A woman on Fire

Chris G has never been somebody I have personally highlighted as the client of the month. She has however earned multiple recognitions as a Crossfit Central success story over the past 3 years.  She has continued to be an inspiration throughout the entire time she has been a client to many of her friends, family and 2 sons.  

This story of her success is specifically to honor her achievements as a Crossfit Competitor. She is  a perfect person to highlight  in this light because 5 years ago she had never touched a weight or played any athletic sport in her entire life.  At 45 years old she was a person who had no real understanding toward using her body in athletic or physically demand ways .  

At 50 years old, I am blown away by how different of a person she now has become from the first day she showed up at Crossfit Central.

Out of  the Hundreds of classes and private sessions I have coached Chris through, her toughest lesson has been learning to be patient. My hardest Lesson has to have been letting her try to progress as fast as she really wants to.  1 thing I can tell you about an athlete like Chris is that NO obstacle will stand between her and her goals. Given all the limitations she has worked though she has continued to have to find a balance between training smart and going full speed ahead.  The lessons we’ve both learned are well beyond what we can count. But you know what… we are still here and she is now legitimately and contender in her division of the Crossfit Games.  This is only the beginning for her!


Chris’ Story

Advanced Athlete Class

Advanced Athlete Class (photo by Rabah Rahil)

This May will be the 4th year I have trained with Big Mike and when I look at where I started and where I am now I am amazed – and grateful that I found CrossFit when I did. I started in a boot camp with Jeremy Thiel in the Fall of 2007 – a 43 year old mom, not terribly active, with no real athletic experience or skill. I was looking for something to help me feel better about myself at a low spot in my life. What I found was not just a workout regime, but a community which has nurtured and challenged and embraced me – and has given me a completely different way of looking at myself.

I had been taking a Kettlebell class at CC Burnet with Chris Hartwell for a year, watching Big Mike’s noon Co-Ed class that whole time, with my thoughts running from “Yeah…there’s no way I can do that” to finally “I want to do that!” With some strong encouragement from a couple of friends already in the noon class, I finally made the jump on May 17th, 2010 – my first WOD in Mike’s class was a 20 min AMRAP of 100m row, 10 box jumps, 15 push ups. I had just started having the courage to jump on a 20” box and I’m pretty sure I was still doing push-ups from my knees most of the time.

2009 vs. 2014 (photo on right by Rabah Rahil)

2009 vs. 2014 (photo on right by Rabah Rahil)

I wanted to join Mike’s class because I had seen over the course of that year of watching what a skilled and dedicated coach he was with his clients, how he encouraged people to face fears and limits and push past them, and how much fun everyone seemed to have while they were getting their asses kicked! I have gotten all that and more in the 4 years I’ve had the privilege of training with him, both in class and as a long-time personal training client. I’ve learned a ton about CrossFit from Mike but even more about myself as a person – how most if not all of our limitations are self-imposed, what it feels like to face a fear and overcome it, how to fail and shake it off and get back to the work that’s in front of you, and – the biggest gift of all for me – how very much I am capable of and how I much more is possible for me (not simply with CrossFit but in my life as a whole, where it really matters).

The Fittest Games 2014 (photo by Caleb Kerr)

As I’ve taken up competing for the first time in my life, Mike has helped me shift my mindset to thinking like an athlete, including not only what I do in the gym but even more importantly how I recover, minimize injuries and handle the mental side of competition. With his help I’ve found the right way for me to eat to fuel the training I want to do. He’s helped me augment my nutrition with consistent supplementation that I have found to be critical to recovering well, maintaining energy, managing the impact on my joints, staying lean, and building strength and muscle mass (I’ve added 10 pounds of muscle since I started training with him – no small feat for a women entering her 5th decade of life!).

As load and intensity of my training increased with my shift to the Advanced Athlete class in June 2013, I’ve had to increase my out-of-gym recovery and soft tissue work a lot – rolling out, mobilizing and stretching, getting massages whenever I can, and more recently working with someone to correct some long-standing functional deficiencies in my hips and shoulders that have plagued me since I started CrossFit.

The Fittest Games 2014 (photo by Caleb Kerr)

The Fittest Games 2014 (photo by Caleb Kerr)

All of these things came together with the phenomenal training I’ve gotten since June in the Advanced Athlete program to give me the best performance I’ve ever had in The Fittest Games this January (2nd place in the 50+ masters division) and in the recently completed CrossFit Games Open (234th in the world, 17th in the South Central region in the 50-54 year old Women’s Masters division). I plan on being in the Top 200 in my division in next year’s Open!

