Scott McAlee creates welcoming environment for achieving fitness goals at CrossFit Durable
By Christine Craddock
“We honor that this is your hour to get away from the stress of life, and our goal is to make it the best one hour of your day,” says Scott McAlee, co-owner of CrossFit Durable, a place where seasoned CrossFit enthusiasts can train alongside newcomers. This family-friendly facility, located in the Dominion Valley Shopping Center in Haymarket, feels more like a community gym where sometimes all members of the family can be seen working together, playing games, and sharing laughs. Realizing the common perception that gyms can be intimidating, McAlee makes it his goal for all members to feel at ease. His passion is evident, and it’s not surprising that he confesses, “being in the gym and coaching is my happy place.”
While McAlee’s childhood aspiration was to be a professional athlete, his dedication to fitness manifested into a career as a personal trainer and then a quick move up the ladder to fitness director, overseeing programs at larger clubs in the area. McAlee owes his CrossFit connection to his brother, who opened his eyes to this unique workout style in 2008. “What really drew me in was that it combined heavy weight training along with cardio conditioning.” McAlee was hooked, and began incorporating many of the CrossFit methodologies into his training with clients.
But his role as director allowed him little time for one-on-one interactions with his clients. Confined to an office and overwhelmed by reports and conference calls, he says the long hours away from his family were draining. Aware of McAlee’s desire to work for himself one day, one of his clients put McAlee in touch with Matt Herrera. A fire captain with Arlington County, Herrera had been active in CrossFit for years because the methodologies “meet the physical demands and mental needs of a firefighter,” he says. Conversations between the three of them spurred the idea of opening a facility in the Haymarket/Gainesville area.
After a year of considering different locations and types of spaces, the three decided the amenities, size, and location of Dominion Valley would be the right place for their vision. On October 21, 2014, the doors to CrossFit Durable officially opened after almost four months of memorable experiences, especially one that involved hauling thousands of pounds of equipment out of the space for the fire marshall inspection, only to haul it right back in.
Fortunately, their CrossFit experience properly trained them for this. But what took even longer was deciding on the name and logo, because they truly wanted it to reflect and define what this facility was about. “To be ‘durable’ means that you can weather whatever storm life throws your way, both mentally and physically, and that’s what we hope our program helps our members to achieve. We want to help our members move, sleep, eat, and live better, healthier lives.” McAlee is now majority partner and has taken the reins. As Herrera explains: “for Scott, this is his dream, I’m just along for the ride and hopefully helping to make it a reality. I’ve known a lot of fitness guys in my time and have not met many with the skills and abilities that he has.”
McAlee had a specific kind of environment he wanted to cultivate at CrossFit Durable, where the comfort level was not dependent on experience. “I wanted members to feel like when they walked in they were training with friends. Our coaches don’t bark directions or intimidate; they tell jokes and lead through respect and dedication,” he says. The introductory class is comprised of four one-hour sessions to help each new member learn the movements while the coaches scale the exercises to match the person’s ability. But it goes beyond that, discussing nutrition strategies, stress, holistic health, water consumption, and sometimes even sleep strategies.
Completely understanding of someone feeling hesitant to take the step towards walking in the door of a gym, McAlee offers encouragement. “Every member of our gym was once brand new to fitness and CrossFit. Each person was nervous and intimidated when first walking through our doors, but those same people are now the ones out on our floors doing what they first thought was impossible, and loving it!”
Both Herrera and McAlee’s involvement with CrossFit Durable has been rewarding in many ways. Herrera explains that through his years as a firefighter he has helped people during their worst moments, but then isn’t able to witness the impact on their lives. “With CrossFit I have seen people lose hundreds of pounds, get stronger, faster, and push themselves mentally and physically in a way they never thought they would. There is something about watching someone push themselves to the limit and get up off the floor smiling five minutes later.”
For McAlee, CrossFit Durable enhances his life in ways that reaffirm his decision to pursue his dream. He is inspired when members achieve personal goals or make progress in an area that had been previously difficult. His ability to spend most of his day coaching classes and training directly with his clients makes all the difference to him. Taking the leap to owning a business wasn’t a decision he took lightly. In the end, spending more time at home with his supportive wife Katie and adorable son Landon may be the biggest reason for the smile on his face.