Food for Thought

Why do we eat?

IMG_3039You’re probably thinking: Easy! Because we get hungry! But what I’m really asking is: what do you think the purpose of food is for our bodies? The reason I ask is because this is absolutely essential in determining your relationship with food, a relationship that reflects how you see yourself in this world.

How do you usually decide what to eat? Many of us tend to think about food in terms of calories, mainly because we are concerned about body image. Most diet fads that are popular today (paleo, engine 2, eat right for your type, weightwatchers, the spark solution, and so on) focus on weight loss and sometimes calorie counting leaving us with the impression that that is all food is about. That could be true if our body was only a mass of muscles, but it isn’t. If you think about it, your organs, your tissues, your cells, your bacteria do not really care about the number of calories you eat, and they are the ones that are impacted by the foods you consume. That is a concern only to your “self-image” –which is in your mind only, but, what is your body, really? Is it only an image on the mirror?

Food is not just calories. The power of food can change your health.

It’s about the information that food delivers to your body, not the number of calories it may have. Calorie counting is an outdated but persistent and shallow trend that many people still follow due to unawareness of the magnitude of the power that food actually has on our health and vitality. Food is so much more than just calories. It is information that talks to your genes. Dr. Mark Hyman, Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, explains that your genes can be changed in one day by changes in what you eat, so imagine the scale at which you are affecting your biology with your choices at every single meal [read his article here]. It is vital that we realize how powerfully food can impact our health on a daily basis. You may be counting calories and (for a period time) guarantee to stay slim, but that does not guarantee a healthy, vibrant life. Recognize that food is medicine. The composition of the foods you choose to eat sends a very specific message to each cell and bacteria in your body. They read that information, and that then determines the quality of your health, and your life.

It’s all about choice, and the choice is yours.

When you choose to eat whole foods (fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats, pastured eggs, whole grains –all preferably organic) you do not need to worry about calories. Think about it: they’re all foods that come from the ground, which means they are on this earth to nourish us. That’s their purpose. Your body is not meant to have any synthetic, artificial foods or drinks, but real foods that the earth gives us and that provide it with the nutrients it needs to accomplish the functions it has. What you put on the end of your fork is one of the most important choices you have every day to control your health, your life, and the environment.

What is your relationship with food like? Choose to eat foods that maximize your health and increase your vitality. “Empty” foods–in terms of nutritional content, mainly processed foods, even if low in calories do not offer any benefits, but rather leave your body starving. You might get to look thin on the mirror, but get sick often and have no energy or drive. Is that all you are, an image? Is that what you really want for your life? Your relationship with food reflects your relationship with yourself and with life. How much do you truly appreciate your body? How do you honor it? Show your body how much you value and respect it by giving it what it really needs: proper nutrients from whole foods. In return, your body will be thankful and very kind to you. If you love and appreciate yourself, you will only want the best for you, and that is a diet rich in clean, whole foods that can nurture your body and soul.

“Every decision you make stems from what you think you are and represents the value that you put upon yourself.” –A Course in Miracles

Eat well. Be well.



Meet Isabel Serrano, Phd. a new type of coach at The Arsenal

Isabel Serrano, Phd.

I do my best to get out of The Arsenal to learn from the best in the business when it comes to health, wellness and fitness to ensure that we are becoming the best resource we can be for our member community.  Recently, I’ve had the honor of spending time with Dr. Jane Ellery, Coordinator of Wellness Management and Assistant Professor of Wellness Management, at Ball State University.  She was able to provide me a view of the world of wellness from a broader perspective.  We discussed the importance of ‘place making’, psychological health, emotional health, financial health and an assortment of other vital areas that we often do not attribute to the term ‘wellness.’  After learning from Dr. Ellery and sharing my work, she invited me to visit with her Critical Issues masters class.  During my visit a talented young lady approached me, after I had shared what we are working to build at The Arsenal, put out her hand and said: “I want to work with you.”

