Local entrepreneur and CrossFit Praxis gym owner and fitness coach Joe Freeman has long been focused on constructing things.
First it was roads and bridges, followed by residential buildings. Now it’s bodies.
Freeman opened his unique 6,400-square-foot fitness facility in November 2011 at a former television studio near Florida Avenue on the north end of the 14th Street corridor section the New York Times calls the District’s “Magnificent Mile.”
Featuring 22-foot ceilings in a warehouse-style environment at 2217 14th St., N.W., the two main rooms of the street-level location and additional outdoor space make it one of the largest and most functional venues among the small number of CrossFit “boxes” in the area. A popular physical exercise philosophy promoting personal training as a combined competitive and collective engagement, Freeman’s gym boasts several hundred members.
When the now-49-year-old Virginia Beach native graduated from Radford University in the southern Virginia Highlands, the political science major and student government leader eagerly headed to Capitol Hill and a U.S. Senate office stint. Freeman would subsequently sign on with two successive Republican Virginia governors, first as federal liaison and later as office director.
His duties included managing funding priorities for state transportation projects. “I literally spent eight years on the massive Wilson Bridge replacement and expansion,” Freeman recalls of the period leading up to his departure from government service in 2002.
Freeman’s private sector transition led to real estate development in the Dupont and Logan neighborhoods. As managing partner of Freeman Development Group, he continues to specialize in a full range of activities – from property acquisition and project financing to design coordination and construction supervision to sales marketing and property management – shepherding smaller boutique residential housing projects from concept to completion.
Similar to many business owners, Freeman was inspired to launch his fitness facility from personal experience. A stereotypical “gym rat,” he too often felt “stuck on the treadmill and at the water fountain, waiting for access to weight machines.” He became increasingly bored with his workouts, desiring more intensity. A friend suggested switching to one of then only two local CrossFit venues. It wasn’t long before Freeman set out to open his own facility, finding the perfect place in a prime location.
A diverse range of men and women of all ages, body types and fitness objectives exercise in hour-long group sessions held throughout the day, alongside individual workouts. Certified full-time and part-time associate “coaches” scale individualized routines for each “athlete” that typically include a warm-up, stretching, monitored skill development and a high-intensity “Workout of the Day” combining interval training, gymnastics and weightlifting.
“Individual performance is scored at each session to encourage competition and track progress,” notes Freeman. “You might find a middle-aged mom next to a D.C. firefighter next to a Howard University student next to someone training for a marathon,” he points out, “with everyone doing the same workout with differing weights and at variable intensity levels.”
“People have heard that CrossFit is popular among Navy SEALS and professional athletes,” Freeman says, “but sessions include those spanning ages 20 to 68, with workouts scaled to their abilities.” Members “add muscle, shed fat, build strength, enhance agility and increase mobility,” he explains, “you’ll be able to apply achievements to any sport or activity.”
“It’s going to change your mood, your energy, your performance at work,” Freeman says of CrossFit training. “It really works and it’s really fun,” he says, and “there is a great community aspect to it. People who go through the ‘shared suffering’ of short intense workouts develop bonds that build friendships and push them to achieve their goals.”