We heard about Johnny Pasquale after we had friend recommend him as a challenging, knowledgeable fitness coach. OK totally kidding, we found him on Instagram doing freakish things in the gym. He makes a box jump look like a skip. If you need proof, check out his Instagram.
Johnny is the head coach at NewCov CrossFit in Newport, Kentucky. And he is the definition of an athlete. Johnny grew up on the west side of Cincinnati (holler) where he played literally every sport there was. He settled on baseball and played at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Upon graduation, he spent some time in corporate America before he leaped into coaching. Over the past 4 years, he has built a career around the ability to effectively meet clients where they are. What does that even mean? It means if you were to plop a member of the general population into the gym, he would be able to give them an effective workout based on their strengths and limitations. Aside from his own physique (the man is a solid piece of muscle), he knows how to build muscle, but also knows that that isn’t always what it is all about. Regardless of your goals, he is there to tailor workouts to whatever it is you are looking for. Whether you are looking for enough strength to lift your child, or are training for an Ironman, Johnny is the guy to help you make it happen.
Mer and I had the pleasure to pop in to one of Johnny’s CrossFit classes last Saturday. (In reality, it took us probably a solid year of saying we were going to try his class until we actually did). He wanted to give us the “full experience” by throwing us into the mix of one of their standard CrossFit classes -- most of the 30+ students in the class have been doing CrossFit for years. One thing I really appreciate about NewCov is that they require new students to start with entry level classes, and once they are comfortable enough and have mastered form and movement, they graduate to the regular open classes. Johnny knew how fit we are, so he let us in on the real action (but really, he just promised us he would hold our hands throughout the entire class, which, trust us, was absolutely necessary).
Before I go on, I want to preface this with YES, what you are thinking right now is totally on point. CrossFit gyms are intimidating AF. I can throw weights around a gym floor with the best of them, but walking into that large warehouse with Nelly blaring and 75ish fit bodies buzzing around (not to mention my Bumble date from the weekend before- hi Bryan!) was one of the bravest, scariest things I have done in quite some time.
But guess what y’all? I swallowed whatever pride I didn’t already check at the door, had Mer by my side to keep me laughing, and we ended up having such a great time. Plus, the owner of NewCov is a woman, and NewCov's members are majority female, so if there’s a place to try CrossFit for the first time, this is it, gals.
The workout began with a proper warm-up (AMEN- nothing irks me more than no warm-up) before we jumped into partner work. The WOD (Workout Of the Day) was a hero workout (in honor of fallen service members) and it went as follows.
We started with 20 minutes dedicated to “thrusters” with the barbell - aka a front squat into a push press. “Generally, this is one of the most disliked movements that we do.”- JP’s words after the fact. It’s not an all out high rep push. We’re talking 1-5 reps; quality over quantity.
After 20 minutes of concentrated work, we picked up the pace and turned to the fun stuff: partner work. Collectively, each pair performed 24 reps (so 12 each person) of front squats with the bar or kettlebell for the modification, 24 push ups (or handstand push ups- IT WAS INSANE TO WATCH PEOPLE DO THIS) , 24 front rack lunges or goblet lunges and a 400m row. We had 20 minutes to try and get through 6 rounds. The cardio junkie in me loved every minute of this.
Throughout the entire workout, sweet Johnny was right by our side making sure that we were comfortable with the workout, knew how to modify (very necessary), and were having a good time.
The hour flew by, and I gotta say that I felt like a badass walking out of there- much different than my feeling walking in. The next time I go back, I definitely want to try their free community class held Saturdays at noon, which is a beginner class full of coaches (Johnny included) that break down the movements as an intro to CrossFit. The owner of the gym, Emily, also has a Bootcamp class called “Em’s Fitcamp” for those not interested in CrossFit but still want a kick ass workout.
All in all, if you’ve been curious at all about CrossFit but maybe too afraid to give it a try, I first want to say get out of your head. Grab a friend, find an open Saturday afternoon, and show up. I really think that you’ll be surprised at how much you will enjoy it (and how strong you really are). Second, find the right gym, and the right coach who has a strong attention to detail and form. After experiencing Johnny’s coaching at NewCov, I highly recommend taking his class as a beginner. Lastly, be vocal about any issues or limitations that you have. There is no shame in modifying movements.