That was how I met Isabel Serrano, Phd.  As of this month she has joined our team as our Engagement Manager and Certified Holistic Health Coach.  Her role will be to provide deeper knowledge, insight and action in areas that our current coaching staff does not focus.  Here are a sample of areas Isabel will be leading for us:  

  • Food & nutrition
  • Lifestyle
  • Weight loss
  • Self image/Self esteem
  • Stress management
  • Mindfulness practice

She will be engaging our community with these critical elements of health, wellness and fitness through 1:1 coaching, group training/seminar, writing (blog) and in managing events.  If you see her at the box, please take a few moments to introduce yourself and share a bit of your story.  You’ll find quickly that she brings a different vibe than our current coaching staff, one that the staff agrees we can use more of.

To learn what you can gain from Isabel, best to start with her first official blog post for The Arsenal: Food for Thought.

Then, keep your eye out for her first official class (hint: it will be on food and energy).

We are honored to have Isabel on our staff and hope you will soon experience the value of her insight as I have.  Isabel, Welcome to The A Team!

The Arsenal 101: A new class for the essentials

  • I would like to try CrossFit, but I’m nervous about getting hurt
  • I feel like there are lifts and exercises that I still don’t understand
  • Could we take more time to discuss the more complicated movements before we do them in class?
  • What are the modifications for a pull up, push up, handstand push up, etc?
  • I have a friend interested in CrossFit, but they don’t know where to start
  • What gear to do I need to CrossFit?

all the movements

These are only a few questions that will addressed during The Arsenal 101.  We are excited to re-introduce this back to the basics class which will be debuting this Sunday at 2 PM.  Then, every other Saturday at 1 PM.

What is the purpose of this class?  To introduce (or re-introduce) the correct basics for CrossFit and weightlifting for beginners and early stage athletes (those within first 2 months of CrossFit or 6 months of weightlifting).  It is a no-nonsense class focused on getting you, the athlete, answers to the important questions that will keep you safe and increase your self-confidence, competence, mobility, strength and endurance every month.

Who is this class for?  Any athlete who wants to drill the basics (dead lift, squat, clean and jerk, snatch, overhead squat, bench press, strict press, etc).  Any athlete who is new to the sport of weightlifting or CrossFit.  Any athlete still working on mobility challenges and poor lifting or gymnastics mechanics.  You NEED to attend this class if you are within your first 2 months of CrossFit or your first 6 months of weightlifting.  

Who should not attend?  Any athlete who is beyond the standards listed above, advanced or open gym athletes.

What are we doing in class? The set up is basic and will look something like this with rotating skills every other week.   We will NOT be working out, we are here to be coached and drill proper movement.  However, depending upon your level of fitness, you may indeed feel like you worked out.

Below is an example of what we will work through on the first class:

  • Introductions and overview
  • CrossFit philosophy and your personal philosophy about fitness; General Physical Skills overview
  • FAQ’s — (necessary gear, basic nutrition, recovery, keeping score)
  • How to get injured doing CrossFit (demonstrations included)
  • Your personal action plan for the next 30 days (bring a notepad/pen)
  • Practical: (You will be coached here, this is not a workout 🙂 )
    • Squat
    • Overhead Squat
    • Shoulder Press, Push Press, Push Jerk
    • The Deadlift
    • Medicine Ball Cleans
    • GHD Sit Ups

Each week we will drill the critical basics and add movements based on class interest and on the design of the workouts that will be programmed in the weeks to come.  

What should I wear/bring?  Be in workout clothes (shorts or tights, workout shoes, t shirt).  Bring a bottle for water and  paper and pen/pencil.  Most importantly, bring great questions and a ‘ready to learn’ attitude.  

Class this weekend will be coached by me, Coach McKay.  If you haven’t had a chance to work with me, I’ll be excited to train you for the first time!  This sport is a lot like learning chess if you’ve tried it.  Logically, it is not rocket science to understand the principals, however it can take a lifetime to master.  I’ve spent time in over 30 CrossFit boxes around the USA and abroad, at the United States Olympic Training center in Colorado Springs and trained track and field athletes at the NCAA Division I level.  During my coaching career one of the themes I’ve learned from the best is to never, ever, take for granted the basics.  The best in any of the arenas of sport, drill what seem like the most simple, boring and mundane skills daily.  Then, they earn gold medals on the weekend while the ‘also ran’ wonders what ‘special/unique’ drills or programming they did.

