Let us know if you have a story you’d like to tell!
I started CrossFit in 2011 as a mostly sedentary person eating a vegetarian diet that was a bit low in vegetables and high in dill pickle chips. Had I done nothing, my body would have continued a slow decline for the rest of my life. It was a turning point in my life. The change was bigger than simply going from sedentary to active. The community, sharing of knowledge, support, and accountability are what kept me coming back. I was addicted in no time. The results came along with a huge improvement in my quality of life. In addition to CrossFit, I was cycling more and I had started playing hockey again.
However, after more than two years of addiction, I found that I had burned myself out. My progress had slowed. I loved lifting but felt I wasn’t doing enough of it. A lot of the people I “grew up” with at that box had moved on themselves. I wasn’t giving other areas of my life the attention they required. I took a break when a work project came along that was going to demand extra hours for a few weeks. When life returned to normal, I started working out on my own in my garage with a collection of used strength training equipment I had accumulated. I made great progress for more than a year, making many PRs on my squat, bench, and deadlift. That eventually started to plateau as well, and without the community and accountability I found it difficult to put in the work necessary to keep progressing. On top of that, lifting exclusively had its own cost – I was strong, but I was also the heaviest I had been in my life. I was slow and poorly conditioned, and it showed when I played hockey. This was not sustainable.
No fitness story is complete without a discussion of food. As I previously mentioned, I started as a vegetarian eating a significant amount of junk. I quickly added meat into my diet and got rid of some of the junk but was far away from properly fuelling my body. As I became obsessed with lifting and gainz, I focused on getting more protein and total calories at any cost. This included some poor ideas, like eating 4 Egg McMuffins a day or getting peanut butter milkshakes from BDI multiple times a week. While I did make gains, my blood work probably wouldn’t have made a doctor happy.
For a while, I experimented with ketosis and intermittent fasting, and this helped me lose some of the excess weight I’d gained from primarily lifting and not controlling my calories or food quality. It was great for moderate activity like cycling but not higher intensity activity like hockey.
The one constant in my relationship with food has been change. At various points I’ve thought I couldn’t change all sorts of things. I’ve thought I’d never eat meat again. I could never see how I could cut out carbs. I thought I’d die if I went 12 hours without eating. I was able to get myself to change all of those things.
Another thing I thought I would never do is measure my portion sizes. Working with the 204 Lifestyle program, measuring portion size is one of the things that Crystal needed me to do. Soon enough I was using a kitchen scale all the time and seeing my body composition change accordingly. On top of that, increasing food quality is a never-ending journey. It’s not just learning what to buy and how to cook what you’ve bought. It’s constant experimentation. I’m always on the lookout for the best frozen vegetables and the most convenient way to prepare them. I’m always trying to find new ways to prepare a week’s worth of protein. I’m always trying to find the highest quality meat for the best price. Does anyone want to split half a cow with me?
Circling back to my training… Along the way I’d met the love of my life. My training had dropped off and I was a bit restless. We were looking for something to do together. I wanted her to experience the same revelation that I had, so we started up. We started attending another box, but at the same time we were looking for a new home. We eventually ended up in Silver Heights. CrossFit 204 was a natural choice – not only was it close, but I’ve always held Crystal, Mike, and the entire 204 crew in high regard based on my encounters with them. My experience so far has exceeded my expectations – the coaching, programming, and community has been exceptional.
All my previous experiences with the CrossFit Open were mixed, but the Intramural Open made it fun again – a celebration of what we do as opposed to simply seeing where we sit on the leaderboard. This really reflects my main training goal at age 35: sustainability. I don’t get paid to be an athlete, so I don’t need to be the best at anything. But training increases my quality of life in innumerable ways. Not only do I want to be squatting heavy into my old age, but I also need the reminder that consistent work yields incremental improvements that add up over time. Life will continue to get busier as I age, especially if I’m lucky enough to start a family, so the goal will be to find the right balance that allows me to train while juggling everything else. I’m confident that CrossFit 204 will be part of that equation for years to come.
It all started for me while watching the Crossfit Games in 2015. I was flipping through the the channels, and there was the Crossfit Games, so I thought I would tune in.
