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Danielle Rodriguez

Danielle Rodriguez, CrossFit PAX Athlete of the Week, is pictured above (bottom left) with her friends from the Bunker after competing in the Festivus Games last fall. In January 2014, a very tentative Danielle and her mother, Mary Beth, started Fundamentals with the “New Years Resolution” crew. Just over one year later Danielle and Mary Beth are still consistently coming to class, fueling their body with nutritious food, and making steady progress toward their goals. Danielle has been to class over 250 times, participated in the Festivus Games, CrossFit Open, Barbells for Boobs, and done her first 5K run. What makes Danielle’s story so inspirational is that she has overcome so much in that year both in and out of the gym and continues to prioritize her health. She has changed so many habits in one year, but has done so in a healthy and steady way. She still enjoys eating at restaurants and takes rest days 2-3 times a week. She has started a challenging new job in Washington D.C., and yet nothing has stopped her from making progress. She is down nearly one hundred pounds since starting and has seen many health improvements. She is stronger and has much improved endurance, flexibility, and speed. Danielle is a fighter, and has been a friend and encouragement to many at the Bunker. We are very proud of her, not only for the personal records she consistently puts up, but for continuing to get out of her comfort zone.

From Danielle:

Why did you start?

I have always been the “bigger girl” among my group of friends, but I was still pretty involved in athletics in school. I played varsity tennis on my high school team, and have enjoyed golf and skiing for years. When I started college, my studies and volunteer work became my priorities and I worked out less and less. Adjusting to college life was a challenge for me, so I began to hate myself, especially the way I looked. By sophomore year, I was in a deep depression and reached my heaviest weight (nearly 400lbs). I was so depressed that I had to see therapists just to continue through college. I tried different weight loss plans with the help of my family, but I would always gain the weight back. I came home from college in December 2013 to complete an internship and my honor thesis, when my brother David mentioned CrossFit for the first time. He and his girlfriend had found more success in 3 months of CrossFit than 4 years at the Naval Academy. My mother and I agreed that we would try CrossFit for 3 months, so we signed up for the January 2014 fundamentals class.


What was it like starting out at CrossFit PAX?

I’ll be honest……I was utterly terrified when I first walked into the Bunker. I remember coming home crying after fundamentals because I didn’t think I could keep up with everyone else. Going from no physical activity to intensive workouts like CrossFit was frightening. However, my mother and I had to remind ourselves that we agreed to the 3 month trial run. Once completing fundamentals, I tried out different classes to see where I felt most comfortable. As I got to know more of the athletes at CrossFit PAX, I was able to open myself up and make some really great friends.

What has changed in your life since starting? 

I have learned the importance of making my health a priority in my life. We only have one body, so we have to do the best we can to take care of it. Physically, I have been able to lose some weight. I am nowhere near where I want to be, but I will continue to make myself healthier. My doctor has been impressed with my progress, especially when it comes to my blood pressure. While it’s still on the higher end, it has dropped to the point that my doctor doesn’t want to place me on medication. Mentally, I have been able to better overcome my depression. I’ve become more confident in myself because I have been able to see what I’m capable of. CrossFit has the capability of showing people that there are no limitations. There are times where I have to scale my workouts, but I know that I am continuously making improvements.

How has your diet changed? What does your current diet look like? What foods do you rely on most?

Looking back, it’s hard to believe the things I used to eat. I formed some horrible eating habits while in college, including eating junk food and sweets on a daily basis. In addition, food served as my comfort when my depression hit me hard. It has been a slow process, but I have been able to learn how to make better choices. While at home, I have gotten much better at cooking, so we do not eat out nearly as much as we used to. My current eating habits consist of smaller meals throughout the day to keep myself going. I try to eat paleo often, relying on recipes from other athletes and Danielle Walker’s recipe books. I still enjoy going out to restaurants and trying new foods, but I am much more aware of what I’m putting into my body.


What have you accomplished and what are you the most proud of?

My entire CrossFit journey, so far, has been filled with so many accomplishments. I competed at the Festivus Games for the first time, along with other athletes from CrossFit Pax, and had a blast seeing everyone set PRs! I also completed my very first 5K with my mother, which is something I never thought I would do! Running is not my strong suit, but we are planning to complete a few more through the year. This year, I signed up to compete in the CrossFit Open for the first time. It’s a completely different experience because Dave Castro and the rest of CrossFit HQ designs these workouts to be both exciting and challenging. I never thought I would be competing with CrossFit, but I have found that this community thrives on supporting one another in competition. I am most proud of gaining back some of my confidence. I don’t feel intimidated when I go into other gyms because I’m only there to improve myself, not to prove anything to others.


What do you enjoy most about CrossFit PAX?

I’ve been very fortunate to meet all kinds of wonderful people at CrossFit PAX. It’s a fantastic feeling to have the support of your fellow athletes and coaches when you complete your workout. Just to give an example, Coach John was encouraging me to keep going as I struggled through my final round of burpees. He held up a sign that said “Smile :D”, and I couldn’t help my laugh a little. These are the kind of things that make CrossFit PAX special. It’s the feeling of acceptance and encouragement from those around you that brings you back again and again.


What advice would you give to anyone starting CrossFit?

Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by others (I know, easier said than done). You have to remind yourself that it’s YOUR journey, YOUR story. For those who want to lose weight with CrossFit, give it your all each and every workout. There will be challenges along the way, and there will be times where you want to give up. Stick with it and battle through the blood, sweat and tears. There are much bigger rewards that await on the other side.

Danielle, you are an inspiration. One step at a time and you will meet your goals!