Doing the RIGHT THINGS, CONSISTENTLY, over LONG PERIODS OF TIME lead to excellence in damn near everything.  The formula works, but it is not for the those with weak spirit to endure what can feel like the worst thing in the world:  sameness.

Please share this with anybody who is interested in CrossFit or weightlifting.  This weekends class (10.18.2015) will be FREE to any drop ins.

BSU Muncie CrossFit 2015 Fall Session – Sign up!

BSU rec logo

Are you a current BSU Student looking for a true CrossFit experience at a low cost?

Sign up now while there is still space for our BSU Muncie CrossFit program. We hold two sessions on campus and two additional at The Arsenal for weightlifting and other work with our specialized equipment.  That is over 5 hours of CrossFit training available to you each week!  You will also be eligible for Olympic Weightlifting class every Saturday morning at no extra cost.  View the program details below, share with friends who are interested and sign up soon because we start next week!  Register here

Muncie CrossFit I M/W 5:30-6:30p/6:30-7:30p & Sat 10 A, 11:15 A & 4 P /Sun 1 P – 3 P
A functional performance fitness community tirelessly working to elevate each and every individual to her or his potential physically, mentally and emotionally through rigorous training promoting teamwork, humility, mental toughness and self-awareness.

Where: Mon/Wed: RC 141 (lower level south of the climbing wall) | Sat/Sun::The Arsenal: 115 S Walnut Street
When: Mon & Wed 5:30p or 6:30p, Sat at either 10am, 11:15am or 4pm and Sun (open Gym) 1pm-3pm
Dates: Sept 14-Oct 24 (group does not meet Oct 10, Oct 11 or Oct 12 due to Fall Break)
Cost: $100 Affiliates ONLY
Instructor: Arsenal LLC Coaching Staff
Register Here

Introducing Youth Sport Performance Training

Coach Mark and Sports Performance Athletes

How do I know that I am receiving proper training for my sport?  What am I doing to increase strength and prevent injuries?  Am I working on the ‘right’ things in my training?  What else could I do to gain an edge in ALL of my sports?  If these questions are on your mind, or the mind of your teenage or pre-teen athlete, you should consider Sport Performance training at The Arsenal.

Sport Performance is a program designed around developing and enhancing an athlete’s ability to perform at her or his sport.  Each sport has unique skills that are required of the athlete and are coached by practicing safe dynamic functional movements starting with body weight movements and ascending to complex barbell lifts.


The format of the Arsenal Sport Performance consists of classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4:30 P to 5:30 P with training specific to each athlete for $60 per month.  Each class begins with a warm-up followed by training through agility-based sets; next we engage in a slow rep strength lift and finally end with a metabolic conditioning (cardio) workout.  Each session is programmed with a base lift that will be altered to fit each athlete’s need for his or her sport. For an example an athlete who is required to be on their hands more such as a wrestler or gymnast will have more hand agility focused training when compared to a dancer whose training will be focused on footwork.

Why Performance?

The main benefit of this class will be building a solid strength and mobility base and nurturing sport specific skills with safe technique. The benefits of Sport Performance include:

  • Sport specific skills
  • Game day preparation techniques
  • Safe lifting form taught EVERY session
  • Overall health and building effective training habits
  • Prevention of knee, hip, ankle, and shoulder joint injury

Game day preparation techniques will include proper mobility exercises and warm ups. Recovery techniques will help the athlete fight that irritating soreness that limits performance. Safe lifting methods will be established and practiced EVERY session to ensure optimal form.  The health benefits gained from this class include decreased muscle fatigue, a lower heart rate, more energy, and healthier sleep cycles. Along with the health benefits comes in the decreased risk for knee injuries. Knee injuries continue to rise in teenagers with A.C.L.s’ (anterior cruciate ligament) being the sole contributor. This class incorporates bodyweight movements that directly build strength to prevent these types of injuries from happening.