I am ever grateful that I have the opportunity to spend my noon hour 4 times a week at CrossFit Central Downtown with best group of training partners I could ever hope for. Relentlessly supportive and positive, this crew is my team and my family and are a huge reason I keep coming back for more!

My goals now? Giving my body a chance to recover from the Open, which definitely took its toll on me, and then getting back to my continuous quest to improve my Olympic lifting and gymnastic skills. And a muscle up – definitely a muscle up very, very soon!

Know Your Purpose

I wish I could say it is always easy to stay 100% motivated to stay on top of your day-to-day focus, goals and responsibilities, but sometimes that isn’t the case.  Sometimes don’t we wake up a little tired? Isn’t it easy to just say I don’t quite have enough time today to make that a priority? How about the creeping ideas we have to just want to let loose and go do something for the sake of a fun time instead?


Of course we are going to have to fight through these types of justifications sometimes. What if we were to get up every day and in a very unmotivated way went about? Wouldn’t we let anything distract or sway us in some random direction? Aimless wandering seems to have taken over a large portion of our society. It seems like strong commitments and hard work ethics are dissipating more and more culturally.

One of the reasons I fell in love with CrossFit was because it pushed my physical boundaries. I remember how freaking hard I thought these workouts were.

Although I appreciate the competitive nature of the program,  I really kept doing it because of how it forced me out of my comfort zone and helped me prove to myself that I could accomplish things that I had never been able to do before.

Here is what I know about waking up everyday to achieve something new. It takes purpose.  Sometimes a small purpose can work for you for a short time, but for a day in/day out motivation that will carry you for a year, 5 years, 10 years, etc…you need to have a powerful purpose. If we all can find something that, when we think about why we do anything, will light a fire in our hearts and draw emotion out of us to the point of tears, then we will know that nothing will distract us from doing what it is we say we want to do!

I challenge you all to know you Purpose. Why are you where you are? Your job? Your gym? Your church? Your circle of friends?

Go to bed with it on your mind. Wake up with in on your heart. Live you life with it guiding your choices! Do this and see what happens to distraction.

I bet we will be a little more motivated. 

Under the Radar

Sometimes people get overlooked. It’s not that they don’t deserve rewards. It’s just that it’s easy to forget that somebody’s day in and day out consistency needs to be recognized right away.

Tom has flown under the radar for 6 years without ever being highlighted as a client success. The funny thing is…he has been crushing it the entire time.  Tom often sets the mark for the workouts in his noon class and has even had many of the overall best workout times/scores for the gym as a whole for a long time.

He is a guy who humbly shows up and works his tail off and never looks for credit from outside sources.

I will never forget about 2 years ago when he was dealing with some serious shoulder and elbow issues to the point that he couldn’t use of his arm for a good 2 months or so. Most people typically avoid the gym until they can return or simply never come back. This guy simply showed up and modified everything in the workout so that he wouldn’t miss a beat. Everything with weights turned into single arm lifts. He was even doing 1-arm jumping pull-ups. If we had to, at times upper body movements were changed entirely to squats, lunges, box jumps, running, etc. so that he could still get better and improve his fitness every single day. Not once did I ever notice frustration or concern in his demeanor.

It’s a cool thing to see somebody who has guts this day and age. People like him remind me that having a strong mind is what I need to strive for everyday, and I only wish more people understood this today. Sadly, it has become a lost way.

Here’s to being Brave, Bold and Resilient!

Tom’s Story

TomDBSnatchI started my journey with CrossFit at CrossFit Central in 2007.  My wife, Whitney, was participating in a challenge and I went to watch her compete.  I remember being in awe at both the workout and the fitness of the competitors.  It was truly amazing.  That next week, I had enrolled in a 6am class that was being taught by Mike.  As with most CrossFitters, I quickly became enthralled with not only the WODs but the community as well.  I found a place where people were like-minded and strived to encourage each other.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThrough the years, I have continued to train with Mike because of his incredible knowledge and his positive outlook.  For six years I have trained with one of the best coaches.  I feel thankful that he has let me be a part of the community.  Not only do I continue to make gains and PRs but I feel that I am a better person for my family and friends.  I also feel blessed that I have been allowed to be a part of a group of athletes who have chosen to workout at noon.  The group has the nickname the “Giants.” This name is very fitting, not because of size and strength, but due to their inherent quality and tenacity.  Recently, the 12:15 Giants experienced a transition.  Instead of concentrating on self, the group banded together and helped organize an advanced CrossFit opportunity with Mike at the helm.  I cannot express how thankful I am to have this group in my life.

