March 7, 2014
Real Life Translation
By Jillian Tymchy

“This year was supposed to be just a run through. The idea was to gain experience in programming, training and nutrition. That being said, I find myself taking the Open as seriously as if I were head-to-head against Rich Froning in California.”

Photos courtesy of Jeffrey Perez

Old Line CrossFit member Joe Hancuff was once approaching a body weight of 400 lb.

At the young age of 34, Hancuff’s weight had already made a significant negative impact on his quality of life. Comfort eating led him to health problems, including joint issues in the knees and hips, backaches, sleep apnea, vomiting mid-sleep if turned on his stomach, and a general lack of ability to do common tasks.

A former Marine, Hancuff said he had reached such a low point in his life that he wasn’t motivated to do anything. However, it was his military background that drew him to CrossFit.

“CrossFit most appealed to me because of how close it resembled military training out of all the training styles available. I refused to sit back and believe that the way I was, was just how it was going to be,” Hancuff said. “I recall the night before my first CrossFit session (just 11 months ago), asking my wife to be hard on me when I started making my usual excuses about not wanting to work out or do anything really. Fast forward to today, she’s never once had to tell me to go train.”

Hancuff’s wife, Michelle, described Joe as being in “average shape” when they met, but as the years passed, they celebrated life’s ups and commiserated the downs with food. As complacency crept in and the weight crept on, Joe attempted various forms of dieting and exercise, but nothing really kept him interested.

After seeing an advertisement for CrossFit, Michelle said Joe finally found a methodology he whole-heartedly believed in.

“The constant variation keeps his interest and challenges him, but the community and camaraderie are what have formed those strong bonds with athletes, not only in his box, but around the world,” Michelle said.

With less than a year of CrossFit training behind him, Hancuff has gone from being unable to complete a 100-m run to a 7-minute mile, 500-lb. back squat and sub-4 minute Fran. His life has changed not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

“I now know the difference between pain and discomfort, and know better how to dig through discomfort, which leads to a real world translation, as I’ve become mentally tougher and respond better to stress,” he said. “Also, it has shown me my true calling, which is to inspire others to become the strongest version of themselves.”

Old Line CrossFit owner and coach Jason Galindo observed Hancuff’s growing level of excitement as 14.1 approached. As opposed to being intimidated, Hancuff was eager and excited.

“Despite all of the physical gains Joe has made in the last six months, the most impressive improvement to me has been his increase in self-confidence,” Galindo said. “Nothing intimidates him anymore and when he finds a weakness, he won’t stop until he conquers it.”

Hancuff scored 261 reps on Open Workout 14.1. He said it’s “cool” to be on the same Leaderboard as the biggest names in CrossFit. His motivation for taking on the Open was to gain a true idea of where he stands in his fitness journey.

“This year was supposed to be just a run through,” he said. “The idea was to gain experience in programming, training and nutrition. That being said, I find myself taking the Open as seriously as if I were head-to-head against Rich Froning in California.”

No longer satisfied with the bare minimum, Hancuff plans to open his own affiliate and dreams of joining the Level 1 Seminar Staff. In the meantime, he will continue to train for his shot at the title of Fittest on Earth. Next step: 14.2.

“To be in a community of such loving and supportive people is so very humbling,” he said. “I do what I can to make sure I pay those kindnesses forward, especially to new athletes. Because of all of this change, I have found myself in an advantageous position to help people get their start. I’m not a guy who has always been athletic. I know what it’s like to be heavy. I know the pain both physically and emotionally. I want nothing more than to inspire the minds and hearts of people in this pain and remind them that they are not alone and never will be.”