If interested in joining in and reaping the benefits of Sport Performance you can sign up below and try a free class to invest in your future as a young athlete.


Half Day Seminar with Coach Jason Roberson

Jason Roberson

Coach Jason Roberson

On Saturday August 29th at The Arsenal from 8 AM – 12 PM Jason Roberson, Director of Strength and Conditioning at Ball State University, will be working with athletes through a seminar titled:  Why We Train, Movement Breakdown and Exercise Prescription.  Register

Who is this seminar for?  Any athlete of any age that wants to get deeper insight into training methodology, movement breakdown and experience with a coach who works full time with Division I college athletes.

What will you learn?

  • Fundamentals on why we train
  • Working through several lifts and breaking down the movement
  • Prescribing exercise to target key goals you have with your health and fitness
  • Insight from a terrific strength and conditioning coach

What do you bring?  Weightlifting shoes and gear, or the same gear you wear for a CrossFit class.  Given we’ll be working together for four hours, think about nutrition and drinks to keep your energy up.  Also, bring a notebook as we will not be lifting for four straight hours, and bring great questions for Coach Roberson to answer. Register Now

Jason has been a strength and conditioning coach for 15 years. In that time, he has worked with over 1,000 different athletes at the Division I level. He has helped several athletes compete at state and national weightlifting meets.  Jason works with the exercise science department in hosting graduate students from across the globe in the sports performance program.

There is limited space so please sign up soon, we have only so many barbells to equip athletes.  This seminar is only $25. This price is a steal for the level of coaching at this seminar. SIGN UP HERE

Downtown Throwdown Competition — Schedule, Heats, Critical Info

The competition is nearly upon us and we are ready to welcome a large group of competitors into The Arsenal arena in historic Downtown Muncie!  Within this note are critical event updates for anyone competing or attending so read through completely.   This note has just about everything you will need, so its long.

Cash Prize

First place teams in each division will receive a $200 cash prize and assortment of gifts from our title sponsors: Rock Tape, Kill Cliff, Scotty’s Brewhouse and Thr3e Wise Men Brewery.

Schedule of events


Divisions and Heats

Male/Female Division

Downtown Throwdown MF division


Female Division

Downtown Throwdown FF Division


Male Division

Downtown Throwdown MM division

Teams will remain in the same lane assignments throughout the first three workouts to keep things simple and consistent for all.  Finals will be reseeded based on performance.

Our Location and Weather

We are at 115 S. Walnut St. Muncie, IN 47305.  We have closed the 100 block of Walnut St. (street directly in front of our building).  You may park in any open street space on Walnut street north or south of the box, there will be no ticketing on Saturday.  There are also lots highlighted below at no cost right next to us.  Note that there is a lot of construction happening downtown, so please be careful navigating to the parking lots.  You will be within quick walking distance of your car at all times.  The legend in the bottom right shows 100 feet, there is a lot within a short walk.

Downtown MAP

As of now, it appears the weather will be sunny 91 degrees, so be prepared.  If you have a tent, bring it.  If you have a folding chair, bring it.  If you have towels, bring them.  We will have a lot of water as well as filtered water in our locker room area to fill your favorite bottle.  Be smart about taking care of yourself, it is a long day.  We will have speakers both inside and outside of the box, so if you are within a block of the box, you will hear us when we call your heat into the ‘on deck’ circle.

Food and Drink

We are blessed to have the Caveman Truck which will arrive and park in the athlete village at 11 AM.  We also have the following options within close walking distance to consider throughout the day:

Google map any of the above and you’ll be set.  We also have over 14 judges/volunteers that can help you at anytime help you with what you need.  They’ll be wearing the JUDGE shirts.

Important Final Notices

  • If you fail to arrive in time for check in, you will be unable to compete and there will be no refund of competition fees.  Just be here on time.
  • We cannot control the weather, so if it rains we will be packed inside, if its hot we will sweat together, emotionally and mentally prepare yourself for discomfort now.  🙂
  • Judges have all received equal training, however we are human and can make mistakes.  Skyler Finnerty is our head judge and will be the final word on any disputes.  He will be work with you for a fair resolution to any questions/concerns, but his call is final.
  • To keep everyone updated real time use the hashtag #ArsenalDowntownThrowdown.  We’ll be using it, so hashtag along with us.
  • Play Hard and HAVE FUN!  We are honored you chose to compete and will be doing our absolute best to create a safe, fair, fun and competitive event for each of you.

