The following was originally written in February 2012 as a 5 part series for the PCF blog. It has been reformatted below for your reading pleasure…
Today will be the first day in a series discussing how my life has changed over the past ten years or so. Most people assume I have been into fitness and health or an athlete my whole life, but the truth is that I used to be the exact opposite. Lets take the above photo as an example. The year was 2002, and I was sitting in a fridge to test out the weight capacity, as we were about to have a gangsta themed 40oz party. No, the gold tooth wasn’t real, but that cigarette certainly was! Leading up to the party, I spent hours making invitations, shopping around local outlet stores and costume shops to buy props for the party. This was what I spent my time and money on, health and fitness didn’t really fit in to my lifestyle.
The truth is that I began writing the story below when I first opened the gym, almost 2 years ago. I realized that people did not understand how long the process was to reverse years of inactivity. I had worked for 5 years at that point and was still struggling to perform workouts Rx’d. I would hear stuff like, “That’s easy for you to say, you’re Mr Fitness, or you’re an athlete!” If they only knew! This sentiment and these feelings are what I want to address head on and as honestly as possible. Most of us need to reverse years of poor posture, eating habits, lack of exercise and proper movement. We need to face our familial and social traditions and educate ourselves on human physiology and nutrition. These processes are all essential to making a lasting change to your health and well being and it takes time. I wrote this because I want you to know that it is possible! Progress may seem slow, but we really can change! I hope you enjoy the story…
Getting into the business of changing lives, I had to start with my own. I still worry about a lot of things. I know that I shouldn’t. Take money for instance. The evidence is everywhere, and I have seen enough E! True hollywood stories to know that money is not happiness. But its still this nagging itch that I have never conquered. Growing up, I made the classic assumption that I would somehow be wealthy enough to never need to know anything about budgeting, simple economics or personal finance. Full of optimism and a things will work out because I’m a good person attitude left me broke and directionless (ie, struggling actor) at the age of 25.
I find myself in an interesting position of selling a product to people that I would not have purchased just five years ago. I would not have been able to justify spending $150-200 on a ‘gym membership.’ The amount is certainly nothing to laugh at, but when you prioritize the things you spend money on, it seems obvious that health should be somewhere near the top. Instead, I would justify spending $75 on a night out drinking at least once a week. Somehow the concept that we have only one life to live has not transferred into the notion of taking care of our one body. Listen to what this high school student has to say about their health, “If I want to be physically fit I’ll do it on my own time, maybe when I’m older. Right now I need to focus on my future, not on my body. Thanks.” I used to be this person. Maybe not exactly, but I saw my health as something I would get to eventually, that I was young, I wasn’t overweight and I was having fun. No regrets, funny right.
I can recall trying to convince myself that I had something of a physique when I looked in the mirror, that I had a six pack just under that extra skin if I pulled it down, that I wasn’t that out of shape. That my lifestyle wasn’t the cause for my ever worsening digestive issues. After all, I was going to be rich and famous. I literally believed that it would happen because I was special. In the words of Tyler Durden, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.” Hell yeah, I’m pissed off! Are you? Where is the emphasis on health in our education system? It simply doesn’t exist! I went to school in Chicago suburbia and I swear I had one class during one half of my freshman year called health. Think about what they served in your cafeteria. Our PE class had us in the weight room three days a week (only because I was on a sports team, the nonathletic kids didn’t even get that), with little to no instruction about movement and nothing about nutrition. The education part of the class was lost sometime long ago. You didn’t go there to learn anything. Not the way you did to history class or science class anyway.
I was lucky enough to have parents that believed in cooking their own food, but many families are ‘too busy’ to go shopping or prepare their own food. My mom was disgusted by how I loved the Chef Boyardee canned raviolis my friends served me at their homes. I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so delicious, but it just was so different than anything my parents made at home. I had a love affair with Little Debbie snacks. I would come home from school and eat two or three nutty bars or star crunches. My mom would have to hide the boxes from me so they would last for my school lunches. People eat what they think is normal food, with no idea how it affects their bodies. How could they know?
Take all of these factors into play: poor financial responsibility, lack of physical education, delusions of grandeur, and social pressures and you can begin to envision me as a young adult.
