Go Beyond Barbells at These Somerville Fitness Centers

achieve fitness“We want to be the anti-gym,” sats Achieve Fitness co-founder Lauren Pak, pictured here with husband and partner Jason Pak. Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

Sometimes, all you want from a gym is to pop in your earbuds, jump on a treadmill and tune out while you work out. But if you’re looking to get fit in a space that offers a little more, you’ll want to check out one of these Somerville gyms—where community is one of the keys to success.

commonwealth crossfit

Commonwealth CrossFit’s Brian Buell. Photo by Kate Douglas.

Commonwealth CrossFit
630 Somerville Ave. | commonwealthcrossfit.com

In a building that was once a bottle and can return center, Brian Buell finishes talking a small group of CrossFit clients through a workout. As the class wraps up, he goes over what foods everyone should be eating for the rest of the day and outlines ways to properly recover from the session. He’s committed to the well-being of his clients, because he knows firsthand just how well CrossFit works.

Buell opened Commonwealth CrossFit after attending North Shore CrossFit in Danvers. While training there, Buell began volunteering as a coach for Soccer Nights in North Cambridge, where he would later serve as director. He fell in love with the area and the people, but he had a few concerns. For starters, he felt that people were becoming further and further separated from their physical surroundings: sitting at desks all day, walking on pavement, not interacting with the natural world. He also felt that people weren’t connected to one another outside of work— certainly not in a way that incorporated fitness.

He saw the physicality of CrossFit as a solution to this dilemma. “I love CrossFit’s capacity to create a community,” Buell says. So, he brought that community to Somerville.

CrossFit may seem intimidating to fitness novices—and even to some regular gym-goers. The name itself conjures images of ripped bodybuilders hustling through high-energy, high-intensity workouts. But that’s far from the average CrossFit experience. Commonwealth CrossFit is an inclusive space for people of all ability levels, from training experts who feel like they’re losing their edge to novices who don’t even know where to start.

The large, open-concept building on Somerville Avenue houses plenty of equipment for Buell’s CrossFit members. “It’s more like a playground than a gym,” he says of the space. The lively concept for the gym is aligned with its philosophy—fitness, community and joy. “It’s all about connecting people,” Buell says. “With goals or with one another.” At the beginning of each class, everyone introduces themselves and gets acclimated before starting the joint workout.

The relationships between clients, coaches and even Buell himself make Commonwealth CrossFit a gem among gyms. With close to 200 current members, it could be easy for people to come and go unnoticed or slip through the cracks. But Buell is so committed to his clients’ success that he personally makes sure everyone is leaving each session satisfied. Every week, Buell and his team audit who attended class and who was a no-show. If it looks like someone has stopped showing up, Buell reaches out to them directly. If there’s a problem, he and his coaches catch it right away. It’s this support and accountability that keep clients coming back week after week, year after year.

“As long as you get here,” Buell says, “you’re going to make a change.”

the training room

Photo by Kate Douglas.

The Training Room
691A Somerville Ave. and 373 Washington St. | thetrainingroomboston.com

“Dedication lives in this room.”

That’s the motto at The Training Room, which co-owners Heidi Shalek and Maren Kravitz founded in 2009. Both Shalek and Kravitz spent years working at corporate gyms, an experience that left them feeling like the industry was missing a sense of accountability, so the two women decided to open up their own facility. The Training Room does things a little differently than those big box gyms. It’s a fitness space with no memberships, where clients are instead held accountable through their relationships with trainers and fellow members.

When The Training Room opened, it was just about the only game in town. Now in its eighth year, the gym has expanded into a second location, and Shalek and Kravitz are as dedicated as ever to their core values of client education and community building. “It’s like a family here,” Kravitz explains.

The facility is staffed by a group of talented, caring people who share the founders’ commitment to teamwork and cooperation. Every trainer is coached to teach all of the many classes the gym offers, which means every trainer can work with a broad range of clients who have varied needs and goals. It also means there’s none of the possessiveness over clients that sometimes exists in other gyms. Here, the goal is to help everyone who walks through the door. “It’s not about us,” Kravitz says. “We’re simply here to equip people with tools.”

The Training Room offers a selection of classes and training options without mandating a menu of services clients won’t use. There are group classes, one-on-one sessions and one of The Training Room’s best features—TRAC, a hybrid of personal training and group classes. This system provides structured workouts while keeping a focus on individual progress at the forefront.

Shalek and Kravitz want to break the stereotypes about what fitness is and what it looks like. Both women understand there’s no one body type that embodies physical fitness, and they’ve made a space for non-traditional gym-goers and for clients of all backgrounds and abilities. They boast a diverse clientele and serve people of all ages. Their youngest participant is 13; their oldest clients are in their 80s. One of those clients is local restaurateur and renowned chef Tony Maws, owner of Craigie on Main and the Kirkland Tap and Trotter. “It’s whatever you want it to be,” Maws says of The Training Room. “They’re not following a formula—it’s personal.” Not only does Maws choose this space for his workouts, but his wife, aunt and 76-year-old mother all train here, too.

If their no-membership approach or stellar online reviews aren’t enough, one trainer— Kevin Duong—might have a story that sells you on the space. Duong drives 45 minutes every morning to work at the gym. His motivation for making the trek?

“I want to make a positive impact on people’s lives,” he says.

achieve fitness

Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

Achieve Fitness
42 Merriam St. | achievefitnessboston.com

“We want to be the anti-gym,” says Achieve Fitness co-owner Lauren Pak. She and husband Jason Pak opened their gym four years ago. Since then, they’ve built a business that thrives on its members’ success.

The Paks created a blueprint that keeps Achieve from falling into the “cookie-cutter” formula of other gyms. They saw a need for a space that not only allowed members to work out without feeling judged or intimidated but also offered real support and a sense of solidarity.

“The missing link for most people is confidence,” Lauren notes. “Achieve takes the fear away. It’s not a competitive space—it’s a genuine, supportive environment.”

It’s a model that seems to be working. Most of Achieve’s 225 current members aren’t looking to win any bodybuilding competitions—they’re just folks who want to get fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle. “Achieve doesn’t offer anything too fancy,” explains coach Emily Beinecke. “What we offer is efficacy-based and research-based.”

Most training here is done in groups rather than one-on-one, but the gym still offers an individualized experience. Every new member is given a customized training program that takes a holistic approach to their fitness level and lifestyle. Members then get a personalized plan that incorporates both solo workouts and the gym’s other selling point—group classes, of which there are a large variety. Every coach is trained to teach the entire range. And that word, “coach,” is important. Employees are intentionally not referred to as “trainers,” and they’re there to teach and encourage on a personal level.

This sort of support is indicative of the gym’s larger philosophy. As they work out, members chat with fellow gym-goers and coaches. And every month, Achieve hosts a social event. Sometimes the fun is fitness-related, like trampoline dodgeball. Other times, it’s not. (December’s gathering was a Love Actually viewing party.)

Lauren describes her vision for fostering relationships at Achieve as a “trickle-down process.” Everyone wants to see everyone else succeed, so she trains her staff in this idea and imparts it on her clients. From the Paks to the coaches to individual members, everyone is committed to mutual success.

This story originally appeared in the January/February print edition of Scout, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.

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