“It’s about the opportunity to improve myself, to pay my body back for letting me live in it, and to pay a little extra on top of that to help me live for as long as I can…”

I first heard about CrossFit in 2011 while doing some production work for Reebok. I went to the 2011 CrossFit Games and saw that even the fans were ludicrously fit. As we continued working with Reebok, I thought it would look good if I appeared to take a deeper interest in CrossFit by joining a box.

The timing was perfect because: 1) I was in the worst shape of my life and really needed to shake things up, and 2) I was about to turn 40. I didn’t think it was going to be life-changing. I just thought of it as joining a new type of gym. I pulled up the affiliate list. The closest box was some place called “Paradiso CrossFit.” Sounded exotic.

I was a rower in high school and then at a college with a very intensive and competitive program. I spent a ton of time in that very uncomfortable zone where your body wants to quit, but as a result I was at the peak of my fitness, pulling 6:45 2000m rows at 150 pounds bodyweight. So I’m no stranger to very difficult, mental workouts – that would come in handy later.

Charlie-ProgressionIn the years after college, I jumped around from gym to gym doing the usual ineffective routines that most people do. Those trips to the gym were my only real form of exercise. I was also pretty clueless about my diet. It’s amazing what you can get away with in your 20s. During my 30s, I gradually slipped out of shape, peaking at a bodyweight of 205 in 2011, a few months before starting CrossFit. The changes took place over many years, so they didn’t cause the alarm they should have. They were slow enough that I almost didn’t notice. I can’t really believe that I actually weighed that much, but I did. Maybe I accepted these changes as part of getting older. I certainly was not making fitness a priority.

So in November 2011 I came in for an intro class. Boy was it humbling. If I didn’t have my rowing experience to fall back on, I’m not sure what I would have done to get through it. I was unreasonably sore for what seemed like months. But I loved the group setting and was able to push myself so much harder than sitting in my own silo at a regular gym. I knew I had found something different and special.

Over the next year I stuck with it and I slowly improved, and then something else happened: nutrition. I had put in a lot of hard work getting my body ready to accept the change, but when I changed my diet it was almost like some form of magic had just occurred. I was losing absurd amounts of body fat, and falling in love with cooking and eating. From my all time high I dropped nearly 40 pounds, then rebounded up a few. I basically transformed into a new person. I’ve been no more than about 5 pounds over my “new” weight ever since.

Today, I train as regularly as I can, and show up as often as I can. Sometimes life conspires against me and I miss a week or two, or fall off my nutrition a bit, It’s always a rewarding experience as I get back on track. I think that I’m still in the first act of my new fitness journey. My fastest and strongest years might be behind me, and my knees might need some work soon. But I still have many goals I’m working towards, and that won’t ever change. And I’m excited!

I think many of us feel lucky to have Paradiso in our lives. For me, it goes a little beyond that. I genuinely can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t walked into that first class. Or if I had not stuck it out when it was really hard in those early months. The last few years have been challenging for me on the personal and professional fronts, and having Paradiso in my life has helped me immeasurably. It’s not about “Fran” or snatches or being one of the Paradiso CrossFit success stories.  It’s about the opportunity to improve myself, to pay my body back for letting me live in it, and to pay a little extra on top of that to help me live for as long as I can, and be ready to enjoy whatever comes next.

I have no idea what I will be doing in 5 years, but I do know that wherever I am, and whatever I’m doing, I will be happy that I made fitness and nutrition a priority.