Athlete Spotlight: Michael "Kirky" Kirkpatrick

Forward by Reza Mashkoori

Michael Kirkpatrick has been a member at CrossFit NCR since 2013.  I have been privileged enough to provide him with one-on-one personal training once a week for the past two and a half years.  When we started, Mike had a ton of weaknesses, and slowly we started to attack them.  Over the years Mike has not only come to understand the value of the CrossFit training methodology, but also the value of the community and support that the NCR family provides.

When I met Mike he could not perform a muscle up and today he can hit seven in a row.  He also had a hard time deadlifting his own body weight and now he does almost double that.  In 2014, Mike placed 2872 in Canada East in the CrossFit Games Open.  In 2015, he did his second CrossFit Games Open and he came 1142 in Canada East.  This year (2016) he came 818 in Canada East!  Our goal for 2017 is top 500 in Canada East.  Our long term goal is to send Mike to the games as a masters athlete.  I asked Mike to share his journey with us and this is what he had to say.

Michael sitting at the "Power and Politics" desk.

Michael sitting at the "Power and Politics" desk.

"WOD Together, Live Forever"

by Michael Kirkpatrick

In 2013 I started to hear more and more about CrossFit and how it was a new way to workout.  I became very intrigued when a strength and conditioning coach I knew and respected posted on his Facebook wall that CrossFit was "rocking the foundation" of his knowledge of fitness.  What could possibly be so new or so different I thought to myself.

Being a rather frugal individual and also having access to a free gym within my condo building I thought I would infiltrate the CrossFit world by attending one class per week, studying their new methods and fitness secrets so that I could incorporate them into my workouts.  Why would I pay a monthly fee of $180 per month and take a taxi (I did not own a car and Uber was not available at the time) to drive the 15 minutes to a CrossFit box when I could do the workouts on my own?

Things were going according to plan for a few months when I signed up for a competition called the Open. What a great medium to display my prowess in this new sport!  All I had to do was show up at the box, perform a workout, and then submit my result (time, number of reps, etc.) online and then I could see how I performed against athletes from all around the world!  This was my chance to solidify the fact that my personal training methods were the best and that driving 15 minutes to the box, paying their $180 membership fee, and working out around their class schedule was for suckers!

Kirky hitting triple extension in his power clean.

Kirky hitting triple extension in his power clean.

The problem though was that my results did not prove my hypothesis that my regimen was superior. In fact it revealed some gaping holes in my training.  It seemed that in every Open workout there was one thing holding me back.  Week one it was the double-unders – I had never done them before.   Week two it was a unique movement called the overhead squat.  Then in week three the deadlifts were too heavy for me.  Finally, when the week four workout was announced I knew this was my moment to shine!  Rowing followed by body weight movements!  This was my jam!  Only again I realized I did not have as good an engine (cardio) as I thought.  What really boiled my blood was that everyone else was beating me, by massive margins!  After week five when a pregnant lady performed the workout faster than me I knew something had to change.

The coach at CrossFit NCR told me that I should go to the 2014 Canada East Regionals to watch him and the other 13 NCR athletes compete.  I've always fancied myself as an athlete and not a spectator but I swallowed my pride and signed up to be a volunteer and I went to Mississauga to watch.

I noticed a few things at regionals.  First, I was amazed at what the athletes were doing: putting massive weights over their heads, climbing ropes, walking on their hands, doing handstand pushups!  These athletes truly were superhuman.

I was also blown away at how many NCR members went to the event to support their fellow athletes.  Why were they so passionate and committed?  I've been a member of many gyms and group fitness classes and spinning classes and running groups before yet I was still taken aback by the sense of community

That same friend whose Facebook post had peaked my interest months ago was there and I tried to have him explain to me why my performance in the open workouts were so dismal.  I thought I was an above average athlete!  He told me I should start going every day!  I thought he was nuts at first but deep down I knew that there was some truth in what he was telling me.

I recognized that there were three massive mental barriers that I needed to overcome in order to come to terms with going to the box every day:

1. Cost. Why would I pay $180 when I could use my own gym for free?

2. Location: Why would I travel 15minutes to the box and back when I had a gym 15 seconds from my condo.

3. Time: Why would I organize my life around the CrossFit NCR class schedule when I could go to my own gym when it suited me best?

I decided that I would let the results be my barometer.  If I was getting fitter then it would be worth it.  Note that the sport has managed to define fitness and make it measurable as well, so that came in handy for me to track my progress.

Prowler pushes are a great way to add intensity without too much thinking!

Prowler pushes are a great way to add intensity without too much thinking!

When I started going everyday (Monday to Friday) at 6am and Saturdays at 11am I was amazed at how much variety there was.  Every single day we would be doing different movements, varying the weights, varying the rep scheme, doing cardio based movements and sometimes more bodyweight movements.  No two workouts were the same.  I also liked the fact that I was learning something everyday.  The coaches had so much knowledge and had an amazing ability to break down the movement into smaller parts to help us understand and scale the movement accordingly.  

I started to understand what I was paying for.  There were no coaches at my gym teaching me new training methods.  I valued this advice.

I also noticed that the intensity of the workouts was better at the box than at my condo gym. There are a few reasons for this.  Firstly, when I workout on my own in the morning I'd be half asleep while trying to warm up on the stationary bike.  And if I was getting tired midway through the workout I'd just leave.  That was not the case at NCR.  The coaches were very motivating and could tell if I had more to give in a workout or lift.  Secondly, the workout results were recorded on the whiteboard after each class.  I must say I liked this!  I wanted to post the best score possible.  And as much as I loved my new classmates I wanted to beat them all (note that they are thinking the same) and this was massive motivation to crank up the intensity.

The other thing I noticed was that my classmates wanted to see me improve, and I felt the same way about them.  Going through a workout together is like being in the trenches together.  You feel a bond with your teammates (classmates in this case are the same thing!) as if you had survived a war together and this creates a mutual respect and camaraderie.

After a few months had gone by I realized I hadn't missed a class since regionals.  I became a raving fan!

Three years have gone by and I'm still addicted to everything about CrossFit.  I like being surrounded by fit humans, I like pushing myself and seeing my results improve, I like being around the people who are now my friends and family.  It took me awhile to get over those three mental hurdles but I'm glad I did!

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