Let me explain quickly the life I lived and defended vigorously until about 5 years ago. Socializing was my life. School was a vessel for me to get out of my parents house and party like I had always dreamed. I did just that. Six years as an undergrad, my first semester I received a 0.98, politely asked to leave after my first year, I attended two junior colleges, and finally ended with a degree in Leisure Studies from the University of Illinois at the age of 23. Through it all, I drank and I smoked and I got by, with no plans for where I was going or how it was going to work out. I planned on being a bachelor for life. Traveling the world, bedding beautiful women and at some point I would probably become an actor. Things always just worked out and there was always a funny story to tell. I continued the party after college as I got a job on a cruise ship and eventually ended up in the Virgin Islands for two years. There is no ‘sin tax’ there, so booze and cigarettes are dirt cheap and a fresh batch of willing party goers arrived each week. It was the pinnacle of the life I had been looking for, but reality kept creeping into the back of my mind. What was I going to do for work for the rest of my life? Was I going to continue to scrape by? I needed to finally make my move and prove to everyone how special I was. It was time. I decided to move to LA and put my face in front of the camera. There are a few things that happened along the way here that need to be pointed out, the seeds of my physical fitness journey had been planted. You may have heard these stories before, but just in case, there were two moments within months of each other that opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to start doing something to get in better shape.
The first was an intramural soccer game that my fraternity was playing. They were short of players and needed a few extra people to help out. Since I played soccer all my life up until college, I said I could play. The reality was not pretty. They subbed me in for a player, I ran and chased the ball around for about 5 minutes and puked on the sideline. That was event one. About two months later I was invited to go wake boarding for the first time. Like so many other things I had watched on television, I knew I could do this, the physics made sense and I was a capable individual. Things did not go according to plan. Not only did I barely stand up, but when I did, I was completely out of control. I was an epic failure and the following day, my body was ruined from head to toe. I couldn’t move my arms or make fists, my back was jacked up, my neck was aching from whiplash. That was event two. It suddenly dawned on me that I was going to have to be physically fit in order to achieve the life I had envisioned. That month I began to run and do push ups. Since I was so out of shape, I made a rule for myself, it doesn’t matter if you don’t run very far or if you can’t do that many push ups, but be sure to run one step further each time you run, or do one more push up than the last time and I knew I would get somewhere eventually.
Interesting side note: My roommate at the time was a biochemistry major and made a comment one day as I was doing pushups, that you can build more muscle by working out with shorter rest intervals at higher intensity, typically less than a minute between sets he told me. Veeery interesting!
That somewhere I ended up being was St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. If you haven’t been there, imagine a few mountaintops sticking out the sea. Beautiful beaches that rise into steep switchback roads and then down again. They have a race called the 8 Tuff miles. It was not something I had any interest in doing, until some girl made a comment about doing it and I drunkenly said, “I should do it too!” The race begins at sea level with a six mile 1000ft climb, and finishes at sea level two again some miles later. Brutal. I had six weeks to train and I had never run more than 3 miles in my life at that point. I ran the hills around my house a couple times a week, before a night out of drinking of course, but I was diligent. When race-day came, I remember passing the 3 mile marker saying I’ve never ran this far before in my life! And I have 5 more miles to go! The girl I was running it with, was saying crazy shit like, “Isn’t this fun!” and “I should come back and run here some other time!” It was miserable, but I made it in under an hour and a half. When I looked back at what I had done, there was this huge sense of accomplishment. Funny right. How obvious. I thought to myself, I can do better than that next year! And so it began, the missing link fell into place. I finally had something to train for. As it happened, I was already planning on moving to LA and so the follow up race was to be a grand trip back to the island.
If you enjoy the above film, feel to check out my wide range of acting abilities here.
When I arrived in LA, I was broke but had big dreams. I’m not sure how many of you have gone down the acting/artistic pathway before, but like so many other things in life, the reality is very different from what you imagine. I was and still am a movie nerd. Not so much television and definitely not music, I was a movie guy. The first thing I did was start researching and reading biographies of actors that I admired. How did they get their start I wondered. Much to my dismay, it ends up that a very high percentage of working actors actually have a long history steeped in drama and the arts, they went to school to study drama, their parents worked in the industry, or they have been starring in community plays since birth. The more I looked, the more this became apparent. Crazy shit, like, Robin Williams went to Julliard and Paul Rudd went to drama school since a young age, Jim Carrey has been acting and doing stand up since he was 11. Don’t quote me on the details, but you get the idea. A famous acting coach named Sanford Meisner stated that it takes 20 years to become a true actor…Fuck! The worst part was that it was true, it was fucking hard work. Scary, hard, satisfying work. I realized right away that if I was going to be great at it, I was going to have to dedicate my life to the task. I would have to throw all caution to the wind and risk the reality of working shitty jobs, scraping by and struggling for a dream that was very uncertain.
