From Curious to Kool-Aid: How CrossFit Changed My Life Part 2

Read Part One

The day after my first workout, Mark called to check on me. I missed his call because I was too sore to pick up the phone. I was hurting in places I didn’t know I had.

A few days later I went back to Eric and signed up for “Elements,” three private sessions with him designed to introduce me to all the basic movements that are used in CrossFit workouts. In each session I learned movements with names I’ve never heard before, much less attempted. Everything he showed me felt awkward and unnatural. But he was patient and made sure I got each movement right before moving on to the next one. We ended each session with a short workout incorporating some of the movements I’d just learned. Each one left me flat on my back in exhaustion and sore in a whole new set of undiscovered places.

Before the third and final session, I said to Eric as I was warming up, “I know this is supposed to be about functional fitness, but I don’t feel too functional right now. I can’t raise my arms over my head.”

He laughed and told me it was normal to be crazy sore the first few weeks and that in time it would decrease. I noticed he said decrease, not disappear. When I pointed this out he said that because CrossFit workouts are constantly varied I’d always be a little sore somewhere. I said, “I guess that’s one way I know it’s working.”

Once I completed Elements I signed up for the cheapest three-day-a-week plan the gym offered. I jumped into my first real class on a Monday and got absolutely destroyed by a combination of pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, and squats. Because I was new, Eric made sure I eased into the workouts. He had me do lighter weights than were originally prescribed on the white board and I had to use a giant rubber band to help me do the pull-ups. This is known as “scaling down” a workout and when I saw I wasn’t the only one who had to do it in order to complete the workout of the day (WOD), I felt better.

Even though I was in terrible shape, no one singled me out or belittled me. Everyone treated me with respect and encouraged me for coming in and doing the work.

A month later, I attended a free nutrition seminar that Eric held periodically for his athletes. I wanted to lose weight, but I also wanted to improve my performance in the workouts. I had noticed that the best athletes at the gym took their nutrition more seriously than I did and I was interested in knowing what they were doing. During that ninety minute seminar, I was challenged to rethink much of what I had been taught about proper nutrition.

Just like the initial workouts, I found the first weeks of my new eating plan to be awkward and uncomfortable. But I stuck with it, mostly because Eric kept encouraging me along the way and  because of the results I saw other athletes getting while following the same plan. After a few weeks, I noticed I was feeling better throughout the day and my jeans were start to loosen up a bit.

Three months later, while I was away on a business trip, my wife called Eric and scheduled a one-on-one training session to check out CrossFit for herself. At first she had been skeptical. She had seen me try a number of new exercise programs and fad diets and figured this one wouldn’t work any better or last any longer than any of the others. She was also concerned for my safety, especially in the early days when I would come home drenched in sweat and too sore to help clean the kitchen.  But my results were hard to argue with. I was losing fat that I’d been carrying around since our honeymoon cruise 12 years earlier. In just over three months, I lost thirty pounds. My before and after pictures were stunning. Her skepticism ventured into the neighborhood of curiosity.

About this time I also decided that training three days a week wasn’t enough. I wanted the freedom to come in and train as much as I wanted. When I told Eric I wanted to upgrade my membership to unlimited he said, “So you’re drinking the Kool-Aid!”

I knew what he meant. While I didn’t appreciate the allusion to being a part of a cult, I couldn’t deny that I was totally committed to the CrossFit way of life. I didn’t embrace it uncritically or with blind faith. I was a true believer because of the difference it had made in my life. I honestly couldn’t imagine a scenario that would keep me from doing CrossFit as long as I remained upright and potty-trained.

In just a few months I had gone from being slightly curious to totally committed. I was stronger, faster, leaner, and happier. I was more confident and emotionally resilient.

CrossFit changed my life.

People around me noticed. Friends and co-workers started asking me what I was doing. When I enthusiastically told them about CrossFit, some were interested and others were skeptical. A few of them accepted my invitation to join me for a free workout. Now they’re drinking the Kool-Aid too.

And my wife? Well, it altered the trajectory of her life as well. She didn’t just drink the Kool-aid, she started swimming in it. At age 36, she changed careers and became a certified CrossFit trainer. She went from directing a preschool to teaching others how to do squats, pull-ups, and kettlebell swings. She’s never been happier. We now run a CrossFit gym of our own in North Austin. Together, we’re sharing with others what has made a profound difference in our lives.

This is my story, but in the CrossFit community it is not exceptional. Similar stories are told in CrossFit gyms across the world. It’s these kind of stories that are causing CrossFit, an underground fitness movement, to explode.

There was a time when similar stories caused Christianity–a once underground spiritual movement–to overcome skepticism and indifference and grow exponentially. These kind of stories are told less and less in more and more churches.

In future posts, I’ll explore a few of the lessons churches can learn from CrossFit about changing lives.


  1. Michael Polutta says:

    Wade, my story is similar, but from a different place. In July 2007, while out jogging, I had a MAJOR heart attack – the LAD artery, 100% occluded. I discovered CrossFit in April of 2008. Through CF I learned to trust my body again – and now I’m in the best shape of my life at age 48. I work out in the office gym, so there are some facilities I have to do without, but I improvise and reap most of the benefit of the proscribed workouts.

    So much – most, even – of the change from CF occurs between the ears. I have learned more about myself by facing these challenges (the workouts) than from just about anything else since my heart attack.

    Get some!

  2. Michael Polutta says:

    Oops – that should have been “prescribed” instead of “proscribed.”

  3. Wade – are you like a franchisee now? Congrats! Sounds like north Austin is a good area for that. Where are you located?

  4. Hi Wade! I was out walking with my mom earlier and your experience with Crossfit came up. We had been talking about friendships and how everybody everywhere loves the sense of belonging to something. Talking about that sort of thing is a little easier lately with the Harry Potter movie series coming to an end; I think we’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of a “friendship story” written in the last few years, maybe even decades.

    ANYWAY, Mom mentioned that church should be one of those places where, like the Cheers song says, “everybody knows your name, everybody’s glad you came,” but unfortunately, the place where a lot of people find that sense of a belonging is a bar or some other “non-church” spot. And obviously, she said, that can’t be what God intended.

    Then I mentioned your story about Crossfit and how the experience and encouragement and joy (I guess?) that you received and gave there seemed to be things you should have gotten and given at church, just by the nature of what God always intended “church” to be.

    Mom paused for a second, then said, “I guess it’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?”

    “What?” I asked.

    “The name ‘CROSSfit.'”

    Funny how that program already has “Jesus” written all over it, just by the nature of its name?

    Anyway, thanks for your gifts and insights!

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