The first time I ever heard of CrossFit was in Pakistan in 2005. I was in “Indian Country” doing work for Uncle Sugar. That was 11 years ago which placed me at the ripe age of 30. Having been in the Army for 13 years at that time, I was no stranger to physical training. I started working out in high school after checking out a book at the local library about weightlifting and programming. There was an upper classman who I looked up to who told me to, “Eat, eat, eat”. Thru the years in high school and in the Army I was always working out in some way. As I grew into an adult and after my years on Active Duty I continued to go to the gym or workout at home. At that time my training regimen was “Lift and sit” 3 days a week with some cardio (running) mixed in. I also rucked marched, went on hikes and generally stayed active any way I could. I would spend a couple hundred bucks a month on supplements always reading what the latest and greatest was. At that time, I had never dabbled in steroids or any type of anabolic goodies. That was later. However, I remember in high school I bought a bottle from Anabol Naturals. It was completely placebo affect.
During one of my trips, a buddy and co-worker of mine asked me if I wanted to start doing Crossfit with him. I told him, “Nah, man. That stuff’s gay. I’m gonna stick to my routine”. Which mainly consisted of back/bi’s, lats/tri’s type stuff. I didn’t do any Power Lifting, per se, and absolutely NO Olympic Lifting. As a matter of fact, when I started doing CF I hated Oly lifts cause I royally sucked at them. We would have friendly competitions at our location in Pakistan. I could only do a few pullups and I wasn’t near as agile as my CF buddy. The first time I saw him doing an Overhead Squat I thought it was ridiculous. I saw no point to it. And, of course, I didn’t even try it. On one Sunday morning, which was my lifting day off, I decided to go on a bike ride around our airfield. I tried to jump a small hill so I could pull a sweet Cross Up and ended up crashing my bike. As soon as I hit the ground I knew I was jacked up. That resulted in me hobbling back to the camp to see the doc. I broke my collar bone and shoulder blade. I was flown to Bahrain on a C-130 for 9 hours to recover then back to the states.
I worked that gig for about 6 more months then crossed over to the “Mobile” side of things in 2006. On my first trip the whole CrossFit thing found its way back to my doorstep. A few of the guys would have their little “Bro sesh” in our gym and carport. It was annoying. It wasn’t until my second trip that I thought I’d taste the Kool-Aid. I was in J-Bad, Afghanistan where most the guys on my team were doing CF. One morning we decided to have a “team workout”. Yeah, well…that was absolutely horrible. I had no motor and I was weak. I thought I was stronger. Well, at the beginning of the workout I was, but 1000 meters later on the rower I was spent. I still had to finish the workout which consisted of:
100 Air Squats
50 Ring Dips
50 Box Jumps
50 1-Pood KB Swings @ 35
It was the worst situation imaginable. One of the guys finished it in under 20 min. I chalked it up because he was a retired SEAL Team 6 guy. Made me feel better. I never finished it even after 45 minutes. I still had to work and could barely move the next day. I was pissed. I was mad at myself for not starting this earlier. I was back at it the next day. We would do our hour of CF and an hour of Jitsu right after. That was a fantastic 60 days.
I ended up doing CF for years, taking little breaks now and then to focus on running, lifting, rucking, etc. Regardless, I’ve always stayed active traveling, diving, whatever. I was also in an Army unit that required me to “walk long distances” under a pretty hefty load. My body had never looked this good and I had never felt better. A couple of my work buddies ended up opening CF joints of their own. By 2010 I had 3 buddies who owned very successful CF boxes in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Salt Lake City, Utah and Orlando, Florida. I would pick their brains every now and then about owning a box. December 13th in 2010 my wife picked me up from the airport after one of my trips. I got in the car, hugs and kisses, and told her I was gonna open a CF gym. I explained that I wasn’t really gonna be open to the public, I just wanted a place to do CF on my own and maybe with some buddies. I had the money to rent a space and own the right equipment. Working out at home, in my neighborhood and in my yard just didn’t cut it anymore. I wanted to learn more and dive in. She told me that I should just open up and gym since I had been talking about my buddies who did. Soooooo…I signed up to take my CF L1 at CrossFit TNT in St. Charles, MO. in a few weeks. I thought, “How hard could it be to pass”? I spent about 15 grand on equipment, found 2000sq/ft to rent, and got the business side of things spun up by the end of December. It was fast and I was on a rampage to get this sucker rolling. It was an exciting time for us. There was only one other CrossFit affiliate in all of Southwest Missouri, CrossFit Springfield. I remember the time when one of their owners had asked me, “Are you doing CrossFit?” at the local YMCA back in 2007. I told him I was and that I had been doing it almost 2 years at that time. He had mentioned that he and a woman were about to travel to a CrossFit seminar to open the first affiliate in Springfield. I knew that they had opened an affiliate by the time I had decided to open one. They had been in business a couple years by now. Out of respect for them and the CrossFit community, I scheduled a quick sit down meeting with them to go over my plans. I wanted to be up front and forthright about my plans and that I didn’t plan to “fish in their pond”.
