Sticking with our theme of honoring multiple individuals for Member(s) of the Month during Shelter in Place, this month we’ve chosen the awesome couple, Kal and Ann-Marie. These two have been coming to Croga for awhile now, but where they live, traffic and their work schedules really only let them come to the gym once during the week and on the weekends.
Once Shelter in Place hit though and they had nowhere to go and full access to Croga via Zoom, they both took it up a notch and started joining in Croga classes and working out together 6-7 days a week! To go along with that, the extra time spent training with their friends and working on their skills has delivered a laundry list of PRs and athletic firsts.
Your hard work and dedication to improving your fitness during this Shelter in Place has been extremely motivating, Kal and AM! We can’t wait to see you back at Croga so you can show off all your new skills and increased fitness.
When did you each join Cróga?
Kal: CJ brought me to a few partner workouts in 2018 and early 2019, and I had a great time. During the 2019 Open season, CJ convinced me to come to a Friday night lights and do 19.5 as my first workout, under the guise that he would do it with me. Then the big jerk went to China, so we FaceTimed him in and he was whispering in my ear to stop staring at it and pick up the bar while I basically died. The energy and the camaraderie from that night instantly hooked me, so we signed up not long after that.
AM: CJ also brought me to a partner WOD as a gateway drug to Croga. It was pretty fun, but super tough. I really liked the competitive aspect as that is something that really motivates me in fitness. I love competing with the big dogs, even though I’m the tiny dachshund nipping at their heels. When we went to 19.5 I really loved the community and didn’t really want to leave. We signed up shortly after to do Saturdays since the commute during the week didn’t seem possible and we’ve been hooked since.
What were you doing before for fitness?
Kal: As you know, I come from a very fit family, so fitness has been an integral part of my life. As a child I played hockey (A Canadian playing hockey? Shocking!) and my family would go for long bike rides or rollerblading. I got big into weightlifting in my early 20’s and did it casually until I hurt my back pretty badly, then I swam a mile every day as part of the rehab. Before joining Croga I was coming off the back injury and feeling much stronger, so I was getting more seriously into powerlifting. That’s part of what drew Me to Croga, actually, was the fact that everyone I saw was more fit than me on things like running and the rowing machine, but they were actually slinging pretty big weights around too. I thought “maybe I can be super strong but ALSO fast!” So far the fast part hasn’t come yet, but I’m hoping one day it will.
AM: Growing up for me was a stark contrast to Kal’s family. As a kid I hated bikes so I roller bladed around the neighborhood and my family played badminton. The only sports I did we’re in school, but I tore a ligament in my ankle early in high school and that was the end of it till late college. I did a bit of working out then but mostly cardio and continued that trend when I started working. I’ve had a lot of injuries to my joints so I never really got momentum working out until I moved in with Kal. Kal taught me some weight lifting and I did a minor amount of weights, but not too much. Minor squats, shoulder presses, curls. I got a bit stronger, but no where near where I’m at now. Now I’m so much more comfortable with weights and have a much better fitness tool belt.
What improvements have you seen in the way you look, feel and perform?
Kal: I am basically an entirely new person. When I joined Croga I was about 5 months into a massive weight loss journey where I lost over 55lbs, I had terrible cardio, no gymnastic skills to speak of, and was still very limited in my mobility and strength. If you ever get a chance, look at my sign-in photo; when I took that photo I was almost 200lbs! Imagine a pudgy little pug trying to run with a bunch of dobermans and greyhounds, and you have a pretty close approximation of my first few months at Croga. Now I’m more like a sleek dachshund running with the dobermans and greyhounds. I’m not very big and I’m not very fast, but I can work my little legs to keep up and sometimes even get on the board!
Actually though, the way I feel and perform has drastically improved. Shortly before I joined Croga I was diagnosed with a rare bone disease that results in chronic joint pain and severely limits mobility and flexibility. My hips had started to fuse together. There were a lot of movements I never thought I’d be able to do: squatting more than 100lbs was impossible, sit-ups, toes to bar, even burpees were a struggle. The awesome coaches helped me scale movements and worked with me to slowly progress, and the improvements have been almost unbelievable. At my first bourbon and barbells I was able to squat 225lbs, which was more than I’d ever thought possible. More importantly, at my follow-up MRI in October, I was told that I had actually reversed the fusion in my hips. The doctor specifically said “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it forever.”
I have good days and bad days still, but Croga has helped me turn my bad days from “I can’t walk unassisted” to “Maybe I’ll only squat 185lbs today”.
AM: My phone thinks I’m a different person! I was just coming off a big 30 lb weight loss when we started but I didn’t have much muscle or definition. Between Croga and Invisalign, my face shape has thinned out and changed, I’m also WAY more jacked. I’m starting to have resting definition in my arms which is just crazy and super cool. I also think I look way more proportional to my frame than I did which is very nice.
Performance wise is like night and day, especially after increasing workouts during the quarantine. Even though old joint injuries are haunting me a bit, I’m much faster, much stronger, and my WOD scores show it. I’m finding that a lot of the movements that seemed impossible a year ago are now just in need of a bit of work. I’m a much different athlete than I was and feel way more like I’m actually competing with the guys than I did before.
