Wow, what a great story and what an incredible shelter-in-place success, Mark is!
We met Mark in January and he had only about 10 weeks to get in the groove before we were all forced to stay home. As I watched him weekly on Zoom workouts for the first couple of months of SiP, I could tell he was not only losing weight consistently, but he was evolving as a human.
His answers to our questions are the best I have ever read and tell an amazing story, so I’m not going to say anything else besides I encourage you to read Marks’s whole story below.
We’re all extremely proud of you Mark and I enjoy every 6 am class that I get to coach you or join you for the workout during. You are an amazing example of where consistent effort and dedication will take you and I look forward to watching your journey continue for years to come. Let’s go get that pull-up!!!
When did you join Cróga?
January of 2020
What were you doing before for fitness?
Hardcore video games. (NOTHING!)
This isn’t entirely true. I had a decent start in January of 2019 with Crossfit at another gym when I got sidelined with an unrelated medical issue that left me unable to work out. While that took a while to resolve, it left me listless and unmotivated for almost 6 months before I got my act together to push myself again.
What was your first workout? First reaction to your first workout?
I am pretty sure my first workout was Jan 27th.
1 Clean & Jerk every 30 seconds for 20 minutes
First reaction? Given how awkward I still am at Clean and Jerk I can only imagine that I felt like the biggest fish out of water flopping around :).
What improvements have you seen in the way you look, feel and perform?
The most immediate improvement for me was in my mood and productivity. Before any physical changes happened, starting my day with the crew had a MASSIVE impact at work. Everyone around me noticed that I seemed more attentive, mentally present, and higher energy.
As time went on I started relying on the Croga team and members as my lifeline during Shelter in Place. One of the most underrated things that we have in this community is just that: a sense of community. Almost every member at Croga that I have come to know and love has been through online interactions and Facebook posts while we have all been stuck apart from each other. These people welcomed me so warmly (even at a distance!) that while I was beginning this fitness journey I never once felt alone. It was really through them that I came to realize that having a high-quality support group around you is just as important as the quality of your workout.
Eventually, after stalling out after my first 10 pounds, I started to really notice the physical difference. I would prefer to take the stairs instead of the elevator just to “feel” like I was moving. My gorgeous fancy (EXPENSIVE) celebration jeans I bought for my 100+ pound loss? Yeah, those are too big now. The boyfriend tells me I am significantly less “cuddly” while also giggling when he pokes my arms.
But I think the biggest difference is how I feel about myself. I am overall happier, more active, and more aware. I just feel “good” more often, which is worth its weight in gold.
What days and times do you come to Cróga?
You will find me at 6am. My goal is always Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday… but if you see me on Saturday it means I slept in one of my days 😉
What’s your favorite WOD?
This one is hard! Shelter in Place started before I got a really broad exposure to lots of the WODs that I think I would love most. My gut says anything involving back squats. For some reason I love a barbell on my back. I can’t wait to have it there again!
What’s your least favorite WOD?
As any member who has ever worked out with me knows: ANYTHING … WITH … RUNNING. I will go out of my way to avoid running. I had a new football coach in high school that used to make us run until we puked up our lunch… and then run some more as a punishment when we screwed things up. When we all stopped eating lunch so we wouldn’t throw up in practice we all learned what dry heaving was.
… to his credit it was the best season of JV the school had ever seen and I loved that coach, but I absolutely blame him for making me hate running. (Well that and my weird mutant feet).
“The Mark” WOD! What would it be?
Back Squats + Rowing + Kettlebell swings + CJ Vincent in a Tutu + a country free playlist by David Musgrave where he sings along.
What’s your favorite post-workout routine?
My post-workout morning ritual includes browsing reddit and delicious delicious chocolate protein shake with avocado + macadamia vanilla nut butter from Perfect Keto.
What’s been your favorite culinary discovery since joining Cróga?
Realgood products. Keto doesn’t work well for everyone, but for some reason, it works REALLY well for me. For those of you who are trying to cut the carbs out there, there are tons of products that purport themself to limit sugar and refined carbohydrates, but do a terrible job of it. Companies are adding cauliflower to regular pizza dough and calling it healthy. A couple months ago I discovered Realgood products, and my god when you don’t want to fix dinner/lunch for yourself they have some awesome stuff. I have always enjoyed cooking, but when SiP happened and I had to start cooking lunches, I really wanted something I could just throw in the oven that would be delicious. If you haven’t tried their frozen stuffed chicken breasts (raw chicken wrapped in bacon and filled with cheese and super awesome fillings … not precooked … has to be cooked in the oven) … my god man, that saved my weekday lunches. I eat one every day. (Except Tuesday … Tuesdays are for tacos.)
