Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Journey

I was just past the 50 mile marker of my 100 mile race when suddenly I began thinking about my three kids. Who would have ever guessed a 190 pound man, running all by himself in the middle of nowhere, would be hyperventilating – overcome with emotion? It had absolutely nothing to do with the mileage or the fact that I have been running for more than 10 hours. The combination of solidarity, determination, and adrenaline, presented a rare opportunity to open up my soul and look at myself from the inside.
It was one of those euphoric moments that athletes experience only once in a blue moon. I thought about the sacrifices my family has made for me. I thought about the countless encouraging messages and conversation my little girls had given to me. More than that, I thought about all those individuals who helped me get to where I was; all of my co-athletes, my training partners, my community, my CrossFit family, the haters, the motivators, the coaches, those individuals who have no vested interests or validated position, all of whom touched my life on my journey. To know an average Joe is to know their journey. Here is my journey.
Dubbed as “The Average Joe,” I was once a beer-drinking, cigarette smoking, college rugby player who ballooned to over 310 pounds. Through running and CrossFit, I shed over 118 pounds in just under a year. I am an underdog by nature and genuinely believe in the fight and persistence of the human spirit. It is near impossible for me to leave an obstacle untested, pushing the limits of the human mind and body. This philosophy is the foundation for my initial attraction to both CrossFit and ultra- running.
 On a daily basis, I find myself making every effort to enforce this same fighting desire and determination through sound training and smart decisions. A husband to a CrossFitting wife and a father to three beautiful little girls, I believe that a healthy lifestyle is essential. It is a breath of fresh air, knowing that the tools and resources to achieve such a lifestyle are neither exclusive nor elusive. CrossFit has brought a new understanding of fitness and wellness to our family and community.
I began running over a decade ago. The original motivation was simple and straightforward- to get back into shape for rugby alumni match. Initially this was a painful and taxing form of self induced torture. Each and every muscle in my body was immediately coerced back to life, followed by almost instantaneous aching. Despite the initial exhaustion and difficulty, the rapid results from this labor- intensive type of physical activity were a significant motivating factor that kept me going back for more. The realization that within my own mind and body was the key to improving me, and therefore the quality of my life became unearthed from dormancy. What started out as an arduous task transformed into routine.
I quickly discovered that I could instantly and directly affect how I felt during my runs, by simply watching what I ate and put into my body. With surprising ease I ditched the soda, Swiss cake rolls (among many other longtime safety-nets and overdue bad habits) and went to a more balanced diet. In my evolutionary tract to fitness, I found myself signing up for 5k’s and longer races. I was soon awakened to the reality that increasingly longer events require some semblance of training and planning. The appeal and straightforwardness of this notion was amazing: I have a goal, and then in turn, I have a path.
My developing knowledge of fitness, as well as smaller athletic accomplishments, grew in conjunction with my desire to go longer and farther than anyone I had ever known. People often shake their heads; they look confused, or laugh at me when I discuss my involvement in events that push the mind and body in ultimate tests of athleticism. Rather than try to explain, my standard answer has always been, “Who else do you know that has done it?” From one event, competition and race to another, the desire to do something longer, bigger or faster began to take life. This was a natural progression for me, as I have always been motivated to leave my mark on this planet for both myself and for those whom I have the honor of meeting along the way. Inevitably, my journey reached a point where marathons and Ironman triathlons were no longer good enough.
Coinciding with the time that the need for greater accomplishments was planted in my mind, I began to feel the effects of so many years of training. I had become prone to back injuries and my regular training recovery had become very lengthy. I felt strongly that there was an underlying, missing link in my fitness and training program and couldn’t shake that thought. In 2007, on a recommendation from a training friend, I started to go to a new gym in the area that offered boot camp style classes. These classes were designed to be exceptionally difficult, physically exhausting and done within a short time frame. I was immediately hooked by the intensity. An even greater appeal was the tight-knit community created by the small group environment and individualized focus.
