Name: Deston McAlister
Like many people, Deston’s CrossFit journey began with an unfulfilling relationship with “regular gyms.” He power-lifted in high school, so he knew his way around a barbell. He told himself he was strong and in decent shape—but he was bored and un-motivated. He would attend a gym for a while, then quit, until starting the cycle again with another gym.
Then one night, he watched the Greg Glassman special on 60 Minutes. Intrigued by what he saw and the buzz surrounding the interview, Deston decided to check out CrossFit for himself.
“I knew CrossFit was going to be harder than I thought it was,” he said. “That’s what I was worried about—just coming in and getting destroyed. I didn’t want to be in over my head.”
Deston’s thoughts weren’t much different than many soon-to-be CrossFitters’. There’s a certain level of fear and intimidation that comes with walking into a box for the first time.
“I have people tell me all the time, ‘I couldn’t do that,’” Deston said. “Or, ‘I’m way too out of shape.’ But everything’s scalable. We’ve had at least four people I can think of who’ve had kind-of serious injuries who have still been able to CrossFit.”
That’s true—sometimes, people write off their abilities without trying a new movement, or asking coaches about modified workouts. We promote safety above all else, but sometimes it takes some out-of-the-box thinking to keep you moving.
Even though Deston knew CrossFit would be challenging, he also knew he was ready for a change. On their first day of On-ramp, Deston’s class did “Half-Cindy” for their workout. (10 minute AMRAP: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, and 15 squats.)
“I remember, I could barely hold onto my steering wheel afterwards, from all the ring-rows,” he said. “After that, I was like, ‘yeah, I’m gonna get my butt kicked for a while, but it’s not as bad as I built it up to be.’”
Realizing CrossFit isn’t as scary as they thought is the case for a lot of people. Sure, CrossFit will kick your butt, but it’s rarely impossible. On the flip side, it’s also not “easy” for any type of person. Even as a former power-lifter, Deston faced plenty of challenges in CrossFit.
“I’m used to lifting weights,” he said, “but gymnastics, Olympic lifting… that’s, like… from another planet.”
Everyone struggles in a different area. One person may have an excellent “engine” and crush the long-and-steady workouts; others may excel at the short-and-heavy style WODs. For Deston, strength wasn’t a problem, but technique and gymnastic movements were difficult. But that didn’t discourage him. He knew he would rather struggle to improve than go back to the stagnant cycle of quitting multiple chain gyms. So, he kept at it. And soon, he realized he wanted to do more than just workout.
“I just wanted to be the best me I could be,” he said. “And obviously, I hoped that ‘the-best-I-could-be’ would be… one of the best.”
Less than two months after completing On-Ramp, Deston decided to compete. Several members and coaches urged him to enter Bricktown Throwdown or another upcoming competition, but he held back. He missed his opportunity to sign-up for First-Timers by a couple months, and he decided to wait another year to take his shot. The competition, hosted by Koda CrossFit, only admits athletes who have never entered another competition, and Deston wanted to ease into the competition world.
“I figured that would be my best shot,” he said.
After waiting a year and finishing 8th out of 25 in the advanced division at First Timers, he was hooked. He said his mindset during workouts definitely changed, too. Before, he used the Whiteboard to determine what his score should be, and how hard he would push himself.
“I’d come in and set an unrealistic pace, or just blow-up,” he said.
Then there were days he didn’t check the Whiteboard, feel like he was being pulverized during the workout, but end up at the top of the board. While he said it was nice to realize he was doing better than he thought, he also decided the Whiteboard shouldn’t determine his goals or performance.
“Obviously, I need to come in here every day and attack whatever weaknesses I have,” he said.
So now he strives to be more prepared and have specific goals, rather than going all-out every day, no matter what. Competing gave him a way to channel that mindset into something concrete.
“When I come in every day,” he said, “it gives me something to shoot for.”
He stopped checking the whiteboard before workouts, and now he works with Aaron and does Individualized Programming. Despite the fact that he no longer attacks every workout with full-throttle intensity, he said he feels like he’s improved his level of mental endurance and tenacity.
“I like to think that now I can fight through that level of pain,” he said. “Kind of go to that dark place, where I used to just stop and quit.”
But the real reason he knows he won’t quit has nothing to do with his physical ability or training. He sticks around primarily because of the people, and he feels that everything he’s gained at 405 South is worth more than anything he could ever create himself at another gym.
“I joined because I’m competitive, and I knew CrossFit was something that might keep me engaged,” he said. “But I was blown away by the community. I knew it wasn’t like a globo-gym. That’s the one thing that keeps me coming back.”