carbondale this week in the north warehouse that is part of the former Illinois National Guard armory complex at the corner of Oakland Avenue and Sycamore Street.

CrossFit Henosis is co-owned by Wendy and Nathan Bressner, who are husband and wife. Monday marked the first day of classes at the gym. The name Henosis is because it is the Greek word for unity, “and CrossFit is about a community atmosphere and being an encouraging place to get fit,” Wendy said.

Around the world, CrossFit affiliates have exploded in recent years. There were only 13 in 2005, and there are more than 12,000 today. In addition to those in Carbondale, there are several other gyms — or "boxes" as they are known in the CrossFit world — across Southern Illinois, including in Marion, Harrisburg, West City and Metropolis. But Wendy said each affiliate is a little bit different, and it appears there is enough interest in the fitness program regionally to support them all.

As CrossFit’s popularity and recognition have grown, so has the diversity of people giving it a go. Once thought of as exclusive to the hardcore, today, walk into a CrossFit gym, and it’s not uncommon to see an elderly grandma working out next to a police officer. These days, CrossFit draws all ages and shapes, from the sculpted to the dad bod and any other shape and size you can name.

“It’s very accessible and it’s something that people of any ability level can do, so I think there’s a big demand for facilities to offer it," Wendy said.

When it comes to CrossFit, Nathan said that every exercise can be modified so that anyone can safely benefit from the movement. “For instance, if a workout calls for handstand pushups and I can’t do them, I might do incline or regular pushups, or standing wall pushes. We can break everything down simple enough so that you can do a version of the intended movement.”


An extreme fitness regimen known as CrossFit founded in 2000 on the West Coast, has spread t…

In addition to his new CrossFit business, Nathan is an EMS systems specialist at Southern Illinois Healthcare. Prior to that, he worked nine years as a paramedic for Jackson County EMS. Originally from the central Illinois community of Moweaqua, Nathan has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and physiology from Illinois State. He is a certified CrossFit trainer.

Wendy has a master’s degree from SIU in sociology. She previously taught at John A. Logan College, and presently, in addition to the new business the two just opened, has been a stay-at-home mom caring for their first child, a 2-year-old girl. She is responsible for the planning, marketing and managing aspects of the business. And she planned to participate in her first-ever CrossFit class on Wednesday evening.

Carbondale was supportive

As first-time business owners, Wendy and Nathan said they have learned a lot, and they’ve also been pleasantly surprised working with City Hall. “I heard Carbondale had a bit of a difficult reputation for new businesses, but they were nothing but supportive,” she said. “They were clear on expectations and great about answering phone calls.” The co-owners also credited SIU’s Small Business Development Center with assistance in getting started.

CrossFit Henosis joins a growing number of businesses located inside the old armory complex, which was purchased by Alpha Rentals owner Andy Wallace a few years ago when the National Guard was transitioned to Southern Illinois Airport. Zoned a Neighborhood Business District, it also houses Alpha Rental’s management offices, Five Rings Amory, a gun shop, and a few others already there or on the way.

“It’s quite a little community,” Wendy said of the armory complex.

CrossFit’s growing popularity

Nathan said he’s been doing CrossFit about 3 1/2 years and became a believer in it because of all the fitness programs he’s tried, it’s the only one he’s stuck with.


Carbondale City Council approved more than 30 special uses for the building that used to hou…

In recent years, CrossFit has become one of the most talked about and debated programs in the fitness world as the number of affiliated gyms across the country has exploded. The program is a brainchild of gymnastics coach Greg Glassman, who opened the first gym by that name in 2000 in Santa Cruz, California. Among CrossFit enthusiasts, Glassman is a hero. CrossFit is known for its short, explosive workouts that are intended to fire the body on all cylinders: strength, flexibility, coordination, endurance and so on.

Like with any training philosophy worth talking about, it has its share of true believers and the hard core — There’s a joke that goes, "How do you know someone does CrossFit? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. Probably every day," — but it also has its naysayers. People can get hurt doing CrossFit, as can happen in any sport, but particularly if they overextend their abilities or have poor lifting form, and that’s why good trainers are so important.

Part of the criticism over CrossFit has been about its affiliation program that allows each gym a great deal of independence and comes with little oversight.

That means CrossFit is not necessarily a standard product just because the gym bears that name, said Melissa Ray, general manager of 247 Fitness that includes CrossFit Carbondale on East Walnut Street behind University Mall. That was the first CrossFit to open in Carbondale, followed by CrossFit Southern Illinois the following year, on South Illinois Avenue. Ray said it’s important anyone getting started make sure the trainers at the gym they choose are knowledgeable and attentive. She added that to the best of her knowledge all of the CrossFit gyms in this region, including the newly formed Henosis, are well-run with dedicated trainers.



On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI ​

Molly Parker is general assignment and investigative projects reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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