From Mike Lail:
In the Fall of 2013, I realized I needed to make a change in lifestyle to improve my health. I
basically tried to cut out sugar (I thought) and most gluten. While this was working to a
certain degree, in January 2014 I started on a Paleo nutrition path. For about 3 months, I
was very bare bones, original Robb Wolf Paleo kind of strict (well, minus an occasional,
periodic, sometime often, consumption of wine). I eventually eased off being so strict and reintroduced
some carbs (rice & potatoes) but continue to stay away from gluten.
At the beginning of 2014, my simple goal was to be “more fit” by the time I turned 50 (in July).
In my mind, that did not include intense exercise, only diet and occasional exercise. In learning about Paleo, the mention of CrossFit seemed to be in every other article, blog or website I found. To someone who had not consistently worked out and was approaching 50, CrossFit sounded scary, horrible and a good way to get hurt. However, I thought it might be what I needed. I wondered if I could even do it. My knees hurt and popped with every step and I knew I was weak.
So, I start researching CrossFit (CF) in Atlanta and CrossFit Atlanta (CFATL) kept coming popping up with every search. So, I hit the website and started reading. The bios of the owner, Dan McDougald, and the other Coaches, showed, what appeared to be (what did I know?), a depth of knowledge and experience, in CF, Olympic lifting, mobility, running, etc. that was immense. They are or have been games competitors or judges and the connection to CF HQ seemed a common theme. It all could’ve been BS, since I really had no idea what this meant except it made me think, “they’ll help me not get hurt, maybe”.
So, I drove past about 8 other CF gyms and finally arrived at CFATL for my fundamentals sessions with an amazing young Coach, Benji Hoover. Thankfully Benji has patience! My first few days were interesting and fun and then one day after what seemed like over an hour of working out, Benji said it was time to do the workout. UHHHHHHH, I thought that’s what we just did? The next thing I know, I am sweating profusely, out of breathe and not able to talk. I remember having a hard time driving my car after that initial “workout”.
I am now approaching 6 months at CFATL and I am amazed at what has happened! In my initial few months of Paleo, I dropped about 15lbs. I lost another 5 or so a few weeks into CF and have pretty much maintained that weight. However, I’ve basically stopped worrying about my weight because as I am able to increase the intensity of my CF workouts, my body continues to change, improve.
The strength/lifting aspect of CF was 100% new to me. It can be intimidating at times, but I love it. Learning the movements is fun, but can be hard and sometimes confusing. It’s easy for me to over think all that has to be done to get a lifting movement correct. Enter the Coaches! Our Coaches are watching so closely, they’ll catch me before I start if my set up is off or will provide feedback if the movement needs even the slightest of adjustment. I am amazed at how they see it, but they do.
I’ve come a long way but compared to most in our CFATL community, I am old, still a “newbie”, slow & weak (no RX yet), I don’t know all the workout or lifting movements, but I’m getting there. I sometimes have no idea how I am going to get through the workout but the next thing I know, it’s 15 minutes later and I am lying on the floor in this weird agony, trying to find a breath and, strangely, so happy. The Coaching gets me there every time!
From my experience, the most amazing thing about CFATL is the people in this place. The Coaches & mentors I have experienced so far . . . mostly Benji, Mandy, Dan, all share an amazing amount of experience & knowledge and exhibit a ton of patience. I know the other Coaches are the same. They all truly care about each member’s fitness and health and promote when PR’s and goals are met. I also love the amazing support from fellow workout partners; those who are expressive and those who only give a fist pump. When all else are finished and I am trying to get through the workout, the one who finished first is often still
there rooting me on (and she could’ve left 8 minutes ago).
Thank you CrossFit Atlanta! I have a long way to go but I am now stronger, my knees no
longer hurt or pop and I am definitely more fit!
Richard Zapata, age 43.
Jim E., age 59.
Around noontime on a Saturday last July, my daughter Jennifer and I were sitting around at the computer when I punched up the CrossFit website. A friend, Jim Thomas, had been after me to try it but I had created a thousand reasons to defer. I thought I knew enough about how to keep fit, having a C2 and some weights in my basement, having run for 41 years, and having practiced Astanga yoga for more than 10 years at Atlanta Yoga, right around the corner from CFA’s old location. I had seen the crazy people at “CrossFit” pulling tires up the hill in front of our Yoga Shala on 9th Street and just had to shake my head. [Editor’s note: we used to call this “Creating Shock & Awe at Atlanta Yoga.”]
The gym website said there was an open house till 1, so Jenni and I got in the car and went. We did not do a workout, but we talked to some of the people there about the workouts they do and their culture. We came back Monday morning and were hooked. Although these folks and their gym was great, my friend Jim informed me that I was inadvertently going to the wrong box. So the following Monday we both showed up at CrossFit Atlanta and met Dan and his trainers. From the first minute, we could see that we had found something really special. My wife Nancy, who used to run hurdles at UVA back in the 70’s, started coming in September (I proposed to her after we had finished a 30 mile bike ride through the Blue Ridge foothills around Charlottesville back then, whereupon I figured she made the grade in every way – she still does!) We are regulars.
