The biggest misconception about CrossFit is that it is only for fit people. CrossFit is for all fitness levels. Check out the variety of people that come to CrossFit Brigade.
My high school required athletic participation from all students. I was a competitive rower then and trained throughout the year. When I went to college, fitness fell by the wayside as studying, dating and drinking beer became my most time consuming activities. As a result, my weight began to increase, and continued to do so as I went through graduate school and entered the work world.
When I look back and think about “dieting” and “exercising”, I think of so many trials and errors. Various weight loss programs, various exercise routines. No success. When I became pregnant at age 28, I weighed over 200pounds. I became a gestational diabetic, meaning I had developed diabetes in pregnancy. This also meant a 50% increased risk for developing Type II diabetes within 5 years of the delivery of my first daughter. Following her birth, I did experience a 25lb weight loss as as a result of healthier eating during pregnancy. However, I did not commit to a healthy lifestyle and saw that weight, plus more, return before her first birthday.
In 2010, my husband and I decided to have another child. Unfortunately through many months I battled secondary infertility, likely as a result of my weight. I weighed over 220lbs at this time, and my fasting glucose was extremely elevated, classifying me as a “pre-diabetic”. This scared me such that I began running, and in the fall of October 2011, I ran a half-marathon. I became pregnant the following month. I was again diagnosed as a gestational diabetic. Healthy eating allowed me again to lose 25pounds following delivery of my second daughter, but I knew this time I had to make a serious commitment to a healthy lifestyle, or I would be battling Type II diabetes before I was 40.
Enter Crossfit Brigade.
While I was pregnant, I watched my husband begin training at Crossfit Brigade. Not only did he see excellent physical results, but he came home each day talking about the people he was hanging out with there and how much fun they had. I listened to him talk about Brigade so much that I knew I had to try it. He promised me that anyone could do it. I was skeptical, but decided to give it a go.
When I obtained my 6 week postpartum clearance from my doctor, I scheduled my first trial class at Brigade. I was nervous, and made my husband go with me for my first time. I tried 2 classes, and immediately enrolled in the 101 course. I was hooked.
It has been over 7 months now, and Crossfit Brigade has become a significant part of my life. I have lost over 35lbs and 3 dress sizes. The physical strength I have found there is amazing, and the motivation and encouragement from coaches and friends I have made there is something I have not experienced anywhere else. Between the workout regimens and nutritional guidance, I feel I am healthier now than at any other time in my life. My blood sugar levels are completely normal. Brigade has had a huge impact on me and my husband, and has given our marriage the gift of something we can do and love together. Brigade is not just a gym, but a community, and I am blessed to be a part of something so strong and special.
It has now been almost one year since I first set foot into CrossFit Brigade. As far as fitness goes, up to that point the entirety of my adult exercise experience had been running. I was very good at picking out a race, training for a few months to be ready for it, then returning to my armchair after it was done. In November 2011, I finished my second marathon (slowly, but finished nonetheless). After the race, I had again quit exercise, but this time with the feeling that I had become bored with where I was. My wife had suggested that some weight training might be good for me, but not having touched any sort of weights since high school gym class, I hadn’t the foggiest idea where to start. Mostly I just stayed in my armchair, and became larger and more sedentary.
I first became aware of CrossFit from a couple of different sources. I used to have an office in the Business Development Center, so I couldn’t help but notice the people I thought must have been nuts who I would see running laps around the building or lifting weights on the loading dock. I also followed the frequent CrossFit related Facebook posts by a cousin and an old college buddy. I did some online research, and concluded that the whole thing seemed a little bit off-kilter. And frankly, I found that attractive.
I finally got in touch with Brigade at the beginning of May 2012. Eric talked me into coming in for a trial class. I told my wife I was going to work out before coming home, but didn’t tell her where I was going. I showed up at the box, and the first thing I saw was the person I came to know as Emily doing something I later came to learn was dumbbell snatches with the largest unmechanized piece of metal I had ever seen. I began to wonder if I had made a horrible mistake.
