Local fitness enthusiasts love the varied workouts and physical challenges at Leland CrossFit.


Editors’ Note: Since the original publication of this article Leland CrossFit has changed ownership. All other information is accurate.

CrossFit gyms, or “boxes” as they are often called by insiders, are popping up all over the country, and this area is no exception. There are four CrossFit facilities in Wilmington alone, and a new Leland CrossFit opened in May 2014 to serve residents of Brunswick County.

If you have ever met anyone who is into CrossFit, you know that the people who do it love it — and love talking about it. If you ask them, they will tell you: It is not just a way of working out, it is a lifestyle.

Leland NC CrossfitLeland CrossFit is co-owned by Jared and Taryn Zeller and Matthew Kane. Kane is the head coach and a full-time student at UNCW. Despite keeping busy with his duties at the gym and classes, he finds time to work out almost two hours a day in order to stay in shape for competitions. I met up with him at the new facility, located in a warehouse off Poole Road by the Waterford Business Center, to learn more about his background and passion for CrossFit. I also wanted to try a workout to see just what it is about CrossFit that has everyone going so crazy over it.

Kane is a former scout sniper for the United States Marine Corps. While stationed in Afghanistan, he and his fellow soldiers had to create their own workouts using whatever objects were available to them, including sandbags and sticks.

“We needed a way to maintain operational fitness,” he says. “There aren’t any gyms to work out in when you’re deployed, so it’s up to you to do whatever you can with what you have.” What he was doing was a CrossFit–style workout before he even really knew what CrossFit was.

Leland NC CrossfitWhen he was discharged from the Marines in 2012, Kane returned to his civilian life and began working out at a commercial gym, but boredom with the same old style of workouts led him to seek out a CrossFit gym in Wilmington. CrossFit’s focus on routines that translate to real-life functional movement appealed to him.

“When you do something like this,” Kane says, demonstrating a bicep curl, “there’s no practical application for that. When are you ever going to use that movement?” CrossFit exercises like squats and deadlifts mimic motions that people do on a daily basis.

A typical CrossFit workout is anything but typical. This style of workout is based upon the principle of constantly varied functional movements. Varied routines help keep the body from becoming too accustomed to a certain workout, which is the key to bigger strength and conditioning gains.

Leland NC CrossfitLike a lot of people, I had heard of CrossFit before visiting the new Leland facility, but I was too intimidated by all of its muscle-bound enthusiasts to try it myself. Despite the fact that CrossFit is the preferred workout style of elite athletes, champion martial artists and many military special operation units, Kane insists that CrossFit is designed to be scalable to any person’s level of fitness.

“Ninety percent of our clients have never tried CrossFit before coming here, and 50 percent have never even worked out before,” he says.

Inside the gym, instead of row after row of fitness equipment, there are large black mats in the center of a mostly empty room with a network of pull-up bars that have rings and support straps dangling from them. A few large medicine balls rest near the entrance to the warehouse, along with huge wooden boxes and silver kettlebells. The side wall is covered with an enormous American flag along with a chalkboard that lists the “WOD,” or “workout of the day.”

Leland NC CrossfitDespite the early hour, it is hot and humid inside the warehouse, even with several large industrial-sized fans going full blast. Men and women go through their warm-up routines, seemingly unbothered by the heat. “I’ve never worked out in an air-conditioned gym,” Kane says. “People come here to sweat.”

Petite, muscular women haul the large wooden boxes that are almost as big as they are from the side of the room over to the mats. They begin to jump from a standing position on top of the boxes — an exercise called a “box jump.”

To begin the official warm-up, one of Kane’s trainers, Jonathan Poole, has us do a 400-meter run, some kettlebell swings and a series of about 10 deadlifts in which we lift a large dumbbell off the ground four times per minute. After the last set, dripping with sweat, I turn to Poole and ask, “Does this mean we’re done?”

Leland NC Crossfit“Done with warmups,” he says with a grin. “Now we do the actual workout.”

Today’s workout is called “3RFT” which stands for “Three Rounds for Time.” Despite being a group exercise, CrossFit is also very much an individual sport. Participants are encouraged to time themselves and try to beat their “PR” or personal record. One section of the large chalkboard is set aside so participants can write down their individual goals. Some are pretty vague: “Squat” or “Pull-up,” but some list things like, “Lose 15 pounds” or “Don’t fall in Grayson’s puke.” The latter, I am told, is an inside joke. I ask Poole if anyone has ever thrown up during a workout. “Not here,” he says, “but I’ve seen it happen at other places.”

It is clear that people who do CrossFit are serious about getting in shape. Everyone in my class seems to push themselves to their physical limits. We do something called “toes to bar” in which we hang on the pull-up bars and try to lift our toes up toward our heads — some of us more successful than others. Next are more kettlebell swings followed by box jumps and another 400-meter run. When that is over, we repeat the process two more times. In total, the workout takes about an hour, and everyone is flushed and sweaty at the end of it.

Leland NC CrossfitArriane Murray has been working out at Leland CrossFit since just a few weeks after the gym opened. Initially, like me, Murray felt intimidated, but now she considers herself “addicted” to CrossFit. “I go almost every day,” she says. “I can’t not go.”

Murray lost 100 pounds prior to joining Leland CrossFit. She credits the gym for helping her tone up and claims working out there has “completely changed her body.” She is a fan of the gym’s website app, which allows her to log on to see what that day’s WOD will be. She likes knowing ahead of time what she can expect for that evening’s workout. “It’s not your normal workout,” she says. “Every day is different and it’s always something interesting and fun.”

Want to try it?

Leland CrossFit
161 Poole Road, Leland, (910) 399-2434;

Hours: Monday through Saturday to members with a free community workout that is open to the public Saturdays at 9 a.m. A full schedule of classes can be found on the website.

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