Chris Thompson

Athlete of the week, Chris Thompson, just passed his two year mark as a member of CrossFit PAX this month. This husband, father, and firefighter trains hard with a full plate. Chris gets his workouts in whenever and wherever he can and is always ready and willing to do what he needs to do to get to the next level. Chris had always been an athlete, and as a firefighter, he had to stay in good condition to do the job. However, when he showed up in March of 2013, he found that there was so much more he could achieve and at the age of 33 set out to get into the best shape of his life. He has come such a long way in those two years. Now competing as a veteran in the CrossFit Open, Chris is more mobile, faster, stronger, and has much better aerobic capacity. We are proud to call Chris a member of the CrossFit PAX community and looking forward to seeing just what he can achieve with his determination and grit. Due to his schedule, Chris has to be extra committed to training in order to progress, so doing workouts on his own and with limited resources is sometimes his reality when he can’t make it to the Bunker. But, he doesn’t make excuses and sets a great example. He works hard and is an encouragement to everyone around him. Here is a little bit about Chris, his journey, his goals, and his advice for the new members!

How did you get started at CrossFit PAX? 

I started doing or should I say “LIVING” CrossFit the beginning on 2013 because I started getting bored doing conventional weight lifting. I came across a few videos on YouTube and became infatuated with the sport. Shortly after I decided to do the Open and stumbled across our lovely home, CrossFit PAX. I quickly learned my:mobility and lungs were terrible. I think I was only able to get through 121 reps of Karen (150 wall balls) in 12 minutes which was just a portion of one of the Open WODs that year. I could not squat below parallel. But I worked and continue to work on any weaknesses I came across with my coaches and peers. Now thanks to it I’m in the best shape of my life and turning 35 in the spring.


What has changed in your life?

I never felt better performing my job no matter what the task may be.


What are you most proud of?

With CrossFit I’m most proud of being able to maintain and improve on my level of fitness at the age of 35.

How has your life changed since starting at CrossFit PAX?

Starting at CrossFit PAX got my competitive juices flowing again. Working out with my peers who are just as competitive pushes me to go harder and achieve goals I would have never thought were obtainable otherwise, making me a more fit, stronger ATHLETE.


What do you enjoy most about CrossFit PAX? 

Our CrossFit PAX community is the best. They way we support each other and push each other to be our best makes me consider people/athletes around the box extended family.


What are your goals?

My goals are to keep up and improve on my level of fitness and health as long as the Lord allows me to while having fun doing it.


What advice do you have for new members?

For anyone starting out I would say don’t be afraid. Some things may seem difficult, extreme, or maybe even impossible, but if you trust the coaches and the coaching you will surprise yourself what you are able to accomplish. Last but not least have fun. Happy WODing family.


Way to go, Chris! This is well deserved and it has been a great journey watching you improve. Thank you for being such a great member of the family and example to your family both at home and in the Bunker!

Richell Dizon

Richell Dizon is our honored athlete this week, and her Athlete of the Week status is hard earned through some tough trials!  Richell is one of CrossFit PAX’s most consistent members, having attended class nearly 350 times since July of 2013. She is strong and tough, and has repeatedly proven her mental fortitude both in WODs and in her patience as she worked through fears and setbacks.

Richell, like most people beginning the process of learning to move well, felt some aches and pains. Instead of ignoring them, she wisely decided to get her aches and pains checked out and was diagnosed with some pretty serious stuff going way back to an accident she had years before. Richell didn’t quit. Instead, she got help from Sandi with Pivotal Connections Physical Therapy and a Chiropractor.  One step at a time she is healing and coming back stronger than she ever thought possible. Richell is a great example of a fighter- she doesn’t give up or give in at setbacks. She listens to the experts and her body. She paces herself, and in doing so, gets better and stronger by the day.

We are so proud of Richell and of her determination to heal and improve at the pace that is right for her. Richell has become such an important part of the CrossFit PAX family and has inspired so many. When she can’t do the movements, she is doing strength and mobility work. She is positive and encouraging. She is a great friend and supporter to many at the Bunker. Richell has also realized through her journey as a CrossFit athlete that she can do much more than she thought possible and that fears are surmountable with support and determination. Her first year with CrossFit PAX, Richell was hesitant to do our annual paddle board workout, having never been out on the water on a board before. With some encouragement and bravery, in the summer of 2014 she came out, got on that board, and finished the WOD successfully! She has done much more since, and here is her story:

Why did you start?

I was stuck in a “Groundhog Day” like routine of doing P90X or Insanity in my living room to cope with the stress from work and the grief of losing both parents.  I soon became tired, bored, and not making any gains from exercising by myself and started looking for something else.  That’s when a friend mentioned CrossFit and after a little research, I decided to give it a go.  


What was it like starting out at CrossFit PAX?

Not having an athletic background, I was very intimidated at first.  Always being a spectator rather than a participant in sporting events, I really wasn’t sure that I would be able to endure the WODs.  So after convincing myself that I had nothing to lose, I started my two day fundamentals course.  From the beginning, the coaches have been very patient and have been there every step of the way.  Their guidance on proper execution of the movements has allowed me to achieve personal records (PRs) that I never would have thought possible.


What has changed in your life since starting? 

I used to dread exercising!  Now, I can’t wait to get off work and go to CF. CF is like my “recess” in this adult life and “the box” is my playground!  CF has changed my health and lifestyle for the better. I’m able to concentrate more at work which has resulted in an increase in my productivity. I’m also able to handle and cope with everyday life stresses better as CF provides a means to release that pent-up energy. 