Eric gave me the option of joining the regular class, or the 101 group which was also starting that day. With my palpable nervousness, I chose the 101 group. After some basic instruction, we did the Baseline. Upon getting to 29 sit-ups, my abs told me that, no, I was not going to get that last one in. After several tries, someone gave me a hand to get up off the floor. I then completed the push-ups from my knees and the pull-ups with the assistance of a horizontally strung purple band. I had to wait sitting in the car for my arms to stop shaking before driving home. Once I made it there, I had to lie on the floor in the dark for a little while before coming down to dinner and to tell my wife what craziness I had been up to. But I knew then that I had to come back.
The last year with Brigade has been a remarkable experience. I have gone from straining to squat with an empty bar to maxing out at 300 pounds. I can do double unders, get into a handstand with my heels to the wall, and occasionally get a pull-up and toes to bar, which are all things I looked at when I started saying to myself that I could never do that. My enthusiasm eventually brought my lovely wife to the group, where she regularly reminds me that she’s the far better athlete, but this has also given us a wonderful interest and activity which we enjoy together. I am physically in better shape than I can ever remember, I eat healthier than I probably ever have, and I have more confidence in myself and what I can do (both in and out of the gym) than I can ever recall.
The single greatest part of Brigade is its people. Whether coaches or members, my fellow Brigadiers are inspirations to behold, more fervent supporters than I deserve, and friends I likely wouldn’t have made without this place. I am both proud and humbled (Yes, I know that’s a contradiction. Sue me.) to be a part of this community. Whenever someone comments on how good I look, which happens all the time, I always give the credit to the group. I couldn’t have done it without the example and support of everyone.
Here’s looking forward to the hard work, physical and mental progress, and good times with good friends that I know my second year of CrossFit Brigade is sure to hold.
Most of my life I’ve been physically active. I was a gymnast for 10 years and cheered through high school and college. I also worked for a fitness center through my college and grad school education. Just before joining CrossFit, my health was good, I wasn’t terribly disgusted with my body, I felt like my eating habits were faily sustainable, I worked out… but suffice it to say, CrossFit has completely changed my life in the very best way possible.
I first tried out CrossFit last summer and loved it. I was in the middle of my final classes to finish grad school and doing an internship so it wasn’t feasible for me to join at the time. I knew as soon as I was in a position to join that I wanted to do that, so when I got to a stable place with work / school I called Emily & Eric and scheduled my 101.
CFB is like nowhere else. While I’ve not visited loads of different CF gyms, I’ve tried a few of them, and been to some competitions and special events with other gyms, and I just know that Brigade has such a unique dynamic. It’s just the best feeling to train and grow with people that feel like family and with coaches who make you feel like you’re important, strong and a priority. In my years of athletic training, gymnastics, cheerleading, and working in gyms, I’ve not felt a true connection to the people like I have with fellow Brigaders. It’s the best thing ever.
It’s improved so many areas of my life. Mainly, it has shifted my focus on my health in general. I think for twenty-somethings, women in particular, the point of working out is to look good, the point of a “diet” is to lose weight, and your lifestyle ends up revolving around these notions. In CrossFit, a fit looking body comes secondary to a strong body, so I think it has opened my eyes to the other benefits from living a healthy lifestyle. I definitely want to look fit, but for me, eating clean, getting good sleep and following a consistent workout schedule has become a priority because I want to be strong, hit PRs and learn new skills and doing these things has provided those results, in addition to changing my body comp and aesthetics. I see as only a positive change.
I honestly just love it all. The people, the workouts, the personal challenges, the competitions. It’s just been such a positive force in my life the past 6 months and I’m so thankful!
I think CrossFit can be intimidating because of the intensity and because of how it’s top athletes are portrayed, but Brigade takes the perfect approach. They take people as they are and accommodate each individual athlete’s goals and expectations. That’s the selling point for the gym, I think. No matter your background, your skills, your goals, your knowledge… there is a place for you at the gym and you will learn and grow and meet amazing people on your journey.
CrossFit as a fitness program was immediately attractive to me. I don’t care much for “show” and always like real or genuine things in life… so bodybuilding workouts for the sake of aesthetics always seemed to be missing something to me, I liked “functional fitness” but didn’t know the term.