One year later, this small fitness studio decided to get a CrossFit affiliation and CrossFit Milford came to be. I was completely unaware that this small studio would become the mother-ship for all CrossFit boxes in New England.  It led the way for functional fitness, and an explosion of later box owners populating Connecticut, New York, and the surrounding areas. Training, coaching or working out, I was surrounded by some of the greatest future coaches, affiliate owners and motivating individuals.  Personalities like Jason Laydon, Ben Kelly, Lauren Plumey, Ben Burgeron, and at that time Heather Keenan, were surrounding pillars of motivation. In true CrossFit style, I was welcomed and immediately hooked by the community. It is a contagious sentiment, felt by all who are drawn to our community, to strive for continuous improvement and goal attainment.
As CrossFit continued to grow, so did the need for athletes, such as myself, whose background and goals focused on endurance events and training programs that emphasized those specific needs. Brian McKinzie and CrossFit Endurance turned out to be that missing link. Jason Laydon and I dove in head first, immediately becoming certified through his program. With the certification came the need to evaluate our newfound knowledge. We needed to flex our program and training tactics and expound upon skills that we had learned. In 2009 I teamed up with my long-time training partners, friends, and fitness gurus; Vin Lindsley and Bobby Wheeler. We decided to open our own CrossFit box, and as a result, Elm City CrossFit was born.
The goal of Elm City was to create an intimate fitness experience that combines normal, hardworking people, as well as, veteran endurance athletes looking for the next generation of training and fitness. Our main focus was the fundamental heart of CrossFit: small group training and individual attention is not a luxury but a necessity. In the past few years, my partners and I have developed and revolutionized various types of traditional endurance programs. These pieces were then integrated with the key principles of CrossFit and other essential elements of endurance programing.
It became our theme to preach the gospel to anyone who would listen: proper nutrition, solid strength exercise, and the right mix of interval, tempo, and training volumes. The proper fundamentals produced amazing results to anyone following the plan. As desired, our athletes no longer required the relentless hours and tremendous mileage to train for long distance events. Exercise and training had become our science, and by fine-tuning the process, we were able to provide more efficient methods of training. Our prescription had taken even the most experienced endurance athletes and rendered remarkable results with regard to individual success, and in many cases, setting personal records. Thus with the forward momentum of this lifestyle and success in training, I naturally found myself in the middle of (another) 100 mile race.
It was 3:15 the morning of the Shipwreck 100 miler in Outer Banks, North Carolina. I had been in this situation before. Just two years prior, I toed the starting line in my first attempt at the 100 mile ultra-marathon distance in the very same state. In 2010 I began the 100 mile race only six days prior to qualifying for the Northeast Regional CrossFit Games, being in the top 30 at the Sectional Competition. The following twenty-eight and a half hours of that race were an undeniable and excruciating reminder that endurance athletes should run more and CrossFitters should stick to snatches of the occasional 800 meter runs. I completed the race, a feat of which I pulled from somewhere deep inside of myself, but could barely walk for the next two weeks. As my wife pushed me through the airport in a wheelchair awaiting our flight home,  I thought about how I had only logged an impressive 53 total miles in the four months leading up to the race. This somehow translated into my 100 mile run in 28 hours. Sitting in that wheelchair, I saw how CrossFit was my golden ticket in getting me across the finish line.
Today was going to be different. Confident and nervous at the same time, I knew today would be truly unforgettable. Unlike in 2010, today I was 20 pounds lighter, mentally focused, and physically in a much better place. In the months leading up to the race, I had taken my nutrition to an entirely new level. Throughout the years, I had followed the Paleo diet, the cornerstone of my coaching and training, but this time around I elected to take an alternate route. Adhering to the advice of my good friend and co-owner Vin Lindsley, I decided to try a couple of new approaches to further dial in my caloric intake as well as my sugar levels. The result was an immediate reduction in body fat and overall weight, which was crucial, as I have no genetic predisposition to a runner’s lithe body.  I began to recover more quickly from my workouts and noticeably more intense. This was not only the motivation and forward momentum I needed, but would also prove to be the most defining factor of my ultra-running success.