Once again, a few events happened simultaneously that changed my lifelong dream and reality. First, I read a Vanity Fair interview with Bruce Willis where he states that all those big stars out there are just products of luck, there are a thousand other guys out there with just as much talent as him, but didn’t get that lucky break. (I bet that’s true too.) Shortly after, while working as an extra for the sitcom Joey (the Friends spinoff), I was in the catering line next to Matt Leblanc and Adam Goldberg listening to them talk about how they have no lives! How all they do is go to rehearsal and read scripts and write. I couldn’t believe it. These were two, by any standards, very successful actors and all they did was work! The last straw came from an acting book I was reading by the acting coach Sanford Meisner, in which he quotes Sigmund Freud. The quote reads, and pardon the length:
“Before you leave today, I should like to direct your attention for a moment to a side of fantasy-life of very general interest. There is, in fact, a path from fantasy back again to reality, and that is-art. The artist has also an introverted disposition and has not far to go to become neurotic. He is one who is urged on by instinctual needs which are too clamorous; he longs to attain honour, power, riches, fame, and the love of women; but he lacks the means of achieving these gratifications. So, like any other with an unsatisfied longing, he turns away from reality and transfers all his interest and all his libido to, onto the creation of his wishes in a life of fantasy, from which the way might readily lead to neurosis. There must be many factors in combination to prevent this becoming the whole outcome of his development; it is well known how often artists in particular suffer from partial inhibition of their capacities through neurosis. Probably their constitution is endowed with the powerful capacity for sublimation and with a certain flexibility and the repressions determining the conflict. But the way back to reality is found by the artist thus: he is not the only one who has a life of fantasy; the intermediate world of fantasy is sanctioned by general human consent, and every hungry soul looks to it for comfort and consolation. But to those who are not artists the gratification that can be drawn from the springs of fantasy is very limited; their inexorable repressions prevent the enjoyment of all but the meager daydreams which can become conscious. A true artist has more at his disposal. First of all he understands how to elaborate his daydreams, so that they lose that personal note which grates upon strange ears and becomes enjoyable to others; he knows too how to modify them sufficiently so that their origin in prohibited sources is not easily detected. Further, he possess the mysterious ability to mould his particular material until it expresses the ideas of his fantasy faithfully; And then he knows how to attach his reflection of his fantasy-life so strong a stream of pleasure that, for a time at least, the repressions are bout-balanced and dispelled by it. When he can do all this, he opens out to others the way back to the comfort and consolation of their own conscious sources of pleasure, and so reaps their gratitude and admiration; then he has won-through his fantasy-what before he could only win in fantasy: Honour, power, and the love of women.”
All of this in about a month, and I was left to decide, is acting what I really want to do with my life, does it make me truly happy? Am I not capable or connected enough to reality to be successful in any other way? The question that got me was, am I willing to give up everything else I want to do in order to achieve success in acting? The answer was a resounding no, on all accounts.
I began to realize that I wanted to use acting as a vessel to get to the life that I really wanted. When I spoke of success, it never included acting, but did include being active, traveling and helping people. Acting somehow seemed like the easy way there. Silly looking back at it, I know. This is the beauty of life. Would I have discovered that simple truth if I had never taken the journey? In retrospect, this is all so easy to see, but the decision was not that simple. The thought of telling my friends and family that acting wasn’t for me, after just two years of trying, seemed like admitting failure. And great, now that I knew I wanted to live an awesome life without acting, how the hell was I going to get there?
The plot thickens.
If you remember, when I moved to LA, I had planned an epic return to the Virgin Islands for that 8 Tuff Miles race. I was looking forward to crushing my previous time upon my return. My training began about 5 months before and consisted of running approximately 6-8 miles per run. I also did some pushup work on the side, but I was really focused on getting better at running. Since I was living in Redondo Beach, I would take advantage of the beachside hills that I could find to train me for the “tuff” part of the run. When I arrived back at the island, I could safely say that I was in the best shape since my high school soccer days and was excited to see how much I would improve!
