So it began…I went in and started to figure out my daily routine. I figured out the lay of the land and began my WODs at the weight pile. The looks and questions I got from other inmates were wild, and I think a lot of people were actually concerned for me. It was quite funny. Eventually, other inmates came right out and asked me “What the hell are you doing?!” I explained what CrossFit was and the methodology behind it.
As interest started to grow, I began teaching a few guys what I had learned at CrossFit Santa Fe. Interest grew and grew as the word spread, by the end of my first year in, I had 2 classes at Englewood FCI in Denver totaling about 14 men.
The thing is, I had never really taught anything before. I mean, I had taught a few snowboarding lessons when I was younger, but that was nothing like trying to get structure and keep a bunch of imprisoned men engaged. But I said “Fuck it,” and took the leap. I read, studied, and then read some more about the different movements from my coaches at CrossFit Santa Fe and CrossFit Journal.
I was constantly tracking the programs I would set up for the classes, and the progress the different inmates were making. We didn’t have bumper plates, med balls, rings or anything to the degree of what you have out in the real world. But we improvised and made it work.
By the time I left in May of 2012, I had the whole yard stoked to watch us work out and even more people interested in trying. I got moved to another prison in Florence, Colorado. Needless to say, I started another crew and it blew up beyond belief. At one point I had about 30 men trying CrossFit.
We had a tradition: when a buddy would be getting released, we would make a hero WOD for them. This way they would be sent off sore and remembering what they spent their last moments confined doing. Hopefully, this would remind them of the focus and drive they had to be better on the inside, which would then translate to their new lives on the outside.
I sit here now and think about the impact I’ve made on the inmates I came into contact with. I created a sense of community, and not to say that community wasn’t already present in a house of confinement, but I gave these men something more to look forward to. Life is so redundant in all of those places. You literally remember the day you walked in and the day you walked out. Everything in between meshes into one. Nothing really ever changes… faces may, but life as a whole stays the same.
The friends of mine who made it through my brutal WODs and long monotonous days are still to this day doing CrossFit, whether it be at home or in prison. My programs are still being used in the 3 prisons I was in. In order to have an actual functional fitness-type program introduced into prisons would be a long, grueling, government process that at the moment isn’t realistic. But the men I left my programing with still use it to this day. I am in contact with them on a regular basis and help to keep them motivated. In turn, they help to keep me in the present moment and remind me to never forget where I came from, as well as how long it took me to get to where I am today.
Today I am me, the real me, the athlete I always knew was inside. Today is not a day to waste. Today I will be better than I was yesterday. I will strive to make a difference in someone’s life every opportunity I can.
My dream and passion is to continue to bring smiles to peoples’ faces and to see that light in their eyes when they achieve something they never knew was possible. My heart thrives on becoming stronger, faster and pushing my limits on all my dreams and goals. CrossFit changed my life and I am grateful to have been able to pass this gift on to others in need of a community. One day I will run into these men and be able to witness their successes. It will be one of the most rewarding feelings ever to know that I have been a part of their journey to becoming better individuals, as they did the same for me.