July brings us a new athlete to honor and we couldn’t be happier to have chosen Chris. He’s a super cool cat with an interesting past, and a great work ethic. He’s been really proactive about his weaknesses and in doing so has gone from not being able to put a barbell overhead to being able to go overhead in WODs, and from not being able to squat without pain to squatting a 1 rep PR of 300. Chris’ extra effort in making himself a better athlete is what brought him to the forefront of the AOM discussion. He didn’t believe me when I told him he was the AOM. Here’s what I found out about him when we sat down.
Fox – Hey man, thanks for meeting up with me. I’m looking forward to hearing about your sordid past.
CA – Wow. Are you sure you guys mean me? This Chris A? The one without the sub 6 minute 2k time?
Fox – Yes Sir, you. We’ve been really impressed with how you’ve improved over your time here and especially since getting injured. On to the first stock question. How did you wind up at CFSBK?
CA – My brother-in-law George had visited friends in Northern California and they’d been ranting and raving about CrossFit. He really wanted to start doing it but my wife Elizabeth (George’s sister) eventually did the
research and found out that there was one right here in Brooklyn. One day she told me, “George is signed up to start CrossFit, and so are you.” I guess she figured we should do something together. We did a private
Foundations with Shane and that’s how I started. That was September of ‘09. If it were me I never would have done the private cycle, I’m somewhat of a cheapskate. But, Elizabeth paid and all so I went. I did the
Foundations and then didn’t come in for a week or two until Shane started sending George and I emails badgering us. I’m a pretty shy person so I might not have gone otherwise. It was all in my own head really. I saw all these fit people with these crazy athletic abilities and was intimidated. I started with drop-ins but after a month or so I was in. Once I started coming in I realized that everyone was so nice. I’m glad I wound up going.
Fox – We’re glad you did too! So, what had you been doing fitness-wise before CrossFit?
CA – Right before I had been just going to the gym across from my house and running and doing some other stuff, no routine really. I had done some boxing before that and enjoyed it but wasn’t really going to be a boxer so that faded out. When I came to CrossFit I had thought of myself as pretty fit. I always was active, ran track in high school and stuff. The first few classes were a shock. I remember Shane asking me how many pull ups I could do and I was like “five or so”, thinking that I could probably do ten but not wanting to look weak. Shane told me to get up on the bar and if I did one, I was lucky. I then realized I had grown out of shape and wanted my fitness back.
Fox – What made you stick with CrossFit? And why did you become someone who does all this mobility work before classes?
CA – Seeing everyone do all the stuff I wanted to do! Pull Ups, cleans, snatches. Also everyone is really supportive of each other. No one argues, at least not that I know of. If that happens I don’t want to know (it doesn’t). It was just what I needed to help me to push harder. The mobility stuff came partly at coaches behest, and partly because I really want to be able to do everything here. Handstands, the O lifts, all that stuff. Also, if I don’t then my sciatica can be really painful. So, not being in pain is a pretty good motivator as well. I learned a few tricks in the Mobility and Recovery Intensive and continue to use them.
Fox – Tell me a bit about your life outside of the gym. Work, hobbies?
CA – Well, first work. For nearly two decades I worked at book publishers doing publicity and PR. I now do the same thing, but on a freelance basis out of my home. It pays the bills and it’s pretty neat. I’ve worked with novelists ranging from Dean Koontz and George R.R. Martin, of Game of Thrones fame, as well as serious non fiction writers such as the physicist Stephen Hawking. Basically my job is to and drum up interest among members of the press for upcoming books and their authors. As far as hobbies I have two that I’m pretty passionate about. First is diving. I’ve been diving for about 12 years now. I started down in Belize and have been hooked ever since. There’s so much to see underwater. My wife dives also, though she’s not as crazy into it as I am. I’ll go in 4-5 times a day when we’re away. We’ve been on some pretty amazing trips to dive but the best has to have been Asia. I did some diving in Indonesia that just doesn’t compare to anywhere else that I’ve been. In this hemisphere though Bonaire is good as are a few of the less populated islands. If you get me started on development and the s**t it does to the underwater ecosystems I’ll be off to the races. I’ve got to bite my tongue. (Chris is pretty passionate about this subject and lots of adult themed language ensued. Ask him in person and I’m sure he’ll fill you in).
I also play Petanque (pay-tonk), which I love. (I ask if it’s just like French bacci and Chris indulges my comparison). I started 7 years ago with a free lesson in Bryant Park from La Boule Newyorkaise and now I
teach for that same organization. It’s a great game, it’s really a good drinking and smoking game. There’s skill but not a lot of athleticism required. It’s kind of my anti-CrossFit (he says and smiles).
Fox – I smell a CFSBK field trip! Now tell me about the sordid rock and roll past.
CA – I wanted to be a rock star, you see. I moved to New York for that very reason. I played in a few bands and it was a great time but it didn’t pan out in terms of making a living. I did have a few brushes with other people’s fame. One was when I tried out for The Meatmen. Brian Baker had left the band and I auditioned to be his replacement. Let’s just say it was humbling. I also had a stint in a band, called Puppet Show. Always hated that name. And when they asked me to join I almost said no, but the drummer, Matt
Stelluto, had played in the 80s hair metal band Smashed Gladys and I was a big fan of his so I joined up. My first show with them was opening for Johnny Thunders about a month before he died. That was one weird
scene. If any of the bands I played in had a shot, it was that one. But it was not to be, and I eventually tired of lugging gear and playing for peanuts, if that.
Fox – Chris, you’ve led and continue to lead a storied life. We need to get a CFSBK house band going! So, where are you at now with things? What do you still want to improve? Any recent accomplishments you’re proud of?
CA – I want to continue to improve my mobility, and to be able to clean and snatch properly. I know those two things are very related. I’m having fun getting better at stuff and 300 certainly was a nice round number to hit on the back squat. I also recently did 21 unbroken pull ups in a WOD and that was a great feeling. Going from 0 (first class with Shane) to 21 isn’t that bad. I remember back at the Lyceum, John McCann Doyle doing a double under/pull up WOD unbroken and it seeming so effortless. I’d like to do that workout and have it be so effortless.
Fox – Those are some great accomplishments. I’m sure that with continued hard work the rest will come also. Alright, last question. What should we look for in a future AOM?
CA – I’ve been thinking about this question since you seem to ask it of everyone. I’ve really appreciated the people who continue to support and cheer me on even when they’ve finished their own workout and
are wrecked but I’m still struggling on. That says a lot to me about their character. I know it’s helped me to continue and made it even just a bit easier to finish. I think that quality should be part of the recipe for a future Athlete of the Month.
Thanks again to Chris for meeting up with me and for being a fun nterview. We look each month for a member of our community who contains within them some qualities that we think are worthy of imitation,
and Chris certainly demonstrates a few. We coaches look forward to seeing you improve with us. And SBKers, do ask Chris about diving and Petanque…he is a wealth of spunk on both!