Being a former athlete of volleyball and soccer and now mother of two little people (age 4 and 2 at the time), I watched in awe of these amazing athletes doing these crazy workouts. Sitting there, I realized how much I missed being fit and being an athlete–and I continuously failed at gym-membership commitment. But the Games sparked a desire to be fit–not to be skinny and lose weight but to be fit.
I remembered that my sister-in-law had a friend who often posted about CrossFit, so I searched her name (knowing we were Facebook friends), and there was CrossFit 204.
I decided that night I needed to try it first because, to be honest, the whole idea of CrossFit scared me. It looked tough and there was no way I could do a muscle-up!
So I signed up for a free class one night. Deadlifts–that was the WOD. I honestly needed a lesson simply on what a barbell was. So this was new. Crystal was the coach that night and was the most welcoming and friendly person. Not once did I feel intimidated. I felt inspired and excited to push myself further. I went home and woke up sore, but I was excited to sign up for on-ramp. I knew the day I walked into CrossFit 204 that this was my new sport.
Eight sessions later after learning with Cole, I signed up for my first class. Crystal, Cole and all the coaches were so welcoming and encouraging, and I knew this was a good place for me to be.
Two years later I did my first CrossFit Games Open, scaled of course. I still can’t do a muscle-up, but I am stronger, fitter and more confident.
My kids have made comments to me like, “Good thing you do CrossFit, mom,” and my oldest daughter likes to tell people that I do CrossFit. I don’t look anywhere near the girls at the Games, but my pants fit better, I can lift a barbell and I can hold my head a little higher now with confidence. This is now my new sport and I love it.
It now becomes my refuge on my worst, most stressful days. The people at CrossFit 204 are positive and inspiring, and they know how to push you when you need it. They also know when you need to scale down, and as a nurse I appreciate that care and compassion for health.
I am grateful to have found CrossFit 204. Each day I get a little stronger, and that is what I want to show my kids.
I will never forget the WOD roughly five years ago when Mike was coaching. During the warm-up, Mike said, “That’s what we’re building here … a loving community.” Awkward silence followed, as these kinds of words seemed out of place at the gym. No one else responded to Mike’s words, we simply went on with the WOD.
I had the good fortune of attending CrossFit 204’s very first class almost eight years ago. A friend encouraged me to come to the “boot camp” offered at Assiniboine Fitness. At that first class, on a cramped gym floor, I met Mike Warkentin, and my health and life have benefitted richly ever since. Over the ensuing years of attending CF 204 3-4 times per week, I came to know Mike as an intelligent man, brilliant writer, gifted coach, positive teacher, fitness expert, eager photographer and fine athlete. But the quality that stands out in my mind when I think of Mike, and a big reason why I remain committed to CF 204, is his compassion.
A fond memory I have of Mike is of the final CF Open WOD a few years ago. Mike was judging me that day, aware that I had torn the cartilage in my right wrist a few weeks earlier. Mike knew I wanted to successfully complete the WOD, and that I was afraid of further damaging my wrist. Mike seemed to know something else about me too: the emotional drivers of my need to perform well. At the end of my successfully completed WOD I felt relieved, happy, and a bit overwhelmed at being able to finish, and I looked up at Mike and saw his eyes welling with tears. He apologized quickly as he wiped his eyes, then looked up at me and said, as if to offer an excuse, “I’m just so proud of you.” I will never forget that moment, forever appreciative of his caring.
Mike Warkentin is earnest, and exudes a longing for a world where everyone supports one another toward the greater good of all. CF 204 seems to be a microcosm of the world that Mike surely envisions. Mike cares about people, he cares about their health and wellness, and he cares about making the world a better place if only in a small way, through one lone CF box. I am pleased for Mike because he has no doubt realized a big part, if not all, of his dream. I am pleased that Mike found Crystal for a life partner. Crystal is responsible for CF 204’s exceptional programming, and she excels in her coaching ability. CF 204 has a large following of good people committed to improving their fitness level, and a large cadre of excellent coaches to help you reach your fitness goals.
My current goal is one for the CF Open: to rank in the top half of men in my age class both in Canada West and worldwide, as this is my final year of lifting “big boy” weight in the Open.
CF 204 has changed the lives of its members in dramatic, positive ways. It has changed my life, thanks to the terrific people with whom I get to work out, and the great coaching team.