I had an injury in my neck from years ago- a result of a car accident that happened over 6 years ago.  As I progressed and added weight in CF, it became more and more apparent that something wasn’t right.  This past year, I was diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy from cervical degenerative disc disease and cervical spinal stenosis.  (A fancy way of saying I have a “pain” in the neck from that accident.) After some treatment from our gym Physical Therapist, Sandi, and a couple months off from most movements, I slowly re-introduced CF back into my life.  While I had to limit some movements, “scaling” allowed me to do the WODs with the same intensity as my peers.  Just like when I first started CF!  The energy, camaraderie, and motivation of my fellow athletes is what kept me going! Now I am back at it, and surprisingly I am pretty much back to where I was moving heavy things pain free!


How has your diet changed? What does your current diet look like? What foods do you rely on most?

My diet changed quite a bit. I was never motivated to cook for myself and used to dine out often.  My pantry was stocked with processed foods and TV dinners were a staple.  CF provided my initial education on the importance of nutrition.  I soon began to notice how different foods affected my performance.  Now, I eat more nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and lean meats. I have also learned how to cook and enjoy experimenting in the kitchen. 

Richell after successfully finishing the paddle board WOD!

What have you accomplished and what are you the most proud of?

CF has shifted my paradigm and outlook in life. Failure used to be my greatest fear, but CF has taught me that failure is part of the process in exploring your full potential. I have achieved the following PRs: back squat 205#, front squat 185#, and deadlift 250#.   I’m quite happy being fit and pleased with the transformation CF has done to my body.   Additionally, CF has given me the self-confidence to try new activities that I would have never considered.  In the past year, I’ve tried for the first time: sky diving, zip lining, paddle boarding, and kayaking.  In the near future, I’d also like to try snowboarding and skiing.  

What advice would you give to anyone starting CrossFit? 

Approach CF with an open mind and don’t get discouraged.  Give it a month or two and stick with it.  I’m not going to lie, it will be hard, and you will be sore!  You’ll have these nagging voices telling you to quit, don’t! The exhilaration and self-satisfaction of completing a long METCON and/or setting a PR makes it all worth it! 

Keep up the great work, Richell! We are so proud of all the progress you’ve made and the example you’ve set of prioritizing your health and focusing on your own journey while still encouraging and supporting your friends at the Bunker! The best is yet to come!

2 comments (Add your own)

Bill Taylor wrote:
Richell is an inspiration to all in PMA265! She is one of our go-to varsity players, both professionally and personally and I’m very happy to have her on our team!

Ryan Hedges

This week we want to recognize a great all around athlete and teammate to many at CrossFit PAX. Ryan Hedges, CrossFit PAX Athlete of the Week, has been coachable and focused from his first day at the Bunker back in February 2013. Ryan asks great questions and is one of our most consistent members, having checked in nearly 250 times in two years. Ryan has steadily progressed in every area of his athleticism, and has learned (sometimes the hard way) why we stress MECHANICS FIRST and steady progression over the numbers on the white board, and why mobility, yoga, and pilates as well as frequent skill work/instruction are an important part of the program. Everything we do here takes time. It takes time to build skills and strength. It takes time to improve range of motion and undo what is often a lifetime of movement dysfunction. Ryan has been patient and has seen some really impressive results. He sets a great example with a positive attitude and willingness to push his limits. He sets goals but also enjoys the process of getting there. We really appreciate this guy, and are so glad to have him as part of team PAX.

Ryan has taken some time to tell us about his journey and progress and has some good advice regarding how to treat the discomforts and injuries that can surface with tough training. We all know the “criticisms” of CrossFit, often coming from those who are misinformed or have never stepped foot in a box, and that injuries come with any sport and exercise routine. However, what Ryan stresses here is well informed and well stated. He has learned to read his body and know his limits, and he has seen how mobility and flexibility are ESSENTIAL to proper form and technique. He has learned to use the many resources available to him at CrossFit PAX to help him continue to progress and work through anything life throws his way. The process can’t be rushed, and there are absolutely things we can all do to make it smoother and safer. There is no race here folks, it is a lifetime journey to be a better YOU every day through SMART and EFFECTIVE training.  Thank you, Ryan, for your words of wisdom and for setting a great example as an athlete in your consistency both at the Bunker and out. From Ryan…

Why did you start?

I had been athletic most of my life and played a variety of sports growing up.  In the past few years before I joined Crossfit PAX (CFP), I would lift weights three to four times a week and in the summer I would play six to ten hours of tennis per week and compete in local leagues.  Although I considered myself in good shape, I was having escalating issues with motivation and progress.

I would experience days where I simply had no energy after a long day at work to go to the gym, and if I did go, I would sometimes quit after a few minutes.  On top of that, when I did have good workout days, I felt that I was making no progress and trapped in this circle of the same exercises at the same weights – incredibly monotonous.

What was it like starting out at CF PAX?

I joined CFP in February of 2013 as sort of a New Years Resolution to try something new.  Those were the days when the rig was in the center and classes were between five and ten people!  I really did not know much about what Crossfit was, except that they really did not use machines.  A friend and I went through a private fundamentals class with Coach Darren for a few days.  I honestly thought that I would jump right in and be able to perform most of what was thrown at me with decent performance, except of course for the more skillful moves.  Coach Darren immediately crushed that thought by simply having me lunge across the gym and back.  I was amazed and angered by how winded and sore I was by such a simple movement!

I began going to classes regularly and loved the fact that as long as I made it through that door, I would get a great workout!  This was an aspect of CrossFit that excited me.  My goals were simple in the early days and revolved around just learning the basic movements, techniques, and “surviving” WODs.  I quickly learned that there was a wealth of knowledge out there, and that I had barely scratched the surface of how to be in shape and the technique to get there, despite how much I thought I knew.  As I started to learn about lifting safely, I was actually really surprised that I had never injured myself before, especially squatting!

