My CrossFit Journey

My CrossFit journey started back at Cardinal Fitness (now Charter) with a friend named Sean, and at the time I had no idea what we were doing other than it was extremely difficult.  We would follow programming as best we could, but some days we would have to sift back through old workouts to find something that worked in a commercial gym setting. I vividly remember one of my first workouts: walking lunges for 400 meters.  I was sore for days.


Another good friend, Sinan, told me about CrossFit as well and how he worked out at CrossFit TriCities.  He had been a bodybuilder who transitioned to CrossFit, and because of this, he had the strength to do most of the movements that many of us struggle with.  All he had to do was build a cardiovascular engine and refine his gymnastic ability. In 2011, during the Open, he qualified for the first North Central Regional at Navy Pier.  Again, I really had no idea what CrossFit was, but decided I had a few days I could take off and go watch him compete. It was unbelievable to watch all of these fit individuals workout as fast as they could, competing agaist each other.  I spectated all 3 days of Regionals worksouts … and I fell in love with what I saw.


My first official CrossFit coaching experience came at the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar at CrossFit Omaha.  Until that point, I was mostly self-taught using YouTube and as my major resource for training education.  When I considered getting my CrossFit Level 1, the availability wasn’t like it is today with over 7 per weekend and around 300 per year across the globe.  They held a certification in Chicago about only 1-2x per year. Luckily, I had a cousin who lived in Omaha at the time, and I was able to crash on his couch for a couple nights.  


I went into the Level 1 Seminar ready to learn and understand everything they had to share.  It was one of the best education environments I had ever been a part of. I learned and retained more from a 2 day seminar than I had in years of independent study.  On day 1, we learned about CrossFit methodology, the squat series, pressing series, and pull-ups (the kipping kind).


I had never done a kipping pull-up prior to that point, and with my light body weight (165 then, 200 now) I could do 25 strict pull-ups in a row.  Day 1 the workout was Fran; I had no idea what 21-15-9 of thrusters and pull-ups was, but I knew I was decent at pull-ups and could do the weight of 85# thruster.  3-2-1… and the workout started. Little did I know but I was about to start a hell of a workout with a 10 minute timecap. Yes, they even had timecaps back then! I did my thrusters in 2 sets, got over and started doing pull-ups, and as I was finishing the set of  21 pull-ups I heard someone call time. 2 minutes and 20 seconds into the workout and Kyle Kasperbauer was finished! I spent the next 7 minutes and 40 second trying to finish the Fran. By the end of the workout, I was one of the last people going, and all of the training staff, along with a few other individuals, were cheering me on to finish out the last few reps.  I had never felt anything like I had at the end of that workout – I was used to working out alone. The environment immediately brought me back to the motivation I had from playing a sport with teammates.


Day 2 of the Level 1 Seminar, I woke up more sore across my whole body than I had ever been.   I didn’t even know how to get off the couch let alone move in the second day of the Level 1. The day started off with the pulling series, nutrition (specifically talking about the zone diet), muscle-ups, GHD, and programming.  The workout for that day was 3 rounds of: 1 minute of wall balls, kettlebell deadlifts, jumping jacks, and box jumps with 1 minute of rest after each round. I decided to go with lighter weights, focus on how I was moving, and move for the entire minute.  It felt good but It was obvious that I was outclassed by everyone around me and I became very aware of how unfit I was was compared to other CrossFit athletes. Later on, I found out I had been surrounded by people like Stacie Tovar, her husband, Kyle Kasperbauer, and several other future games-bound athletes.  


As I wrapped up my Level 1, my love and appreciation for CrossFit deepened. Opening an affiliate was the next step in my journey, something I had been planning on before ever attending certification.  I was drunk on the CrossFit kool-aid, and with my background from undergrad and graduate school in entrepreneurship/business management, I decided to start a business to help people with their fitness journey and bring CrossFit to the Sycamore area.  I spent three months building a business plan, researching how to start an affiliate, determined financing, finding a location, and continuing to learn as much as I could about coaching CrossFit.


Do you remember how you got started?  Is it a memorable story? Did you get to be as sore as me or see someone do a workout so fast it didn’t make sense to you?  Did you feel out of place, but in love with something new? My experience was unforgettable. Now I have the opportunity to help many of you achieve your life/fitness/health goals… and it all started by being invited to workout with a friend.  

Carl Balentyne

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