During the “Diet Challenge” a few years ago, I dropped 15 pounds in 6 weeks, from 183 pounds to 168 pounds. Perhaps CF 204 has saved my life.
This past January, the results of my CT scan of the heart showed “Fairly extensive three-vessel coronary artery calcification” with a MESA score of 1656, placing me at the 99th percentile with respect to other white males of my age. My score was off the charts, and I was started on a statin (Lipitor) right away. After a couple days of feeling down, and concerned, I am now hopeful that the healthy lifestyle that I have lived thus far will help me to avoid a stroke or heart attack.
I am so deeply grateful to Mike and Crystal for investing so heavily into improving the health and wellness of others. It is possible that, without CF 204, my current health condition might be worse. I have never felt healthier, and the occasional heart pain and arrhythmia I’ve previously experienced during workouts at CF 204 have not occurred in the past two years, and my weight is the lowest it has been in 20 years, at 162 pounds. I have Dale Qually–one of the original CF 204 members–to thank for his nutritional wisdom.
I have never believed the line “If you build it, they will come.” People don’t come to a structure unless there’s a leader to draw them to it. But I do believe that “One man with courage makes a majority.” Mike Warkentin is that man. I revere him, as do many in his CF 204 community of followers …. his loving community.
A number of years ago I had a bad fall, doing some serious damage to my left hip. The pain and neuropathy caused a lot of restriction in the activities I could do, and the inactivity was affecting my mental health. Even skating, a non-impact sport, was difficult. I talked to one of my skating buddies about the struggle I was having, and she told me about her experience doing CrossFit in another part of the city. It sounded like something I should give a chance even though I was a bit skeptical—I had never gone to a gym with barbells and weights and climbing ropes before.
When I first started at CrossFit 204 I was afraid of everything. Afraid to be in the way, afraid every time I heard a barbell drop on the floor, afraid to try anything that might hurt. What kept me coming back was the coaching. I felt encouraged and supported right from my on-ramp and through to starting regular classes. My classmates are all pretty amazing too—friendly, supportive and, very important for me with all my restrictions, there is no feeling of competition or judgement from anybody. The coaches know about my physical restrictions and are quick to help me scale or focus on what I can do to make the most of a movement or workout. I really like that everyone focuses on doing their own workout, their own personal best, and nobody is worried about what anybody else is doing, other than rooting them on.
From a progression point of view, my bright spot has been getting deeper and deeper squats. Just recently I was able to do a snatch lift of 45 pounds with a good, deep squat. Nine months ago I couldn’t lift a barbell over my head let alone squat down at the same time. At the risk of sounding maudlin, every time I go to CrossFit 204 is a bright spot because that hour workout is the most relaxing, mentally decompressing part of my day.
My focus is to continue getting the movements and techniques correct for the various lifts—and maybe to be able to remember what each lift looks like without a demo from the coach every time. However, I am also really motivated to be able to do a strict pull-up. Coach Crystal gave me instruction on how to do negative banded pull-ups to help me with progressing to that goal, so I’m pretty excited to practice those. Beyond those specific goals, I’m working on keeping a regular schedule of CrossFit classes to help maintain the mental health, weight loss and toning I’ve achieved in the past nine months.
I often share this story with others because it just seems to epitomize the CrossFit 204 experience. A few months after I started, in early summer, the program was outdoor sprinting and sled pushing in the open park across the street. I was a little bummed because I thought I’d be inside by myself rowing for the full hour, since I can’t do any impact running. But no. Coach Cody helped me bring the rowing machine out to the park so that I could do sprint rowing, under the trees, while everyone else was running. And I was also able to take part in the sled pushing outside. That was a fun, hard, workout.
On October 30th I ran my 22nd road race of 2016, a 10-km course that I finished in 41:07, my best time of the year for that distance. I won my age group in the season-long rankings by the Manitoba Runners Association, collected more MRA race points than any other runner in the province, and ran every race in the MRA series.
In 2013, I ran exactly zero road races.
What happened? CrossFit 204 happened. I joined in March 2014, mostly out of curiosity. It was completely unlike anything that I had ever done before, a crazy combination of constantly varied exercises that was a cross between my high school phys ed classes, my daughters’ gymnastics training and a muscle-head, heavy-lifting gym.
Quickly I became hooked, and started boring all my family and friends by talking constantly about CrossFit.