I found it in CrossFit. The workouts were hard and hurt and I wondered what the heck have I gotten myself into… I would sit in the parking lot before going in just dreading it… but I kept coming… and getting out of the car… and all those years of weakening while sitting at a desk started melting away… I would walk out of the gym just shaking my head because I couldn’t believe what I had just done that day. Oh, it was still really hard, but my mind and my body were transforming and I got to where I couldn’t wait to get there and tackle whatever the programming gods had devised for the day.
I don’t know many 40+ year old guys that can do what I do… and all the ones I do know I work out with at Brigade. All because I just kept getting out of the car. This was phase one in the development of my appreciation and affection for Brigade, then my daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia. During that period of struggle for my family my Brigade family was part of my everyday life. From food and cards and gifts for Kandis to offers to do everything from clean my house and mow the yard. I’m siting here searching for the words to describe what that meant to us (and failing). You are more than lucky to ever find a group of people that can play such a role in your life; sometimes it’s a church, maybe a group of friends you grew up with, maybe work peeps… but for me it’s a gym, a very special gym.
If you’re reading this and thinking “well yeah, you had a pretty traumatic thing happen in your life and they’re nice people” you are right, but what you don’t know yet is how this group is there for each other every day… in the little things and the big things… I’ve seen lives change just because of new nutrition they learn about and they are successful in making those changes in their life because of the knowledge, support and accoutability they get from this family… I’ve seen folks hit weights on lifts that they never thought they could and the pride on their face is only surpassed by the joy on the coaches and other athlete’s faces when they ring that PR bell… Its real and its genuine, all of it; the hard work, the friendships, the desire to do good things in the community, to help people.
I knew I needed to do good things for my body so I chose CrossFit. Luckily, I chose Brigade and got so much more.
I love CrossFit and in my opinion CrossFit Brigade is the best box I could be a member of. Ok, I have never ever tried another CrossFit box anywhere. I do read a lot about CrossFit. I read stories about other boxes and others peoples experiences with CrossFit. The more I read the more I know that CrossFit Brigade is a special place. I know all boxes are not the same. I know not all boxes are concerned about safety. I know all boxes are not concerned about their athletes that don’t have pull ups. I have had the privilege of training under most of the Brigade coaches. It is very clear their main goal is give athletes the best, safest, most effective training possible. Period. I drive 40 min, 3 days a week, from a different time zone, to attend classes at 6am (5am my time!). I would not even consider making that sacrifice for any other box that I have read or heard about. I started CrossFit to learn new things. I had lost 75lbs before CrossFit by running and eating less. But, not by eating the right foods. Losing weight gave me a confidence I had not had in a long time. This confidence led me to CrossFit Brigade. I often wish I would have found CrossFit before I lost my weight. I know now that CrossFit is not designed for the elite atheletes and the fittest people. CrossFit makes those people. Brigade coaches are experts in scaling movements to fit the needs of everyone’s fitness level. This is probably one of the things that impresses me about the Brigade the most. Very knowledgeable and accessible coaches who coach everyone to do their best or beast! They all encourage and cheer you on by name. To me, that is pretty powerful motivation. More than a song can give, in my opinion. It really pumps you up when you hear YOUR name followed by “ GET IT” or “YOU’RE KILLING IT”. Sounds simple, but it means a lot for the coaches to be engaged and a part of the WOD.
I go to CrossFit Brigade to continue my journey to being well. The training and the nutrition information I get from the Brigade are a huge part of my journey. My goal is to be healthy. Not just being a healthy weight according to medical standards. No. I don’t want be sick. I want to feel good. I want to be well. I want to be strong and fit. That is my “why”. The training I do 3 days a week carries over in my everyday life outside of the Brigade. I have always been one who can go on a diet and lose 20 or even 40 pounds. I have taken pills, restricted calories, lived on “fat free” foods, pretty much anything to lose weight. But, I never knew what to do when the weight was off. I never tried anything sustainable for life. CrossFit Brigade has taught me how to train and eat in ways that are sustainable for life. The Brigade offers great support and the owners Eric and Emily have always been available when I had questions. The coaches are always quick to respond with advice when I have needed it outside the box. One of the first things I ever read about CrossFit is how once you find a box they become family and your biggest supporters. CrossFit Brigade displays that value and many others daily. I am proud to be a part of the Brigade. I feel very fortunate to be a part of an awesome box. I have said before, if every box was like the Brigade, there would be much less negativity around the sport of CrossFit.