How has your diet changed? What does your current diet look like? What foods do you rely on most?

I honestly did not have much of a diet when I started!  My diet was a mixed bag – I ate fruits, vegetables and lots of meat, but I still enjoyed junk food more than occasionally.  I decided to participate in the most recent CFP Paleo/Zone challenge.  Doing this challenge has really changed so many of my assumptions about what I need in my diet!  For the longest time my steaks needed to be at least 12oz minimum and I would have four or five spoonfuls of peanut butter if I just wanted a quick snack – way too much!  At the time of writing this I have three days left in the forty-day challenge and have lost between 8 and 12 pounds and am still performing quite well.

What have you accomplished and what are you the most proud of?

Within the past year, I improved my lifting technique significantly and improved my engine from non-existent to mediocre (although I will still sweat the same amount ;-).  I finally got double unders as a result of the first event in the 2014 Crossfit Open.  Going into that event (my first Crossfit Open ever) I had probably only strung two DUs together  on a few occasions.  Making me struggle through that event eventually helped me to finally master DUs – sometimes overt failure is a great tool for learning.  I think my max unbroken DUs today is 50 to 60.  My other significant advancement in the last year has been Olympic lifting.  Through studying, understanding, and practicing Olympic lifting, my clean shot up from a scary 165 lbs, to being able to hit 225 lbs. most days.  In the next year, I really want to try to focus on strength – specifically squat strength in pursuit of, well, just about a better everything, and pull-up strength in pursuit of my first muscle up.  Yeah… still working on that – I think that since the day I started performing kipping pullups, I really have lost sight of pure strict pull-up strength.

What is your advice for your fellow athletes or the new members?

Some advice that I would like to share about my CrossFit journey is how I have managed injuries.  Over the past two years I have had a variety of injuries that span different levels of severity.  I would just like to share a few bits that will probably affect many other athletes.

Hands – Take care of your hands – there only a few exercises that do not involve your hands.  If you’re just starting out, you’re in for some rough tears, but eventually you will develop some thick skin.  I use a callus remover to shave down my hands to avoid pain and tearing.

Joints – I’ve been lucky to have pretty good joint health, but had a few minor knee injuries and a moderate shoulder injury.  If you have ever had a joint injury, you realize just how debilitating they can be – preserve your joints at all costs!  Lately I started wearing knee sleeves to help support and protect my knees.  They keep the joint warm and loose, support proper joint movement, and really give me a lot of confidence that I’m not going to break my leg in half during heavy lifts.  If you watch Game-level athletes, many also wear them.

Back – My only real serious injury has been one to my lower back, partially brought on due to my lack of mindfulness to form and partially brought on due to lack of flexibility.  On mindfulness to form – progressing your lifts requires constant revision of basic movements.  Similar to any discipline, only by mastering the fundamentals can we progress to more advanced levels.  Improvements in one of aspect of your movements may lead to oversight of other aspects.  Do not think that because you can do an air squat means that you never need to go back and practice it – much of your success at Olympic lifting (for instance) will be directly attributable to your ability to perfect your squat movement. 

On flexibility – I see this as the next biggest enabler to success after nutrition, and almost a pre-requisite to class!  Having adequate flexibility will allow you to perform the movements with proper form (overhead squat, for instance) and, more importantly, keep you injury free.  When I injured my back, my lifts and performance were progressing so well, that I never found a need to stretch and put my back in some poor positions during squats, cleans, and wall balls.  Prevention is the obvious cure to my problem, and part of that prevention is to stretch and do yoga.  I’ve only done two yoga classes and one pilates class, but the benefits of each are obvious at the end of class.

I look forward to another year at the bunker and a fun Open!


Ryan,  we are pretty pumped to see how the Open goes for you and everyone here and are really proud of the progress you’ve made in mechstrength, skills, . Your advice is excellent and we hope all will continue to take this on board by doing their mobility homework, coming early and staying late to make sure they are treating their body well, and not rushing the progress… and, by taking advantage of all of the resources at CrossFit PAX- Sandi our physical therapist, and our great yoga and pilates instructors! You have learned a lot and progressed quite a bit, but as always, the best is yet to come!

2 comments (Add your own)

Frank Willis wrote:
Thanks to Ryan for some fantastic advice!! I’m at the same point he was going into the open (with respect to DUs) and am working with Sandi to get my right shoulder to move so I can correctly perform all of the overhead lifts. My shoulder injuries and surgeries, and even my diet, were from doing exactly what he said he did before CrossFit. I am eating a lot better and working hard to make my shoulder move correctly after years of abuse and neglect. I sure would have changed my routine if I’d known about CrossFit back then!!!

Ryan’s advice is really encouraging advice for someone like me who does still get discouraged because of the limits I currently have in my lifting mechanics. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a good CrossFitter, especially one who is my age (mid 40s), isn’t either!! I think a lot of people who are CrossFitters are like me and expect too much too soon. My one year mark in CrossFit will not be until mid May of this year.

Thanks Ryan!!!

John Callaghan

This week we are recognizing John Callaghan, who truly represents all that CrossFit PAX stands for. John is dedicated, hard working, and coachable. He is working to make a healthy lifestyle for his entire family. It was actually his sons that started first, so John and Chris saw all of the benefits as their dad watched and listened to them talk about CrossFit PAX. When he realized that there was really no reason for him not to try it, he finally gave it a go and hasn’t turned back since August, 2013. John has attended class nearly 200 times and completed his first Murph last year. John didn’t let his age, busy schedule, or pride stand in the way of making sure he was doing all that he could to be the healthiest dad and husband he could be. We are really proud of the progress he has made and love seeing this guy in class. Here is his story and advice:

Why did you start?

