Sean Cooney – Partner at Wells Street CrossFit

Sean Cooney - Wells Street CrossFit

Where you can find Sean Cooney and Wells Street CrossFit online:


Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?

I have always been a bit of a gym rat. During high school I would workout over lunches because strength wasn’t as important when I was playing soccer. After I found rugby strength became all the more important and it was always a focus. I found CrossFit while rehabbing from a potentially playing career ending injury. Proper rehabilitation combined with CrossFit’s emphasis on functional movement got me back to playing, faster, and stronger than before. Since then I’ve been using CrossFit to stay fit and train, especially during the rugby off-season.

Sean Cooney - Wells Street CrossFit

How did the opportunity come about from being a chiropractor to a partner at Wells Street CrossFit?

Chiropractic is known for treating the whole individual rather than just the symptoms. I am always loathe to put restrictions on people based on an injury because you never know what the body can do when someone is really motivated. I have found CrossFitters to be the most motivated population I have ever worked with.

I wanted to work in a place where I could treat people for their injuries and then give them a place where they could improve and continue to work on their weaknesses. The gym is basically a one stop shop for health, fitness, and functional movement.

What differentiates Wells Street CrossFit to other local fitness centres?

The biggest thing that separates WSCF from other fitness centers is our focus on setting goals and personal improvement. Some places track heart rates, some track calories, others just keep you moving and sweating for 60-minutes. The problem is, without objective measurement of what you’re doing, most people never know whether they are getting fitter over time.

We measure workout completion times, we measure work done over periods of time, and we measure and track weights lifted. That makes it really easy to track whether you are getting fitter, faster, or stronger.

The other aspect that differentiates us is the focus on functional movement. Because of our mostly sedentary lives sat in front of a computers, cell phones, and TVs most people have core weakness, glute inactivation, tight shoulders, or even a combination of all three. Our goal is to get people moving again and restore to full range of motion our joints and muscles. Many of the movements in CrossFit require a full range of motion and healthy joints, when people lack those things we provide a path towards getting there. Our classes are all about lifelong health and helping people reach their fitness potential.

Sean Cooney - Wells Street CrossFit

What makes CrossFit so popular?

There are several things that make CrossFit so popular. Class content is constantly changing so people don’t get bored with classes. One day might be a shorter barbell workout, the next a longer aerobic workout, and the next could be a combination of bodyweight and gymnastic movements. This keeps our members challenged and also forces them to work on things they may not be good at.

Another big thing that people talk about with CrossFit is the idea of community. Not only do the coaches all know the names of every member in their classes, most of the members know the names of everyone else in their classes. During rest time in class members interact and get to know each other. Many of them will hang out with each other outside of the gym after only meeting while attending classes. Getting to know people creates accountability when you are a little tired after a long day, or trying to wake up for that 5:30AM class, but you know someone is going to be going to the same class. It gives you that added incentive to attend.

The last thing that we talk about is the competitive aspect of CrossFit. Within each workout there is the inherent challenge to work as hard as possible or complete the task as fast as you can. Outside of that everyone else is trying to do the same thing.

There is always going to be someone fitter than you and you are always going to be fitter than someone. It’s up to you how hard you push yourself but having someone there to chase or knowing someone is chasing you is good motivation to pick up the pace a little bit or grind out one more rep.

Sean Cooney - Wells Street CrossFit

What are the methodologies of CrossFit?

CrossFit is popular for a multitude of reasons. The CrossFit motto is “constantly varied functional movement performed at a high intensity.” What that means is workouts that always change consisting of exercises that push your joints and muscles to their limits and performed at a pace that challenges both your aerobic and stored energy capacity in your muscles.

For people new to CrossFit, you offer Foundations. Can you explain what this is?

Foundations is a way for people to experience CrossFit in a structured format that will expose them to all of the fundamental movements you will experience during classes. Over the course of 12-sessions (1 month) new members will get to know what sort of weights they are able to lift, proper technique for the exercises, and any limitations they have. Not everyone starts CrossFit able to do push-ups or pull-ups. Often it takes time to build the strength in the shoulders and core to be able to perform these movements.

After completion of the Foundations program members are able to walk into a class, recognize the movements for the day and know where they should start. This is really important because for many people Olympic lifting and gymnastics movements can be very intimidating.

That first month is to take away the intimidation factor so people are comfortable and willing to go outside their comfort zone.

What other classes do you do and who are they aimed at?

The other classes we offer are BURN, RowFit, and Yoga Recovery. CrossFit is our bread and butter, but the other classes we offer are just as important. BURN follows the same format as our CrossFit classes we just don’t use barbells and other heavy weights so we can have beginners attend a class without having attended the Foundations program. RowFit is offered as a strictly full-body cardio class once a week to get people moving and knock the rust off after a long week. Yoga Recovery is offered for athletes looking to work on the stability of their joints and achieve full range of motion of their joints. It is more like a structured stretching class than a yoga class.