I attended the CrossFit L1 seminar in January 2011. I skimmed over the trainer guide a week before I went. I did Fran, almost vomited, and sat through all the lectures; taking notes like I’d never heard this stuff before. My mind was absolutely BLOWN! Test time came around and I was a bit nervous. Since I had all the pieces in motion to open my own affiliate, I had to pass. Back then, you took the test, they graded it and gave you a Certificate of Attendance or Trainer Certificate. I received the not so popular Certificate of Attendance. After that set in, I was pretty pissed. Not at anyone or anything else but myself. The 3 hour drive back home really sucked. I told my wife and she began looking for other places to retest. In February my wife, newborn son and I flew to West Palm Beach, Florida to retest. In the meantime, I studied the material front and back which resulted in me smoking that test! I was legit.
In March 2011 I officially became an affiliate after debating on a couple names. I still have those names in the back of my head cause I thought they were worth remembering; in case I decided to open another one. I opened CrossFit of the Ozarks, officially, on March 27th, 2011. I had been running my gym under the name of The Foundry the previous 2 months. In the beginning it was me and the crickets. Then, my sister-in-law, best buddy, childhood friend and a couple others came to do
the workouts with me. I was very green at programming but did all the programming myself. I was never a “Cut and Paste” programmer. I still contracted for Uncle Sugar so while I was gone I had my wife and sister-in-law run the place for me. My sister-in-law ended up getting her L1 a few months later. By August I had about 15 members. After that, things really started to pick up. By the end of October I was running about 30 members. See, back then, you didn’t really have to advertise, much. Simply because people wanted to do “CrossFit”. They didn’t know what it was, all they knew was they wanted to do it. They wanted the t-shirt and wanted to be part of something new and exciting. Plus, the results were astounding. With social media and people talking about it, folks just had to get in on it. About a year later we had roughly 50 members and I decided it was time to move to a larger location with less or comparable rent. I found a gold mine. The second location was our home for 3.5 years. The business grew steadily. Roughly 6 months after we opened, a few more affiliates started popping up. The bug was catching on. In the over 3 years at our second location we hosted competitions and seminars. Some were CrossFit seminars and others were not CF affiliated. We were happy and things were going well. I was still working overseas teaching some classes at the compounds I was located and doing CrossFit with my teammates. CF was very popular for those in the military and Special Operations community. I still remember the first time I severely tore my hands doing Fran on a rusty ole bar in Herat, Afghanistan with my buds. I cringed holding my rifle.
I opened the gym out of passion and love of it. Not for business success. I never paid myself in the 6 years I owned the affiliate. All the money went back into the gym, bills and my trainers. In May 2012, while in Kandahar, Afghanistan, I tore the medial meniscus on my right knee. At the time I didn’t realize how much of a death sentence this would be to me. I was sent home a week later and a couple weeks after that I had my first surgery. The procedure went fine and rehab was fine but my knee just didn’t seem to come around. Eight months later, after seeking the opinion of another doctor, I had my second knee surgery. This time for the meniscus that had never been fixed and for broken cartilage. Months later I thought, “I’m back”. Things were going well with my running and lifting. I went from 285 on my back squat to 330. My deadlift went from 365 to 420 and my bench press rose substantially. I was faster and stronger than ever. Thirty-nine was feeling pretty good to me. After entering a few CrossFit competitions with members and close friends of mine I started to experience more pain in the knee. I did the soldier thing and sucked it up for a while. I still competed with other members and absolutely LOVED doing it. Even though I was in pain, I was having a ball. After about 8 months of that I backed off a bit to let it recover. That’s when I tore my shoulder. I was bench pressing when my foot slipped and the bar came back towards my head. I had just put up 300 and was going for 315. In the end, I ended up tearing my Supra Spinatus in half, tore my bicep tendon, rotator and labrum. Another setback. I was no stranger to those and knew I’d simply recover and get back on the horse. I did…kind of. During that time off my knee suffered. I have never fully recovered from that. I even tried going back to square one with CrossFit programming. I scaled movements by lowering weight, range of motion, etc.