The first time I ran the race, it took me just under an hour and a half. The second time I ran the race, it took me…just under an hour and a half! Fuck! I couldn’t believe it! Granted it was much hotter the second time and I hadn’t really trained on a sustained hill, but still! It was a disaster. I felt like I had done all that hard work for nothing! Upon my return to LA, I was less than enthused about continuing my running career when a movie trailer changed my life.
For years (even to this day), I check for the newest movie trailers that are released on the Internet. One day, I went to apple movie trailers to find a featurette on the training these actors were doing for a movie called “300.” I had not heard of the movie at this point, but what I saw looked amazing. They said things like, “They never did the same workout twice,” over the course of 8 weeks. “If you’re not nervous before your workout, think about it, it might not be hard enough.” They were flipping tires, running with kettlebells, working on rings, throwing medicine balls, talking about working out until you puked. I was filled with excitement and yelled to my roommate to come into the room, “Check this out! They should have gyms like this!” I said enthusiastically. I watched the trailer again the following day and googled the trainer’s name, Mark Twight.
What I discovered was that Mark Twight was not only a mountaineering legend, famous for his fast, dangerous ascents and his grueling training style, but that he had founded the “Gym Jones” training facility. I had found the source of the Spartan training and began to dig deeper. As I read about their gym, I ran into a description and link to something called CrossFit, so I clicked to find out more.
What I found was a website that offered up not only methodologies, but a library of workouts, video demonstrations, descriptions and answers to my questions. The amazing part is that it was all FREE! (I have read every post on Crossfit.com since that day.) I discovered the flaws in my training program for the 8 Tuff Miles. Interval training. Strength training. Aerobic vs anaerobic. The workouts looked like fun compared to what I was doing and there were so many to choose from! I had no equipment at this point and I had never done the majority of these movements, so I scoured the workout archives looking for something that seemed “easy.” Something that didn’t require any equipment. I settled on this “Classic.”
4 Rounds for time of:
Run 400 meters
How hard could that be? I measured out the distance, watched the videos on how to squat and set out to do this sucker. My first 3,2,1 go! I went out of the gate fast, excited and nervous. I got back to the squat location, took a few breathes and banged out my first 50 squats, and that was the end of my excitement. My second 400 meter run time probably doubled in length. When I made it back to squat, I was a wreck. My legs were quivering and my lungs were burning. I wasn’t even half way done with the entire workout and my soul was crushed. I worked through the squats a few at a time and eventually made it to 50 reps. I can only imagine what I looked like as I ran out for my third 400 meter run. Pale face, purple lips, acting like I was running, but really walking. I made it through half of my third run and tapped out. Utterly destroyed, I walked back to my house. The whole experience lasted less than 10 minutes and my legs were fucked for a week.
Strangely, I enjoyed the experience and once I recovered, I had already figured which workout I was going to try next. Using my roommates doorway pullup bar for jumping pullups, I performed “Cindy.” (20 minute of 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats). I wish I could remember how many rounds I did, but the results were equally devastating.
The love affair was born.
I remember talking to my good friend back home about the discovery. As I spoke, all fired up about the workouts that I had tried and explained the methodology, his response was, “I don’t think you should be doing 50 reps of anything!” He wasn’t the first to think I was insane. My roommates all thought I was crazy, my co-workers would laugh at me as I limped around the restaurant and then tried to convince them to come workout with me. I never had a doubt.
As the months passed, I slowly amassed more movements that I could perform. I would hook my feet under the stairs and lay over a swiss ball for back extensions. I figured out how to kip in that doorframe pullup bar. Handstand pushups, box jumps, lunges, burpees, yay! Just me and my lonely pullup bar, and I still had so many things I could learn!
Eventually I purchased a cheap barbell/dumbell set from Play-it-Again Sports and that is when things got really interesting. Trying olympic lifts in my second floor apartment. I would set up my kitchen countertops as my squat rack by putting pillows on either side for the weights, and then just stand up and walk into the dining room to squat. I used the dumbbells for kettlebell swings, one armed snatches and turkish getups. I was kept busy for the next 2 years!
