How did you become a CrossFit trainer?
"I was a jazz trumpet player and was going to compose music for movies, but I went through this period where I didn't like the idea of music being my job. I had a lot of profound history professors at ECU, so I started majoring in history, but then I found myself skipping classes to play guitar or write music. I auditioned for the Berklee College of Music and subsequently got rejected, which was pretty devastating. I decided to finish my history degree and discovered a love of Asian studies. After I graduated, I went with my professor to Japan and I thought, 'This is amazing. I just want to travel around and write books and use my history degree.' From there, the plan was to hang out in academia as much as I could. I reenrolled at ECU and was double majoring in Anthropology and Asian studies; I was collecting degrees.
"I was in this long term relationship that abruptly ended. I was pretty downtrodden about it and depressed. I needed something to get my mind off of it. I grew up a musician, I didn't play any sports, but I wanted to get healthy. I had a friend who was an MMA fighter who did CrossFit and I thought he looked good, like, he was in shape. I went to Crossfit.com and became a renegade in the ECU Rec Center. I did it on my own for a long time, because I was very poor and couldn't afford a gym membership. I became as proficient as I could get without a teacher, but to do most complex movements, you need a guide.
"When I was starting out, I was doing things improperly and my knees hurt. I went to the doctor and he looked me in the eye and said, 'You may never be active due to chronic knee pain.' I did my own research and found that by doing things with the proper form and moving how the human body is supposed to move, pain takes care of itself.
"I walked into a CrossFit gym and met the owner. I loved the gym and I loved the owner's vision for it. He wanted to make it non-elitist and make it accessible to everyone. That spoke to me because I did not grow up an athlete. I was always picked last for sports, you know, I was in the marching band. I liked that I didn't need to have any athletic background to do this, I just needed the want to come in and have fun and better myself. The owner offered me a job. He said if I got my level 1 certificate, I could be a trainer. So I went from music composer, to history professor, to CrossFit trainer."
Do you miss academia?
"I hated to turn my back on academia, which had done so much for me in the past, but this is what I love. This is fun. There's so much fulfillment in this because I'm not in here training elite athlete. I'm helping grandparents learn how to play with their grandkids again. I'm helping someone safely and effectively walk up steps for the first time in years. That's the part that is important to me. There's a superficial side to this industry, because everyone wants to look a certain way. But our question is, 'How do you feel? The looks will come later, but how did you feel when you played with you kids the other day. Were you out of breath? When you walked up the steps with all those groceries, did you feel tired?'
"This keeps me really academically stimulated because I have to be well versed in so many aspects of fitness. You know, what are my athletes eating? Can they run? Can they do olympic movements? Can they do gymnastics? How are they recovering? As soon as I took this up, it became my responsibility to be well versed in all of these things. As long as I can interact with and help people, I'll be happy."
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting CrossFit?
"Take it slow. A lot of people want to jump into everything at once, and it can be overwhelming because there is a ton of information out there. If you have the opportunity to go to a gym, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a coach or mentor to keep you accountable and help you out. Leave your ego behind. You don't have to lift all the weight in the gym. You don't have to run 10 miles a day to be in shape. Take it nice and slow and build to your mountain top, whatever that may be. Maybe it's to run a 5k, or maybe it's to play with your kids. Fitness isn't a quick fix. Itâ€™s not something you're going to get in a week, month or year. It is a lifelong journey that becomes a part of your day to day habits."