“Just Show Up” by Matt Conlon
Weight: 180 lbs
I was asked by Craig and Martha to share my thoughts about my Crossfit Caldwell experience…the why, what, how, goals, diet, etc.
I’m happy to and have plenty of good things to say about it. However, I want to first set the stage with one of my favorite quotes – “90% of success is just showing up”. My story is only one of many of fellow athletes (as they call us) at Crossfit Caldwell, each with their own story and their own motivations for showing up for an hour of hard physical challenge several times a week. In this respect, we’re all the same – we show up.
I began Crossfit in March when my daughter, Melissa, bugged me to go with her to the free intro class. She had done Crossfit at college and all I knew was that it was somehow different from anything else. Although I had a gym membership, I hadn’t used it much since my last back surgery around 3 years ago. I pretty much used the back condition as an excuse and started to settle into middle-agedness. With an ideal weight of around 180#, I was flirting with 210# and would once in a while try to get back into a routine at the gym, but it just wouldn’t stick. I found myself rattling around the gym until I worked up a satisfactory sweat…and calling it a day. I wasn’t motivated and really didn’t know how to set myself a pace and goals to get back into shape.
Going into the free class I really didn’t know what to expect and was only there to get Melissa my daughter off my back. We worked on some technique stuff for most of the class and then finished with an 8 minute workout. Just EIGHT minutes? Pshh! Well, those were probably the roughest 8 minutes of my life. I think I made Martha (co-owner) nervous as I lay on the floor afterwards, beet red, and trying to breath. It woke me up to the fact that I was, indeed, settled into a middle-aged-dom. For the next several weeks my only goals for each workout were 1. Show up 2. Not pass out…literally…I was light- headed the first few workouts and had to learn to pace myself to just not pass out, and 3. FINISH.
I learned firsthand and pretty regularly, about that Crossfit sportsmanship thing where the last one finishing the workout gets the loudest support from fellow athletes. I’d come home beet red and wiped out and my wife would say, “I thought you were supposed to feel GOOD after a workout!” When it came time to start lifting weights, I’m pretty sure I showed each coach the “zipper” scar on my back to remind them that I was partially disabled. They weren’t buying it because I think they pretty much know that everyone has some sort of limitation or fear that is overcome and worked through by learning proper technique and scaling to their ability. And that’s what they do really well…coach you through those things. I never feel pressured into doing anything that I don’t feel safe with but the coaches find a way to work you through those fears. I was surprised that I was nervous as hell about getting myself up
into a handstand on the wall, for example. As a kid I used to skateboard in a handstand and walk across the room on my hands. Now I was afraid to stand on my head! To me, THAT was confirmation of being “old”! Only in the past couple of weeks did I manage to just dive right into it from a standing position and do a couple of handstand pushups. Sit ups and pull ups…same…ten max. I learned the pull up kip within a couple of months, and now feel pretty bad-ass when I can get through 100 pull-ups in a workout. Burpees – when a new member asked what they were, I told her I call it the “drag your ass up off the floor” move. I still only drag my ass off the floor with burpees..just a little faster now.
As far as my weight goes, in March I signed up for the 30-day paleo diet challenge. It took me a few days to figure out what the hell I COULD eat, and bought some of the Paleocuisine meals to help get started, and settled into it – really without ever feeling hungry but maybe missing a few favorites for a little while. I lost around 15 pounds within the first two or three weeks and started feeling really good. Paleo is basically meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables…cutting out all the grains, sugar, and dairy, and drinking lots of water. I’ve since lost another ten pounds to bring me down to 180 lbs where I’ve been steady for the past 3 months or so, by eating around 80% paleo. It’s really amazing how much of my diet was “filler” kind of empty carbs. I make up for the “filler” stuff with bigger quantities of paleo foods. I even stopped taking the prescription acid blockers that I’d been on forever. I don’t worry about it when paleo isn’t convenient, but when
I stray too far or too long from it, I feel it. So, lots of eggs, bacon, chicken, beef, and salads. I don’t go “strict” with the coconut oil and all that just because it makes it overly complicated for me. Basically, everything we were told “back when” is out the window in terms of healthy eating. Grains are the new “cholesterol” and sugar is the new salt. As far as supplements go, I’m only worried about having enough energy for my workouts and am just learning what works best for me before or after workouts – like a banana or a protein shake – but I have new religion on the benefit of lots of water throughout the day. I’ll guzzle a couple of 16oz bottles of water a few times a day just to get it done.