Over the years (I am 59) I have enjoyed the pleasure of being in a few organizations that focus on excellence and winning. Those include the Naval Academy; an award winning squadron in the Navy; instructing at the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school for training pilots to survive as POW’s; harrowing episodes at UVA law school; and the sustained and bone grinding effort it takes to be and stay a partner and a contributor at a large law firm. People in such organizations, in my experience, seem to be intense, persistent, technically professional, humorous (often funny as hell), and dedicated to quality in an uncompromising way. Many of them are naturally generous and self confident in the way they operate, and they understand the fundamental truth that the more you give, the more you get. They make you want to work hard to keep the standard high. By now I know such organizations when I see them, and when I came to CFA I knew I was looking at the real thing.
There are so many people at CFA to thank, but I wanted to especially to thank Dan, Mike K and Brent W. Dan has the grounded perspective, rigor, drive to win, dedication to technical perfection, great sense of humor and endless great stories that only a long time trial lawyer can have. You have to see to understand how a leader like this can radically affect a culture and a winning team. Mike K is out just out of college, but he commands my total respect as a man beyond his years with his excellent coaching, relentlessly positive nature, clever wit, huge life force and ability to spark the energy and excitement level in the gym even early in the morning. Brent is a naturally excellent coach – understated yet encouraging, patient, strong on technique and ability to get me to do the lifts correctly without trashing myself. My respect for him is what caused me to do the recent paleo challenge, even though I had been a lifelong believer, as a marathoner, triathlete and mountain climber, in the power of carbs. At the end of the challenge I could not believe the difference in the performance and the before and after pictures and measurements.
It has been amazing to watch Nancy over the last months, as we train together in the a.m. several days a week. She has gained immensely in strength, looks even better in jeans, and the size of her biceps in her paleo challenge after-pictures remind me I should beware of talking back to her. Our cuisine around the house has taken a new direction, away from food as an end in itself and toward an understanding that it’s one element that needs to be carefully controlled in the greater cause of health and fitness. It is not possible to understand that without doing it, and we have the good people of CFA to thank for that.
In summary, many people know how great a worldwide phenomenon CrossFit has recently become, as new science and the power and energy of a young generation drive the fitness model in the direction Coach Glassman somehow figured out several years ago. There are many affiliates I could go to, and I just want to say how happy and grateful I am that I found the real deal among real deals, CrossFit Atlanta.
Steve N., age 44
I have been interested in fitness all of my life. When I first heard about CrossFit, I had 20+ years of running, bike racing, triathlons, and tennis under my belt. I was looking for a change of pace and thought CrossFit might be the ticket to mix up my workout routine a little. In surfing around the web, looking at CrossFit Affiliates in Atlanta, CrossFit Atlanta kept coming up, so I decided to give it a try.
I felt like I was pretty fit already — over the years I had run marathons, ultramarathons, done IronMan distance triathlons and 100 mile mountain bike races. After you’ve finished a couple of 12+ hour races, how bad could a ten minute workout be? Wow, did I have a lot to learn about intensity!
I pretty quickly learned that my idea of being “fit” amounted to a small portion of CrossFit’s idea of fitness. I did great on the longer (20+ minute) workouts that involved running or rowing. Anything shorter than 20 minutes, or that involved my upper body — not so much. Early on, I was alternately excited and discouraged. Excited, because I was seeing improvement literally every week, especially in the upper body and full body exercises. Discouraged, because it seemed like I was NEVER going to be able to do any of the workouts Rx (as prescribed); I was always having to scale weights or reps down. One of the appealing things for me about CrossFit is that every workout is measured in some way and written down on a whiteboard in the gym and in your own workout log. So literally every day you are comparing yourself to previous performances and with other folks coming into the gym. I love to compete and improve, so this pulled me right in.
I kept coming back, and saw steady progress. Initially, I thought I’d be able to CrossFit in addition to my running mileage, but found that I just couldn’t keep both up, so I dialed back the running to about two days a week. To my surprise, with the lower mileage, I started PRing again in races after being stuck on a plateau for a couple of years. I also started winning more tennis matches — I was moving quicker on the court and just wasn’t getting tired any more in matches.