Sean Cooney - Wells Street CrossFit

What are the Wells Street CrossFit coaches like?

All our coaches are very knowledgeable about the human body and how we are supposed to be able to move.

All of our coaches have more than 2 years of CrossFit experience as well as experience coaching team sports, and several of them also have backgrounds in education. This is very beneficial as not everyone learns in the same way.

It is important to be able to adjust your coaching style to match the individual member. I’m a little bit biased but I think we are blessed to have a solid core of coaches who are able to relate to anyone who walks in the door.

How can someone become a coach with you?

We currently have a 12-week internship program that combines shadowing classes, movement education/evaluation, teaching classes, and goal-setting for our potential coaches. We have found that successful completion of this program really sets a coach up for success.

Have any advice for someone thinking about starting their own company?

Be prepared to spend a lot of your free time working on the business. I knew it was going to be hard work but I didn’t realize how time-consuming it was going to be. I could probably work 24 hours a day if I wanted to so it’s important to prioritize tasks and find a healthy work-life balance.

The other big thing I have learned is that sometimes it is more important to do something than to make sure it is 100% ready first. There is so much that needs to get done on a daily basis that it is easy to get overwhelmed and not actually get much done. I read an article recently titled “If you don’t finish your work then you’re just busy, not productive.” Results are really what matters.

What would you most like to accomplish with Wells Street CrossFit?

I would really like to continue to grow the gym and establish a very strong, supportive community here. Every month we are growing and we have doubled in size between year 1 and 2 so we are on track.

I would like WSCF to be known as the most fun and engaging gym in the Chicago area. It is very important to me that we maintain our quality as we grow.

Your Instagram and Facebook pages are pretty awesome. What are the benefits from being active on social media?

I get a lot of positive feedback about our social media which feels really good because I do most of that and I’m by no means a Marketing professional. I try to show how much fun classes are and show the diversity within the classes. Our members are not all going to the CrossFit Games, they are bankers, lawyers, doctors, nurses, policemen, and even retirees.

There is a place for everyone in CrossFit and I try to engage as many people as possible through our social media posting.

Sean Cooney - Wells Street CrossFit

What apps do you use most in your daily life?

Buffer is my favorite app right now. Within my role as gym owner, I take care of the marketing and social media presence of the gym. Buffer lets you schedule posts and post to multiple platforms at the same time, which makes my life A LOT easier.

What one thing do you know now that you wished you knew 10 years ago?

Take chances. I have a tendency to analyze a lot of important decisions to death and, as a result, not take any action.

I have found that every time I have taken a risk and put myself out of my comfort zone it’s paid off. Those risks have not always been successful, but I have always learned something from them. That has become something of a mantra for me, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you”.

What are you most and least favourite exercises?

Favorite: Back Squat and Barbell Thruster are my favorite exercises. Both those are pretty good measures of straight power and that’s one spot that’s definitely one of my strengths, no pun intended.

Least favorite: Doubleunders and burpees are definitely my least favorite exercises. Having a little bit of a bigger frame getting up and down off the ground repeatedly is not in my wheelhouse. One of my goals for this year is to get a little bit better at those. As far doubleunders go, I tend to be a bit clumsy and coordination coupled with fatigue is not a very good combination. It’s a learned movement though, so with practice, they definitely get easier.

Sean Cooney - Wells Street CrossFit

We all have days when we just can’t get into the swing of things, what’s your coping mechanism for days like these?

I make a lot of lists. Running several businesses, training clients, and still trying to find personal time to train gets overwhelming very frequently. I have found that the process of just writing a list down can help prioritize things and I am able to get more done. The downside is I write the list and don’t usually refer back to it so I will often find old lists at my desk, in my car, and at home. I am happy to say that the important things are almost always taken care of on the lists when I stumble across them weeks later.

What do you do in your spare time?

My spare time is spent catching up on my workouts or working on my clinic. I played competitive rugby for a long time but I have had to step back from that because of the time commitment. I mentioned it earlier but having a healthy work-life balance is important to staying productive and not burning myself out. At the end of the day though, I’ve always been a gym rat, so there could be worse things for me than spending all day in a gym.

Name 3 guilty pleasures.

1. Donuts
2. Chicago Style Pizza
3. Prioritizing squatting over working on my other weaknesses.

If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?

This might be the hardest question. I have always been a big fan of Wolverine’s healing ability, but telekinesis would be the best superpower. On top of being able to fly, being able to move things around with just my mind would be pretty cool. I like making things and a lot of neat construction projects could get done.


Thanks to Sean for agreeing to this interview with UB Fitness and be sure to follow him below:


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