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Megan Bibbins “I’d give up my cable TV for CrossFit!”

Megan after her half marathon in November

Megan is not the same gal who showed up for her first day of Fundamentals last March.  She was pretty quiet on day one- I would even say she was nearly silent.  She was wary, maybe even a little skeptical of this strange ‘cult thing’ they call CrossFit, but clearly curious and willing to give it a shot.  However, less than nine months after that first class, Megan has not only changed her life, but she has been an inspiration to her peers and coaches.  She gave it a fair shot and kept coming back.  She kept doing better than she did the day before.  She kept getting stronger. faster.  more flexible.  tougher.  more focused.  And then her husband, Will, showed up and it turned into a family affair.  At that point we knew she had given in, and despite her timid start was now a leader of the pack, ambitious, and wholly committed.

Then, in November, she ran a half marathon!  Don’t mistake her sweetness for weakness- this girl knows her stuff and she is tough as nails!  Nine short months from that first class, she is looking like she has a lifetime of fitness experience under her belt.  Curious about what got her in the door and kept her going, we asked her to tell us what she was thinking that first day and how she feels now about how far she has come.

Megan says, “When I first looked up what CrossFit was, the first thought that entered my head was there was no way I could do that!  I couldn’t even do a push up or run a minute without wanting to stop. I have never been a active person.  I was the one who did as little as possible in gym class and was always trying to find a way out of it.”

Luckily, Megan decided to give it a shot!  Who knew she was such a natural athlete?  The movements came relatively easily to her and we found ourselves watching, catching the other coaches eye and saying, “Did you see that?  Pretty impressive?!”  I guess she surprised us all.  Megan learns quickly, moves efficiently, and has good mobility, which made the transition to the high intensity workouts relatively smooth. (although I’m not sure if she saw it that way)

“This was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” Megan says, “I love CrossFit.  I love how encouraging the coaches and groups are. There have been so many times I am just ready to throw in the towel, then one of the coaches or someone from the group comes over to cheer me on and I know I can finish- and I do.”

Of all the things she has accomplished in the gym in over 125 classes, she is most proud of sticking with it. “I’ve never stuck with anything in my life,” Megan says, “I always gave up when it got tough or when I got bored. This is where CrossFit is different to me.  It’s tough, don’t get me wrong, but I find I enjoy the challenge, and each day is totally different.”

Megan is also proud of being able to string a few double unders together now, and she says her next goal is to be able to do pull ups without a band.  Then, Megan said something that really shows her mental fortitude.  “I know I will do it.”  There is power in that statement- that type of determination shows that there is much more to this lady than we know.  Simple statement, but it is rare to hear people say that.  Megan, you’ve got it in the bag.  Eat well.  Sleep well.  Show up and put in work.  Give it your all.

“When it comes down to it, I’d give up my cable TV before I gave up crossfit!”  She tells us.

Inspiring, Megan!  You’re a great athlete with a lot of natural talent.  Even more than that, you are mentally tough, committed, and have a great attitude.  Keep smiling, and keep up that intensity, and we are sure you’ll continue to surprise us with your strength and fortitude.

Mike Zurla

Mike Zurla, CrossFit PAX Athlete of the Week, just hit his one year mark with us on December 1st.  Besides being one of those ‘big strong guys’ around the bunker, Mike has made his mark by dragging in quite a few members of the PAX River Rugby Football Club and keeping pace with (and often beating) many of the veteran crossfit athletes around the gym.  Mike is one of those guys who is always willing to help out another athlete with their form and the coaches can point to and say “watch that guy, he’s doing it right”.  So, sorry Mike, but in this case, you are “that guy”, and its not such a bad thing.  Mike is not a kool-aide drinker and you won’t see him wearing a shirt that says MY WARM UP IS YOUR WORKOUT.  It’s just not his style, and frankly, we think he is a pretty classy guy.  In his own words:

“My then fiancé, now wife, Alyssa told me about how there was a new CrossFit gym opening in the area and that she wanted us to sign up for the December fundamentals class. I said fine, and we were off. Since then, I have jumped in with two feet. However, I have not adopted the CrossFit terminology. You will never hear me say “WOD” (either as a verb or a noun), refer to the gym as a “box”, and nothing is “paleo”. With that said, CrossFit has changed my views on fitness and has become a regular part of my life.

