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Community Spotlight

TJ Belger

Rarely does one run into a person who encourages others to live life better, celebrates the victories of others, and will go beyond the call of duty to show others that they are valued. TJ Belger, owner of TJ’s Gym in Marin County, California, has become an invaluable member of the CrossFit community, inspiring individuals to do more than they could ever imagine while supporting them in a way that causes them to believe that they are able to accomplish whatever comes their way, both in and out of the box.

Everyone who encounters TJ is moved in some way or another. As one member puts it, “He is the guys’ guy, yet understands women better than most understand themselves.  He has taken his life and his love and passion for people and has created this beautiful community I am so proud to be apart of.  In many ways, TJ has saved my life and has helped me repave whatever at that moment I wanted to create.  TJ is a mentor, a coach, and a friend.  He inspires me each moment I am with him and touches lives each day.  CrossFit is a lucky community to have someone like TJ in it and I am honored to be apart of the TJ’s Gym community.”

Perhaps a reason for his exceptional ability to coach is his highly attuned sensibility that is able to spot even the slightest of details. Not only can he determine areas of growth and ways members can fine tune their form and movement, he can communicate these movements to members in a way that really makes sense.  A member lauds TJ’s ability to coach her so well that “his insights just click in a way that has the movement, the lift, the form, and the mindset, stick in my body’s memory… in a way that just makes it feel right.”

Another member states,TJ was talking to 4 prospective new CrossFitters and putting them through the CrossFit baseline workout. He was also holding onto his laptop and likely responding to gym related emails. I had just finished my WOD and was stretching and foam rolling. TJ manages to make his way over to me and show me where I need to bend my knee to maximize the stretch. It's the little things, like this, that TJ does amidst all of the chaos that make a difference.”

But what makes TJ truly remarkable is how TJ has a deep sense of care and concern for the well being of others, both in and out of the box. TJ's selflessness and passion impact every area of life of those around him. Not only does he put heart and soul into everything that he does, he goes the extra mile. From the mom of two in her 40’s who is doing things that she never imagined both in and out of the gym, to the woman whose life has been changed by TJ’s charisma and generosity, to the man who is grateful for the awareness of fitness that TJ has brought and the impact it has made on his life (benefiting his children and their children), so many of TJ’s members believe that he is a life saver.

It’s the way that TJ gives of himself to others that attracts so many to the community that he has created. One member with breast cancer attests the following:

“When I first joined TJ’s Gym several years ago, TJ only had one gym and he personally shepherded me through the process. While he was and is a businessman, his true and foremost interest is one’s progress and success.

Fast forward a few years, I still can't do a very good pull up or DU’s. But no matter, I was still working towards it. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemo, radiation, surgery...the kitchen sink. TJ’s community supported me and my family from day one. Cards, letters, emails, calls, meals, flowers, you name it. Leading the charge was TJ of course. By this point, he had 3 gyms and his own family to care for, but he regularly came by my home to check in, drop off things for my children, and ask me if I needed any WOD modifications. Anyone can own a gym. Very few people will go the extra mile to make their members feel like a family. There is only one TJ.”

Another member recounts the following:

“My son came to Crossfit training a few years ago and it completely changed his life… Returning home from college for the summer, he approached  TJ about working around the gym in exchange for a paid membership.  He was familiar with the curious fellowship found at most Crossfit facilities, but I can see him learning much more than how to take control of his body.  He learned how to paint at the new Mill Valley gym while he started talking about how he'd like to help other people find the confidence he now enjoys…Then, the kid starts looking at me.

Over the last 20 years, I lost touch with myself.  A year at a time, a pound at a time, my essence was buried.  After hearing about his grueling workouts, I knew I was not up to running with a sandbag over my shoulder, but I let myself be talked into trying it out and hooked up with TJ for an introductory session along with a pair of 25 year-old women. My eyes filled with tears when he outlined the simple initial workout.  Situps?  Pushups? Pullups?  But TJ matter-of-factly showed me how I could modify those movements so I was putting out just as much effort as the younger, fitter women, challenging myself just as much as they were.  He jokes about his mother and I'm not sure if he really has a 75-year-old mother or if it's just a metaphor for "anyone can do this."

Deidre, the woman who took me through the remaining protocols, is older than I am and fitter than I can presently imagine.  I think she was second in the world in her age class at a recent Crossfit competition.  Even she was sure I could do more than I thought.  Every member of every class I've attended here cheers me on when I'm done four or five minutes after everyone else.  It's a wonderful community.”

Lastly, another member states,TJ is sort of a modern day saint. He is blessed with a true nature to put others before him. Not just his family, but everyone else.  Not just sometimes, but always. Not only when he feels like it or is in a good mood. When he is running low or struggling, the fact that he even continues to try and hold his usual empathic nature is amazing.  A colleague, mentor, friend, and leader. Can’t say enough about him.”

At the end of the day, while what happens inside the box matters, what really counts is what one takes out of the box. So thank you, TJ, for being true to who you are and for loving people the way that you do.

(But of course, behind a good man is a good woman. His wife, Allison, is his life partner who supports everything that he does. Even as this article was written, Allison has pointed all the arrows towards TJ without expecting any recognition. Our hats go off to you, Allison!)

Finally, we at WOD Gear want to thank all the members at TJ's Gym for your overwhelming response to help us write this piece. Just another example of how the CrossFit community is like no other. To find out more about TJ, please visit: www.tjsgym.com/tbelger.html