…an afterthought. I think somebody there just decided, “Hey, let’s fill this with a CrossFit. Let’s find a CrossFit coach and put it in there. No big deal.” I don’t remember the instruction being spectacular.
I don’t remember anything being great about it. They had like three squat racks and one pull-up bar that went all the way across the racquetball court, but they asked me to go back. I got tricked into going and then I went, but then the first day was squats. I had been doing squats, and I knew I could do a lot of weight.
During the first day, I did the barbell and I was barely able to stand up. I didn’t have much balance. I was still using crutches at the time, and I was hard on myself. There was this supportive community, everybody’s like clapping and being like, “Hey, you’re doing great. Good job. We’ll see you again tomorrow.” I kept coming back.
That community support literally saved my life. I don’t know if I would have gone down a dark place after that not having a purpose in my life. I owe everything to the CrossFit community for that second chance of a happy and healthy life.
The training was effective, as we all know, and it got me back on my feet. I was able to do two more tours, and maybe because of that. I switched gyms eventually to a little bit bigger and more instructed type of gym and went on two more tours.
One of those, I lived in the Middle East, and I was living in Kuwait at the time. They had a small little army camp and a little gym. I met one of the L1 Flowmasters Chris Russell, who owned CrossFit jacks. I was doing CrossFit. He was doing CrossFit, everybody else was doing bodybuilding stuff.
We’re looking at each other, like, ”Hey, what are you doing?” Then we got together. We started doing cross workouts together. Him being a Flowmaster, he’s blowing my mind because I started dabbling in CrossFit. No clue what I was doing. I just loved it.
He’s teaching me technique and telling me to read the CrossFit journal. I’m downloading every article possible and watch five hours straight reading 30, 40 articles. That’s how I went through the entire CrossFit journal in a couple months.
Eventually, we grew that in Kuwait, and more and more people wanted to start working out with us. We grew it and started military affiliate. It was one class a day. Chris would lead the classes. Eventually, he was leaving, going back home. His tour was over. He was like, “Hey, I’m going to pass this off to you. I have no clue what I’m doing.”
I took leave, ended up going to Switzerland. Got my L1, came back, still no clue what I’m doing, but had to start running classes of 20 people at a time. We’re talking true functional fitness. We had, rusty barbells, a couple kettlebells. No bumper plates, no rigged system pull-up bar. We’re doing box jumps onto concrete Jersey barriers. Carrying ammo cans, doing runs outside, and 120-degree heat coming back inside. It was fun.
I look back and that’s probably one of the best times of my life even though stuck in this little army camp. We couldn’t go outside and they didn’t have a lot of things to do. I was learning so much from teaching and reading the CrossFit journal. It was a really awesome time.
I eventually came home from that. I got medical retirement from the Navy because I can’t feel my right foot or ankle. Not being on stable services like a ship is not good for me. Decided to open my own CrossFit gym when I came home.
That was Fathom CrossFit. Open that in 2013, and immediately started a rec therapy program with the Naval hospital there at Balboa. Started rec therapy program and had some support from other PTs. I had no clue what I was doing working with other people with disabilities. I knew that they needed a space that they could go and feel like somebody was going to be there to say, “It’s OK, we’ll take care of you. We’ll figure this out.” That supportive community.
Started running that class once a week forever since 2013. Then 2017, CrossFit got wind of what we were doing, and asked me to create a specialty course. The CrossFit specialty course adaptive training.
I knew I needed to get some other smart experienced people involved. I reached out to Kevin Ogar, reached out to Logan Aldridge, Chris Stoltenberg, among other people to help me develop that course. We did and ran that for CrossFit as a specialty course until 2019 when all the specialty courses became independent.
That’s when we created Adaptive Training Academy to continue running that education for the community. We still run that course. It’s now called the adaptive and inclusive trainer certification course. We still provide that education in seminar format, but also in two different online formats. It’s self-paced, and a four-week cohort online format.
The big news now is, we’ve been doing that and we feel very effective educating the community and getting trainers to learn how to work with people with disabilities. We can make CrossFit gyms inclusive.
Anybody who walks and rolls in your door, the idea is they can have the same great workout anybody else in the classes. It only goes so far. Typically, people with disabilities have more barriers to entry. They have travel, accommodation restrictions. They have higher financial costs, such as medications and healthcare, just living costs. It’s tough for them to pay for a good CrossFit gym membership, which may be 200 plus dollars a month.
Also, the gyms I know that they want to offer services like I did. My class was a voluntary pro bono class for eight years or six years. It becomes a little bit of a burden after a while to give your free time, your space, your energy.
We are converting to a nonprofit so that we can be more effective in the community not only provide education but also provide resources. Either financial resources for gym memberships, financial resources to run adaptive or inclusive programs. That’d be one class a month or one class a week. Then also, financial resources to buy adaptive equipment.
You may need active hands to help somebody grip onto a barbell or a dumbbell. You may need a wider ski or base because wheelchairs don’t fit into the traditional ski or base. You can’t get close enough.
Lots of different things that we can help you within the community. We filed our paperwork. We’re not active yet. We have all these things in the works, and we’re planning it out. We’re really excited. As soon as we get that back, we’re going to be rolling.