My second favorite is cauliflower. Man, I had no idea how versatile cauliflower rice was, but I keep a bunch of seasoning mixes around that I do myself, and holy hell does that make a good side dish with just about any cuisine. The pre-riced stuff from the store is in larger chunks and you can make kind of a hash with it with all of the veggies you desire while throwing it in your own blender yields tiny little kernels that soak up flavor like nobodies business. I recently did mashed cauliflower and I had no idea how close it came to a potato puree … that scratched an itch I didn’t even realize I had. Absolutely delicious.
What’s your biggest fitness goal for this year?
Part of my shift in thinking now that I have been rolling along is a changing mindset over what goals look like. When I was morbidly obese the number on the scale meant everything. This severely distorted my view of my progress early on at Croga, as the way I felt (AWESOME) didn’t match up with rewarding numbers on the scale (didn’t move for a month!). This disconnect was confirmed when I started taking measurements and realized that my body was changing DRASTICALLY even if the numbers on the scale weren’t moving much.
This caused me to reconsider how I think about goals. I know I lost a lot of weight during shelter in place, but the weird thing is I was most proud of getting my first double under. I had wanted them so badly that Annie loaned me her jump rope (which is the only one I still use!) the day after the SiP announcement and I started working on them several times a week. I am still not great at them, but I get more every time! The sense of accomplishment when I got my first one (some of you were there on Zoom at 7 am when it happened) … I was giddy. I had to stop in the middle of the workout because I was giggling like a 10-year-old boy who just got his dream toy at Christmas.
I think this is a better way to think. Set a movement goal for myself and fitness will be achieved as a result of aiming for it. What I want MORE THEN ANYTHING next is a pull-up. Just one. I haven’t done one since high school. This is the biggest reason I can’t wait for the gym to open again.
After that is a handstand pushup. That one will take a while … but I WANT it!
What do you love about this type of fitness?
The people. I introduced myself to all of them by telling them they were in a brainwashed cult, and instead of chasing me out of the room, they insisted on indoctrinating me and becoming my friend. Can’t get much better than that!
What words of advice do you have for new members or people considering joining Cróga?
Start small and celebrate EVERY victory. Habits are formed over time. For me it looks like this:
I want to start working out. The only time I can do this is before work early in the morning.
– Gotta start with waking up early enough and not hitting my snooze button.
– Then I have to MAKE it to the gym(on time).
– Now I need to find a way to speed up my recovery so I can attend more classes.
– Now I need to make sure I do laundry frequently enough that I can attend more than twice a week.
– Now I need to figure out how to eat so I can perform better.
Notice how many of these things happen outside of the gym. Each of these is a goal that contributes to something bigger … and each of these completed successfully is a victory that should be celebrated. Breaking down your path into tiny achievable increments and then building and building and building becomes a habit. That is when you look back 6 months and realized you have changed your life and you didn’t even know it. You just wanted to get out of bed when the alarm goes off and now your clothes are too big!
Start small. Celebrate EVERY victory. If you don’t feel like you have something worth celebrating, re-examine your goals.
Anything to add that we didn’t touch on yet?
Don’t I talk too much already? We will end up with my life story here 🙂
The most beautiful thing about being stuck at home during shelter in place for the last four months has been watching some incredible Croga relationships blossom. Not only have we seen some friendships grow stronger than ever (like the 7 am crew that is on Zoom 7 days a week), but we’ve seen husbands and wives like Matthew and Tara get the opportunity to spend more time together and train together daily to push each other to new heights.
We couldn’t be more proud of you two and honored to call you Croganites, even while we’ve been apart. We can’t wait to see you back at the gym (or outside the gym if you prefer)! We miss you Tara and Matthew. Keep up the good work!
When did you each join Cróga?
Tara: My intro classes were the first week of June 2019, but then I got pneumonia and was out of commission for a month. My first real month was July 2019, inaugurated with the 1776 workout.
Matt: Tara mentioned she joined Croga last summer. After a couple of months, she convinced me to stop by Friday Night Lights in the Fall and try a Saturday Bring-a-Friend workout. I officially joined up in Feb 2020.
What were you doing before for fitness?
Tara: I ran a 5K twice a year and collected the bling. I admire it on my wall from a safe distance.
Matt: A few years back, I did a couple cycles of Jack Daniels and Pete Pfitzinger running plans, doing 30-40 miles per week, mixed with some trail running up and down the peninsula. I read Starting Strength, StrongLifts 5×5 and 5/3/1 Strength program materials and signed up for Fit Republic. Waited for my turn on the power rack, listened to whole songs in the minutes of rest between sets for 5×5 workouts, and questioned my life choices while hiking the Dogmeat segment of Priest Rock Trail.
