How old are you? What is your occupation?
41 years old. English professor.
What month and year did you start CrossFit?
August 23, 2015
What made you Join CrossFit?
For father’s day, my wife got me a one-on-one coaching session with Paddy to work on my cleans, and the technique work helped me smash a PR. I loved that Paddy didn’t try to sell me on Crossfit, he just gave me the best hour he could give me and treated me like a serious athlete. I was hooked after that hour.
What were your original goals?
I had been doing what I typically did when I tried to get in shape. I worked out at a gym on my own for about two months and had lost about 10 pounds. I was in what for me at the time was OK shape. I started at The Swamp weighing 247 pounds, and my goal was to never be 250 again. The other major goal was to feel like an athlete again.
What is it about CrossFit (vs. other fitness alternatives) that has made you successful?
There’s a lot. My biggest fitness challenge before starting at The Swamp was consistency. I’d workout for a few months and get into better shape, then something would happen—I’d go on vacation, or get injured, or my work schedule would change, or whatever—and that would kick off a few months of not exercising. A few things helped with consistency at The Swamp, but the biggest one is probably the community. Before I started here, I had underestimated the importance of the social aspect of working out. Everyone I’ve ever met through The Swamp has been amazing. That little pull of knowing other people are going to drag themselves out of bed and show up for a 5AM workout helps. I know everyone claims that their box is different, but The Swamp really is. The coaches at The Swamp put in a lot of behind-the-scenes effort to make everyone feel welcome and to build that community. It’s something I sometimes notice lacking when I go to other gyms.
The intensity of the workouts helps keep me coming, as does the constant variety. And I like that I don’t have to plan my own workouts. It helps me feel like an athlete in training instead of just some guy going to the gym.
Competition helps. Seeing what other people have done with a workout and trying to match it, or competing with myself from the last time I hit a workout. I love seeing progress and that I’m still getting better. Being able to say that I can do a movement now that I couldn’t a year ago is a huge motivator, or that I can do something faster, or longer, or heavier—it all contributes to making me feel like I want to be here instead of feeling it as an obligation.
What is the biggest factor in your success, and how do you maintain it?
Consistency. The “Just Show Up” motto painted on the wall really is important. Showing up week after week, month after month has been the biggest factor. Seeing performance related results is important for me. Instead of working out to lose weight or improve my health, I now lose weight and improve my health in order to perform better, and that’s helped to keep me motivated. It’s the drive to hit a PR that keeps me coming back.
How many classes do you attend each month?
Has nutrition played a role in your success? If so, how? Be specific.
If I compare how I eat now with how I used to eat three years ago, there are huge differences. But I didn’t really make any drastic changes at any one time; instead, it was a lot of small changes over the years. When I started out, the workouts were hard enough to get through that I automatically cleaned up my diet some just to be able to get through the workload. I could feel a difference in the gym when I ate healthier or less healthy.
I didn’t follow a specific plan or anything, just kept making small choices and moving toward a cleaner, more nutritious diet. Then this past winter, I decided to make getting lean my focus for 2018, and I’ve tried to dial in the nutrition. I now go with a version of Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I make sure to have vegetables at every meal (my wife will tell you that my success stems from consuming ridiculous amounts of kale). I’ve been influenced by Dan Benardot’s book “Advanced Sports Nutrition,” and I loosely follow an old-school high carb/moderate protein/low fat diet and try to keep calories in and calories out pretty closely matched throughout the day.
How much weight have you lost since you joined The Swamp? Any other significant physical transformations?
Since I started I’ve lost about 50 pounds. The shoulder pain I had when I started has gone away completely.
What has been your biggest hurdle and how did you overcome it?
Coming to terms with where I am now as an athlete instead of what I was twenty years ago or what I want to be or think I should be able to do. It’s sometimes tough to just show up and focus on what’s real now.
Having coaches I trust and who know me and what I’m capable of helps a lot. Sometimes that means listening to a coach instead of my ego and modifying a movement I’m not quite ready for, but sometimes it means trusting a coach when they tell me I’m undershooting something.
What is your most memorable Crossfit moment?
It’s difficult to pick a single moment, but one sticks out: March 7, 2016, about 6 months into doing CrossFit. The WOD was a 15 minute AMRAP of deadlifts, wallballs, and jumprope. After the workout, Coach Tibbo came over and talked to me, and I told him I was a little down on myself because I felt like the workout had exposed some weaknesses. I needed better cardio and better jumprope skills. He said that a workout like this is where you develop those things. He told me that I wanted more, and that's the competitor in me and what keeps me coming back, but the workout is where the fitness comes from. It was just the right words at just the right time and it put things in perspective for me. Since then, I try not to conflate momentary performance with progress or lack of it. What I can do now might not be what I want to be able to do, but the work is what’s going to get me closer to what I want to be able to do.
Competing in my first competition was also pretty memorable.
How has this experience enriched other areas of your life?
It’s hard for me to put into words how much The Swamp means to me. It’s become a sanctuary and something that centers me. If I go too long without coming in for a workout, I start to feel irritable and stressed. Some people go to religious services; I come sweat with friends.
If you could send yourself advice 10 years ago what would you say?
Great work keeping after it and doing the best you can, but it’s OK to get help. Fitness doesn’t have to be something you do alone.
Accomplishment(s) you are most proud of since joining?
Being able to do a pull-up is pretty high on the list.
What are your current goals?
I’m trying to get comfortable and consistent with double unders and to add pull-up volume.
What advice would you give someone thinking of starting CrossFIt?
Just commit to a single month and see what happens.
What would you hope your CrossFit Future holds?
I want to be one of those 85-year-old guys still showing up and crushing WODs.