Although it was March, the wind was harsh and acerbic, and the cold temperatures were ruthless at the starting line. The race began “where the road begins,” literally – this was the tagline of the race. We would start beachside, where Route 12 begins, a road that would take us due South for the next 101 miles. As the national anthem cut the morning wind, my mind was focused on just one acute, driving thought: I just want to start moving. For a moment I was briefly taken by the irony of the situation. Typically, in such an enduring race, a runner will search both mentally and physically to be done, but today I just wanted to get started. With little fan-faire and festivity the race director finally said, “GO!”-- And we were off. The flock of eighty-five runners shuffled forward in a sea of reflective running gear and headlamps. By my third step, all flurrying butterflies of nervousness were gone. I was now poised to focus for the unbelievably long WOD in front of me.
In the ultra-running world, completing a 100 mile race in less than 24 hours is the golden standard for ultimate success. If one were able to accomplish this, it is said that he or she would “buckle.” This means the competitor is given a belt buckle, not only signifying completion of the course, but with a time under the 24 hour mark. In the years leading up to this and other races, I was in awe of the physical readiness and the mental aptitude of these gifted athletes. I often envisioned crossing the finish line with much celebration in under 24 hours and awarded my buckle, much like an Olympian is given the gold medal; with cheers, applause, and due amount of pomp and circumstance. It was a distant dream; I could never run that fast or be “those guys”. Winning such achievements was slender and angular, by real runners, probably born runners. I was a runner by trade and not by design. I was much better constructed for heavy deadlifts and squats with my short, stocky build.
 It is often said that this 100 mile distance is broken down into two parts. The first half is done with your feet, and the second half is done with your mind. I was poised to stay on my strategy and hold on as long as possible until the wheels fell off, not knowing exactly when the crash would happen, but knowing it was inevitable. My mantra was to stick to my plan as long as possible; I had practiced my strategy for months. I would run, and then walk, closely monitoring my work-to-rest ratio with maintaining consistency. Keeping par with this pace was equivalent to short, ten minute workouts, all day long. My sole thought was getting to the next walk break.   This strategy enabled me to concentrate on the present, one small goal at a time. As a result, my attention was diverted from the broad picture, an all –encompassing scope of persistent and seemingly uninterrupted miles which lay ahead of me. From the very first step over the starting line, I hoped to maintain this routine as long as possible. It was important that I stay under control, relaxed, and not overexert myself at any time.
Ten miles in, I fell into a very comfortable pace. Nearly the entire field was ahead of me at this point, due to the fact that I was walking so early. Un-phased, it was a welcome change not to be bumping elbows with the pack, caught up in a big group of runners. I was happy with my pace and strategy. My feet, however, were already feeling the effects of the run. I had been training with trial shoes and was on the fence as to what shoes I would wear to run the actual race.  To compound my frustration, I was unable to find the exact shoe I had been training in the entire time. There had been two newer versions of the shoe that were released since my last purchase, so the shoe had been slightly altered. For your average individual, this may be inconsequential, but to an ultra-runner this could spell disaster. I could already feel hot spots burning the soles of my feet. My mind was made up; I had to switch to a road shoe. My new road shoes had never even been out of the shoebox, tissue paper still stuffed protectively in them. I was about to ask my wife to not only ,open the new shoe box, but maybe open up Pandora’s box of disappointment and regret, but I felt I had no choice. At the twenty mile mark, the switch was made, along with a nice layer of duct tape (a truly all-purpose product) that was applied on the bottom of my feet to help with the hotspots.