What improvements have you seen in the way you look, feel and perform?
Tara: Besides the reductions in the layers of fluff, I am starting to actually see muscles 🙂 I was a gymnast when I was young, and my strength was always in my legs – I’m starting to feel some of that again. I’ve had numerous shoulder issues over the years (Thanks, US Army!), but I’ve been able to work through/around it and haven’t had nearly the problems I did before. I’m also gaining some confidence, bit by bit – it sounds silly, but I wouldn’t have worn tank tops when I first started, but now I love them! Being able to see my shoulders when I am lifting reminds me that I’m gaining strength. I never thought that I would enjoy lifting as much as I do, but now it’s one of my favorite things.
Matt: Between the WODs and the WAG, I have lost 16 lbs of fluff since mid-March. I have never consistently dropped weight like this ever before, especially while still enjoying the finer things in life: New York strip steaks, waffles, classic beef pot roast, light craft beers, fresh-picked oranges, and ice cream! I am stronger overall than I have ever been and have far greater cardio capacity, despite how few miles per week I am logging. I can break out a 9:30 min/mi without putting up too much of a sweat, when previously I would have struggled with 11:00 min/mi on how little running I have been doing. My shoulders feel like they are twice as big as they once were and I am starting to see some nice definition. I have a new-found respect for bodyweight exercises, although I have more fun working under a barbell. I can’t believe how many shoulder-to-overheads I can do at 75 lbs – literally hundreds! Everything is easier when you are strong – gravity just doesn’t bother you as much.
What days and times do you usually join a Cróga class?
Tara: In the before times, M-W-F 6AM during the week, 7AM benching on Saturdays. I don’t do cardio Sundays. In the quarantimes, 3-4 times a week for the 7AM equipment WOD on Zoom.
Matt: Before, M-W-F 6AM during the week, 7AM benching on Saturday, plus partner WOD if I was feeling adventurous, and cardio Sunday, if I had the energy for it. Nowadays, I’m passenger number five on the Quarantine Gainz Train, 7AM departure time, most days of the week. Weekend workouts at 8AM. Shout out to CJ, Annie, Rocky and Kal for keeping the train running on time.
What’s your favorite WOD or fitness movement?
Tara: Bench press, hanging knee raises with an eye on toes-to-bar, hang power cleans, back squats, and now that I don’t fall down as much, I’m starting to like handstands again. I like to go upside down.
Matt: I like lifting heavy things! Deadlifts, farmer’s carry, bench press and hang power cleans are my jam. DT is an awesome workout – that was the first one I ever did that got me dripping with the sweat output equivalent of being roasted by 1000 suns and it hammered home the beauty of the 21-15-9 rep scheme.
What’s your least favorite WOD or fitness movement?
Tara: B U R P E E S. And running. Don’t forget the running. The best part of shelter-in-place is rowing instead of running!
Matt: Overhead Squats. I just don’t bend that way.
“The Tara” WOD! What would it be?
1000m row at 30 spm or lower
10 Hang Power Cleans
“The Matt” WOD! What would it be?
“The Matt” WOD is really the “Jack and Diane” mashup WOD, set to a playlist of John Mellencamp songs:
If I was to invent a new WOD, then it would be 5RFT:
200′ farmer’s carry
15 bench press
10 hang power cleans
What’s your favorite post-workout routine?
Tara: In the before times, a large iced coffee at Peet’s and breakfast in the car on the way to work. Now, a regular home-brewed coffee on the patio while watching the birds, then breakfast and a short walk to the home office.
Matt: As Daryl might say, brefkast! Kodiak oatmeal or muffin cup, 4 scoops Naked Whey protein powder with water, an orange picked from the tree out back, and Mighty Leaf English Breakfast Tea. Pinkies out.
What are your biggest fitness goals for the rest of this year?
Tara: 125 lb bench, 175 lb back squat, 200 lb deadlift, toes-to-bar, 20 real pushups
Matt: Stay consistent with 5 WODs/week. Get stronger by doing the WODs as hard as I can. >25 pushups unbroken, >10 strict pullups unbroken, 1 HSPU, 135 lb 10RM bench press, 300 lb 1RM deadlift, 8:30 min/mi 5K.
What words of advice do you have for people considering joining a Cróga class?
Tara: OMG try it! I was totally scared when I first walked in, but everyone at Croga has been great. It doesn’t matter if you think you aren’t in good enough shape – everything can be scaled or modified. Everyone starts at the beginning, and it doesn’t matter if you are the last one to finish something. The coaches and other members are so encouraging; they help you learn that you can do way more than you think. Lifting heavy things is so much fun; once you start, you won’t go back.