My doctor was also super impressed during my physical this year. Last year my blood work was all “just ok” this year he said “I wish my numbers were this good! What are you doing?!”
What days and times do you usually join a Cróga OTB class?
Kal: Before the quarantine, we were die-hard Saturday morning partner WOD people. AM and I would show up at 7:30AM and get in a quick bench with the boys, then crush the partner workout, then hang around for a little to do some mobility and have a nice chill Saturday with the lovely Croga community, then go home and I’d eat a 1000 calorie brunch before starting our day. We’d also go to the Wednesday powerlifting class, which was always a testosterone and pre-workout fueled blast of slinging big weights and making fun of Richard’s music choices.
Since the quarantine, I’ve fallen into a pretty good routine for OTB: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I get up at the ungodly hour of 6:30AM, smash the 7:00AM crossfit class, eat a protein bar, and go back to sleep until 10:30AM or so, depending on when my first morning meeting started. Then I’d sign on to the 5:00PM class with AM and have a nice pick-me-up workout before making dinner and starting my evening conference calls. Tuesdays and Thursdays used to be 7:00AM crossfit, turn off my camera for my morning meetings because I’d still be shirtless and sweaty, then onto the 9:00AM ignite with Joy, but now it’s 7:00AM crossfit and then the Noon Ignite. If it’s a particularly fun one, I might also hop on the 5:00PM and do three-a-day. I’m definitely not addicted. I can stop whenever I want, ok?!
Saturdays are ferda boys, so AM and I do a partner workout at 8:00AM, an ignite workout with Joy at 9:00AM, and I’m loving the new mobility workout at 10AM. Then I eat a 1000 calorie brunch and have a nap before starting my day. Sunday we’ll usually take some rest and do skill drills on a gymnastic skill I don’t have for 30 minutes to an hour. I’m hoping to have Double Unders before the quarantine ends!
AM: The beginning of quarantine was really hard and I only really made it out to Saturdays. I felt like garbage and really only perked up when Kal dragged me to work out. Once things got a bit better work wise (I had been working China hours and was basically a walking zombie), I’ve been trying to make it out to 5pm (or noon if meetings get in the way) and get at least 4/5 weekdays in. As Kal said, the weekend is a team sport and we try to workout together. Saturday is such a marathon that my nutritionist had me add re-feeds on the weekend! By the way, it is super fun to finally have a skill I can crush Kal at (DUs) every Sunday on our “rest day”. That said, I did embrace the Croga spirit and give him some of the tips you guys gave me to help him along.
What’s your favorite WOD or CrossFit movement?
Kal: My favorite crossfit movement is definitely dramatically taking off your shirt in the middle of a WOD to get that extra energy boost.
But actually, one of my favorite WODs I’ve ever done was a simple 20 minute AMRAP partner workout of each partner trades rounds on a barbell complex: 3 deadlifts – 3 power cleans – 3 push jerks. The complex goes VERY fast and the movements aren’t particularly tough for that low rep scheme, but it gets real spicy real quick. I did it with Kenny and he obliterated me.
My favorite movement is anything that involves a barbell. Except thrusters. Thrusters and I are not friends. Thrusters can be replaced with kettlebell swings and Farmer Carries on my list of things I like.
Oh! I also REALLY loved 1776. That was probably one of my favorite Hero WODs, because there’s a lot of teamwork and communication, and variation in the movements. Also hearing Richard say “guys I think we’re done” every 5 minutes was pretty great.
AM: I really dig DB snatches, most of the other skills I like are ones I’m still working on so I love/hate them (DUs and HSPUs).
I agree with Kal though 1776 was the most fun ever! I also love when Brett comes to town and we do one “stupid and long” workout, something like 100 Curtis P’s for time, or the 1000 rep challenge. It’s not the workouts themselves that I’m overly crazy about, more just the ridiculousness and the fun of suffering with friends.
What’s your least favorite WOD or CrossFit movement?
Kal: Honestly running. I hate running, which is sad because I used to love it. One of the side effects of my previous hip fusion is that the impact of running and having my center of gravity shifted forward like that is that it really lights up my lower back and deep in my hips after a while, so sustained running isn’t something I can do. Even worse is wall-ball runs. I’m getting much better at it, but I will always hate it.
I also hate Double Unders. Actually, no, scratch that, I like Double Unders. I hate FAILING double-unders. I’ve been using the quarantine to work on getting them in the hopes that I will be a DU champ when we come back to the gym, and I look like a bad 50 Shades of Grey novel. I somehow managed to whip myself across the nose the other day. HOW?! I’m just waiting for the day I accidentally get my rope caught and it dramatically flings off my balcony down to the street 5 floors below. That will be fun to explain.
AM: I’m not super crazy about push ups, probably because I’m bad at them, though I’m starting to improve a lot and I’ll probably feel better about them over time. I think my real disdain though is for wall walks. The huge push to learn HSPUs is to not have to scale to wall walks anymore.
