It was another gray day in Cleveland as I awoke to join my fellow CLEFit friends at C-town CrossFit in the east bank of the flats. I knew that I had the Turkey Trot to run the next day and was admittedly a little nervous, as I had never done cross-fit before but had always been curious. As I entered the flats, suddenly the gray day was gray no more! The brightly painted Cross-fit building was emerging out of the clouds with painted murals of sights one would find throughout the city of Cleveland. It was awesome! I quickly found a parking space, saw that someone was feeding feral cats in the neighborhood, and I knew this was going to be my kind of place with my kind of people.
As people were entering the Cross-fit building, all were welcomed and greeted with a smile. The gym was busy with people of all ages and abilities finishing up the class before ours. It was inspiring and exciting to see everyone looking tired from their workout and at the same time empowered. As we entered the gym floor, the first thing we saw was a white board, and as we always say, “where there is a white board, there is trouble!” For those of you that have not been to this type of class, the whiteboard is where the coach maps out the day's workout. That aside, we stood in a circle and said what our favorite snack food was and using that information as fuel and motivation, we learned what our whiteboard workout would be from our coach, Joey Michael. Within this circle there was a couple from out of town that was in for a wedding, some familiar faces from our previous 52 Weeks of Fitness events, and of course some die-hard regulars of C-Town.
Since the weather on this late October day was warm enough to be outside without a jacket our workout began with a warm-up of running around the block and back to the building. From there we formed rows as the warm-up continued inside as we did lunges and jumps down to one end of the room and back. Joey then put us with partners that were experienced in this workout. Some of today’s workout would include: Wall Balls, Rowing, Ball Slams & Burpee’s. They helped us with the proper alignment during each of the segments as well as held us accountable to push ourselves. Every time I have rowed since I can still hear my partner for the class saying, “legs, back, arms!” It was such a great morning at C-Town and the group energy was exhilarating as we pushed towards our limits under the watchful eye of our coach Joey who was motivating and kind.
Today's class was FitCon: “Love the CrossFit methodology, but could do without the barbell work? CTOWN FitCon is a comprehensive, high-intensity training program designed to get you in the best shape of your life FAST, regardless of your current ability. Led by our expert coaches, you will be guided through a dynamic, multi-part workout (never the same twice) to build strength, speed, and endurance, using the CrossFit methodology. By excluding some of the more complex barbell and gymnastics movements commonly found in CrossFit, the CTOWN FitCon program allows you to get maximum results, without being restricted by the higher skill movement patterns and sequences.”
At the end of the workout, we took our signature "family photo" where it was clear that we were all Cross-fit and fabulous! Afterwards we had a chance to take a tour with one of the owners and head coaches, R.E. Lewis. As we walked he talked about both his passion for CrossFit and pride in our city. You can see that pride in CLE & Ohio in the images of his building below.
Find out more about Joey and the passion behind his coaching at C-Town and inspiring the city's youth.
1. Tell me about your passion for fitness?
You will hear veteran doctors say something to the extend of "I have seen grandmas that eat bacon and drink whiskey every day live to be 100+ and I have seen 20 year old tri-athletes collapse and die at the peak of their fitness." While this is probably true, these are the exceptions and not the rule. The rule is that if you want a long life you have to be active, in one way or the other. The rule is that you have to eat relatively healthy. It doesn't always work out this way, but statistically speaking you give yourself the best chance by following these and a couple other rules. I myself do not train every day. I don't eat 100% healthy and I don't pretend that I do. I do try and limit my long term risk. We practice reactionary medicine in this country. We wait until we are sick until we focus on getting healthy. I want to be healthy as long as possible, for my wife, for my children, grandchildren, and heck, my great grandchildren. Every step I take towards continuing my fitness or eating mostly clean is helping me work towards that long term health. We would be better off nationwide if we practiced preventative medicine and self preventative care as a rule.
2. What's your favorite part about what you do with C-Town?
Hands down it is the community, being a part of it and helping to build it. I did "CrossFit" at a community rec center for a couple years before joining CTOWN as just a member. It was easy to be loose with my form, skip rounds, skip weeks at a time. Like many top notch CrossFit gyms, CTOWN has a strong community aspect. People are friendly, they push you and you are held accountable. This doesn't mean you have to be a fire-breather or game level athlete. It means show up, be present, be friendly, and be better than when you showed up. Oh, and have a little fun while doing it. I love promoting that atmosphere as a coach and a member.
