“The Community,” they say…
The more athletes I talk to, the more I’m convinced that they’ve all forgotten that CrossFit 405 is a gym. A place to get a workout, burn some calories, get stronger.
At least, that’s not the main reason so many athletes show up every day at 5:30am, during their lunch hour, or after a long day at work.
They show up, day after day, because of the people.
I don’t think I’ve done a single interview or client meeting where someone hasn’t told me the “community” is the reason they love CrossFit, and the reason they keep coming back for torture WODs.
That’s certainly the reason Evan Walter, who’s been working out with 405 for nearly four years, keeps coming back. And now he has another reason to be excited about his CrossFit experience: The Nutrition Program. As one of the “guinea pigs” for this eating challenge, it seemed appropriate to share his progress and success story with this journey we call “CrossFit.”
Name: Evan Walter
Occupation: Director of Development for Casady School
Years CrossFitting: 4 (in April 2017)
Evan, like many people, played sports in high school (football, baseball, and swimming in the off-season). When he graduated, he weighed in at around 195 pounds. Then, like we all did, he had to grow up focus on the fun things—like work and college. And his health took a back seat.
“There were periods where I would try to get back into it,” he said. “But I really needed that group setting with professional instruction. And I just hated feeling heavy all the time.”
His weight fluctuated, sometimes as much as 40 pounds more than his high school weight. The day he walked in the door of CrossFit 405 in midtown, he weighed 215. He’d spotted the box while driving his daughter to school every day and finally decided to check it out. He knew CrossFit was an intense workout in a group setting led by a coach, but other than that, the idea was completely new to him.
“I liked the structure of CrossFit,” he said. And he confessed that that element was something he really needed to get in shape. “I didn’t like having to go to a gym and do my own programming.”
He signed up for On-Ramp and had the experience most of us did when we first started.
“I thought, ‘Man, I am in worse shape than I thought I was,’” he said. “I was sitting against the wall trying not to throw up. I looked out on the floor thinking, ‘You can’t tell me that in three weeks, I’m gonna be able to go out there.’”
And yet, four years later, he’s still here.
“I thought, ‘If he can do it and she can do it,’” Evan said, “‘I can do it.’”
And the rest of us are still here, too—who thought the same thing during our first Half-Cindy or Baseline. They key is finding a reason that makes you keep coming back. But Evan said that watching the other athletes wasn’t what made him continue CrossFit. In fact, he pointed out that the WODs were a humbling experience, where he (like all of us) really had to “leave your ego at the door.” Workouts weren’t a morale booster because he was great at lifting weights. What drove him to return was the community of coaches and athletes who were willing to accept him just as he was.
“That’s what kept me coming back,” he said. “I really look forward to seeing these folks. Truly, when I’m not at the gym, I miss these people. I really, really do.”
He said that sometimes he hangs out at the gym even when he’s not working out. Whether that’s spare time before picking up his six-year-old daughter, or one of their “Daddy-Sofie dates.”
“My daughter absolutely loves the gym,” he said. “She’ll say, ‘Hey let’s go to the gym, you haven’t seen your friends in a long time!’”
Which you could say is her way of asking for a trip to the jungle gym of ropes and rowers … (Because apparently, she can climb halfway up the rope without using her legs). But she’s likely noticed a change in her father since he joined CrossFit 405. Evan said that apart from losing weight and being more active, the experience has changed him.
“I’m happier, and I don’t let the little things get me down,” he said. “And I think CrossFit has a lot to do with that.”
He calls fitness the “vehicle” to what CrossFit truly is: community. Working out with other people adds a level of competition, sure, but that’s not always why we need other people in the box with us. Evan said it’s more about the atmosphere that fills the gym when everyone is sweating and slamming weights together.
“Even though you’re not focused on how they’re doing relative to you,” he said, “when you have other people around you, you have motivation surrounding you.”
The “CrossFit culture” in general is highly focused on community. Evan said one thing he loves is watching the top athletes at the Games complete their heat, only to turn around and cheer for their competitors. And while community is a quality people can correlate to CrossFit, he said the two things aren’t necessarily inseparable. Simply opening a gym and putting “CrossFit” in the name doesn’t guarantee the family of support that he’s gained at 405.
“I’ve dropped-in gyms like ours that are very welcoming,” he said. “But I’ve dropped-in to others that are very cold and competitive.”
The community atmosphere doesn’t happen by accident. Evan believes the key to a successful community is strong leadership—an attitude that works from the top, down. And when it comes to a CrossFit gym, that means strong coaches—and not just physically strong.
“If you have really strong coaches,” Evan said, “they aren’t trying to impress. They’re not trying to show you how much better they are. They’re not competing with you. They’re truly coaching.”
And most importantly, they know the value in seeing others succeed. “They appreciate that your success is their success,” Evan said.
Watch any of our coaches this weekend at Fittest and you’ll see what he means. There’s something special about seeing the coaches who instruct you every day scream so intensely because they want you to succeed. They want you to crush it. And they’re so proud when you do.
“When you have that attitude at the top,” Evan said, “it permeates down.”
And of course, it helps to have coaches who are knowledgeable and educated in their profession. Evan said he trusts the coaches far more than himself when it comes to his fitness.
“I tell them, ‘Don’t be bashful about correcting me on my technique,’” he said. “If I have sloppy technique, I’m not doing anything good for myself.”
And sometimes that’s what it takes to improve—handing the reigns to someone else and letting them lead you. In October, Evan realized he needed to focus more on nutrition to better his health and performance. He wasn’t sure where to start, so he asked Aaron for help. It happened that Aaron was looking to start a nutrition program for the box, so he asked Evan to be his first “contestant.”
Evan was already at what he considered a “good weight” for him—199. But he wanted to be better, to maximize the effort he was putting forth in the gym. His lowest weight since age 19 was 195. In January, he officially started Aaron’s nutrition program and hit 194 pounds. A few days ago, he weighed in at 192 and was amazed at his progress.
“Aaron was very smart in not over-complicating it, just keeping it basic,” Evan said. “I’m much more intentional about what I eat, and not overly critical.”
The plan is simple. Evan completed a questionnaire based on his body type and goals, and Aaron told him how many calories, grams of fat, protein, and carbs he should consume on days that he exercises and days that he doesn’t. Evan keeps track on an Excel spreadsheet and also likes to track his workouts on Movescount. The app tracks recovery time, peak heart rate, and average heart rate. Evan finds that tracking his workouts alongside his nutrition is helpful because he’s more realistic about what his body is doing, and he can set better expectations for himself.
“That’s kind of my scoreboard,” he said. “I keep score with myself. I don’t look at the whiteboard; I just look to make sure I’m really making good use of my time here.”
And time is important—especially when you have kids and a wife and a full-time job with “weird hours.” One of people’s biggest complaints about exercising is simply finding the time to do it. Evan said his biggest challenge is the fact that he’d like to be at the box every day, but he simply can’t because he has—to put it simply—a busy life. But although time constraints are his biggest issue, they’re not holding him back.
“Anything that’s a challenge, you consider quitting—and not finishing,” he said. “But of all the things that have been a challenge in my life…I have never considered that an option here. Every day is new. Every day is worth it.”
By Chandler Neal