The owners of Morristown’s new CrossFit 13 Stars gym are young devotees of modern technology.
But their approach to fitness is old-school.
As in: Hard, smart workouts with plenty of encouragement from coaches and fellow gym-rats.
“It’s different than a regular gym,” said co-owner Brian Vagnini, 32, who also teaches tech ed classes at Morristown High School. “We’re class-oriented. We create a community of individuals who want to work out together and support each other.”
A grand opening is scheduled for Feb. 15, 2014, from 10 am to 2 pm, and free introductory classes are available on Saturdays. Guests who climb three flights of stairs to the loft at 74 Elm St.–a workout by itself– won’t be overwhelmed by shiny gadgetry.
Aside from some rowing machines, most of the gear would look right at home in an old Rocky movie: Barbells, gymnastic rings, some chin-up bars.
It’s a philosophy born in a California gym in 1998. Strength and conditioning are built from “constantly varied, if not randomized, functional movements executed at high intensity,” according to the CrossFit Journal.
“We’re passionate about this. It’s something we believe in,” said Brian’s business partner, Dan Moran, 32, who also works for Covanta Energy. Greg Dillon rounds out the ownership roster. Brian’s wife, Julie Delimon Vagnini, who teaches English and journalism at Morristown High, is a highly visible part of the six-member team.
Certified in the CrossFit training system, and veterans of area gyms, the owners are banking on their energy, opening discounts and flexible hours and service to carve their niche in a town where health and fitness ventures already fill an entire web page of the Morristown Partnership’s business directory. Another CrossFit gym is only blocks away, in fact.
“The difference between us is we’re catering more to the everyday professional who is looking to come in for a great workout, meet some good people, and be part of a community. We’re not looking to part of the CrossFit Olympics,” said Brian, who met Dan when they were students at Marist College.
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Their gym, in an industrial brick building above a dry cleaning shop, is a short walk from the Morristown train station. For the last few weeks, they quietly have offered 5:15 am classes for clients who want to get their blood pumping before work. Afternoon, evening and Saturday sessions round out the offerings.
The team enthusiastically endorses the Paleo diet. Workouts are about achieving personal bests, not outdoing others, said Brian, a basketball player in his youth.
That personal approach suits Julie, who ran track at Rutgers.
“I was always looking for something where I could be competitive and push myself and feel good that I had done that. A lot of people seem to be missing that in their lives,” she said.
Victories are incremental, yet tangible.
After a few workouts, one customer was thrilled to find strength for lifting her child from a car seat, Julie related.
Ben Plantz works in finance and lives within a barbell’s throw of CrossFit 13 Stars. He appeared to enjoy his first visit, on a recent weekday afternoon. Why was he sweating away on the rowing machine?
“Christmas,” he said. “I gained weight.”
Linda Chow and Kerrie Tidwell also live nearby. They learned about the gym by word of mouth.
“I was looking for a different kind of exercise,” said Linda, an information technology worker who has tried workout DVDs, running and martial arts. In less than a month at CrossFit 13 Stars, she said, she has shed five pounds. “This has given me a lot of energy. I feel very happy and positive.”
Kerrie works long hours an emergency medicine resident at Morristown Medical Center.
“I want to be in shape. I work a lot,” she said. “This provides a great time. I feel great after I do this.”
The Vagninis, who met as teachers at Morristown High, said their gym strengthens marriages, too.
“It’s something positive in our lives, where we can root for each other,” Julie said.
Of course, that stuff about not competing only goes so far.
“It’s good to have a friendly competition with your spouse. We compete all the time,” said Brian.
And who wins?
“Jules, most of the time,” he said.