MARCH 2017: David Roy: Staying Active, From Fencing to Fran
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month David Roy is a program manager for regulatory projects at Citigroup, and lives in Westchester with his wife and two sons, ages 8 and 4. David talked with CrossFit 914’s writer Katie Karpenstein about finding new motivation to work out and learn new skills after years of a dull routine at conventional gyms.
Like many CrossFit 914 members, you were a competitive athlete in high school and college. I’m not sure we have any other fencers, though! Maybe not. I grew up in Northern NJ, and fenced there in high school. In college, I had the opportunity to work with one of the best fencing coaches in the country, who coached the US Fencing Team at four Olympic Games. I learned a lot from him. He had unusual methods, like incorporating yoga into our training, something I’d never done before. We had a good team, and we placed 6th at the NCAAs my senior year. But once I graduated, after eight years of hard training, I was burned out and ready to stop. After that I joined various conventional gyms around the city. I got to the gym a few times a week and didn’t have any real plan or programming. I tried to lift weights, run on the treadmill, stuff like that. I also ran outside. That was my routine for a long time.
How’d you end up coming to 914?
I like to try things that make me uncomfortable. When I first heard about CrossFit, I thought, “That looks really uncomfortable, and like it’s something I wouldn’t be good at.” So I wanted to give it a shot. I had just started new job, and my wife was pregnant with our second child. I pretty much picked this particular box because of the schedule; I needed a 5:30am class to be able to get to work on time in the city, and to be able to have family time at night. I only realized later on how variable the coaching and community can be from box to box, so I got lucky stumbling into what I think is the best one in the area. And I’m also lucky to have a very understanding wife who tolerates me getting up at 4:30am.
What was it like when you first started?
It was humbling. I thought I was in decent shape, but this took it to a new level. And I had worked out in the morning for several years, but was never able to motivate to get out of bed quite that early. I wanted to make those 5:30 classes because it was exciting to see what other people have gotten better at, and to push myself to learn all these new skills. It took me maybe six months to get the hang of some of the movements. At first, my cleans looked like a wrestling match with bar. And I’d be stumbling around like a newborn giraffe after every WOD. The first year is exciting because everything is a PR.
What were some achievements in the box that were particularly exciting for you? And what’s hardest?
It took me a while to get kipping pull-ups and to be able to string them together. Once I got it, it was a great feeling. And the one muscle-up I was ever able to get was in the open last year, that felt good.
I’m decent at straight strength and pure cardio. Strength endurance is not my strong suit, so that’s something I want to work on. Mainly my focus is on durability. I want to be able to keep doing this for the next ten, twenty years. Two years ago I hurt my back on a not-very-heavy clean, because my form hadn’t been right. It made me realize I don’t recover as well as I used to, and that I need to take care of myself. It also made me realize that I suck at moderation, but that moderation is important for my long-term ability to work out.
Aside from getting you into better shape, how has the box affected your life?
It’s had a big impact on my life. On the days I work out, even if the rest of day goes completely sideways, I know I got a tough workout in so I’ve got at least one win for the day. And being fit at my age has all these little ripple effects on everything. My eight-year-old weighs 60 pounds and is always asking for piggy back rides. It’s nice to be able to say yes. Coming to the gym takes a chunk of time out of my day, but the energy boost more than makes up for it, and I think my whole family benefits.
JANUARY 2017: Laura Cruz: Reaching A New Level After a Lifetime of Fitness
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month Laura Cruz is the Chief Information Officer at MacAndrews & Forbes, LLC. Laura talked with CrossFit 914’s writer Katie Karpenstein about reaching a level of fitness she never thought possible after joining CrossFit 914.
Did you work out at all before joining CrossFit 914?
I’ve been exercising my whole life. I was a competitive swimmer growing up, through college. I had never really felt stress until after I graduated and I no longer had the swimming training regimen. I realized that the exercise, and being in the water and being able to think things through, had been really important for my stress management. I joined a gym, but later when I had kids getting to the gym was challenging. I started doing at-home workouts like Beach Body, P90X, and spin classes at home.
You did spin classes at home? You were ahead of the trend!
I was really into road biking then, but again that became hard once I had kids. So I found these Spinnerval workouts, where you can mount your bike on a trainer and do the in-home classes off the DVD.
What made you decide on CrossFit?Before I got married and had kids, I lived in the city and had a friend who I used to bike and work out with. She moved to Colorado and started doing CrossFit, and for a year she kept saying, “You’ve gotta do this, you’re going to love it, it’s so your personality.” I took one session at another gym, but I needed early morning classes. I discovered that CrossFit 914 offers 5:30am, and that’s what got me in the door here.
How did it go when you joined?I remember when I first started I thought I was in pretty good shape, I could do two or three rounds of P90x and Insanity no problem. I went for the first trial class and it was very humbling. “So much for thinking I’m in shape,” I thought.
So how long did it take you to get to the point where you weren’t dying after every workout?
