Chris’s first impression of Fearless Athletics was as an outsider looking in on his way to or from his home at 11th and Bainbridge.
“It always seemed like people were having fun,” he says. “They were never doing the same thing twice. When I’ve gone to gyms in the past, I was so bored. The format of CrossFit drew me to it. There was an instructor, the workout was already pre-planned so you didn’t have to think about what you were going to do today. That got me through the door and the culture of Fearless has kept me there.”
Chris joined in November 2015 after bidding on and winning a gift certificate for On-Ramp at a local fundraiser. He didn’t really exercise regularly before that. His modus operandi was to sign up for a run in the area, train for it and then after the race his activity level would taper off until it was time to train for another run. He did that about two or three times a year until 2014, when the Philadelphia Marathon took such a toll on his knees that he had to stop.
Originally from Paterson, N.J., Chris has lived in Philly since 1999. He lives with his wife and 11-year-old Beagle/Hound mix named Rosie and works as Director of Facilities Operations for the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, a job he’s been at since 2012. His go-to classes at Fearless are the Masters classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights, evening classes during the weekdays, and weekend mornings. Here, he sheds some light on what motivates him most in Crossfit and what it is about Fearless that keeps him coming back for more.
What achievement in CrossFit are you most proud of?
My deadlift. When I started CrossFit I had some lumbar spine issues. A bad lower back. I went to the doctor and they told me I had degenerative discs in my lumbar spine. Three of them were slightly bulging. I started off deadlifting 75 pounds to start. The fact that I’ve been able to get up to 285 and not only not re-injure my back but my injury decreased, that’s something that I’m really proud of.
What are your favorite movements in CrossFit?
The Clean is my favorite. Kipping Pull-ups, even though I’m not that good at them and can’t do a ton. I’m starting to like Handstand Pushups. I’m still on two abmats. It took me a while to get to the wall. The first time I tried kicking to a handstand I couldn’t hold myself up. I just crumpled to the ground.
What is a goal you have for yourself in CrossFit?
I want a 185-pound clean. In this year’s Open I did the scaled version of the workout with Toes to Bar, Double Unders and cleans. I made it all the way to the end and the last round of Cleans for scaled was 185 — 15 pounds heavier than my one rep max. There were two or three minutes left on the clock. I tried it a few times, but couldn’t get it. As I was trying, more and more people started paying attention to me, so I tried harder. Then, on my last attempt, I caught it, but I couldn’t stand it up. So, I tasted 185 and want it. I figure if I can catch it I should be able to stand it up with fresh legs.
What’s been a highlight of your CrossFit career?
I’ve done Festivus three times. I loved it. The only reason I haven’t done it the last two times is because I’m trying to take a break from going at competition speed and trying to focus on developing better muscle memory with good form. The last time I did it I knew I was doing thrusters pretty badly and decided the next time I do Festivus I want to be able to do the movements well.
I would strongly encourage anyone who has never done Festivus to get out there and do it. I guarantee you will do something you never thought you could do. The very first one I did had a one rep max clean. Not only did I set a PR in the competition, but I PR’d it in a power clean because I caught it so high.
What is your favorite thing about Fearless?
The camaraderie. Everybody is going through the same stuff you are. It doesn’t matter what level you’re on or what your scaling is. Everybody’s at their threshold of what they can do. So everybody is experiencing the same thing even though they are doing the workout a little differently. That builds a friendship.
Everybody is super friendly. There seems to be this overarching feeling of inclusiveness. It doesn’t matter who you are and what your abilities are. None of that matters. There’s an overt attempt to be as welcoming and inclusive as they can be. Just by the fact that they do Festivus — a competition for novices and beginners — speaks to that welcoming. They are not just doing competitions for the really advanced athletes.