*Please direct any additional questions with subject line: Throwdown Question.

People forget what it's like to be rooted for - Mark Munchel

For Coach Mark Munchel CrossFit is Like Going to Church

People forget what it's like to be rooted for. - Mark Munchel

Arsenal Coach Mark Munchel learned to hunt and fish before he could read. Mark has always been a doer and a mover, learning from experience.

As an exercise science major at Ball State, Mark had to complete 90 hours of volunteering at fitness facilities in the community. Mark worked at the Y for 30 hours, shadowed a personal trainer at a private facility for 30 hours, and in August of 2013, he started hanging around the Arsenal.

“I did my hours there,” Mark told me, “and asked if I could stay on because I loved it and I was learning so much. I was learning more there than I was in the classroom.”

His 30 hours turned into an internship and more than 1,000 hours of being a gym rat at The Arsenal. He’s just always sort of there tweaking an athlete’s lift, or mopping, or holding a sleeping baby in the playroom, or all three at the same time.

But it wasn’t the Arsenal that introduced him to CrossFit.

“I have kind of the classic CrossFit story of doing Fran at the YMCA one day and vomiting in the trash can.  Then it was all about pumping out my chest and drinking protein shakes with a bunch of milk in it.  And I was like, “Hey, I’ll just try Fran!”  I did Fran and the very next day I did Grace with clean and jerks, and after that, I was out for about a week. I was just so sore, and I was like, ‘This is the best workout I’ve ever gotten, including soccer. I’m going to do this more.’  It was more dynamic, I liked the gymnastic movements because I was good at them.”

Nerd Mark defends CrossFit

Mark’s studies informed his CrossFit coaching, and CrossFit informed his studies.

“I see your skeleton moving. I see your bones, I see your posture, I see your sitting.  It just all translates to me very well. I try to hold it back, but if someone starts asking me about it then Nerd Mark comes out. Honestly, I’ve probably learned more through CrossFit than my whole four years at Ball State. Just because it’s hands on, and it’s applied.  Knowing the bones is one thing, but knowing why the bones are shaped the way they are and feeling the muscle on someone and how it translates is a whole different ball game. I’m more of a hands on guy.”

Sometimes Nerd Mark is in the position of explaining CrossFit to his classmates.

“I have to defend CrossFit a lot.”

“In my resistance training class, which covers basic lifts, I get looked down on in class for being a CrossFit coach. One day we were watching a video of movement standards being done wrong. Sure enough a guy pulls up a video of kipping pullups. I gave my professor props, he told everyone not to judge.

I broke it down. ‘They are training for a different result. He’s not doing it to build muscle but for speed. It’s metabolic conditioning.’”

If you’ve been doing CrossFit for any length of time, you’ve been in the exact same position. It’s just that Mark has more arrows in his quiver than my go-to, “Nuh-uh! CrossFit is awesome! You’re ugly!”

Mark and I chatted a bit about one of CrossFit’s biggest controversies: CrossFit vs. the National Strength and Conditioning Association. The NSCA released a study that praised CrossFit’s benefits but also criticized its risk to athletes. Of course CrossFit refutes this and explains their side of things in this painfully boring video. This argument is being played out in court, and I’m not bringing it up for any reason other than to underline the fact that it can be challenging to be a CrossFitter studying exercise science.

People forget what it’s like to be rooted for

Mark isn’t the first CrossFit member to come out of exercise science. Exercise scientist, Aly Williams has been an Arsenal member from the beginning and praised the benefits of CrossFit when I sat down with her.

Aly along with, Jules Carter, and Teresa Calvert have been key community connections for Mark.