My results? For me, yeah, the physical thing is really rewarding…I feel good, look better, lost the frumpy clothes, fired my landscaper with energy to do my own yard work…but what keeps me hooked with Crossfit Caldwell is this drive to get back in there and tackle, conquer, improve upon one of the many technique-dependent moves that are holding me back from the next best weight or time. Some of it has to do with ability and coordination, like a non-golfer learning to swing a club, and that comes with coaching and practice at the weights that work for you to be able to nail the technique first. But I think most of it is mental; being too tentative/afraid in kicking yourself up
onto the wall in a handstand or pulling hard enough to bring the bar up onto your shoulders…or telling yourself that you WILL survive the next 30 seconds of hard rowing. When Craig first had me do an overhead squat with a 45 pound empty barbell I told him pretty plainly that that was one move that just wasn’t going to work for me – that my shoulders don’t work like that. I think he took that as a personal challenge because last week, after months of sessions with twisting limbs in directions and degrees I didn’t think possible, he had me do 75 overhead squats with 85 pounds. We looked at each other with smirks on our faces like…BOOM!
I competed alongside Martha last week in my first individual competition and pushed that weight to 95 lbs. Is that a big deal in the world of Crossfit? Not at all, but it was a big deal to me and was just as big a deal to Martha when I nailed it. That’s why she’s always saying “I love my job!” And every single coach,
each with their own style, brings the exact same enthusiasm for helping each athlete progress. Honestly, I don’t know how they make you feel like you’re the only one in the workout, but they do. I read an article recently that explained the Crossfit
addiction as the “game-ification” of health & fitness. It’s like Words-With-Friends, except with a real benefit. I think there’s something to that, and it’s genius! I compete with myself but also keep a competitive eye on my fellow athletes, including my daughter who seems to be right on my tail every time I reach a new PR (personal record). Most others probably don’t, but I watch others’ weights and times who are in my general range and it motivates the hell out of me to keep progressing. A few weeks ago it was just me and Jason, my 15 year old neighbor, in a pretty grueling WOD, side-by-side, with coach Drew stirring the pot between us. I led most of the way and then Jason caught up near the end and looked like he was going to beat me. I just wasn’t letting it happen… and I banged out 15 pullups in a row at the end to just edge him out. I think “Mr. Conlon” pissed him off enough however, to never let that happen again. I think that was the last time he’ll lose to me.
This is what it all comes down to for me….the PEOPLE! The coaches…my fellow athletes…we just all seem to like each other and we support and encourage each other through even the most miserable workouts, with plenty of time to laugh at ourselves too. I know I’ll catch some shit for this at the next men’s night where we lift and then eat dead animals and drink beer, but I think I’ve met some life-long friends at this place. So, when you ask me about my “results”, it’s so much more than physical results, for me. I thought the pounds and inches and abs and guns was my objective
going into Crossfit, but that’s really not what makes me show up every day. Don’t get me wrong, me and my mirror have become close friends lately, but that’s just a great by-product of the challenge of getting to the next level, weight, time, or nailing a technique. The “results” that I’m mostsatisfied with are energy, greater confidence in every part of my personal and professional life, friendships, and an overall sense of achievement. In July, I did a team competition with Leah, Doles, and Kerry at our place in Caldwell. We competed against ANIMALS from other gyms in the area and had every reason to be intimidated. We weren’t. We had a lot of fun. In my competition with Martha last weekend, I came in second place (of two people in my division…yeah, you could call that last place…but it came with a trophy!), and had my daughters and total strangers cheering me on from the sidelines to hit one more rep, do one more box jump. I don’t know…the Jersey in me has me waiting for the downside of Crossfit, but all I see are good, regular people, supporting each other and having lots of fun doing it. I’ve suffered through ass-burn (you’ll know it when you get it), tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and a box-jump shin cut….and will still show up tomorrow.