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Fitness is her business

CrossFit coach puts passion for athletics into W. Rox. gym

Karen Morales
Fitness is her business
CrossFit Boston Iron & Grit owner and founder Tina Ramos coaches clients in her West Roxbury gym and works with local teens through her nonprofit.

In the three years since Tina Ramos developed and opened CrossFit Boston Iron & Grit gym in West Roxbury, she has successfully created a community of like-minded athletes and mentors who enjoy coaching others, especially Boston’s youth, in CrossFit training.

If you go

what: CrossFit Boston Iron & Grit

where: 1230 VFW Pkwy, West Roxbury

hours: Monday, Wednesday-Friday 5 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

phone: (617) 935-2902

on the web:

But in the weeks before the gym opened, she doubted she had what it took to launch the venture. Surveying the empty shell of the warehouse space where she had planned her buildout, she saw the words “No way out!” spray painted on a cinderblock wall.

Ramos went all in.

“I mostly ended up going into my savings because I didn’t want huge loans,” she said. “It was pretty scary.”

Ramos opened CrossFit Boston Iron & Grit in March 2015 after a year of working to secure a lease, organize her finances, write a business plan, buy equipment and build a website.

Today, Iron & Grit has six coaches and one dietician on staff. The gym offers shower facilities, complimentary towel service and a retail store. The coaches had to go through a six-week training and shadowing process during which Ramos determined whether or not they would be a good fit.

“I wanted a coaching staff who could work with a diverse population,” she said. “Someone who can work with someone in their 60s or 20s. I hired coaches who love their job and love helping people. My staff are incredibly giving people.”

Her gym has a small locker room, men’s and women’s bathrooms and an office. The centerpiece is a 12-foot high, 30-foot long exercise structure used for pull-ups and other exercises that Ramos and her gym members assembled and bolted to the gym’s concrete floor.

Her nonprofit organization, Boston Iron Kids Club, enrolls CrossFit affiliate owners to work with at-risk youth on athletics and academics.

These days, Ramos betrays none of the self-doubt she experienced before the buildout as she coaches her muscle-bound clients through their grueling, hour-long workouts.

An athletic life

A Nebraska native, Ramos earned her master’s in education at Harvard University and started her career working with teens and coaching a girls’ basketball team.

“People would always ask me for advice on how to train and get in shape,” she said. “I knew I wanted to somehow combine my love of fitness and working with youth.”

Her vision for a business and an athletic nonprofit organization for teens became clearer when she was introduced to CrossFit.

CrossFit is a branded fitness regimen whose members train mostly without machines, using techniques from high-intensity interval training, powerlifting, calisthenics and other disciplines. Ramos’ gym is one of more than 13,000 licensed around the world.

“Having a base of members and supporters was important to me, and CrossFit builds community — that’s why people keep coming back to it,” said Ramos.

She received her CrossFit level one certificate in 2010, which allowed her to teach others, and then became an affiliate owner in 2011. Becoming an affiliate gives individuals authorization to open their own CrossFit brick-and-mortar gym. To earn her affiliation, Ramos had to write an essay. “I wrote about growing up in a really poor family but having sports as the backbone of everything I’ve done,” she said.

She continued, “Doing sports in high school and college gave me the values of hard work, ethics, loyalty, perseverance and grit. I wanted to apply these values in a program for kids.”

But the new CrossFit affiliate owner still wasn’t ready to open her own venture, so she trained with CrossFit Boston for another three years under Neal Thompson, whose CrossFit gym was the first in New England.

In 2014, Ramos decided that if she was going to launch a nonprofit program for teens, she first had to establish a community by opening her own CrossFit gym.

Each owner is really unique in how they run their gym and form their following and customer base, said Ramos.

“I wanted to do something on my own, and if I failed — it would be my most epic failure,” she said.

Giving back

With an established gym, Ramos has been able to lay the groundwork for Boston Iron Kids Club through an annual event called BEAT The Streets.

The event is a fundraiser and adult CrossFit competition. The most recent one was held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Through sponsorship donations, the participating athletes raised $14,000 in the fifth and most successful BEAT The Streets competition yet.

The funds go towards sub-

sidizing CrossFit classes for underserved youth, sending CrossFit kids to leadership camps over the summer, and operating Boston Iron Kids Club.

The initiative runs under the 3 Point Foundation, run by Boston Celtics lawyer Neil Jacobs and supported by the Shamrock Foundation. The CrossFit program includes an academic mathematics component in partnership with the 3 Point Foundation and a character building element in partnership with UMass Boston professors.

Running both the gym business and the nonprofit, Ramos’s workday starts at 4:30 a.m. Most of her time at the gym is spent privately training everyone new that walks into Iron & Grit, and teaching classes on Wednesday mornings.

She also spends time connecting with possible donors and meeting with potential partners for Boston Iron Kids Club.

She said, “Five years from now, I’m hoping it can become a sustainable program.”

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