There’s very few members that I’ve had as much interaction with as Justin and it has been an absolute pleasure watching him develop as an athlete and as a person. As you’ll read below, he has had an awesome journey with us at Cróga that in the grand scheme of things is still in it’s infancy.
He and I have talked about training methodologies, come up with plans to help him reach short term weight loss goals, he’s shared his knowledge of web design and marketing with me, we’ve enjoyed long discussions about nutrition and have sent many an email back and forth about life, growing up, setting emotional goals and finding motivation for training. Justin has become more than just a member looking for a good workout and then walking out the door, he has become a great friend and I’m proud that we get to give something back to him this month as a thank you and award him for all his hard work and dedication.
His Q&A below is very well written and as always well thought out. I highly suggest you set aside 5 minutes to give it a thorough read, you will be better for it.
Here is a little Q&A with Justin about his experiences here at Cróga CrossFit:
(Coach Dave): When did you join Cróga?
(Justin): I first stopped by Cróga on March 16th, 2013. I was riding my foldable bike (reinforcing the big man on a little bike stereotype), and I saw a sign for a CrossFit gym that hadn’t been there before. I rolled up and looked in the window to find Dave, Kelly, and two others (I forgot who) drinking beers in preparation for St. Patty’s Day. They welcomed me in, we chatted, and I was there the next day doing Front Squats.
(D): What were you doing before for fitness?
(J): I have done CrossFit at two gyms previously. One was a stereotypical box with an unskilled coach and her friends. I was way out of my league with those firefighters and LEOs. Next was a CrossFit gym in Oakland. It was alright, but very large classes meant little feedback. I feel in love with Cróga from day one. Right before I joined Cróga, I was riding my bike to and from work, running occasionally.
(D): What was your first workout? First reaction to your first workout?
(J): I actually know exactly what it was and my reaction, thanks to Beyond The Whiteboard (I’m obsessed with BTWB). 7×5 Front Squats. In BTWB for that workout I wrote the note “Easier than I expected”. Given the weights I used, I’m not surprised …
(D): What improvements have you seen in the way you look, feel and perform?
(J): My weight has dropped from 275 lbs to 235 lbs, now back up to 250 lbs (on purpose). Last year, I did a challenging backpacking trip, and I was constantly in the rear of the group. This year I did an even more challenging trip, and I was in the front with ease, when I wanted to be. I enjoyed it much more because I was challenged much less physically. I feel a lot better everyday, especially when stressful things occur. Previously I was prone to get sick easily. Not anymore.
(D): What days and times do you come to Cróga?
(J): I usually make it in 4-5 days a week. My most consistent time is 3:30 PM. I love open gym on Saturday, followed by being guilt tripped into the partner workout afterwards, but I won’t be there for those for a few months due to a new commitment.
(D): The “Justin Williams” WOD! What would it be?
(J): 21-15-9 Deadlifts (1x bodyweight) – Burpees – Row Calories
(D): What’s your favorite post workout routine?
(J): Immediately after: Clench my fist in victory. Any workout finished is a workout conquered.
After that: Wonder what I could’ve done better. Make a post-workout shake of Carbs and Progenex Protein (Belgian Chocolate, not Mocha. Never again Mocha) After that: Hang with the other awesome people at Cróga. This is my favorite time other than the workout itself. After that: Head home and bore Krystal to death about how awesome CrossFit is.
(D): What do you love about CrossFit?
(J): I love the idea of CrossFit, as originally classified by Glassman.
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise, but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, and presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc., hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”
– Coach Greg Glassman
I found CrossFit after training for and completing a marathon. I finished in just under 7 hours. While training, I lost a significant amount of weight, and strength. I looked online for a training program that would allow me to run, but also retain strength. CrossFit came up. I found a gym and gave it a shot. That was 2009.
Since then, I’ve had limited success with P90X, running, and cycling. But the promise of being ready for anything, or being as fit as I could be, kept drawing me back. However, that wasn’t enough to make me “successful” in CrossFit.
Unlike other members at Cróga, I’m not naturally competitive when it comes to fitness. In my career, I’m ultra competitive. But the competitive drive isn’t as strong for me in the gym. The desire to be doing something brought me back to Cróga in April 2015, but even when I returned I wasn’t really committed to an outcome. I definitely made gains in my overall fitness (as evidenced by an epic Snowboarding trip), but I didn’t have consistency. That didn’t come until April of this year.
My beautiful wife Krystal and I were preparing to celebrate our second anniversary. She had told me should would plan everything and surprise me. Then, a few days before our anniversary, Krystal told me we’d have to cancel our plans, and come up with something else. When I asked why, she gracefully dodged the question. Eventually she told me that the plan was to go zip lining in Santa Cruz. Awesome!
But she had just discovered that there was a weight limit of 250 lbs. I was 275. We couldn’t go because I was too heavy.
I didn’t sleep much that night. The voice in my head kept saying, “Some husband you are, fat ass! Can’t even do the things your wife wants you to do. Guess she’ll have to push you around in a wheelchair soon, and you’ll be a burden for everyone!” Other nonsense echoed in my head all night.
