the spaz of fitness has arrived

Small, but LionHearted

In General on April 8, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Another CrossFit Open has come and gone. A few of my friends are deservingly bound for regionals, as are a host of my favorite athletes (to stalk via the Twitters, BookFaces, and all such internet creepinesses). But the most remarkable thing for me this year is Team LionHeart, which has placed 29th in the Mid-Atlantic and should qualify for regionals. Less than two years ago, I attended CrossFit LionHeart’s Grand Opening day. I was one of five class attendees, and the only one in the room who didn’t know a coach or the owner beforehand. We did push-ups and med-ball squats on the twenty-square-feet of open space we had, relegated to a bit of open floor between rusted machines and the front desk. In two years, CrossFit LionHeart has evolved just phenomenally. It has proven to me what a business, a facility, and a community can achieve with hard work and dedication. The machines vacated our box, and those twenty square feet doubled, tripled, and sprawled to eventually house a fully equipped Rogue rig, a fleet of Concept 2’s, a collection of wall balls and barbells and slam balls and sandbags. Members contributed from their personal collections– weight vests, plates, a prowler, a reverse hyper. We got a few GHDs. Our coaches acquired more certifications, sought out and learned from experts in kettlebell, gymnastics, and olympic lifting. LionHeart quickly flourished, recruiting nearly 100 loyal members before the end of the year.

Since, then the gym has evolved. It’s moved to a new facility with even more resources. It has lost a few old coaches and members and gained new ones. But at its core is the will and hunger for improvement– for supporting and creating athletes who return time and again to challenge themselves. 

My favorite part of the Open has been witnessing the community come together. I love seeing the box filled on a Friday evening, with people staying around long after their workouts to cheer others on– lingering to help clean up, to discuss their experiences, to trade tips and battle scars. I’ve also enjoyed seeing admirable work come to fruition. Little over a year ago, Zebrapants wandered into the gym and asked, “So… I’ve heard about this thing called CrossFit.” Now he’s ranked seventeenth in the region. He placed in the top ten in three of the Open workouts, despite suffering a bout of strep throat in the middle of the Open. In the past year, I’ve seen him devote his life to this world– disciplining his work habits, his training patterns, his eating and sleep routine all to optimize his development and recovery. All while finishing his college degree.

In fact, the remarkable thing about all of Team LionHeart is that it’s not a hulking mass of professional athletes. I’ve been to some of the top gyms in this country. I’ve met and been awed by people who live and breathe CrossFit– who coach, then train, then rest, and train some more. But Team LionHeart is made up of students, of professionals, of teachers and engineers and cubicle-dwellers who serve their nine-to-five and then decompress at the gym. Many of our coaches, who possess between them a staggering assemblage of knowledge and experience, began their fitness careers with the opening of LionHeart. Together, they remind me that the small can be mighty. I’ve been disheartened by the way some of the CrossFit community has taken the Open– using it as an opportunity to hurl accusations at successful athletes, to cheat movements and reps, to become tunnel-visioned in competitiveness so that they lose sight of that original impulse for self-improvement. Amid all that chaos, watching Zebrapants train and inspire others, watching Jefe manage the scheduling calculus necessary to keep the gym running, seeing the Cyborg choreograph a team of powerful yet inexperienced competitors… it reminds me of the positive in competition– how it can bring us together, how it can ignite the spirit and fuel camaraderie. I hope to see more such inspiration as the Games progress.

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