Finding Strength | My CrossFit Journey Written by Chris Knotts – July 3, 2017 ‘Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.’ – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Former Mr. Olympia, terminator and politician.” Life has a way of never actually going in the direction you want it to. There are those of us that fight this, resisting change and living out their days in a rigorous pattern. Others are just going along for the ride and letting life create its own path. Regardless of your own rule of order, there is a generally a desire to be nothing more than just simply satisfied with where we are in life. But there are those moments, these hardships, that can really break you down. And we are never fully prepared for what may happen. There was something very primal about CrossFit. Having never been involved with it in any capacity, I had no knowledge of what it actually was. From outside of the sport of fitness, it did have a very intimidating aspect to it. People gathering in hot warehouses, sweating profusely while throwing weights and doing gymnastics movements? These people were crazy. Like some do, I chalked it up to another fad training program. I was thinking, this is just some sort of version of the P90x program but you do it with a group and it’s lead by an instructor. It was an odd concept to grasp at first. But little did I know how much my life was about to change because of it. I felt so disconnected from the world. No matter what I did, there I was. I am a very tolerant person, have had my share of tough times and with certain experiences one learns how to deal with them as they happen. You can generally allow life’s hardships to pass without much of a long term effect. Sure there are things one can and will endure such as pain, sadness and loneliness. But you can usually work through most situations to avoid any sort of emotional impact. Then, once you have allowed yourself time, take from that experience and apply it somehow, making it another life lesson. Deal with it. Learn from it. Move forward. But something else was happening, something entirely different that I couldn’t control or fully understand. Too much was happening too quickly. I was starting to become worried. No matter how hard I tried to fight it. No matter how I tried to justify what was happening. I had to accept it. It was depression. I couldn’t snap out of it. I wasn’t myself. And people noticed. It effected everything. You read or hear about such situations and it sounds like no big deal. But it is. It’s a very big deal. As JK Rowling once said, “It’s so difficult to describe depression to someone who’s never been there, because it’s not sadness.” And it isn’t. I tried everything I could think of. Trips, hobbies, projects, counseling… nothing changed. Nothing helped. Sure I was staying busy, but I felt awful and something had to be done. Soon. I knew it was bad when I woke up in the mornings and the only thing I looked forward to, was going back to bed. I don’t know how anyone could put up with that feeling, continuously living that way. I was desperate. But I refused to surrender. I was not going to let this defeat me. I wanted to be me again. To make matter worse, I was also in the middle of one of my toughest breakups yet and I had just changed jobs, taking my career into a completely new path. I was trying to do too much at once while dealing with my new state of health. But it was starting to happen. It seemed like everything in my life was slowly spinning out of control. I could see it happening right in front me. It looked like that video of the Big Bang with bits of the universe scattering in every direction. I was melting down. I stopped caring. It was now Saturday, the 15th of October, 2016. My younger cousin Mark, who resides in Lake Charles, Louisiana, was getting married. Mark met his fiancé Katherine at the CrossFit gym where he trains. Mark was an outstanding high school and college athlete. For the past few years he had been involved in this CrossFit thing. He has had multiple invitations to the CrossFit Games Regionals as an individual and as a member of a team. I knew he was good at it. I just didn’t know what ‘it’ was, but once I arrived at the wedding I saw something. As I began looking around, I started noticing how in shape everyone was. So I became curious and started asking why everyone was so damn fit. What were they doing? And where the hell can I get some of it? The more I asked about it, the more I learned. People were so excited to talk to me about it. I was among something special and wanted to be a part of it. I wasn’t terribly overweight. I didn’t suffer from any severe medical issues other than a slightly high blood pressure reading. This was probably caused by my poor diet and lack of diet and exercise. My job kept me on the road constantly every day, time was always limited so fast food and soft drinks were a staple in my diet. To top it off, I was not that active. I was always so tired at the end of the day, resting was all l wanted to do. A younger me played sports. A lot. My parents put me in any program I wanted to try. I had participated in just about everything over the years. Track, soccer, golf, tennis, racquetball, biking, swimming, powerlifting, basketball, rock climbing, hiking, but baseball and football were the two main sports I stuck with the longest. I tried everything and wasn’t necessarily an outstanding athlete by any means. But it was fun. Little did I realize how much I would miss team sports once I would graduate high school. Working out next to your buddies. Hanging out after the game. Suffering through a nightmare of a two-a-day football practice to get ready for the coming season. We ran, we lifted weights, we suffered. But we did it together and it made us stronger. We were the best versions of ourselves. Then graduation came and went. And slowly, my physical strength along with the related appearance, went too. I was degrading. Add to that, an onset of the depression and the mess everything was currently in. I looked and felt like shit. I had tried making myself happy, which was a hopeless task. All that was left to do was try the opposite of what I’ve been doing. I needed to suffer. I needed to physically punish my body. I was hoping something like a boot camp or football style training program would snap me out of my funk. I was looking for something to catch my attention, but nothing really stood out. Before I had a chance to look any further, the weekend was here and it was time to attend the wedding. ‘Everyone does CrossFit.’ was the answer to the question I had asked. These people who were in such great shape were athletes. There was something different about them. I didn’t care what I had to do, I wanted in. Little did I know that it was just as simple as walking into a gym and signing up. So that very night, shortly after arriving home from the evening’s festivities, I did some research. I was curious what I was about to get myself into. A few searches was all it took. I was blown away by the amount of information I came across. The before and after pictures were truly inspiring. But better yet, it was the testimonials that really got my attention. People’s lives were being changed. People just like me. I needed that change. I immediately got up from my laptop and assembled a duffel bag with whatever I thought I may need and went directly to the local box just after work that very next day. I was doing this. It was a Monday afternoon. The gym was only a short distance from my office and my house. Shaun was the first person I met upon walking in the door. It was about 5:15pm. A class was just starting and others were scattered throughout the gym. It was a little intimidating. It was like changing schools and walking into the locker room for the first time. You’re the out of shape new guy. Shaun asked what my capabilities were and what sports or activities I had participated in. Aside from regular bike rides, jogging, hiking and the occasional indoor rock climbing session, I was far from the athlete I once was. Being totally new to CrossFit I knew nothing. I did not know the movements. Nor could I decipher anything on the whiteboard that listed a lot of strange words and numbers. I was a little overwhelmed. I was also too late for the on-ramp class. This is the route a newbie takes to familiarize yourself with movements and go through scaled versions of what was written on the board for the regular CrossFit training sessions. Regardless of what the typical route for a new member was, I made it clear I was willing to do whatever I was told and that I would come to class every day. Shaun agreed to let me run through an assessment. It was a variation of movements and max effort attempts. After a solid few tests I was deemed competent enough to attend a regular session. I was in. My life had just unknowingly reached a turning point. One I thought would never come. And one I desperately needed. I slowly began creating a new me. The results were fast. My body started to change rapidly. But more importantly, so did my mind… and my heart. There were many things about CrossFit that I was unaware of. The community it shares is unlike any I’ve ever seen. You cannot truly explain what it’s like. You just have to experience it. I was new here. I had finally escaped my horrible breakup and moved closer to my new job. This was to cancel out the commute and related fuel expense, but was also just to simply start over. Being new in town I had no friends to speak of. That quickly changed during my first 6pm class. What is now informally dubbed, The Cool Kids Club, was my first introduction to the community of CrossFit and the beginning of some much needed friendships. These people have helped reshape my life, knowingly or not. Just being there, apart of what was taking place, supporting me and cheering me on during my very first workout. Written on the whiteboard was the WOD. The workout of the day. It was a 10 minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) consisting of 7 Hang Power Cleans, 7 Burpees, and a 200m Run. I knew I was there to make a change. I had committed myself. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. The timer went off and I gave it my all. 10 minutes later… I was laying on the floor. Staring at the warehouse ceiling. The floor was wet. I was surrounded in my own sweat. I was soaking and I couldn’t breathe. This was new. And it hurt. A lot. But it wasn’t the physical pain or the desperate need for oxygen that had my attention. It was an overwhelming sense of something very unusual. It was an unfamiliar yet satisfying feeling. On my first day, Shaun asked me what my goals were and what I hoped to achieve by coming to the gym. I said I wanted to put on some muscle and get healthier. But that wasn’t the truth. I did want that, but the real reason for being there wasn’t something I wanted. It was something I needed. And I found it while lying on my back in a pool of my own sweat. I had found my salvation. I had been freed. My life was slowly improving. Little by little things got better. By default, I was getting in shape, I was starting to eat healthier, and my social life was back to where it once was. These new friendships were quite a bit different. Everyone had such different backgrounds. Everyone was there for different reasons. There something very special about suffering through a hard workout together with someone that really connects you to that person or group of people. You’re both there to do the same thing, regardless of your reasoning. But you’re there. And you’re suffering together. The level of support that the person in dead last receives is unparalleled. It’s usually the person who finishes first that everyone is cheering for. But not with CrossFit. Everyone wants to see you succeed. And