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Rest Day


Athletes Of The Month: Willie and Nancy!

This month we have a real treat, our first multiple Athlete of the Month honor...the Dynamic Duo of Willie and Nancy Hernandez! They both were among the names being thrown around as AOM choices, and then someone had the bright idea of featuring them both as a couple. Besides losing a collective 70 lbs between the two of them in the last six months, they’re easy to coach, supportive of their rack mates as well as of each other, and a pleasure to have in class. Read on and learn a little about the couple that sat outside in their car before a teaser class going back and forth convincing each other that it was a bad idea and they could just go home or get lunch instead...we’re sure glad they came in.
Fox - Tell me guys, what first brought you through our doors?

Willie - I saw the CrossFit Games on ESPN and then watched some videos online and thought it looked pretty cool and challenging. The real thing that got me looking though was a visit to the ER for a headache. I went in feeling “just off” and after a few tests the doctors told me they might not let me leave the hospital. My BP was through the roof, the nurse couldn’t believe I was standing. Turned out that my blood sugars were also in the red zone as well as my cholesterol...My doctor told me that if I kept on living the way I was that I’d be dead in 3 years. That was a wake up call. I was scared straight.
Nancy - Yeah, he was a real mess and I was scared for us. Willie showed me CrossFit online and I thought it looked crazy, like I wouldn’t be able to do that stuff. I was always bored at the gym though so I wanted to give it a shot. That first teaser class, just even going inside the gym, was scary. We sat in the car for 45 minutes going “this isn’t for us” as we watched the door slam open and closed while people ran in and out...and it was December!

Fox - But you came in and did the Teaser with David. Were you hooked at that point?

Nancy - I sure was. I loved it, the intensity and the competition. I tried to sign us both up right there but the Foundations cycles were sold out until late January. I emailed Jess right away and asked if there was anything we could do to start sooner. So we did a private Foundations with McDowell starting that Monday or Tuesday.
Willie - I didn’t think they would even let me take Foundations. I was crushed by that class. I remember David saying “How bad can 10 minutes be?”. It was bad. The workout was 10 minutes of 300m row and 15 burpees...I didn’t finish one round. I kept bending over and trying to catch my breath and David kept telling me to stand up and keep moving.

Fox - But you came back, and did a private Foundations with The Magnificent Mr. McDowell Myers. I assume he was a great teacher because you’re still here and have been coachable from day one. What was Foundations like? And then your first classes afterwards?

Willie - Every day going in to Foundations I thought I was gonna get cut! I kept telling Nancy, “Today is the day that he’s gonna tell me I can’t take another class...that I need private training and that CrossFit group class isn’t for me. You’ll be ok Nancy, but it isn’t for me”.
Nancy - McDowell gave us scaled workouts and was patient with us. We were nervous because we could see classes going on and it was real busy, but we just kept coming back for the next class. Before we knew it we were taking classes.

Fox - What were you guys doing fitness-wise before CrossFit?

Willie - (haha)...We would go to the NYSC in Atlas Park in Queens. I would pull a new 12 week program out of a magazine for us that we would half follow for a week at most. Nancy would go on the treadmill, I would do a few presses, and then we’d head over to Chili’s for dinner. It was obviously a failed plan but we didn’t know better at the time.
Nancy - Yeah, I would run a lot on the treadmill and lose weight but I wanted to look strong! Willie would always tell me I needed to lift weights but I didn’t really believe him...until you guys told me the same thing!

Fox - So someone didn’t believe something that their significant other told them until someone else also said it? Shocking. I can’t relate at all...anyway...Were you guys athletic as kids? Any sports backrounds?

Willie - I played sports as a kid through the Boys Club. Baseball, basketball, swimming, etc...then when you’re 18 all that ends and I continued to eat as if I were still active. I all added up eventually.
Nancy - I wanted to do that stuff but we started our family when I was pretty young so I never really did. I would go to the gym when I felt I was getting a stomach but didn’t play sports. I stayed at home with our daughter Crystal and then our son William.

Fox - So Big Willie and Little Willie?

Nancy - Actually, we call him King Will at home...he hates it!
Wille - Don’t put that in the article.

Fox - Definitely not, Willie...Anything stand out for you diet-wise that your new, lower level of activity could keep up with once you stopped playing ball?

Nancy - He would drink three 2 liters of soda a day. A whole 2 liter just at breakfast and then 2 more throughout the day.
Willie - Yeah, after that doctor visit that was the first thing I cut out. That alone made a big difference.

Fox - Holy shit! Three 2 liters? That must've been a hard habit to break, good job on giving that up. You’ve both lost significant weight since joining while also both getting much stronger. Do you know how much weight you’ve dropped since joining?

Nancy - I started out at 155 lbs and am at 130 right now.
Willie - I was up around 280 lbs and am down to 237 right now. My goal is to get under 200 lbs.

Fox - Amazing. You’ve lost a 25 and 45 lb plate respectively! How about strength numbers, where you started compared to now.