My dream is to open a box of my own one day in my home town. I will not even consider opening the doors unless I can own a box that displays the same values as Brigade.
How long have you been CrossFitting?
I started crossfit in October of 2014 so approximately 5 months
What is your athletic background & what was your routine before Brigade?
I grew up playing sports and had two older brothers and an athletic family. Prior to doing crossfit I was attending a bootcamp class. Due to work demands I was unable to attend as often as I wanted and finally stopped altogether. Had not been attending any exercise class in over a year and knew I needed to get back into some form of exercise.
How did you find or first get exposed to CrossFit?
Actually I heard people talk about crossfit but had no idea what it involved. Started taking my dog to the Ark day care and would pass Crossfit Brigade coming and going to pick up the dog! I knew I needed to get back to some type of organized exercise and seeing the brigade sign I was curious. I looked it up on line and read the athlete features on the website and saw it was reiterated that you did not have to be super fit to do it. It was on my way home from work and I decided to try it!
When you first walked into the gym, describe what you saw, felt and thought:
When I first walked into the gym I thought these athletes were younger than my own children and instantly felt like maybe I had made a mistake. I was definitely the oldest in the gym at that time. As I met with Emily and she seemed enthused that I was willing to try I felt better and felt encouraged I could meet my health goals if I at least tried. I definitely felt out of my comfort zone but am so thankful I did not give up!!
Describe how you feel when you walk into the gym NOW:
I feel so much more comfortable and not only the staff but the fellow athletes are very encouraging and helpful. I know I face a tough workout but I also know I will feel such a since of accomplishment when I leave the gym that night even if I have had to modify!
Have you ever competed? If so, how was your experience?
No I have never competed in crossfit
What music pumps you up for your workout?
I will be honest but most of the music I hear at crossfit I have never heard before!! But as I am gasping for breathe during the workout I am not really focused on the particular music!
What sort of changes have you seen in your body, health and fitness since starting CrossFit?
I am still working on the nutrition side of working out but I can definitely see my arms losing the flap and things just getting tighter. My clothes fit differently and I look forward to seeing even more changes as time goes on.
What sort of unexpected changes in your life have you experienced out of taking on something like CrossFit?
I notice myself at times being more aware of my posture. I like the overall feeling of being stronger. I am a nurse by profession and feel at times I can tackle the physical side of my job easier. I have 3 adult children and they have been impressed I have stuck with it!
We have heard every excuse in the book – a few too many cheat meals, no time, etc. what do you think is your biggest weakness when trying to improve in Crossfit?
I think the nutrition side of working out is my biggest hurdle…I often convince myself I can eat what I want because I am exercising.
We’ve all seen the videos of the 70+ year olds deadlifting; is this something you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?
Possibly! I have always been someone who enjoys the physical challenges of exercising. I spent years raising children as a single mom and at times working more than one job. Somehow as Moms we let our health take a backseat to our kids as we focus on them and their needs. It is nice to be at a stage in my life where my children are grown, happy and healthy and now its my turn to get healthy and hopefully be a positive example in their lives!
Describe your proudest CF achievement:
When I can squat with weight on my shoulders! I didn’t know my knees could still bend that low!
Everyone has their excuses and yet, you’re still here! What motivates you to keep coming back?
I want to be healthier! I see daily in my job what not taking care of yourself does to people. I also have a 4 year old granddaughter I want to be around to see her grow up!
Any advice for people just getting started or new to CrossFit?
Just do it!! Even on the toughest nights I have never regretted coming to crossfit. I just keep ibuprofen on hand and soak in Epsom salt nightly!