“[The CrossFit community] is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, bringing people together. I think it is because of the pain.  I’ve talked to past athletes and asked what’s that one thing you miss about sports?  It’s not the friends, it’s not the practice, the looking good, it’s hearing the crowd rooting for you on that Friday night. You know your mom and dad are cheering for you from the stands, that motivation.  And people lose that, they forget what it feels like to be rooted for.”

“I remember one time I came back from having a nasal reconstructive surgery, and I was the last person doing the WOD, and even though I was the last person, I still got cheered on. I’ll see workouts where people are expressing themselves in the gym, breaking down in tears because it’s been a bad day or a rough week.  When you finally break that wall and get to somebody, it brings you so much closer together.”

Teresa, a veterinarian, and Jules, a massage therapist, have helped guide Mark. They accompanied him to Chicago where Teresa introduced Mark to one of her mentors, and now Mark is considering becoming a chiropractor. Mark graduates in July and is considering starting school in 2016.

The one thing all athletes need to work on (it’s not what you think)

Since Mark spends so much time in the gym he sees the best of us and the worst of us. And there is one thing he’d like to see us try harder at: the warmup.

“I would encourage people to go harder during the warmup.  If you don’t warm up and prepare the body enough, and then you apply a lot of resistance, yeah, you might get away with it for a day, a week, a month, but years and years of that? It’s not good. One of the coolest things I saw on a video, because I watch a LOT of videos, was of a film crew interviewing Rich Froning. They watched him all day and the one thing they took away was that Froning spent ten minutes each day to work on his air squats. Not worrying about anything else, not a 500lb squat. He spent ten minutes doing the air squat.  That just resonated with me. It doesn’t matter how good you are, you need to practice everything.”

Work until the work is done

Mark grew up in Southeast Indiana, the grandson of a farmer. His grandfather passed on that farmer work ethic to him.

“You don’t work until the sun is down, you work until you are done. I remember my grandfather would come down for dinner and harass all of us. We’d do the dishes, and we’d do it too quick – he’d tell us to do it the right way.”

Mark’s grandfather was a medic in Vietnam and was one of only two of 52 soldiers in his company to survive. Mark believes his grandfather’s faith played a part and that God had plans for him. His grandfather’s first born son, Mark’s uncle, became a priest, and faith has always been a source of strength in their family. Mark told me that his own faith was stronger than he would ever be physically.

“Religion is one of my biggest motivators. My energy, my nutrition, my adrenaline will wear out, my faith will not. I work out in complete silence or country music. It’s home, it’s religion for me, it’s my motivation over anything. That internal strength keeps pushing me forward.”

“CrossFit is like going to church.”

Downtown Throwdown II — updates you need

We are counting down the days until Saturday July 18th, and we have a few important announcements.

We’ve changed the movements on two of the workouts: (view workouts here)

  • Workout 2: will have weight of 115/75 instead of 135/95
  • Workout 3: the C2B have been changed to standard pull-ups

If either of those movements or loads were too much to consider signing up to compete, then here is your chance!  We still have a little room in each category for a few more teams.  Register here.

Also, Wednesday July 1st is the last day to have a competition tank top ordered as part of your entry to compete!  So, if you are waiting for a reason to get signed up, today is a great day to make that happen.  The tanks are unisex so be sure to choose the most appropriate size.

Downtown Throwdown II tank top

Our sponsors have been amazing and generous thus far, so we want to thank Scotty’s Brewhouse, Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company and Kill Cliff.  Join us in thanking them for supporting functional fitness and those whom have chosen to celebrate their talents by competing in events like the Downtown Throwdown II!  We’ll also be hosting the Caveman Truck who’ll be dishing out the gainz.

If you have any questions about the competition please email us direct at and we’ll circle back with you asap.

I need CrossFit...for mental health. - Coach Adam James

Coach Adam James Needs CrossFit More Than You Think

I need CrossFit...for mental health. - Coach Adam James

When CrossFit coach Adam James first started coaching classes at The Arsenal, I thought he was a bit of a jerk. He seemed to be moody and a little aloof. He wasn’t someone I tried to chat with or talk to on a regular basis.

That was two years ago.

