Sunday, November 4, 2012

My CrossFit Journey

I was recently asked to tell my story in print for a local CrossFit affiliate.  As the story appears to have been well received I am reprinting here.  Enjoy.

As 2009 came to a close I was sick.  Again.  And it seemed to be an all too regular occurrence.  At the time I had an outside sales job where I spent most of my time on the road and ate most of my meals in restaurants.  I was swimming several days each week before going to the office but "fit" is definitely not a word I would use to describe myself at that time.  Worst of all, I was slowing down.  I spend as much of my free time as possible riding my bicycle but it seemed that as 2009 drew to a close I was doing so at a slower rate than ever before.  As I rounded the corner into 2010 I knew something had to change.  It was about that time that my wife installed a pull up bar in our house and challenged me to duel.  I lost.  I was so weak that I could barely get my chin over the bar once, let alone multiple times.  I had seen enough. 

In February of 2010 I decided to make three major lifestyle changes all at the same time.  I don't do anything half way.  I changed jobs, diet and exercise routine all a once.  The job change was motivated by the diet change.  I needed to get out of restaurants and put myself into a situation where I had more control over the  preparation of my food.  I gave up my sales job and put myself into a position that allowed me to  prepare all of my meals at home.  I went from eating 8 meals per week in restaurants to 0 just like that.  I instantly started to feel better.  A simple description of my current diet will better help you to understand why I felt so much better.  I eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit a little starch and no sugar (is there sugar in syrup? Crap).  If this dietary prescription sounds vaguely familiar to you, it should.  No more processed foods, no dairy, no junk food.  I made the decision to buckle down and eat only what I should.  And what do I drink?  Water.  I avoid all soda, energy drinks and any other sugary liquid pretending to be a satisfying beverage.  I do still enjoy coffee in small amounts but I drink it black.  People teased me a bit saying that I was skinny and didn't need to eat healthy.  I always found this to be  strange as the people who said this were almost always overweight and quite often were slurping down a diet coke.  I also started to eat more.  Not all in one sitting of course.  I now eat five times each day.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner still hold their same level of importance but have slimmed down a bit in terms of their size.  I added a snack in between breakfast and lunch and another between lunch and dinner and found that my mood and my appetite stayed level all day.  When dinner arrives I skip dessert.  Why?  Perhaps more importantly, how?  This is all much easier than you might expect.  When you start eating the right foods in the right amounts you feel so good all the time that you don't want to break that cycle.  Funny how that works.  But diet alone didn't cure me.  I mentioned that my fitness regimen changed as well.

It all started when I met a large man named Andy.  At 50 years old he looked like he could rip the head off a bear and then make the bear apologize for the mess.  I was accustomed  to seeing 50 year old office rats wearing "executive cut" shirts so seeing a man at this age more fit than most 20 year olds was startling.  He took one look at me and knew he had a challenge in front of him.  He asked me about my history with weight lifting and seemed confused when I told him I hadn't done any.  Not recently, not in college, not in high school, never.  He laughed when I pointed out that his dog was bigger than me.  And thus began my journey with CrossFit.  

It was hard.  Damn hard. And I hated it.  I couldn't seem to do even the most basic elements of any workout.  I did pull-ups with rubber bands.  I lifted an empty bar.  And kettle bells?  Don't get me started on kettle bells.  I hated those things.  I could get them off the ground but I couldn't stop them.  I nearly threw myself right out the door when I tried to swing them and often wished that I had.  One month in I was sore every day.  I would limp into my office and had trouble lifting my arms far enough to reach my keyboard.  My hands hurt from the bar.  My butt hurt from the squats.  The only thing that didn't hurt were my ears but I was pretty sure we could find a way to change that.  Only a few weeks in I was ready to give up.  But then something strange started to happen.  The once empty bar was adorned with bumper plates yet seemed lighter than when it was empty.  The pull-up bar that once seemed so far away was like a new toy that I couldn't let go even though the rubber bands were no longer holding me there.  The kettle bells stopped controlling me and I started controlling them.  And even though I was still smaller than the dog I had managed to put on ten pounds of muscle.  That was two and half years ago.  Two and half long years of getting up early to go to the box.  Two and half years of trying to explain my eating habits to my coworkers.  Two and half years of getting better.  

I'm not sick any more.  If I do get sick, it lasts only a moment.  I'm not weak any more either.  I'm happy to challenge my wife to a pull up contest on any given day and I am not ashamed to gloat when I win.  And the bike?  I'm faster than I have ever been.  Faster than I was at 22 and certainly faster than I was before I walked into Andy's gym so long ago.  And the story will continue.  I'm at a new box now working out with a new group of coaches and friends.  From the fittest of the dragon slayers to the most terrified of new athletes we support each other until the last person yells "time".  It's the community that makes it all worth while.  Yes I feel great.  Yes I am more fit than most people my age.  But I'm not there for that any more.  I've put myself on a path toward better health and make sure that every terrified new athlete who is afraid of the bands, bars and yes, the kettle bells knows full well that is all worth it.

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