TomSandBagThis year I will turn 49 years old.  I just view this as the beginning of my CrossFit journey.  Over this past 6 years, I have been certified in the following disciplines:

* CrossFit Level 1
* CrossFit Mobility
* CrossFit Kettlebell
* CrossFit Strongman
* USA Weightlifting Sports Performance

I have been able to utilize these certifications to improve my movements in training and competitions.  As I continue to train, I will continue to compete as I am able.  I have two simple goals as I progress in CrossFit.  Physically, I want to be better tomorrow than I am today.  Mentally/spiritually, I want to be a better me for my wife Whitney and my daughters Emma and Honore.  I do want to give Mike a big thank you for helping me with my journey.  Bob Marley once said, “Though the road’s been rocky it sure feels good to me.”

The Life of “A Man”

There is always an emotional connection that comes from highlighting the Client of the Month stories for me. I am usually inspired or proud. Sometimes I see people who are older and how hard they work and feel like I want that for myself at that age. When I highlight younger people…I feel proud of them for their desire to challenge themselves and am grateful to be a mentor for them.

John is my peer. We are the same age and we have now known each other for almost 5 years. I have never seen him take CrossFit, his fitness or his health very seriously.  Although he was in my classes before,  he never really made any true commitments towards his physical goals.

Earlier this year… He decided it was time to change that.

He is a young professional person who, since the time I have known him, has been seeking out life.  Obviously improving but at the same time never shying away from having a great time being young.

I am the same way. To say when we are 26 to 30 that we have life all figured out would just be an absolute lie. We obviously will always have more to learn but I think there is a point for many people either right before or right after 30 when they stop for a second and say…hey, I am now in full control of my life and stop taking anything for granted.

Being a Man takes experience. When you are going through the process, much of what we go through looks chaotic. I loved that part of life! I also love the part where you stop and say “Ok…it is time to change Everything!”  It’s cool to see others do the same!

This Man has my full respect!

My CrossFit Story – John

JohnRBeforeI’ve always been fortunate to lose weight quickly.  I gain 15, I lose 15.  I was either on my “weigh” up or “weigh” down – I never had any consistency and being healthy was never a lifestyle.  I am now 32 years old and about 5 months ago, I was at my highest weight ever.  Once again and routinely, I decided to lose the weight.  This time it was a bit more difficult.  The pounds were not dropping as quickly and the eating habits I’ve become accustom to were not as easily dismissed.  About a month into it, I saw some improvement but my overall health was not where I wanted it to be.  My body felt old, my energy was low, I craved everything, and most importantly – I lacked confidence.  I knew then a permanent change was needed – a lifestyle change.

JohnRMarathonI approached my CrossFit Coach, Big Mike Gregory, and he immediately took me under his wing.  A couple things happened: 1) I attended a CrossFit nutrition seminar and 2) I made a commitment.  Big Mike has always been my favorite coach.  I have been through many CrossFit workouts taught at different boxes by different coaches and I always come back to Mike.  He has a calm but demanding approach to his coaching style – passive aggressive. It works for me and pushes me to my limit.  He is never shy to tell me I didn’t give it my all – keeps me motivated and encouraged.

I’ve learned so much in the course of a few months about living healthy, committing to a program, and striving for excellence.  I am proud to say that because of CrossFit, I lost the weight.  I am now sub 10% body fat and loving it. But something bigger occurred during this time.  I now walk around with a natural high.  I’ve never had so much clarity in life – my direction is forward.  My energy levels are at an all-time high.  I sleep better, I wake up easier, and every obstacle I encounter is a fun challenge when it used to be a barricade.  I like to think of myself as a WRECKING BALL – nothing can stop me!


I love CrossFit – it is a community that am honored to be a part of.  CrossFit members are a different caliber of people – they are smart, fun, engaging, interesting, interested in others, and easy on the eye.  I hope I meet their high standards.  I am continuing my journey for health and optimal performance.  I am now taking AdvoCare’s performance supplements to maintain and increase my health and lifestyle goals.  I CrossFit three times a week and am training for my second marathon.  Boston Qualifier Soon To Be…Wish me luck!

Thanks for listening and turn off the television.

Is Being Loyal a Good Thing?


My whole life I have always held Loyalty as a high standard. Choosing to be a part of something bigger than yourself is a big decision and many times it is based on emotion.

