Health and personal fitness is a growing concern among Philadelphia residents. As citizens begin to understand more and more about their bodies, one fitness model has begun to grow: CrossFit. And one of the men who spearheaded this revolution is Sean Thomson, owner of No Limit Gym in Northeast Philadelphia. Thompson has competed in CrossFit competitions since being introduced to the sport and has been considered a “regional athlete” on more than one occasion, just one step shy of competing in the national CrossFit games that are broadcast on ESPN.
How big is the CrossFit community in Philly?
It’s growing. It is more of a conversation piece like “I do CrossFit,” rather than training to become a better athlete or trying to be healthier. CrossFit will never be big as (it is) out West, like in California, but more gyms are popping up and more people are training.
How do you stress the importance of fitness to people in the community?
In the beginning, I tried to really get the Northeast Philadelphia area involved. I knew some writers at the Northeast Times, see if we could do bits and articles and everything like that. Social media helps, I try to put as much of information as possible with free newsletters. I tried emailing everybody, like not just people in my gym, but all over. Even people I haven’t seen in awhile and if they posted a picture, I would reach out. It became exhausting, so I just try to reach out to people in our community.
Since starting your gym in 2010, how have you seen CrossFit grow in this area?
When we started in the Northeast, I could only name like five. Now, they are popping up all over. Some I can name, some I cannot, but they are definitely growing more, especially in the Northern Liberties area. It’s trendy, so a lot of people want to go there.
Although these are competitive gyms, is there a community within all of those gyms?
Yes, I think that’s the one thing with CrossFit, always support your local gyms. You want to support everyone who is doing the same thing as you, but if someone moves right next to you and is taking away from me, a business owner, I am going to say “What the (expletive) are you doing?” What is cool about the CrossFit community, is mostly everyone is very approachable.
Is there a variety of people training CrossFit?
It is usually people who have never done it before and here, the average age is 24 to 30.
How has CrossFit affected your relationships within the community?
As I lived healthier, I realized other people wanted that lifestyle as well, so I gained a lot of relationships with people outside of the gym. I ended up meeting my fiancé doing this stuff.
How did that happen?
I met her in a Summer Classic competition in Northern Liberties in 2012, I actually won the whole thing. She was going to a different gym and we kept in contact after that and became friends. We started dating three years ago and I proposed to her last February.
Out of the people you know in the community, did any of them decide to open their own gym?
A good friend of mine Jimmy Franks was my barber, he opened CrossFit 053 in Bucks County. I had him for about a year and a half. He was a good trainer and a good coach and was level one certified. He is the only one that went on to open a gym.
Are there any local franchise gyms offering CrossFit programs?
Not that I know of. There is no CrossFit version of Planet Fitness. Knock on wood, I don’t think you will see a franchise gym with functional fitness and movement. You would need so many trainers and coaches on the floor to make sure no one gets hurt.
— Text and images by Tucker Bagley and Connor Northrup.