Spencer Chase

Spencer Chase: “You will get huge results doing CrossFit and eating healthy”

I first started Crossfit in May of 2009 to get in shape for my wedding/honeymoon with my fiance (now beautiful wife) at the time, Valerie.  I heard about Crossfit through Bryan Diaz, one of my best friends from college, who is now a coach at Alamo in San Antonio.

As far as Paleo, the biggest change I noticed after starting the diet was an increase in performance during the workouts.  I felt stronger and had more energy.  Seeing these results made it easier to stick with the diet. My favorite Paleo recipe is Valerie’s seafood chili. Other than that, I enjoyed a lot of salmon and steak.  Paleo is definitely something that I will follow now and it really makes you think about what you put into your body.

You will get huge results just doing Crossfit and eating healthy, but if you combine the two, the results will be that much better.

Matt Steinheider

Matt Steinheider “Everyone in class expects me to do my best and push myself”

When I first started Crossfit at the end of August, 2009, I literally needed a week to recover from the basic WODs.  My first WOD of something like 10 box jumps, 15 pushups and 20 sit-ups put me on the shelf for 5 days.  My first tabada pushup total was 1.  And that was only because I cheated on the last 2-3 intervals.  My first real WOD came on October 1, 2009, at 4:00 PM.  There were about 6 of us there, me being the only newbie. The WOD: 50 box pushups, 40 air squats, 30 box dips, 20 SDHP with 53# KB, 10 burpees, 800m Run, 2 ROUNDS.  55 minutes later, I finished (kind of: I had a few range of motion issues on, well, everything the whole WOD).  But what I remember most is that as each person got finished, they offered little bits of encouragement as I was struggling.  I must admit that this seemed very weird.  I was obviously struggling, and thought that everyone was just sitting there watching me struggle.  I suspect that CrossFit in general loses a lot of new clients who don’t like being watched, as it wasn’t until I had been 4-5 times that I realized that nobody cared what my time was.  They just wanted me to do my best and finish no matter how long it took.

It’s that kind of camaraderie that has helped my fitness improve so much over the last 6 months.  It’s not only doing extra pull-ups after class, lifting with stronger guys, or chasing faster guys (the competition certainly helps though), its knowing that while I am doing a WOD, Vic, Katie and everyone in the class expects me to do my best and to push myself.  You could walk into the box and insult somebody’s mother, and eventually you might be forgiven.  But if you show up and give less than your best that day, people will remember.  I didn’t know that was the stimulus I needed to get my butt into shape.  But it works for me.  And I think it works for everyone who has ever measured themselves against a clock. Whether one person does a WOD in 9:41 and thought they could have done it in 9:25, or another does the same WOD in 16:10 and thought they could have done it in 15-something, everyone is expected to do their best, and that is why I love CrossFit.  I hate to admit this, but I think I used to be one of those people who had a lot of “quit” in them.  Try to do 20 pushups and the 15th is hard?  Shoot, do 15 then.  Want to run 5 miles but you can see your house after 2?  Eh, go home.  2 miles is a lot to run. Fortunately I think that person is on his way out of my psychological makeup.  I don’t know if he is all the way out yet, but I know he’s most of the way.

As I write this, Bayou City Crossfit just finished its 2010 Paleo Challenge. On January 9, 2010, I, along with 20+ others, were measured and did the Helen WOD: 400m Run, 21 KB Swings (53#), 12 Pullups, 3 Rounds.  I don’t remember all my measurements, but I do remember that I was 42″ around my belly, and even though they didn’t weigh us, I know I weighed 238 that day (down from 248 and 43″ around on October 1, 2009).  That first ever Helen was done in 13:40 if I remember right.  Over the next 3 months, I ate well, went to the 6AM class 4 times a week, and practiced the hell out of my kipping pullup.  (Quick side note on eating well:  I always thought that you should eat well just for body composition reasons.  It never occurred to me that eating well would also help to improve your fitness.  I’m a paleo devotee now).  When the Paleo Challenge ended on April 3, 2010, I was 39.25″ around, weighed 218, and probably lost more than 20 lbs of fat.  My Helen time was 10:08, a time that I am both totally proud of, and a little ticked at that I didn’t break 10 minutes.  But I know for a fact that 10:08 was as fast as I could have gone that day.  I pushed myself harder than I ever have before.  But that is what CrossFit is for me now.  A way for me to measure myself against myself.  A way to test my limits, even at 36 years old.  I only wish I had found CrossFit earlier in my life.