I remember when I was in 3rd grade I went and watched my brother play a high school football game in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas. I immediately told myself that I would one day wear the uniform of a Monterey Plainsman. For most kids, it would be a natural progress for this to happen. If you live in the district, you go to the feeder schools (Elementary/Jr. High) before you enter the world of being a high school athlete.

There was a different story for me. When I was in the 4th grade, my mom decided to move out of the school district of Monterey High School. This left me distraught. I wasn’t going to be able to attend school where I wanted to. From 5th grade on I remember begging my mom for a transfer back across town. Year after year she told me I would change my mind and eventually be grateful we moved and I would want to go to the rival high school where all of my fellow classmates would attend. She had no idea about my loyalty.

Loyalty toward something makes you a believer and when you believe in something, alternative solutions just won’t do.

By the time I was in 9th grade I had a reputation. Even though I was a gifted athlete…to my coaches I was a disappointment because I never sold out to the teams. I was at the wrong school so I wasn’t able to develop myself as a leader when I didn’t want to be there in the first place. At the end of my freshman year we had to commit to our high school. I would not play ball for the rival and my mom finally gave in to letting me transfer.

I could not have been more ecstatic!

The next 3 years transformed me in a way I was ready to receive. Even when my mom decided to move to San Diego in the middle of my Junior year of High School, my commitment to my school and my team gave me reason to stay.

Over the next many years I have had many things show up in my life to which I have also been loyal. My faith in Jesus and the Catholic Church is the most important.

The 2 companies I am now involved with have my utmost loyalty as well. So much has come up along the way that could have made me choose different options but the missions of AdvoCare and Crossfit Central have kept me engaged. I have a very specific purpose for why I choose these 2 companies over anything else out there and I am glad to say that I am extremely grateful for them both.

I have a few other notable things that show my loyalty and appreciation on a very consistent basis:
Sprint PCS – 10 years+
UFCU – 3 years
Juiceland – 3 years (3-5X /week)
Southwest Airlines  - 7 years
Wheatsville Coop – 5 years
Cotsco – 6 years
Central Market – 6 years
New Balance – 7 years
Android – 5 years
Bark and Purr Pet Store – 5 years
Taco Deli – 2 years
Chevy – 5 years

This may not have a direct message…I am thinking out loud. I guess maybe I am a bit curious about how many people don’t have loyalty to much and just jump from ship to ship to ship without thought.

If you didn’t know any different… What do you think you could do?

Since I began my coaching career 11 years ago up until today, I can only recall working with a couple of people with any major physical limitation. Working with someone with one leg, however, has not been a privilege I have ever had. Exactly one month ago I took over coaching the pre-existing evening classes at Crossfit Central Burnet Road.

This is where I met Matt.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I really wanted to highlight him. Not even as a success story really, but more so about who he is and what he does and even why he is doing it!

I cannot take any credit for this story…but I am honored to make my best effort to bring it to light.

Matt’s Story

I was born without my right foot and didn’t receive my first prosthetic until I was two. I should have been walking by then, and I actually tried. I would go up to a table, stand up….and then have nothing to do. Once we got the first prosthetic I did the same thing, but there was no lock so it fell off half-way to the table. Then we got a strap. Luckily I was able to learn how to walk, and about five years ago I got the lock which really opened up a lot of activities for me.

Most of my childhood I didn’t think about my leg restricting my activities, it was just how I was. The only time it really came up was when it would hurt and I’d have to sit out or when someone would ask us to wiggle our ten toes and I wouldn’t know exactly what to do. I usually pretended to wiggle them.

I wasn’t a very active kid. I spent most days out in the woods exploring or inside playing with Legos/video games. I played tag at recess and tried some sports (taekwondo, soccer, t-ball), but I never cared and had to sit out if there was too much running. Also, sometimes my food would fall off which was no bueno.

My family was very supportive, pushing me towards an activity I had an interest in which eventually morphed into theater and academic pursuits. I never worried about my limitations, but I knew they existed. Once the exciting bloom of childhood was washed away with the angst of a teen, I shied away from physical activities, got out of gym class to go to the library, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI always get a bit miffed when I have to stand or walk unnecessarily, because that’s what sets it off the most. But when I went to a college built into a quarry with hundreds of stairs, I learned to get over it pretty quickly and started a little workout routine and a yoga class that grew into some weight training on my own and eventually joining CrossFit. My perception of what I was capable of changed as I got the drive to try new things and improve myself.

