The First Year

They say the first year can make or break you.

There have definitely been sleepless nights over the last year- tossing and turning, running the numbers and counting pennies in the middle of the night.

There’s been some really long days- 4:30 AM wake ups became the norm, and getting home at 9 and 10:00 at night was not unusual.

And there’s been blood and sweat- there’s been a LOT of sweat. We’d probably have to measure all the sweat in the number of swimming pools we could fill.

But most of all there has been success. Our athletes are seeing the fruits of all their hard work- we’ve improved the fitness of our community in the last year. We’ve already expanded and continue to grow as we welcome more and more athletes into the community.

Here are some of the lessons learned in the last year:

YOU CAN’T HELP PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT TO BE HELPED

I’m a passionate person, and coach… and I truly believe in ABV’s mission. I wasted a lot of energy very early on trying to convince people that fitness is important. I spent a lot of time chasing people around trying to get them into the gym.

It doesn’t work like that- you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

Fitness IS important. But it damn sure ain’t easy. Sadly, American’s have been sold this ridiculous notion: “You can have flat, sexy abs in just 5 minutes a day.” Ummm, no. Fitness is hard- it takes dedication, work, and time. There are no short cuts.

People get excited to try CrossFit- something new! Something “edgy”! And my enthusiasm and explanations during the introduction tend to throw gas on the fire. But all the excitement in the world will never make the WOD easy… at the end of the day, I can’t do the work for you. You have to be willing to put the effort in.

I’ve learned that everyone wants to be fit. Not everyone is willing to pay the price for fitness.

LET THE HATERS HATE

Hate CrossFit? Cool, no problem. Feel free to hate us, no big deal. Seriously.

I really don’t understand the hyper polarization in our society these days. I don’t understand why it has to be either love or hate for CrossFit.

Look, I hate swimming. Nothing against the sport at all- it’s a great workout, outstanding fitness tool, and swimmers are phenomenal athletes. I hate it because I suck at it- feels like drowning to me. That shit is hard work. Doesn’t mean I feel the need to bash the sport- even though it’s got some serious clowns (ahem, Lochte). And it doesn’t mean I SHOULDN’T swim.

Most of the time when people confront me about the dangers of CrossFit, or what a joke it is, I ask two questions: Can you define CrossFit? Have you ever tried it? If either of these answers is no, it’s usually just a misunderstanding about what CrossFit ACTUALLY is.

You can keep all your silly articles on the “dangers of CrossFit.” And your stories about how your cousin’s best friend almost died doing CrossFit. While there are legitimate criticisms to be made of the CrossFit business model, the methodology is based on hard science- data. Measurable, observable, repeatable data.

I’ve learned to let the haters do their thing. Go ahead- hate us. Who cares? While you’re busy hating, I’ll be busy improving people’s fitness- safely.

DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS

In this age of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, we are seemingly constantly comparing our lives and accomplishments to those of others- friends, family, and broader acquaintances. We’re continually engaging in these imaginary competitions to see who is happier, more successful, and- in my world- more fit. I have certainly been guilty of engaging in this bizarre mental rivalry myself.

How absurd have we become? And how vain? If these “friends” are happy, shouldn’t our reaction be joy for them? Shouldn’t we celebrate their successes with them? And if they have chosen to improve their health and wellness, should we not applaud their efforts, regardless of the course they choose to take? Should we not take pride in our own, unique walk through life, instead of wasting away in jealousy of the path others have chosen?

Earlier this year I went on a cross country road trip with a friend. We were fortunate enough to drop in to some well-known boxes: Mayhem, Faction, The Lab in St. Louis, Kansas City, Verve, Invictus. What struck me the most about the trip was how distinctive each gym is- each one had its own style and approach to fitness (and the business of fitness). Everyone has their own unique spin on CrossFit- every single one of them works, and works well.

I’ve learned to stop comparing myself to others- in my life, with my fitness, and with my business. I’m lucky enough to earn a living doing what I love, and that is enough. ABV is not a cookie cutter franchise, and we will always have our own way of doing things. As long as we continue to improve the fitness of the community, I’ll be happy.

THIS IS MY LIFE’S CALLING

For most of my adult life I’ve struggled to strike a balance between my love of physical labor and my academic abilities. I’m genetically driven to enjoy hard work, yet I have always had the mental capacity to achieve more. Some of the happiest days of my life were spent hauling sand and gravel up from a river in Honduras, but in my solitude I was constantly left to wrestle with the idea that I could contribute more to society by earning a college degree. After earning my degree, I became enamored with the idea of serving the country, again with my physical abilities instead of my mental aptitudes. Naturally, even after enlisting in the infantry to serve in such a capacity, I was assigned to a position that forced me to again use my intelligence rather than my athletic abilities.

Finally, I found CrossFit, and subsequently coaching CrossFit. Science meets muscle. The perfect combination for me- both strenuous, physical activities as well as a challenging and dynamic academic field. Here I get to put both my brain and brawn to use developing, teaching, and executing scientific training programs. Perfect.


The most important thing I’ve learned in the last year is that THIS is what I was meant to do. I love coaching CrossFit- even after a year of pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into ABV, I STILL look forward to coaching every class. If anything, I’m even more passionate today than I was a year ago about helping people improve their health and fitness. I have found a way to do everything that I love- I get to use my brain in programming, researching, and teaching CrossFit; I get to use my body in demonstrating and practicing CrossFit; I can contribute meaningfully to society by improving our community’s fitness; I have found a way to include my friends and family in my life’s work; I get to do what I love AND have my dog with me all day. I love what I do, and I believe very deeply in it- if you ever get a chance to drop into one of my classes, I hope it shows.


We’ve been open for one year now. I’m in shock both because it flew by and because I can’t remember life before ABV. Although this is our official anniversary, we are having a 1 year birthday party on September 20th… you don’t have to like CrossFit, you don’t have to be in shape, you don’t have to work out- but please come see what we have built in the last year. This is about community- supporting those who have made the decision to place their health at the top of the priorities list. They deserve to be acknowledged and applauded.


Thank you to everyone who has helped me over the last year- physically, mentally, and financially. The list of names is too long to even start, but for everyone who helped me plan this out, shed sweat with me setting it up, and helped me secure the capital it took to get started- thank you… none of this would be possible without each of you. But most importantly, thank you to each of my athletes- you are all rock stars in your own, unique ways, and I am incredibly proud of each of you. Keep kicking ass.