The mark of a good athlete is to have a solid plan and practice it. The other indicator is the ability to think in the moment -- to think on your feet. At mile thirty, after all of those miles, and all of those hours of training with one nutritional plan, my stomach would not cooperate. This would prove to be another obstacle in my pursuit of my ultimate goal. Throwing a wrench into my well-laid plan was an unforeseen issue that had never occurred in my training regimen. It was time to make the call. I had to switch my nutritional plan. I decided to scale back on the amount of calories and get back to a more traditional and natural approach. The synthetic nutrition and the overload of calories, which carried me up to mile thirty, had finally caused my stomach to raise the white flag. I decided to take it back to the basics- coconut water, gels and pretzel rods.
 Even though my stomach discomfort continued, I began passing runners. I was now into the type of distance where the body and mind began to break down. Any semblance of technical running form is lost, and reality sets in for most people that this is more than just running a race. Like most other endurance events I had participated in, I am by far the largest person in the field. When passing other runners I get nasty and confused looks. The stares speak for themselves; eyes asking “How can this big guy be passing me?” Fortunately, my only focus rested on my strategy - just hang on – even through the stomach distress, which soon dissipated, leading to my ability to pass people. It was obvious when I passed through the aid station at mile forty, with my sleeveless shirt and non-runner type build, that my strength and power would come in handy today. I was overcome with further encouragement and elation as I made my way forward and heard one of the race officials yell out – “Damn, the big man can run!”
With twenty mile an hour winds at my back for the entire day, this element was not a big concern of mine, but it was to others in the field.  The runners were led into a lighthouse, situated just past the forty-five miles mark, where there was an aid station. This would be one of the most significant time-qualification cutoffs for runners, who failed to reach this point by the twelve-hour mark. I arrived in fewer than ten. As soon as I stopped, the wind sliced through, sparking instantaneous hypothermia. Along the sidelines, my wife, pacing my every thought and movement, was posted at each aid station along my journey.  Frantically, she yelled at me to keep moving as I departed the station while putting on additional clothes and my head phones. In a few short miles, I would be at the halfway mark, running across Bonner Bridge, a two and a half mile bridge connecting the northern and southern Outer Banks.
 The wind fiercely persisted as I approached the bridge. I could no longer feel my face as I strapped my hat down, in an effort to keep it from being swept off my head and into the Atlantic. I was almost beyond the bridge when my focused changed. In one single step I could feel a blister pulsating from my left foot. My pinky toe had fallen victim to the first blister of the day, and it was distractingly raw and painful. I came off the bridge and ducked into the aid station. Upon further investigation of my little toe, the blister had already popped, evidence it had been there longer than I initially thought. I applied another round of duct tape circling my toe and foot, and I was back on the road.
As I continued to pass runners, I contemplated how, never, in my wildest dreams, had I anticipated having such an amazing run. Motivated by the fact that my good friend and training partner, Mike, was going to be there to pace me to the finish, I wanted to keep with my run-walk strategy as long as I could. He would be joining me at mile sixty two. This is when it hit me. I was incredulous as I began doing the math in my head. I had already broken all of my previous best times at each ascending distance. If I could only get to Mike in thirteen hours, then he can pull me the last thirty eight miles in eleven hours, right? No, it is impossible for me to do that. I know extremely decorated runners who have been in this position before, only to have the 24-hour finish dream become lost within the grip of the last few miles. Like a madman, I literally started yelling at myself as I ran down the desolate road, all by myself. ”I am strong! Today is my day!”
I ran into the aid station at mile sixty two. Mike was not even expecting me for a little while longer so when he saw me entering the aid station, he knew I was all business. Utilizing the same methodology as I did at the other aid stations throughout the day, I did not want to waste any time. My goal was to blow through the stations as quickly as possible, picking up only what was vital to my onward ambition. A small cup of soup, another hand-full of pretzel rods, and we were out the door.