In joined CrossFit at CrossFit Central Burnet at the beginning of June 2013 in Travis Holley’s 6:00pm class. Big Mike took over our class in August. I had heard about CrossFit and had actually been told how terrible it was by my very athletic sister and father. They’ll push you until you hurt yourself, it’s too fast, they don’t focus on form, it’s too competitive, you’ll blow your shoulder out, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy boyfriend Adam is the one who led me to try it and CrossFit Central. He got amazing results from his two years there and had to take some time off, but was signing up again so I figured I would take the leap. I have worked out harder these past three months than I probably have my entire life. And I can’t imagine not doing it. The coaches are nice, knowledgeable and supportive. They push me to work hard, but all the fears my family had don’t even come into play. It’s always form first, it’s always about personal bests. I always disliked team sports and workout groups, but I like CrossFit. I miss it when I don’t go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday I can do almost anything with my leg except run. Running is off the list, but luckily I get to row instead.  CrossFit has definitely changed what I thought I was capable of doing. The first time we did Olympic lifts where you had to explode up and jump, my body refused to do it. On top of relying only my left ankle for balance, I am also a klutz and the thought of me dropping even my light bar on top of my body was nerve wracking. But with time, I started jumping the weight up and I haven’t fallen once. My feet are steadier than I ever thought they could be. I’ll never get over being able to stand or walk for long periods of time, but I can get stronger.

I need to modify almost every workout. I can’t run, so I row. My hips are sometimes jacked up, so I box squat. My legs hurt on a day we are doing snatch balance, so I power snatch. I can’t lunge, so I do deadlifts. The modifications the coaches make so that I can workout the whole time are perfect. I never feel like I’m doing less or getting off easy. I’m just doing something different.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was lucky as far as amputees go. I was born with only one foot, and I’ve never known anything different. I’ve been blessed to have a family and friends who never thought that meant I could do less, but were always respectful when I said “Ow, my leg hurts.” Most amputees struggle with phantom pains, with their new body image and self-esteem. I’ve never been anything but footless, and I accept that I’ll never be able to do some things a person with two feet can. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be strong. And I can spin my leg around 360 degrees, which in jeans is a great party trick and ice-breaker. Also handicap placards make busy parking lots a breeze.

I had not been very active since I stopped exploring the woods as a kid. And I got fat, and I was convinced that all I could do was cardio at the gym and lift a few weights. I did that for a while but fell off because I was lacking structure and accountability. But heart disease and diabetes run in my family…I need to stay active. I just completed the Fuel21 program with Crystal Bold to work on nutrition in combination with CrossFit and in the last 3 weeks I lost 10 pounds, 10 inches and about 3% body fat.

CrossFit gives me a structured workout with coaches who can modify every exercise to make sure I’m getting a good workout and the accountability to make sure I make it to class. I never thought I could do less without my foot, but I had given up on trying to do more when I was young. CrossFit renewed my hope that I can get hot, I can get strong, and I can stay active.

Habits of Success!

You really never know who you can have a positive impact on.

As a young kid, I grew up with 2 older brothers.  They were 4 and 6 years older than me and, in my eyes, they were easily my elders who I respected more than they may have ever known!  Since I didn’t grow up knowing my own father, I always wanted to find guidance and be mentored by my own brothers.  The only problem was, they didn’t have fathers to look up to either.  Instead of us following the lead of any man, we all kind of just did our own thing.  We all had our own friends and really just came and went as we pleased.  Our mother was a hard-working woman and did everything she possibly could to be there for us whenever she could. But teaching us to become men was not her most capable role.

From the time I was 13 all the way up until I was 30, I viewed anyone who was older than me as a wiser person who I probably had much to learn from.  I really didn’t see myself as somebody who could be a mentor to many people, especially older men.  Little did I understand that I had already been doing just that!

What I love most about highlighting David Hughes as this month’s client of the month, plain and simple, is that I have known him so long.  That he is one my greatest friend’s older brother makes me proud to see his success!  When I was 16 years old, I never would have believed that one day I would be able to help him out with something as important as having optimal health in his mid 30′s.  David has a lot to be excited about and I am excited for him!  The future for his wife and kids will be positively affected in many ways by all the great things that David is doing for himself today!

David’s Story

DH before_2I joined CrossFit (at CrossFit Central’s ATX location) because I was ready for a change in my monotonous workout routine. For years, I’d been lifting at various gyms, with no real motivation, and certainly no holistic approach to my physical wellbeing (diet, nutrition, etc.). I’d also been running for improved endurance, but it was becoming too routine…boring. I needed more.

