Maine Doctors Buy CrossFit Gym, Bringing New Level of Expertise as Affiliate Owners

March 7, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Ellsworth American Photo By Lizzie Heintz
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The new owners of CrossFit Breakwater, located in Ellsworth, Maine, are hoping to bridge the gap between the medical world and CrossFit by bringing their expertise to the sport. 

Dr. Casey Johnston, who has a doctorate in physical therapy, and Dr. Dan Waterman, with a doctorate in athletic training, went all in on CrossFit after purchasing the gym in February. The business partners understand the CrossFit methodology and believe there is a better way to enhance the CrossFit experience with medical professionals at the helm. 

  • “I’m really hoping that I am bridging this gap and bringing a sense of safety or a thought of safety to the CrossFit methodology and the practice of CrossFit,” said Johnston. 
  • “Even in these first two weeks where it was announced locally in our town that we took over we’ve had several people from the community immediately come in to the gym and say, ‘we’re ready to start CrossFit now because we feel safe that you are heading it and guiding it and supervising it.”
  • Johnston adds, from her PT school background, “when I was in school there were definitely a lot of things missing as far as our education with treating not just athletes, but specifically athletes who are doing a lot of the things we do in CrossFit, like the Olympic lifting, powerlifting and gymnastics, and there’s definitely an age bias that goes along with that in healthcare once you hit 40.”

There is no question crossfitters defy the odds. One of the major populations of CrossFit athletes are the masters divisions. Some of the greats of the sport have started to age up, including Rich Froning and Sam Briggs, who are registered in the 2023 NOBULL CrossFit Open under the 35-39 and 40-44 divisions respectively. Current worldwide standings have Froning at 157 and Briggs at 1056. 

While most of us mere mortals are just trying to get an hour of fitness in a day, it just goes to show the durability and longevity of CrossFit. Johnston and Waterman are also trying to break down the stigma around the sport and make it more accessible to their community. 

  • “They’re [the community] excited to have a really medically oriented gym where our primary focus is making sure that you can stay working out,” said Waterman. 
  • “And we know that CrossFit has relatively low risk of injury anyway, compared to other forms of exercise. But the public doesn’t know that and so the more that we keep projecting that and advertising that as professionals in our community, the better the community is going to be.”
  • Waterman adds, he and Johnston are also trying to breathe in new energy to the gym, “we’re trying to increase the communication with both members and coaches to generate some ideas around some of those fundamental aspects of the community.” 

One of CrossFit Breakwater’s most well attended classes is a 50+ class. It has so much popularity that it had to be split into two class times, said Johnston and Waterman. Which is a testament to their underlying goal of making CrossFit accessible to all ages. 

  • “One thing that CrossFit does really, really well is it mixes in that metabolic training with weight training, which is exactly what you need after 55 when your metabolism starts to slow down,” said Waterman. 
  • “I wish that more health care providers would be a proponent of just general weightlifting for an older population in general, for bone health and also CrossFit because it also gets that aerobic training in too.” 

Separately, Johnston and Waterman shed some light on unsafe fitness going on around the globe and not just in Crossfit gyms. They both hope to mitigate some of those bad practices by teaching their members how to properly warm up and cool down and follow programming. 

  • “A lot of trainers in any environment, especially with social media now, there’s a big difference between giving a workout that makes somebody tired and sweaty versus actual programming,” said Johnston. 

Aside from injecting their own knowledge on members, Johnston and Waterman plan to educate their coaches as well. 

  • “I think one of the benefits of having Casey and I as CrossFit owners is not just for the perception of the safety across it, but also we can really get the opportunity to inject our knowledge into our coaches,” said Waterman. 

They plan on doing monthly or quarterly seminars that are specific to one particular movement pattern, such as a squat progression, and breaking down the exercise science behind that movement so that “our members are able to get the benefits of having us vicariously through those coaches.”

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