CrossFit Barrington - Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Each holiday season, many of us start off with the best of intentions: just one appetizer, one drink, or one sweet at any given event. But it’s all so delicious, and the company’s so delightful…and pretty soon we’ve lost our resolve for good.

But what if we strengthened our resolve instead of losing it? This year can be different, according to Brian Niven of CrossFit Barrington (CFB). This can be the year we emerge from the holiday season as lean, mean, resolution-keeping machines. The key, he says, is getting ahead of the holiday bulge.

Brian Niven CrossFit Barrington co-owner and coach - Courtesy of ??
Brian Niven CrossFit Barrington co-owner and coach – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Brian, who opened CrossFit Barrington in September of 2011 with co-owner Chris Bluse, knows the scenario very well. “People mean to get to the gym, but life gets crazy during the holidays. Before you know it, you’ve gone up a pant size.” So, this holiday season, Brian’s challenging us to beat the holiday heft by joining CrossFit. If we stick with it, not only will our pants fit, but we’ll be in the best shape of our lives.

CrossFit Barrington offers classes for adults, teens, and children. All are based on functional movement, which Brian says can include Olympic lifting, running/sprinting, basic gymnastics, kettlebells, jumping and throwing, to name a few possibilities. This constant variation is what challenges our muscle groups by making them work in new and different ways–unlike hours on the treadmill or endless reps on weight equipment.

CrossFit fights complacency, in both our muscles and our minds. It centers on the “workout of the day,” or WOD, which is always different from the day before. The WOD is written on a white board, and reads like jibberish to the uninitiated. It’s a series of exercises–sometimes given a name like “Fran,” or “Murph”–which require you to do a type of work, often bearing a load, either over a given distance or for a given number of repetitions.

This alone is enough to intimidate many would-be CrossFitters, but Brian says not to worry. “When a beginner comes in, we take the extra time to work with them on their form, and ensure quality of movement.” So we’ll never be left in the dark about the CrossFit lingo, and we’ll know exactly how to safely perform an exercise before we’re asked to execute it.

Kaia Kraus, CrossFit Barrington coach - Courtesy of ??
Kaia Kraus, CFB coach – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

Every CrossFit exercise is scalable, meaning that the coaches will help tailor it to our ability levels. They’ll also help us accommodate an area of weakness or injury, so that we can participate in a way that’s appropriate. “I’m always aware of what my clients can do,” Brian says. “I would never put someone under a load if I had any doubts about safety.”

Coach Kaia Kraus encourages us to make that first critical step through the door–and promises it’s not as intimidating as we might think. “Everybody’s walked in the door once scared and confused. We’re welcoming, and we’ll help you find your way.”

For encouragement, we decided to talk to some folks who tried CrossFit and never looked back. Here are their top 5 reasons to join CrossFit today:

1. The sooner you join, the sooner you’ll see real results. 

When Marc Cohen wasn’t seeing results from his workout regimen, he knew it was time to shake things up. Marc, who has served as pastor at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Barrington since June, 2012, tried various other workouts before heading to CrossFit. “I just needed a change of pace, and something that would work better for me.”

Words to Live By on Display at CrossFit Barrington - Courtesy of Julie Linnekin
Words to live by at CrossFit Barrington – Courtesy of Julie Linnekin

Marc joined CFB  in late October, and now attends CrossFit classes six mornings per week at 6 a.m. He anticipated he would feel fatigued and sore at first, but knew to persevere. “I knew that, for myself, I had to let it become a habit.” He recently signed up for another 6 month membership.

Marc estimates that he’s lost about 5 pounds, but gained muscle mass. He’s also gained the ability to run and play with his two young children. “I have some friends who say, ‘CrossFit? I could never do that.’ I’m like, have you seen me? Yes, you can. You just have to commit yourself to it.”

2. Your body–even its injured parts–will thank you. 

Jill Howard, 51, is a lifelong runner and an avid exerciser. For the past several years, though, she’s been plagued by back issues that sent her to physical therapy and reduced her running capacity.

When her friend Ingrid decided to join CrossFit, Jill was intrigued. As her back improved, she decided to give it a try in May of this year. “They give you a free week, so you can really get a sense of how it works. I was so impressed with their attention to detail.” In all of Jill’s years going to the gym, no one had ever corrected her form. “At CrossFit, they know my back issues, and they’re the first to say, ‘If you can’t do that, do this.’ No one looks down on you if you have to scale it.”

Jill Howard at her 6am CrossFit class - Courtesy of CrossFit Barrington
Jill Howard at her 6am CrossFit class – Courtesy of CrossFit Barrington

Jill knew she had found the right workout when, a couple of months ago, she realized she hadn’t felt pain radiating down her leg. Instead, she feels strong and healthy:”You leave, and you feel like an athlete–so strong. It’s a really good feeling, like you’re ready to tackle the day.”

As a woman over 50, Jill worried that she might feel out of place at CFB. “But they’re right there cheering me on, and the guys just treat me like part of the group.”

A mother of two grown daughters, Jill received the ultimate compliment over Thanksgiving. As she was working in the kitchen, one of her daughters said, “Wow, look at those guns on mom!”

