"For me, it's not about competing with the big boys. I want to be the best me."
Before noon on January 1, Sterling Matheson sat in his car in front of Crossfit NRG, debating whether or not to enter the gym.
“I was scared to death,” he says “I weighed 326 pounds. … I had the Groupon in my hand, and I thought to myself that I could just waste the money and not go.”
But he went, determined to keep his resolution to live a healthier lifestyle.
“The first several workouts I quit,” he recalls. “I wasn’t mentally tough enough. That’s when James (Sjostrom) grabbed me by the shoulders and told me, ‘Just show up.’”
“I told him that if he walks through those doors, I’ll do my job,” says Sjostrom, who’s been working with Matheson for the past three months. “I told him, ‘Have no expectations. Just come in and work. You’ve got to be teachable and humble.’”
Matheson listened, participating in six workouts each week. Since that first workout, he’s lost more than 50 pounds and competed in all five weeks of the 2013 Open.
“It kicked my butt,” he says laughing. “But it put everything into perspective and makes me realize where I can improve.”
Matheson says the Open tested him with movements he had either not tried or wasn’t able to complete before.
“Before the Open, I couldn’t do box jumps,” he says. “I’d never done a snatch before. In one of the workouts, I PR’d my snatch 13 times.”
Although he didn’t make it into the Regional competition, Matheson said he plans to work on his mobility and endurance to continue to improve.
“I’m hungry for more.”
“We’ve seen a shift in his attitude,” Sjostrom says. “He went from ‘I have to do this to save my life,’ to ‘I want to do this.’ Now, he’s having fun with it.”
In addition to daily workouts, Matheson took advantage of the mobility sessions offered at NRG, which helped him learn and adapt movements to his abilities.
“The trainers, they saved my life,” he says. “I wasn’t going to die tomorrow, but a few days ago I went on a walk with my wife for the first time in eight or 10 years.”
A California native and the youngest of five children growing up in a Mormon family, Matheson says he moved 19 times before his 19th birthday. For him, sports were a reliable constant.
“I lettered in four sports in high school,” he says. “I was a regional wrestling champ. I played college football.”
Settling in the Salt Lake City, Utah area, Matheson managed a fitness store and contributed to a weekly radio segment on health and fitness.
Despite his profession and exposure to sports, Matheson’s weight spiraled.
“There’s a reason I got fat and there’s a reason my life sucked,” he says. “When my kids asked me to do things with them, I had to tell them, ‘I’m too tired.’ … People don’t realize that when you get fat and overweight, there’s a bunch of stuff you can’t do.”
Matheson says he resolved to lose the weight. He cut sugar and sodas from his diet and began a paleo eating regimen. After hearing a customer rave about CrossFit classes, Matheson researched the program.
“I had done Weight Watchers and Atkins and nothing stuck,” he explains. “My wife thought this was going to be another fad, but I’m peeling back these layers and I’m finding my ‘inner awesome.’”
For Matheson, the NRG community has kept him motivated to continue pursuing his goals.
“I’ve had grandmas in my 6 a.m. class killing me,” he says. “I’m big. I’m tough. I’m macho and these 125-pound grandmas were kicking my trash.”
During a strength workout, everything clicked.
“Over time, I was able to do some of the strength WODs Rx’d,” he says. “The other day, I completed a 1.25-mile run.”
Matheson’s latest feat — tackling the intense workouts in the Open.
“For me, it’s not about competing with the big boys. I want to be the best me.”
Matheson says he doesn’t have a specific goal weight, but he wants to lose at least 50 to 60 more pounds.
One goal he’s determined to achieve by his 41st birthday in August is a standing backflip.
“How cool is it if your dad can do a standing backflip?” he jokes. “It looks so cool.”
Until then, Matheson says he will continue pushing himself in his workouts and achieving the “small” victories with his wife and four children. While he knows perfection isn’t attainable, he will continue working to master the muscle-ups, toe-to-bars and V-ups.
“‘Any old fly can get hit by a windshield,” he says quoting his favorite “country bumpkin” phrase, “‘but it takes guts to stick to it.’”