Since starting with CrossFit PAX my “CrossFit Total” (Squat, Deadlift, and Strict Press) has increased significantly and is now over 1000lbs.  I can perform Muscle Ups, Double Unders, and Hand Stand Push-Ups (though not as well as I would like), my clean is no longer a bicep curl and is up to 275lbs (a gain of 50 lbs.) and my aerobic conditioning is leaps and bounds ahead of where it used to be. All of this has also helped me out on the rugby pitch.  Since starting at CrossFit PAX, many of my teammates have seen the improvements I’ve made and joined as well. The variety of training in CrossFit translates directly to the rugby pitch.”

Of all his athletic accomplishments, however, Mike says he is most proud of ” the respect that I’ve garnered from the coaches and athletes. I feel that I have become someone in the gym who other athletes can approach for help, and one that the coaches use as an example. I hope that my performance in the gym helps push others beyond their own perceived limits, just as everyone else in the gym helps to push me past mine.  Without a doubt, the people at CrossFit PAX make it amazing; from the owners, Jade and JD, to the coaches, and, probably most importantly, the other athletes.  After years of being a guy who would work out on his own, I can say that having other people there to push you past what you thought your limits were is great.  Whether it’s a coach yelling to pick up the weight, another athlete going rep for rep with you in a workout for time, or the rest of the class cheering you on as you finish the workout in dead last; the people at the gym help me go beyond what I thought I could.”

Here is something we would really like to drive home and it is something that has helped Mike.  Are you ready…. drumrolllllll…. he sets goals.  I know, revolutionary, right?  We say it in fundamentals and our coaches preach it, but this guy has it down.  Here are a few of his measurable, attainable goals:

Short Term: By the end of the year I would like to have my Deadlift over 500lbs (current 460lbs), my Back Squat over 400lbs (current 385lbs), and finally get proficient at Hand Stand Push-Ups… After that I want my clean over 300lbs (current 275lbs) and snatch over 225lbs (current 190lbs).  This upcoming year, my goal is to finish in the top 500 of the region in the CrossFit Open.
Long Term: Over the next year, I would like to increase all of my lifts by 20%, maintain a consistent training schedule, and possibly participate in a throwdown/competition outside of CrossFit PAX.

Beyond 1 year, I plan on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, continually working on my weaknesses, and helping others to achieve their own goals as well.

I think there are typically 2 types of people who start CrossFit; ones who are trying to get into shape, and ones who think they’re in shape. If you are trying to get into shape, my advice is push yourself. You are much stronger than you think. For the people who think that they are in shape; check your ego. You are not as strong as you think. CrossFit can be the most rewarding, and also the most humbling activity. You can crush a workout one day and feel like you’re on top of the world, only to be crushed the next one (just ask me about Hand Stand Push-Ups…). That is what appeals to me; the constant challenge of having to build your skills across different domains.”

One final word of advice from Mike:  “There is no such thing as “the best fitness program”. There is, however “the best fitness program for you”. Spread the word about CrossFit and speak highly of the results you’ve seen, but don’t rag on what others are doing for their own fitness.”

Thanks, Mike, for sharing your accomplishments, goals, and thoughts with us.  We are glad to have been a part of your pretty impressive improvements and accomplishments and can’t wait to see how you do in the Open this year!  Keep it up, and keep those knees out!

Sarah vs “The Scale” (spoiler: Sarah wins)

Sarah Knox, CrossFit PAX “Athlete of the Week”, deserves some serious props for dedication.  Sarah’s testimony speaks volumes about what she has learned in the past six months since taking our Fundamentals Course.  Sarah has come to truly understand that calorie counting, lowfat/boring/tasteless foods, and monotonous workouts do not have to be our path to health!  Even better news is that health and fitness are not measured on a scale.  Exercise can be fun and can even social.  Eating REAL FOOD is the foundation of health.  Community is vital to success. Sarah says it so well- read and enjoy:

“Even though I have only been Crossfitting at The Bunker since May of this year, my story starts long before that. I have long struggled with my weight and how I felt about my appearance. For as long as I can remember, I have always been ‘the chubby friend’ and have hated the number I saw when I stepped on the scale. Over the pasts few years, I did manage to lose a decent amount of weight (about 40lbs), but I was constantly tired and hungry and still never happy with any of the results. When I was dieting, I was counting every single calorie I ate and every single calorie I burned while running (which I despised doing and was always trying to find excuses to get out of it). My entire life was consumed by counting – worrying about how my next meal was going to fit within my daily totals or how much I’d have to run that day in order to get my calorie deficit large enough. It was exhausting.