Recently, Adam let me squeeze one of his thighs. I was trying to figure out why Adam could squat 3,000 lbs. more than me. I don’t go around regularly asking men if I can touch their thighs, this was for scientific purposes. It was like squeezing a spandex-clad tree trunk.

“Oh,” I said. “That makes sense.”

Adam remembers those first classes too.

“I was shitting my pants,” he told me. “I don’t like talking in front of big groups of people. So my first class there were 10-15 people staring at me saying, ‘Ok, what do we do?’ And I was just like uhhhhhh…..”

Mark Twain has a quote that may apply here: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

It’s not that Adam didn’t know what he was talking about. He had an exercise science degree from Ball State, years of training as a swimmer, cyclist, body builder, a Level 1 CrossFit coaching certification, and, as a founding member of The Arsenal, he had been doing CrossFit workouts for months. Adam had the chops, but he also had a nice side of self-doubt as any of us do starting a new job. And more importantly, he had a history of being rejected.

Which makes me feel even worse for thinking he was bit of a jerk. His aloofness wasn’t a character flaw but a defense mechanism.

Adam was bullied

Adam lived in South Bend, Notre Dame country, but his dad graduated from Purdue.

“I wore a Purdue jacket to school one day, and that was the end of it. Then after that, it was just whatever reason they could find to pick on me. I’d come home from school crying, and it was rough, very rough. I got punched in the stomach a few times. Grade school wasn’t as bad as high school. In high school, everything just kind of escalated. I never got physically beat up in high school, just more mentally and emotionally. I never had a lot of friends, and I was always just ‘that kid.’ Even to this day, I could never figure out why it was me.”

“It put me in a really, really dark spot for like four or five years where I was depressed. That continued into college because when you get beat up and bullied all the time, it really destroys your confidence . . . For a really long time it was very challenging for me to talk to people and trust people and create relationships because I thought it was going to be one of those things where this is going to be the same thing as last time.”

“When it got super bad, I was talking to one friend, and I was on the edge, like “[Screw] it! Why am I here?’ I was ready to check out, see you later.”

Adam had thought it through. He had a plan of how he was going to kill himself. Imagine a world without Adam James. That was the world Adam imagined.

His friend did the world a favor and talked him out of it.

Adam Finds CrossFit

He still suffered bouts of depression throughout college and transitioned into his quarter-life crisis post graduation as he worked at several different gyms before meeting Jennifer Stanley. She told him about the CrossFit gym her friend, BJ McKay, was starting. Adam was the 6th member to sign on with The Arsenal.

“Then when I started working out at The Arsenal, I guess I used it as an outlet. Those thoughts would still creep in every once in a while. And now, they don’t, because through CrossFit and through our community, there are people actually out there who give a shit and care about me. [I learned that] not everyone is going to stab me in the back or try to destroy my life for no reason.”

“I need CrossFit. I don’t do it because I like it and I like to be in shape. That’s just kind of an added bonus. I need it for mental health. If I didn’t have our community, if I didn’t have the family I have at the gym, I’d be a wreck.”  

“So from a confidence level, I can get up in front of a class and say, ‘Hey this is what we’re doing,’ and it doesn’t bother me. And I [went] from zero confidence from how my childhood was to now having a lot of confidence . . . and being able to get up in front of a big group of people. And it doesn’t matter if it’s in CrossFit or outside of CrossFit.”

“By nature, I’m very much introverted, but if you see me at the gym, you wouldn’t think so. Now get me to a bar, and then you’re like, ‘Ok, yeah, he’s introverted.’  When I know what I’m talking about and I know what’s going on, it doesn’t bother me at all. So just from that aspect, I’ve changed and grown a lot. And also how I approach relationships. I think I’m a lot more trusting and don’t have to worry about people screwing me over. I’m sure it’s going to happen again, but I’m at the point where if that’s what they want to do, that’s on them, not something I did.”

Adam met his girlfriend Laura Howard through The Arsenal and started to go with her to church at Commonway where Arsenal member Matt Carder is the pastor.

“I lead a small group at Commonway [church]. It was just one of those things I would have never done before. And after our second meeting, I was just kind of the leader  [I was] the one that talked the most and made the decisions. It comes natural for me now, which is really nice.”