I’m still trying to find that. I mean that’s the thing about CrossFit, and I say this to everyone who’s new- you’re always exhausted, you’re always feeling like you just started, because you should always be pushing yourself to new limits. I’m always struggling, because I’m always trying to push to higher weights, faster times, or to beat this person or that person. It’s always humbling, and there’s always somebody better- much better.
What difference has CrossFit made in your life?
It’s completely changed my life. I love CrossFit, I love everything it does for me. It’s my therapy, and it’s very social. I love the people there, it really does feel like an extended family. I’m a full-time professional with two kids, and I make the time for this because it’s important. I come in almost every day at 5:30 am to get my workout in. I think it sets a good example for my kids, too. They see their dad and I exercising and taking care of ourselves, and that becomes part of the family culture.
And my body has completely changed. I’ve been a lifetime dieter and a lifetime athlete, but it’s really tightened my core, and I haven’t had any back issues since I started CrossFit. I just feel so much stronger, so much more confident, like I can do anything. There are so many things that I’ve done that I never thought I would have been able to do. Like handstand pushups. I never even thought I could get myself upside down, let alone push into a pushup while upside down.
Also, I went through a period of time where I had serious auto-immune issues, and I was getting tendonitis left and right. This made me realize the importance of diet along with the exercise. I was able to solve my health issues through diet, and now the inflammation I have is much better.
The last year has been phenomenal for me, emotionally and physically. I was turning 50 and I set some goals. One was to be able to do pull-ups without a band by the time I was 50. There was a part of me that didn’t really think I could do it. But with the great coaching at 914, and everyone telling me that I could definitely do it, I went for it- and I strung together five unassisted pull-ups before my 50th birthday. I’ve also made a lot of changes to my eating this year. For me, a macro-counting diet has worked better than anything else. Finding the right way to eat has given me the energy and endurance to accomplish more in the gym, and to achieve things I didn’t even plan on achieving. I’m RXing workouts all of a sudden.
There were people who said to me, “You’re a woman, you’ve had children, you’re middle-aged, and so you’re never going to get rid of that belly.” And there was this idea that your body type is what it is, and that you need to be heavy in order to be strong. Now I’m so much leaner, and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. And now, at the age of 50, I actually have a six pack of abs.
What are some of your goals moving forward?
Let’s see. I’m working on toes-to-bar, and getting under my snatches better. I had the goal to string double-unders together this year, but I actually got them this week. So now I guess I need a new goal.
DECEMBER 2016: Tommy Golden: After Military and Police Training, Discovering New Skills
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month Tommy Golden is a New York City police officer. Tommy talked with CrossFit 914’s writer Katie Karpenstein about how he joined the gym and found some skills he never thought he’d enjoy.
When did you first join CrossFit 914?
I started in February of this year. Before this I just did cardio — only running. I never lifted a weight until I got here.
What made you decide to come?
My girlfriend, Cheryl. She’s been doing CrossFit for a few years. She asked me for a long time to try it, but I would just say “No, no, not for me.” Finally, I tried a box in the Bronx, and I didn’t like it. The coaches didn’t really get involved, they didn’t teach technique. They would tell you the WOD, and then just hang out while you did it. There was no energy in the place. So I went back to running. But Cheryl wouldn’t leave me alone about trying 914, so I finally gave it a try. Mark was my elements coach, and he’s great. I started taking his class regularly, and was hooked. I’m really comfortable with Mark, but Cheryl knows I’m a creature of habit so she encouraged me to try other coaches too. I branched out into Mike’s class, where I got some different pointers and different views. Mike is impressive as an athlete and a coach, so learning from him is always valuable.
What do you like about CrossFit as compared with running?
I like working out with other people, and the training we get from all the different coaches. The camaraderie makes it exciting. I like how you keep track of your scores so you can see when you’re getting better. And it’s motivating seeing the progression. They say your first year you see the most, so I’m enjoying that.
What’s your favorite thing to do?
I like muscle ups, since I just got my first one a few weeks ago. Now I’m happy when I see one in a workout because I can actually do them. I really want to get to the rings soon. I like squat cleans too. Anything overhead I’m pretty weak so I’m working on that. I seem to do well with the gymnastics movements, and I never thought that would be the case. I didn’t do anything like gymnastics growing up.
What do you do for work?
I’m a Police Officer in New York City. I worked in the Bronx for four years, then Brooklyn. Now I’m in Manhattan by the World Trade Center, helping keep it safe over there. Prior to the police department I was in the army. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world; I got a lot out of it. It’s good for kids like me. I joined a few months after high school; I wasn’t interested in going to college. That was a year before 9/11. When that happened I was stationed in upstate New York, and a lot of our units were sent to Afghanistan. One unit stayed back and that happened to be mine. So we got lucky. After that, I was out in Fort Drum for three years, and then Korea. Our unit went straight from Korea to Iraq, and we were there from 2004 to 2005. I had signed up for four years but ended doing five. After that I was discharged and made my way to New York to join the NYPD.