Then around January of this year, I starting looking into this ‘Caveman Diet’ I had heard about from a co-worker. I would love to say I started eating Paleo because of all the amazing health benefits it yields but that would be a lie. I was still solely focused on the scale. I started my Paleo experiment because it seemed like a miracle weight loss diet. “You mean I can eat whatever I want from this list and the pounds will just melt away? Sign me up!” So I jumped in by doing a Whole 30 the month of February. And my results were great. I felt really good- I wasn’t tired, my blood sugar spikes/dips seemed to level out, my skin cleared up, and I had lost about another 10 pounds. But then that weight loss plateau’d. Another 2 months of clean Paleo eating went by without a single change on the scale. And even though I felt great, the only thing I was focused on was that number. That’s when Crossfit began to enter my world.

Around the same time that I noticed many of the paleo blogs I read all mentioned this thing called ‘CrossFit’, this little tiny sign on the side of Three Notch Road popped up- CrossFit PAX. After a very short Google session, I was absolutely terrified. “They do what? And they’d want me to huh? There’s no way I can do this.” But it also seemed like a no-fail way to get into shape. So, with much hesitation, I emailed Jade and told her my story. I took a little convincing, but eventually signed up for the May Fundamentals class.

In the beginning, I definitely felt out of my league. I used the trainer bar for just about everything. I needed the biggest, baddest bands we had for pull-ups. And I was routinely last to finish every single WOD (I think my first Fran took me something like 13 minutes). Yet I kept coming back. And even weirder, I looked forward to it. I had never before challenged myself in the way Crossfit challenges me. And I had never met a community of people so open and welcoming to someone who had never stepped foot into a gym before. So when it was time to decide if I was going to enroll as permanent member after my fundamentals trial period ran out, it was one of the easiest decisions of my life.

5 months later, it’s crazy to see how far I’ve come. Yes- I still scale many things, but I’m getting better. I get really close to RX-ing weights on some WODs. I’ve consistently come down on what bands I need for pull-ups.  I’ve accomplished some pretty awesome things- a 215# deadlift, a 100# clean & jerk, and my proudest moment so far: a kipping HSPU (I had to use 2 abmats instead of only one, but that was still big deal for me). Considering before Crossfit, I had never picked up more than a 5# dumbbell, I’m pretty amazed at what I’ve been able to do. And I have to give props to Darren who is always there to give a huge smile and a five-high whenever I PR, no matter how many times he has to correct me about keeping my knees out earlier in the day.

Outside of the accomplishments, the biggest thing Crossfit has done for me is helped me realize that the scale isn’t the end-all-be-all. A couple weekends ago, I saw a friend I hadn’t seen since June and he asked me how much weight I lost. I told him truth- zero. Yet he was convinced that I had lost like 15lbs. It just goes to show that weight only tells a little bit of the story. And while I can’t say I’m completely over my battle with the scale, I can say that since I found a fitness routine I love, I’m amazed at how much my focus has shifted from ‘I need to lose 5 more pounds’ to ‘I’d love to be able to lift/squat/press 5 more pounds’. Thank you Crossfit Pax for changing my life forever- both physically and emotionally.

Now- if only I could get that un-banded pull-up…….”

Sarah, we are confident that un-banded pull-up is in your near future.  We are glad that you stopped counting and started living and now you are blowing everyone away with all you do!  You are spot on about the scale- keep working hard and spread the word!