I’d been CrossFitting for about 15 months before I joined Mike’s class. I needed to keep my 5:30am routine intact, and the ATX location was moving with the expansion of CrossFit Central and the opening of the downtown gym. Plus I knew he’d kick my ass.

DHughesOHSSince training with Mike, I’ve gotten stronger through discipline, diet and recommended AdvoCare products – and have learned patience in my workout routine. Breathe! During one of my first body comps, Mike told me that getting back to where I was, whenever I was at my all-time best, would be easy. Getting to where I’d never been before should be the goal. Loved that.

When I started CrossFit I had just turned 33, was about 30 pounds heavier, and was confused about the definition of fit. It has been quite a journey between “then” and “now.” I’d say I’ve lost about 20% body fat. “I AM CrossFit” has DHughesStandingalways been a great program and reminder to keep me focused on both nutrition and working out. It’s one of my favorite challenges – from the before and after workouts, pics, individual and team goals, accountability. It sets the tone for each new year. I’ve also done the Garage Gym Throw Down and the Urban 5K – also great. I’ll keep coming back to these challenges in the never-ending quest to become a better me.

CrossFit has helped me become more strategic about working out overall. Slow is steady, and steady is fast. And that’s finishing fast…not the first one or two rounds/reps. My class – the Wreckin’ Crew – keeps me motivated. As competitive as we can get, everyone is equally as supportive and motivated by each other’s success. It’s as much about growing as a team as it is an individual. But those young guys…

HughesFamilyBesides having almost one-year-old twins, which changed a lot of things (life’s greatest enhancement), I feel more balanced since starting CrossFit. No two workouts, days, weeks, and so on are the same. I actually feel more mentally relaxed. Like I can take on more and be successful in doing so.

My goals now are to be a great dad, husband, son, and brother-in-law. And to continue to get stronger, faster, and more competitive within the sport. Someone will always be better – that’s all the motivation I need.

A Man on the Move

Before it is too late…There is always time to get yourself moving, healthy and fit again. People who are not in my classes or training at our gym or working out at all for that matter, are the people who, when I talk to them, always seem to have it figured out.

For some reason,  they believe their health is what it is.  Their bodies just can’t do certain things. Because they haven’t done something physically challenging before, it is like they believe that it isn’t possible.

I have to admit that this is a huge pet peeve of mine.  I hate that people are so quick to set self limitations.

I am grateful for people like Donovan Miller who confirm my beliefs in why all people should be open to the possibility that they can actually achieve high levels of health and fitness at any time in their life.  His story can be true for anyone out there who is willing to take action!

I do have a bit of empathy for people who have doubt and fear towards the idea of making physical and nutritional changes to their lifestyle or disbelief that they to can conquer goals of achieving strength and energy levels that they have never experienced before, but in the same breath I have to believe that their view is not one of definite truth.

Seeing is believing and when you believe…you can achieve!

Donovan’s Story

“Something HAD to change.”  I remember thinking this to myself daily throughout my 30s as I went from one injury to the next and tried to manage debilitating knee pain.  After 2 major knee surgeries, one micro-fracture procedure and an orthopedic surgeon stating post surgery that I had to stop running and never play soccer again or risk further destruction of my articulating cartridge, I decided then and there that I’d had enough.

Donovan1cropI have always been active and involved in competitive sports, playing both collegiate and professional soccer, volleyball, and racing BMX.  But at 41, my body was unable to perform at a level that would allow me to simply enjoy kicking the soccer ball with my then 2-year-old son without pain.  Enter two life-changing decisions.  First was discovering ART (Active Release Technique).  ART helped with managing referral knee pain and allowed me to start riding my bike and trail running again.  But I knew I had to address my lack of strength, muscle imbalance and overall poor lifestyle.  This led me to stop in one afternoon and check out CrossFit Central as an option.  I had no prior experience with CrossFit other than driving by CrossFit Central for years wondering what the hell these people were doing!

