By JOHN J. BURO
CrossFit is generally considered to be the upper echelon of the fitness world. While one’s level of stamina and strength will always determine what conditioning program is best, consider that virtually all our fighting forces utilize its principles.
According to crossfit.com, this technique is popular among “many police academies and tactical teams, firemen, military special operational units, champion martial artists and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide. It’s universal adaptability makes it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of age, gender or ability.”
Though Rick Buro wholeheartedly believed in the program, he was less confident in management’s plan during the start-up years. Working with two partners was viewed more as a necessary evil, and not a preference.
“Business evolves, times change,” he said. “Over the first few years, we were just figuring out the industry. We were all old college athletes, with a desire to stay fit and a passion for fitness. We understood how to deliver that product, but the business side is a whole different ballgame.”
Though sole ownership has allowed him to cultivate the desired membership, Buro understands no establishment will ever be worry-free.
“It’s all frightening,” he laughed. “But, if it doesn’t scare you, it’s not worth doing.” Which perfectly depicts a Full Dimension CrossFit (FDCF) classic, a move dubbed ‘The Half-Cindy.’
In its purest form, a Half-Cindy is a 10 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) consisting of five pull-ups (or Ring rows), 10 push-ups and 15 air squats, with little or no rest between exercises. (The expanded version, or Cindy, stretches to 20 minutes.)
“Cindy,” Buro said, “is one of the girls who works out in CrossFit and was the first female-named workouts. During the early days, Greg Glassman -its founder- said that any workout that puts you on your back and makes you (beg) for air when you’re done deserves a female’s name. Just to dig a little deeper, there’s also a hero workout called ‘Murph’, which we do on Memorial Day, and Cindy is part of Murph.”
Each of these routines, as well as all WODs (workouts of the day) take place inside ‘the box’ which, at FDCF, represents more than just a shape.
“The present-day definition of the box,” explained Buro, “is that, when we walk inside these four walls, everything outside -all of your stressors, all of your life problems- stays out. In here, it’s all positivity and good energy.”
Whereas, in the past, the previous regime merely accepted simplicity.
“If you walk across the gym, there aren’t a whole lot of bells and whistles. There are no mirrors because we want to feel how we move, not see how we move. There are two clocks (one standard and one for timed exercises) because everything needs to be objectively measured, so we can repeat it under the same circumstances. There are no machines, other than (stationary) bikes and rowers. There are no ellipticals, and no treadmills.
“We tell our membership they are the machines.”
To that end, Buro compares two highly-functioning machines to one another. “If you have a nice car,” he said, “you’ll spend a few dollars more every month to fill it with premium gas. Well, your organs require premium, also. When we neglect our bodies, we can’t go out and buy another the way we can buy another car. It’s scary to think how much our bodies are affected by the (crap) fuel we put into it.”
Upon moving from Las Vegas, Buro, his then-wife and their three daughters settled in Livingston, approximately an hour north of Freehold. The reason was elementary. “Family is everything; it was important for the kids to see the large family I grew up in.”
Except that, now with the gym up and running, the commute was suddenly wearing thin.
He admits to “burning out,” which soon led to a second move, to nearby Manalapan. “It’s said, ‘If you find something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. This thing that I love –this passion– was now becoming work because of the drive.”
The pairing of Jim Raffone, a former trainer and nutritionist residing in Manalapan and Buro, a former occupational therapist, is a huge score for the Duchenne community. As each of them fully understands the complexities of the human body, it’s very likely that only good things will arise from their new-found partnership.
A little good karma hasn’t hurt, either.
“Jamesy and Kayla were born less than a month apart,” he recounted. “I did not know Jim at that time. But, if you can visualize myself looking at Kayla -with my prescription in hand- and Jim looking at Jamesy within weeks of each other in two separate parts of the country, that was happening.
“I truly believe that, for some reason, the energy there caused this to all happen. And, by ‘this’, I mean the affiliation of myself, my gym with JAR of Hope and Jamesy.”
It was during Kayla’s kindergarten orientation, in 2014, that Buro first encountered Raffone -“a big, shaved head, goateed-up guy”- while in the school hallway.
“There was just a presence about him. I didn’t realize the impact this man would have on me. I remember shaking his hand. I had heard of him, and his charitable foundation called JAR of Hope, then in its infant stages, that was starting to make some waves. But, I didn’t know (what it was all about).”
Then, he saw for himself…and learned more.
“At the end of the school year, one hundred eighty-five days later, we were sitting at the kindergarten graduation. From his view in the back left of the auditorium, Buro beamed as Kayla -“smiling, waving”- appeared on stage. When it was Jamesy’s turn to stand, he immediately felt Raffone’s heartache.
“I could not imagine myself in Jim’s shoes, ‘cause now I knew a little more about his “Why?” And, then, I envisioned his high school graduation, and that he may not be able to walk the same way. At that point, I knew I had to do something to help this man, this cause, and this family.”
While this is Buro’s first exposure to Duchenne, or DMD, Jamesy’s affliction did hit home.
“Everything I’ve ever stood for revolves around movement -the ability to move and expressing oneself through movement. Take a disease that strips that from someone…
“I had it stripped of me, by my own choice, for four years and I saw what it did to me. But, taking that from (Jamesy) unwillingly…That’s what makes it personal for me.”
There have already been some fundraising collaborations, such as Raffone’s push-up campaign at Full Dimension, and that was certainly a good start. But, now the clock was ticking faster than ever, and Buro needed to make a statement.
When his younger sister, Lisa, announced that she would be running the G2G Ultra in September, he merely shook his head in disbelief. 170 miles? Through a desert? On the other side of the country?
Having followed Raffone’s continued quest to finish over the past two Septembers, Buro was already familiar with the details of the race. “I know how difficult this is -mentally and physically. But, I also knew that, before she was through pitching it, I was going all in.”
So, in spite of never running more than a 15K; in spite of not seeing his daughters for a week to ten days (although they plan to reunite at the finish line), and in spite of limited weekend runs along the trails in Allaire and Egg Harbor, Buro has the right mindset.
And, though the siblings are not accomplished runners (“Lisa has no idea what she’s in for”), there is one intangible which cannot be discounted.
“Although she has never ran any longer than a 5K (3.1 miles), she is mentally strong through CrossFit,” Buro stated, adding that they’ve both been doing this for nearly a decade.
“A CrossFit workout is usually an hour. For that one hour, we’re forced to go to a very dark place. So, here’s how we’re looking at this: we have one hundred seventy single CrossFit workouts in a row, and they’re all one-mile runs.” He repeated that litany for emphasis. One hundred seventy one-mile runs. Dark place. Then, we move on.”
It’s no wonder, then, that Raffone uses adjectives like “irreplaceable,” “selfless,” and “sincere” to describe Buro, –the CrossFitter, not the writer. It just so happens that, minus the bald head and the goatee, there’s a lot of one in the other.