Finding the right fit: QTown CrossFit aims at healthier living

Sam Dancer, right, helps Nikki Hendricks through a series of pull-ups during her workout of the day at QTown Crossfit. Dancer, who competes in the CrossFit Games and is ranked 25th nationally in his respective division, is one of five former college athle
Posted: Mar. 18, 2013 11:17 am Updated: Apr. 8, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Sports Editor

Sam Dancer is a stickler for detail.

Bend a little too far forward, he straightens you up.

Teeter one way or the other while squatting, he stops you.

Let momentum, not strength and agility, do the work, he slows you down.

Dancer doesn't measure the success of those training at QTown CrossFit by how much they lift or how many pullups they do. He measures the progress. It might be one extra rep. It might be one perfect squat. It might something small that no one else sees.

Dancer and the rest of the coaches and owners of the new fitness center are focused on doing it right and doing it better.

"The cool thing is it brings people together," Dancer said. "Everyone here is so different. Yet, there is one thing in common. We all want to be better. To see people changing on a daily basis, to see those results, it is so refreshing. It is one of the best experiences anyone could ask for. It's special."

A former football player who starred at Quincy Notre Dame and played at Western Illinois University, Dancer is becoming widely known in CrossFit circles for his power, endurance and fitness level. He is considered a rising star in the CrossFit Games and is currently ranked 25th in the nation.

Some would look at his muscular physique and think the QTown CrossFit gym is where a lot of heavy weights are being slung around.

That's far from the truth.

The weight is minimal. The stretching, the range of motion exercises, the discovery of how to use your body is what is taking place.

"It's functional stuff, things you use in real life," said Andy Tappe, one of the co-founders of the business. "You're not going to go to the grocery store and do front raises. Dead lifting is like picking up your groceries. So those are the things we do. It's all multi-joint things that are relatable to real life.

"We're not pushing big weight on anyone. Whatever your weight is at your flexibility level is what we want you to do."

Not long ago, Tappe couldn't do much.

A former collegiate athlete -- he played baseball at QND and Quincy University -- Tappe underwent a kidney transplant in 2010, and after recovering from the surgery, he looked into ways to get back into shape. Living in Chicago at the time, he had a friend who was an investor in a crossfit gym.

So Tappe gave it shot.

"I couldn't do five pushups," Tappe said. "But I had to start somewhere."

He quickly found crossfit training filled a void that had existed since his playing days were over.

"I didn't like slow-pitch softball. I didn't like a lot of things," Tappe said. "I came in here and it was like a team atmosphere again. All of our workouts are scored and timed so you have a number. The competitiveness is what got me."

Meanwhile, his wife, Katie, got on board, too.

Her rationale for doing it was different, though.

"I wanted to look good on my wedding day," Katie said.

What she discovered was the weight she wanted to lose came off, but her physique and energy level continued to change even after the wedding day.

"It's benefitted me in every way," said Katie, who played tennis at QU. "I still like the workouts sometimes, but you get in here and it's motivating. Everyone is here to help everyone else out. You really push each other and it becomes a community affair."

That was the idea the Tappes had when they moved back to Quincy.

With no crossfit gym established in the Gem City, they spread the word through friends and Facebook about crossfit workouts at Westview Park. Steadily, they built a following.

"We got enough people and decided Quincy is ready for this," Andy Tappe said.

So the Tappes, Dancer and Tim and Becky Bliefnick -- he played football at QU, while she played tennis -- joined forces to open a gym. It took a while to find the right place, but they've created a home at 728 S. Eighth in Quincy.

Steadily, their clientele is growing.

"It takes a person with a certain will and desire to improve," Dancer said. "It takes a special person to want to show up every day."

Those who stay committed are reaping the benefits.

"My flexibility is better. My range of motion is better. I'm feeling better in general," Tappe said.

He encourages anyone -- young or old, in shape or not -- to try it.

"Anybody can do this," Tappe said. "We'll modify the workout to whatever a person's level is. Whether it's with weight, whether it's with movement, the workout fits the person."




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