More slowly, it dawned on me that CrossFit was not just preparing me to do better in CrossFit classes; it was making me healthier and fitter for all sorts of activities outside the gym.
So one night in the summer of 2014 I put on my running shoes, headed down Wellington Crescent to Assiniboine Park, and ran about 11 km in an hour. I hadn’t gone out for a run in more than a year. No one was more surprised than me at what I had just done.
A few weeks later, I entered the Fort Garry half marathon, and ran 21.1 km with virtually no specific training, other than CrossFit.
Full disclosure: at one time I was a serious distance runner. I finished 15th in the 1987 Manitoba Marathon in a time of 2 hours and 52 minutes. I came 25th at the national marathon championship in Ottawa in 1990.
Over the years I ran less and less. The last time I ran the full Manitoba Marathon was in 2006. By 2014 I had nagging right knee pain and I thought my running days were done.
CrossFit changed all that. It gave me strength – the knee pain disappeared, no doubt because of stronger muscles built up surrounding it. More importantly, CrossFit inspired the belief that I could be an athlete again, with perseverance and rock-solid confidence that yes, I am going to get through this workout, one way or another.
The races I ran this year were not all easy. I had an injured back for a month that made it hard to walk, let alone run. I strained a groin muscle and had to train on a bicycle much of the summer, running only in races. I had a serious cold for three weeks and ran two half marathons and a 10-km race fighting to breath properly. On a lot of race days, I did not want to get out of bed.
But I did it because CrossFit teaches you to keep going, to train through injuries and to scale your workouts to whatever you are capable of on any given day. It has made me a runner again.
I joined CrossFit 204 about two years ago. Having grown tired of going to a conventional gym, I was looking for an activity that would incorporate a challenging workout and a social aspect. My girlfriend had been a CrossFit 204 member for a few years and suggested I try it, saying it was just what I was looking for.
After surviving my first class, and getting through on-ramp, I was hooked! The workouts were definitely challenging (and humbling to a newbie), and the members and staff were most welcoming and encouraging. This made for a smooth transition into CrossFit. The coaching staff at CrossFit 204 is top notch – welcoming new members, ensuring everyone has the best workout possible relative to their ability, and maintaining a fun and safe environment at all times while also fostering a sense of community and camaraderie.
As a Type 1 diabetic, the benefits of CrossFit are incredible. When I needed to tweak my diet to better manage my diabetes and improve performance at the gym, I received excellent guidance from Crystal through the 204 Lifestyle program. I look forward to seeing Mike and Crystal’s programming up on the website and seeing what they have in store for us that day.
The members and staff at CrossFit 204 have become like family, and coming to CrossFit 204 is definitely the best hour of my day.
I was looking for a way to exercise that was fun for me. I’d been doing yoga for years but didn’t really enjoy it. When I read the article in the Free Press about the CrossFit 204 Legends program, I thought “that’s for me!” One of the Legends described in the article was a former co-worker, and I knew that if she could do it, so could I.
My first impression was that the instructors were friendly and knowledgeable, and willing to accommodate any injuries/limitations I had. Plus the people in the Legends group were welcoming and inclusive. Those things haven’t changed!
My first bright spot was being able to push the sled the full 50 metres and back without stopping to lower my heart rate and catch my breath! That meant that my strength and conditioning were a lot better, which is awesome. Can’t say I like the sled push any better though!
My goal over the past few months has been to lose weight, lose body fat, and increase muscle mass. My weight had crept up and I didn’t feel good about that. I knew I wasn’t eating well, but there are so many diets out there, I didn’t know which approach to use. I wanted to find a way of eating that was balanced and included foods I like so that I could sustain it. I found that in the CrossFit 204 nutrition program, which I’ve been following since June.
Changing my diet improved my life in a major way. I’ve lost 15 lb. and several inches of fat, and I feel much better about myself. I also have a lot more energy and recover more quickly from the workouts. My ability to do the workouts has also gotten better.
My favorite 204 memories are the fun and laughter we share during the workouts. Although the videos of Heavy and Zeppelin are also right up there!
Our Legends program runs every day at 10 a.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. If you know someone who might like to get fit in this fantastic group, please put us in contact with him or her. Information on 204 Lifestyle nutrition services can be found here.