Athlete of the Month - Debbie Cotterall

Congratulations Debbie!! First, can you start by telling us about yourself? 

Thank you!! I am a proud Mommy to 2 lovely little girls, Anna (3 1/2) and Regina "Gina" (10 months). I've been married to my husband, John for a little over 4 years and we live in Springfield. I was proudly born and raised here in Delco! I work part-time as a music therapist in a psychiatric hospital and I run a small studio teaching adaptive music lessons for kids and adults on the autism spectrum. 

Share with us your Crossfit journey. How did you end up at CFDV, how long have you been here and what is your motivation to keep continue coming back?

I got into CrossFit in February 2015 after attending a "Friends & Family Day" at my brother and sister-in-law's CrossFit gym. They had been on me for a while to try it out so I pretty much went just they would stop asking! For some reason, even though that first workout brought me to tears, I decided to sign up 2 days later! I decided to try to look for another gym closer to my house a few months later and I had heard good things about CFDV. After my trial class, I thought it was awesome so I joined that night. I think what keeps me coming back is that feeling of accomplishment each and every time I am there. I know that every time I walk in the gym, there will be something that makes me nervous or at least a little unsure but I also know that every time I will get through it in some way and that is an amazing feeling! It has really carried into other areas of my life and being willing to try and do things that I feel unsure about.

You were with us through your second pregnancy. Can you tell us about that experience? 

It was definitely a very interesting experience for me while being pregnant and trying to continue working out. I was definitely scared at first but I really felt like all the coaches were great about checking in with me and helping me scale things appropriately. Even though it was tough to get there sometimes, whether I was feeling tired or sick, what motivated me was that working out helped me to feel like myself. Pregnancy can be such a weird time with ups and downs, I mean you are growing a person inside of you!!! But by the time I got pregnant, CrossFit had been a part of my life for over a year and trying to get there helped me feel more like me and more in control and I definitely enjoyed that! 

We know that over the past few months you have been working closely with Jacki to dial in on your nutrition. Can you share with us what made you want to seek out guidance and what you are experiencing now after having participated in our Nutrition Challenges?

I can honestly say I kind of stumbled into working on my nutrition. The story is I returned to working out as soon as my doctor gave me the ok, at about 3 or 4 months postpartum. When I came back, I was really feeling like things were more difficult (understandably so) but I found myself not saying anything. One day, I was attempting a workout that I remember doing a long time ago, with no issues but this time I couldn't keep up at the weight I expected and the burpees felt like death (more than usual). Jacki was coaching and she could see I was upset. Right in the middle of the wod, she took me aside and we went for a walk. I cried and said that maybe Crossfit wasn't for me anymore. She listened, gave me a hug, and asked me to come in to talk with her the next day. I came in and we discussed my goals and a lot of them revolved around weight loss and being more healthy, specifically lowering my blood pressure which has been an issue for me over the past few years. That was the day when everything changed! I committed to trying it out for 8 weeks and I ended up losing over 20 pounds and over 8 inches! Even more importantly, I began sleeping better, had SO much more energy with my girls, could work out much harder, and I was just happier! It was an amazing transformation!! I kept up with it over the summer but knew I needed a reset after my vacation. I just finished another 6 weeks and I'm down 33.9 pounds and 12 inches total. And MOST IMPORTANTLY, my blood pressure is doing great!! I've said it before, but I can never thank Jacki enough for all of her encouragement from the very beginning!! :) 

We saw you crushing the Girls On Girls workouts this past weekend at our bi-annual competition! Has being in a Crossfit competition always been a goal of yours? How were you feeling leading up to the competition, during it and after? 

Thanks! This weekend was so much fun!! This was my 2nd competition, I had competed in CF West Chester's New Year Novice Competition in February 2016. My partner for both competitions, my cousin, Dina talked me into the first one which terrified me! It was such an exciting experience so when Rob asked a few weeks ago if I signed up for Girls on Girls, I gave my cousin a call and she said she was in! I was definitely nervous again but as soon as the first wod started, my nerves turned to excitement. It was so much more fun competing at my home gym with so many familiar faces :) After practicing the first wod, I was definitely worried about going from the row to the thrusters so that was really my focus leading up to the competition. I committed to sets of 10 thrusters, even though I wasn't sure if I could but I think the excitement and adrenaline kicked in and I was able to get through all 5 sets! I've never felt so sore and happy as I did on Monday, haha!

Help us get to know you a little better!
What is your favorite Crossfit movement and why?