How long have you been CrossFitting?
I’ve been CrossFitting for a little over six months.
What is your athletic background and what was your routine before Brigade?
I have very little athletic background, and when I say very little, I mean I took dance for a couple of years in elementary school. After college, I noticed that my metabolism slowed down and knew that I had to do something to stay in shape. Before Brigade, I mostly did pilates-based classes without any cardio.
How did you first find or first get exposed to CrossFit?
I had a friend who did CrossFit in Knoxville for a while, and she always said that I needed to try it, but secretly I thought that I wasn’t cut out for it. It seemed so extreme, and I didn’t think I was physically capable of doing CrossFit. I found Brigade in particular simply because I drive by it several times a week. Every time I passed by, I always thought to myself, “I really want to try CrossFit, but I don’t think I can do it.” On several occasions I saw people out running or rowing, and they looked so determined. I knew that I wanted that and finally plucked up the courage to email Emily and set up a trial session.
When you first walked into the gym, describe what you saw, felt, and thought.
When I first walked in, I was really nervous because I was trying something completely out of my element. Before I even reached the doors, I heard music playing. As I walked in, I saw a variety of people hanging out and talking to each other. I could tell that everyone knew each other, and they were excited about working out together. I wasn’t in the box for more than a couple of minutes before Mike, one of the associate coaches, spotted me and introduced me to the crowd.
Describe how you feel when you walk into the gym NOW.
Now I walk in just as excited as everyone else was the first class I took. I also feel a sense of accomplishment before the class even starts. I’ve made small breakthroughs during my time at Brigade and looking back to my first class six months ago reminds me just how far I’ve come.
What music pumps you up for your workout?
Surprisingly I love to listen to any kind of rap music during a workout, which is funny because I never listen to it any other time.
What sort of changes have you seen in your body, health, and fitness since starting CrossFit?
I’ve put on weight in muscle and actually see muscles, especially in my arms and shoulders. Through the nutritional coaching and challenges that Brigade has, I’ve learned how to count macros and eat what my body needs. I just feel and look better than I have in a while. Losing body fat percentage isn’t too bad either.
What sort of unexpected changes in your life have you experienced out of taking on something like CrossFit?
The functionality of CF has surprised me the most. A couple of months ago I was at church helping move chairs. Before I started CrossFit I could maybe carry two at time, and I struggled with that. This time when I carried chairs, I carried three or four at a time and stacked them with very little difficulty. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before. Also unexpectedly, CrossFit has given me a starting point for conversations with the athletes in my high school English class who weight lift for football. They at least act like they’re impressed when I tell them my one rep maxes.
We have heard every excuse in the book- a few too many cheat meals, no time, etc. What do you think is your biggest weakness when trying to improve in CrossFit?
For me, my biggest weakness is tricking myself into thinking that I’m too tired or don’t have enough time after a long school day to go to CrossFit. The truth is that CF makes me feel better. I’ve never been to a class and regretted it. I just have to motivate myself into getting there. I always regret the times that I didn’t go to class.
We’ve all seen the videos of the 70+ year olds deadlifting. Is this something you see yourself doing for the rest of your life?
I honestly can see myself doing CrossFit for the rest of my life. I’ve seen so many people in different times and ages of their lives doing and enjoying CrossFit, and I’ve never done another class as motivating with as many results before.
Describe your proudest CF achievement.
My proudest achievement to date would be completing double unders. Right now I can only do two or three in row, but when I first started CrossFit I could barely do singles. I remember the class when Mike said that we would be working on jumping rope. I thought “Oh, I did that in grade school. This should be something that’s easy for me.” I was WRONG; they’re totally different. So after several months of struggling and getting a little frustrated, Lissa, another coach, gave me some pointers about slowing down, and single unders suddenly clicked with me. It was the same a few months later with double unders.
What motivates you to keep coming back?
All of the little breakthroughs, like the double unders, motivate me to come back. With most movements, I still scale back because I’m just not there yet. But I keep working on it, and eventually I can move to the next scale. That’s what I love about CrossFit; there is always another goal to be working towards, whether it’s getting to the prescribed movement or doing more reps or getting a faster time. I never want to feel like there’s nothing else I can work towards.