Matthew Smolen

Matthew Smolen: “CrossFit has changed my life.”

Seven months ago I was a 41 year old accountant who had moved to Houston 2 years prior. I had never been in great shape, but had always participated in multiple team activities each week, consisting primarily of softball and volleyball. I had joined various gyms religiously for 10 out of the previous 20 years on January 1st and religiously stopped going by the end of February. My general level of activity however kept me pretty healthy, although I ate a diet that did not help me in the least.

Upon my arrival in Houston, work responsibilities coupled with a lack of affiliations with any sporting groups effectively eliminated any exercise from my life for 2 years. I have always had high cholesterol levels, but they were mitigated by very high HDL cholesterol, keeping my risk factor low. My blood pressure was constantly in the “normal” range. That had changed.

By December of 2008, I weighed nearly 170 lbs, quite a lot for a traditionally skinny guy topping out at 5’7”. My cholesterol was just as high, but my HDL levels had plummeted, putting me in the “at risk” category. I was nearly booted from a dentist’s chair because my blood pressure was too high. Only after I explained that I had consumed too much coffee (a fabrication), forgetting about the appointment, did they continue. Worse still, I felt like crap, every day, for a very long time.

Something had to change.

I bought a mountain bike and began riding. I started to eat better, however my idea of better has subsequently been debunked. I wasn’t feeling it! I got that feeling I get about 2 weeks before I stop going to the gym. My weight had come down to un-embarrassing levels but I could feel my motivation slipping away. While discussing exercise routines with a work-mate of mine, another guy overheard our conversation and forwarded Bayou City CrossFit’s web address. I looked at it off and on for a week or two and finally emailed Vic. My chief concern, and I’m not kidding, was “will this kill me”? Vic said no, but I was convinced he did not know who he was dealing with.

In late March I showed up on a Saturday for the open workout. I can’t remember the workout, but it was 4 rounds. I tapped out after 2! I sat and heaved for 30 minutes after the workout and still needed to pull over at the Wendy’s on Sheppard because I was dizzy.

Something had to change.

By the grace of God, this motivated me…somehow. If I could feel this bad after half a workout that most people were finishing in 15 minutes, I wasn’t going to see 60 years. I went to my two intro classes and started a 2 day a week program. For 2 months I would dread going to the morning classes. I would lay in bed an hour before I had to get up to make the class and ruminate in sheer terror at the prospect of doing another WOD. I rarely finished WODS in the early months, but I was getting closer.

Sometime around June, I was finishing all the WODS and had begun attending 5 times a week. I didn’t lie in bed dreading the WODS, I was jumping out of bed and scurrying to them. Shortly thereafter came the unassisted kipping pull ups. Just when I was starting to feel good about myself, it was time to “man up” and scale my weights up. The times are still slow, but the strength is increasing beyond my wildest expectations.

Today, I am at requisite weight about half the time, and inching closer on the lifts that I am not quite there yet. I have never felt better.

The learning and improvement never stops, nor should it. I can get stronger, I can get faster, I can get mentally tougher, I can breathe better, I can learn muscle ups and I can learn ring dips. Unlike 6 months ago, it’s now simply a matter of when, not if.

CrossFit isn’t just exercise! CrossFit is diet! CrossFit is sleep! CrossFit is mental toughness! Certainly not least, CrossFit is community! I’ve never before felt more motivated by my peers than I do here at Bayou City. Furthermore, I’m learning that the CrossFit community extends well beyond our Box. FGBIV and Oktoberfest Obliteration screamed with brother/sisterhood. When I visit Dallas, I go to an affiliate there. I feel the same sense of community.

