Name: Gaff (Matt G.)
When did you start at CrossFit Rail trail?
I took part in the pre-opening outside workouts during the summer of 2014. I also attended the very first class and completed CFRT’s very 1st WOD.
How would you describe your fitness level when starting CF?
- Sedentary – no exercise
- light activity – walking, swimming , jogging once or twice a week
- moderate – average of 3 days a week of some kind of physical activity or weights
- active- 4-6 days a week of metabolic conditioning and weights
I would classify my fitness level prior to Crossfit as “light activity.” I, like many others, sporadically ‘hit the gym’ alone wearing my headphones doing a mixture of weights and cardio without any real sense of purpose, programming or direction. I took an intro class at another box and remember not being able to specifically pinpoint what it was I enjoyed, but knew I enjoyed it. I stuck with it and experienced minimal to moderate gains/improvements, but did not have the structure and programming components and felt I was stalling out/plateauing. That’s when I was introduced to PJ, Mike and Sarah and, after attending their classes at yet another box, realized I was not getting the most out of my abilities nor was I getting the most out of the Crossfit experience. Needless to say, I was very excited when CFRT came on the scene.
What do you think makes CFRT different than other gyms?
When people think Crossfit – they think community. Other gyms, even a crossfit box I attended, did not have that sense of community and support I see on a daily basis here at CFRT. I consider myself a mentally strong person, but I have realized that I am not nearly as strong and successful alone as I am when supported and challenged by others.
Another important component that makes CFRT different from other gyms is the coaching and programming. Proper instruction in weightlifting, gymnastics and Olympic lifting, and being able to safely execute all movements, is an important component to crossfit. Many of the exercises and lifts I was doing in gyms prior to crossfit were, for the most part, self-taught. I also never had anyone demo, instruct and supervise my workouts, so I had no way to measure and evaluate my set-up, form and ability to properly execute these movements. The instruction I receive on a daily basis from CFRT coaches provides me with the technique to safely and confidently execute all movements/lifts and maximize the opportunity to challenge myself and remain injury-free in the process. That, coupled with the staff’s expertise to design and program workouts that maximize my opportunity to become healthier and stronger and not have to “create my own workouts” has proved extremely beneficial.
What kind of nutritional lifestyle do you follow?
Prior to CFRT, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. The coaches and other members have really helped me to understand the importance of nutrition and how what I eat impacts my body. I always “knew” that, but it wasn’t until working out at Rail Trail I truly understood it. I do not follow any specific nutritional plan – I have cleaned up my eating considerably, drink water religiously and get plenty of sleep/rest. I really like the concept of “earning my cheats.” I have zero guilt about a slice of cake at a birthday party or the occasional ice cream cone with my kids because those treats are not part of my regular day-to-day diet and eating healthy and exercising are.
What has been your biggest accomplishment since starting at CFRT?
Honestly, my biggest accomplishment has been setting a positive example for my wife and children and being able to share my new-found love of health and exercise with them. An extension of that is setting a positive example for my co-workers and students at school. It’s not enough for me as a husband, father and educator to tell people to be active, drink water and exercise – I need to show them. I need to model appropriate behavior, practice what I preach and encourage them that they too can do it. I also let them know that this is hard work, it’s not easy, but when you surround yourself with helpful, positive and motivated people, it can be done and it is extremely enjoyable work.
There’s a saying “if it’s important to you, you’ll find a way; if it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.” I used to be that person, making excuses for my less than healthy lifestyle. (“I’m too busy at work, I can’t make time to workout, I don’t have time to shop for healthy foods and plan meals, I don’t want to sacrifice family time for the gym, I don’t have the money for that, I won’t be able to do those things physically – I’m too old, out of shape”) Fitness, healthy eating, healthy living – it’s a life-long process and it’s an investment in yourself. CFRT has provided me the opportunity, skill set and blue print to make that important investment in myself, and I’m all in. That’s my biggest accomplishment.
In your own words, please provide a brief history of your fitness journey, starting prior to CFRT up to the present day.