Trevor “No Excuses” Sonnenberg

This week our celebrated athlete is Trevor Sonnenberg!  Trevor joined us last December, and this now very fit gentleman had at that point fallen victim to the ever too common mentality “I was a college athlete and now…well…not sure what to do”.  It happens all too often- we get used to showing up to practice and being able to eat quite a bit because of the long training sessions.  And then real life kicks in- a job, bills, and no coach or team to help us out.  What made Trevor different is that he made a decision to change that trend and came knocking on our door.  Trevor has come to class nearly 200 times in the past year, and his results are a testament to his dedication in the gym but also outside the gym in his diet and lifestyle choices.  When we decided to highlight the hard work of our athletes, Trevor was one of the first to come to mind for many of the coaches.  Trevor, you rock.  We are so glad you joined us and proud of your commitment to your health!  In his own words:

“Hey, I’m Trevor and I CrossFit. I first learned about Crossfit in 2007 when I was researching something about P90X (I am sure I am not the only one with these DVDs), and I drank the Kool-Aid that night watching someone complete FRAN in some ridiculously short amount of time. I would have started the next day, but I was still an undergrad so time and income was an issue. Plus, I was a member of the university’s cycling team which more or less forbade me from doing any upper body building exercises.  However, after school I hung my bike up and did not do much of anything except get fat. Of course I had a million and one excuses why I could not exercise be it time or even being able to decide what kind of exercise I wanted to do. I started to run sporadically in November 2012.   It was pretty pathetic in my opinion.  I went from a multi-sport high school athlete, to a collegiate cyclist, to someone who couldn’t complete a half mile run.

I promised that I would never allow myself to get that out of shape again; I stopped making excuses for myself and joined CrossFit Pax in Dec. 2012.  It was a battle when I first started, but it was well worth the effort.”

A few of the accomplishments I am most proud of include losing 20 lbs and 4″ off my waistline, the last timed mile I did was under 9 minutes (as I mentioned, i couldn’t complete half that distance last fall), squat my body weight, deadlift 100lbs over my bodyweight, and do strict pull ups.  My favorite achievement, though, is being able to climb the rope. I was not able to climb to the top the first time I tried, not even the 20th time I tried. The first problem was I was not strong enough to pull myself up; the second is that I am terrified of heights.  Now I can shimmy right up the rope, even though I am still not a fan of heights.”

My next goals are to be able to do handstands/handstand pushups and 31” box jumps.”

Trevor is not only making measurable and achievable goals and busting through them one by one, he is also conquering his fears and changing his habits.  Some research shows it takes 90 days or longer to change to positive habits, which explains why so many high school and college athletes just never recover from the lazy-bug.  So, Trevor, from our staff to you-

Way to go, man.  Way to get off that couch and stop making excuses.  You are one of the very few that do it, and we are so glad to be a part of your journey.  Keep making those goals and crushing them.  Keep setting the standard.  Keep putting your pride aside to focus on perfecting your form and skills and never stop conquering fears!  We can’t wait to see what the next year brings for you!

Phil and Maureen “Not getting older” Farrell

This week we celebrated Veteran’s Day and there are many veterans in our midst at CrossFit PAX- and we want to thank you to all of you and your spouses and families for your service.  We are thankful to be living in a community where so many understand the value of service to others, whether it be service in our nations military or otherwise.  This quality is too often overlooked in athletics when the drive to win trumps the spirit of teamwork.  The CrossFit community is one where we should all feel welcome and where winning is not the ultimate goal but health, community, and service prevail.

Our athletes of the week, Phil and Maureen, understand these things well and have truly been a positive force in the CrossFit PAX community.  Phil retired from active duty in 2003 after 23 years of service in the US Navy.  Maureen is director of the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society at Patuxent River since 2000, and serves our military members every day.  Maureen started with us in the fall of 2012 and Phil soon after, and they quickly became a very important part of our CrossFit PAX family.  Phil and Maureen are consistent in coming to class, taking care of the athletes around them, and are always offering to lend a hand around the Bunker which we are so thankful for.  Just the other day Phil took it upon himself to donate and hang a mirror in the bathroom- Thanks Phil!

Their wisdom and focus on service is appreciated and we wanted to take this week to honor them and their contribution to our family here at CrossFit PAX.  They both listed Murph as one of their favorite workouts and experiences at the Bunker because it was great to see everyone pushing themselves to their limits for those who no longer can.  Maureen writes,

“What keeps us coming back? Well, the variation and challenge in every workout keeps it fresh and interesting. Who would have thought that at 55 we would be working on gymnastic skills, Olympic weight lifting and climbing the rope. The experienced and talented coaches instruct, compel and cajole us to work hard at every session. They promote us to do our personal best with every skill, challenge and WOD. Age is no boundary; even though we are well above the average age of the athletes at the box we never feel we are competing with them, but rather we celebrate everyone’s personal successes. It’s is truly a fitness community here and we haven’t met an athlete at the box we didn’t like.”

