My CrossFit story began in January of 2013. At that time I was a 22 year police officer. I had been accepted into the FBI National Academy and had just a little over six months to get my 5’10, 194 pound, 24% body fat body into condition to make it through not just the FBI Fitness program, but the grand finale known as the Yellow Brick Road… a 6.5 mile run through the Marine Corps obstacle course located in the Virginia woods at the Quantico Marine Corps base. The obstacle course is known for its level of difficulty, and it’s propensity to hurt people. (A Rawlins, WY Officer died of a heart attack 300 yards from the finish line in 1996.)
Two of my colleagues from the department had opened a CrossFit box, and had been espousing the benefits of CrossFit and the whole Paleo diet thing for several months. I had noticed that both had gotten into great shape, so in January 2013 I headed to the “Box”. I was directed to the “On Ramp” area where I was pretty happy to see people who at least on the outside, appeared to be in bad shape like myself.
I have no recollection what that first WOD was, only that I felt like dying. Years of sitting at a desk, eating crap, and being relatively sedentary had caught up to me. I started watching what I was putting into my body. I learned the difference between being hungry, and wanting to eat. I started enjoying hard boiled eggs (with LOTS of Tabasco anyway). I stopped drinking soda.
For the first time in years I was experiencing something I hadn’t experienced in some time: progress. I actually felt like I was getting stronger. I felt a sense of camaraderie among the others sharing my physical pain. It was like going into Cheers… I’d walk in and people would actually know my name. Instead of sharing a beer, we shared sweat. Being a cop really limits your social contact. Everyone in a small town knows you’re a cop, and many are immediately stand-offish. Going to the Box, I was just another guy trying to get in shape. No one seemed to care what I did for a living. I felt like I belonged.
After about three months, the weight started coming off fast. 194, then 190, then 185, then 180, then 175. I hadn’t been 175 pounds for probably fifteen years. Then 165. I thought that would be the end. I was as strong as I’d ever been – down to 5% body fat. I had started to swim a few times a week, and I would run two or three miles a couple times a week. When I left for the FBI Academy (188 days after starting CrossFit) I weighed 157 pounds. I had lost 37 pounds, gained two inches in my chest, lost four in my waist, and I could run a 5K and have juice left. The insulated cooler that had wrapped around my body had given way to a six-pack for the first time in over 20 years.
The three month FBI Academy came and went. CrossFit had created a me that I had never believed possible. The Yellow Brick Road was a walk in the park. I ran my first 5K race, finishing 262nd place out of 3500 runners.
As with many stories, one of the best parts of my life was taking place concurrent with one of the hardest. CrossFit wasn’t just a place for me to grow physically; it became a place to rest my mind. I found I wasn’t the only one going through personal struggles. Their struggles were sometimes very similar to mine, and sometimes very different, but they too, had found that CrossFit offered so much more than just a half hour of sweating. They had found people struggling to get better, and stronger, in all areas of their lives.