After retiring from the Marine Corps you can just say I wasn’t as active as I used to be. Obviously spending 20 years in the Corps I maintained a certain level of fitness but I was never one to really go out of my way to improve my physical health. Everyone hits an age where something starts to go out; sight, hearing etc….. My metabolism went out when I was 38, not only did it slow down; I think it may have actually went in reverse. My weight, cholesterol, blood pressure were all headed in the wrong direction so I needed to do something.

My two boys (14 & 12) actually started CrossFit before me. My wife kept saying I should give it a shot, she said there were all kinds of people doing the work outs. I told her no way, CrossFit was those crazy guys that flip tires. Then one time I had to take my boys, I walked in and there was an athlete doing the WOD that I work with and he was in my age and physical category (political correct way to say we are old and fat). He is still a member and I usually embarrass him during the WODs so I will just refer to him with a generic name of Jeff Smith.  After talking to Jeff and getting more details I decided to jump in and haven’t looked back since.  Jeff may regret it, though, since I am constantly providing for him a standard he needs to attempt to maintain. Everyone at work knows we do CrossFit because we are like a bunch of old ladies (more him then me) gossiping about the WODs or aches and pains we have.


What was it like starting out at CF PAX?

It was a seamless process. By no means am I one of those group hug or kumbaya type people but one thing that surprised me was the benefit of the community and CrossFit PAX has a great community. For the most part I stay to myself but doing work outs and pushing through the pain and exhaustion with a group of people doing the same thing really does make a difference.


How has your diet changed? What does your current diet look like? What foods do you rely on most?

Diet is the hardest part. It doesn’t make sense to me that as challenging as the WODs are they are nothing compared to trying to maintain a proper diet. I definitely am eating better but I still have a lot of room for improvement.


What have you accomplished and what are you the most proud of?

Completing Murph is definitely the most challenging and rewarding WOD I have done. If you told me two years ago or even when I was on active duty that I was going to run a mile, do 100 pull ups, 200 push-ups, 300 air squats and then run another mile, (and oh by the way you have to volunteer for it and it isn’t spread out over days) you would have never seen me waiting in that line.

Actually, though, the Father’s day WOD with my son is what I am most proud of. Without CrossFit I would have never enjoyed or actually looked forward to doing a challenging work out with my kids.


What advice would you give to anyone starting CrossFit?

Sounds cliché or simple but just do it, it really is that simple. Regardless of your physical abilities everyone is on the same page doing the same work out. You scale the exercises to your ability and you only measure yourself on what effort you put out, not how much weight you move or the time it takes you to do it. If the expense is what you’re concerned with, trust me I have had that same concern but honestly the financial commitment is a big reason why I show up regularly. To put it in perspective, go to your local gym and tell them you want half a dozen personal trainers to help you. Let me know what that bill is, because that is what you have a CF PAX. There isn’t a coach there that won’t help me with anything from nutrition to stretches to proper form or technique about various exercises.

John, we are expecting big things from you this year! Thank you for trusting us to coach your family to better fitness and health. Keep up the great work, and thanks for the advice!

Brittni Wright

This week we recognize an athlete that is approaching the end of her third year with CrossFit PAX… that’s right… three years! Brittni has stuck it out through tough college classes, life, and job transitions and has continued to progress as an athlete and be an integral part of the Bunker Family! She has so many accomplishments to list, but has continued to progress in all areas of her fitness and fight the good fight with nutrition. She is always happy, always welcoming, and always giving it her all. We are so proud of her and look forward to what is yet to come in her life. A little bit about her….

My body and I have never been the best of friends; even to this day, I am still self-conscious. I played soccer growing up and joined the Varsity team in High School. I was in the best shape, due to my coach making us run 3 miles to practice 6 days a week, then completing the actual practice for 2 hours.  After high school, exercise didn’t happen. Like, at all. I did nothing.

So, consequently, when I was in college, I gained a lot of weight and when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. I’ve always hated the number on the scale, and have always been “the bigger girl.” After graduating, I moved back home and my parents dragged me to the gym with them. My dad would bribe me to exercise, i.e. he would buy me new spin shoes if I got my mile under 14 minutes. Long, ugly story short, he spent a good chunk of money on spin shoes. So my fitness life consisted of running, spinning, Body Pump, & yoga classes. I was bored.

I got injured and a friend told me about Jade and how she was running a gym out of her garage. I met with her one morning and decided instantly to start training with her. She helped me workout, while helping my ankle to heal. I continued training with Jade because she was relatable and understood what I was going through. It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come from starting in her garage, but she is the reason I stuck it out. She was welcoming, would always invite the athletes for breakfast & coffee, and was always crazy chipper in the morning; it was infectious.

The coaching at CrossFit PAX is unlike anything I’d experienced, even having been an athlete my whole life. Even after we moved out of the garage and into the Bunker, the new coaches were awesome. Each one different, but with the common goal of seeing the athletes succeed. 

I love that CrossFit constantly changes. There is always some new surprise and it’s never the same repetitive motion. It was, and still sometimes is, intimidating to come into the box. I feel intimidated when I know there are movements in a WOD of which I am not currently capable. I continue with it, because I know it will make me better. It has changed my life and mindset for the better. I’m stronger mentally & physically. 

The environment at the gym and how close-knit everyone is show that it really is like a family there. Everyone shares in your successes and helps you get better when you fail. What other sport do people cheer for those who come in last or who are struggling with a lift? This gym is literally my second home and the people there are absolutely inspiring.

