The keys to success

It is with alarmingly regularity that we are blown away at the  progress of our members. Chris Oliver, who has been coming to Alchemy for two years now, is one of those members. In my humble opinion, his CrossFit experience has been perfect. And by ‘perfect’ I mean the following:

He shows up  

I am pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of classes Chris has missed in a week over two years.

He’s built an incredible foundation  

He has consistently worked on moving well rather than moving heavy. Consequently, he’s a technically sound mover who is now starting to hit some big numbers.

He seeks advice  

Chris consults his coaches to identify where he should push and where he should scale.

These simple but significant choices have allowed him to get stronger, leaner, fitter and more technically proficient over time. The past two years have represented something of a personal journey for Chris, too. Here is his story in his own words.

My CrossFit Experience

“I got into Crossfit after seeing a couple of friends of mine (Kevin and Manon) doing Crossfit out west in Vancouver. They looked like they were having fun and seeing results. At the same time, I knew I needed to make a change in my life regarding my fitness and weight, but I was feeling discouraged overall.

Then, around December of 2014 I googled “CrossFit + Hamilton” and had a look at the results.  I forget exactly why I picked Alchemy but I’m glad I did. I went in for my assessment, very nervous. Until that point, my encounters with fitness were pretty spotty, consisting of several years of childhood hockey, a few manual labour summer jobs, and three months of a one-year gym membership in 2001.

The assessment was humbling. It took me 12:55 to complete, and I didn’t even finish the pull-up portion with a band. Afterwards, I spent about 30 minutes laying on the floor, trying to control my dizziness.

I knew I was out of shape but the assessment cemented my conviction that I had to do something to change that. Fortunately, I found a lot of support from the coaches I met that night. During the assessment, Janet was so encouraging that I figured I was in the right place. Talking with Broder later, I decided to sign up for the two classes a week membership.

That first year I came for two classes a week, every week. I think I only missed a few from sickness or vacation. I was sleeping better, feeling good, and more importantly, I wasn’t bored. In fact, I looked forward to my time at the gym. I still stun myself every once in a while with how excited I get that I get to go to class the next day. It’s not just the coaching, it’s also the encouragement I get from other members; it all just clicks for me.

On the year anniversary of my joining Alchemy, I re-did the assessment. This time, I finished in 6:58 (I did only scaling pull-ups, but I completed them all!). I’d also lost about 15lbs without having to make any changes to my diet.

Encouraged, I bumped my membership up to three days a week.

In January 2017, I was still feeling good but started to feel like I should do something more. I figured I could make some small manageable changes. I find smaller changes are easier to make and integrate into my lifestyle, knowing all the small changes add up over time. I call this the ‘dip your toe’ method.

About that time Duncan and Broder started offering the Nutritional Accountability Program, and I thought it offered a good opportunity for me to start looking at improving my diet. Pretty quickly I realized if I made small changes and started tracking what I was eating, I could slim down. So, I cut out snacking (I tend to eat when I’m bored) and started using the MyFitnessPal app to track my caloric intake and to help me make better food choices. I also started doing meal prep and making my lunches ahead of time. Now, I don’t deny myself anything. I just don’t treat myself every day, or eat too much of it at once. But I still enjoy beer regularly and all the delicious, not-so-good-for-you restaurant foods out there.

My biggest challenge now is to manage my expectations when I don’t get the results I want when I want them. I try and remind myself that this whole thing called my life and health is not a sprint but a marathon.

Today I weigh 190lbs. If I need to, I can run the 1.2K after work to the train to get home on time and not feel like I’m gonna die. The whole experience is one of the best things I have done for myself in my life. And this would probably shock the hell out of pre-CrossFit me, but after two years at Alchemy, I can say I still look forward to the gym.”


Duncan McNeill is a coach and co-owner of Alchemy CrossFit. 


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