“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway
Old At 25
Most of you know “CrossFit Nut John”, but very few of you know “Overweight John”. I’m hoping this story will give a little insight into our program here and let you know a little bit about what led me here.
It was 2008 and at 25 I jumped into the “real world” head first. Had my 9 to 5 (more like 7 to 5, which we can all relate to), got married, had a baby right away (the beautiful Lauren Elizabeth), and put on 50lbs. Pretty normal I guess. That’s what being an adult is right?
For me it was absolute hell. I was still hitting the gym hard, but I was 230lbs, felt terrible, slept terrible, had severe stomach issues, antacids where my best friend, shoulders hurt, knees hurt. Hated taking my shirt off, I’m 25, seriously, I have to live the rest of my life like this?
I’d get together with buddies and play hockey, basketball or flag football, and I would be wrecked for days. It wasn’t fun anymore, just pain.
I started spending more and more time at the gym, but kept getting heavier.
Run, John, Run…
I called my dad, who’s done it all, and actually knows a thing or two about working out. He was basically a CrossFitter before there was CrossFit, just never really honed it in quite right.
Dear old dad says “if you want to lose weight you have run AT LEAST 6 miles a day. Anything less and you won’t lose weight”.
I HATED running, probably because I was 50lbs overweight, and everything hurt anyways, but dad’s advice had never steered me wrong in the past, so I started getting up early to run in the morning. And to insure I stayed motivated I signed up for a half marathon.
I’d run in the morning (had to do at least 6 or I was just wasting my time…) then I’d hit the gym at night out of fear I would start to look like a runner (no offense to runners).
I had a beautiful wife and baby at home, and I’m out here training like the Vikings are going to call or something. The tragedy was, I wasn’t really losing any weight, and I hurt more then ever.
Eventually all this training got the best of me. I was experiencing extreme knee pain and couldn’t run for over a month. Maybe it was too much too soon, maybe it was poor technique, maybe it was my weight, I really don’t know. I missed the half marathon, and pretty much was ready to accept that this is what life was. This is why dads look like dads. This is my future.
There is Hope
Then a miracle happened (it was truly a miracle for me), I was reading the paper and read about this CrossFit thing. I got online and found there was one a couple miles from my apartment. At the time there were only 4-5 CrossFits in the whole state.
I showed up having no idea what to expect as most of us have. I wore a tight shirt to show off my arms so they knew I wasn’t new to the gym. It was really small, no machines, no curl bars, but for whatever reason I felt like I was in the right place.
I see a couple guys working on muscle ups. I approach and say “it’s a pull up and a dip, what’s the big deal?”. They encourage me to take a try. It doesn’t go well, but I can bench more than them, and that’s all that really matters right?
I sit down with the owner and we talk about my workout history. I let him know my more impressive stats, squat, bench, that sort of thing. Tell him about the half marathon I almost did. Really had to let him know I wasn’t some bumpkin.
He then asks about my diet. I immediately say “I workout so I can so I can eat what I want”. Not fully appreciating the irony that I was 50lbs overweight and working out a good 2+ hours a day. But as we all know, diet can be a sensitive subject.
We go through the standard “baseline” WOD. For time: 500m Row, 40 squats, 30 sit ups, 20 push ups, 10 pull ups. It almost kills me and I am intrigued. I sign up for 10 sessions and plan to make this “my cardio”. I go home to tell my wife. She’s not impressed, because now we’re paying for two gym memberships and I’m already working out too much.
I could tell it was right though. I could feel it, it was a feeling I had been missing. The feeling of actually working.
But What Do You Do For Cardio?
I started showing up twice a week, but still considered CrossFit my “cardio”. I mean can you actually get strong without spending the traditional 1+ in the gym hitting every angle of each muscle group with fancy machines?
And Olympic lifts? What kind of weirdo weightlifting is this? I’ve never seen that dude at the gym with 24” arms do cleans or snatches, that stuff is just a novelty. No use whatsoever….
I show up to my first class, and to put it simply I get my ass kicked by these middle aged soccer moms. I was devastated, embarrassed, and ashamed, I mean I should be able to do this stuff, right?
I get out of there as quick as I could. I showed up the next day mostly to show them I could do it only to get my ass kicked again.
This went on for a few months. I was starting to get a hang of this whole thing. Well at least I wasn’t getting as close to death. But everyday was exciting, I was learning things, new ways to use my body, new ways to challenge myself. I was actually looking forward to working out.