After two years of CrossFit, I’m still getting PRs in the gym. I’ve also learned a lot from the trainers and other members. I had a pretty poor diet when I started CrossFit — way too much junk food. At some point, I realized that if I wanted to keep progressing, I needed to fix my diet. I’ve gradually cut all of the junk out and now mostly eat fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. I feel better, sleep better, and had excellent blood chemistry in my last physical. My only regret is that I didn’t find CrossFit, and CrossFit Atlanta sooner! I’ll be turning 44 this year and feel like I’m fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been. I’ve very much enjoyed my time with CrossFit Atlanta and will keep coming as long as you keep opening the doors. I love the fact that I can walk into the gym and know everyone by name.
Krista V., age 23
Growing up I generally disliked sports and the associated workouts. I was never fast enough (in swimming, running, etc) to actually be good so I drifted towards sports where being good was more about skill. During college I stopped doing sports, and tried to run to keep in shape but it always sucked (I\’m not much of a runner).
A year and a half ago, after I graduated from college and started a desk job, I went in for a physical at my doctor’s office and found out I had gained a pretty decent chunk of weight. I went off the deep end for a few months, running every day, eating lots of salads, and then ran out of steam. The lifestyle sucked and wasn\’t sustainable. So I started looking around for something I could do for myself that would be fun, competitive, challenging, that I could get good at and that I would stick with. Found the CrossFit HQ website and started looking for a gym nearby.
Atlanta has many CrossFit gyms, but when I went toCrossFit Atlanta’s site the sense of community was so strong (paintball groups, water-rafting, etc.), I knew that’s where I wanted to go. Almost 8 months later, I’ve participated in the gym’s Paleo-challenge (which has been fantastic!), achieved my unassisted pull-up, and am almost certain of the Olympic lifting terms. I look and feel better now than I have in years, and I have a wonderful “gym-family”.
My Road to CroossFit Atlanta
Picture it: October 1, 2009. The leaves were changing, the temperature was cooling, and I was going to the doctor for a physical. I hadn’t had a check-up in years. My wife — a doctor herself and the smartest person I know — thought I should get checked out to make sure everything was okay. I thought she was being silly. After all, I didn’t feel bad, so why should I waste a morning at the doctor’s office on my day off when I instead could sleep in, or watch TV, or sleep in and watch TV? You probably know where this is going.
I met Dr. Dunlevie. He checked me out, and then he dropped the first of two bombshells. For my height, he said I was just shy of meeting the standard for obesity. I thought, “What? Me?” Now, I knew I had put on some weight over the past few years. I knew my pants weren’t fitting like they used to, but to hear obese was a wake-up call. The doc told me to eat better and exercise. Then, he sent me to a nurse to get blood drawn for some lab tests.
The next day, the doc sent me an e-mail in which he dropped bombshell number two. My blood work showed my triglycerides were high. Really high. More than double what they should be. Yikes! He reiterated that I should eat better and exercise and come back in a few months for a new round of tests.
My wonderful wife started Googling. She came across Crossfit and even sent some e-mails to learn more. I, meanwhile, wasn’t ready to change my life — yet. We live around the corner from CF Atlanta, and I drive by all the time. I’d seen those CrossFitters doing their squats and running around the building. “Those people are hard core,” I thought!
The months went by, and I knew that I was supposed to head back to the doctor soon. Still, I procrastinated. The wife encouraged me some more, and I reluctantly did what I needed to do.
I liked what I read online about the CrossFit philosophy, and the CF Atlanta location was certainly convenient, so in September 2010, I e-mailed. A short time later, I got an e-mail from Bethanie, and we made an appointment. My life changed for the better that day.
I signed up for the intro course. Bethanie was patient and encouraging. Although I worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the “hardcore” CrossFitters, I quickly realized that CFA has members of every skill and age level.
At other gyms I’ve seen, people wear headphones, and no one talks to each other. At CrossFit, I’ve found just about everyone to be open and friendly. There’s a great sense of camaraderie. There’s no judgment, and everyone encourages everyone. It’s probably the most unpretentious gym experience you could ask for.
During our one-on-one sessions, Bethanie showed me the basics to prepare me for the classes. She also helped me revolutionize my awful diet in ways that weren’t nearly as burdensome or difficult as I had feared.
After about three months of CrossFit, I went back to the doctor, and I was excited to see what kind of difference my hard work had made. Dr. Dunlevie was impressed — very impressed. My triglycerides had gone from more than double where they should be down to the “normal” range. I had also lost about 15 pounds. The doc said I had been at a crossroads of health and that he was glad I had chosen the right path.
I’ll admit I haven’t turned into an exercise junky. I’ll probably never be one. That said, the people of CrossFit Atlanta, the atmosphere, and the results keep me coming back. I’m constantly finding myself able to accomplish things I wasn’t able to do just a few months ago. And now, after six months, I’ve lost more weight, and I’m wearing pants I haven’t fit into in years.
With the kind of success I’ve had on so many levels, it’s clear that CrossFit works, and I can‘t imagine a better CrossFit gym than CrossFit Atlanta.
Thanks, honey, for the love and encouragement that led me to CFA!