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.