Nancy - I started at the 33 lb bar for my squat sets and just hit 155 at Tough Titsday. It was so amazing, the whole day. So cool to see that everyone else was nervous, and that we were all supportive of each other at the same time. Honestly one of the best days of my life. I wound up with a 130 lb squat, a 75 lb bench press, and a 150 lb deadlift. So cool.
Willie - Nancy was a nervous wreck that morning. You couldn’t talk to her! I’m proud of her though and glad she’s embraced lifting weights. For me, I started my squat sets at 165 and have moved up to 255x5x3. I backed off recently to deal with some knee pain but am on the mend and looking to go past that.

Fox - Any gym goals that you two are working on?

Willie - I want to bench 315 and get my weight under 200.
Nancy - I want to keep getting stronger and drop a little more body fat to look and feel the way I’ve always wanted to.

Fox - Those sound pretty within reach, great stuff. What about outside the gym, what does the Hernandez family do for fun?

Willie - Honestly CrossFit is our main hobby right now. We used to go out to eat all the time but now we’re being healthier so we work, head to the gym, and crash early at home. We go to the movies every now and then but we hang out here and at home mostly.
Nancy - That’s about right. We still go to dinner, right now I love Purbird. We also take a family vacation every year which is a big deal. This year we went on a cruise to the Bahamas. Atlantis was amazing. Years past we’re done the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and other stuff.
Wille - yeah, I busted my but on the lazy river at Atlantis. So embarrassing.

Fox - Something tells me that you’re the kind of guy that can take a bit of emarassment and come out ok. What do you for work?

Nancy - I’m a letter carrier for the USPS in the Union Square area. I’ve been with them since 1999.
Willie - I work as a custodial engineer for the Dept. of Education. I’m in charge of 2 schools and a team of 9 people down in the Lower East side. I’ve been with the DOE for 16 years but in this role for about 10. 10 More years till I can retire!

Fox - Nice to be looking down retirement at our age, huh? In spite of your fears and how hard things were in the beginning at CFSBK you kept coming in. I really believe that it takes that kind of commitment to anything to be successful at it. You just keep at it and don’t give up. What are some of the things that you enjoyed that kept you coming back to Degraw street?

Nancy and Willie (in unison) - It’s not boring.
Nancy - The community is so great, there’s always someone to talk to that you like. The blog is fun to keep up with, too. And the coaches are all great and approachable.
Willie - Yeah, you don’t get this kind of experience at another gym as far as coaching. I look at it like this. We all come to this place to basically play. All of us from different walks of life can come to this special place and just play. That’s the trick with CrossFit, it’s not like work, it’s like play. All the hard work is made easier by the fact that you enjoy it here.

Fox - That’s great to hear you say that. We strive to provide a fun environment where people can work hard and get better. Alright, last question. What should we look for in a future AOM?

Willie - Someone dedicated and consistent. Someone like me, Fox.
Nancy - I like how he says that with a smooth face! Yeah, dedicated and consistent. I’d add friendly and approachable. It’s what we love about this place is that it’s filled with friendly people.
Thanks so much to King Will and (Queen?) Nancy for spending the time to tell me a little about themselves. Congrats on all your hard work, we look forward to seeing more of it for a long time.
What Will We Miss? VSauce

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Reader Comments (77)

@Josh -
I've also worked with John for swim coaching and it was a huge help. I started off barely being comfortable swimming a lap and thanks to his classes and help I've done a couple of events that included 1 mile open water swims.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJude

Yay Congrats - you guys have been awesome and been lookin' awesome as well!

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMel


Is Beast of the East going to have strongman again? Anybody else interested in doing strongman stuff?

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoel W.

Wow! This is my first comment on the site, but this story was so powerful I just had to say something! I partnered up with Willy a couple of weeks ago, and he was awsome, giving me feedback and encouragement! Great job guys! I'm sharing this story, and hopefull convince my wife to join this crazy adventure!!

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDan Funes

Congrats willy and nancy!
So well deserving of AOM. I remember a erg Wod and nancy was watching my screen for me so I didn't know how far to go except through her telling me... She really helped me get to end.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKeith W

Can we call you king Willie at the box too? Please say yes!

Bench w/ Charlie, who PR'd today! Woot!
45x5, 65x5, 85x3, 100x3x5
Felt so much better than last week. Finished last cycle at 80lbs, so I'm still loving my newbie progress.

WOD: Tabata mash up--20kg KB swings instead of DU. 20lb DB split snatch. I think I could've gone heavier (Charlie felt similarly) but I'm glad to have worked on my form and sticking every one. Hit 4 each side for every round, so I'm also very pleased with the consistency. KB swings--I have no idea, kinda blacked out till I heard the clock.

Again, loving the AOM. You guys are inspirational and all around lovely people.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGracie

Congratulations Nancy and Willie! Great interview. Had me smiling the entire time.
Not that we need more reminders of why we love this place, but here's a pretty solid example.

Yeah Beast of the East! Sounds terrible and awesome.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren B

I haven’t met you guys officially, but we started around the same time, and I always admired you both while you were working with McDowell, and the fierce determination you always had on your faces—along with your lovely smiles. Congrats! Also…

…this sums up my emotions.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

Congrats Willie and Nancy! Definitely teared up reading your story! I haven't been lucky enough to meet you guys yet, but CFSBK is obviously very lucky to have you! Hope our paths cross soon.

