Bringing out Happiness and Fulfillment through Crossfit

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Bringing out Happiness and Fulfillment through Crossfit

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Stepping out of his large Ford-150 to invite me into his gym on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I immediately noticed that TJ was a people person. His smile and enthusiastic, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you. Welcome!” was my first hint as to why people might choose to work out in his Crossfit gym.

TJ Belger, co-owner and founder of TJ’s gym, believes that Crossfit has the ability to change people’s life if it is implemented correctly
Photo Source:

After I was welcomed inside, I noticed that TJ’s Crossfit gym, known for getting people into extremely good shape, consisted of nothing but empty space, a few bikes and rowing machines, and a few long pull up bars. No treadmills, leg press machines, squat racks, or any other typical work-out equipment were present in the room.

“When we turned the gym into a Crossfit gym we sold all of our equipment. It turns out that we didn’t need equipment in order to get fit. It actually held us back,” TJ explained.

TJ opened his first gym in San Rafael with his wife, Allison, in 2002; however, it did not become a Crossfit affiliate until 2006 when the Crossfit “revolution” began. As the new way of working out started to become popular in 2005, TJ noticed this and realized that it was the missing element from his gym. After studying and observing Crossfit, he realized this new way of working out could be really beneficial for overall fitness.

“Just because you run doesn’t mean that you’re fit and just because you lift heavy weights doesn’t mean that you’re fit,” he explained. “It’s about having a fully functioning body in every way…whether it’s anaerobic endurance, aerobic endurance, upper body strength, lower body strength, and even flexibility…My goal is to help improve people’s fitness which will definitely improve their lives.”

A TJ’s gym client working on his core and arm strength on an early Sunday morning.

As stated before, TJ was not always a Crossfit trainer. In fact, in the 80s, his main goal was to help his clients accumulate muscle mass to fight HIV. When the AIDS epidemic struck America, there was no cure for the disease. The only thing that doctors could tell their infected patients was to build muscle mass in order to fight the infection and hope that they can live long enough to see a cure for the deadly virus.

“Training people during the AIDS crisis was nothing like I had ever done before. The main difference was that people were training for their lives. Some of them were able to succeed, while unfortunately, some were not,” said TJ.

TJ would work one-on-one with each of his clients and speak to them about their goals and how they would achieve them on a consistent basis. Through this experience, he realized that giving people specific attention could bring extreme benefit to their workouts and their lives.

“After giving each of my clients who had HIV specific attention, I was able to see improvements in their lives…A lot of them were eating healthier, had better routines, and were less stressed in general. I decided that in the future if I gave my clients more personalization, I can better help improve their lives through fitness,” said TJ.

As TJ’s Crossfit began to expand in size, his gyms didn’t lose the one-on-one feel that he believes keeps him in business.

“When I opened up new gyms in Corte Madera and Mill Valley, I knew I had to keep my strategy of specific attention to each client. Without that, why would people come here? It’s my catch,” said TJ.

However, while owning three gyms and having two kids, TJ obviously cannot personally cater to all of his clients’ needs at all times. The trainers’ jobs at TJ’s is to help the client reevaluate their goal and plan. In addition, trainers at TJ’s act as life coaches and ask people about their personal lives too; their relationship is not strictly about working out. The trainers at TJ’s help perpetuate the mission to help improve people’s physical and mental wellbeing through Crossfit.

“I can really tell that people are happier when they leave the gym than when they come in…it’s almost therapeutic for them to be here,” said Anthony.

Anthony Ostland has said that coaching at TJ’s has been a life-changing experience and helped him improve his athletic and personal skills. Photo Source:

After a football career at Occidental College, Anthony started working at TJ’s in 2011. Since then he has competed in Crossfit competitions and been able to learn new movements and abilities. However, the most important thing to Anthony has been his ability to connect with the people at TJ’s.

“While working here [at TJ’s] I think I have been able to help others as well as myself…Coaching people and building community has improved my life drastically and I think it brings forth a sense of accomplishment for us all,” said Anthony

Allison, TJ’s wife and co-owner, has also been able to see the benefits that the gym can bring to people. The number one thing that she sees the gym providing people is a sense of community. Clients bond over other things than just working out and refer to the gym as its own family. Last year, tragedy struck a member at TJ’s and one of the members had a family member die in a car crash. Allison believes that the people at the gym were able to help this member move forward because they had an entire community of people willing to help to support him.

“When the [car] accident happened, it affected every single one of us, not just the family that was directly involved. This is because we are so close and like a big family of our own. I think having the whole community invested and willing to help out was a really strong feeling for all of us,” remarked Allison.


Allison, co-owner of TJ’s gym, has a master’s in psychology and believes that working out at TJ’s has had an “enormous effect” on the people who attend the gym.    Photo Source:

The community and personalization of TJ’s are what makes it so special and is why the gym has had tremendous success. In the future, TJ would like to open hundreds of gyms across the country while maintaining the intimate feel that he created back in 2001. TJ’s Crossfit gym has truly learned how to create an environment that includes everyone and is able to provide an extra sense of purpose to its clients’ lives.