While this may sound like I was a madman, working out constantly, that was far from the case. I was still giving priority to my acting dream and socializing, and maybe working out 2 times a week during good times. During the bad times, I could go a week or two without doing anything. I was into the idea of CrossFit, but still living a very unhealthy lifestyle. My sleep and work habits were terrible. Serving tables and consequently drinking Jameson until 2am most nights. My nutrition was non-existent. The best thing I ate was sushi at my job, while eating poor man’s meals at home; pasta with butter or oil 5 times a week. Burritos, pizza and bar food filled out the majority of the rest of my meals. I was playing that break-even game. Building my body up with CrossFit, while simultaneously destroying my body with everything else.
The pieces to the puzzle were in place, we just needed something to set it all in motion…or should I say someone?
Martina stepped off a plane in San Diego from the Czech Republic on January 16, 2000, speaking no English and no clue what her future in the United States held for her. Like so many other aspects of this story, there were a series of seemingly random events that led Martina to the Virgin Islands and into my life.
She stayed in San Diego for just over two years, where she learned to speak English fluently by working in a coffee shop and restaurant. Eventually she started up her own company with a friend, selling coffee beans for espresso. The success of her company brought her to Portland, where she stayed for another couple of years. After the company eventually dissolved, Martina made a decision to combine her desire to travel and adventure by getting a seasonal job in Denali National Park. After arriving in Alaska, a chance encounter with one of the manager’s got her promoted from waitress to bartender on her first day! As the six month season was coming to an end, and no plans moving forward, some of the other workers told Martina about working in the Virgin Islands during the winter season. Denali in the summer, Virgin Islands in the winter. Sounded like a plan! Martina landed in St Thomas in 2004 and ended up staying for almost two years.
We had lived on the island simultaneously for about a year before we finally met through a co-worker of mine. We only had three months together, as I had already booked my flight to Los Angeles, but we made the most of our time. We attended a wedding in Boston, where she met my family. We spent a few nights in New York City and saw SNL. We never left each other’s side and by the end of that brief time, I was already announcing to my friends that Martina was the love of my life. I swore that even though I was going away, no matter what happened, we would be together in the end. For now, I had to leave to pursue my Hollywood dreams.
Martina moved off the island almost six months later. Acting out of denial, she decided to move to New York City to be as far from me as possible! We spoke daily but rarely had the time to visit each other over the course of the next year. As the winter months began taking their toll, my acting career still in development, and the stress of an almost two year long distance relationship, Martina told me that she would be willing to move to LA.
We had been in each others physical presence for three months when we first met, endured a long distance relationship for the next year and a half and then in August of 2007, we moved into an apartment together in Santa Monica. I was about to learn a lot about myself and the definition of commitment.
Martina and I shared similar passions for travel, adventure and life. We had an idealistic vision about our future together that quickly ran into reality. After about six months of living together, we found ourselves asking hard questions about our careers, creating a family and our future together. I will never forget the moment it happened. February 2008, Martina and I were in an argument about something that didn’t make sense to me and Martina announces, “How are we going to have a family?!” Behind all of our idealism and dreams, that was a great question that I had never bothered to consider. How long was I willing to attempt my hand at being an actor? How were we going to achieve this amazing adventurous lifestyle that we both wanted? I had always planned on having a family, but how was I going to support them? I realized that this was something Martina had been thinking long before it came up in that conversation. We had no security or plans what-so-ever.
This was all during the same time that I was struggling on how to justify ending my acting career. The thought consumed me. Day and night I thought about what I could do. I considered moving to another destination location and living simply on the beach and figuring it out when I got there. I spoke with old friends about what they could imagine me doing. No one could imagine me working a 9-5 job and I would never settle on a job I didn’t believe in. My dad thought I was a natural born salesman, but what would I sell? This went on for the next 3 weeks until it finally dawned on me…I was going to open a CrossFit gym!
I was constantly talking to my friends, family and coworkers about CrossFit already. I truly believed that it was the wave of the future. I believed this is what they should be teaching in PE class. I was always trying to find more time to do CrossFit. There were only two CrossFit gyms in LA and millions of people. My skill set from working in the restaurant and hotel industry would work perfectly and I would be able to make a positive impact on peoples lives! I announced this thought to Martina and I think she said something like, “Great. Do it.” It happened just like that, with no clue what she was getting herself into, we have never looked back.