Hmm...I would have to say that I love to deadlift! Ever since I started CrossFit, I just thought it was so cool to see how heavy I could get the bar and pick it up!

What is a short term goal you recently achieved and a long term goal you have?

Over the summer I got double unders and then I got them consistently! I'm still working on stringing them together. My long term goal is definitely pull-ups...I think I'm going to throw a party the day I get my first pull-up!

Any memories stand out for you from the 9:30 classes?
I can't think of any specific memories but my absolute FAVORITE thing about 9:30 and my experience since having my second baby is being able to bring the kids to the gym with me. I think it so cool getting the family involved and showing them how important health and fitness is from a young age. And it's super cute seeing them play with their little gym buddies :)

Something we don’t know about you..

I'm an opera singer! That's what I studied in college and it's always been a dream of mine. I recently sang a solo recital as part of a benefit which I had not done in years. It definitely got me excited again about the possibilities so my next goal is to audition for Opera Philadelphia and Opera Delaware's opera choruses. I also sing at weddings and funerals regularly.

Fill in the blanks:
My favorite singer is .... going with my last answer, Luciano Pavarotti (he can bring anyone to tears!)
The last movie I watched was... probably Frozen (thanks, Anna)
If I could meet a famous person (dead or alive) it would be ... Elvis Presley! As a kid, I loved his music so much, my parents had an Elvis impersonator come to my First Communion party (true story) and he also sang my wedding song :)
My best friend is... my husband, John (cheesy, I know) but he is the nicest guy you could ever meet! I'm working on getting him into the gym soon.
If I could go anywhere in the world it would be to... Vienna, Austria because there is so much classical music history there and in surrounding areas.

Any extra comments: 

THANK YOU!!!! Thank you so so much to everyone who has helped me during my time at CFDV. There are so many wonderful and kind and fun people who make up this community and I'm proud to be a part of it! A very special shoutout to all the coaches, you are all rockstars!

Athlete of the Month - Kyle Fox

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I was born 30 years ago on December 30th, which, as I've since been informed by my parents, was great timing for me to be born because my parents really wanted the extra tax credit. If I had been born 48 hours later, they would've had to wait an entire year to derive any tangible value from my existence. What I'm really saying is that early on I established my position as the favorite child over my 3 sisters. That's the first lesson I have to share: to all you unborn children out there reading this, pay attention to the calendar year of your birth. Your parents will like you more. Trust.

I got married almost a year ago to a woman named Jacqui Bowen. Shortly thereafter, she took my last name and became Jacqui Fox, thus murdering Jacqui Bowen and all memory of her. I know most of you have never met her, so allow me to cash in on any credit I have built up with you and ask you to believe me when I tell you that she's beautiful and kind, graceful and loyal. She cares deeply and sees the world as a little funnier than most. She's wonderful, and I hope all of you someday get to find these things out for yourself. 

I work in high level project management and R&D for The Princeton Review, a large international test prep company, primarily for the GRE and GMAT entrance exams. What that means in practice is I write books on the GRE and GMAT and have a large team of writers and editors that I direct to produce the content that teachers and students worldwide interact with, which is really neat. I work from my apartment in Conshohocken, which allows me to go to the gym in the middle of the morning, a luxury of which I'm keenly aware how lucky that makes me. I'm also currently a student at Syracuse University through an online program, pursuing a Master's degree in Information Management and Data Science which I will finish in April 2018.

We used to see you in here primarily just Powerlifting. But the past year it seems that has shifted. At what point did your fitness goals change from Powerlifting to CrossFit and why?   

This tale can be a bit long-winded, so for anyone who doesn't feel like reading the whole answer here's the short version, brought to you in the form of a haiku:

Enrolled in Masters.
All of nine-thirty beat me.
New mountain to climb

And that mostly sums it up. The longer version, which I'll truncate for the viewing audience:

First, Powerlifting is super time consuming. When I started taking my Master's program in January, all of a sudden I didn't have 2-3 hours to spend lifting weights and doing accessory work. So, I knew I needed something that could get me in and out in half the time. Purely pragmatically, CrossFit fits that bill. But, that story is only half the equation, and its the boring half. The other half is below and I promise its much more interesting. 

I love Powerlifting. I'm not sure how many people know this, but I spent several years as a personal trainer. When I wasn't training others, I was squatting. For stretches of 3-6 months at a time, I would squat 4x a week. My goal was a 500 pound back squat (who wouldn't? Being strong is cool). I dabbled in other things (even CrossFit once about 5-6 years ago - I got my L-1 and everything!) but nothing was harder than Powerlifting. It was something I wasn't good at when I started.

