Local CrossFit gym brings community together

Staff photos by Candice Monhollan CrossFit Thunder Hill has roughly 50 members, including David Russell, and they all have formed a family-like bond between them.
Marjorie Denia participates in the open workout for the CrossFit games by doing double unders on the jump rope at CrossFit Thunder Hill.

TOUGHKENAMON – It’s amazing what one person can accomplish in five years.

It’s even more so when it involves a husband and wife team and putting a career on hold to pursue a passion.

But that’s exactly what John and Jill Wallen have done.

John put aside his lucrative career to become a CrossFit trainer along with his wife and couldn’t be happier with the decision.

“I’m actually a lawyer,” John said. “I practiced law for almost 12 years and put all that on hold to do this because we change people’s lives here for the better. I’d rather have that than some of the money you get as being a lawyer.

“When I can see the positive changes, not only physical but mental, and just the happiness people get from doing this, it’s amazing.”

CrossFit has been around since 2001 and it has since swept across the nation and become something people now do as their fitness routine, including the Wallens.

John began training in 2009 and Jill joined him at a box – what CrossFit gyms are called – in Broomall before moving to their garage.

“That’s how most people in the old days started,” John said.

They began training neighbors, which in turned spread to more people by word of mouth, and before they knew it, their garage couldn’t hold the number of people turning up.

So the Wallens packed up some of the equipment and found a more suitable location in Toughkenamon in 2013 and the people followed.

Now, a year later, CrossFit Thunder Hill has roughly 50 members from all walks of life who come out to learn this style of fitness, from wood workers and home inspectors to teachers and mushroom farmers.

“We are a very close-knit group of people here,” John said. “None of us really knew each other before we started here, but we all share this passion for fitness and getting in good shape. We help each other.”

The age also drastically varies at Thunder Hill. They have a 17-year-old student on up to a 61-year-old grandmother.

“The great thing about CrossFit is that it’s scalable,” John said. “We can adjust the workout to your fitness level so everybody works out together and everybody does the same thing and everybody helps each other.”

There are even children at Thunder Hill, though they don’t participate in the workouts.

“We understand people have families and working out is tough when you have kids,” John said. “So we say bring them.”

The Wallens have created such a friendly, close-knit family feel to the box that even Brian Scott, who travels the world for his job, calls this box home.

With every new location he goes to, Scott finds a box to go to while he is in that place and that has brought his tally to an astounding number: just shy of 90 boxes worldwide.

After being a skeptic at first, Scott has become addicted to the workouts and has been doing CrossFit for the last five years and has lost 60 pounds in the process.

“I lift more now than I did in college and I run faster than when I was younger,” Scott said. “It’s just been great.”

As a partner in a consulting firm, he has to travel around from client to client for his job. At the moment, he’s been in Boston for the past two years and regularly attends a box up there.

Scott has been from coast to coast in the United States and has hit boxes in each of those places and also has gone to five boxes in London, England, and Ireland. But no matter what, he’ll always call Thunder Hill home.

“This is my home box when I’m home,” Scott said. “John and Jill have a great community here. They definitely do it the right way. They’re all about truly doing CrossFit and getting people better. I just believe in them.”

The members at Thunder Hill can’t thank the Wallens enough for what they have done for them training wise and giving them a place to create new friends, but they did find a way to give back to them this past Christmas.

“Every single member chipped in for Christmas to buy us equipment for the gym,” Jill said. “This was our dream to do this, so we have given up a ton, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. To have these people support us like that and to support each other, it’s cool. I don’t care what anybody says. There’s no gym with better members than ours. They’re our family now.”

That family bond is what makes the decisions the Wallens have made that much easier for them. To look at what they have given up and put aside to run the gym would mean nothing if it weren’t for the members.

“I was a lawyer at a big firm in Wilmington and I was Assistant General Counsel,” John said. “Did I ever think I would be doing this? No. But I love this more than anything I have ever done. It’s amazing how when you help people, it just changes your outlook on everything.”

About the Author

Candice Monhollan

Candice Monhollan is a 2012 Temple University graduate. She loves to cover sports, especially hockey. She enjoys marching with the Reading Buccaneers Drum & Bugle Corps and has a love of U.S. military history, which includes reenacting. Reach the author at cmonhollan@dailylocal.com .