Mike and I were on a mission. I wish I could tell you that I was joyful about my progress, but my only focus was to keep running on my “work interval” and walking on  my “rest interval”, and to ensure my feet did not stop carrying me forward. Just hang on, just hang on. I was not very good company for Mike as I decided to keep the demons out by blasting my music, even though I now had another runner to accompany me. My isolation did nothing to diminish my partner’s companionship. Training partners know you, and Mike knew exactly what I needed. He knew I needed to keep my mind off my failing body.
The next major intersection in the course would be the final main aid station, another lighthouse at mile eighty-seven. As billed, this stretch of the race would prove to be the most difficult. The road, the terrain, the wind and all of the other elements remained unchanged, but you could see the lighthouse from over fifteen miles away. An unwavering, unfaltering, beacon in the distance, it both taunted me and offered reprieve, as it stood looming. Painstakingly, the lighthouse grew larger and larger as we gradually approached.  It seemed like an eternity getting to the marker. The night had turned dark and the only signs of activity were the sounds of the crashing waves from the ocean’s edge and the occasional passing of fellow runners on the course.
Shortly after leaving a water stop, around mile seventy five, exhaustion knocked the wind out of me. My watch alarm sounded for another work interval; it instructed I start running. Through breaths, I told Mike I could feel the wheels falling off and I was going to have to decrease the run interval and walk more. Mike suggested that I just start moving and rest half-way through the work interval, cutting it in half. I was silent to his suggestion as my body was not responding, and my silence was simply taken as agreement. I peeked at my watch a few minutes later, thinking that I can do anything for a few more minutes. I was completely numb to the blaring music in my ear, and I was only concerned with my next walk break. I glanced at my watch again, willing the time to go by; only fifteen seconds until the half-way rest that Mike had suggested.
 This is what my race has become – a negotiation with myself. I thought to myself, even as my body threatened to collapse and betray me at any minute, it still wasn’t as bad as doing burpees. It is not as bad as doing most of those grueling workouts that I have been doing for years. In my CrossFit career, I had become somewhat comfortable being uncomfortable and this is the same thing. I must continue to move. I kept telling myself to keep calm and stay under control. I use this same mindset and strategy with most workouts that I do – even the most difficult ones.  I look down at my watch again. Only one minute left in the run interval. The minute ended with the beeping of my watch and, with little fanfare and celebration, Mike commented “Good work brother.” I knew then that I would not even question my work interval again. Who could have ever thought that a 100 mile race, a grueling test of body and mind would be weighed, tested and decided in a few, short minutes?  I was ready for my continued challenge. This one single interval would decide the fate of my entire race.
Mike and I pushed on like workers on a mission. We came into the final main aid station, relieved to finally be at the lighthouse that had, at some points, seemed unattainable. We had been running towards this post for hours, but we both knew the small victory would be short-lived. My feet were killing me, and I needed another round of duct tape on them. I also got a fresh pair of socks on my feet, now, ready as I ever would be, to tackle the remaining thirteen miles. Mike and I were both well aware that a sub-twenty- four- hour time was painfully close. The final thirteen miles were broken up into two, 6.5 mile sections. Mike is a project manager and an engineer; the gears working in his head were racing so fervently you could see him mentally strategize pace scenarios with each step we took.
Unlike the other rest stops throughout the day, this one I would not stop at. Mike instructed me to just keep going and he will fill my camelback with water and he would catch up to me after completing his tasks. I continue walking past the water stop while I heard Mike discussing with my wife the need to keep pushing. He instructed her to drive up to the 3.5 mile mark, leaving only 3 miles to the finish. The course was very poorly marked with regards to mile markings and Mike wanted to make sure his calculations were correct for a certain sub-24 finish.  While Mike was filling the camelback, I was on a rest interval. I looked at my watch and calculated that it took us 90 minutes to complete the first of two 6.5 mile sections. Mike ran up behind me and said that we were going to need to hurry, as a sub 24 hour finish is right in our reach. I knew at that point that I wanted to push my body farther than it had gone before; the final 6.5 mile leg was my last. I was not only motivated to get off my feet as fast as possible, I was also feeling that familiar burning desire to continue pushing the envelope, to go faster and further, much like we do in everyday CrossFit fashion. I wanted the race to be over, but I also wanted to finish in less than 90 minutes in that final leg; I could feel the energy building deep inside my exhausted body.