they won’t let you quit. Because the ones cheering, know exactly what’re doing. You’re not trying to lift more, run faster, or be better at anything. Except life. And everyone feels that. They’ve already been in your shoes. Regardless of your own reasoning, we are all a part of a collective. We each have a purpose for why we are there. When that last individual is struggling through the last part of their workout, they aren’t just fighting the physical aspect of the movement. It’s something bigger than that. I know I’m not there to win. I’m there to expose my weaknesses. I’m there to fix whatever was wrong in my life. And it was working. I once thought I was broken. I had endured my hardships. But I did not surrender. And because of that, I now have real strength. I am so very grateful to have found CrossFit. This is a story I’ve told several times and one I will remember always. I attend class every chance I get. I have made it a priority. I was originally just going to the regular workouts 5 days a week in the evenings. But after a few months with a rapid increase of strength, mobility and mental clarity, I wanted more. I needed more. I wanted to maximize what I was trying to accomplish. If just once a day made such an impact, what would additional accessory programs added into my daily routines do for me? After a few conversations with Shaun about what I wanted, he put out some supplemental training programs to be completed outside of the regular workouts. It was a hypertrophy program. Lots of lifting. Lots of opportunities to suffer. To build strength. It was just what I needed to keep pushing myself over the edge. And I felt amazing. People noticed I was doing extra work and started asking what I was doing. There wasn’t really a name for it. It was just Shaun’s experimental program to see if I could pack on some more muscle and give me something to keep busy with that would work along with the current CrossFit programming I was already doing. A joke was made that I was a lab rat in his experimental training sessions, it stuck. The Lab Rat training program was born. It is now a staple stand-alone accessory for many of our athletes. Working through this for several months only intensified my recovery. I was still quickly seeing results and making improvements in so many areas. After the grueling 5 weeks of the CrossFit Open, more weaknesses were exposed. I became hungrier. The real feeling of competition that I haven’t felt since high school had resurfaced. It felt good. I wanted to push myself further yet again. I wanted something harder. I desired the overwhelming sense of utter exhaustion. I wanted to be on the floor again. Surrounded by sweat and gasping for air. I had to turn up the intensity. It hurts to hit that wall during a workout. But something happens to you when you push beyond it. And I yearned for that dark place. Because I knew how to get there. And I knew how to beat it. There’s a spiritual awakening during that moment in time. Everything stops. It’s just you against yourself. This is where you can truly speak to yourself. This is what I seek. This is what has cured me. This is the source of my strength. I was switched over to the Competitor Training Program after several inquiries about wanting a harder training program. This was meant for those interested in competing. Was I ready? I wasn’t sure. But I knew that I was willing to show up every day and do what I was told. To this day I stick to my training as best I can. I drop into affiliates when I travel, I even have a small gym that I built at home so I can train when I can’t go during regular hours. I still remember that commitment I made that very first day. I refuse to give up on that. I refuse to give up on myself. This is not just a fad. It is not just a diet. It is not just something I am doing for now. It is how I intend to live my life. Things are different now. If this is what it takes to stay healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally… then this is my life now. It has been exactly 9 months since that first day I walked into that gym. I am extremely thankful for this journey and so very grateful for those around me. This community has shown me a support system anyone could only hope for. I have made some of the most amazing friendships. I have learned an extraordinary amount of information. I have become healthier. I have become faster. I have become stronger. I have become… happy. I found myself. But it took building up strength in order to dig down and crawl out from under those things that were burying me. I asked for strength and God gave me difficulties to make me strong. I have found peace in a new place and I now know regardless of what life puts in front of me, all I have to do is try. I have no real explanation as to what has happened to me. I don’t know how it works. Nor do I care. I just know that it does. I was put into my situation for a purpose. I wasn’t sure why I had to suffer through those dark moments. But as my mother always told me, everything happens for a reason. So I kept my nose down, and tried my best. It worked. I was just recently asked what my new goal is? I go to the gym more than most people. I’m there almost every morning for an hour. And then every afternoon for a few more hours. Active recovery days on the weekends with a meal prep day here and there. This is what I have found to work for me. I am no longer broken. I am a stronger version of myself every day and I want to keep chasing that. So what is my goal? It’s to do the same thing I did on that very first day. Just simply walk in the door. Every. Single. Day. [gravityform id="3" title="true" description="true"] ]]>
Tidal Wave Transformation: Chris Knotts
Tidal Wave Transformation: Chris Knotts
Let’s face it: working out can feel like a chore sometimes. Even if you’re the biggest fitness buff around, training is not always as exciting as you’d like it to be.