Two people were instrumental in encouraging me to try CrossFit – Mrs. V (my wife) and my chiropractor (Dr. Chad Messina). Actually, Mrs. V was instrumental in encouraging me to do anything exercise related. She has always been all about fitness and nutrition, and had always been trying to coax me down that path. The more I morphed into an unhealthy, nutrition-ignorant, middle-aged couch potato… the more I began to consider taking her advice to heart. Dr. Messina was already an avid CrossFitter, and wasn’t bashful about singing the praises of this exercise “cult” I had begun to hear so much about. I can remember him excitedly telling me about his workouts using terms like EMOM, AMRAP, wall balls, and butterfly pull ups. He still does. Even though I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about back then, his all-in belief in the benefits of CrossFit shone through. So, Mrs. V and I walked into CrossFit SOBO (now Pennant CrossFit) on their opening day, 7/1/12, for our free one month trial. Once we caught our breath two days later, we fell in love with it and made an investment in ourselves to become lifetime members of the box.
The two things I remember most about those early days were: 1) coming to the realization of exactly how unfit / unhealthy I had become, and 2) being amazed by what some of the more established athletes were capable of doing. I remember watching someone do a handstand pushup, a muscle up, or a 300# deadlift and thinking to myself “I’ll NEVER be able to do that”. But one of my strengths from day 1 has been my ability to check my ego and scale appropriately. I knew that trying to lift as much weight as someone 6’0″, 215# and 20-25 years younger than me would likely serve no other purpose than to leave me too sore to work out, or even worse, on the sidelines with a long-term injury. Thankfully, I have been able to stay relatively injury free over 4+ years and can now do so many of those things I once thought impossible. We’re still far from elite athletes, but now as a CrossFit “veterans” it feels pretty cool for Mrs. V and I to be able to help guide the newcomers through the doubt, fear and confusion that we know they are feeling in those early days. Every single one of us has walked in those shoes at one time.
CrossFit is full of so many first accomplishments when you start from square one, like I did. If I had to pick the one accomplishment that stands out the most, it would be getting my first muscle up after only 8 months of training. That was one of the many things I said I would never accomplish when I had started. I remember pressing out at the top of the rings and although I was only about 9 feet above the box floor, I felt like I was on top of the world. The formula for success has been proven. If you just try to do the right thing every day in the box, and focus on comparing yourself to only you, you will start checking off accomplishments almost unintentionally.
The course of my life has been forever changed because of CrossFit. When I turned 40 (a really long time ago), the wheels started coming off — I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, then a ruptured a disc in my neck, then high blood pressure and put on medication. I was dealing with neuropathy and significant muscle loss in my right arm for 2 years after the ruptured disc, to the point where I couldn’t lift myself out of an armchair, swing a golf club or do a push up. I was heading down a slippery slope. At my last full physical in 2013, after 15 months of training and proper nutrition, I saw a 19 pt improvement in my HDL (a.k.a. good) cholesterol, a 26 pt decrease in my LDL (a.k.a. bad) cholesterol, and a 12 pt decrease in my triglycerides. I now have more good cholesterol than bad, and my doctor called me the “rarest of all humanoids” because of my blood work. My blood pressure has improved enough through diet and exercise such that I no longer need the blood pressure medication. Although a ruptured disc never really heals, I am now asymptomatic about 95% of the time because of the strength I have gained in the surrounding connective tissue.
A couple of things keep me coming to the box 5 days a week. One is never, ever, ever wanting to slip back to being the unhealthy old man I once was, and the other is our Pennant CrossFit family. Mrs. V and I are not religious, but that place is our church. Countless awesome people have come into our lives over the past 4+ years, and none of that would have happened if not for the amazing community that SOBO created and Pennant has perpetuated and grown. As long as there is a Pennant CrossFit, you will find the V’s there getting their fitness on!