As was prearranged, my wife was parked along the side of the road with her hazard lights flashing. We were on our rest interval as we walked up beside the car. Only three miles left she said. You can do it. At that instant, my watch went off, indicating that our work interval was on. So we started running again – just like we have done literally more than one hundred times before, during this day. My run interval had been set to eight minutes for the entire day. Mike told my wife to go up another mile and pull off the road. This was a great motivation to have something to run towards. I could see the car pull off in the distance. We continued to run toward those blinking lights, and all I could think about was that I only had three miles to go. As we ran alongside my wife’s car, the rest interval timer went off. Mike was ecstatic to be one mile closer, but I was focused on the fact that, after all my body has been through, after all the mental bargaining and pleas to be answered – I just ran an 8- minute mile! It was moments like this that made me believe that I had earned my place in this race – yes, this big man CAN run!
I had envisioned the finish line for months now. I was playing different scenarios in my mind all day long, about how I was going to cross the finish line. My plan was to let out a stern and monstrous yell at the finish line, but now that I had arrived, a different scenario began to unfold. I rounded one last corner seeing my wife’s rental car and her standing beside it. It was a blur as Mike and I took one more opportunity to pass yet another runner in our march towards the finish line. A woman in a passenger van opens the door and yells, “Come past me. I am the finish line.”  The finish line was not what I had pictured in my mind. There was no fanfare, no ticker-tape finish that I had envisioned.  For me it was perfect. My breaths were short as I held back tears. I crossed the line and stared at the ground. I kept thinking back to all those people who had given me the motivation and strength to get me to this point. As I stood back up, teary- eyed, the race director said, “Awesome finish!  Your time is 22 hours and 17 minutes.”  She handed me a huge silver sub-24-Hour Finisher’s buckle, and I smiled from ear to ear. I did it!  In the hours following my perfect finish, I learned that over half of the athletes who started this event, had dropped out for various reasons. As for me, my body recovered quickly except for my feet. Little did I think that, as great of an idea as the duct tape was, I failed to consider what would happen when I crossed that finish line, and all that tape had to be removed? My feet took a bit longer to recover, but it was all worth it.
My long-time training partner recently asked me if my success was a product of Elm City CrossFit or was it something else. My answer was a quick one. It was Elm City CrossFit. Without Elm City, I never would have had the strength and core fitness it takes to support my body for this distance. Additionally, I noted that my fellow runners logged hundreds of miles weekly during their training. I was able to create the same level of fitness through shorter, intense training workouts. On reflection of my total number of miles, I ran in 4 months, what the other guys were doing in a week. This is a bi-product of CrossFit and CrossFit Endurance. The third and final piece is the lasting one for me. It is the community and the responsibility to give more of yourself than you would ever have done before. What started out as a path of self-actualization has transformed into a life-changing experience, returning me to my CrossFit community. CrossFit is hard – but so is anything worth having in this world. With CrossFit smarts and strategy, I was able to focus on the task at hand, while ignoring the complaints of my body. For all of these qualities, I thank Elm City CrossFit’s  community for giving me the opportunity to realize my goals, change my life, and become a part of this unique and extended family. I hope to inspire other Elm City athletes to achieve their own personal fitness goals in pursuit of their own illusive finish line.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Get Mad!

Are you mad?

Are you fed up with your norm? Are you ready for a change? Are you scared? Are you nervous to fail? Are you strong enough to follow through?

Get mad. Get up set! The world is passing you by while you sit there and continue to convince yourself that you can't, your couldn't, your could never. Don't let those voices dominate - let them MOTIVATE!

