How I found my way to CrossFit is not something I share very publicly despite having been encouraged to. Being someone who encourages others to tell their stories and share their triumphs it only makes sense that I listen to my own advice, so, here goes….
I grew up in Ontario, Canada. Normal kid, normal life. I didn’t have it rough, I didn’t experience a lot of adversity unless I brought it on myself, which as this story develops you’ll find I did quite a bit of. I have early memories of ice skating and street hockey like most kids but as I grew up I didn’t really grow that much and participation in sports slowly faded from my life and really never made a reappearance. The whole not growing thing made me a pretty angry person. Watching everyone shoot up above me was a struggle for me and from young, immature eyes it was a tough one. I grew more and more angry until eventually it turned into complete rebellion, now keep in mind I’m only about 12 at this point, be patient right? Nope not me and I still don’t possess a lot of that particular quality. I started smoking cigarettes because of course that makes a 12 year old look super cool, but was never about being cool, it was about feeling old and “catching up.” Shortly after taking up this healthy new habit, I started hanging out with older kids who were into super wholesome things like trespassing on private property, graffiti and breaking other people’s things. After a year or so of problem after problem my parents decided that getting me out that element and moving up their retirement plans to Florida was a good idea and in theory it was, but unfortunately for them, geography doesn’t change people it changes scenery. I was 14 when we moved to Florida. I had to take a placement test before being admitted to a private Catholic as the education systems varied so much from Canada to the US. I tested into AP everything but as expected I immediately gravitated toward the same people I did up North and those AP classes were not my cup of tea, my grades slipped to say the least. I dropped the honors classes to avoid the work and got back into the same old routine, except now it included decidedly worse activities. I was asked to withdraw from a private school before the end of the second semester. At this point, the two best parents any child could be blessed with, are beyond frustrated because despite doing EVERYTHING right, I was just attracted to wrong. Run ins with police became something they had to legitimately worry about every time I left the house and I can’t imagine what that must have been like for them. Fast forward through 4 years of sleepless nights and devastating circumstances they are still by my side doing their best to get me righted. In 2005, I landed in College, still finding my ways to events and activities that risked my safety, freedom and health, and what’s worse is I had a great job that paid me great money to fund these things. My second semester in college I dropped all my classes to spend more time partying and to prevent having to wake up early. At this point, sophomore year, I am going out 4-7 nights a week just to wake up and start over and this continued for about two year. My roommate at the time had a brother who was starting a fitness program and he asked me if I would come and help him support his brother, I begrudgingly agreed. My experience with gyms up to this point had been limited to YouFit and apartment complex equipment rooms, and I mean limited. It was sometime around January 2010, so it was cold when we walked into the Dungeon, which was more than just a name it was an accurate representation of the place. I wondered if he was going to turn the heat on, but quickly realized HVAC was not even a hope here. It smelled like rust and there was dirt on everything. My roommate’s brother explained we were there to do CrossFit, there was no waiver, no medical history, no front desk, no amenities just a very raw aire of badassery. There was no brands cluttering anything just iron and rubber covered in tape and blood, ropes hung from the ceiling rafters and truck tires on the dust covered concrete floor. It was eerily symbolic of the state of my life at the time.
We were given a path and told to run 400m as a warm up, I ran 100 and walked 300 because I couldn’t breath. We quickly transitioned into a very rough technique session for deadlifts, loaded bars and started lifting. I didn’t do much and it didn’t look pretty. When we were done on the barbells we started a workout, a variation of what I now know as “Chelsea”. A 30 minute workout that starts every minute with 5 pullups 10 push ups and 15 air squats. Because I clearly lacked the physical prowess to do pull ups I did some horrendous version of a kb swing as a substitute. Within 4 minutes I threw up but kept on with the workout until about minute 12 when I literally lost all ability to function. After mourning the loss of oxygen for about 15 minutes and when I was finally able to walk it was time for sprints, at which point I threw up twice more. When we were done I sat in my car for 20 minutes before being able to turn it on. This was the best day of my life. Some of you are sitting there thinking, “this guy’s an idiot,” while others know exactly what I’m talking about. I came back everyday that I could after that, the puking was less frequent but that feeling, I was after that feeling and what I hadn’t realized is that that Dungeon had just saved my life. In the beginning I was selfish, this was about me, I was competitive, it was about proving I was worth something despite what I knew people saw in me and I was doing it in this place that I felt at home, in the dirt and grime where I felt like I belonged. Before I knew it that really wasn’t the reason I felt at home in the Dungeon it was the community that was being built there, the complete acceptance of anyone willing to work hard to make change and the willingness of everyone to help one another.
One positive thing I can say about the groups I hung out with growing up is they didn’t exactly require an interview to join, and I think that’s why I ended up with them. No pressure, total acceptance, but not a single other positive element existed, no self improvement, no growth, no intellectual stimulation. My life was headed to a dark place and there wasn’t a lot of room left fall. CrossFit saved me. I found a place I could grow, be worth something, help others, give more than I take. I found very quickly that that’s the person I wanted to be, a person who gives more than they take, who cares for others when it’s hard for them to care for themselves, to help people find their way out of their dirt and their grime, whatever that may represent to them and when they do celebrate it with them as we continue to grow together.
While the introduction process, programming, safety and efficacy of the CrossFit program have evolved significantly the core values of it have not. Spend an hour of your day bettering yourself, doing things you never thought you could and reminding yourself that amongst all of the garbage, hate and hurt out there, there is still this place where total acceptance is a thing, where you can be whatever version of yourself you want to be as long as that version is trying to be better than they were yesterday.
Since 2010 I have devoted everyday of my life to a pursuit of knowledge, and a life that I can be proud of. This might not be everyone’s “CrossFit Story” but it’s mine and I’m still writing it.