But, doing the same stuff, week-in and week-out for 5-6 years, especially Powerlifting, can start to feel like a death march. Half the time I didn't want to be there. In many ways, I was tired of Powerlifting exclusively. Every time I got close to my goals, I'd suffer a setback of some kind and have to start all over again. I needed to infuse something different into my workouts. 

I started watching the 9:30 class, and started checking wodify to see if I could cherry-pick a workout that I, a reasonably athletic, decently strong and explosive 29 year old, could easily hop into and have some success. Finally, one day I found a workout that was just perfect for me. I marched over to Del Val, asked Rob if I could join class (his heart grew 3 sizes that day), and joined the fray. That is the story of the first time I did Thin Lizzy.

And....I got WHOOPED. By EVERYBODY. Literally, dead last. I didn't even put my score into Wodify. I came in the following week to try a different workout. Same result. Then again. Same result. Again. Same. Again. Same.

I kept coming back because I was PUMPED. It felt awesome, being dead last all the time. I really stunk at CrossFit and it became a new thing for me to master. Despite all the strength I thought I had, and worked to gain, I couldn't do anything that didn't involve a barbell. I started to notice things about myself: my resting heart rate was super high all the time, I was out of breath walking up the stairs. I was strong, but really out of shape. 

CrossFit challenged me in a way that's different from Powerlifting. I still Powerlift on occasion and still like the workouts where I get to move heavy things. Maybe someday I'll chase that 500# squat again. But, for now and the foreseeable future, I can't imagine Powerlifting exclusively like I used to.

Your flexible work hours allow you to attend our 9:30 class pretty regularly. Can you share with us a memory from those morning classes that stands out to you?

There is a lot of laughter and positive energy at 9:30. I'm up at 5 on most days and almost immediately begin working, so 9:30 is a great break in my morning. My best memories from the morning classes are general, not specific. There is a lot of happiness and that is infectious.

CrossFit is all about the community and We are all lucky to have a great one at Del Val. Can you share with us some times that an athlete(s) has been there for you for support throughout the past year, specially during difficult workouts?

I have never quit a single workout. No matter how truly dreadful I feel, or how long I have to spend sitting on the blue mat, staring off into space (I did that for 45 minutes after my first Filthy 50), I don't quit.

There are candidates for the reason why I won't stop that most 9:30 regulars could probably guess: After the open, Mike Glatts and I set up the Clydesdale Division for guys over 205 pounds and started keeping score. Once a week, Trish Craven and I end up in a deathmatch, jockeying for the better time. I have yet to beat Pete Carrea head-to-head in a workout, which is a sore spot for me. We wagered on a workout once, 25 cents a rep. I think Kevin Truitt and I still owe Mike and Pete $6 each (sorry, Kevin!)

But, when I feel like I'm approaching my limit, its not the screaming and the competition that has lead me to never quit a single workout. Don't get me wrong - the yelling and coaching helps. Even just saying my name helps. But when I'm dancing dangerously on the precipice of insanity, I take a quick glance up and I see Denise, Liz Greco, Kristy Tomicki, Cahal, Chrissy, Debbie, or literally anyone else who catches my eye and no matter where they are I think "Are they trying their hardest? Yes. Are they going to finish? Yes. Are you trying your hardest? Are you going to finish?" That is what really helps. Thanks everyone!

Here's a 100% accurate transcript of a 7-month long conversation between Rob Miller and his unyielding positivity and myself, with special guest star Travis Youngs, that explains my pursuit of a muscle up:

Me: Hey Rob, I think I'm strong enough to do more pull-ups but I stink at kipping, can you help?
Rob: Hey Kyle. Of course I can. Try one. *watches Kyle kip* That was really good for never having kipped before!
Me: I've been practicing for 3 months.
Rob: Oh, well...nevermind that. Either way, it looked good. Now do it again, but this time, do everything differently. *watches again* That's better. Do singles of that everyday until your arms bleed.

Me: Rob, I'm better at kipping. Watch!
Rob: That is better! Do more.

Me: Rob, I think my pull-ups..
Rob: Do more.

Me: Rob, I...
Rob: MORE!

*Kyle's torso lies prone on the ground, both arms detached from the body. He'd scream, but no one would hear his cries. Rob approaches*

Rob: You are ready to learn muscle-ups. Watch Travis. *Travis floats through the air as if on the backs of so-many winged horses*. Do that.
Kyle *reattaching both arms*: You mean like this? *Kyle flails around helplessly*
Rob: That was great! Do it again, only this time, forget everything you just did and do it this way. *watches Kyle* Great. Do 15 attempts a day, 2-3x a week and someday, you too will touch the clouds.