So you have a new baby coming. What is it like seeing Cheryl work out as she progresses with her pregnancy?
She does great. I think it’s awesome. She’s trying to stay in shape as much as possible. I think she does a great job – at 26 weeks she’s still stronger than half the people in class. Sometimes when I don’t feel like going to class, I see that she’s going in and it’s like “Well, I guess I have to go now. I have no excuse.” That’s the great thing about CrossFit. You have all kinds of people and everyone’s encouraging in their own way. No one really knows they’re motivating each another, but everyone is. It helps all of us to keep coming and stay fit.
November 2016: Marina Caminita: After Injury, A Competitor Once More
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month Marina Caminita is a student at Mercy College who coaches figure skating at Westchester Skating Academy. Marina talked with CrossFit 914’s writer Katie Karpenstein about her journey from competitive figure skater to rising CrossFit star.
When did you first join CrossFit 914?
In high school I was a figure skater, and my friend Kelly Green skated with me. She and her mom said, “You gotta try this CrossFit thing, it’s so cool.” So in maybe 9th or 10th grade I started coming and I liked it a lot, and it helped improve my strength for skating. My skating training schedule was intense- I trained six times a week, including before and after school, and then I fit in the CrossFit workouts on top of that. But about a year later I got a stress fracture in my foot from a jump during skating. I was getting bad knees from it too; I can still tell when it’s going to rain because my knees will ache. So my Junior year in high school I had to stop skating, and I stopped the CrossFit too. I was still teaching though, working with kids at Westchester Skating Academy.
After I stopped skating I was still fairly active for a while — I would go to the gym and stuff — but once I started my freshman year at UMass I really dropped off. It was a 15 minute walk to the gym, and a lot of the year it was cold and snowy. There were a lot of easy excuses not to go, and I got stuck in a rut. I was in really bad shape. I wasn’t working out, I wasn’t doing anything, and I felt awful. I also wasn’t teaching skating any more and I really missed that. I was used to being in such good shape from skating. I hated feeling so low energy, and I just didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t want to go out or do anything.
Later I transferred to Mercy college in Dobbs Ferry, and Kelly encouraged me to come back and give CrossFit another try. Then I got mono and got in even worse shape — I felt gross! That’s what finally motivated me to come back. I started back at CrossFit 914 in February of this year. Starting was hard; I felt so out of shape. The first week I was falling down the steps after every workout. But after that it started getting a little better. Once I started getting back into shape, I was so happy.
Being back in the area, I could start teaching skating again too. Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford is where I trained since the age of four, so it’s like my second home. I teach kids from age three til around 16. I like working with kids, and it’s also nice to get to do what I love and get paid for it.
What are your favorite things to do at the gym?
Definitely not running. I like squat cleans, and I actually like rowing. I hadn’t done a lot of weight stuff when I was in training for skating, and I really like doing that. I like having a goal. You don’t really feel like you’re working out, because you’re thinking, “I want to get a new PR,” or “I want to get to where I can do an RX workout.” I missed the competition in skating, so I’m really enjoying the competitive aspect of CrossFit. I come in five or six days a week.
Doing the in-house competition was a lot of fun too. I wasn’t sure whether I should do it. I also didn’t have a partner, but Mike said “I’ll find you a partner!” Eileen and I were both kind of new so we called our team “The Newbies.” I wasn’t really expecting to win, I just wanted to have fun. But after the first event we did really well, and I looked at the board like “Oh, cool!” and then on the second one we did well too, so by the third one I was like, “Alright, now we really have to try to win.” We ended up winning the scaled division which was exciting.
What are your plans so far for after college?
At UMass I was studying sports management, but it was too businessy for me. It’s part of their business school, and it’s more about sports law or being an agent. So now I’m studying exercise science. I also like fashion and design, so I’m thinking about combining the two. I’d like to design performance enhancement apparel, something like that.
Cool. We need a lower cost alternative to Lulu.
I know! If I go into that field, I’ll make sure to hook you guys up.
June 2016: Shan Wade: Consistency Pays Off
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month Shan Wade owns a home care company that provides care for seniors. He’s been a CrossFit 914 member for about two years. Shan talked with CrossFit 914’s writer Katie Karpenstein about how he went from an occasional CrossFitter to an all-in member at the Box.
What did you do for exercise before joining 914?
Mostly just basketball, I would go two or three times a week. In high school and college I also swam and played tennis. But I never really got into going to a gym after that. I hate running. My wife Lisa had been coming to 914 for a while, and she thought I would like the competitive part of CrossFit. She got me to go to the intro class along with two other husbands, then I was on and off for various reasons for about a year and a half. About six months ago I started coming more consistently.
What made you decide to step it up?
