November 22, 2017
Diabeating It
By Brittney Saline
Andrew Perzel combats diabetes with CrossFit.
Andrew Perzel combats diabetes with CrossFit.

Snatch. Clean and jerk. Work out.

Thursday, Nov. 30, marks the beginning of the third annual CrossFit Liftoff, powered by Rogue. Andrew Perzel is one of the thousands of athletes worldwide who will participate in the competition’s test of two max lifts—the snatch and the clean and jerk—and general physical preparedness.

Perzel, who will turn 50 in six months, is hoping for a PR but says it’s OK if he doesn’t get one. A Type 2 diabetic of eight years, his primary fitness objective is to get clearance to ditch the Metformin he’s been taking to manage his diabetes, a feat his doctor says just might be possible come March—so long as Perzel continues to train and eat clean.

Though his work—first in private tree care and then for the last 17 years in the highway department in Lagrangeville, New York—has kept Perzel relatively active, he hadn’t set foot in a gym for nearly 20 years before he started CrossFit in May.

In January 2017, he weighed about 223 lb. at 5 foot 9. As Perzel rang in the new year, he resolved to lose weight. Though his wife Samantha urged him to join Warlock CrossFit, where she’d been training since February 2016, he joined a globo gym instead, citing the cheaper cost of membership. When the globo gym became boring, he joined his wife at Warlock CrossFit in May, trading leg extensions for snatches, cleans and met-cons.

“There’s not a day that I leave CrossFit where I’m not dripping sweat to the bone,” Andrew said.

By the end of October, he was down to 188 lb., which moves him down a weight class in the Liftoff. He also reduced his total body fat from 15.3 to 10.7 percent. That doesn’t affect his division in the competition, but it’s a big part of his dramatically improved fitness.

“He doesn’t get out of breath walking up the stairs anymore,” Samantha wrote by email. “He doesn’t sweat profusely doing the small things around the house like he used to.”

And he’s now fit and skilled enough to perform complex lifts.

At first glance, Andrew might not seem a likely contender for a weightlifting competition. He never so much as touched a barbell before starting CrossFit six months ago, and with limited shoulder mobility he has trouble reaching full depth in the overhead squat, a critical component of the snatch.

“I don’t like them,” he said, referring to the overhead squat and the snatch, “but you have to do them.”

His decision to embrace his weaknesses has paid off. Not too long ago, he struggled to overhead-squat 75 lb. Today, he can snatch 130 lb. and clean-and-jerk 165 lb.

He’s not concerned about how he’ll perform in the Liftoff because he knows the atmosphere is going to be fantastic no matter what he gets overhead.

“Just being there with everybody—they egg you on, they help you out,” he said, referring to his fellow athletes. “It’s a great group of people to work with; it’s fun. You’re not there by yourself.”

And that’s the whole point. The Liftoff gives top athletes a chance to take a run at prize money and glory, but it gives lifestyle athletes an opportunity to lift some bars, chase a PR or two, sweat through a conditioning test and bond through competition.

“It’s a great community builder,” Warlock CrossFit owner Erik Zeyher wrote in an email. “It’s a great way to get friends, members, people from different classes together to let loose, throw down and sling some weights on a Friday night.”

It sure is. And if one of those friends slings some weight overhead and some medication into the trash, so much the better.

To read more about Perzel’s weight loss and improved health, visit the CrossFit Journal.

Register for the CrossFit Liftoff here.