CrossFit brings people together. We bond over shared moments, fitness goals, and our love/hate relationship with burpees. Our experience of CrossFit is so often communal. All of our stories feature familiar movements, benchmarks, struggles, and successes. But each CrossFit journey also has an element of uniqueness, the fingerprint that makes it your own.
In each CrossFit story, you can empathize with the human condition. You can be surprised by the hurdles each individual has faced. You can be inspired in your own life to face challenges with strength, endurance, and faith.
We would like to share a few of our athletes' stories with you.
Be surprised. Be inspired.
This is Brandon's story, and we are honored that he has chosen to share it with you.
You've probably seen Brandon Arnold in the corner stretching religiously before and after class or, more likely, swinging monkey-like and grinning from the rings into a kipping muscle-up. But his favorite gymnastic movement is the handstand walk, so you're just as likely to see him take off upside down across the floor, flashy socks and shoes bobbing past your head.
It's difficult to believe that his CrossFit journey began only three years ago.
“I just keep trying until I get it," Brandon said. "For a while, I’d been trying to get muscle-ups, so I was constantly on the rings. I think my personal record (PR) now is eight in a row. Two years ago, I wasn’t able to do one. I love setting and achieving goals. I wasn’t able to do this and now I can. And you keep getting better.
"Back then, I was much weaker. I was nowhere near where I am today. Today, I could go run a 5K without stopping and at that time, I probably would have struggled running a mile. I've learned so much about my body and what it can take."
And what it can't take. Like deep squats. And soda. Massive amounts of soda.
Cue the ROMWOD for mobility and FitAid as a soda substitute.
"Right now, I’m trying to fix my mobility. My long-term goal is to be able to squat perfectly. Right now, I just want to be able to squat without falling over," Brandon laughs. "If I could fix how tight my legs and ankles are, I’d be able to get more PRs. I feel like I’m restricted in a way. That is a big goal.”
Brandon's other big goal is a six-pack, by avoiding the six-packs of soda. “I need to fix my nutrition. I work out Monday through Friday but if I could fix my nutrition, I’d be so much better. I struggle because of cravings.”
Cutting soda from his regular diet, while sitting at his desk at work, was his solution. “I decided to quit because now I’m gaining knowledge on the negatives of soda and sugar. And I thought that would be a big step for me.”
And it has been, alongside his hard work and dedication.
“I’m getting PRs," Brandon said. "Now I can deadlift 335 pounds and I started at 125. I just clean and jerked 185 pounds. I was so happy about that. I was struggling with that for a while, stuck at 175 pounds. Just this past week, I PR'd my overhead squat to 185 pounds. I’ve come a very long way. I love overcoming challenges.”
Besides the daily challenges of the WOD, Brandon's working on his flexibility.
“I have mobility issues, so I have issues with squatting and that translates to front squats and wall balls but, surprisingly, my least favorite movement is burpees. And it’s mental for me because it’s not anything too difficult. You just get down and get right back up.”
Brandon's not letting those burpees keep him down, though.
"Physically, I’m the biggest I’ve ever been. I feel way stronger than I’ve ever felt. My endurance has improved. It helps with playing recreational sports.” Brandon plays several such sports, including flag football, floor hockey, and kickball. This summer, he's also run the Warrior Dash and paddled for the Fitness Cup and Grand Champion win with CrossFit Merit's dragon boat team.
“I’m extremely active, always looking for something to do. That’s why I fell in love with CrossFit. It keeps me busy. I love the intensity of the sport, and I’m here gaining muscle and getting fit at the same time. You could have the worst day and you go to CrossFit and all your troubles go away.”
Except, of course, for the trouble of completing the Quality, Mental Toughness, or Intensity WOD the CrossFit Merit coaches have scheduled.
"I love intensity WODs," Brandon said. "It’s like a love-hate relationship. I love them because I love my heart pumping but I hate them at the same time. I want to get better at them. I want to build my engine.”
Good coaching is integral to that improvement.
"I like it when someone gives me one-on-one attention," Brandon said. "Someone who, instead of being just a cheerleader, will look at your form and give you suggestions to enhance it. Somebody who actually cares and I believe that’s what I found at CrossFit Merit.”
If Brandon's being honest, though, he can't pinpoint just a single reason that he loves CrossFit.
“It’s another reason I love CrossFit so much. I love the competitiveness of it. I do it for fun. I love working out. I love the intensity. I love the community aspect of CrossFit. And I love having friends there.
“Many people think you have to be in incredible shape to start and that’s not true. Not everyone’s at the same level. It’s also amazing to be doing a different workout every day. It’s not the same. It’s something I love so much about CrossFit. CrossFit so that you don’t get bored.”