For the record, I’m now less than 150 lbs, HDL levels are back to normal and blood pressure has been consistently good. With the exception of the “good” pain that I have felt continuously since roughly the day I met Vic, I feel like I did 10 years ago. Thank you Vic, David, Charlie, Vic Sr., Katie and Doug. Your coaching and encouragement are the reason I made it this far. Thanks to all the athletes at Bayou City. If I felt embarrassed about my abilities early on, who knows if I would have stuck with it. I appreciate you all.

Shelby Frakes

Shelby Frakes: “One of the best decisions of my life.”

CrossFit has changed my life.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this statement and each time it is powerful, personal, and motivating. I can honestly say I can join the ranks of people who have had life-changing experiences due to CrossFit. I joined Bayou City CrossFit in March of this year; I maintain that this has been one of the best decisions of my life.

Like most people I have been involved in sports of some kind through high school and college and, like most people, my involvement in physical activity waned as each year went by. In 2005 I moved back to Houston and began the process of rebuilding my life after a series of events that can be described as “less than fun” in College Station. I was picking up the pieces of my life and fitness and health were not a top priority.

I started working in the restaurant industry in Kemah and quickly adapted to the “industry lifestyle.” This consisted of working 17 hour days in the heat, getting off work and heading straight to the local bar. Fatty, fried foods were the norm and served with as much alcohol as you could manage in the two hours prior to last call. I would like to say this was just a weekend ritual but in the industry this is actually a 5-6 times a week habit, although it was not out of the norm to drink 7 days a week. I was a heavy smoker. I would smoke a pack a day… if I was not drinking. In all reality, even though I did not want to admit it, I was smoking up to 2 packs a day.

This lifestyle went on for a couple of years, working hard and playing even harder. Nutrition didn’t matter to me, I was lucky if I would eat one full meal a day. Exercise? Well I walked for a living and carried trays that were 60 pounds, so why did I need to exercise? I was the heaviest I had ever been. I was lethargic and unhappy. I was miserable and tired of the way things were going for me, but lacked the motivation and energy to change my life. When I started bartending in a local bar it went downhill fast. Now along with unhealthy eating habits, smoking and drinking, I was no longer getting a full nights sleep. I would work until 3 AM and then hang out at the “after party” until 7 AM. I was sleeping until 3 PM and back at work by 4 to do it all over again.

Something had to change.

I quit the bar business, got back in school, and started working towards a goal of getting out of the restaurant industry. I knew I was heading down a path that was unhealthy. Thirty was only a year and a half away and I knew I wanted to be a healthy, fit person that would enjoy life, not waste it away in a bar.

During this time, my sister Whitney had joined CrossFit Central in Austin, TX. It was ALL she would talk about. I thought she was crazy. But 4 months later she came home and there was a big difference in her weight and size. And she was stronger than me. This was a first for me; I’ve always been stronger than her. I decided to try a local boot camp not affiliated with CrossFit. The coach was great but I quickly realized that this format was not for me. I was watching the clock for the full hour that we worked out, counting down, and not enjoying it. I also never saw the results I was looking for: weight loss and strength gains.

The moment it all started to change.

I was exiled to Austin when Ike came through Houston where I aggravated my sister by cleaning and reorganizing her house. She came home and told me to come try something with her. She took me to my first CrossFit class. WOW! That was the hardest 15 minutes of my life. And that was just the warm up! I wasn’t able to complete the WOD that day and thought I was going to throw up for 20 minutes after class. But my energy was up, I felt good, and I had not looked at the clock once during the hour.

6 months later I finally found the courage to find a box in Houston. I had changed jobs and was now sitting in front of a computer and my physical activity went from moderate to non-existent. Poor nutrition, smoking, and drinking were still the norm. Clearly, this was not going to work.

I emailed Vic at Bayou City CrossFit and set up my intro class with David. Tabata pushups and squats were the name of the game; 8 minutes later I was no longer able to feel my body. Round 2 with David consisted of oly lifts I’d never even heard of.

Within a month of consistently working out I saw a difference in my attitude and energy levels. Smoking went from a pack a day to maybe 4 cigarettes a day. I went to New York and had energy to spare even after walking close to 80 miles the first day.

