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Business

Business Is Shaping Up for CrossFit Pacific Coast Gym in Santa Barbara

Co-owners Traver Boehm and Eric Malzone say the well-rounded program and sense of community have been key to building a loyal membership base

The identity of CrossFit Pacific Coast’s Santa Barbara gym is defined by personalities, not any expensive equipment or machines.

The walls of the studio at 209 Anacapa St. are decorated with the names and photos of CrossFit members, leader boards that proudly showcase various personal records, and discarded gym memberships.

Traver Boehm and Eric Malzone, co-owners of CrossFit Pacific Coast, were so convinced by the CrossFit community and its results that they decided to open their own gym in Santa Barbara.

“It has become a huge part of my life; now it’s like a second family,” said Christina Luciano, CrossFit kids program director and a Goleta school teacher. “We’re a close-knit group of friends who have become a part of our daily life.”

Boehm and Malzone were former water polo teammates at Boston College who both needed a new take on fitness. After school, Boehm took up acupuncture and worked in personal security in Los Angeles. It was his mixed-martial arts training that first introduced him to the CrossFit scene.

“I was doing Muay Thai training in Thailand when there was this guy who was doing all this cardio stuff outside the ring,” Boehm said. “He was just amazing and he was the same size (as me), but his fitness level was off the chart.” It turned out his secret was CrossFit.

Meanwhile, Malzone was pursuing a marketing-oriented career and playing for a masters water polo club in San Francisco when his friend told him about it.

“Traver got me into it a few years back when he was using CrossFit quite a bit to supplement his MMA training,” Malzone said. “Compared to his last fight he looked dramatically different. He got me into talking about where we wanted to open a gym and joked about moving to Santa Barbara.”

Malzone gave it a try and didn’t look back. He and Boehm would compare each other’s workouts and respective times. It became ingrained in their life and improved their physical and mental potential.

“For people who work out and train here, CrossFit is an important part of their lives,” Malzone said. “It’s for people who take fitness seriously and is a priority. I couldn’t imagine what I could do without this.”

After researching areas up and down the coast to start their own branch, the duo decided on Santa Barbara despite the warnings from family and friends.

“Business loans were nearly impossible to come by,” so they personally funded the space and equipment, Malzone said. “We didn’t start business in a good economic state, but it was interesting we looked at the numbers and when the economy suffered people starting spending more on health.”

They had no ties to Santa Barbara, but their friendly persistence paid off.

“It was a matter of touching as many people as we could by getting involved in the community,” said Boehm, adding that they actively participate in food drives, Los Prietos Boys Camp and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training.

“We had a core group of five or six people who had a strong understanding of what CrossFit was and the community around it,” he said. “We planted the seeds in people” and the word spread.

When Boehm first learned of CrossFit, it had about eight gyms; now there are 3,000 affiliates worldwide. Locally, there was already CrossFit Santa Barbara and CrossFit Goodland opened around the same time as Pacific Coast.

Despite local competition, CrossFit Pacific Coast has grown about 600 percent since its June 2009 inception, from about five consistent participants a day to more than 100 members, the partners say.

“I’ve been living in Santa Barbara and going to the gym seven days a week and working out about an hour at a time, not seeing any real changes,” said Luciano, who could only manage one assisted pull-up a day and now can do 100 on her own. “In one year I lost 40 pounds and 8 percent body fat, and am by far in the best shape I have ever been in.”

The CrossFit health movement not only provides rigorous, energy-filled, time-based workouts but voluntary diets. The program caters to first-timers, triathletes and NCAA Division I athletes. While the workouts may be scaled down, each person is trained like an athlete, and the key is consistency and dedication, Boehm said.

“I think the most important thing is having people’s ideas of what fitness was and what they thought was possible radically expanded,” he said. “It’s a mental shift, and on a daily basis we push them so far outside of comfort zone.”

The wide range of movement and activity at CrossFit contribute to a well-rounded program, Malzone said.

“I never did a handstand until I did CrossFit,” he said. “This makes people much more well-rounded than anything else.”

Every routine is different. Although each class is typically an hour long, most of the hour is usually spent warming up, stretching and preparing for the workout of the day, which can last anywhere from 10 minutes to more than an hour.

Each group competes against each other with time-based workouts, but the peer-to-peer support adds to the tight-knit group.

“It’s like being back on a team, your peers and coaches teach constantly,” Boehm said. “A lot of trainers don’t teach you how to do an exercise the first time and people miss the cerebral aspect of training.”

CrossFit Pacific Coast employs a third instructor beyond the co-owners, Jeff Baker, and hired Luciano to teach children’s classes, for ages 5 to 12.

“It’s game-oriented so kids create a positive association with fitness and that it isn’t boring and hard,” said Luciano, adding that the instruction is even more important when physical education classes and athletic programs are being cut. “As a teacher we no longer have physical education in kindergarten because of state-mandated minutes.”

Kids and adults alike invest time outside of school to do learn specific exercises, Malzone said.

“People often invest their own time outside of the gym learning this stuff,” he said. “It has become an integral part of life. I’ve never worked out harder, and I love it more than I ever have.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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