I always had the intention of working out more, but things got in the way- there’d be a vacation, or I’d get sick. My wife and I have three kids — six, three, and 16 months — so that makes it hard also. But I realized it was really difficult to get back into CrossFit if I wasn’t doing it consistently. Then I started to get a little bit better, and I found I could finally do things like handstand pushups. I started feeling more confident about it and then I wanted to do even better. Seeing results was a huge motivation. Then I thought, “Okay, maybe this does make sense for me, maybe I do want to do Murph this year, maybe I want to do a competition or something like that.”
Yeah, CrossFit is kind of “Do or do not” – if you just dabble in it, that doesn’t tend to work as well.
Exactly. If you only go every once in a while, when you do go you’re sore for days. Once I got consistent I hit that inflection point where it started clicking, and it started getting fun, not like “Oh crap I gotta go today.” And instead of waiting for the perfect conditions for me to be able to come to class, I just started throwing my clothes in a bag and getting there. If I had to run to a meeting afterwards I would do that. Once I made CrossFit a priority and started thinking of it as something I had to do, it worked a lot better.
So did you do Murph this year?
I did. It was my first time. I’m really competitive so if I did it I wanted to have some kind of goal. I wanted to do it under 55 minutes, I thought that was reasonable for me. And I ended up doing it in like 45 and change, so I’m still shocked, I didn’t think I would do that well. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s got me that much more committed to CrossFit, because now I know I can do it. And Lisa and the kids came, and they were cheering me on as I was running down the street which was cool. That’s another thing I like about 914- the family atmosphere. I brought my oldest to the open, too. It’s cool for them to see you doing something like this.
I agree! We’re always asking our kids to do things that are hard for them, and I think it’s good for them to see us challenge ourselves, to see us struggle.
Yeah. My kids have only been to see me a few times but it made a huge impression. They talk about it all the time.
It must be challenging trying to find time to come in between work and three young kids.
It’s tough. I used to come to class at 6:30 or 7:30 at night so I could get a full day of work in, but the kids go to bed at 7 and I wanted to be there to see them. So then I started morning classes, or I’ll come at noon if I don’t have a meeting at that time. I’ll just fit it in whenever I can. 914 has a lot of options so I can come in four to five times a week and it’s not too hard to find at least one time each day that works for me.
What are your favorite things to work on at the gym?
A lot of the skill stuff that I couldn’t do before, like handstand pushups. Six months ago I was using bands for pull-ups, now I’m not using a band. And I got my first muscle-up without a band during the open. I didn’t use a band for Murph. Seeing that progress is fun. Anything that’s challenging is the fun part for me. And I like the concentration on form here. There was a guy in here last week in the station next to me, it was his first day here but he had done CrossFit at other places. He was tired just from the warm-up. He was like “Wait, there’s still the workout left?” Here, you get warmed up and they’re paying attention to your form the whole time. I feel like it decreases your chances of getting hurt. Actually I had back issues before coming here and CrossFit has pretty much cleared them up. Building up my core has helped a lot. I’m constantly lifting my kids up, and now I can do that without moaning and groaning. I want them to see me having the energy to be with them, not sitting on the couch.
March 2016: Monica Healy: Staying Strong During Pregnancy and Motherhood
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month Monica Healy performs clinical trials for a healthcare company, and has been a CrossFit 914 member for about two years. We spoke with Monica about how CrossFit helped her during her transition into motherhood.
We all love seeing your little baby Colette at the gym, usually on dad’s lap while you work out or vice versa. How often are you able to get to the gym?
Brendan and I go a minimum of two times a week, and we try to get three. It isn’t easy juggling work schedules with childcare. There are some weeks we get in four times, which feels like a small victory — I always want confetti to fly off. I know once she’s older we’ll be able to do more, but for now this works and I’m happy with that.
What was it like when you first started at the gym?
I started in June and got pregnant that fall, so I’d only been working out for two months. I had this “Oh crap” moment. I thought, “Can I continue? I really haven’t been doing it that long, and I’m not comfortable with all the movements yet.” Mike and Shari were actually the first people we told that we were pregnant because I wanted to find out if I could keep doing CrossFit and if they would feel comfortable training me. There was another woman at the gym who had worked out while pregnant, so they got me in contact with her. She assured me that I could do it, and that I just needed to listen to my body and do only what felt okay.
Both Mike and Shari were very much on board, and excited to have me keep going. It was nice to have that sense of people having my back and believing in me. It seemed like they enjoyed the challenge of modifying the workouts as my pregnancy progressed – and so did I. If there were burpees in a WOD, they’d have me do pushups instead of going all the way to the floor, or if there were box jumps I would do step ups, so I was scaling in a way that worked for me. I was still able to do most of the movements, and was able to keep coming to WODs until I was 39 weeks pregnant.
Do you feel like it made a difference in your pregnancy?
I like to think that it did. I never really felt tired like most people do in their first trimester. I don’t know if it’s because I was in better shape, or if it was just that I knew that I was going to go to work, then go to the gym, then go home, and I never had an excuse to just sit around and be tired. I think it helped my mental toughness, too. And I definitely ate better than I think I would have.