Take a deep breathe and dare to be great! Today is your day. Now is your starting line. Make your mark on this world. Stand up and be seen, be heard and be whatever it is you want to be!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What are we running from?

Are we running towards the future or scrambling from the past! No matter the motivation, embrace it- it is your coach and friend all at the same time. No justification is needed. Live, love and learn! Never stop questioning. Never stop fighting. Most importantly- never stop running from average!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Forging Elite Profits

Forging Elite Profits
CrossFit as we know it has arrived! The controversy is plentiful and very compelling. The most interesting thing is that like it or not it is a reality of our society. To fully understand my point of view, we have to go back to when I was on my quest to open my box – Elm City CrossFit.
At Elm City CrossFit we are bonded by various motivating factors but the one that keeps individuals coming back for more is the community, commitment to success and a constant eye on the individual. This is a trend that I have witnessed more than two years in the making. I see people of various abilities, backgrounds, sexes, interests and of course opinions, come together every day to suffer together. And for those who suffer together bond together. It is sediment that is felt not only with the athletes performing the exercises, but also anyone who ever walks into our box. We are a band of brothers brought together for individual goals.

Each day at Elm City CrossFit, athletes are exposed to a workout which each individual will perform during the course of that particular day. There is a since of both competition and camaraderie when athletes set out on their journey to complete the day’s test. Our athletes are motivated and comforted by the simple fact that the team will be victorious, standing together against the day’s challenges. It is extremely important to create an environment where athlete’s questions can be answered, where their fears can be over-come and a safe and productive atmosphere is realized. Even though our results are individually based and our goals are very personal, the means and the medium are very much team driven. Our team is less concern with physical prowess or appearance; we are concern with how our team fares. Participation, pride, perseverance, passion, poise – this is our team – watch us win!
It was the summer of 2009 and I was hot off of returning from the CrossFit Games in Armos, California participating in the affiliate team competition and supporting two women from my gym. At the time I was going to CrossFit Milford and was in the middle of building Elm City CrossFit. I had the fortunate opportunity to sit into an open-floor talk given by Greg Glassman at a local box in Watertown, Connecticut. My first impression of him was what you would normally assume given his larger than life status as the founder of the program I now subscribe to. I found him extremely approachable and very easy to talk to. This was a breath of fresh air and made me very hopeful that my quest to open a gym an attainable reality.
So I sat and listened intently for over an hour about the history of CrossFit and the methodology behind the madness.  One of the biggest ideas and themes I got from this lecture was the openness of the community and the bare innocence of the program – Completely Organic. I was drawn to the notion that regardless of background, age, physical exposure or any other preexisting conditions; anyone can both participate and see success.
It was extremely interesting that I was so motivated and moved by this simple concept and then the topic of the CrossFit Games came up. Coach Glassman was very quick to point out that he is extremely proud of the event and looks forward to future Games as a way to further expose our building community and truly reveal the fittest on Earth. He went on to talk about the number of sports apparel, shoe, marketing, beverage and even market fund investors have approached him to buy the rights to both CrossFit and the CrossFit Games. He held firm in his belief that the true fitness experience should not be aligned with a marketing campaign and that it exists in all of us. He will not sell out to the highest bidder and forgo the work he has done building an open-sourced fitness movement.
Since that humid afternoon in central Connecticut, CrossFit has experienced an absolute explosion. The total number of CrossFit boxes in the state has nearly doubled and nearly tripled nationally and globally. We have witnessed huge amounts of changes in the programming, training methodology, Headquarters’ personnel, affiliation, marketing and most of all the CrossFit Games.  Coach Glassman and CrossFit have aligned themselves with Reebok and now look to push the sport of fitness into every house-hold in the world with a big fat Reebok sticker on the cover!