I feel my story is a relatively common one.
I was an active kid growing up. I had a high-level of interest in sports, always on a team from age 5-18. My siblings and friends were too. But I didn’t have any adult in my life that was physically active. My parents, coaches, and teachers always talked to me about the importance of training, working hard, staying in shape – but none of them modeled it. My youth football coach used to jog around the town common smoking a cigarette. Other than the occasional walk around the neighborhood and sporadic “diet,” my parents didn’t exercise nor eat right. So I just figured, “this is what happens when you get old, once you’re out of school and sports, your fitness journey is over.” So I followed suit. I stopped being active in college, put on weight and ate and drank. I was a History/Education major in college, always knowing I wanted to be a teacher-coach, so I began coaching high school football at the age of 19. I was “preaching” to my players all about working out, staying in shape and ‘paying the price’ but never once participated in a workout, touched a weight in our weight room, or went out on a run. I was an overweight, out of shape college kid who’s only physical activity was throwing a few passes to my players at practice and walking from my car to class. And I stayed that way – for over a decade. There were tiny pockets of “I need to get back in shape.” It went like this, join a gym, do a few sets of bench press, jog on the treadmill for ten minutes and head home. Then stop for a few months, then start again. Stop-start-repeat. I convinced myself every time to start up to stick with it, but my excuses to stop kept coming.
My ‘a-ha’ moment happened one night in the spring of 2011. It was 2 am and I was white-knuckling the gurney in an emergency room with chest and stomach pain. My wife was standing next to me while doctor’s frantically scurried around. I looked up at my wife and started to cry. She called for a doctor, assuming the tears were from the pain. They weren’t. I wasn’t in pain, I was scared. All I could think about was not being there for my wife and kids. I was a 36 year old husband and father. Then my emotions went from fear to hate. I hated myself in that very moment. I hated how selfish I had been for the last half of my life. I hated myself for every excuse I ever made as to why I didn’t eat right, exercise, take care of myself, and be as healthy as possible. I hated myself more because none of that changed when I got married, none of that changed when my kids were born. When the hell was it ever going to change?
After gallbladder surgery and recovery, I took an intro Crossfit class. I liked it. I liked the idea too of doing a workout with others. I liked the challenge. I gave it a shot. I stuck with it. I met some cool people. I started obstacle course racing. I met some more cool people. I was into it. I was seeing small changes. I was enjoying it. I was struggling through the challenges, but I wasn’t feeling defeated. I watch others succeed, but other fall short too. But we all came back the next day. Failures turned into successes, struggles turned into triumphs. I never once, through all of the beginning, ever once thought of quitting. Other people, my wife, my coworkers and family noticed changes too. Not just physical ones either – improvement in attitude, confidence and overall happiness to a degree.
But then I stalled out a little. I couldn’t place it. What I saw and heard about crossfit was similar to what I was experiencing, but not quite the same. I talked with other crossfitters and checked out another box.
It was a cold winter morning, PJ was coaching. It was structured. It was organized. It was challenging. The WOD I remember, had chest to bar pullups in it. I had never been asked to do one, let alone instructed on how to do it. I told PJ that. He told me to hop on the bar. He coached me up, worked my technique, gave me drills to work on when I left, and taught me about progressions. I did them in the WOD. I got home and told my wife “today, I took my first real crossfit class!”
I stuck with it, hitting classes with PJ, Mike & Sarah 35 minutes away when possible. Then, it all came together, they were opening a box in Hudson. I couldn’t sign up fast enough. Friends I had made from other boxes joined too, then new members joined and became friends. I was part of something special. I shared my new passion with my family. We worked hard, ate right, exercised and were being healthy together. I was giving my kids something I never had – a model that being active and healthy is an enjoyable and life-long responsibility. I’m in better shape now at 40 then I ever was in my 20s and 30s.
But it’s not over, it’s still, in many ways, just getting started. Because there’s no finish line, it’s not a race. It’s a journey, one my family and I plan on taking for a long, long time and we have CFRT to thank for that.