Guest Blog Post by Nick Ullman
By no means am I hijacking this blog, but Christine & Michelle asked me to share my experience and views as an owner/coach at Islip CrossFit. By spending most of my free time there, I am able to see my members training up close and personal every day.
I love that we use that term “train”. Training for what? None of my members are on professional sports teams, going to regionals or the CrossFit games. However, they are training to be better than they were yesterday, last week, last year and 5 years ago.
In some instances, they are training to be better than their best friend or whoever is in their “lane” ☺ or maybe getting to the next lane. Regardless, there never is a true end goal to train for, they just keep working hard and I love that. The best part is they probably don’t realize how much they inspire me each day.
A little about me:
For myself, I found CrossFit in 2012 thanks to my wife Rachel. She came across it one day, perhaps on ESPN the Ocho, and said “hey, you should try this”. I had played ice hockey in High School and College but nothing competitive since then (circa 2001). So after looking into it, I said to myself that looks easy I can definitely do that.
So that very week I signed up for a few trial classes at various locations in my area. I remember walking in and seeing all these people lifting heavy weights and doing muscle ups and was so intimidated! But I went in anyway and took my first class. I’ll never forget the first one, because I was hooked.
15 Ring Rows
15 Box Jumps
Sounds simple to me now, but it crushed my soul….. and I loved it. I signed up the very next day.
I came home after that first class and told my wife “I’m going to own a box one day”. She laughed at me ☺ She may not recall, but it’s the truth. Before I knew it, I was going 5/6 days a week, to both regular classes and strength classes. I was certainly overdoing it, but at the time I didn’t realize it. I just knew I loved it.
Soon thereafter, it wasn’t the coaching bug that bit me so much because I had no idea what was involved in that, but I did know that I wanted to own a box to help people. My day to day job involves managing operations at multiple corporate fitness facilities across the country so I was fairly confident from a business perspective, but I knew I had a way to go in terms of coaching skills.
All I know is that I wanted to own a box once I fell in love with CrossFit and how it made me feel. I wanted to bring that same experience to other people. To make them stronger, more confident and addicted to getting better every day. Not to mention all the great people and friendships I’ve formed along the way because of it.
In March of 2013, Islip CrossFit was born ☺
The tough part about having a full time job, running a business, coaching and having a family with 2 kids is trying to train. I know many box owners/coaches share this struggle, but it comes with the territory when you make the commitment to own your own business. Thankfully, my wife is very understanding when it comes to my long hours and crazy schedule. I often drag my kids with me when I’m coaching, not because I want to but because I have to. I laugh when I travel around the country to other boxes and I see other owners/coaches dealing with the same things i.e. kids in the corner whining, doing homework, begging for iPads etc… We can all relate to similar issues and problems regardless of location.
In order to keep myself close to the young guns I typically have to train off hours, either alone or try to recruit a buddy. On the days I’m not coaching and can jump into a class, I absolutely love it. Working out with the members is awesome, I’m not sure they realize that but all the coaches at Islip feel the same way.
I want my members to know that this workout sucks for me just as much as it does for them, but are going to do it together.
Ah, the members:
Without question the best parts of my life are my family and Islip CrossFit. It’s the source of all the happiness in my life, if I could do it full time I would in a heartbeat. I’ve made so many friends over the years, many of which are like family now. I love that all our kids are now friends and growing up together, all brought together by something as simple as exercise!
As a corporate professional, you can imagine I don’t receive a ton of internal job satisfaction in my day to day life. That is why I could never live without owning a box, the joy I get seeing one of our members reach a goal is as if it was my own. Whether it be their first pull up, toes to bar or a 300lb clean, just know that I’m probably more excited than they are!
Most of my athletes have specific goals (or a few) that they are trying to reach. When they do reach them, I get that same PR smile for the rest of the day as if I had done it. I’ll come home and excitedly tell my wife:
“Kristin got a strict pull up!”
“Michelle PR’ed her snatch”!
“Did you see Lauren’s Hang Clean??!”
When these things happen, I’m so pumped I can hardly sleep.
For those who are still trying to reach certain milestones, I’ll keep plugging away and trying to learn new cues that may click for them. One thing I’ve learned coaching all these years is that not everyone learns the same way. You need to develop a repertoire of different cues for the same movement. I’ll often spend some downtime at night looking up certain progressions or videos that may help them get that “lightbulb” moment. And when they do….. it’s glorious.
Some advice for newbies:
For anyone thinking of trying CrossFit I would offer a few bits of advice:
Don’t be scared, every single member at that particular gym felt the exact same way you do on your first day. Every. Single. One.
Try multiple gyms before you make a decision. As most things in life, there are varying levels of quality. I’ve traveled the country and been to some great boxes with great coaches/members as well as vice versa.
Commit to 3 months to give it a fair chance. Progress takes time, so give it a fair assessment before you make a decision if this is right for you.
Scale: listen to your coach, scale the workouts according to your level at the time. If you don’t listen you will not make progress and you increase your risk of injury.
It’s hard. It’s fun but it’s hard. If it wasn’t the satisfaction of doing it wouldn’t be nearly as great.
Ignore the clock: don’t worry about the time it takes you or anyone else to complete the workout. Just come in each day, give it your 100% effort and the improvement will come. Guaranteed.
My view on CrossFit:
CrossFit has come a long way since its inception, it’s evolved from a fitness regimen to a niche sport, but a sport nonetheless. With that, the talent pool has certainly expanded to former collegiate and pro athletes, making it that much more difficult to stay on top.
However, for most of us it’s simply a way to stay fit, stay strong and maybe keep a little competition in our lives. For me personally, I’m doing things at 36 that I never thought I could do. I’m twice as strong/fit as I was in college and I feel great. The best part of my day is just relaxing from a stressful day and lifting some heavy shit with the boys (and the girls!).
I feel at times it’s gotten a little too serious, I mean at the end of the day all we are doing is exercising right? It’s just exercise! Even if you come in last in that day’s WOD, you are way ahead of the person doing nothing. That’s why I love to follow Pat Sherwood, one of CrossFit’s head media voices. He doesn’t take it serious, just wants to stay in shape use his fitness to enjoy life. For a long time, we had his quote on the wall at the gym, I heard it years ago and its stuck with me. Sums up my view perfectly.
“The goal is to get fit, make it the best hour of your day, stay safe, turn up the music, high five some people, and blow off some steam. So remember that. Relax. Have fun. Work out.”
As I go into the 5th year of Islip CrossFit, the time has flown. I’ve met nearly 1,000 athletes who have come through our facility. Some stay, some go, many have stayed since day 1! – they have just become family to each other. So if you are looking for a new way to improve your fitness, make some new friends and have some fun, come check us out!