CrossFit has changed the lives of many. From stories of drastic weight loss and incredible improvement in physical ability, to amazing turnaround stories and triumph over adversity, CrossFit touched and forever altered the path for hundreds of thousands of people just like you and I.
We are Justin McGinley and Alycia Alves, owners of CrossFit Aspire. Our CrossFit story has humble beginnings, our members are amazing, and we consistently express our gratitude to be given this opportunity to help so many local people.
At a diner in South Jersey…
That’s how most good stories start, right? While Justin was at a diner with friends, the topic of amazing feats of strength came up, and one friend mentioned that his brother had been doing some crazy workout that seemed to include a near-impossible amount of exercise in one hour. Intrigued, Justin went home and found out everything he could about this workout.It was called CrossFit, but it had not yet come onto the scene in New Jersey, so finding a place to do these workouts was tough.
Justin quickly got excited about the workouts (why was he so excited to work out? huh?) and started using these words that I had never heard of (power snatch?! That sounds a little inappropriate…). I decided to do a little online investigating of my own and realized that there were some workouts that I could do in the comfort of my own gym up in Princeton. And so it began.
With our wedding in the near future, home ownership sounded like a good idea. Princeton was pricey, and moving South to be close to family, friends and Philly, sounded like a great idea. I have to admit, being closer to a CrossFit gym definitely played a role. About the same time we moved down, our CrossFit gym had upgraded from a park to a small space. We were finally part of a ‘real deal’ CrossFit gym! It was at this point that I realized how I had been doing most of the movements incorrectly on my own, and I was incredibly grateful for the coaching that came along with belonging to a legit CrossFit gym.
Justin was already quite knowledgeable about lifting, body mechanics and work capacity, and he was happy to have other people to join him in debates over foot positioning in the back squat to what the most well-rounded CrossFit workout was. Me, I was just happy to be surrounded people who wanted to work as hard as I did. And I was loving my new found athleticism. Plus the CrossFit community was filled with some pretty awesome girls and guys that from day one that quickly became my new friends in the area.
Upon joining a ‘real’ CrossFit gym, Justin promptly got CrossFit Level 1 certified and became a trainer at the gym. He eased into the role, providing many of the members with a fresh perspective and helpful advice for getting the most out of every workout.
We continued to get more and more involved in the world of CrossFit. We’d often sit down at dinner, talk about CrossFit class, CrossFit athletes, CrossFit workouts, and then wonder what we talked about before CrossFit came into our lives (parents, does that sound familiar?). In early 2010, Justin had coached a team of CrossFit athletes through the local and regional CrossFit competitions, bringing them to the point where they would go on to compete at the CrossFit Games in California!
At this point, it was apparent that CrossFit was a part of our lives, and would probably be there forever. Justin was coaching multiple classes per week, and I was thinking about getting certified as well. I had a background in business and marketing, and Justin was a great coach and loved to think about and create new workouts. We both wanted to help more people. The problem was that we were dedicating so much thought and effort into something that was just a part time job and a hobby for us. Could we turn it into more? Could we put our energy toward something that was our own?
Many conversations over many months, we decided that maybe it wasn’t just a silly notion. Maybe we could do this on our own.
Justin had to make a tough choice at this time – coach and compete with his team in California, or stay here to open up our own place. The timing was not convenient at all. Our CrossFit gym was the place that we had truly discovered the magic of the sport, and the owner,staff and members were our friends inside and out of the gym.
Leaving our gym was a tough decision, but that we knew we were destined to do more within the CrossFit community, and we had to at least try to expand and enhance the CrossFit name in South Jersey.
First, we had to choose a name. We thought of words that conjured up notions of success, triumph, strength, power, and confidence. Most were already being used as names for gyms, but when we found Aspire, we knew we had a winner. Aspire, to us, meant that our members would aspire to become better versions of themselves. That they would dream about things they once thought were impossible, and could come to our gym to actually achieve them. Our members would have goals, inspiration, motivation and dedication. They were inspired by greatness, and would eventually become an inspiration to others.
Ok, the name was set. Our “theme”, it was decided, would revolve around unleashing one’s inner superhero, since CrossFit had led us to become better versions of ourselves and we knew it would be true for others, too. Now all we had to do it open our door for business.
The Early Days
Two barbells, a few pairs of dumbbells, four kettlebells, a pull up bar big enough to fit two people, and a set of rings. That was our gym. Oh yeah, and a rug to cover up the stained floor of our garage. I painted the walls of our tiny, one car garage – you know, to make it look more ‘official’ – as if the house surrounding the garage didn’t give it away that we were running a business out of our home.
Within a few weeks, we had our first two members. By the end of the summer of 2010, we had about 10 members total. Yippee! Was this thing actually taking off? Were people actually crazy enough to show up to a random house and use the front lawn, street, and small garage as their ‘gym’? Lucky for us, it turns out that yes, they would. And they loved it. In fact, most of our ‘original garage crew’ is still with us to this day. They are more than just members – they are a part of our business – they saw it’s growth from it’s early days, its awkward stage, and it’s continuing maturity and development.
Running a garage gym out of a house, as it turns out, wasn’t that hard at all. People came out, loved it, and stayed. And then it got cold. And then it started to snow. And then we had to close the garage door and stuff up to 6 or 7 people into a tiny 1 car garage and pretend that everything was ok. Except if we wanted to grow, we knew that this scenario wasn’t ok. We were going to need to expand, in order to let our gym (and it’s members) breathe and grow.
We were thrilled to find a 2,300 sq. foot space in Cherry Hill, not too far from the major highways, or from our house. This was not yet a full time gig for either of us, so being able to arrive and leave quickly to go to work was crucial. The space as an old deli.
A New Home
After four months of deconstructing what remained of the deli, we were ready to finally convert it into a real CrossFit gym. With gallons and gallons of paint, and help from a bunch of our founding members, we were able to get the whole place painted in a weekend, and we were ready to open the doors shortly after!
Our first workout was the infamously simple, yet hard workout called “Fran”. A bunch of brand new people showed up that day to start what would become their journey to fitness. Most of those first-timers are still with us today, and can barely remember the athlete or non-athlete they were on that very first day. During the following year, our membership grew from 13 to over 100!
2′s company, 13′s a party, and 100 is a crowd. Just one year after moving in, it was time to pack up and look for a larger space. Again.
Warehouse is Your House
Lucky for us, an empty warehouse space was available just down the street! Unlike our first two places, this one had tall ceiling for climbing ropes to hang from, and a large bay garage door that people could run in and out of. It looked and felt just like a real CrossFit gym.
We christened it with a fresh coat of obnoxious red paint, and an over-sized version of our logo and superhero mascots painted on the wall. Again, with the help of about 30 of our members, we were able to move all of our equipment from one place to the other in a matter of hours.
More, More More
Since we opened out doors at our current location, we’ve added more amenities (showers and changing rooms!), more classes, and more programs (kids, teens, Olympic lifting, and gymnastics classes) and we are always looking to expand our offerings and to make our gym an even better place to belong.
Who knows where our future growth will lead us. All we know is that we absolutely love what we do and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
And that’s our story!