Some people say they’re going to get in shape before they start CrossFit. “Maybe once I lose a few pounds,” they say.
Greg Awalt wasn’t one of those people. He didn’t promise that he would start CrossFit after he lost some weight, because he tried everything else and nothing worked. In December of 2012, he walked into CrossFit West Sacramento to see if this would finally be the exercise program for him.
“For pretty much my whole adult life, I had struggled to find an exercise program that I enjoyed and was frustrated with being out of shape and morbidly obese. I had read some stuff online about CrossFit and thought I would give it a try,” he said.
He wasn’t sure whether the group classes would work for a deaf athlete like him, but on his first day, he was surprised to see how quickly coach Mike Ryan adapted his coaching to his needs. After Ryan demonstrated the movements and explained a few key concepts by writing on the board, Awalt started squatting.
“I had never done so many squats in my life,” Awalt said.
He left the class feeling strangely discouraged and motivated. Moving his 290-lb. body made the 30-year-old realize just how unhealthy he was.
“I felt pretty defeated and discouraged with my first (workout). It really showed me just how out of shape I was, but I had never had a workout like that before and the intensity of it motivated me even more,” Awalt said.
At the end of the workout, Ryan wasn’t sure whether his new athlete would come back.
“He seemed to enjoy it but I had no idea if he’d be back again,” Ryan said.
He was pleasantly surprised when he saw Awalt’s name printed on the roster for the next foundations class in January.
Over the last year, Awalt has been showing up at CrossFit West Sacramento and putting in the work necessary to change his body and his life.
At first, he had to confront his limitations.
“The biggest struggle was with my physical limitations due to being morbidly obese. A lot of the (workouts) I had to do modified because I couldn't do it the regular way,” he said.
Over time, he was able to modify the movements less and less.
His progress accelerated once he changed his diet, and the pounds started to fall off. His coaches explained how eating like a caveman but with balanced fats, proteins and carbs could affect his health and performance.
“The paleo/Zone concept just clicked for me,” he said. “This is when I started seeing the weight fall off. Sixty pounds and counting! I have never felt better in my life. All my aches and pains are gone. I don't snore anymore and my energy doesn't crash throughout the day. The benefits have been amazing.”
At a new body weight of 230 lb., Awalt has been able to achieve things that seemed inconceivable when he first started. He got his first unassisted pull-up, and handstand push-up.
“I am a work in progress and can't wait to see what I can accomplish in the months to come,” he said.
Now that he’s closer to his goal weight, and just over one year into CrossFit, his training goals have shifted from weight loss to performance. CrossFit isn’t just a means to an end anymore; it’s a hobby. And the effects have reverberated from the gym to his outside life.
“It's impacted my life outside of the gym so much. I'm not tired all the time anymore. I have the required energy it takes having three young kids at home. My wife and I have really started cooking together. I am in better shape and weigh less than I have since I was 14 years old. I just feel so alive,” he said.
To mark the one-year anniversary of starting CrossFit, he signed up for the 2014 Open. From the start, he understood it wouldn’t be easy.
“I am just excited to try and see what the workouts are like,” he said. “I am looking forward to next year when I can compare and actually see the improvements I have made from the Open workouts this year.”
Although the two Open workouts that have been announced so far weren’t easy, he isn’t upset.
“There isn't any disappointment in this for me. It's all a learning experience and all part of the journey,” he said.