April 2016 Spotlight Athlete: John Berger
What made you decide to start CrossFit?
Fitness has always been important to me, but a series of minor injuries, some lies I told myself about my fitness level at that time and whole lot of procrastination led me to being quite out of shape around this time last year. I already had a gym membership to a Planet Fitness as well as access to a gym, I just wasn’t going often and when I was I was pretty unfocused. I did a little research online and read quite a bit of the literature on the CrossFit.com website and decided it was worth committing to for at least a month.
What results have you seen or goals have you achieved?
One of the great things about CrossFit is that I have definitive proof of whether or not I’ve gotten better on each aspect of my fitness. I’ve gotten considerably stronger in all of my lifts, gone from not finishing workouts or having to scale back the volume to finishing most workouts RX. I’ve gained a healthy dose of both confidence and humility. I’ve lost about 40 lbs. since this time last year, which was definitely a goal of mine. I’ve gone from not being able to do a pull-up with a band at all to doing workouts with 40+ pullups RX.
What do you like best about the gym?
I really like the fact that there are no big egos in the gym and no drama. When I first arrived I was super intimidated by all of the athletes, but once I got to know people I realized that everyone was there working on something and just trying to get better. Everyone has their own “Strongpoint” and is willing to help others work to develop theirs and push each other to be better.
What is your favorite exercise or WOD?
I like shorter duration heavier WODs, things like Isabel or Grace. I’m a tall, big-framed guy and short intense workouts fall into my wheelhouse.
What is your least favorite exercise or WOD?
Some of the gymnastic stuff is difficult for me and I’m competitive so I hate not being able to do the movements right now. But, the good news is that it’s entirely up to me whether I can get them done and I have a great family of athletes rooting for me.
What motivates you to show up day after day?
I like challenging myself and trying to do better than I did before. After a year I’m still hitting multiple personal bests per week and that shows that my hard work is paying off.
What negative thoughts hold you back from being your best?
There have been two things, first I was worried about what people in the box thought about me, which, I’ve realized is silly because having known these people for a year; I truly believe that everyone in the box wants nothing but the best for everyone else. Second, the idea that I can’t do something because of my: size, age, weight, other stuff. The more I follow the program the more I prove myself wrong on these sorts of things.
What has been your most memorable moment at Strongpoint CrossFit?
The CrossFit open was a great experience for me, I was on the fence about whether to do it, but decided to give it a try. I certainly didn’t wow the world with my performance, but I was happy to complete some of the workouts RX. The programing really challenged me and I liked the competitive spirit of everyone in the gym. A whole ton of my box-mates got bar muscle ups (during the CrossFit Open) for the first time and it was awesome cheering for them!
What has been your least favorite moment at Strongpoint CrossFit?
I think my first few weeks were tough, because I didn’t perform well relative to others in the gym. I really needed to check my ego and accept that my initial fitness level was pretty terrible, once I did that things got a lot easier.
What’s one thing that no one at the gym knows about you?
I really like to paint, both pottery and on canvas. I also used to be a professional photographer.
What is your favorite quote from Strongpoint CrossFit?
Early on Coach Liz yelled at me “Don’t say can’t”, when I was trying to pullups. It really made an impact on me and showed me how much the coaches at Strongpoint care for the athletes.
What do you want to accomplish with your training in the next year?
I’d really like to get bar muscle ups and work on my handstand pushups, it’s going to take a lot of work, but I think the results of that work will help me in every area.
What advice would you give to someone who just started out?
Just keep coming, be humble, do your best and be patient; you will see results. We all start at some point of fitness, it’s not something to be embarrassed about. Don’t get intimidated by weights you can’t lift or movements you can’t perform, scale and spend a little extra time working on your form. If you keep coming that initial point of fitness will be replaced by a better point of fitness over and over and over again. As long as you keep doing the work, eventually you’ll look back on your time starting out and feel really grateful for how far you’ve come. Those people you see on the bars banging out muscle ups and chest to bars in your first few weeks once needed a band for pullups too, they also tripped over their feet jumping rope and lay on their stomach for a minute or more in the middle of burpees (I think I did it earlier this week). Those people are not judging you at all; in fact, they have all been where you were and can’t wait for you to join them.
What advice would give to someone who was on the fence about starting?
CrossFit keeps you accountable for your own fitness. When you start, you get a definite baseline of how fit you are. You are 100% accountable for improving your baseline. Strongpoint offers you a structured strength and skill program and daily tests of your fitness across a variety of domains. You will come to know your strengths and weaknesses and see improvement in both. As a really cool bonus you get a supportive community of athletes who will push you to be better and a great coaching staff.
Coach’s comments: John has put in a ton of effort and made great progress during his first year with us. Aside from losing a significant amount of weight, he’s added to his physical capacity immensely adding over 100 pounds to his back squat and deadlift and going from 0 pull ups to several in a row. He routinely arrives early for class and makes productive use of Open Gym periods by doing the accessory exercises for the day. John has also been easy to coach. There have been numerous occasions where I suggested he back off a load to focus a little harder on technique. He does it without question and works diligently to implement the coaching cues. John served as a volunteer during our Festivus Games in the fall, which motivated him in part to participate in the Open this year and register for Festivus later this month. That’s a long way for a guy that could barely finish our entry level baseline workout a year ago! John has become one of the most consistent and dedicate members of our 4:30 class and we look forward to working with him in the future!