For Iraq veteran Sam Cila, CrossFit helped him reclaim his identity after an ambush took his left arm and nearly cost him his life.
Cila, who was inspired to join the U.S. Army after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, had only been in Iraq less than a year when his team was ambushed in Baghdad in 2005.
He was on patrol when he stumbled upon a bag of trash that turned out to be an improvised explosion device. His team and his field medic made sure that Cila survived the explosion, but the following years of countless surgeries and physical therapy would test his endurance as he fought the possibility of an amputation.
But in 2008, three years after the injury, he could no longer escape the inevitable. His left hand was amputated just before Christmas that year.
“My entire life was always based around athletics,” Cila said. “The injury caused some doubt – if I’ll ever be the type of athlete I was before, the type of soldier, husband or father.”
But instead of allowing the amputation to hold him back, Cila drew strength from it.
He threw himself into his training like never before. He took up cycling, running and swimming. He entered Olympic distance triathlons.
And when he joined the CrossFit gym on Route 25 when it opened two years ago, he found a competitive community that pushed him toward his fitness goals and a support system he had been craving ever since he had to retire from the Army.
“You’ve got good people and teammates to your left and right cheering for you,” he said. “It’s not like going to a normal gym. People look forward to seeing each other at the scheduled workouts. The sense of community is heightened.”
CrossFit is a widely acclaimed fitness program that combines cardio, strength training and gymnastic elements. In recent years, it has developed an almost cultish following of dedicated participants from all over the world.
Members are attracted to the camaraderie of the classes, which foster encouragement and support among participants, as well as the variety of the ever-changing workouts.
“People get excited about reaching new records,” Cila said. “They build confidence when they set a new goal, or they beat their last time in a 5K run. To be part of that and the growth your teammates make is the best part of CrossFit.”
Cila recently purchased the Route 25 CrossFit facility, formerly known as Metoac CrossFit, with his wife, Anna, and their friend Terri Davis, who they met through the gym. The facility’s former owner, Joe Torre, will remain at the gym as a head coach.
“We want to accelerate the growth that members have already made under Metoac and Joe,” Cila said. “We’ll use that as a launching pad to help them reach new heights.”
CrossFit Impervious, as the facility has been renamed, will offer a variety of new programs, including a barbel club every Thursday night, yoga on Saturday mornings, a partnership with Aerial Fitness for acrobatic silk workouts and a summer youth program for age groups from 7-15 years old.
“We’ve got to raise strong kids and keep them on point,” said Davis about the youth program. “We’ve done it before and the kids really took to it very well. It’s a lot of focus on teamwork and learning the value of your teammates.”
Anna Cila discovered CrossFit through her husband, Sam. “We’ve always had the idea of starting a gym together,” she said, “but we never went for it. After meeting Terri, though, we found that she complements us very well. We’ve got a really good team here working together.”
The facility boasts 3,600 square feet of gym space with 25 lifting platforms, power racks, weightlifting rigs and plenty of equipment, including barbells, dumbbells, bumper plates, kettlebells, plyo boxes and medicine balls.
Members work out together during “open gym” times. The rest of the week is packed with classes, from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Membership is offered for three-month or 12-month commitments, at $145 and $125 per month respectively. Emergency responders get a discounted rate of $99 per month, with a two-week free trial.
The gym is located at 121 Route 25, across from The All Star bowling alley