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My Fitness Journey: Chris H.

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Starting off the Fitness Journey Stories, is Coach Chris H.

Something that I have found myself discussing lately has been my fitness journey and how I got started in CrossFit. So, I thought that there wasn’t a better time, especially considering that we want to start hearing the fitness stories of the people in our community, for me to lead by example and write about mine.

When I graduated college in 2012, not only did this mean that I was an “adult” and entering the work force, but it also meant that I was no longer training for wrestling. I found myself still going to the gym because I loved lifting weights, but it just wasn’t with the same energy or drive as it was when I was training for wrestling. One day I was lifting in the Verona High School weight room, which was where I graduated from and where I coached wrestling at the time, and the strength coach at the school asked me if I had ever heard of CrossFit. I told him that I hadn’t and he recommended that I look into because he thought that I could be pretty good at it. So I did. I started researching online and came across CrossFit.com and the workout for the following day was “Fran.” So, like most people with an athletic background who have never done CrossFit, I looked at the workout and thought, “Huh, that doesn’t look too hard. I’ll give this a shot tomorrow.” Well, I learned very quickly that day that when you take on Fran, Fran always wins. It showed me that I wasn’t in good of shape as I thought. In addition, I found out that each workout received a score and that you could compare your score to others to see if you beat them. When I heard the competitive aspect, I was hooked.

At that time, I was a High School PE teacher and would do workouts in the weight room at the school I taught or at the school I coached wrestling. I started to follow the old OPT Big Dawgs blog and would track my scores against the other people who followed the blog. I often refer to myself at that time as the “ghetto Crossfitter.” I didn’t have many things available to me that you see in our gym today. I didn’t have a climbing rope, a rower, a bike, a wall ball, kettlebells, or rings. I had to modify things a lot. The classic example I use would be any time they had rowing in the workout, I would take 10% of the meters and do that many reps of sumo deadlift high pulls with an empty barbell. So for example, if the workout called for a 1000m row I would do 100 reps of 45# sumo deadlift high pulls. I even made my own rings so I could do ring dips and attempt a muscle up. I baked two PVC pipes in my parents’ oven, molded them around a paint can, and strung strap through them. You could imagine the thoughts that were going through my mom and dad’s heads. The following day I was so excited to give muscle ups a try, only to find out that there wasn’t a ceiling high enough for me to string them up and not crush my toes on the floor.

After about 6 months of this ridiculousness, the 2014 open started to roll around. I decided I would do the open, but I didn’t want to have to film my workouts to submit them. I ended up reaching out to a guy I went to high school with who I knew coached at a gym in Fairfield to see if I could just do the open workouts at the gym so I could have a judge. He spoke to the owner and she said it was ok with her. So I went over to that gym once a week for 5 weeks to do my first open. When it was all said and done, the owner came up to me and asked what I was going to do for training going forward. I told her that I would just go back to what I was doing because I knew I couldn’t afford to be a member at her facility at that time. Now, as a quick aside, some of you may know that I am a Christian. I believe God and Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. I say this because what happened next was the first in a long line of events that convinced me that God’s plan for me is to be a fitness/CrossFit coach. After I told her that I would just go back to training at the school, she suggested that I train at her gym totally for free! I wondered why and she said that she liked the energy that I had and that I would contribute a lot to her community.

So the very next day I started going to her gym and was in there 5 times a week. I loved being at a real CrossFit box and having the ability to truly get the CrossFit experience. After 2 months of being a member there, the owner approached me again and asked if I would be interested in coaching. I said absolutely, but again, I didn’t think I would be able to afford the $1,000 payment to attend the Level 1 seminar. Again, God intervened and she said that she would front me the money and that I could pay her back in installments. I was floored. This woman had been so generous to me and I couldn’t understand why. I was so grateful and after coaching there for a month or two I knew that coaching was what I wanted to do as my full time job.

Fast forward about a year and my wife was pregnant with our first child. I had approached the owner of the gym and asked that we discuss what will happen with my classes once my son was born. At the time I coached 2 classes a week at 5:30am. She just kept telling me that we will work it out when the time comes. So, the time came and Riley was born in August. She ended up giving me a week off and then expected me back the following week. Now if anyone reading this has ever had a child before they know that sleep is hard to come by in those first couple of months. I felt like a walking zombie and having to get up at 4:45 to go coach definitely didn’t help. So I pulled the owner aside and asked her if I could take some time to not coach the 5:30am class. I offered to coach some of the 9:30am classes as well as the evening classes for a couple of weeks until school started. Her response was that 5:30am was the class time she had for me and if I couldn’t do it then she would find someone who could and I could become a paying member. This threw me off and with some other events that had occurred I decided that I needed to make a change. I wasn’t sure where to look first so I started Googling various CrossFit gyms and again God intervened. The very first gym I contacted was Heroes and Thomas decided that it was worthwhile to interview me and then hire me.

So I landed on my feet and was in a great situation teaching and coaching at Heroes. As I went through the school year, I started discussing with my athletic director and principal what I needed to do in order to receive tenure. Long story short, I left the school year with a contract and a sense from my principal that I was safe for next year…or so I thought. In July there was an opening for a freshman football coaching position. They wanted me to take the position, but I didn’t want to give up what I had done at Heroes and been away from my family 12 hours a day so decided not to take the job. The result, they fired me. So here I am with no job and a family to support. I was so scared and my wife was the one who said, “why don’t you see if Heroes will bring you on as a full time coach?” It was what I wanted to do anyway, but I was still scared of the uncertainty. But finally, in August 2016 I came on as a full time coach at Heroes.

So it is funny how life works. I am coming up on a year of being here full time and I find myself telling this story more and more. God has repeatedly been there to open doors for me as one shuts…hard…in my face. I am fortunate that I get to do what I do every day and I’m glad I can look back on this journey fondly.

So if you have a fitness or CrossFit journey that you would like to share, please send it to hjteam@heroesjourney.com and thanks for taking the time to read mine.