McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 23, 2014

CrossFit comes to McAlester

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — A group of McAlester residents are pumped up about their new training and fitness regimen — and they’re hoping lots of others join them.

It’s called CrossFit McAlester, a core strength and conditioning program designed to be broad, general and inclusive.

Proponents say it’s helpful for anyone who gets with the program, from those training for mixed martial arts fights to seniors who haven’t exercised in a while and are ready to get into shape.

CrossFit McAlester is at 1222 E. Washington Ave., just west of Oakhill Cemetery, on the south side of the street.

When the garage doors are shut, the only sign of the activity inside is the numerous cars in the parking lot before a session begins. When the doors are open, passers-by might see a vortex of individuals engaged in a strenuous workout.

At a morning session attended by the News-Capital, many participants engaged in the workouts were obviously already in shape and looking to enhance their conditioning.

With the opening riff of Johnny Cash’s timeless song “Big River” sounding through the building, participants immediately jump into a series of exercises.  Some do chin-ups; others jump on and off boxes, while others lift weights, do squat lifts or lift kettlebells.

Then, as the music segues into a hard rock song by Wolfmother, the exercisers continue to push themselves, trading off on many of the exercises.

Josh Carney is the head coach, with a number of other coaches also on hand to assist those working with the program.

“CrossFit is for everybody,” Carney said. “It doesn’t matter your skill level.”

He became the first of several individuals to cite a sense of community.

“We’re all doing the same thing; we’re all doing the same workouts,” he said. “It’s kind of like a big ol’ family.”

Coach Cris Clayton agreed and said the CrossFit program is all-inclusive, with many of those participating encouraging others. Clayton also cited the sense of working together in CrossFit workouts.

“I like the community of it,” he said. “Everybody’s really uplifting.”

Traci James took a break between sessions to talk about her enthusiasm for CrossFit.

“It’s addicting,” she said, adding that she considers herself very competitive and driven. She said one of the things she likes about CrossFit and its coaches “is the help and the enthusiasm and experience they give.”

Sarah Howard also spoke highly of the program between workouts.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s a full workout plan.” She also liked the support from the coaches as well as the other participants.

“They cheer everybody on,” Howard said.

“The teamwork here is amazing.”

Jim Jeffreys stopped by a for a sample session.

“I like it so far,” he said. “You have to work,” he added.

Some couples do the workouts together, such as Cephas and Emily Cannon.

Cephas Cannon, who has competed in mixed martial arts fights, also is a CrossFit proponent.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think what it’s about is learning to move in the most efficient way.” As an example, he cited learning how to pick up a heavy feed sack without hurting your back.

“CrossFit McAlester is a good thing for our county,” he said.

Emily Cannon said CrossFit is beneficial to her, too,

“I just had a baby 15 months ago,” she said.

Sheila Cochran said she started back on the program when her child was 6 weeks old.

Sessions are available at different times throughout the day, with morning sessions set for 5 a.m., 6 a.m., 9 a.m. and noon. Afternoon and evening sessions are available at 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The facility is closed on Sunday.

Classes are available for beginners, for those who have been doing reasonable exercises and for those who are more advanced.

Those involved as owners or coaches with CrossFit, or in some cases, both, include Clayton, Carney, Dr. Larry Lewis, Dr. Michael Auld, Dr. Clark Grilliot and Josh Mabray.

“The seven of us got together and we opened on Jan. 1,” Lewis said.

Several of those identified Lewis as the driving force behind the CrossFit emergence in McAlester.

“Dr. Lewis got us started on this,” Clayton said. “This has been his dream.”

Denise Lewis, who is married to Dr. Lewis, joined those participating in the morning workout.

“If you do it and put some effort into it, you’ll get stronger,” she said.

 She said a couple who lived in McAlester nearly nine years ago, but who have since moved, were certified to instruct in a CrossFit boot camp. She tried it and liked it.

“After a couple of weeks, I told Larry he might want to come,” she said. Once Dr. Lewis tried CrossFit, he continued it with a passion.

“Larry’s done it all these years,” she said, even competing in regional competition.

“He got certified in San Diego five years ago,” she said. Denise Lewis said their son, Brian Lewis, also participates.

Dr. Lewis, who had been unable to attend that workout, also spoke about CrossFit.  For the past few years, some of the participants took turns working out in each other’s garages. When Dr. Lewis learned the building at 1222 E. Washington Ave. was available, he and the others decided to make their move.

He said so far more than 100 individuals have signed up for the classes.

Anyone needing more information can check out the website at

Dr. Lewis said he hopes CrossFit helps improve the overall fitness of those in the McAlester area.

“Oklahoma, for years, has been on the bottom of the charts,” Lewis said, referring to studies regarding overall fitness. “As far as our overall health, our area is pretty far down.

“With exercise and proper nutrition, hopefully we can improve.”

Like Lewis, Carney is a veteran of the CrossFit program. He said he’s been doing CrossFit for 10 years, after being introduced to the program by Jim and Lisa Waddell, the couple referred to by Denise Lewis.

“I saw Jim doing some crazy stuff; he was doing stuff I’d never seen before,” Carney said.

Carney, a student at the time, asked if he could learn some of the exercise and workouts.

“After my first one I was hooked,” he said.

Like many of the others associated with CrossFit, Carney says its benefits go beyond the physical level.

“You can have an awful day, you can come here, and everything’s good,” he said.

“The really cool part is the camaraderie.”

Contact James Beaty at