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Upper East Side Athlete of the Month

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Congratulations to Josh Phillips on earning this month’s spotlight as the Upper East Side athlete of the month.  I couldn’t be prouder of Josh’s persistence and hard work since joining EVF in December 2013. Josh has consistently been proactive in working on his technical skills and improving his range of motion; he typically comes to 12:30 class early to work on mobility or to ask a coach for help on a movement or a mobility question so he can improve.  His genuine interest and desire to move better and learn good technique has helped him earn a killer back squat position and stay injury free. I’m so proud of his patience with the process, and I think it’s safe to say he is reaping the benefits. Congrats Josh!

— Coach Nicole

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How/when did you get involved in CrossFit?
I didn’t know anything about CrossFit. Zero. And I actually stumbled into EVF almost by accident. It occupies a space that has seen a lot of unusual businesses before, so I was curious to see what had just opened up. A friendly coach showed me around the gym (or box) and explained CrossFit’s approach to training and fitness. Then he asked what seemed unusual to me.

“No mirrors,” I answered.

“Exactly,” he said.

And then he explained that was by design — that CrossFit athletes were committed to certain tenets of fitness and felt the fixation with image (which is amplified by a wall of gym mirrors) was a distraction. That stuck with me.

What has motivated you to stick with it?
Stubbornness. I’m a bit thick headed about tackling certain challenges. The first few months of CrossFit were really tough. I wasn’t in great shape when I first started, even though I went to a nearby gym and was running at the time. But my first CrossFit classes showed how inadequate that was and how I needed a fitness routine that was far more challenging.

At first, just getting through a CrossFit program was a real source of motivation. Looking back, I really sucked at some of the basic movements. But I tried to improve my skills and fight through exhausting workouts … with the hope that things would eventually get easier!

Over time, my strength and endurance have improved. Sure, there are still certain workouts that slay me and skills that I haven’t mastered. But I’m determined to work on each challenge, however gradually.

What do you enjoy most about being a member at EVF?
There are stellar people at EVF, and they provide tremendous support to each other. I dig the camaraderie and that sense that we’re pulling for each other. And the coaches are awesome. They’re fiercely knowledgeable, deeply passionate about fitness and incredibly helpful and encouraging. (Some EVF athletes are also quite experienced and super helpful and supportive.) Whenever they’ve praised me for something, like some improved movement, I toss it right back to them. The truth is, I honestly wouldn’t have been able to stick with CrossFit had it not been for their help and perseverance. It’s hard to overstate this.

Do you remember your first workout? Looking back how did it go?
I honestly don’t recall when it was, but I remember that my body hurt like hell for a week! In my case, I had a lot of old sports and work injuries that flared up when I first started. Basic things like squats felt awful, and my joints ached. A lot. Early on, I remember asking one of the coaches, “How often do most people work out here during the week?”

She answered, “At first it’s really hard, but eventually most people work out 3 to 4 times a week.”

That answer stunned me. But sure enough, I eventually became one of those people!

What were your goals when you first started? How have they changed?
At first, my goals were fairly modest. They mostly involved getting through the workouts and developing a basic competency of the skills.

I’m still trying to tackle certain skills (like handstand push-ups) and just get better at certain movements. That means constantly improving my form and, in my case, my flexibility.

I’d say an overall goal is achieving more stamina and endurance. It sounds modest, but it’s pretty challenging.

How have you grown in that time — health, body, mind, etc.?
When I first started CrossFit, I was battling through a lot of pain and fatigue. Then I started to improve and eventually realized how good I felt afterwards. It wasn’t just physical euphoria after a high-intensity workout — I began to have much sharper mental clarity as well. Eventually, it becomes addictive. And then interesting things begin to happen. You start to figure out what other adjustments you need to make (to your diet, nutrition, sleep, etc.) to better perform and accrue those benefits. It’s like when a movement clicks. At first you’re overcompensating with dominant muscles, and then you’re integrating all of your muscles into a fluid motion.

Favorite lift and WOD?
I’ve become pretty good a deadlifts. Maybe because they don’t require a lot of flexibility! I dunno which WOD I prefer. Probably one without a ridiculous amount of burpees …

Least favorite movement and workout?
“Air Force” is pretty odious. I’m sure there are others, but I haven’t committed them to memory — or maybe I’ve blocked them out!

I’m still battling through limitations with flexibility, so I’m struggling to get a better front rack position.

What drives you through the door each day?
Actually, I’ve hit the point where I crave CrossFit and get irritable when I don’t do it. Seriously. It’s become a kind of drug, and it improves my day in various ways: I’m better focused, I think more clearly and breath more easily, I’ve got more energy, and I sleep better. I’m honestly kicking myself that I didn’t get through the door much sooner.

Do you have any advice for new members?
Don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged, even if your body hurts for a week after your first work out. Just keep coming back as often as your body will permit. Some of us need a longer glide path, so take as many modifications as you need and don’t be shy about it.

Use the coaches! Ask questions and seek advice. Constantly. Even the seemingly smallest adjustments can vastly improve your form, and by extension, your efficiency. Remember to stretch and stretch often. You’ll feel much better during workouts (I’ve learned that the hard way).

What do you hope to achieve in the coming year?
Apart from abs and buns of steal!?!? Kidding.

I’m still trying to conquer handstand push-ups, get a better front rack, and more (and better) pull-ups. I’d like to improve my stamina and endurance. As part of that I’m also trying to improve my breathing. Seemingly small goals like better breathing and flexibility go a long way in CrossFit.

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