Common Ground for the Common Good
Matthew Titus is just like many other Newberrians. He enjoys football, science fiction movies and a good craft beer; he loves his family, and he believes in God. In fact, he’s the Pastor at The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on Boundary Street.
Last year, when Pastor Matt—aka “PM” to those who know him—wasn’t strong enough to remove a blade from his riding lawn mower, he asked his neighbor for help. He really only needed the proper tool, but his neighbor—who was 80 years old—plopped down and removed the stuck blade for him. At that moment Pastor Matt realized that he needed to make a change. So what does an out of shape pastor from a small town do when he decides to lose a few pounds? He joins CrossFit.
When someone hears the word CrossFit a wide range of ideas come to mind. Some people think CrossFit is made up of excessive, extreme or dangerous movements that are only possible for those who are young, healthy and fit. Other people think of the TV show American Ninja Warrior and the over the top, almost cartoonish obstacle courses that contestants must complete to win. But that ideology and imagery are patently false.
According to Ryan Smith, Owner and Level One Trainer at Bear Arms CrossFit in Newberry, CrossFit is simply “constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity.” Smith, a Marine and former Law Enforcement Officer, has made it his mission to create (in order of priority) a safe, fun and effective fitness environment in Newberry. “At the end of each day we are average people doing above average workouts that push us to our limits every time,” he says.
In addition to being a safe, varied and challenging workout, another integral component of CrossFit is the strong sense of community which envelops participants with friendship, encouragement and support throughout their fitness journey and often, far beyond. The Newberry CrossFit community is not unlike that of a church with the implied motto being clear: All are welcome.
Both the workout’s popularity and Smith’s member count have grown. One of the reasons for that growth is Smith’s recognition of the importance of new people feeling welcome and comfortable. For many people with no fitness background, a gym is perceived as nothing more than a psychological gauntlet where relentless judgment is the inevitable end game for anyone who has more than 11% body fat. (Note: Pretty much anyone who isn’t an Olympian has more than 11% body fat.) To ensure that everyone is comfortable, Smith says that the two most important characteristics of potential staff are personality and ability to connect to the community. The rest, he says, can be taught through an extensive CrossFit Instructor training program.
With a welcoming community, an accessible staff and a safe, fun and effective workout, Bear Arms CrossFit has created the perfect storm necessary to encourage member commitment, yield measurable results and spread joy. Yes, joy! With their kids in the next room doing their homework, CrossFitters like Pastor Matt have found strength, flexibility, agility, weight loss and to their surprise, fun and kinship too. “We cheer on, razz, and have fun with one another. It really does help when you feel like you have a whole village cheering you on.” Matt says.
It’s been only 4 months, and Pastor Matt Titus has made significant progress. The man who once asked his 80-year-old neighbor for help is stronger and fitter than ever. He, his wife and his peers see the transformation, and the change has been more than physical. “The biggest change is that I’m happy with myself. When you get positive and affirming comments from your wife, your family, and others around you, it helps. That’s not why I do it, but it sure helps. Along with that, I also notice that I eat better, I sleep more soundly and deeply, and I just have more energy to do the things I want to do. Because I’m happy with how I look and feel, it makes me excited to see what new workout I get to do next.”
Now, both a warrior for God and a warrior at the gym, the good-natured Pastor guides not just the minds and spirits of his congregation, he also he also encourages fellow CrossFitters to rethink their perceptions of that which they are physically capable of doing.
The commonalities between the two communities have not gone unnoticed by the two men. Pastor Matt and Ryan recognize that they both are “trying to help people know that they are good enough, because they are,” says Matt, but both also have “to speak hard truths” when people behave in ways that are not helpful to themselves or others.
“Like all good communities full of diverse people,” Pastor Matt adds, “there is struggle and sometimes a little drama, but good communities support one and other, care for each other, and also have fun together.”
Both men just want the people they help to have confidence, good health and the peace of mind associated with overall wellness.