Brian Bellinghausen teaches a CrossFit deadlift class Thursday morning.
Brian Bellinghausen teaches a CrossFit deadlift class Thursday morning.
October 4, 2013

Smile ... It could be harder tomorrow.

The words, painted above a glass door, salute Brian Bellinghausen's customers as they leave his CrossFit classes. More, though, they represent what he hopes they get from those classes.

He wants the workouts to be the hardest thing clients do each day - but he also wants them to be fun.

"I don't want to make coming to the gym and working out a drudgery," he said.

CrossFit classes emphasize variety and offer intensive workouts in short amounts of time. Their goal is to teach people how to move their bodies correctly. For instance, Bellinghausen said, learning to properly lift a barbell from the floor can translate into picking up a child, box of books or pile of firewood later in the day without pain or a pulled muscle.

Bellinghausen's classes last a half hour, and clients never know what they'll be doing on any given day until they walk into the gym and check the board Bellinghausen updates daily. One day, they might be doing deadlifts, with weights ranging from less than 50 pounds to more than 200, and the next, they're walking on their hands, doing one-legged squats and pulling their bodies up on sets of rings.

"People come in and know they're going to do something different than yesterday," he said.

It's not uncommon for clients entering the room to crane their necks and read the board to discover the day's exercises before they greet their peers.

The variety makes it easier to attend daily classes - and making the exercises a surprise each day keeps clients from shying away from classes they think will be more difficult. It also allows clients to do multiple types of training in one class, including cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility.

Bellinghausen's lighthearted approach in his classes carries over to his business approach. The only advertising Bellinghausen uses is word-of-mouth, and his CrossFit Carroll T-shirts - and clients only get one of those after surviving three months of classes. So far, that method has filled his classes.

Payment for classes is due during the first week of each month, and rather than charging late-paying clients a fee, Bellinghausen requires them to do 20 burpees - drop into a squat, kick back your feet, return to a squat, stand, repeat.

It's the exercise everyone loves to hate, he said. In the last few years, he's had to enforce the policy only twice.

"The guy handed me the check and dropped down and did the burpees," Bellinghausen said. "He knew it was coming."

Bellinghausen's clients vary widely; an experienced college athlete could be working out next to a 72-year-old grandfather. And they do the same workouts, with time and intensity adjusted as needed for each person.

Bellinghausen has exercise science and wellness and physical therapist assistant degrees and has been teaching CrossFit-style classes for several years. His physical-therapy experience colors his recommendations for clients and helps him better tailor their workouts.

During one class, a woman remarked her knee pain had lessened.

"See?" Bellinghausen said with a laugh. "It fixes everything."

Clients work hard during the classes, but they're not competitive. They encourage each other, joke and spend time together outside the gym, Bellinghausen said.

Information about Bellinghausen's classes is available at Half-hour classes are offered at various times throughout each day. Access to unlimited small-group classes is $50 per month, and one-on-one training offerings start at $189 for 10 half-hour sessions. Members have 24/7 access to the gym and can use the equipment or try the exercises outlined on the board on their own.

CrossFit Carroll, on Adams Street downtown, periodically offers free Saturday classes; the next one is at 8 a.m. this Saturday. Bellinghausen said anyone is welcome, and he is available to answer questions about the program before and after the class.

"I enjoy having fun with my workout," he said. "I let people be as (disciplined) or as lighthearted as they want in the classes."