My father was on the plus side of 500 pounds when I was growing up. I never thought it was strange, or weird, or even different. He was my dad and I admired him. Some days really stick out to me like the time he was a chaperone for a field trip but had to get in through the emergency exit at the back of the bus or when I stood outside of a super market watching him check out and a man said I would be so embarrassed to know that guy. I was told he had tried every diet out there and it never worked. Now I wonder if he ever tried the most basic diet of all, Paleo.
Some of my best and worst memories of my dad surrounded food. That’s probably why I found myself overweight as well but of course I thought it was working to my advantage. I threw shot put, played offensive line, and was the goalie on our lacrosse team. I went to college to play lacrosse and quickly found out how much of a disadvantage it was.
My dad went in for gastric bypass surgery in December of 2001. He never left the hospital. After being so large for so long his organs were thin as tissues and he coughed himself into a ruptured spleen. We were making a video about his experience going through it and during an interview at the house he said “Fat people are the happiest people you will ever meet but they are always crying on the inside.” Even now I can’t bear to watch some of the TV shows about the struggles of people with morbid obesity. The lacrosse coach offered his condolences and reminded me that I will likely deal with these weight issues for the rest of my own life. I wanted to prove him wrong, but I didn’t know how.
I did find a way to lose a lot of weight and keep it off for a few years but never really learned how to eat. I eventually put it all back on and was heading towards the “then some” crowd. My blood pressure running around 130/90 and my doctor was mildly concerned about my body’s ability to process sugar. I thought about my dad, about his dad, and all of the other men on his side of the family who died pre-maturely because they couldn’t handle their own health. I knew I had to break the cycle and that’s when I joined Crossfit Retribution.
My wife had been going for almost two years but due to my work schedule it wasn’t an option for me but that changed in April of 2012. I’m a competitive person and when the Lurong Living Paleo Challenge came in September I joined. I was finally committed to something. I could track it, measure it, watch it change and man did I change.
It wasn’t long after that I did my first ever chin up. Then my wife left home for a 12 week program in Potomac, MD and I was left to handle the house and kids on my own. CFR was there for me that whole time. The kids and I went religiously as it became a part of our daily routine driving from Columbia to Owings Mills to pick them up to Westminster for the 6:45 and back again. Beau and the crew had me doing multiple chin ups, pull ups, I can do double unders, climb the rope and my latest discovery some legitimate toes to bar.
I competed in the most recent Paleo challenge and again have seen even more amazing results. I am stronger, leaner and my wife says better looking than I’ve ever been. I will be in the best shape of my life at 32 after a year of dedication to CFR. It is so true that you get in what you put out. If you put out effort Beau and the rest will show you the path to success but you have to walk it. I may never reach all of my goals physically but that’s because I’m doing so many things now I never thought were possible for me that I keep coming up with new ones. In the end though I can say this, I won’t have to battle weight problems for the rest of my life thanks to the CFR family. - John Share
My fitness story begins with a 7-year stint in the U.S. Army, when I didn’t have to think too much about fitness because organized physical training was enough to keep me in reasonable shape.
I got out of the Army when my husband and I learned we were expecting our son in 1998. Without the external motivation of organized PT, my focus on fitness waned. I tried a few things to keep my weight down. I joined a gym, started doing yoga, and intermittently watched what I ate. Still, none of these changes stuck, and the weight I carried on my 5’9” frame after giving birth to my son fluctuated between 180 lbs. and 230 lbs.
In the early fall of 2010, I tipped the scales at the highest number I had ever seen – 245 lbs. I had never really been affected much by the numbers on the scale because I’ve always been a bit taller and bigger than most women I know, but this number affected me in many ways. First, I realized I was nearly 100 lbs. heavier than when I found out I was pregnant with my son. Second, I realized that I was no longer safe sitting in my existing folding chair at my son’s sports games because I was 20 lbs. heavier than the chair’s weight capacity. Finally, I was not able to comfortably participate in many of the activities that I used to love doing, and I found I was tired all the time, which only led to a more sedentary lifestyle.
I knew I had to do something, but what? I found the answer to this question on Facebook when a friend living in New Mexico shared a link to her blog, in which she described how her gymmates helped her through a particularly challenging workout when all she wanted to do was quit. The way she described the scenario made it seem like the type of environment I would enjoy working out in – one with built-in external motivation and a sense of camaraderie. That’s when I learned about CrossFit and contacted Beau.
I was immediately sold on how efficient the CrossFit workouts were. I committed to going in for one hour three times per week, which didn’t seem so bad when compared to the hours I had previously spent in fitness classes and on the elliptical with limited results. Even though the workouts were shorter than what I was used to, I never left the building without feeling like I had done something really good for myself, and the trainers leading the classes always knew when I needed a push.
And, as the weeks turned into months, the results couldn’t be ignored. I dropped significant weight and inches. Just when I hit a plateau, the gym started a Paleo challenge. In that 30 days alone, I dropped 1 1/2 dress sizes and lost even more weight. As of this writing, I’m down 60+ lbs., and 4 dress sizes. I’ve been able to stay this size for nearly a year.
I’m most proud of the fact that I am able to do more in my everyday life because of the strength I’ve gained since joining this gym. After many, many attempts over the years, I managed to really ski for the first time because of the leg strength I built doing squats. I don’t hurt myself moving heavy objects because I’ve learned how to properly lift heavy stuff, and, because I’m more aware of what I can comfortably lift, I know when to ask for help. When I encounter a long staircase, I don’t seek out the elevator – I attack the stairs because I can. And the list goes on.
As a result of joining this gym, I would say my definition of “reasonable shape” has changed significantly. In my 39 years, I’ve never fit any magazine’s definition of fitness, and I know now I never will. But I’m healthier and stronger now than I’ve ever been – even stronger than when I was an active duty soldier. What’s more, I can’t imagine a time in the future when I will settle for anything less than exceeding (or at least maintaining) what I’ve been able to achieve here.
Nor will I settle for only standing behind the camera anymore. Photos, like my after pic, won’t be hard to find. I will continue to document my family’s story in scrapbooks, but now I’ll be as much a part of them as anyone. Thank you, Beau and Angie, for bringing true fitness to Westminster, and a special thank you to my gym family for your continued encouragement and support!
As anyone, regardless of fitness level or previous experience, can benefit from getting stronger, I dove into the beginner linear progression program at CFR 3 weeks after our youngest was born. Our son is not quite 9 months old and I am about to achieve my first major strength goal and have a few more amazingly close in my sights. Funnily enough, as a 35 year old stay at home mom of three, I am as strong as I have ever been and in the best shape of my entire life. And I NEVER run, EVER. I squat, press, bench, deadlift, power clean and do pull ups three times a week. Some weeks, life is so crazy with our boys I only make it once or twice. And don’t worry, I didn’t know what these terms meant 9 months ago either, much less how to proficiently execute them!
Luckily for me and everyone at CFR, our very knowledgeable coaches are right there every step of the journey to teach, motivate, encourage and correct any mistakes. I seriously LOVE our gym. It makes me better and stronger (mentally and physically) every time I step foot into it. It is my happy place not only because of what I accomplish there, but also because I get to share others’ success and triumphs. And aside from the aesthetic benefits, after 6 pretty lonely years in Westminster, thanks to our incredible members we finally feel part of this community. It has been such a positive, empowering, life-changing experience and the best aspect has been sharing it with our CFR family! – Angie Bryant