The Fourth Street Annex. Photos Courtesy of Joey Altobelli.
When I moved to Long Beach and grew accustomed to venturing downtown, I was struck by the modern aesthetics of Crossfit Intersect.
There it sat on Third Street, next to Rainbow Juices, just past the Promenade, clad in a shiny light wood facade. It represented Long Beach’s hipster renewal; a young, fit population on the cusp of thriving.
After viewing a few Crossfit competitions in New York City and seeing other “boxes” in my native Washington state, I was surprised by the urban vibes and stylish, athletic lifestyle Intersect appeared to represent. Although I’ve never been a Crossfitter myself, I thought it seemed promising to have one in downtown Long Beach.
“To put it simply and bluntly, the Downtown Intersect Athletic’s expenses consistently exceeded revenue,” said former Intersect Owner Joey Altobelli in a blog post on the older Intersect website. “It was too much to maintain, and despite my best efforts and belief in the dream, we rapidly fell behind. To be clear: we have completely run out of options, having already exhausted every resource to keep Downtown open for the last 19 months.”
Intersect wasn’t able to maintain the same growth it saw when it was founded in Signal Hill in 2011, Altobelli told the Post in an interview last week. After moving downtown in 2014, the organization didn’t retain its hard-core Crossfit population in the way it once did. Couple that with Altobelli’s separation from another business venture in the facility—selling supplements—and paying the bills became even more unfeasible.
But all was not lost for the founder of one of Long Beach’s original Crossfit locations.
Enter Altobelli’s impeccably-timed opening of a new, separate gym on Fourth Street: The Fourth Street Annex. The dream of a contemporary fitness boutique using the core tenets of Crossfit’s mantra—form, fitness, and intensity—is still alive in Long Beach.
What’s most notable, however, is that the gym, which is not a Crossfit affiliate, actually has the bulk of its classes geared toward people who may not be into the Crossfit competitor’s mentality, and more into simply moving well and getting in shape.
“The Annex started before Intersect closed,” said Altobelli, who said he thinks the Crossfit trend is on its way out, in terms of growth. “The idea was that it was a second business for people who didn’t necessarily want to do Crossfit. It was to have more of a focus on fitness, moving well and mobility. It’s for people who aren’t as into the competitive mindset.”
With a mix of classes that emphasize metabolic conditioning (what Crossfit is known for), strength and flexibility, the Fourth Street Annex is the newest minimalist gym in Long Beach to also pack a punch with its workouts.
“Crossfit as a whole has kind of reached its peak,” said Altobelli. “It’s no longer the sought-out, elite program it used to be. It became a catch-all for these gyms that just want to open without any real accreditation.”
Altobelli said hundreds of Crossfit-affiliate “boxes” have popped up in the last few years because the Crossfit model made it easy for fitness trainers to become entrepreneurs. They could literally get accredited through a weekend-long class, spend $3,000 for Crossfit accreditation, and open up their own Crossfit affiliate.
“At the beginning, it was great, because trainers like me, who had ample experience, could have done that without having to go and spend, you know, $100,000 on an acre of cardio equipment and weights, and start that way,” Altobelli said. “The problem is, Crossfit gyms began to pop up everywhere, and there’s no kind of ‘radius clause’ in the model. So I could literally open up a Crossfit next door to another Crossfit. And no one could say anything about it.”
Altobelli said he didn’t directly experience the negative results of back-to-back Crossfits, but he said it’s happening a lot in Signal Hill and other parts of California.
Hence his goal to see a new crop of individuals seek out fitness in a way that highlights form and functionality, and not necessarily the hardcore competitive edge that the Crossfit “athlete” mentality fuels.
“Annex came about when I realized that I was unable to change what I started in the Crossfit gym downtown,” Altobelli said. Meaning, he was looking for a way to “get people fitter” without solely emphasizing competition, and attract those people who were turned off by the competitive atmosphere fostered by the gym.
Although Altobelli said the competitive mindset works for many people, himself included—“I have nothing against competing and I will continue to compete until the day I die,” Altobelli, who has been to two Crossfit regional competitions, said—it would affect participants who didn’t have the same baseline level of fitness as other athletes. These new participants would attempt to compete at a level higher than their own, and often hurt themselves in the process.
At the Fourth Street Annex, Crossfit-type classes are still offered, included the signature WODs (Workout of the Day) and gymnastics-style moves. However, the workouts are tailored to the individual, focused less on outperforming everyone through speedy reps with heavy weights, and more on perfecting athletic movements in a way that burns calories and builds strength and agility.
“We feel like we just want to do things that will add to your life, and add to your quality of life and not take over your life,” said Altobelli of the Annex’s mantra. “A lot of the times, gyms kind of expect that the gym is your life, and that your life is Crossfit, or your life is yoga, or your life is spin class. We don’t want your life to be Annex. We just want to make your life better.”
He said the Annex’s “baseline” class, as it is aptly called, is designed to do just that, for people of all levels of fitness.
Altobelli, originally from Seal Beach, said he was introduced to the world of fitness in 2009 after sitting at a desk all day working as a designer for Hurley for a few years, and has been hooked on the lifestyle ever since. He became a full-time fitness trainer that same year, and eventually opened the Long Beach area's third Crossfit gym in Signal Hill in 2011.
Today, Altobelli is excited to see what the Annex holds, and hopes his gym serves as a place of community for those on Fourth Street, including those who've never thought twice about diet and fitness.
“We have an amazing fitness community [in Long Beach] that hasn’t quite tied itself all together yet,” said Altobelli. “That’s one thing that I really in the next year want to help spearhead. Keeping Long Beach fit and really educating the community about all of the different aspects of fitness in Long Beach, and also working side-by-side with other gyms in the city.”
If the gyms work together instead of seeing themselves as pure competitors, a real impact could be made in the second-most-diverse city in the U.S., Altobelli said.
The Long Beach fitness dream is alive, and Altobelli looks to keep it that way for many years to come.
The Fourth Street Annex is located at 2741 East Fourth Street.