Robert Malina provided my first glimpse into CrossFit. His recommendation and description of the tight 12:15 MWF class intrigued me, as well as the major props he gave Mike for his genuine approach to helping him achieve goals.  He sold me on giving it a go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStarting with Jeff McKinney’s Elements class in November 2011, I was hooked.  Jeff ran me through the basics of CrossFit but most importantly encouraged me to adopt the Paleo diet/lifestyle.  I bought in immediately and went cold OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAturkey on the last day of Elements and never looked back.  Next was starting in Big Mike’s 12:15 MWF class after Elements.  I was blown away watching what others in the class were able to do day in and day out.  For someone who never spent time in a gym, never believed in lifting weights, never really enjoyed “working out,” I was in awe of what I was witnessing.  To experience an environment and group of individuals that are both competitive and supportive inspired me daily.  Again, I was hooked.

Adopting the Paleo diet/lifestyle after my last Elements class with Jeff led to immediate changes in weight/sleep/allergies/energy levels. Through the last year plus, I’ve seen steady progress as fat melted away and lean muscle increased, functional movement improved, knee pain went away, and my confidence level in what I could achieve grew with every class.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other component of Mike’s class that I enjoy and think impacted my success has been the different assistants he has working with classes.  Don Ricci, Megan Parsons, and our current assist Jake all played a role in complementing Mike’s coaching and contributed to our class’ ability to improve our form and knock down PR after PR.

I am very competitive.  CrossFit gives me that vehicle to push beyond what is comfortable and challenge my own self-imposed limitations.  Last week is a great example of what continues to drive me day-in and day-out.  On Monday, I hit my first muscle up and on Wednesday my first 135lb snatch and power snatch.  These were my two short-term goals after the CrossFit Games Open this year.  As sweet as these two accomplishments were, Monday completely kicked my ass and reminded me that there is always another level to reach and goal to obtain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I started CrossFit, I was 41 years old, 185lbs, had erratic energy levels with knee pain and a poor diet (at least compared to Primal/Paleo).  Today I am 43, 169lbs, have excellent energy levels, a clean Primal diet and zero knee pain. Mid-year last year I did the Rogue Trail series, and I exceeded my expectations for all three runs and placed in the top 10 for my age group.

I dropped 10lbs during my first few months of CrossFit even with a part-time class schedule by committing to go Paleo. In February 2012, when I started my current 3-day-a-week class schedule, I was 175lbs with 22.4% body fat. That has dropped to 169lbs and 12.6% body fat today – I have lost 6lbs, nearly 10% body fat, 7.5 inches and have put on nearly 12lbs of lean muscle. I’d like to reach a sub-10% body fat target this year with renewed push to add muscle.

My two HUGE PRs last week – a muscle up and a 135lb power snatch – were my goals for 2013. Each PR was only 1 rep, so my goal now is to focus on increasing reps. My ultimate goal is to perform at a higher level during the 2014 CrossFit Games Open. Both the muscle up and the 135lb snatch limited my success during the Open this year and were an eye opener.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday, I am 43, in the best shape of my life, have zero knee pain and once again enjoy trail running and all the activities that I love.  “Something DID change.”  I owe so much of my success to Mike and his balanced approach to coaching.  Every client is different and I appreciate how Mike steps in with guidance, well-timed encouragement and most appropriate for me, a gentle push to get out of my comfort zone.   His guidance has been critical on weeks when I conquered major milestones and again on the days I’ve hit the proverbial wall.

The success/failure cycle that I experience in every class translates into everyday life.  I now seek out greater challenges and opportunities knowing that I can do more if I remove my self-imposed limitations.  I love that my family and friends have witnessed firsthand the results of my efforts and so many have taken steps in their own lives to become more active, improve their nutrition and better their lifestyle.  Going forward I look forward to giving back to the CC community and providing those just starting the journey with the same encouragement and support that I received.

Everybody Loves Shack

You know when you meet somebody and immediately you like them right off the bat? Shack is one of those people. I believe I speak for most people who know him and all of his CrossFit classmates when I say he is The Man.

Shack Before CrossFit 2 years ago and June 2013 at the AISD Games

Shack Before CrossFit 2 years ago and June 2013 at the AISD Games

When I think about impact people, I think about those who are positively influencing and helping others in some arena or another. Obviously I realize that we have many in our community who do just that…but who better to highlight than somebody who is a coach/teacher for the youth.

I remember my days of being a 13 to 15 year old kid very much, and I promise I can remember the people who made a difference in my life. Shack reminds me of a couple of them who were that type of person for me. I have no doubt that he makes a difference in the lives of the youngsters he goes to work for every day!

