CrossFit South Rockland

Friday, June 14, 2019

Ben's Fitness Journey

Fitness has always been a major focus in my life. “How do I take my health & fitness to the next level?” is a question I often ask myself as I strive to become my best self. Oftentimes identifying weaknesses is easy. I’ve learned that they can also be equally as easy to ignore and difficult to correct. AMRAP certainly excels at exposing and then strengthening weaknesses, but how did I get here in the first place? My journey to AMRAP Fitness….
As a natural athlete from an early age, I played sports competitively throughout high school. After high school, I spent several years focused exclusively on lifting heavy weights and thinking of athleticism through pure strength and power. I utilized the same old school training methods I watched repeatedly in Pumping Iron and studied in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding. I trained this way for several years, into my mid-20’s and it was very effective based on my goals at the time. I got big and strong and at just over 190 pounds at 6% bodyfat I asked myself “How do I take my health & fitness to the next level?”
This question led me to what has become one of my all-time passions, Muay Thai (Kickboxing). I walked into my 1st class feeling like a stud as there was no question who had the best bench press in the group, but I received a quick lesson on how inefficient it was to carry around all that extra muscle! Muscle requires A LOT of oxygen! As I practiced and competed in Muay Thai over the next few years the extremely intense conditioning that was required stripped away nearly 35 pounds of hard-earned muscle and I was transformed into a “lean, mean, fighting machine” walking around at a ripped 155 pounds, which was the proper fighting weight for my body frame.
Muay Thai is a violent sport and results in a lot of wear and tear on the body and eventually, in my early 30’s my body started to compensate for injuries I was sustaining. Then before I knew it I was walking around in constant pain, many days literally limping around hunched over as my body simply ran out of compensations. It was a frustrating time and I did what I could to exercise while trying to manage the pain. Even one of my hobbies, Sunday morning softball was out as swinging a bat became a recipe for disaster. The next couple of years was touch and go. I trained when I felt up to it but there were major gaps during training periods due to debilitating pain. In hindsight, I could have been so much more proactive in rehabilitating myself. That’s ok, that thought keeps me motivated now to make up for lost time!
January of 2018 was a turning point for me. I started taking group classes at Orange Theory and my body tolerated it very well. I began feeling stronger and remained injury free while increasing the intensity of my workouts. However, I was also getting bored and asked myself again “How do I take my health & fitness to the next level?”. I presented this question to a friend and the suggestion I was given was to do my first Spartan race, an event that would test my physical fitness and mental resiliency. I was hooked from the moment I hit the course! I did 2 more races within 5 weeks including arguably the most challenging course that Spartan offers, a 15+ mile “Beast” at Mt Killington, VT. In Spartan races, some of the obstacles are much easier to complete than others. There were a handful of obstacles in each race that I couldn’t complete which cost me quite a few (hundred) penalty burpees. This clearly highlighted some weaknesses in my functional fitness and this time I knew just how to level up my health & fitness. Therefore, I joined AMRAP Fitness in October of 2018.
In my earliest days at AMRAP, we happened to be testing max effort back squats and I put up what I considered a very respectable number. In fact, I was nearly the strongest in that day’s group, so I left feeling proud. The following workout was overhead squats and I literally lacked the shoulder mobility and upper back strength to squat with the empty bar overhead… the empty bar! Very embarrassing and a huge wakeup call!! Since then I have made it a point to prioritize my weaknesses and Ray is always challenging my limits and giving my cues to correct my form since the proper form is always an emphasis. I take both the CrossFit classes and Strength & Conditioning classes and find I enjoy a mix of both. The workouts are always intense, often as much mentally as they are physical. I’ve been exposed to so many new workout concepts & skills such as Olympic Lifting, double-unders, resistance band speed work, and the list goes on and on. I have so much to learn but my improvements have been constant which I know because our performance is measured and tracked. Ultimately, I have managed to stay injury-free while significantly improving my athletic performance in all ways.  
I’m pleased to share that I ran my 1st Spartan Race of the 2019 season 2 weeks ago in Chicago. While unfortunately, the race was canceled about 6 miles in due to a major electrical storm in the area, I had already completed 2 of the hardest obstacles that I failed multiple times last Summer. I have several more races lined up for the 2019 season and I’m excited to continue testing my fitness. In other news, 2 months ago I finally started working Muay Thai back into my weekly regimen! I’m stronger and healthier now than I’ve been in years and while most people my age are dealing with declining health, I genuinely believe my best years physically are still ahead of me.
“How do I take my health and fitness to the next level?” I’m very excited about the journey!


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