What am I most proud of? So much to list… but, I was able to compete in my first competition in September and just a week and a half before that, I got my first unassisted pull-up! In the competition, I was able to get 5! I didn’t make it through more than 3 rounds of the first WOD, but achieving those 5 pull-ups was victory enough. The other accomplishment I am most proud of was when I PR’d my deadlift at 325#. 

About the food thing… Food & I have always had an interesting relationship. My mom is Italian, which means bread & pasta, and a lot of it. On top of that, I am a serious emotional eater. I have completed 2 Whole30 challenges, and have tried Paleo, but I do not eat that way consistently. I am, however, more mindful when it comes to what I eat. I am still eating clean about 90% of the time, and am seeing changes in my body, but looking at it for the long-term. 

My goals are always on my mind. I am looking forward to a 350# deadlift, a 175# Clean & Jerk, a 200# front squat, and FINALLY getting my mile time under 10 minutes! 

Advice?… For someone that is just coming in, I say, “Just do it already.” You won’t regret it. CrossFit PAX is not just a community, it’s a family, and everyone in the box is waiting and cheering for your successes. All movements can be scaled and your coaches know what is best for you. Drop your ego; you won’t always set a new PR and there WILL be some days that are just crap training days- continue to show up, it will pay off.

Brittni in “the garage” in May 2012

Brittni, we are all so proud of how far you have come and can’t wait to see where you go! Keep on eating well and staying consistent and you WILL see those goals happen. You’re an encouragement and a friend to so many at the Bunker and always welcoming to the new folks. Thank you for trusting our crazy team to train you and for being a member of the family!

David Rivera

Dave Rivera joined CrossFit PAX in December, 2013… having just passed his one year mark with incredible success, we wanted to recognize his impressive dedication, commitment, and progress! Congratulations, Dave, on earning Athlete of the Week recognition! Dave is the epitome of the never-give-up, keep-on-working, coachable athlete that we want to recognize. In the past year, he has checked in nearly 150 times. Dave is always smiling and always working hard, so there is no surprise that he is squatting over 300# and crushing PR’s on a regular basis. He shaved 9 MINUTES off his Warrior Dash time and is seeing some huge improvements in his sport, BMX racing. Great work, Dave! We love that you are always seeking to learn and pay it forward- we consider ourselves lucky to have you as part of Team PAX!


Here’s a bit about Dave!…

Why did you start at CrossFit PAX?

While in the military I always found time to get a good workout in, especially while on deployment. But life after the military brings an entire new set of priorities and most of the time exercise takes a back seat. There was always an excuse for not working out as I kept telling myself; it’s all going to be ok, I will workout tomorrow, then tomorrow would come and no workout. I knew something had to be done about it and one day I saw the CrossFit banner on the side of the road on 235. I googled CrossFit and was overwhelmed at the amount of information there was and most importantly what CrossFit was all about. It was then when I decided to try it out. Now it’s part of my everyday routine.

What was it like starting out at CF PAX?

One word…. Humbling!!! A very humbling experience. I had to check my ego/feelings at the door… it was a reality check! I asked myself; Am I going to be able to do this? It was during the fundamentals class where I learned that every WOD can be scaled to the appropriate skill level and still achieve the same result as that of a seasoned crossfitter. I was hooked… Now after a year I really enjoy the atmosphere and structure that CrossFit provides. The staff and fellow CrossFit members, who by the way, are great athletes make it a very friendly environment to learn. Which I am proud to be a part of.

What has changed in your life since starting?

Since starting CrossFit I have noticed an increase in strength and mobility. Setting achievable goals during each WOD keep me coming back for more. It’s a great feeling to see how much I’ve improved from when I started a year ago and it keeps me coming back for more.

How has your diet changed? What does your current diet look like? What foods do you rely on most?

I am a very picky eater. I mean picky. I do however, watch what I eat. Because after all, eating healthy is a major part of being physically fit and staying healthy. I have a long way to go and stepping out of my diet “comfort zone” is a goal for this year.

What have you accomplished and what are you the most proud of?

My biggest accomplishment to date have been squats, I am very proud of my 1RM weight. As an amateur BMX racer, I have seen all the hard work of CrossFit pay off on the BMX track. I made all of my National main events in 2014. I also shaved 9 minutes off 2013’s Warrior Dash in 2014 and looking forward to a better time in 2015.

What advice would you give to anyone starting CrossFit?

Do Not give up! If you put forward a good effort you will see the results of your hard work pay off. It won’t be easy. There is a wealth of knowledge in the Bunker, learn from it, apply it to better yourself then pay it forward

Jake Brynjelson

Have you ever wondered where you’ll be after two years of a well balanced, healthy diet and consistent exercise 3-5 times per week? While everyone’s starting point is different, a lot of change can happen in two years of consistent work. This weeks athlete of the week, Jake Brynjelsen, is a great example of what a steady and committed approach to fitness can do in two years. Jake was in the first Fundamentals Course at the Bunker in December of 2012, and we took a few minutes to find out what he is most proud of and what he recommends for the new members. Jake has checked in nearly 300 times in those two years. Despite his schedule and frequent travel, Jake eats a paleo diet consistently and has seen what a combination of quality food and consistent, quality training can do. At 40 years old, Jake will often put some of the best scores on the white board. He is learning to read his body and know his limits and here is what he has to say about his experience so far…

What was it like starting out at CF PAX?

Starting out at CrossFit PAX was an exciting and humbling experience.  In the past I have gone to a traditional gym and also separately participated in a group physical fitness program.  CrossFit brought weight training and a group friendly competitive atmosphere to one place.  Knowing that when I walk into the Bunker I don’t have to plan out my routine and that everyone will be going through the same WOD together keeps me coming back for more.