Shack’s Story

I started CrossFitting in June 2011 and have been in Big Mike’s class since October of 2012. I was in the 5:30am MWF class at RunTex and then 5 Fitness. When we all made the transition to the Downtown gym, our class folded into Mike’s class. I was excited because I’d heard a lot of great things about him, and I was ready to be pushed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossFit has really changed my life. Before CrossFit, I really believed that it wasn’t possible for me to get fit. I was constantly yo-yo dieting and starting then promptly stopping different workout regimens. I realized in Mike’s class that I am strong, and that I’m actually pretty good at a lot of what we do in CrossFit. Since training with Mike, I’ve seen a big increase in lifting heavier weights. I’ve been able to push myself harder, and I’ve definitely lost some weight as well as gained muscle.

Outside of the gym, I’ve seen a big change in my diet. My co-workers have noticed it as well. They always comment on how fresh and healthy my lunches are. I see fitness as a big part of my life now, and people around me notice that. One of my friends recently set me up with a friend of hers and told her, “He’s really great, and he’s really into fitness and CrossFit.” Two years ago, no one would have said I was “into” fitness.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeing healthy keeps me motivated. My family has a lot of health risks, and I want to do everything I can to minimize those risks. Since starting CrossFit, I no longer have to take high blood pressure or high cholesterol medicine, which was a HUGE success! My competitive nature keeps me motivated as well – it drives me to keep pushing myself and working harder. I like competing against myself and others. When we have heavy lifting in the WOD, I know I’m gonna wreck shop, and that’s a fun feeling!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShortly after starting CrossFit at 30 years old, I was at my heaviest: 310 pounds with over 30% body fat. I was very sluggish at work and at home. I was just unhappy. Now I fluctuate right around 250. My body fat % is in the low 20s, and I feel great. I know I have a lot more weight to lose, but I’m confident that it will come in time. I don’t feel as bound to the scale as I used to. I love working out, I love eating healthy, and I love knowing that I’m getting healthier every day.

I’ve done the I Am CrossFit challenge twice and seen big results both times. During this year’s I Am CrossFit Challenge [January 12 - March 9], I lost 3.5% body fat in 8 weeks. I’ve done Project Mayhem twice, but we’re not allowed to talk about that because what happens at Mayhem stays at Mayhem. I recently did my first CrossFit Classics competition (the Spartan 300 Challenge), and it kicked my butt! I was so glad I did it though, because I wanted to prove to myself that I can get out there and do hard stuff like that. Even though I didn’t finish the WOD in the 20-minute time frame, I didn’t stop working the entire time, and I felt great about that!

Shack at Mayhem 2012

Shack at Mayhem 2012

Shack at Mayhem 2013

Shack at Mayhem 2013

I will keep signing up for competitions because I want to keep challenging myself. I like proving people wrong about their misconceptions about me because of my size, too. It’s always fun to show people that even though I weigh 250, I can knock out 20 pull-ups!

My biggest goal in life right now is to say yes. I’ve grown so comfortable saying no to new things because I couldn’t, because I was depressed, or because I was embarrassed about my size. I want to say yes to new things. CrossFit has taught me to do that. I’d like to lose some more weight, but I want to be healthy and happy most of all.

For Your Sake or Everybody Elses?

Over the last several years I have received so much recognition and appreciation from all types of people.  I have learned during that time to create mantras and core values with which to guide my life and my lifestyle year in and out.  One of my most important values is to Be For Others In All That I Do.  So I have been on a mission to do what I do for the sake of others more than for the sake of myself.

In my ideal world, this is how people recognize me, but to be honest, for every compliment I have received or every letter of appreciation that has been written to me or any award/credit I have been honored with, I have probably equally offended, hurt or ignored people all at the same time.

benice!-001I am not sure how long it has been since I started having conflict, but I do know that I am becoming more and more aware when I act like somebody that I am not proud of.  When I was young, I respected and cared for almost every person I met. These days, I have sometimes pre-judged and discredited people before ever giving them a chance.  I have even had moments of laying some very harsh criticism on people without permission to give it.

The reason I share this is because I am now 31 years old and I realize more than ever how often I make mistakes.  I really do believe that this awareness is the only thing that gives me power to get back to my earlier ability to truly give people the time and attention they deserve.  I know it is true that if I am to serve others to my fullest…then I damn well better give them genuine respect and 100% encouragement as they do what they do.

As much as I want to see others grow and achieve, it first must be true that I grow and achieve myself to the 10th Power.

Life gives us the opportunity to always mold and shape ourselves to be the type of person we truly want be. Given all the mistakes I know I have made and will probably make in the future, I am committed to being Greater today…from this day forward.