“Am I too old for this?”
That’s my earliest memory of Brian Smith.
I’m sure I laughed at him when he asked me that sincere question during our introductory phone call. In my mind, age is just a number. If you want to do something, you just do it. It’s hard for me to look at it any other way. But, for Brian, 55 years old, and turning 56 on April 24, his age was a true concern. I think it’s safe to say that’s no longer the case.
Brian has been part of our gym since January 2014. Every week he passes a milestone, gets stronger and faster. He typically attends the 5 am class (05 What!), but sometimes he makes an appearance in the evenings. You’ve probably seen him at the top of the whiteboard as he makes a habit of dominating our WODs.
I’ve written and rewritten his “Bandit of the Month” article many times, but I haven’t been able to tell Brian’s story as well as he can. So, I finally decided to scrap my writing, and I’ve included my interview with him. I hope you’ll be inspired by Brian’s story as I have been. We’re fortunate to have him as part of our gym. His positive attitude and willingness to learn make him an invaluable member of Bandit CrossFit, and one of the major reasons our coaches selected him as our April “Bandit of the Month.”
Becoming CrossFit: In the Words of Brian Smith
What made you want to try CrossFit?
I started trying to get back into shape in April 2013 after ballooning up to 210 lbs. I was running and had completed a complete cycle of the Insanity Workout as well as the T25 Workout. I had pretty good success as far as the weight loss, but still wasn’t satisfied with my strength level. Every CrossFit thing I’d ever seen showed men and women in amazing physical conditioning. I wanted something more that would challenge me.
What made you choose Bandit CrossFit?
I first heard of a “CrossFit place” across from D’Iberville High School in December 2013, while at a Christmas party. The first week of January 2014, a fellow employee told me the name of the gym was Bandit CrossFit. We looked it up on the Internet, got the number and called. You were so motivating, even over the phone, that I knew I had to check it out. I almost backed out of trying it because the first time I visited the gym it was during the 4:30 p.m. competitors class, and what I saw scared the CRAP out of me! I stood there amazed at what these men and women were doing and thought to myself “there is NO way”! Everyone was so friendly, introducing themselves, and offered encouraging words, though. Now, I’m no genius, but I can recognize a good thing when I see one!
What are some of your greatest accomplishments since starting CrossFit?
I’ve never done any type of Olympic lifting before, nor had I ever performed most of the exercises involved in the WOD’s before joining. So, most everything I do is a major accomplishment. I couldn’t do a single box jump when I first started. Now I can do multiple. I couldn’t do toes to bar, but I did 31 during the CrossFit Open. I’ve never been very “social” in a gym environment and usually worked out alone or with someone who didn’t talk much. Because of that, I had created a habit within myself to quit when things got tough since I allowed no place for support or encouragement. If I’ve gotten nothing else out of Bandit, it’s the fact that NO ONE will let you quit. It has been an amazing transformation for me mentally. Wanting to be around others at a gym has been a new thing for me. I’m still learning to fight through the quit and continue even when I think I can’t, thanks to the encouragement of the coaches and family at Bandit.
The Bandit ATTITUDE has helped me push through some things that I truly thought I wouldn’t be able to do. I’m training for my first Sprint Triathlon and have been struggling with the swim. I’m not a swimmer, but I will have to swim 600 yds for the race. In two months of training, I had only been able to swim a distance of about 100 yards because of my “quitter” mentality. Because of the lessons I’ve been taught at the gym, and the fitness level that I’ve obtained, in the last two weeks I have swam 600 yard and 1200 yard legs!! As I told you, it was the mentality that has been learned from you that kept me making each new stroke–even when I wanted to quit. I also credit CrossFit with the fitness level that allowed me to climb on a road bike and go 17 miles (Twice and both after the 600/1200 yd swims) and hold my own with some who ride all the time. Having not ridden a bike of any kind for about 5 years, I’d say that’s pretty good!!
What keeps you coming back to Bandit?