Were you surprised that Mike and Shari were cool with you continuing to work out? People can be so skittish about pregnant women doing anything, let alone working out.
When I first got pregnant, I had mentioned to my original doctor that I was planning to continue doing CrossFit and she was very apprehensive about it. She said, “Make sure you don’t get your heart rate up.” I thought, “I can get my heart rate up just walking, so am I supposed to be on bed rest? Get outta here!” Since my doc doesn’t attend births anyway, I joined a midwifery practice in White Plains. They were very supportive. They just said, “Listen to your body and make sure you’re not doing anything crazy. After six months, don’t put on heavy weights, and do only what you’re comfortably able to do.”
How was the birth for you?
It was pretty rough. I was in labor – unmedicated — for over 36 hours. I got to nine centimeters, but she wasn’t descending. I received an epidural so I could rest, but unfortunately she still was still nice and cozy. I ended up having a cesarean. It was a shock. Before the birth, I’d felt so good during pregnancy I thought I’d be back in the gym after six or eight weeks, just pop back in like, “I got this.” But physically and mentally recovering from surgery took longer than anticipated.
When did you end up starting to work out again?
About four months after her birth, I went back to work and to the gym. It was so hard. After every workout it felt like I’d been hit by a truck. It was like I’d never worked out before, never done CrossFit. I had no core. I felt totally defeated. I remember coming home and saying to Brendan, “I don’t want to do this any more, it shouldn’t be this hard.”
But I had a few talks with Mike, and he basically said, “Look, it’s going to suck, it’s going to be awful for the next few weeks, but you need to just do it. You’re going to persevere, and you’re going to get it back, don’t worry. You just have to stick with it.” So, I kept going, but it wasn’t easy. I definitely shed a few tears. Just picking up an empty bar felt heavy, everything felt so uncomfortable. But eventually it started getting better.
How long did it take before you felt like you could do the WODs without a lot of special scaling?
I guess I would say just recently, which means it’s been about nine months. Now I feel like I can lift heavier things and I’m OK with it. The main challenge now is finding the time to work on those skills I know I need to work on, like getting into a lower band on pull-ups. There are all these things I know I’m capable of, I just have to dedicate the time. Finding that work-life-gym balance is tricky.
These recent workouts have been great, where we find our max and then work off that for a few months. I like them because I can see my progress from week to week. Even if I’m starting at a low weight, I can see the numbers start to go up and feel like I’m getting somewhere.
When you go to a regular gym you’re just going to work out, maybe lose a few pounds. I think what’s fascinated me about CrossFit is that you’re going there for more than just a workout, more than just checking that box off your to-do list. You’re seeing how far you can push yourself. And then you can use that toughness in your everyday world, at home, at work. You face some challenge, and instead of saying “It’s too hard,” you start to think, “I really can do this. I never thought I could squat 120 pounds, but today I did. Maybe I can also do something else I didn’t think I was capable of.”
February 2016: Jordan Rossi: Staying in Shape to Keep NYC’s Streets Safe
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month Jordan Rossi is a police officer with the New York Police Department, and has been a CrossFit 914 member for a year and a half. We spoke with Jordan about the role CrossFit has played in his life.
Your work as a police officer must be physically demanding. What did you do to stay in shape before joining CrossFit 914?
I did some CrossFit on and off at another gym, but mostly I worked out at a conventional gym. It was OK, but you don’t get the edge that you have here. There, you’re just kinda going through the motions on your own, but here, everyone’s very encouraging. I had a few friends that went to 914 and they told me it was great.
I felt like it was time for a change, so I decided to check it out. There’s actually a CrossFit gym right around the corner from where I work and I tried it before coming here. They have like 40 people in a class, where here we have a max of 12. There’s no way you can get quality coaching in a class that size. The coaches here really know their stuff, too. They don’t let you get away with anything.
Do you feel like doing CrossFit helps you with your work?
Absolutely. We have to do things like lifting people up who need medical aid, running after suspects, going up and down stairs, jumping over turnstiles, going up staircases in high rise buildings. We wear about 35 to 45 pounds of equipment, too. Having the core strength and the cardio from working out here makes a huge difference. When I was working out at a regular gym I just worked on sheer strength with the weights. When I first started at the police department I weighed like 220, 225, and I could bench press over 400 pounds, but I couldn’t run half a mile. I was working out every day but it was all strength. There were many times where I was running to a call and I was dying by the time I got there. Once I started CrossFit, I was blowing by everybody else.
What kind of changes have you noticed in your life since you started?