6am with McDowell and Jess. Really thought I would get 115x3x5 on the bench this week, but alas started failing in the second set: it was 115x5, 115x4 and 115x1. Feel like I've tapped out the linear progression and will now turn to the performance workout for bench. No idea what I did on the WOD, but I used a 25# DB and a single-single-double pattern. I really like Tabatas.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca C

Light volume work

Dumbbell windmills

Then McDowell josh and I went to red hook and did 6 intervals of the zig zag sprint from the games. I lost every single heat.

Got my squats in today but will do tomorrows WOD tomorrow

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid osorio

@josh, I took a few swim lessons from leila vaziri at SBR a few years ago. I'm still painfully slow but she helped me shave 10% off my swim times while swimming easier and farther...

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPckr

Congrats Nancy and Willie! You guys rock! Great story :)

Bench press today with Gracie. I added 5# to last week's weight, so I was a little nervous, but it worked!

I disappointed myself a bit on the WOD- I completely forgot how to do double-unders and even singles were barely happening. I did the snatches at 17.5, which felt way too light, and there is a good chance that I may have done the right side three times in a row as I was still thinking about my lack of double-unders instead of getting over it and concentrating on the job at hand.

Did 100 sit-ups as cashout, again with Gracie, with a minute's rest halfway through.

Practiced my handstands for a bit after class (may or may not have landed on my head at one point) and definitely getting better at those too. Yay!

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercharliethechick

I swear, I was actually thinking of these two as perfect AOTM selections just yesterday. Nancy & Willie, you rock!

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris A.

YES, I was just wondering what happend to AOTM the other day, and here it is with a perfect selection! Nancy and Willie are the best.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBethany E.

Congrats Willie and Nancy! You guys are awesome. Love the spirit you guys bring. Super friendly and dedicated.

MGMT - Can we get a King Willie SBK shirt? Just like this one...


July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave Fung

"Even when Willie tries to hide from the coaches..."

Man, this just keeps getting better.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Josh - I second the John Stewart recommendation. FYI he is away for his honeymoon though, so don't be disappointed if he doesn't get back to you right away.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDavid G

Oh my god we need to make those King Willie shirts. Would rock on the regular.

6:30 Class with MeLo and Josh

45x5 135x3 155x5 175x3 200x3

Felt good, probably had one more on the rep-out, but again, my butt was coming off the bench and my back was feeling weird.

WOD with 40# DB
4 for all Split Snatch rounds
20 and then 23-25 for all DU rounds

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

Back levers: did a few nice holds with the red band. I messed around a bit without a band and still have a ways to go.

Bench: 180x5x3. Felt better than last week's 175x5x3.

The WOD was really fun. I'm glad I went with 50# for the snatches.

Fineshed with some MU + handstand practice.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlan O'D

6:30 with Melo. Did yesterday's work. Went to 115# on the bench press linear progression, and somehow got completely disorganized on the second set, possibly trying to rush through too fast, and failed on the fourth rep. But then, did the third set with the same weight, and it felt better than the first set. Baffling.

The tabata piece was kind of a mess. I suck so much at double unders that I didn't really get the right stimulus from this. 30# on the dumbbells felt lightish, but I had a weird tendon clicking sensation in the wrists so I didn't want to add weight. You win some you lose some I guess.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Mc

excellent aotm piece - adore these two.

skipping work tomorrow, looking forward to some 7 or 8 am shiz. been awhile.

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJB

Yay Nancy and Willie! Keep it up :)

July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren B

This is so inspiring!!! Great Job guys!!!!

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPriscilla L.

7:00am class with Monday's workout (bench and tabata mash up)

BENCH 3 x 5 @ #155.

This was a little light but I had been out of the country drinking a lot for the past few weeks so taking it a little easy was fine

TABATA 217 reps @ #30

Also a little light. It wasn't until the very last set that I felt I was low enough in the split jerk. And tabata DU towards the end wasn't 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest. More like 15/15 as I kept tripping up towards the end of the 20 seconds and there wasn't enough time left to make restarting practical (takes me a while to set up for DU)

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterZube!

Willie and Nancy! You guys are the best, and totally deserve AOTM!

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie H

this post made my day. I love seeing a couple like Willie and Nancy rooting each other on with such dedication.

Also, just downloaded "My Wod" app and did the RSS thing. yay for graphs and tracking!

Thanks for being awesome, everyone, I spent a good 25 minutes convincing a local store owner to come to a teaser class this sunday. Told her I'd do 20 extra burpees if she came :)

August 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElena Y

I loved this post so much that I forwarded it to my friends so that they can understand why I love CFSBK so much (and hopefully join me). Willie and Nancy, we haven't formally met but after this post I recognized you at the gym and I was pretty much in awe. Reading your interview and back story is just awesome. I also enjoyed Fox's interviewing style. I know that if I stick with it (and I will!) that I can get to your level. Thanks for the inspiration.

August 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterColleen M.

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