Any advice for people just getting started or new to CF?
To anyone getting started or new to CrossFit, my biggest piece of advice is to stick with it. I know when I first started I felt overwhelmed with all of the information I was taking in, which with my limited athletic background was a lot. Before CF, I had never even put weights on a bar before. The more you go to CrossFit, the more you learn and the more comfortable you will be with it all. Staying consistent gets you to those small breakthroughs, which in my opinion is the best motivator.
Prior to joining Crossfit Brigade, I was alternately doing bootcamp workouts, or going to The Rush to do whatever miracle workout I had read about that month.
The bootcamps were beneficial; I dropped weight, but didn’t develop any real strength. The miracle workouts were basically just bootcamp breaks, during which I would try to gain strength, but gain weight, instead, and head back to bootcamp to lose it. I maintained this cycle for about 2 years.
My wife first introduced me to Eric & Emily when they were camping. She had been offering community yoga at Brigade, and had been coming home, telling me what great people they were, and how she really liked the kind of program they offered at Brigade. She wanted us to go to the Ocoee where they were camping, and hang out with them one weekend. To be honest, I initially thought “yeah, these are going to be some boring, health-nut, yoga yuppies, ready to judge me anytime I mention beer or ice cream, but I love my wife, so I’ll go.”
I could not have been more wrong. Eric & Emily are two of the most kind, energetic, and interesting people it has ever been my privilege to know, and they like beer and ice cream, too. Of course, they give it up during the myriad nutritional challenges Brigade undertakes, just like everyone else does. And, they stay fit enough that a little beer and ice cream doesn’t weigh them down. They have a passion for fitness, and they created Brigade to share that passion with others.
About a week after first meeting them at the campground, I decided we should give Brigade a try. I was ready to pay up front, and get started. They wouldn’t even let me. They made me take the 2-week free introduction. They didn’t want me to pay if it wasn’t for me. That’s how confident the are about Brigade, and for good reason.
After 2 weeks, I was hooked. It was like having attended a 2 week fitness tent-revival. I had to scale many of the exercises, like using bands for pullups, or kettlebells less than the prescribed weight, but at the end of each WOD, I felt like I had accomplished something. And, I wanted to go back the next day. For the first time, I found myself looking forward to going to the gym.
Eric & Emily, and their coaches, were right there, at each WOD to make certain I was doing each rep with proper form, and offering me advice on how to scale if necessary. 14 months later, they are still looking out for me. Just the other day, Eric pointed out to me that I wasn’t getting low enough in my squats. Without him, Emily, or the other coaches paying attention, caring enough to make certain I get the full benefit of the exercise, and saying something about it, I would never know. That’s what coaching is. And, it’s that coaching that has built such a camaraderie among Brigade’s members that they refer to each other as their “brigade family”. And, it’s that camaraderie that keeps us all cheering each other on, whether it’s cheering Emily & the Team at Regionals, or cheering somebody getting their first pullup at the gym.
As for quantified results, my weight since joining Brigade has been all over the place, from 260+ to 206, and then bouncing around as my muscle mass increases, and my body composition adjusts. But, my waist size keeps dropping. At 42, I am wearing 34 inch waist jeans for the first time in years. My backsquat has gone from 264lbs to almost 400lbs. My deadlift has increased from 363lbs to over 450lbs. I no longer use a band to do pullups, and even learned to kip. And, I can run 5k without stopping. I do more WODs as RX’d now than I do scaled. That’s a huge accomplishment for me. I’m not done yet. I will squat 400, deadlift 500, and benchpress 300 by the end of the year. It will happen.
I would recommend Crossfit Brigade to anyone, but I would especially recommend it to folks who haven’t been able to accomplish their fitness goals elsewhere, to those who have given up hope of ever being fit, to those who think they’re too fat to start, to those who think they’re too old to get in shape, and to those who are just so afraid that they’ll fail, that they don’t start. For these people, Crossfit Brigade is the solution.