3. You have health concerns that can’t wait until after the holidays.

When David Robbins, 41, started CrossFit in July of 2012, he had been mostly inactive since he was about 27 or 28 years old. He had worked out for maybe two or three weeks at a time, but never stuck with anything. He was attracted to the variety and structure CrossFit offered, and liked that the workout was designed by someone else.  “You don’t have to think about it. It’s all there, spelled out for you.”

David’s the first to admit that CrossFit wasn’t easy when he first started–and it isn’t easy now. “At first, I was extremely sore. Now, if I’m sore, it’s a good soreness, where I know I’m pushing myself.” He likes the team-like camaraderie, and being held accountable for his workouts.  “There’s definitely a motivational factor to working out in a group.”

David Robbins gets after it at CrossFit - courtesy of Leigh Niven
David Robbins gets after it at CrossFit – Courtesy of CrossFit Barrington

Now, David shows up at CFB at 6 a.m., five or six mornings per week. “It’s my coffee. I look forward to getting there, socializing a bit, and getting it over with.” He says he’s the fittest he’s ever been, even back in high school or college. His pants are looser, but his suit jacket’s tighter (due to muscle development).

CrossFit has also helped him win a ten-year battle with high blood sugar and cholesterol. “I just learned from my doctor that for the first time in ten years, my levels came back within goal. I had to e-mail Brian to thank him, and he said ‘Its only going to get better.'”

4. Your sports performance will skyrocket (calling all teens).

David Danhauer, 16, is a junior at BHS who divides his time between academics,varsity football and baseball. He’s also Brian and Craig Niven’s cousin, which is a huge asset to a teen athlete.

David first started doing CrossFit five years ago, in Brian’s garage. He says that learning how to weight train properly at a young age provided a “foundation of strength” that gave him an edge over his competition. “CrossFit involves a lot of explosive speed, which is major in football. It’s definitely made a difference for me.”

David Danhauer, a BHS junior, executes a farmer carry - Courtesy of CrossFit Barrington
David Danhauer, a BHS junior, executes a farmer carry – Courtesy of CrossFit Barrington

David, who plays Defensive Line, even maintains his CrossFit schedule during the season. He went to CFB three mornings a week during football, but has upped it to six mornings per week in the off season. “It’s integral to what success I’ve had, without a doubt. I recommend it to any athlete. If you’re not the best athlete, which I wasn’t, it can really give you an advantage.” David looks forward to helping out Coach Brian at CrossFit, and maybe even coaching someday.

CFB offers teen classes at 4 p.m., five days per week. Grab a friend and try it out. As teens develop physically and gain knowledge of CrossFit they are also invited to attend adult classes. Many parents find it’s a great way to spend some time together, challenging one another and being active.

Coach Kaia teaching a teen class - Photographed by Julie Linnekin
Coach Kaia teaching a teen class – Photographed by Julie Linnekin

CFB will also host Teen Off Season Lifting Camps, which are meant for beginner and intermediate-level middle school and high school athletes.  The fundamentals of lifting will be taught throughout the course, which will focus on squat, deadlift, bench press/press, and power clean. Camps will be held Dec. 30-31, from 1-3 p.m., and Jan. 2-3, from 1-3 p.m. Click HERE or call (847) 650-5589 to learn more, and to sign up.

5. Kids, you can do burpees in front of your parents.

Olivia Karas, 9, first went to CrossFit with her mom, Tiffany. As she watched her mom in action, she grew more curious about CrossFit, and wanted to know if she could do it too. She started in October, and her mom says she’s been “bitten by the CrossFit bug!”

Olivia says her coach, Kaia Kraus, “is really nice, and she just makes everything so fun.” She likes to do burpees (a squat-thrust exercise that is many CrossFitters’ nemesis, but not Olivia’s), sit-ups, and push-ups. Her favorite thing, though, is “stack the stuff,” where “you have to go around and pick stuff up and stack it so it doesn’t fall off.” The stakes are high, folks: if it falls off, the kids have to do 20 reps of an exercise. “But if it stays on, the coach has to do it.” Look out, coach Kaia.

CrossFit kids, post workout - Courtesy of CrossFit Barrington
CrossFit kids, post workout – Courtesy of CrossFit Barrington

Kaia says CrossFit Kids is a great way to involve children who may be deterred from participation in traditional sports. “It’s empowering for them to do this, and feel strong. The sooner they believe that fitness is fun, the better.” It teaches them the importance of carving out time to be active, and how to win and lose gracefully.

CFB will be hosting two sessions of CrossFit Kids Winter Break Camp; Dec. 30, 31, and January 2, 3 from 11-12:30.  Camps are capped at 15 kids per class, and focus on exercise, healthy eating habits, and play. For more information, or to sign up, click here or call (847) 650-5589. 

Brian and Kaia encourage all of us to come out and try CrossFit before the holidays. “You don’t need to get in better shape before you come. Just walk through the door,” Kaia says. CFB even offers a week’s membership, free of charge. “It doesn’t cost you anything to come and give it a try.” 



CrossFit Barrington
28066 W. Commercial Ave. #8
Lake Barrington, IL 60010


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