Maureen is most proud of being able to climb the rope, and Phil is most proud that “his pants still fit.”  They are constantly making us proud, and often making us laugh (see exhibit B, taken at the Barbells for Boobs event)

“1 year later we can certainly say we are a lot stronger, faster and more agile than ever,” Maureen says, “We are also lighter and our clothes fit better. We are not getting older, we are getting stronger.”

Maureen adds that she had her right hip replaced 4 years ago, and  “Prior to starting Crossfit, I struggled with weakness and flexibility issues in that leg. Over the last 12 months I have increased the strength and mobility on my right side;  I don’t lean to the left anymore.”

To new athletes, Phil says “Don’t give up.  Scale.  And improvements will come.”  Maureen adds, “You don’t have to prove anything to anyone but yourself.  Have fun and get to know the other athletes in your classes, they are fascinating people.”

Thank you Maureen and Phil for being awesome- we are so proud of your progress and love your energy and enthusiasm.  You are a great example of how keeping your focus on contributing to the community and having a good sense of humor can make your experience all the better for you and everyone around you.  Plus, we love it that you are getting stronger, faster, and more fit but NOT older… that’s just downright amazing!

Melva “Never been in a gym” Abell

 We are days away from celebrating the one year anniversary of CrossFit PAX’s opening on December 1st!  

But what you may not know is that we actually have been affiliated with CrossFit since April of 2012 (before that we were FourEight Fitness, LLC) and were working out in our two-car garage until we opened the Bunker.  We had expected to open much sooner, but local fire codes and construction made the process last a few months later than expected… anyway, all in the past now, but there were a few VERY dedicated athletes that did WOD’s with us for months in ALL WEATHER with only four rogue bars, a few bumber plates, and one squat rack.

One of those athletes is Melva Abell, and she has been a member of CrossFit PAX since the beginning.  When I first met Melva at church she told me she had never been in a gym in her life.  I didn’t tell her much about CrossFit, just told her that she would “love it”.  Well… she didn’t.  In fact, I was pretty sure that every time she left she wouldn’t come back.  But she always did, and nearly every morning at 6 am she would be standing in my garage, usually with her arms crossed, staring at me like I had three eyes as I explained and demonstrated the WOD.

I am pretty sure she took the longest of anyone but she finally drank the kool-aide as they say.  Don’t get me wrong, she still gives us a good amount of sass- but she looks good doing it and has a LOT to be proud of.  I asked her to write up a short testimonial:

“Hi.  My name is Melva and I do CrossFit. In April 2012, however, I had never set foot in a gym in my life.  I was 53 and a half year old.  If you had known me back then you would have seen a chubby, middle aged woman, with back problems, aches and pains.  I was so out of shape I couldn’t do a single sit up.

It is now November 2013.  I am 55 years old.  I am at a healthy weight, can do much more than one sit up, no back problems, no aches and pains, and I just ran my first ever 5K on November 2nd.  The only resemblance to the woman I was back in 2012 is I’m still middle-aged!

Do I “love” CrossFit.  Not always.  Do I love having a strong heart and lungs, stable blood pressure, and lots of energy?  Definitely.  I have a very busy, full life.  CrossFit is not the center of my life, it is just a little part of it- but it has become the key to my being able to enjoy life and deal with the changes that come my way.  Getting into shape at any age is a deliberate process, challenging, but I know now that it can be done.

Thank you to the Dunivants for caring enough to begin this gym.  Thank you Jade for getting me started on this path to fitness and whole health.  Thank you Gibb, John and Kyle for never giving up on me regardless of how much I whine.  Thank you 6am fellow warriors for making the WODs something I look forward to!”

The achievement Melva is most proud of is being able to climb the rope- to the top- the very first time she tried it. She is strong, healthy, fit, and what I love most about Melva is that she has used her newfound energy and health to serve those around her.  While she is proud of her accomplishments, that isn’t the purpose of her hard work.  She wants to live a life of service to God and others, as 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical training is of some benefit, but godliness has value for all things..”   Melva, I wouldn’t trade that sassy attitude for anything, and I am so thankful for your friendship and example of someone who truly lives to serve others with all that she can muster.  From our staff to you, stay fit and stay spunky- keep climbing that rope and conquering your fears and never, ever say you are too old!

-Jade