Since I backed off from training intensely in early 2015, I started to lose the fire. I wasn’t motivated about working out or the gym. I had some great trainers who did an awesome job for CFO. But ultimately it was my lack of motivation, drive and love of it that surfaced; and people noticed. Dealing with some others issues I just became a grump. I still loved those teaching moments when I could diagnose someone’s issue with movement and turn that upsetting time for them into a success. I did the Groupon thing for a while to compete with other, nearby, CrossFit gyms. By this time in the game you really had to do some advertising and marketing to keep and grow your affiliate. People didn’t just walk in the door. You had to lead them to it. Not to mention that the demographics were changing as well as what people started to expect. My CF joints were always pretty raw. Not a lot of fancy paint or shiny equipment. We had spider webs in the corners and the roof leaked a bit. For me, personally, that’s what I liked. Prison yard workouts or Firebase type workouts. In early 2016 I was informed by my landlord that he would be selling the building we were in to the other guy who leased from him. He had an indoor baseball business. I always kinda liked the guy but never fully trusted him. He was a bit of a squirrel. I told my land lord, “You know, as soon as you sell this place to him he’s gonna kick me out”. I was right. Two weeks after closing the deal I was told I had 2 weeks to vacate. I told him to, basically, “Go get bent” and that it wasn’t gonna happen. I needed more time than that. I also told him that he’s gonna be the reason I lose my business. Most folks don’t like change. The location we were in was home. Another move would be bad. I found another place and we moved the end of April 2016. The place was smaller but our members seemed to be OK with that. It cost quite a bit of money just to move with all the time spent to demo, clean up and paint the new digs. Once we were up and running things seemed to be going well. A new place meant new scenery and new ideas. I lost about 20% of my members due to the move. As the months went by I would lose a few and gain a few. Nothing was steady. Rent was higher than the previous location so we had to pay out of pocket each month just to keep the doors open. In the past, the gym always paid for itself. It would make a little extra but then I’d buy more equipment for the gym. Again, I never paid myself, only my trainers. I was also known to be very forgiving. I had plenty people over the years who could no longer afford a membership due to job loss/change or whatever. I always worked it out with them. Going back to my Christian values, be a giver. So we had a few folks who paid nothing.
It was during this time that I really started to look at CrossFit and how it has evolved. Gone were the days of 3:1 work out days and rest days. People were constantly wanting more. Folks would train 6 & 7 days a week not allowing their body’s proper rest and recovery. Folks wouldn’t eat properly to fuel themselves for their activity. All folks wanted to do was strength and conditioning every day. I believed, and still do, that the original OLD CrossFit methodology works. Any time I would program a strength only day attendance would be down. It’s frustrating being the conductor of the orchestra when the musicians don’t show up and do what you tell them to do. I mean, I’m their guide. Do what I say and how I say to do it and I’ll take care of you and ensure your success. It didn’t happen. Some folks would do a “Hero WOD” every day. By the fall I had a few members come in and tell me they weren’t going to do the WOD (Workout of the Day) and that they were going to do “their own thing”. Well, that really upset me every time. I thought, “Why am I still doing this”? I actually got close to just walking out and heading to the house a few times. I was very unhappy with all of it. People were getting hurt, not just at my gym but injuries in the CrossFit world were rising. MORE, MORE, MORE!!!!! We know more in not always better. I had mentioned selling the gym to a married couple who were my trainers. They would’ve been awesome but I understand their reservations. I hold that couple near to my heart. I had decided to close CFO in the middle of October 2016. I emailed all my members the beginning of November informing them of my closure and that those who paid their dues in November and stuck it out til our last day would have their membership honored at the nearest CrossFit affiliate in our town. I had worked a deal out with the owner which turned out to be a win for both of us. I highly respect the owner and we always had a great working relationship of the 5 years we were CrossFit neighbors. Literally about 2 miles from one another.
