AOTM: “Spirit of CrossFit” with Craig Harter

Many of you may not know Craig because by the time you wake up in the morning, he has already been at the gym for two hours and gone home to shower and begin his day. Since the first day that he walked into our doors, he was dead set on being a CrossFitter and has never looked back. He has never missed a 530AM class (or a 7AM class on Saturday). Craig stays after the WOD every single day to do the Cash Out and work on his mobility. Ask anyone who knows him; his work ethic is second to none and it is nothing short of inspiring. He has come a long way since he started with us last year and he is still looking forward, meeting every new challenge with a smile on his face. We are proud to call him our Athlete of the Month and even prouder to call him a part of our community here at Evolve Fitness Clearwater.

Craig Harter

As I was preparing to leave after completing a recent workout, Chris asked me to wait a minute as he was finishing up with a class. My first thought was that of a student being asked by the teacher to stay after class, “What did I do now to get into trouble”? Imagine my surprise when he said that the EFC coaches had selected this old slow guy to be the “Athlete of the Month”. Upon realizing that he was serious and after he explained to me that despite some of my limitations that I truly embody the spirit of CrossFit I was deeply moved. With that I humbly accept the honor of representing all of the outstanding athletes of Evolve Fitness Clearwater.

Who knew that my listening to the James Patterson Novel, “Private LA,” would have such a transformative impact on my physical and mental well-being. Before expanding on that allow me to tell you a little about my athletic background. When I was in College, back before there were Computers, I did a fair amount working out with weights and participated in all sorts of intramural sports including basketball, flag football, soccer, and softball. After College my participation in physical activities slowly began to decrease. For the first 10 to 15 years after college I would work out sporadically with weights, seldom did any type of cardio work. I would golf and play Tennis. For the last 10 to 15 years Work became more consuming and any spare time I did have, I devoted to my wife, Tami and our two daughters activities. Therefore my life had been devoid of any consistent physical activity.

During the last 10 plus years I have constantly struggled with controlling my appetite and thus my weight has hovered between 270 lbs. to 290 lbs., for well over a decade. There was even a period that I exceeded 300 lbs. For the last 5 years or so I was averaging 20 hours a month on the Elliptical and would work in a few sets of weight exercises on the weekends. While this was certainly better than doing nothing it was probably more therapeutic and stress release. I knew I had to find better way. I am blessed to be so loved by my wonderful Wife and two amazing daughters. They have been so afraid that something bad was going to happen to me and had implored me for years to take better care of myself. Little did I know how positively my life was about to change the morning of November 6 , 2014 after completing my daily 45 minute session on the Elliptical.

Back to the book, on my drive to the office later that morning a female character, in the book was describing her morning CrossFit WOD. I am sure she described movements that were foreign to me at the time such as Thrusters or Burpees, but what was embedded into my mind was the description of the high intensity work outs which were completed in under an hour that while “kicking her butt” everyday, left her with an exhilarated feeling and a sense of accomplishment. Looking back the book certainly captured the essence of CrossFit. Prior to this I recalled catching a few minutes of the CrossFit games on ESPN and being intrigued by the nature of the competition. Well anyways, I decided I would research CrossFit when I got home that evening. Haa, I was already hooked and didn’t even know it and I already decided I was going to become a CrossFitter. While eating lunch that day I began my research I found a box in Clearwater, then in Safety Harbor. After fine tuning my investigative methods, I located EFC. Well actually, it was the closest box to my house. Talk about a fortuitous event. So I decided that I would stop by on my way home from the office that evening. I was met at the door by Sebastian and made an appointment for my orientation workout the next morning at 5:30 am. I look back on my baseline workout where I could only do a couple of sit-ups, struggled to complete a single under, etc. but somehow I was already hooked. I was turning 53 the following Monday and told my wife that morning I had gotten myself a CrossFit membership so she need not worry about getting me a Birthday present.

Shortly after beginning On-Ramp classes I remember being bummed out on Tuesday and Thursday as there were no classes. After Thanksgiving, Chris and Sebastian had grown tired of babysitting me so they moved me to the grown up class. I was so excited as now I had WODs six days a week. At the end of my first week of CrossFit I participated in the In-box competition. While I placed last in every event I had a blast and felt so exhilarated for competing. I spent the next week replaying each event over in my mind thinking how I could improve or what I need to improve on. I remember watching all of the athletes in admiration and was left even more inspired than I already was. Another thing that left a lasting impression on me from that day was receiving advice from other athletes when I was warming up. Those small gestures of sportsmanship were symbolic of what makes the EFC community such a positive and motivational environment.

During the four months of CrossFit Classes I have attended I can probably count on one hand the number of times I was not the last person to either finish the WOD or had the fewest reps. Despite that I have always been accepted and welcomed into the EFC Community. The encouragement I have received, helpful advice and the inspiration I have drawn from each you (fellow athletes) and from all of the Coaches is nothing short of overwhelming and sincerely appreciated. What I am most proud of during these four months is that I have participated in every 5:30 am class since the first Monday in December or 7:00 am on Saturday. Most days I can say that I have some small improvement as I continue on my committed journey to becoming healthy and fit.

Lastly, if I wasn’t already a CrossFit Zealot beforehand, the New Year’s New You Program has had such a transformative impact on my life both physically and mentally. Prior to NYNY, I was for all intents and purposes, a vegetable phobe. Now while I won’t go so far as I saying I Love vegetables I insist on making them a part of all of my meals. This and other dietary lifestyles changes began the locomotive which has enabled me to lose over 45 pounds. I am now fitting into clothing that only a short while ago seemed like a pipe dream. On behalf of my family a heartfelt thank you to Chris, Sebastian, and my NYNY Coach Anmarie for laying the groundwork for me to make these improvements.

In closing, while my introduction to CrossFit and to Evolve Fitness Clearwater was truly serendipitous; I cannot imagine a better “Box” to be associated with. The coaches Chris, Sebastian, Anmarie, Luis and Steph are the absolute best! Their personalized coaching approach and continuous support and encouragement are much appreciated. Also, they now when to “Reel me” when I get overly ambitious. To my fellow 5:30 am athletes; you guys and gals are such an inspiration and absolutely amazing. Based on the results of the CrossFit Open I had much better success competing against the rest of the world than you all. Thank you for your continuous encouragement and comradery. You definitely have pulled me through many a WOD’s. Lastly, Thanks to all of the other EFC athletes who I have met through events such as CrossFit Open or other activities. Each and every one of you definitely represent EFC in such a positive way which makes EFC the greatest Box around. Thank you for accepting me into the EFC family.