The next day I booked my Level 1 Certificiation for April 2008. I had already watched every video they had ever released and read the CrossFit Journal regularly. The big stumbling blocks: no savings, no experience training others, no idea how to run/open a business, knew nothing about nutrition.
As I waited the next three weeks for my Level 1 Certification, I began looking up fitness related jobs on Craigslist, I contacted the only CrossFit gym in the area to see if I could intern, I emailed my friends that were in the health/fitness industry to ask their advice and I asked my restaurant job if I could become a manager to gain more business experience and gain a steady income instead of working for tips. The only thing I really got out of all of this was the manager job, but it was a start.
I began my long steady acquisition of equipment through Craigslist and Play-it-Again Sports. Purchasing a concept 2 rower, a couple medicine balls, barbells and kettlebells. The certification was still the main key and it was right around the corner.
At the certification I had a chance to meet Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, I did my first muscle up (as it was the first time I had a chance to use rings), I met Brian Mackenzie who was just starting CrossFit Endurance, and many other young optimistic people just like myself that wanted to open their own CrossFit gyms. The weekend was over in a flash, and they finished with this message, “Now go out there and train somebody! You will never become a coach by watching videos or coaching yourself! Contact your friends and family and start coaching! Good Luck!” The coaching journey began that same night!
The ball was rolling. Only a month after I had the idea to open my own CrossFit gym, I was now certified and had become a manager at my restaurant job. I hit up everyone I knew in LA, offering my services for free. I found a middle school and a park near my apartment that had open space and pullup bars and I began to train a few friends, co-workers, and mostly Martina. My manager job was miserable, working 5-6 days a week from 4:30pm until about 2-3am. I did as much training as I could with the time I had, but at the pace I was going, it was going to take a while. I began looking for another job that would allow me more time to develop my training skills. During this same time, we applied to be an official affiliate and received our approval in June 2008! I ended up responding to a Craigslist ad for a restaurant manager position that would prove to be a major catalyst to getting Paradiso CrossFit up and running.
I met up with a guy named Niles at a cafe in Santa Monica. He was a management consultant, hired by Neptune’s Net restaurant to find a new manager. There was this moment in the interview when he said to me, “You seem like a smart guy. What is it that you really want to do?” I wasn’t sure if this was a trick question or not, but I responded with the truth, that my dream was to open something called a CrossFit gym and I needed to find a job that would allow me the opportunity to develop that dream. He and I spoke about CrossFit and the realities of the job offering and in the end, he thought that I would make a great fit as the new manager and wished me luck in my future endeavors. I was offered the position a few days later and started the job in July.
The manager job at Neptune’s Net was just what I needed. I was working on the beach, making a comparable salary, working about 20 hours less a week and my day was finished at sunset. About a month later, Niles stopped by my work and wanted to talk to me about an opportunity. He was working for a company called the Food Art Group, a successful restaurant management group in West Hollywood. The chef that started this group was planning on making a book about living a healthy lifestyle and was looking for a trainer to help train his executive chefs, CEO and other managers. Niles told them about meeting me, about CrossFit and thought that we could be a good match.
The man I was looking to work for was Chef David Myers. We met at an empty restaurant on La Cienega, near the Beverly Center in West Hollywood. He was young, successful and had a progressive vision for his restaurant group and employees that I could relate to. We discussed the CrossFit methodologies and my plans for the future and how we could work together. With a handshake deal, we decided that I would train him, his executive chefs and his management team for free and I could use this empty restaurant for training my own clients. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Eight months after sitting on my couch and coming up with this crazy idea, I had my first gym location in West Hollywood!
At this point, I had a handful of people that I was training regularly, my apartment and car were filled with equipment and we had finally launched our website. With more space, I was able to step it up a notch and I began amassing more equipment. I purchased my first set of bumper plates, a GHD machine and more rowers. We built plyo boxes and a friend welded a portable pullup bar. Along with the restaurant group employees, I began to receive inquiries from people that were finding me on the internet. My foray into larger group training began and nine months into the journey, I had my first paying client.
