For some, Sunday afternoon is reserved for Eggs Benedict and mimosas. Mine was spent slinging a 70-pound rucksack 2.75 miles on my back, and, with three other guys, carrying a stretcher loaded with 135 pounds. On Monday, we did lateral box jumps, jump-rope and front squats. Tuesday was lots of fun — a dozen 200-meter sprints.
I'm bruised and sore, so why am I doing this to myself?
Honestly, CrossFit is addicting, and, after years of not doing full-body workouts, I think my body is sending me subconscious messages like: "Whatever you're doing, don't stop!" and, "Before long you'll be able to rip phone books in half. Don't worry — no one uses them anymore."
Getting addicted to CrossFit is like falling in love — you'll do anything to be with that person, no matter how busy your schedule. I don't want to miss a workout and haven't once considered procrastination, even though life hit me with some curveballs last week (like a double blow-out after driving over an invisible median in Arlington). But like a romance, my priorities are set and I scrambled to CrossFit Liberation in time and finished the WOD, also known as the Workout of the Day.
Some CrossFit veterans tell me they're nervous before they walk into the Box (it's not a gym, it's a box in Crossfit lingo). Not so for me. Those other members might be checking on the Workout of the Day, which is posted online every day. I'd psyche myself out if I knew what was coming. Surprise me.
Ian Shores, a waiter at the Fireside Grill, agrees. "I love the variety. I haven't done the same WOD twice, and I go four-to-five times a week," he said. "I've lost 22 pounds in ten weeks. The weight that I've lost makes me skinnier, but I'm also toning my muscles. I just like extreme stuff and variety. I'm scared of heights but I'll bungee jump. It's so high intensity that I was drawn to it. Atom's a real good instructor, no sugar coating or hand-holding. It's just about getting it done."
Trainers - Three This Week
CrossFit Liberation owner Atom Ziniewicz is only 33 years old, but a piercing stare, multiple tattoos and a pointy red beard makes him seem ageless.
"Age is about experience, and I feel about 41 years old," he said. "As a trainer, I'm authoritative at a distance, which means I'm constantly observing from the background."
Do you believe in past lives? If I did, I think Atom would have been a Roman gladiator — all armored up and itching to race into an arena full of death, destruction and despair. Actually, as a Green Beret in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was on teams that specialized in close-quarter combat, bursting into rooms and making split decisions on who lives or dies.
Atom, who was raised in Arizona and Florida, enlisted in the U.S. Army when he was 19. "I walked into a recruiting office and saw a picture of an Army Ranger on the wall and said: 'Make me that.' I just went in. I didn't ask my parents or anything," he said. "I do miss the intensity, the danger, the thrill of it."
Atom was introduced to CrossFit in 2004 while stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He left the military that year with a CrossFit training certification, and from 2004-2011 was a government contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, Atom created an outdoor CrossFit box for service members in Aghanistan.
"When I started people were still looking at CrossFit like it was a fad, but it has stood the test of time like I knew it would."
Atom and his wife, Carrie (co-owner of the box), moved to Alexandria a few years ago, and Atom worked as a personal trainer until CrossFit Liberation opened last summer. The box currently has 150 members, seven certified trainers and plans are underway for an expansion into the open space next door.
"Always surround yourself with people better than you in some form or fashion," Atom said. "Everyone needs to learn and train from somebody else. Me too. I need my own coach, because there are things in myself that I need to watch."
Mike "Tat" Newsome
Coach Tat Newsome is 41 years old, and guess what: he's back to his college weight. "I'm 6-foot-1, and two years ago I was at 230 pounds. Now, I'm at 185," he said. "Your body is a machine. If you feed it right, train it right, it's going to run right. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and allergies. All that is gone. I went from 26 percent body fat to 12 percent."
Tat, a registered nurse at Fairfax Inova Hospital, got his first tattoo with a fake ID when he was 17. The former baseball player, all-state swimmer and runner started coaching in October.
"Atom only fosters coaches from within the gym community. He and Carrie believe that it's better to be brought up by a coach and mentor," he said. "I'm a nurse, which means I'm a nurturer by nature. I like to help people. I'll give you as much as I can to make you succeed."
Tat lives in Falls Church with his partner Scott, and both are founding members of CrossFit Liberation. "It's not for everybody. You've got to be mentally tough with yourself. CrossFit can help you develop that motivation, but you need to have a lot of it in you," he said. "I was humbled by my first experiences with it. Don't go into it thinking about heavy weights. Check the ego at the door."
Hate pull-ups? So did Tat when he started. "Now I can do 34 of them, where before I couldn't do two or three dead-hang pull-ups," he said.
Coach Mark is about 5-foot-2, but don't ever underestimate him. This guy could run circles around you any day of the week. At 38, the 20-year U.S. Navy veteran is in the best shape of his life.
"There are no boundaries for me anymore. I just did an 11-mile mountain bike ride for fun," Mark said. "I don't train 40 hours a week anymore. I'm stronger than when I was powerlifting when I was 20 years old."
Mark, who lives in Springfield with his girlfriend and three-year-old daughter, is a physical therapy technician for the Navy. "Last September, I'd been doing CrossFit for about three months when I decided to look for a new box," he said. "I looked online and found Atom. He really picked apart my movements and that first workout — I'd never been beaten like that before. Now, I'm not as cautious about taking on a challenge. CrossFit has taught me that it's okay to fail, because then you have a goal to go after."
Mark has been an athlete his entire life and has excelled in soccer, wrestling, power-lifting, adventure racing, triathlons, mountain biking and running. "My coaching style? I'm a talker. I like to talk things out with you. It doesn't matter if you aren't the best," he said. "You're going to lose here, but we're going to pat you on the back anyway."
*By the way, I didn't have time to write about the CrossFit diet this week, but rest assured. In April, Crossfit Liberation will be doing a Paleo diet challenge for five weeks. Am I taking it on? Naturally.