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Haley Billett (right) provides guidance to a student in her CrossFit class held at CrossFit SEO on Monday, Jan. 13.

CrossFit SEO works to destigmatize the exercise

For some, the lifestyle of CrossFit can seem intimidating, but for Jolene Quirke, she lives and breathes it by coaching people every day to become stronger and healthier individuals through the practice.

Quirke is the owner and head coach of CrossFit SEO, 762 W. Union St., the first CrossFit affiliate in Athens. For a little over eight years, Quirke has been teaching and training the complex workout at her affiliate. CrossFit is a combination of high intensity movements that are constantly varied. The functionality of the movements makes them doable for everyone, making it easier to complete daily tasks more efficiently and with greater ease.

“Every single movement in CrossFit is scalable,” Quirke said. “We don’t change the type of movement we’re doing, we just change the degree. That’s what's kind of great about our sport.”

Originally, Quirke trained at the Athens Community Center, but she began running into several issues that hindered her CrossFit experience. The equipment was limited, the ceilings weren’t tall enough and the floor was not an ideal surface for bumper plates, a type of weight plate made of dense rubber with a steel collar in the middle.

It wasn’t long after that she opened up her own gym on Columbus Road, which quickly filled to capacity, resulting in the move to the gym’s current location on Union Street. 

CrossFit SEO offers group classes throughout the week, which are open to people of all levels. To Quirke, coaching people of varying strengths and abilities helps people grow together and compete in a healthy manner.

“Whatever the workout is of the day, it’s the coach’s job to scale,” Quirke said. “What happens naturally is, you’ll see the community aspect of CrossFit is a big part of what makes it what it is. If you’re with a group of people you’ll try harder no matter what.”

Classes range from weightlifting to gymnastics, with variations of the exercises in between. Quirke takes a lot of pride in making workout plans every day, hitting every aspect of fitness while challenging one’s body in different ways.

Haley Billett (left) provides guidance to a student in her CrossFit class held at CrossFit SEO in Athens, Ohio, on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.

“The possibilities are endless as far as the combinations,” Quirke said. “People are always surprised by the workouts and movements of the week, and that’s really fun.”

Though CrossFit has been a positive life experience for Quirke and many others, there’s a stigma around the practice that leaves some on the fence about whether or not it’s a safe fitness program. To Quirke, there are some CrossFit affiliates that don’t pay enough attention to how people move and rush through exercises that could lead to serious injury.

“There’s some complicated movements in CrossFit,” Quirke said. “Intensity is such a big part of CrossFit, and I’m not going to let somebody load a bar unless they look OK. It’s a process, so you have to be patient and have good coaching.”

Nevertheless, it’s a fitness lifestyle Quirke is proud to live by as she helps others become the best versions of themselves.

“I think it has changed my way of thinking in that I don’t make the best money, but I love what I do,” Quirke said. “It’s like a big adult playground. You’re hanging from bars, jumping, flipping tires. You’re doing things that are hard, but it’s rewarding and fun.”

Like Quirke, Beau Goodrichis, another coach at CrossFit SEO, has gotten a lot out of the practice and loves watching others improve themselves not only physically but mentally.

“I’m not in it to see how crazy people can get but see people get a little bit healthier,” Goodrichis said. “I enjoy seeing clients come in who have trouble with certain movements whether it’s in their everyday life really, progress and do certain lifts, manipulate their bodies in certain ways.”

Goodrichis himself has been doing CrossFit consistently for about five years and has improved his own life significantly through the practice.

“I’m way more fit than I used to be,” Goodrichis said. “I eat healthier, I stay active and keep myself young.”

Garrett Weininger, a junior studying meteorlogy, got into CrossFit because his sister, Madison, who is also a coach at CrossFit SEO, convinced him to give it a try in summer 2017. It wasn’t long until he realized he loved it.

“After I graduated, I needed something to keep me physically active, and CrossFit was a perfect thing to do,” Weininger said.

Weininger prefers going to the CrossFit SEO gym over Ping Recreation Center because of how crowded Ping can get from time to time. He also enjoys the organized and varying workouts that CrossFit offers.

“Without the SEO coaches, I don’t think I would push myself as hard or be in as good shape if I just went to Ping,” he said. “(CrossFit) is never boring, and by joining, I have met so many great people and learned how to lift weight safely with good form.”


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