Written by John Tolbert, of Rockwall, TX
Imagine you are laying on the beach under an umbrella on an island in the far south of the Caribbean. The water is the perfect shade of blue, like the clear sky above. The sand is a fine white powder free of any pebbles or discomforts for your bare feet. The sun is doing its job without the impediment of a single cloud, yet the gentle breeze and the shade of your umbrella temper the harshness of the heat being generated. The sounds of the island swirl around the air to the gentle percussive rhythm of the ocean's waves. You lay there with your significant other free from the demands of work, your calendar, and your obligations to anyone or anything. You are relaxed. You are calm. You are free.
Then, your iPhone that you connected to the resort's wi-fi to FaceTime your kids in the States pings out of sync with the music of the waves to notify you of a new email. You resist the Pavlovian urge to check it. You know if you give in to the temptation you won't stop there. It is best to abstain. But, what if it is the kids? What if something has happened? You struggle momentarily, then you relent. You wipe as much of the sand and grit from your hands and swipe the screen to life. It is a message from CrossFit Rockwall. Hello, Mary.
That is how my CrossFit Rockwall journey began. Well, it started a little bit before then, but that is when my commitment to fitness began. My wife, Jenn, had wanted to check out the box for a couple of years. I always resisted since I was of the mindset that it made no sense to pay for a gym membership when a person could just pound the pavement or hit a Total Gym in the spare room. You see, I lived under the illusion that my body was fit enough for what I needed. I was fine, at least so I thought.
In the summer of 2012, my wife heard about an upcoming free workout at the box. She asked me to go with her. She knew she wouldn't be comfortable going on her own. Being duty bound as a supportive husband, I went with her. I was impressed by the workout and the people, but still resisted the idea of joining. I thought I had a lock-tight out given that the only time of day I could consider doing the workouts was the 5:30am slot. Surely, Mary and Mike would never schedule an Elements class that early in the morning. I made my workout timing limitations well known as Jenn and I talked to Mary about the program. We left without committing to anything and proceeded on with our lives.
That gets us back to the beach scene in Aruba. Jenn and I were away celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. When I opened the email from Mary, it was an announcement of various newly scheduled Elements classes. Sure enough, a new class was scheduled for 5:30am starting the Tuesday after our return from the island. I remember telling Jenn that all of my excuses were gone with that email. Looking back, it is exactly what I needed to happen.
We committed to the new Elements class with a mix of excitement and trepidation. I had no idea what to expect. Even so, I felt confident that I could take the lead and help Jenn through her own nerves about starting.
We showed up at the box and met Darren. In addition to Jenn and me, two high school aged young ladies each named Katie were in our class. We started learning the basic movements and I felt great. I got this! Um, not so much it turned out. Shortly after starting the actual workout, I felt a little light-headed. I resisted. No, I can't be this weak! I can't be this out of shape. I served in the Army (albeit, 20 years ago). I survived basic training; I can survive this. Just as I fought and resisted, I met another "instructor" at CrossFit. He is not that welcome there and he hangs out in the bathroom. His name is Mr. Pukey. Yep, in that moment, I was humbled greatly. Every vestige of belief that I was in shape was destroyed. Like the email on the beach, it was exactly what I needed at that moment. I knew I needed CrossFit and I embraced it for the first time.
As the fall progressed, I began to see improvement in my workouts. I enjoyed going to the box. I enjoyed the feeling I had on the days I worked out. Because of the confidence I was building, I had no hesitation in accepting an offer from my younger brother to run the Run the Line half-marathon with him as a two man relay team. I realize that people run 5ks, halfs, and full marathons all of the time, but this was going to be a special event. My brother, James, was an avid runner, but he had been diagnosed in Spring 2012 with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. He began his chemo and radiation treatments and fought the battle against cancer with the tenacity that a former Marine brings to any task. His theme was "Cancer picked the wrong dude." I have to agree with that statement.
We calculated that if his treatments went as scheduled, he would be done by late November. That would give him plenty of time to resume his training to build up for his 6.55 mile half of the relay. It would also give me time to add running into my regimen. So, on the days I didn't go to CrossFit, I pounded the pavement of the Shores focused on helping my brother accomplish his goal.
After a few weeks, we learned that James would need additional chemo treatments. With these treatments, he would not be able to train. We would not be able to run the relay as a team. Not wanting to give up on the idea, I asked my oldest son, Chandler, to take his uncle's place and run the relay with me in honor of James. Without hesitation, Chandler jumped on board. This was going to be awesome. Now, we just needed to train.
Training for the run progressed fine until the week after Christmas. I came down with a respiratory infection that wiped me out of CrossFit and running for a couple of weeks. I resumed my CrossFit training, but found it harder to resume the running part of my training. As days turned into weeks, I never resumed my running. Yet, I continued with CrossFit.
Before we knew it, the mid-February weekend of the run was upon us and I didn't know if I would be able to do it. To say I was nervous about running 6.55 miles would be an understatement. I didn't know how my body would react to that level of exertion without the running-specific training time. I had only my CrossFit training to rely upon physically and mentally. Add to that a little emotional inspiration from the news on that Friday that my brother's latest scan showed he is cancer free!
The morning of the event was chilly, but, with clear skies in the forecast, the weather was going to be perfect for the half-marathon. Our combined chip time for the half-marathon was 2:16:22. I know it is not the flashiest or best time, but we finished the event and, thus, honored my brother and his victory over cancer. I know it was only possible due to the time, effort, and energy put into my training by the instructors at the box. I started this journey with a desire to be fit. Now, I want to be CrossFit. Quite a long way from that out of shape, late 30's guy sitting on the beach in Aruba and it feels good.