The People of CrossFit®: My Untold Story #6

August 08, 2018

CrossFit®Photocredit: Crossfit Sassuolo
Name: Justin Calcagni
Age: 44 

Box: Ocean State Crossfit 
Tell us a little bit about yourself (family, job, hobbies, interests, etc.).

I've been married for 15 years, we have a beautiful daughter who is 9 years old. I am a Software Consultant and travel a lot for work. I love being able to find new boxes to drop into, and meeting the new "fit family" getting to ask for suggestions of places to see, eat & visit that the locals enjoy. I am trying to figure out how to eat healthy while on the road so if you have any tips, let me know!

When did you start doing CrossFit?

My wife & I started with CrossFit® West Nashville in 2012. In March 2013 we moved to RI and found Ocean State CrossFit® in May just in time for Murph!

How did you hear about CrossFit and what was your first workout?

I heard about CrossFit® during YMCA bootcamp. People thought it was interesting and there was more strength work than the bootcamps but wondered how the short high-intensity intervals would translate to overall fitness.

I can't remember my very first WOD but I remember being tentative about dropping weights and not comfortable with compound movements except squats and deadlifts. Everything has always isolated the muscles and now I'm supposed to use my hips to push the barbell?? I also remember thinking rope climbs and muscle ups were some kinds of fitness miracle! I couldn't imagine working out with 135# when I was lifting 95#.

One of the first workouts I do remember was Angie because I worked out with a woman whose name was Angie so I told her I wasn't cursing at her because I was so sore I could barely move!

What were you doing before CrossFit and how were you introduced to CrossFit?

When my wife and I were YMCA members, we had a hard time getting motivated to go. I enjoyed several supplementary classes but they costed extra. CFWN opened right near us and for the 2 of us, it was the same price so I thought we should try it!

Once we moved to RI, my wife Jennifer's mission was to find "the right box and community". It took a couple gyms but when she found OSCF and met the owners/coaches she called me and said "I found the place!" and she was right!

How has your approach to CrossFit changed since first starting?

I am much better at being able to look at a WOD and understand how I am going to work my way through it (break at this point, shoot for this many reps, here is the hardest part of the workout)

I am also better at being able to push through a workout, forcing myself to keep going with unbroken sets. Some days it is better to go lighter and push the engine harder and harder, other days you do what you can and say "ok it wasn't my best day but it was a good day and go get it tomorrow"

And when I first started CrossFit®, I wanted everything!! I wanted to get DUs, RMU, BMU, C2B, butterfly pull-ups, HSPU, handstand walks, a sub 3 minute Fran time, touch and go, Grace, a 200# Snatch and a 500# Deadlift. Yup, all the things but you can't do it all.

I realized it's better to figure out where you are and what needs work, then focus on one thing for 4,6,8 weeks of 2-3 extra session/supplemental work and THEN move onto the next one. You gotta walk before you run! 

What types of changes have you seen (mentally, physically, and/or lifestyle) since starting CrossFit?

I am more physically fit all around than I was 10+ years ago. I thought rope climbs were a thing of my past in the Army Reserves. NOPE! It's the best feeling to be able to do it at this age. I'm mentally tougher than I have ever been. 

I always thought of my arms as "spindly" and I don't have 6 pack abs. I was doing something, not working out at CrossFit® and someone said "gun show!" I thought they were kidding until they said, "No Seriously, your arms are jacked".  



I had a posted a picture of me during a competition on social media (doing a barbell lift so I was straining) and a friend from high school commented "geez you're all bulge-y and holy crap I didn't know that leg muscle existed") so you forget that even though I'm not a health magazine cover model there is still glory in the grind.

At first, when I was a "CrossFit® athlete" I was such a fitness snob. CrossFit® is the one true way and Zumba and yoga and 5k runs can all go to Hell.  I'd roll my eyes at people with cookies and soda in their grocery carts "Forgive them, Lord, they know not and have not seen the light" I realized that was really wrong and misguided. Now I encourage people do find something, find anything that will keep you motivated! If you like Zumba and will go or sign up for a 5k and it gets you moving, DO IT! and keep doing it. That's what important. 

My doctor loves my results. He doesn't care that I don't look like a shrink-wrapped 22-year-old when I go for my physical and bloodwork he tells me "I wish I could get more people doing what you're doing" my 10-year risk window is 1-2%. He has patients younger than me who are at 50% and they won't change diet, won't exercise, won't comply with blood pressure or statin medications and he's trying to find a way to connect with them to actually save their lives. Meanwhile, here I am "yeah but I can't snatch 185 and that makes me sad" 

What helps you get the most out of your CrossFit Workouts? What motivates/inspires you?

I wasn't always big into "community". I understood it but I was usually very self-focused. I would cheer people on during a WOD but I was fine with an empty room so I could squat. I started to come around at CFWN and absolutely at OSCF.  I had no desire to compete but now I do and look forward to 3-4 competitions a year and the open (to a certain extent).

I will never forget the first time during a master's comp when I was absolutely smoked. My heart rate was Fran-level redline and I looked at a barbell for a heavy clean and said: "I can't".

There were 45 seconds left to the end of the WOD and everyone around me was SCREAMING and I heard that roar and could pick out voices as I staggered to that barbell and just went for the lift and when I caught it and buckled.  During a regular wod I would have never gone for it or would have given up but those shouts CARRIED me to get out of the bottom of that clean.
afterward having my fellow OSCF friends say "I was in tears when you stood that up" and realizing how it helped me do something I never thought I was capable of..that is where the community is so important. 

What would you say to someone starting CrossFit for the first time?

Give yourself a break! Be patient. Don't worry that someone else started after you but can do more...this is about YOU and your progress, not them. Especially as a master's athlete...I can work on a lift or movement for 3 months and make small improvements. Someone who is 20 years younger does it for 8 weeks and gets a big jump. Yup, that happens. Accept it! 

Remember to celebrate your moments. I always downplayed it "oh it's a 5 lb PR" or "oh it was 2 unbroken muscle ups, so many people around here can do more"

NO NO NO! It was a PR for YOU so enjoy it and be proud of it!!

Enjoy the beginner gains for the first 6-12 months. Every time you grab a barbell the PRs come fast and furious. That doesn't keep happening! 

Something you might not know about me: we love details!

I collect stamps. I needed a relaxing hobby and something quiet

What's your PR /pump up song?

"skylight" from the blade trinity soundtrack


Thanks for reading my untold story,