I feel accomplished every day. I come in here, and I try to kill every workout. I set goals for myself and exceed them every time. I enjoy being around the people here, it’s just a good time. You accomplish more than you ever could have thought, just because of everyone helping you. And it’s helpful for dealing with stress, too. Every job we go to, we’re seeing people who are having probably the worst day of their life. Whether it’s a medical emergency, or they got robbed, if someone’s calling us they’re not having a good day. It can be hard for cops to deal with all that stress. But at the end of the day I can come here, everything shuts off, and I kind of reset. Right before I came here I broke my hand and I couldn’t work out for three months. That’s when I really realized how much working out helps my mental health. Once I started here, I just felt so much better.
What are some of your favorite things to work on at the gym?
At the beginning, I liked pull-ups and push-ups, things I was already really good at. I used to like when we had those in workouts because I could be on par with people who’d been doing CrossFit for longer. I had more trouble with the Olympic lifts and gymnastic stuff, because I didn’t have the technique yet. But now, I like heavy squatting. I continue making big gains with my squats and now all I want to do is legs. Some guys I know, I bust their chops because all they do is arms, and they’ll maybe do legs once a week. But working out here, my squats have gone up by a hundred pounds since I started. A lot of that is the coaching. You have coaches who are tweaking your form even while you’re going down, and you’ve got spotters helping you through it. We have a lot of strong people here. In yesterday’s workout I had Natalie and Poe spotting me for the heavy back squat, and Poe is like 5 foot tall, and I was 100% confident they would catch it for me if I failed the rep.
December 2015: Dong Nguyen: Setting Goals & Working Hard
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month Dong Nguyen has been a human resources manager for an IT staffing company for the past 11 years, and makes time to work out at the gym on a near-daily basis. We spoke with Dong about her changing views on exercise since joining the box.
You’ve been at CrossFit 914 for about a year and a half. What did you do for exercise before joining?
When I was growing up I played a little softball, not much though. My mom didn’t really approve of me playing sports- she would rather I spend my time on schoolwork and preparing for a career. She felt like sports were a waste of time. But for a while before joining 914 I did Karate at a place across the street. I wasn’t happy with the schedule there- the only option was after work and I’d rather work out in the morning. And I just didn’t feel like I was getting a great workout, so I wanted to try something new.
I had heard about CrossFit a few years ago, I’d read about it online and in magazines, but I was reluctant then to try it. I felt like it was expensive, and I was nervous about bulking up. In the past when I’ve used weight lifting machines at the gym I tend to bulk up quickly. But I saw CrossFit 914 in the neighborhood and decided to give it a try. And now I’m not worried about the bulk issue. For one thing, I’ve learned that you have to embrace the body that you have. I naturally have bigger shoulders. My sister has that slender body type and she will always be thin. I’m just more muscular.
What changes have you noticed in your life since starting CrossFit?
It’s so addicting! At the beginning of every workout I’m always dreading it, but then at the end I’m like, “Yes!” and I feel so great. I have a lot more energy, and my body is getting stronger and more fit. It’s been a positive influence all around for me.
What are some of your favorite movements?
I’m good at squatting. I like doing handstand pushups even though I’m not great at them, and I like double unders. I tend to like barbell work more than cardio work, like squat cleans, clean and jerk, those type of movements.
You’ve been here a relatively short time but you’re already RXing almost all the workouts- how did you get so strong so quickly?
I think part of it is that I’m always setting goals. The goal for my first year that I joined was to do an unassisted pull-up before the end of the year, so I worked hard on that. I think it was December 29 and I got two in during a workout. I was really happy. My goals right now are to get better at the gymnastics and the cardio. I just started getting kipping pull-ups this year, so next I want to get a chest-to-bar without a band. I need to learn to string together my toes-to-bar. Anyway, I think consistency is part of it too. I come five to six times a week, so I’m just going to improve faster than someone who’s coming two or three times a week. And my coaches are on me all the time. They know I like to take my long breaks so they’re on me like white on rice when they see me hiding in the corner during a workout. Even yesterday, I was taking a break and TJ started kicking the barbell towards me saying “Go, go!” The coaches here know what each of us can do, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and for me they know I need to be pushed a lot.
What has the whole community aspect of CrossFit been like for you?
It’s been great. I don’t have any family around here and a lot of my college friends are not local, so I feel like this has become my new family. You know, I’m here all the time, we hang out after work, everyone’s always throwing a party, so it’s lots of fun. Everyone’s very helpful and supportive, and we encourage each other.
October 2015: Joe Irizarry: Working Hard, Always with a Smile
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month Joe Irizarry is a fixture at the gym. He brings a positive attitude and sense of humor to every WOD he joins. We spoke with Joe about his 914 journey and the impact it’s had on his life.
How’d you get started at CrossFit 914?
I’ve been a member for two and a half years. I grew up pretty heavy- overweight. I always played sports, I played little league, high school football. I was athletic, but I was always a bigger kid. I started working out with a friend of mine maybe four years ago who was getting certified in CrossFit, so I kinda learned from him before I came here. Funny story- this friend and I were actually scoping out other gyms, thinking about opening one of our own, so we wanted to check out what was out there. But that didn’t work out, and meanwhile I really liked this place, 914. The schedule worked well for me, they had lots of times that fit into my day, so that was the initial appeal. But then I got to really appreciate the level of programming. It was so structured compared to where I was, with the stations and everything, and I liked that.