6 weeks later we did a particularly long WOD that included quite a bit of running. That night I got home and threw out that pack of cigarettes I had been hiding in my car and have not picked one up since. I wanted to be healthier. I wanted to be stronger. I wanted to be able to run 400 meters without stopping. I wanted to be alive in ten years and really be living, not just surviving. I had found something that I knew would get me there.

Since joining Bayou City CrossFit

Shelby’s Success Pictures

Since joining Bayou City CrossFit, I have seen amazing results. I started coming because I wanted to lose weight and maybe get a little stronger. It’s remarkable how your goals can change from wanting to “just lose a few pounds” to “I am going to be healthy and FIT.”

Here are some of the changes that have taken place in 2009:

  • Lost 35 pounds in 8 months
  • Lost 4 pants sizes
  • I don’t have all the inches I’ve lost, but have lost several and 6 inches in my midsection alone
  • March 2009: could barely do a thruster with a 45# bar. November 2009: completed multiple 95# thrusters!
  • Conquered the kipping pull up
  • Running a 5k without stopping
  • My lifestyle has made a complete 180. I no longer smoke. I don’t drink and go out every night of the week.
  • I eat (at least) six times a day, Zone/Paleo
  • I am happy! I can breathe! I am healthy!

I have found something that is much better for me and I am dedicated to being healthy and fit. I am not only going to live to see my forties but I am going to kick ass doing it. My goals have changed, my life direction has changed. I am going to continue on this journey of staying healthy and fit; and I’m bringing everyone I can with me!

I drank the Kool-Aid…and let me tell you it tasted FANTASTIC.

Charlie Johnson

Charlie Johnson: “CrossFit taught me how to replace ‘Want To’ with ‘Will.'”

I started CrossFit because I was tired of being softer than the brownies I demolishing on a daily basis. From the time I could walk, sports have been my life. I was always finding ways to not only stay active but to excel at every activity I tried.

At the age on 22, I was completely spent. I woke up one day and said, “To hell with that, I’m tired of hurting all of the time.” I was done with physical activity. I put all of my focus into music and I hit the road. For four years, it was booze, smokes, microwave burritos, booze, smokes and… Oh yeah, music.

Over those four years, I went from college athlete (190 lbs) to Tons of Fun (245 lbs). Abs were replaced by stretch marks and a damn good jaw line was drenched in squish. I was 26 years old and I had to suck in to bend over and tie my shoes.

I moved back to Houston and began coaching. I ate better, ran a bit, became a little more active and dropped down to 230 lbs. It wasn’t enough for me but I could not stick with any “diet” or workout. After two years of bitching and making “I can’t today because…” excuses, I decided to give this CrossFit thing a shot. {This is where I give Joe Sims the first (sober) THANK YOU for getting my butt involved.} I think he was tired of answering my questions because he started to answer them with a simple “I’ll be there at 5pm on Monday.”

July 26, 2009

I quit smoking after 14 years… that’s right, I started when I was 14 yrs old. I was tired of being the guy I have always hated.

July 27, 2009

15 Thrusters (45 lb bumper), broad jump burpees, 15 KB Twists (used 20 lb. medicine ball), broad jump burpees… 4 rounds for time. DNF I threw up halfway through it and I wanted nothing more than to choke Joe… at the exact same time, that competitive athlete was born again. I was hooked. I could barely walk down my stairs two days later, but I gave it all I could to finish the next WOD. I’ve gone from finding a million reasons to NOT workout to doing burpees in a puddle of water during the LumberJack 20.

Over the past four months…

I have dropped almost 30 lbs and I have gained so much more in return. The same camaraderie I experienced playing sports is the same as I experience with CrossFit. It has opened my eyes to fitness, diet, discipline, determination, and countless others of life’s essentials. It has also opened me up to other opportunities in life.

I will go after my CrossFit Kids Certification in the Summer of 2010 in hopes of reaching people long before they become 28 year old chunks of bubble gum. My ultimate goal is to teach children ways to become physically active and fit for a lifetime. CrossFit has taught me how to replace “Want to” with “WILL.” Thank You Bayou City CrossFit!!!