Matt: Walking into the gym, I had some familiarity with power lifting movements and programming, but I had never attempted any olympic lifting moves – they seemed scary and unnecessary. Joining Croga was a big step up for me in terms of expanding my exercise repertoire and form correctness, and I now see the value in dynamic barbell movements. The coaches are excellent teachers – at the beginning of class or when someone has questions, they take the time to break the movement down and they pay close attention to everyone as they work on their form. The level of personal attention that you get in a small class is an incredible experience and the long-time members of the gym are just as helpful – you really feel like everyone has your back.
The people are awesome, the program works and scaling is not a crime. If you are looking for body composition changes, then I highly recommend signing up for WAG at the same time to maximize your time investment. In the immortal words of Shia LaBeouf, “JUST DO IT. DON’T LET YOUR DREAMS BE DREAMS.”.
Anything to add that we didn’t touch on yet?
Matt: Shoutout to Dave, for being the kind of leader to keep this community together and moving forward during these times – the Croga OTB response plan is excellent and responsible for many of the gainz I have been seeing recently. Shoutout to Cody for the programming and reliable social media posts that keep the Gainz Train running at 7AM! Shoutout to Preston, for the consistent and positive WAG coaching.
Tara: To Dave, Laura, CJ, Annie, and Joy – thank you so much for helping me push myself. There are many times that I’ve underestimated what I can do, and you have told me that I can do more. I also want to say thanks to everyone who has encouraged me during workouts; it really does help me more than I ever thought. The Croga Community is amazing, and I’m so glad that I’m part of it.
Since Rocky showed up at Croga late last year, he has been Mr. Consistent and has been an incredibly positive force on our 7 am class that has helped take everyone that attends that class time to a whole new level. Rocky walks in the door every day with a big smile on his face, something fun to laugh about during the warm-up and then when it's time to hit the WOD he's all business. Then, when the workout is complete, he's back to his fun-loving and hilarious self. And since we were all forced to shelter in place this last month, he has only taken his positivity and hard work to another level with his 7 am crew becoming even more consistent and crushing it daily with CJ and Annie on video.
Thanks for always working hard and having fun Rocky! We can't wait to see you back at the box at 7 am in May!!!
When did you join Cróga? Oct 2019
What were you doing before for fitness? Bro workouts. Mostly weights, no cardio, no mobility. Chest day was the best day.
What was your first workout? First reaction to your first workout? The first session had a load of wall balls. I thought I waited long enough between lunch and gym time. I thought wrong...anyhow, post-workout was great, the atmosphere was good, and I wanted more.
What improvements have you seen in the way you look, feel and perform? Morning workouts @ Cróga are what sets the tone for the day, be it weekday or weekend. I look leaner, feel stronger, and come back wanting to get better each time. I've chosen to eat cleaner and reduce alcohol intake, mainly so I don't feel so sluggish for the workouts. It's been small habits that I've been changing for the long-term.
What days and times do you come to Cróga? Most Days minus Sunday @ 7am. 7am solidarity crew.
What's your favorite WOD? DT, so far.
What's your least favorite WOD? WODs that contain wall balls and thrusters!
"The Rocky" WOD! What would it be? Cal Rowing, Clean & Jerk and... I ran out of ideas.
What’s your favorite post-workout routine? 1. Drink protein shake 2. Drink some coffee 3. Probably not in that order. If it's the weekend, I like getting the outside chores done immediately after coming back from the workout(s).
What's been your favorite culinary discovery since joining Cróga? I've relied on eggs, every which way, for meals throughout the day. The ease of making them and adding whatever I need, greens, other proteins, etc. Oh, and the air fryer is so useful!
What's your biggest fitness goal for this year? There's a lot of goals, but one my bigger ones that I've focused on was getting under the bar for my Oly lifts. I realized I can't power everything and avoid my weakness lol
What do you love about CrossFit? 1. Albeit, Cróga is my first CF gym, the camaraderie and sense of community is unreal. Iron sharpens iron. 2. The variety of workouts. If you have a strength, good. If you have a weakness, good. You're in good company.
What words of advice do you have for new members or people considering joining Cróga? Commit. Commit to showing up, and do the work. Your mind and body will appreciate it in the long run. Some days will be bad, some days will be good. Keep it positive.
Anything to add that we didn't touch on yet? During this shelter-in-place, I've seen the leadership of Cróga shine, from coaches to members. From Cróga adapting all workouts to virtual to the members loaning gear to one another and organizing workouts with others to keep each other motivated, these are the moments that I'll remember for a long time. Proud to be part of this group of amazing people. Thank you to the Cróga coaches and members, current and former, and I look forward to our next workouts together.There is no quit in this group, and I'm happy to have found Cróga.
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