What has changed in your life since starting?

The biggest change is a desire to keep improving on skills and getting personal records.  While I approach new personal records with caution, I do love to see improvement.  We all have ups and downs in our training and it validates the CrossFit approach when you realize gains. A gain can be anything from graduating to a new color band to getting that first hand stand. Don’t measure your success at CrossFit against others.  Measure your success against yourself.

How has your diet changed? What does your current diet look like? What foods do you rely on most?

The biggest improvement I have seen since starting CrossFit was when I went on a strict Paleo diet.  I am currently not on a strict Paleo diet and I can see a negative impact.  I try to eat whole foods and avoid processed and fast foods.  In addition I source local products such as local meats to seasonal vegetables.

What have you accomplished and what are you the most proud of?

Being able to do a muscle up at 40 years old was a proud moment for me. I’m not the best at stringing them together but I’m getting there slowly.

What advice would you give to anyone starting CrossFit?

Make slow and steady progress.  Another huge impact to your results is your diet.  If you eat poorly, don’t expect positive results.  Lastly, try to get into the 4-5 times per week attendance zone. This is where I have seen the best results.  Good luck and see you at the Bunker!


Simple advice from a knowledgeable athlete who has been around for long enough to know how to make the changes stick. He committed, and has the results to prove it. While all of your friends are talking about resolutions this year, why not just take a small step in the right direction? When that one sticks, take another small step. If you educate yourself, surround yourself with positive people doing the same thing and commit yourself to making the right decisions, you’ll never need to ride the diet roller coaster again or wish you could be in better shape. Truly healthy food i s nourishing and filling, so there is no feeling deprived. A quality training program will give your body the right stimulus, but also the right amount of rest to see good results.

Jake is a great example of someone who started off 2013 on the right foot with CrossFit PAX, then stuck with it and two years has a lot to show for his dedication. He continues to improve daily by listening to his coaches, educating himself, working hard on training days, and resting well on rest days. He doesn’t have to compare himself to anyone else to know how far he has come.

Way to go, Jake. We look forward to seeing you in class and watching you continue to set those personal records and encourage your fellow athletes to do the same. The best is yet to come!

Clark Butner

Clark Butner is this week’s CrossFit PAX athlete of the week. Clark is near his one year anniversary with CrossFit PAX and has seen some big gains in mobility, strength, and skill. He is consistent and humble, keeps track of his progressions, and incredibly coachable. Having retired from the Marine Corps, Clark knows the value of community and no-nonsense training- he and Tess love to have a good time, but when it comes to getting their workouts in, they are always prepared and give everything their all. They come ready for each class by fueling their bodies and watching videos of the experts. They encourage each other and their teammates… these two are going to continue to progress and improve because of their incredible attitudes and commitment to the community and being coached.

What did Clark do so well from day one? He jumped right in, came consistently, stayed humble, asked questions, and aggressively attacked his weaknesses. This Marine knows that the only way to get better overall as an athlete is to work on the things that trip us up the most (in the case of double unders, literally). We all have weaknesses, and they won’t turn into strengths without some training time!

Congratulations, Clark! Thanks for trusting us to coach you and setting the example in work ethic! We can’t wait to see what you and Tess do in the Open in 2015!

Here’s Clark’s story and some great advice he has to pass to us all! If you haven’t met Clark yet, he is typically at the 11:30 class but gets his training in whenever he has time… he’s checked in almost 200 times this year!

How did you start CrossFit/CrossFit PAX?

Going back to my Marine Corps days, I stayed on the same training regime for the last 20 years.  Run/swim during the week, ruck or did a long fartlek run on the weekend.  I ran marathons, adventure races, RAGNAR, Tough Mudder, GORUCK, etc.  Tess and I were looking for a change from the typical gym scene and did some CrossFit research…then called (begged) Jade to sign us up for fundamentals and we started the next day.

What was it like starting out?

Humbling but fun, Jen taught our fundamentals class and 3 weeks later we signed up for the Open (yikes…).  I remember watching the live telecast at home for 14.1 and hearing DUs and Snatch….and my first thought was “What’s a snatch again?”  We had worked on DUs maybe twice in class…I could get 1 DU at a time

Imagine showing up with 30+ seasoned CF athlete’s (we knew maybe 5 people) and being judged on every rep in front of all of them – intimidating and humbling.  I completed 2 rounds + 10 DUs…70 DUs and maybe 2 or 3 good snatches as the rest I just muscled the bar up.  But I got to meet some great people, compete against myself and was surprised that after 3 weeks – I completed an Open workout, and I had some awesome whipping marks from the DUs.

What has changed in your life since starting?

A huge increase in my strength but especially my mobility, it took about 6 months for me to be able to establish a full range of motion in a given lift.  I still have some mobility issues but it’s getting better each day.  I love coming to CF with my soulmate (Tess), especially on partner WOD days.  It’s a lot of fun to talk trash the day before a WOD on how we are going to kick each other’s ass or what WOD during the week will be tough and we’ll encourage each other.  Being able to do something you love is awesome, being able to do that with the person you love is awesome-er.

How has your diet changed? what does your diet look like? what foods do you rely on most?

We are a lot more conscious with what we eat especially the day/night before a WOD.  I have also increased the amount of water I drink; I try to drink 100oz a day.  We spend Sunday morning cooking for the week so all our meals are prepared.  Our normal week is bacon, eggs and salsa for breakfast, chicken & green beans for lunch and something in the crockpot for dinner.  Dinner on Saturday is our cheat meal.  Not to say we don’t cheat more than that (pizza and beer are a great way to celebrate a PR!) – but we try to stick to this plan as it works best for us.