As I have written about previously, I am very upset at the fact that CrossFit boxes just keep popping up around existing boxes- on the same streets – in the same towns... We like to talk about community but it has become who has the biggest box, the most monetary support and a who’s who of games competitors and athletic sponsorships - How can we build a community when we are becoming exactly what we despise -The globo gym... CrossFit Headquarters kindly accepts our affiliate fees every year with absolutely no return like protection from other pseudo CrossFit globo boxes looking to clean up with less than ideal programming, over-crowded classes and with little regards to community, personal development and goal accomplishment... Congratulations CrossFit Headquarters... we have become over-crowded, non-coached, unsafe, nonfunctional movement CROSSFIT GLOBO!!! Coach Glassman should be proud of what his CrossFit model has become… An organic community of Mice and Men
The face of the training program, which I promote, adhere to and prescribe to my athletes have moved from Main Street to Wall Street. We don’t read about the mother of three kids getting a pull-up, learning how to squat clean, losing weight or becoming a healthy individual. We see professional athletes parade around in Reebok CrossFit gear doing 100 butterfly pull-ups and talking about what their expectations are for next years’ Games. Now let me be completely clear, I know some of the Games athletes personally. They are extremely humble people and phenomenal athletic specimens.  I don’t fault their positions, nor their individual drive to be the best. Hell, I wish I was as fit as them. But they are not the problem. CrossFit as a corporation is.
We are now faced with the painful yet inevitable reality that our sport has evolved and fallen victim to big business, big profit, cookie cutter, and the globo monster!  This is the same monster that we use to mock and talk about. The same monster which we vowed never to be like – we have now become. We have taken the standard CrossFit coined phrase, constantly varied, from a physical function perspective and brought it to hazardous coaching techniques, unsafe workout environments and a one-sized fit all regiment –do whatever you want and call it Innovative Bad-Ass CrossFit programming.
This new logo infested portrait of what fitness should look like is drastically different than the one that actually exists. The jaw-dropping six pack abs and perfect bodies are exactly what got us in this predicament in the first place. Intimidation factor, a positive and valuable weapon in war but is a huge deterrent in an attempt to involve average working people in fitness. Why would we make true fitness have a face of a professional athlete? We are the common people with a common goal – we want to be healthy, productive and adaptive human beings. We have preconceived fears, emotional image issues and self doubt. The last thing we need to see is beautiful people displaying what fitness and training looks like. It is a blow to our already fat bellies and a kick in our cellulite infested asses.
So the main question remains; does this shift into main stream affect Elm City CrossFit? Only time will tell. What I can share with you from an Average Joe’s perspective, CrossFit sold out to the highest bidder. What started out as a genuine attempt at making normal everyday people find fitness has turned into a cash cow. CrossFit is now a brand that will be watered down, spread thin over the masses and sold as apparel, shoes and the occasional seminar spouting its greatness. Can I completely answer why? Absolutely not. Will it change CrossFit? It already has.
Our commitment at Elm City CrossFit has remained unchanged since day one. We are committed to constant attention to the progress of our athletes and our community. We will keep our classes to a manageable number where every athelete gets the proper attention they deserve. We veiled never to coach to the masses. We promised to always know our athletes limitation and we will maintain our relationship with them. We will always be more impressed with the successful completion of your goals over cool apparel and six pack abs.
For me personally, it has become a theme or mantra to speak out for all those athletes out there who desire positive change and are looking for a jump start. I represent those athletes who are working professionals, mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers, wives, friends and fighters – not professional athletes. I pull for you guys who dedicate your valuable time. Your payout is seeing positive, healthy results. I am inspired by those decisions we make on a daily basis to be better people – to break the norm and to make a difference through positive nutritional and exercise habits. These are the personalities and individuals who serves a greater purpose, you are the ones who make up our Elm City Community. No matter what corporate changes may take place around us – you can rest assured that your home at Elm City CrossFit and the commitment you have made to us will be forever appreciated and unchanged. ~The Average Joe

Monday, January 16, 2012

Just Another Day!