The last day came and went. I told my landlord that I would be out by the end of November. I sold most everything to other affiliate owners and a few items to individuals. In the end I kept what I wanted to keep. A huge burden and weight off my shoulders was lifted. I was liberated. Like a lot of business like this there’s an element of “drama”. I don’t put up with that stuff. I don’t mind people dating but when people are sleeping with other people while they are married or in a long term serious relationship with someone else, that’s not cool. That was the case with one of my trainers and a member; not the married couple. I was also a bit upset that we had members who were telling other people from other gyms that we were closing down. This was months before I had decided to do so. Loose lips sink ships. It did. Over the years I became more than a trainer. I was a life coach, marriage counselor, financial consultant, theologian, psychologist, doctor, etc., etc., etc. I was done. I didn’t do it for thanks or recognition but rarely did I feel people appreciate my efforts. According to the 5 Love Languages, I’m a “Words of Affirmation” kind of guy. I really didn’t need to feel appreciated but getting taken advantage of and having a trainer sleeping with a member just did it in for me. It continued after I confronted him about it. This was while she was going through a divorce. The only reason I did is because I had no less than 10 people come to me about it. I was done and my “Care Meter” was empty. Heck, I wasn’t making any money from it anyway. People didn’t like the old school CrossFit programming, I didn’t like the gym drama, increased rent and my own health had declined. In the words of that Frozen movie song, “Let it Go”.
Looking back on it all I have zero regrets. I loved being a part of CrossFit and doing my part to grow and share it with so many people. If I was in a fully operational condition I’d still be crushing it. I loved the occasional workout I’d do with my members and the smack talking that would go on before and during the WOD. It made me feel like I was back in the Army with my bros. Murph was always fun to do with my veteran brothers and sisters; since we’d wear our uniform, boots, body armor and masks. One of the biggest takeaways for me is the example I have been able to set for my children. By default, they have all been physically active in something. They have learned to take it upon themselves to be active and not require the coaxing of someone else to “Do something”. I have always enjoyed a challenge and CrossFit has definitely delivered that. There is no summit to CF. You can go as high as you wish to continue to push yourself. I’d say the largest take away from my CrossFit experience is my love of teaching, love of Power Lifting and love of doing Cleans.
So, here I am on a snowy day in the basement of my home in front of the fire. I often look out the window to see if any deer are in my food plot down at the bottom. I’ve been cutting and splitting a lot of wood the past month I’ve had off. We home school our youngest boy so being home with him during this time has been great as well. I’ve been able to be there for my other 3 older kids and spend time with them. My wife, and best friend, has been awesome during this entire experience. She’s been my voice of reason. She’s the best woman I know and I am deeply in love with her. She’s seen what goes on behind the curtain and I’m certain she’s relieved that it’s all over now. Plus, we get to spend more time together. As I approach 42 I look forward to new adventures in life and showing to my kids that life is a 360 degree element. You can go anywhere and do anything at any time. We plan our own destiny, God guides us. Thank you to Greg Glassman for the opportunity to be part of something great. CF is more than just working out. Relationship building is a very large part of it. People have met, dated and gotten married at CrossFit boxes.
Yes, actually gotten married at their box. I always made a point to try to visit all the other affiliates in the area. I think I’m the only one who did that. The CF community is very strong. It’s a bond amongst people; as cheesy as it may sound. I always think it’s amusing when people talk negative about it. Had it not been for CrossFit there would not be as many people competing and participating in Power Lifting, Running, Olympic Lifting, Ultra Marathons, peak ascending, trail blazing, etc. etc. The market for supplements and weight lifting equipment has absolutely exploded. Especially since The CrossFit Games is televised. It’s a worldwide community. I even had the opportunity to coach a class during my stint in Israel one year. It’s an international language of awesomeness. It has the ability to really rekindle the fire in the heart of the man and woman. It has the capability to grow people into something they never saw in themselves. It enables people to be the very best they can be mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. There are pros and cons to CrossFit if you’re not smart about it. If you are, there are only pros. All the best.