Upon opening my email the next morning, I fortuitously found an email announcing the Cróga Spring Paleo Challenge! I jumped on it. More importantly, I decided then and there that I never wanted to feel limited by my weight again. I told Krystal to reschedule the zip lining excursion 6 weeks later, and that I would weigh 250 lbs by that time. She scheduled the excursion.
By paying attention to diet, following the advice of Coach Dave, and constantly measuring my bodyweight, I happily achieved my goal, the day before our trip. The next morning, we arrived in Santa Cruz, I stepped on the scale, was given the OK, grabbed a harness, and enjoyed coasting through the trees with Krystal and friends.
For me, CrossFit is about “being fit to be be useful.” It’s about maximizing GPP, or fitness. I love that my goals and the CrossFit ideal are aligned.
(D): What’s been your favorite culinary discovery since joining Cróga?
(J): As part of the Whole 30 challenge, we found the Well Fed cookbooks. In Well Fed 2, there is a recipe for Plaintain Nachos. You slice up plantains and make little nachos on top of each fried plantain chip. Yum.
(D): What’s your biggest fitness goal for the rest of 2016?
(J): 1. Do 1 strict pull-up.
2. Reach a fitness level of 40 on Beyond the Whiteboard (currently at 32)
3. Contribute one substantial thing back to the community that helps others obtain their fitness goals.
(D): What words of advice do you have for new members or people considering joining Cróga?
(J): Advice to new members of Cróga and those new to CrossFit:
1. Discipline = freedom.
It’s hard to make it to the gym at first. You’ll think of something “better” to do. You’ll look at the WOD and say “oh, that’s not good for me, I should probably sit this one out” or “my back is sore, I should probably rest” or “the house is dirty, I should clean it.” I’ve said all those things to myself.
Commit to getting to the gym 3 days a week, or 5, or whatever it is for you. Don’t worry about the details, just find a way to get your foot in the gym door, then let the rest figure itself out. If you get to the gym and something’s not right, you can always leave, but you probably won’t.
This is especially true for Cróga. I’ve never been to a gym where the coaches and members are so understanding and accommodating of ALL levels of fitness. You truly have no excuse not to make it in, there’s always something you can do.
The nice thing is once you’ve consistently set foot in the gym for a few months, it becomes harder NOT to go. You’ll think “I should probably go to the gym and see if I can even do a HSPU” or “my back is a little sore, I should probably get to the gym a little early to mobilize” or “the house is dirty, I should probably go to the gym!”
2. Find your why, make it emotional, make it specific.
I had some success coming up to my anniversary awakening, but it was limited. The incident with the zip lining made it easy to commit, nail my nutrition, and push hard on each workout. I had a number I was trying to reach, and nothing was going to stop me, because I never wanted to feel that bad about my weight again.
In fact, my biggest challenge after achieving the weight was finding an emotional reason to reach my next goal. I eventually found it after observing a fellow Cróganite: I want to be an outstanding example of fitness and health for my kids (the first one is on the way.) Much of a child’s fitness is determined by their father’s fitness, and I’m going to set my children up for a lifetime of health and success. That’s emotional for me. (I’ve broken this long term goal down into specifics for 2016 and 2017, but the emotion comes from this larger goal).
3. Give it at least 6 months.
When I first started doing CrossFit, I saw quick success, then I hit a plateau and dropped off. I blamed the gym, and stopped going.
As I came back, I was more committed, but then my friends started questioning me, saying “you’ll get Rhabdo” or “CrossFit is stupid, you should try TRX/Powerlifting/running/spinning/yoga/etc.” These people would send me links to videos and articles detailing all the reasons CrossFit is terrible.
To truly know whether CrossFit is for you, you’ve got to give it some time. No matter what you try, there will be plateaus. No matter what you try, there will be people telling you it’s a bad idea (I was told the same thing when I used a ketogenic diet to lose my weight). Ignore them, respectfully.
Trust your coaches, commit yourself, be specific about what you want, and give it time. Don’t worry if you don’t make it right away. Set a date to reevaluate your commitment to CrossFit that’s 6 months away, put it in your calendar, and don’t let yourself question it until then. Just show up at least 3 times a week.
4. Make friends
The best part about Cróga is the people. Meet and chat with everyone in class. Tell them about your day. Ask about theirs. You’ll enjoy everything a whole lot more, and it’ll make it easier for you to be consistent.
(D): Anything to add that we didn’t touch on yet?
(J): Thank you Dave, Jason, Marcus, PJ, Cody, Preston, Kelly, Charlie, Diana and Haley for your guidance and support. I’ve been to other CrossFit gyms, so I know how lucky Cróga is to have coaches like you.
Thank you to everyone at Cróga. One of you inspired me to create the goal of being the ultimate fit father. Another one of you taught me to check my ego at the door. Another one of you taught me that working hard and having fun can happen simultaneously. Another that injury doesn’t mean I can’t come in and make progress. I learn as much, if not more, from all of you as I do from the Coaches.
Thank you to Krystal, my wonderful wife, for supporting me, and for actually wanting to be the mother of my child. Still not sure how I pulled that one off.
One last thing: Team Dolphin was narrowly robbed of victory last year. It will not happen again.