So you’ve belonged to more conventional gyms in the past too. How does your experience at CrossFit 914 compare with working out at a regular gym?
Yeah I worked out at my local gym sometimes. The regular gym is cool- you can go do your meathead stuff, bench press, stuff like that. I like this more because it’s a little more structured. I like the class atmosphere — it keeps you motivated. There’s a whole group there doing the same thing as you, and it makes you want to work harder. I’ve met some great folks at 914, people from all walks of life. I’ve formed some genuine friendships with people I would likely have never met.
Mike is great. When you do CrossFit you start to pay attention to what’s around. Mike is really well respected and known. Being a member here and travelling to other gyms, you can see that his coaching is top notch. He really knows every member and what they can do. The coaching is what keeps me coming back.
What’s your favorite type of WOD, and which one do you hate?
I like pullups. I like the barbell work a lot- I like going heavy. I like the Oly class a lot when I get to take that. Body weight stuff can be challenging for me since I’m a little heavier- the gymnastic stuff like toe to bar, muscle ups. And I’m not a big fan of thrusters.
What changes have you noticed in yourself since starting here?
The fact that you make it a priority to get your workout in, it makes you more disciplined in the rest of your life too. On your good weeks it might be some two a days. You can apply the atmosphere, the energy, and intensity to other areas of your life and it really helps. CrossFitters, we have a lot of confidence. We think we can do everything.
What do you do when you’re not at the box?
I own a bar so that takes up a lot of my time. We took it over six years ago, it was a total dive. We built up the money to transform it into a real player on the block. It’s called Dyckman Bar. I’m like a city kid, born and raised, and it’s nice seeing how the neighborhood has evolved. I work a day gig too in the beverage business. It’s a lot- it can be hard to find time for those workouts, but I try to make it a priority. I have a new baby, Kaylee, she’s about to be four months. Being a dad is amazing, it’s a lot of responsibility. It’s the most important thing now. CrossFit helps me deal with all the day-to-day stress. You forget about everything else for the hour, focus on the workout, get it done.
August 2015: Siobhan Murphy: Walking Her Own Path to Health
CrossFit 914 Athlete of the Month Siobhan Murphy struggled with failing health for a long time. After nine years of debilitating fatigue and other neurological symptoms doctors couldn’t explain, she was finally diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. We spoke with Siobhan about the role CrossFit played in her journey towards better health.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
It’s a neurological disorder. Basically my body is attacking itself and it’s breaking down the system that delivers information from my brain to my legs. So my brain will say, “OK, let’s take a step now,” but the message doesn’t get there right. It makes you really wobbly and unsteady. When I get fatigued I have to hold on to things to walk. I tell people, “I’m not drunk, I have MS!”
When I was younger I was really active. I did Irish Step Dancing, and actually made it to the championship in Ireland as a young teen. I got third place. But starting in 2000, after a knee surgery, I had all these bizarre symptoms. I had to sit down after walking just a little ways, my brain was fuzzy, I had to pee every half hour, and I was just exhausted all the time. I had a young baby at home and I was barely functioning.
When I finally got diagnosed with MS in 2009, I thought my life was over. But I picked myself up and decided to try to do something about it. I had already been working out with a personal trainer. I continued with that, but now he focused on trying to combat the MS. About a year later, I joined The Movement to Create a World Free of MS, which includes a leisurely 5K Walk. On the day of the walk, my group and I were ready to start and I couldn’t even take one step in the right direction. My legs were like jello. I couldn’t believe it. I’d been working out with the trainer twice a week for a year to try to prepare me for this event. But it didn’t work. I didn’t work. Doing this walk with the support of my friends, family, and fellow MSers had been my ultimate goal since the diagnosis. Instead, I was sitting on the sidelines watching them do it without me, feeling defeated and hopeless. I was devastated. But I was also determined. I felt like there had to be an answer out there somewhere.
What else did you try besides the work with the trainer?
I tried everything, pretty much. Exercise, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, Reiki, supplements, massage. They got me some temporary relief of my symptoms, but nothing brought me long lasting improvement. I even thought about trying this bee sting therapy I’d read about but never quite got that far.
How’d you end up coming to CF914?
I was at someone’s 40th birthday party and bumped into an old friend, Brenda. I’ve known her for years, we grew up in the close-knit Irish community around Yonkers and the Bronx. So at this party, I noticed she wasn’t drinking and she was taking the bread off her sandwich. I was like, “What the heck are you doing?” She told me she was eating paleo for a challenge at her CrossFit gym. It was interesting hearing about this paleo diet because it was really similar to a diet I’d read about to treat MS. I started the diet too, and she and I kept in touch about it. I lost nine pounds and started feeling a bit better. Meanwhile, Brenda kept nagging me to come to her gym, but I was reluctant. It sounded too intense for me. She kept sending me these articles about how CrossFit works great for people with MS because it builds neurological pathways. Finally I gave in and made an appointment for personal training with Mike.