What have you accomplished?

Bodyweight exercises, easy day – I did them my entire life – heavy weights and olympic lifts, not so much.  My deadlift form was horrible, kind of like a ‘you should take up another sport’ horrible so I didn’t do 14.3.  However, 2 months ago I got my revenge when 14.3 was the WOD.  I completed 3 rounds and got 275# up once.   I’m looking at breaking the 300# mark soon.

What are you most proud of accomplishing?

My first few weeks of CF, doing Overhead squats with a PVC pipe…I ended up on my face or my ass.  I just couldn’t get the balance and technique correct and my overhead mobility and strength were limited.  Using a 45# bar was challenging and it was a few months before I could add weight.  I just hit a 3RM of 105# in my Overhead Squats, for me – that’s awesome!

What is your advice for the new folks?

Be humble and focus on form and technique first.  Compete against yourself – not others.  Ask questions of the coaches (the best around!) and the seasoned athletes, especially for the longer WODs as they can explain how to pace or breakdown reps/sets.

Keep it up, you two! The best is yet to come!!

Brett Whorley

This week we are bidding a loyal family member adieu and wanted to send him off with some encouragement- Brett Whorley has been a consistent member of the 5am class for months now and has made so many improvements in every aspect of his fitness, especially his “mechanics” which has led to constant PR’s in his strength and improved efficiency in his workouts! Like so many of our hardworking members, Brett has a tough job and works long hours. He is living away from his wife while he travels for work and has plenty of reasons to avoid the gym, but he makes no excuses. Before most people are out of bed, he has already put in the work and fueled himself well. He’s a great teammate and has been a pleasure to coach. Brett is pictured above, smiling as he finishes the first mile of Murph back in May of this year. He is always positive and coachable, and despite the very early workouts is focused on steady improvement. We can’t wait to hear how he progresses with his new CF Family! Months of hard work after joining, he has taken some huge strides in that direction. Here’s some info on our friend, Brett, and some great advice!


What was it like starting out?

I started CrossFit a year and a half ago after not seeing much results with the standard weights in the gym.  I was a runner for most of my life, but realized that I needed to add weightlifting after seeing a chiropractor.  Spending so much time wrapped in 40 pounds of gear sitting sideways in the back of the aircraft wasn’t doing well on my back.  I needed to keep better posture and strengthen my back.  In 2013, I tried CrossFit for the first time living overseas in Bahrain. I had a friend who was into it, but I got motivated after reading Rich Froning’s story in a fitness magazine (we are both from Tennessee – I thought that was cool, but my wife calls me a fanboy).  Doing the movements is one thing, but doing them correctly is another!  Once I moved back stateside to Norfolk in 2013, Crossfit Hampton Roads really helped me out with form and correct movement for safe lifting. 

I’ve moved a lot in the past two years, and soon after starting I moved again to PAX River. I joined CrossFit PAX and started attending the 0500 class – in getting it done first thing I feel better throughout the day.  Coach Jon and Kyle have been great learning from!

What has changed in your life since starting?

I feel sluggish on days without doing a WOD or some kind of strength element.  I found CrossFit to be an excellent stress reliever as well. It also feels good to try and keep up with 18 year old sailors doing runs and pull-ups, at least I can keep it competitive.  I don’t want to be that guy people always wonder about making weight standards or how I pass the physical fitness test?! I think it’s also important to set the tone and culture as a leader in my squadron by setting the example as much as I can.

How has your diet changed? what does your diet look like? what foods do you rely on most?

I definitely focus less on carbs and “cleaner” foods.  I do many crockpot recipes with chicken or beef and lots of vegetables. I recently have switched to the Silk almond/coconut blend to drink and mix some protein.  I like the bulletproof coffee, but I don’t have the patience to make it – I like McDonalds coffee (black, none of that fufu stuff with sugar!) Anyway, I also rely on sweet potatoes for daily carb intake… Well, that and ice cream and those little Christmas tree cakes when my will power fails!

What have you accomplished?

I think I have been as consistent as possible with travel for work and moving 3.5 times in a calendar year.  While my body weight is heavier now and I have outgrown some clothes, it’s toning and muscle I didn’t have before.  My wife says I have grown shoulder boobs, ha!  I just tried to improve my fitness and have fun with the different skill sets: double unders, oly lifts, HSPU, etc.

What are you most proud of accomplishing?

The fact I can take the knowledge I have learned with me wherever I travel and understand what I need to do for an effective workout – including mobility work.  At least I don’t look like I totally am clueless touching a barbell anymore!  I think my proudest moment was a few weeks ago when I cleaned and jerked more than my body weight for the first time.

What is your advice for the new folks?

Don’t get discouraged. Consistency in all the movements and skills will help your progression, however, this happens usually after months, not a few days!  I definitely was caught up a little in the beginning about how fast I did a WOD, rather than focusing on good form and function to set a solid foundation.  As your body adjusts, that 2 inches lower on the squat or having your elbows in for push-ups will feel normal.  Then, when you do a WOD and your form suffers some you will be better off.  I would also say diet is at least half the battle if you are trying to improve fitness – quality of your fuel matters!


Brett, thanks for being a part of the family and being coachable, consistent, and a great guy to have around! We are excited to keep up with your progress as you move away and continue your journey! It is awesome to know that there are people like you who are dedicated to leading their fellow service members through taking care of their body through nutrition and fitness. Unfortunately, that isn’t easy in a fast food world. You had to take a stand and fight to stay healthy and we are glad that we could be a part of that process and help you in meeting your goals. The 5am crew will miss you, so be sure to keep us in the loop!