As this was happening I never had a chance to sit back and make decisions about my lifestyle. I no longer had time to go out on weekends. I was exhausted by the end of my days and ready to do it all again the next day. I lived this life for months, slowly accruing new clients and enjoying the learning process. I would train early in the morning in West Hollywood and then head back up to Malibu for the restaurant job in the afternoons. I couldn’t turn it off. On slow days, I would have my staff competing in the back lot for max squats, L-sits, sprints and walking lunges. I was sharing my vision with anyone that would listen and excited about what would come next.
There were always surprises and random encounters during this time as well. The most infamous occurred while I was training Peter and Martina at the local park one night, performing the workout “Kelly” (running, box jumps and wall balls). While they were out running, three guys came wandering up to me and asked if I was doing CrossFit. I was like, hell yeah, how do you know about CrossFit?! They introduced themselves as Zeb, Mike and Chris and they were members of CrossFit LA! I told them that I had just affiliated and that I was looking for a gym of my own. Around that time, Martina came barrelling back from one of her runs and I got back to coaching. I told them to hit me up sometime. That was how I met Zeb.
By June of the following year, I had been working with the Food Art Group for almost 9 months, the book idea had been stalled and there was a lot of speculation as to where we would end up and how we would get there. By mid-June, I was informed that the restaurant space was no longer going to be rented and we were going to have to move to an old bakery near Fairfax and the 10 freeway. The neighborhood we moved into was less than ideal, but the space was enormous. Over 13,000 square feet of space that smelled like donuts.
The plan for the Food Art Group people was to eventually transform the space back into a working bakery and I would be able to occupy a small portion of the space, including an outdoor parking lot. Not ideal, but I didn’t have any other options. While we were hoping this would work out as planned, we were also looking for our own space somewhere in between Santa Monica and West Hollywood. We didn’t want to alienate our current members, but we also wanted to service our own neighborhood. We looked unsuccessfully for another month, until the hammer fell once again.
I was notified that I would have until the end of the week to get my equipment out of the building. Boom! Just like that. Apparently, the building was going to be taken back by the bank or some higher power and if they came and my stuff was inside the building, it would no longer be mine. Fuck!! We didn’t know what to do. The best option we could figure was to go back to training in the park, store the big stuff in a storage facility and keep looking for our own location.
Two days after the bombshell, Martina sends me an email with a link to a Craigslist ad for a space in Marina del Rey. When I looked it up on google maps I was less than thrilled with the location, but we had no luck anywhere else, so maybe this could work! The advertised space was a mere 750 square feet for around $1000 a month. The landlord had just posted the ad that same day and we were the first to call. We arrived to find that the space was tucked away off the street, in an old building with a roll up door, surrounded by smaller machine and boat shops. We liked it immediately.
The landlord happened to live next door, so we explained what it was that we did: dropping weights, people running, music blasting, yelling and grunting. They were actually enthusiastic about the whole idea! We told them we would take a bit to think it over and without too much discussion, we decided to go for it. We signed the lease the next day.
Over the course of the next month, as we moved over the equipment and set up shop, we received so much support from the larger CrossFit community that we barely knew. I was reminded how many other individuals were out there just like me. Individuals that loved CrossFit and just wanted a place to go. Zeb had come back into my life in the previous months and we had already spent many hours discussing our philosophies on CrossFit, coaching, and programming. I offered him a job mid-August with the question, “What is the absolute minimum I can pay you?” He accepted.
With Zeb on board, a handful of members, a little bit of money in the bank and Martina’s financial support, I quit my job at Neptune’s Net and decided to go all in. Two weeks later, on September 1, 2009, one and a half years after deciding to open a CrossFit gym, Paradiso CrossFit hosted its grand opening workout know as “Inventory.”
You could say that the rest is history or that this is the end of the beginning of the story, but who knows? I see so much potential for growth, change and improvement all around us. I am as excited now as ever, and I can only say thank you for reading this and supporting what we are trying to do. I want to give a special thank you to G, who knew where she was needed before I did. To Rico, Suver, Sondra and K-Ron for accepting and supporting me from day one. To Martina for being my inspiration, guinea pig, financial support and positive ray of sunshine through it all:) To Scott Cohen and Peter for being around the longest. To Niles, Chef David Meyers and Basil Schmidt for their crazy ideas that didn’t work out the way they intended, but still worked out for the best. And last, thank you to all the members, current and former but not forgotten, that have helped build this community and life that I am so grateful for. Thank you. I wish you all continued improvement and the courage to find your own path.