What was it like when you started?
I will never forget that first day at CrossFit 914. I got to the gym and Mike told me my warm-up would begin upstairs. “Stairs are the hardest thing for me,” I groaned. “I hate stairs!” Mike just said, “You’ll learn to love them!” and up we went. He had me row on the rower, and in between I’d walk with him up and down the stairs. He had to walk in front of me, ready to catch me if I fell.
I soon dropped the other trainer and started seeing Mike twice a week. I also did workouts from home. I was immediately hooked. Mike could always tell just how far to push me. He instinctively knew what I was capable of doing even when I didn’t.
In April 2012, just two months after starting with Mike, I did a mile and a half of the 5K MS Walk. A year earlier, my limit on the treadmill was half a mile, and after that I’d lose my balance and collapse. That day I walked three times farther. Before, my friends and family did the walk for me when I couldn’t. Now I was walking for myself, setting my own path. It felt great.
What’s your life like now that you’ve been CrossFitting a few years?
After around six months of personal training I started doing the WODs with the groups. We scale them – I usually row instead of run, although I can run now which I never thought I could do. I still work out with Mike once a week, usually with Rita, a fellow MSer I brought in. I’m doing better with steps, I’m increasing the weight I can lift, and I’m doing pull-ups now with bands. Sometimes during the pull-ups my muscles just seize up and I fall off the bar, and Mike catches me. I told him once, “You may not be a baseball fan, but you’re a heck of a catcher.” I have a lot of faith and trust in him.
The improvements in my overall health have been amazing. Before, I couldn’t even go to the park with my kids because I’d be exhausted by the time I even got there. Pretty much everything in daily life was a challenge- walking up and down stairs, going shopping, laundry, dishes. I could only do a little before getting completely fatigued. Now, I’ll rest when I need to, and then afterwards I do have the energy to get up and around. My body is transforming in ways I never thought possible. My confidence is returning. I can enjoy my family like I had always hoped. Things are good at long last.
My family and friends, even my doctors ask me how I was able to transform so much and in such a short period of time. I tell them all, “It’s CrossFit, my new favorite pastime!” It’s not just a gym, it’s a whole support system, and it’s completely changed my life.
July 2015: Ken “The Beast” Bernstein
June’s “Athlete of the Month” Ken Bernstein was the very first member of CrossFit 914. We sat down with him to hear about his experiences with the box as it grew.
How did you end up becoming CF914’s first member?
My wife Debra and I had recently opened up our joint office space on Main Street in Irvington. My legal practice is based there and her optometry space is in the front. We live right around the corner. I noticed this new gym opening up across the street. I hadn’t really worked out at a gym for 20 years. I had been active in college- I rowed crew, played tennis. I worked out at the gym when I was at law school. Since then, my main exercise was running in the morning. But when this CrossFit place opened up, and it was right across the street, I felt like it was a sign. It was time to get more serious about getting into shape.
What was the box like back then?
It was tiny! It was a narrow storefront. There were maybe five or six of us in my morning class, all guys I think. We had neighbors living upstairs so we couldn’t drop the weights, it would make too much noise. Mike wasn’t too happy about that but he worked around it. He did a lot with that small space. We’d do wall balls and pull-ups inside, and then if the weather was good we’d take the bars outside to the parking lot. He sometimes had us jumping rope on the sidewalks, and we’d run up and down Main Street to the train with medicine balls on our shoulders. He’d use the space around us to help keep the workouts varied and interesting.
Why’d you stay with CF914 when it moved to its new, larger space in Elmsford?
Well, I joined up at first because it was close, but I stayed because I love it. I’ve visited other boxes while traveling and they don’t have the same camaraderie like we do at 914. It’s a great group. Also, the quality of the coaching at 914 is high. We never just jump into the workout, we have a long warm-up, stretching. The coaches make sure the technique is there so we don’t get hurt. Debra joined a few months after me, so now CrossFit is something we like to do together, too. Our daughter Drew also got involved before heading off to college, and our son Cole promises to give it a try this summer.
What’s your secret to sticking with the program for so long?
I make it a priority. I have my times when I go- usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:30, and sometimes I hit an Oly [Olympic Weightlifting] class. I schedule everything else around that.
What changes have you noticed in yourself since starting with CF 914?
Everything. My whole body has changed. I feel a lot healthier, I have more energy. Any time I have anxiety from other things, like work, after a WOD I feel so much better. When you’re there it’s hard to even think about anything else, you get so focused on what you’re doing. And being in good shape like this, I have an active life. I play ultimate Frisbee on Saturday mornings, I go kayaking, I play tennis. It’s great.