The Best At Sucking
Man was I terrible though. I was last on EVERY WOD, like literally every WOD, but I was feeling great. I could feel myself getting my youth back. I still couldn’t run worth a damn. If a WOD had running in it, I walked at least half of the time. If it had burpees, I had to scale the reps down.
My first “annie” was one of the first times I really doubted whether this was right for me or not. Annie was 50-40-30-20-10 reps of double unders and sit ups. It took me 21:00 minutes…yep, 21 minutes.
I know what you’re thinking, must’ve been the double unders right? It was everything, I remember the coach coming up to me saying “let’s cut the sit up reps in half…just do 15, 10, 5 to finish it off”. But I was too stubborn. I just wanted to fight through.
I watched some of these people doing amazing things. I saw a guy do “Fran” in 2:30. I saw people doing muscle ups, handstand push ups and overhead squats. Not acrobats or fitness Nazis, but salesmen, a preacher, a chiropractor, housewives, firefighters, accountants. Normal people, living normal lives, but for an hour a day, they would come and accomplish extraordinary physical feats.
I told myself I would do “fran” in under 3 minutes some day. I really wanted to get a muscle up, but I realized I had to get to a healthier weight to accomplish these things.
The Butterfly Effect, Kind of?
I started eating better, wasn’t the best at it, didn’t totally get it, but realized that if I was going to get better in the gym, I needed to improve my life outside the gym. That’s what was miraculous for me. It was the spark that made me start caring about how much sleep I got, what I put in my body, what habits where holding me back.
My desire to improve in the gym had a profound effect on my quality of life outside the gym. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the whole point. If your focus becomes “getting fitter” it makes it a lot easier to make the healthy choices outside the gym.
I’m The Best In My Garage
Then we moved. We were too far from the box to make it work, so I tried to do what I could at the local “globo gym”. CrossFit still was pretty underground, so most people thought I was nuts, but I was hooked. I had no idea how to scale, how to put together a workout, basically just winging it. Finding what I could on youtube, blogs, etc. It was one of those “I learned 1,000 ways not to do something” type of experiences.
Globo gym wasn’t working out great, so I built a little garage gym. 1 kettlebell, a pull up bar, a barbell with a few bumper plates and a box to jump on. Not much, and still very confused on how to make it all work, but I was obsessed. I spent as much time as I could learning about CrossFit, nutrition, lifting and gymnastics.
Tried lots of crazy things and made tons of mistakes, but after about 6 months of CrossFitting I had dropped 30lbs and was feeling awesome. I was at 200lbs and decided that was the perfect weight for me.
The Wolfpack Grows
I was a lone wolf though. I missed the camaraderie, the coaching, the atmosphere you can only feel in a CrossFit box. After months of trying to get my wife and sister to join me in this crazy shit in the garage I realized they needed to feel the environment inside of an actual box.
By that time, CrossFits started popping up around the metro, so I shopped around until I found the perfect place with the perfect coach. CrossFit City of lakes. It was a tiny place in an office strip behind a KFC. It was PERFECT. I’d love to say I did it all for them, but I missed it. I needed it. I needed the atmosphere, the coaching, the camaraderie.
I got them in, and they didn’t take to it as passionately at first, their reasons for sticking it out are probably awholenother story.
It had been over a year or so since I had last weighed myself, because I didn’t care what I weighed anymore. It was meaningless. My diet was good, I was getting fitter, I felt great, who cares what the scale says. I assumed I weighed about the same as the last time I weighed myself. I mean I had gotten a lot stronger, so there’s no way I lost weight right? I mean getting stronger equals getting bigger, it’s science…
I was down to 178lbs. I hadn’t weighed that since 9th grade. The number is irrelevant, but I was almost 30 and I was stronger, leaner, and fitter then I had ever been in my life. I wasn’t doing anything crazy, I wasn’t freaking out about food, I was eating real food, meat, veggies, fruit, a few cheats on the weekend, maybe some ice cream, pizza on Sundays. I wasn’t working out 3 hours a day. I Just living a normal life.
I had learned a lot, but I was so shocked with the results I was getting I just had to learn more, can it be better, can it be easier, can it be more fun? I could go on and on (this is the condensed version…sorry?) but for now I’ll leave it here, probably about 2011ish. I just started coaching, I no longer hated running (I was actually getting good at it), and burpees and me were getting along…
I’ll fill in the gaps from then til now on a later date, but here are a few of my more interesting stats from over the years:
2015 188lbs (been working hard on adding muscle, who are these people that are getting “bulky” on accident?!?!)
2014 2:52 (it took 5 years, but I finally achieved my first crossfit goal!!)
First muscle up: 2011 (yes it took me 2 years)