Also not a great fan of wall balls (as I’m sure is common in the tiny people club), mostly because to get it high enough I have to jump every time. EVERY time. They make me feel extra tiny. Any tips are appreciated (to preempt it: “Be taller” is not helpful. Looking at you, CJ.)
“The Kal” WOD! What would it be?
Oh, easy. I wrote this WOD for the WOD-writing contest and I’m still mad we haven’t done it. I call this one “The Filthy Pump”:
15 minute AMRAP:
Max pushups – you can rest in yoga position, but every time you break and your quads touch the ground, do barbell complex:
– 5 deadlift (135/95)
– 5 power clean (135/95)
– 5 front squat (135/95)
Score is # of total pushups completed.
I did a variation of this WOD with CJ and Brett a while back, and it is true to it’s name; you get the filthiest of pumps. It’s also absolutely gutting and a super fun challenge, and there are a few strategies involved: do I want to go for more pushups earlier and take it easy on the complex? Or stop the pushups before I fail and go hard on the complex? The combo of mental and physical aspects of Crossfit are fun to me, and this really covers both.
“The Ann-Marie” WOD! What would it be?
One that I like and do very often is:
AMRAP 14 mins:
20 Alt. DB Snatches
I used to scale this to single ropes, but I’m amped to try again with DUs. For me the snatches have to be at around 25lbs, but I’m hoping to pull that up over time. I think at this point I just need to do a little bit of form work. This workout though is why I held on with Dave so well during that one workout in the open.
What’s your favorite post-workout routine?
AM: Kal just looked over at me and raised his eyebrows suggestively. Maybe we’ll leave that part off.
Kal: There’s no better feeling than a nice, warm post-workout shower. We generally like to have a big meal afterwards too, so going out for bagel sandwiches with the bench crew is always good, or going home and cooking some really good protein waffles and eggs. If the weather is nice, we also love to go chill in a hot tub for a while and stretch out.
Oh, also, bicep curls. That’s immediately post-workout before any of that happens.
What are your biggest fitness goals for the rest of this year?
AM: probably HSPUs and kipping/higher volume pull-ups. The HSPUs to avoid wall walks and cause circus tricks are fun. The pull-ups to try and have for Murph next year.
Oh! And 100lb bench. Ever since Dave mentioned on the podcast that he thought I’d get it, I’ve wanted it so badly. Only 5lbs to go.
Kal: I really really really really really want to get a muscle-up. I can do weighted dips forever, I can do butterfly pull-ups, I just can’t seem to connect the two together. Also I’d like to make sure I continue to beat Mark G and CJ at workouts. Actually yeah, I’d take that over muscle-ups.
Other than that, I’d love to get a 275lb bench, a 315lb squat, something more than 315lb deadlift, a 135lb snatch, and a 185lb Clean & Jerk. Those are very lofty goals, considering I don’t have a rack at home and I only recently got more than 100lbs for my bar, but I’d love it.
What do you love about CrossFit?
Kal: The community and the support is great. When I was just doing powerlifting on my own, I would enjoy putting on the music and just zoning out. Doing workouts at Croga where we come in early, hang out with the crew for a bit, then hit the workout hard and seeing everyone else working just as hard is such a great motivational drive to push myself. This shelter-in-place has been stressful for a social butterfly like me, and being able to log into the 7AM class, or 5PM class, and see a bunch of my friends ready to attack the day with me has been so uplifting. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the highlight of every day is logging in and throwing down with my crew, or hearing Cody say “What’s up guys”.
AM: Of course the community, whenever I really don’t feel like working out I have this pull to go anyway to see my friends! I also really enjoy that the workouts are an hour max. One of the big barriers to entry I usually have is time and I can make an hour work. Plus that hour is so crammed full of movements and activity, it’s like two non-crossfit workouts. Which is just awesome!
What words of advice do you have for people considering joining a CrógaOTB class?
Kal: Just do it! Find a time that works for you and log in. Don’t worry about whether you can do the movements, or whether you’ll perform well. Everyone is there for fitness, fun, and friends. You will be welcomed in and the great coaches will find a modification for you that works, if needed. It’s a ton of fun, and it should be the best hour of your day.
AM: It might seem insurmountable to commit. So just log in once to start. Pick one day and see how it goes. Once you get moving and laughing with everyone you’ll be energized to keep going with it, so don’t think about that, just one step at a time. Also, don’t look at the workout ahead of time or you’ll talk yourself out of it. Just go and everyone will take care of you.
Anything to add that we didn’t touch on yet?
Kal: Honestly if you’re still here, I’m amazed. This was a lot of words that I wrote. Congratulations for making it this far! I really want to thank Croga for everything coach Dave, Cody, Jill, and all the wonderful coaches have done through this difficult time. The world is going crazy around us right now, and I’m so thankful to have a great community to support each other through this. I am so excited to get back in the gym soon. The first WOD we do will be a 10 minute AMRAP hugs.
AM: Agreed! AMRAP hugs when we’re back! Thanks so much to all the coaches for laughing with us and helping us stay fit! You guys are the best!