I’ve been a member of a gym off and on for most of my adult life, and even thought a couple of those times that I was in “good” shape. I quit going to any commercial gym about six years ago because I got tired of being treated like a number. No one really cared whether you showed up or not and NONE of the gyms ever offered any type of personal assistance. One would always have to ask another member the “why’s” or “how’s” of working out. At Bandit, it’s like having the luxury of a personal trainer. It’s not a show for any of the coaches. It was obvious from day one that every one of them have a true desire to see a person grow and get better. I told my wife after the Spartan Workout (which was very tough in my view) that it was an amazing feeling when out of the mob of people that was there and above the noise of the microphone, I would hear the voices of Janice, Sam and Emily yelling “GREAT JOB, BRIAN” as well as them encouraging other Bandits that were there. So, even though my number one reason is to improve myself physically, I could not, probably would not have come back if not for the environment at Bandit.
If I could sum it up in one statement, it was from someone at work just yesterday. We were talking among other guys about working out and getting into shape and one guy said “Brian, you just “look” like you are in shape. You walk around with a swagger that just shows you are”! (I’m not sure what swagger is, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that what I was really walking around with was SORENESS). That was something that I guess I have never heard before. So there is already a level of confidence that I have gained from being part of Bandit. You can’t help but have a change in attitude when you’re around people like those who are Bandit. During every WOD, there is nothing but positive attitudes and actions and it is extremely contagious. I can see myself accomplishing things in my life now that I never was confident about before.
What are some of your goals for 2014?
My goals within the gym are simple. I just want to continue to improve everytime I do a WOD. As I was so eloquently told last week, I need to accept the defeats of a WOD and continue to grow from those “failures”. Outside the gym I have a few goals.
(1) Complete a Half Marathon (already checked off the list with a big PR)
(2) Complete my first Sprint Triathalon in April (my present to myself for my 56th birthday)
(3) to compete in a CrossFit competition toward the end of the year
(4) to complete my first Spartan Race.
What kind of diet do you follow?
I started the Paleo Plan about six weeks ago and am totally sold on it. I believe that I am healthier now because of the choices that I make in eating than I have ever been. I find it fun to be in the kitchen cooking up new recipes. My wife REALLY loves it because it means that dinner is usually cooked by the time she gets home!!
What is your best advice to someone who is considering CrossFit, but hasn’t taken the leap?
Is it worth the money?
Every time I mention to someone that I am at Bandit CrossFit, the first question out of their mouth is “how much do you pay a month”. Of course when I tell them, they say that they can’t afford something like that. My standard answer is “ how much is your health worth”. The commercialization of gyms has convinced us that cheap is better, but they offer nothing to make that better. They get you in by some promotion, maybe even give you time with a “personal trainer” and then they forget about you. I was a victim to this for a long, long time. What Bandit CrossFit has given me is worth every cent I pay and if I were truthful, I am the one that is getting the better deal. Nowhere else will you get the personal attention and encouragement that I get at Bandit. The desire of the coaches to see you succeed, but only through perfection, cannot have a price put on it. It is an investment that has already paid tremendous dividends.
Do you think you’ll be doing CrossFit for the rest of your life?
Brian: I don’t see myself quitting. As far as I can see, the long term benefits can only be a payoff. I’ve got grandkids that I want to see grow up, and I want to be able to spend time with them and do things with them as they grow!
Is age a limiting factor for someone who wants to do CrossFit?
I thought so when I was trying to decide if I wanted to start CrossFit? I saw it as a young persons game and wasn’t sure if someone my age could start something like that. I was ASSURED that I could do it. I must tell you that I was not convinced even when I did start. Again, the true concern of the staff allows a person of any age to begin CrossFit and make you feel that you are really capable of doing more than you would probably give yourself credit for.
Do you have any hobbies outside of CrossFit?
My only hobbies would be running and spending time with my wife, Jeanne and my grand daughter, Madison.
Where were you born and raised? How long have you lived on the Coast?
I was born in Biloxi at Keelser AFB as an Air Force brat. We moved all over until I was 8 when we moved up to Wiggins, MS, which is where I lived until I went into the military.
What is your occupation?
I spent 4 years in the U.S. Air Force and 2 years in the U.S. Marine Corp Reserves. I am a retired Gulfport Police Officer of 28 years. I currently work for Linxx Global Solution as a Contractor for the U.S. Navy as a Firearms Instructor
Tell me about your family.
I have been together with my beautiful wife, Jeanne, for 19 years. I have a son, Anthony, who is 29 and a daughter, Meghan, who is 22. Both of them have given me a grand daughter each. Rachel, who is 5, and Madison who is almost 3.
Thank you for sharing your story, Brian. We look forward to watching you grow and achieve goals for a long time to come!