“I’m still in the military [National Guard] and got promoted to sergeant and moved into a leadership role. Two years ago I would have never thought of doing that. So it’s helped me a lot to develop into a leader. BJ has done a really good job at developing [the coaches at The Arsenal] and challenging us as leaders and how to be a valuable part of a team instead of being individuals. So that has helped a lot. He’s given us books to read, stuff like that, and kind of changed the way I do things and think about the world.”

Added Bonus

Adam does every workout almost every day. He was a little disappointed with his finish in the CrossFit Open even though he placed a few thousand places higher than last year. Ultimately his goal is Regionals.

“Bodyweight workouts . . . that’s my stuff. Heavy squats and bodyweight stuff, except for handstand pushups. . . The thing with handstand push-ups, once they’re gone, they’re gone. I would kind of pick and choose before what workouts I do, and I often avoided ones with handstand push-ups because I knew I was bad at them.”

CrossFit coaches: they are just like us! Except Adam changed. Now he makes sure he doesn’t miss the workouts he’s not good at.

“So now, every time there is a workout with handstand push-ups, I do it. Do the ones you are not good at.”

I reminded Adam of his struggle with double-unders.

“They were terrible. That was another thing I would avoid. I hated them. I hated getting whipped by the rope. I hated missing. I’d throw my jump rope across the room. It was frustrating. So I started practicing [double-unders] ten minutes a day. At first I hated it, and I didn’t get any better, and it was frustrating. Even back in October, which was less than six months ago, I still was not good at them. One day, it clicked. I bought a new expensive rope, and it fit. I could do 50-60 in a row, where before I was struggling to get ten or twenty. It was a year and a half of struggling. Erica McKay sent me a video a few months ago of me trying to do double-unders, and it was awful. She said one day you will look back at this and laugh at how bad they were. Now when double-unders show up in a workout, I’m like alright, let’s do this. That was a long journey. It helped me with coaching. I can be like, I was in your shoes, for like a year and a half.”

On Coaching  

“People need to focus more on doing a movement correctly than trying to get more weight. If you’re not hitting full depth on a squat, it doesn’t really count. I don’t care how much weight you have on the bar, if you’re not going all the way down, what’s the point?  So practicing form over adding weight, which is partly my job, and partly your job, too. You know your abilities so don’t get a big head and try to put up a bigger number. Second thing is just listening to what your coach tells you. If you’re unsure about something, ask the coach. Don’t be afraid to approach us. We’re there to help you.”

I asked Adam about some of the coaching moments that stand out, secretly hoping he would talk about my overhead squat or something, but he didn’t.

“When Brooke Shrieve got her first pull-up, that was a big deal. She jumped like a koala bear into my arms. It scared the crap out of me. But I had worked with Brooke for so long on just being able to do strict pull ups . . . that was a really big coaching moment for me. Now there are moments where it is just second nature as a coach to say, “No do this…” and boom, they get it. With Courtney yesterday, I helped her fix her kip with handstand push-ups, and now she’s doing handstand push-ups. Jenn Stanley walking on her hands and getting down and saying, “I’m amazing!”  That was a cool moment, too. Little things everyday that you don’t really think that much about because it happens multiple times a day, but to them, that’s huge.”

“I guess as coaches we don’t realize that we make that much of an impact and when you have that much impact on someone’s day, you always have to make sure you bring your A game whether it’s your first class you coach or your last class you coach.”

“I always tell people, if you want to get good at this stuff, you have to come consistently, just come in and work hard and everything else will take care of itself. You are going to have bad days, but come in the next day, and I guarantee it is going to be better.”

Through CrossFit Adam found a girlfriend, a church, a mentor, confidence, and a family. In CrossFit as in life, results may vary. Although we may never squat more than Adam nor complete 28 rounds of Cindy, we all can show up each day a little better and a little more determined than the day before.

High-fives and fist bumps, laughs and smiles, and perhaps the occasional thigh squeeze are how we celebrate, but it’s the struggle that connects us all.