Fat to Fit: My journey through CrossFit
March 2013: So I looked in the mirror as I walked by it and said “How did I let this happen.” I was wearing a XXL Polo, trying to look nice, for my god daughter’s baby shower. I had walked into the bathroom and as I saw myself in the mirror I froze. Do I really look like this? Is this how other people see me? At the age of 36, I had tried about every diet from Ketogenic to replacing meals with shakes. As with all diets, I would lose 10-15, then once my eating habits changed, I would gain what I had lost, plus and extra five for my troubles. It’s not like I was lazy, I have loved lifting weights for years and years, however, despised cardio. When it comes to diet, I could always be really strict with my diet, but only for a short time, and then I would fall completely off the wagon and go 180 degrees the opposite way. All these things had lead to me staring in the mirror at a 313 pound version of myself. I knew at this point, I had to do something, or it was only going to get worse, the bad part was now being 36 years old and never having any REAL success at losing and keeping off the weight, I had all but lost hope.
April 2013: One day while trying to learn more about CrossFit through YouTube videos, I ran across a series on the CrossFit website entitled “Killing the Fat Man”. The series now has 13 episodes chronicling the life of a man named Gary Roberts, and his journey to change his life forever through CrossFit. Prior to this I had watched the CrossFit games on TV, and although I loved all aspects of it, everyone on there was an absolute beast and I knew there was no way I could do half of the things they were doing, but after watching the “killing the Fat Man” series, I thought, “hey, if this guy can do it so can I”. That day I begin searching to find a box close to home.
April 2013-The first day at the box: I’m sitting in the car watching everyone training while I watch the clock getting closer to 7pm. I have a horrible memory, but I remember seeing Louie knocking out some pull-ups, and I said “I’ve never even did one”. As the time seven o’clock grew closer and closer I was beginning to get nervous. My years of power lifting did look like it was going to help me out as I once thought it would, nothing I watched them do through the window that evening even used a barbell, I was officially TOTALLY out of my element. The time came and I pulled myself out of the car and slowly walked up to the door feeling “these people are sizing me up”, or “They are going to judge the fat guy coming in here” either way I had made a decision to CHANGE my life once and for all, and no matter what anyone said or thought I was about to give it all I had. To my surprise, as people were getting ready to leave the 6pm class several members came up to me and said hello, not what I was expecting, instantly I felt my nerves starting to clam, and felt a little less self conscious. This was my first introduction to what the CrossFit community was REALLY all about. That night was I and Dwayne Nieves. Glad he was there as he had to push me and push me, because after the first round, I was toast… We got through it, and I was off to the races.
April 2013-We are in this together: A beautiful Saturday morning and I am back at the box. Teams of three and I got Chip Patterson and Lindsay Walker as my team mates. I can’t remember the entire workout, but there was a run, and… oh yeah 30 BURPEES as a buyout. I remember Lindsay telling me “we are going to win” and I was all confident and said “heck yeah”…. Mind you this is like week 2 into my CrossFit journey for me. At this time I am still 313-310 pounds, and haven’t done a Burpee, let alone 30 since I was in high school. We were in the lead and we got to the burpees, I got the first 5 done and I knew I was in trouble; I couldn’t muster more than 1 at a time. I looked up at rep 12 and Chip and Lindsay were already done. I instantly felt horrible thinking “I am going to be the reason we lose”, but little did I know it wasn’t about winning or losing at all. I did another 2 reps and as I got ready to start rep 16, I noticed that Chip and Lindsay were doing my remaining 14 reps with me, one for one, cheering and motivating me to give it all I had left in the tank. When I finished my 30th rep, I remember them both telling me “great job”. I am so confused, great job? We lost. I caused us to go from first to probably last. How is that a “good job”? Little did I know I was seeing firsthand what the CrossFit community was really all about? Chip, Lindsay and I were all a team, we were in this together, and as a team they were going to push me to insure that I didn’t quit. Later on I remember Matt telling us during a class that “your mind is a liar, it will tell you that you are done a thousand times before your body really is.” I instantly thought back to this experience, and still do to this day when a WOD is really tough.
** Roy Mangrum is a competitive powerlifter, strength and conditioning coach and a member of CrossFit Combustion in Spring Hill, TN.