A little over one year ago, if you said “CrossFit” around me, I would have jumped to conclusions and imagined some interval, circuit type, Jazzercise training that my high school football team used to do before school started.
I had no idea that this seemingly strange and foreign sport, would not only challenge me to be my best self athletically, but personally as well. This sport is so much more than fitness. Of course it has boxes, burpees, barbells, wall balls, and a little running, but beyond the physical aspect, CrossFit is the community, motivation, support and a family I never knew I needed.
I could talk all day about CrossFit, as most of us do daily, but I mostly want to share with you my journey that took me from 260 pounds, out of shape, and zero determination to a person that loves waking up every day, weighing 210 pounds, motivated, dedicated and with a renewed hope and focus on life.
Though I have experienced extraordinary circumstances with my health during the course of my 39 years, those circumstances were never the cause for me to lose control of my body, mind or spirit later in life. I was solely responsible for letting my physical well-being and health deteriorate. The consequences for my behavior resulted in countless missed opportunities and depression. To make matters worse, in 2016 I was diagnosed with cancer. Sitting in the doctor’s office, overweight at 250 pounds, unhappy and looking back on the life that led me to this day, I realized that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. My life literally flashed before my eyes and I knew my life could not stay the same.
My mom made me a magnet for Christmas. It was a picture of my best friend and me camping. Though my mom had good intentions and didn’t mean to accentuate my weight problem, the picture she used was a visual reflection of my internal struggles. I placed that magnet on the refrigerator and immediately saw God’s sense of humor because in that moment the magnet slid down the refrigerator due to its weight and it broke into two pieces. That my friends – was the last straw. So, I did what I’ve always done in difficult situations, I turned to Jesus. I prayed a prayer that so many others have and continue to pray, “I am in a situation with my health by chance or by choices I made, but I pray that you take me from this situation, use it for good and put somebody or something in my life to that will allow me to bury my past and build a better life dedicated to you.” As always, God responded. Though it was not swift or painless, the cancer was treated and removed. My body was rid of cancer, but my physical health remained the same. It’s not as though a bright glory cloud came down and I magically became a better and healthier person. In fact, I added 10 more pounds and grew to a whopping 260 pounds by January 2017. Recovering from surgeries, I turned back to God and asked what the next step would be, and He again responded.
In January 2017, I went to a men’s breakfast at church for the first time ever. I heard a Christian CrossFit coach, Derek Del Rosario, speak about fitness, CrossFit and being in better shape to be able to serve God. I reacted and spoke to Derek immediately after the breakfast. I asked how I could join CrossFit. Derek cautioned me not to join his gym. The only reason being, that he was 30-45 minutes away in Henderson and the distance may end up being more of a distraction or excuse not to follow through. I agreed and it turned out to be the right decision. I began my quest to find the perfect box for me.
The next day, I googled “CrossFit near me”. The closest box was CrossFit RA, just one mile from my house. I tried to do a little research before driving to RA, but there was little I could have found that would have stopped me from going. I was determined to destroy any sickness, fat, laziness, excuses or negativity that previously prevented me from living a healthier life (mentally, physically and spiritually).
I timidly walked into the box, in late January 2017, with a friend and was a bit confused. Their equipment was missing! There weren’t any machines, weight lifting equipment, treadmills, shower rooms or racquetball courts. I thought to myself, “Is this a gym”? After playing baseball and football for many years my perception of fitness was a bit distorted.
Megs, one of the coaches, approached me. She asked if I needed some help and I sarcastically replied, “Yes, you have no idea.” She gave me some detailed information on CrossFit and CrossFit RA and I took it home to study the information. I returned on Tuesday where I was given information about the On-Ramp classes, where you learn the fundamental CrossFit movements, the upcoming Whole Life Challenge, and the CrossFit Open. A bit overwhelming, but I asked God for something to change my life for the better, and He never said it would be easy. I took Derek’s advice from that breakfast about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable; I signed up for 1 year!
One week later I was at CrossFit RA completing my On-Ramp classes with coach Megs and coach Lindsay. I must have said sorry about 1000 times for not getting any movements correct. Not once did they lose patience, their positive attitudes or get frustrated. I went out and bought a PVC pipe and began dedicating free time to YouTube videos of basic weightlifting, burpees, pull-ups, wall balls, etc. I did not want to disappoint the coaches, but more importantly I didn’t want to disappoint myself.
I started slow after On-Ramp classes, two days a week. I recall asking, “What is the average attendance per week?” Coaches told me that it’s three-five days a week. I thought that was crazy, who has the energy level for that much? But, I worked my way to three days a week and realized that in just three months, I had insane energy levels, had lost 25 pounds and could actually have a discussion about movements, times, and of course the WODs (workout of the day). I then moved up to four days a week and after six months, I could go five and six days a week. Dennis and Lisa, the owner’s of CrossFit RA (aka the dad and mom of CFRA), and other coaches stressed to me the importance of giving my body a break to recover and rebuild. They recommended I only go 5 days a week. I took their advice, but I have to admit that sometimes I’m a little stubborn and you’ll find me there 6 days a week.
Let’s be clear…I didn’t push myself so much because I wanted to lose weight, but because I genuinely loved being at CrossFit RA. There was something about working out, hanging out with my friends, and being in such a positive environment that kept me focused and motivated to be the best me. It has become a healthy addiction. I get to meet and be around people from all walks of life. We come together for one hour and leave all of our stress, anxiety, or issues all on the white board.
So now, if you fast-forward from a year ago, I’ve completed three Whole Life cCallenges, one CrossFit open, one CrossFit partner competition (already signed up to compete in the second), one marathon, one half-marathon, a handful of 5Ks for some awesome causes and a 50 pound weight loss! (Though I sometimes find myself with an additional 20 pound weight gain thanks to the vest challenge.) #muscleweighsmorethanfat. I have a renewed determination on life.
CrossFit has changed me in all aspects of life, but one of the many reasons I love it is that it’s NOT all about me. Our box, like many others around the world, gives back to the community. Dennis, Lisa and other coaches like Lindsay and Chad are continually organizing events to help other members or the community through various organizations like Project 150, Barbells for Boobs , scheduling CFRA’s first blood drive through United Blood Services, holding toy drives around the holidays, contributing to international relief trips, and the list goes on. We always rally together to motivate each other and help others.
I have maintained my friendship with Derek Del Rosario and continue to support the international mission trip opportunities that use CrossFit as a platform, drop-in at events at Derek’s gym, and help plan faith-based fitness and CrossFit opportunities within the Las Vegas valley for people of all fitness levels. I have a renewed spirit and outlook on life. CrossFit RA was that something, that family, that motivation I was praying for. To make it even better, my sister has now joined me in this journey. We push each other daily to show up (even if we’re on vacation or out of town on business), stay motivated, and we have fun just talking about the WOD! The old me is gone and Joe 2.0 is just getting started…#twu!