And, so I did. This version of events is 100% accurate and true. I would do 15 attempts 2-3x a week, every week. Then I got one. I kept doing the attempts, but now I'd get 2 or 3. And eventually I got to where I am now. Time under tension.

And that is the second lesson of this interview: work hard, find people you trust, and be humble enough to listen.

Nutrition plays a huge part in our success not only inside the gym but outside as well. Share with us why you wanted to change your nutrition, what you are doing differently and what results you've seen since doing so inside the gym and out.

The best part of exclusively Powerlifting is the more-or-less blank check that you have in terms of what you can eat. I ate meat every day, multiple times a day, peanut butter by the jar, ice cream, chocolate milk, etc. I wasn't a slob - I still ate fairly well. I just ate A LOT of food. 

About 3 months before taking any classes at Del Val, my wife and I decided to try to eat vegetarian 2 days a week. It wasn't a performance decision by any means. Instead, it was more of a general acknowledgement that, while its impossible to paint with a broad brush in terms of nutrition as everyone has different needs, a mixture of meat and vegetarian diets is probably close to "right". 

Fast forward to today. Its been about a year since we started the mixture of vegetarian days. Most people don't know this about me, but about 60% of our meals are either vegetarian or vegan. We eat meat about twice a week now, which would've been unfathomable to me a year ago. I've lost weight (but not too much, hopefully) and see some benefits in the gym. But I've never really been motivated to change my diet for CrossFit. I'm motivated to eat well for me, and my wife, and the people I care about. I sleep better (I used to have really bad sleep paralysis and apnea events at night), I wake up with more energy, I'm happier, and am even finding myself curbing what was once a legendary sweet tooth.

Keeping all that in mind, I should also note that I believe that food is one of the greatest enjoyments in life and taste is the sense that we have the most control over. I don't deprive myself of the things I enjoy. Frankly, I don't even practice much restraint. I'm just less interested in the vices that I once held so dear.

What are some short term and long term goals that you have?

Right now, my short-term personal, non-gym related goal is to continue navigating the next 6 months until I graduate. I have 2 jobs, am in school full time, and do my best to balance all the other elements of being a husband and friend. My life is very busy right now, so it will be a welcome reprieve to not have all that on my plate. Long-term professional goals: I want to open my own business working with information technology, or build a career worth being proud of. I love people development and leadership, so my professional goals all revolve around that.

Personally, my short term goals are to exercise more discipline over my life. I want to be a little more purposeful and that, for me, starts with taking some more time for me. I would like to start meditating more. I do so now infrequently (once every 3 weeks or so), but its always been a goal of mine to be more consistent, which comes back to discipline and ownership.

Talk to us about your experience in this past years CrossFit Open. Are you looking forward to the Open next year? What is one goal you would like to have achieved going into the 2018 Open?

I am looking forward to the open. Last year, I had been engaged in CrossFit for about 3 months by the time the open came around. I was pretty new to the whole game and so there were a lot of things that I couldn't do. I could not do a muscle-up, or string together chest to bar pull ups, or do handstand push ups. I don't think about the Open too much, but my goals for it are modest: I just want to be able to complete all the elements of all the workouts, and do so in a way that 2017 Kyle could not have done. If I do that, I'll be happy.

Give us a fun fact about yourself!

I love to learn stuff, cook, do crossword puzzles, work with dogs, and write. When I was younger, I was a competitive chess player. I want to learn to play the piano.

Fill in the blank:

My favorite TV show of all time is... Breaking Bad, Suits, The Office.
I just finished binge watching...30 Rock and 24 with my wife. We're working on Arrested Development now.

My wife and I like to... take the dog for hikes and read books on the weekends - we're pretty simple people.

My favorite benchmark workout... is Nancy or Jackie.

My favorite CrossFit movement is... currently handstand push ups because I'm not very good at them.

Our next vacation is to... London in October for my buddy's wedding in Surrey. He was born and raised there and we're very excited to go!

You can always catch me smiling because... I'm in control. I'm happy.

Any extra comments:

I've written, like, 4,000 words (all numbers approximate). Is anyone still reading this? I'm making Oscar Wilde look down right succinct and that guy once took a page and a half to describe a table and chairs. I'll tell you what. If you're still reading this, the next time you see me come tell me something I don't already know about you. That'll be fun, not to mention far more interesting than listening to me drone on about myself for the length of a short story.