3. For someone that has never done CrossFit before what can they expect from your class?
For the most part at CTOWN, people wont be able to take a "CrossFit" class without going through the fundamentals program one on one with a coach. There are plenty of complex and difficult movements in CrossFit and if you don't know what you are doing it can be easy to make a mistake. Sometimes this leads to injury. Which let me be clear, any activity can lead to injury. CrossFit gets a bad rap because, for the most part people either see the beasts on TV during the games or they see fail videos on the internet and that's becomes "what CrossFit is". We work very hard at CTOWN to limit the risk of those that come in our doors. One of the best parts of CrossFit is that it is infinitely scalable. Can't do a pull up? Cool, we can scale that movement to where it is not only doable for you, but challenging and worthwhile. As for walking into a class without doing CrossFit per se, we do offer FitCon classes. This is like CrossFit light when it comes to technically difficult movements. There is no barbell work and there is none of advanced level gymnastics movements that are within the CrossFit realm. This doesn't mean that it isn't challenging. I have regular CTOWN athletes that drop in to FitCon classes and are just as challenged and taxed at the end.
To actually answer your question though, I am a pretty intense guy, so you can expect to be pushed. I won't shy away from stopping you in a workout to correct an error that I feel is either detrimental to your body or if I feel I can improve your performance. I love community and culture building so there is always a round up question that everyone answers at the beginning. Something like "Hi my name is ________ and my karaoke song is______" or "My name is ________ and if I could be an ice-cream flavor it would be___________ and why". It sometimes takes a bit of time from the class but it allows people to learn each others names and a little about each other. Its amazing what you can learn about someone's personality by which board game they would prefer to play. It also helps people in class cheer each other on. When you know someone's name and have a connection with them, even if it is that you both love the Bachelor, you are more likely to give them a push when you know you are both trudging through something difficult together. My boss calls me a low rate comedian. Which is fairly accurate. I try and not just make it about fitness and community, but when you are suffering through some of this stuff, you have to keep a sense of humor.
4. What is(are) your philosophy(ies) on health?
At the high school I work at we partially grade students on "agency", which we define loosely as "taking an active role in your own education". I not only love this idea in an educational setting, but I think it can and should apply to people and their health. Take agency, take an active role. Know your family history. Mine is filled with auto-immune diseases, heart disease and cancer. So what am I going to do about it? Well first would be to get a physical yearly and have a regular conversation with my doctor about what I should be looking into. It starts there. Also understand that not every body is built the same or will react the same to the same types of meal plans. Figure out what works best for you. Read, research, find people that are smarter than you and pick their brains(PS, they don't always wear white coats)(PSS, many times they do though). You're going to fall off the wagon, you're going to have periods when you are lazy, or screw up and eat a whole pizza every day for a week straight, or try a stupid fad diet. Its cool. You have an opportunity to learn from that. Have a growth mindset. Sure you were born with a certain set of talents, but that doesn't mean that your efforts can't help make you better or create new talents. Work hard now, with your physical fitness, with your food intake, and keep doing it as long as you can. This will pay off in the long run.
5. Why are you passionate about helping the youth in our city?
I am part of a program, Bomani Strength, that provides free CrossFit style classes to at risk youth in two inner-city Cleveland schools. I work at one of these schools and I see how many of the students eat on a regular basis. A lot of hot fries, chips and drinks loaded with sugar. Add this to the typical teenage sedentary, Instagram, social media, on the couch lifestyle and they are setting themselves up for all sorts of health issues in the future. Bomani Strength doesn't just allow me to help them build physical fitness, its my gateway into mentoring them about healthy lifestyle choices. This can be in regards to their food/liquid intake, or it could be in a completely different set of restraint in the classroom or out in the real world. I work with a countless amount of really amazing kids that most people don't get to experience because frankly, they're scared of the neighborhood and there is no real reason for them to even step foot here. I'm blessed to be with these kids every day, through their successes and their screw ups, and even when they sometimes take me to my breaking point (as anyone that works with or has raised a teenager can attest to, they are really good at this). I just hope that I can be a positive influence and guide along their path to eventual success (whatever that is for them individually).