Chasing greatness

I have firm beliefs in many things, but for the purposes of this post I want to focus on a few specific ones: always strive to be better, surround yourself with good people, and be a part of something bigger than yourself.

That’s some heavy stuff, right? Those are some overarching life goals that you probably don’t stop and consider every day. I can tell you one thing…I know I’m living those beliefs every day in at least one small way, and I’ll tell you how.

It wouldn’t be right to start this story without thanking my great friend Joe – he introduced me to the world of CrossFit and Weightlifting (and by introduced, I mean patiently taught, coached, and helped me through the transition from bodybuilding to functional fitness). Joe’s also easily the most mentally tough, authentic person I know, and a great judge of character, so I tend to trust his judgement. After training together at the ASU fitness center for a while, he moved up north by a box called CrossFit Magna and fell in love with it. I made the average 30 min drive once to train with him, not thinking much of it, until I got there. Then a few more times. Until August of 2015 when I joined, and have made it virtually everyday since.

Brian Kunitzer (BK for short) founded Magna on one basic value: “I wanted a competitive, family-friendly environment” he said.

Brian and his wife Katie own the gym, but also do all the admin work, clean, organize, coach and program for the members as well (amongst all the other behind the scenes stuff involved in running a gym/business). You can’t forget Ainsley, their 3-year-old daughter who is the most loving, intelligent, excited girl I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She knew my name before I even joined, shouting “Miss Preslie!” every day I walked in, and still does.

It’s hard to describe Magna, it feels like trying to explain Disneyland to someone who’s never seen pictures. It’s absolutely ginormous, with lots of natural light coming in through the garage doors that frame the wall with the whiteboard. There’s a huge American flag next to another large wall that says “Forging Elite Fitness” in purple. There’s a spacious play area for kids and a chalk board that includes a countdown for when the fourth member of the Kunitzer clan, baby Calvin, will be born. But those are all cosmetic things. The coaches treat each person as if they care about their personal success, because they do. There are no stupid questions, only an unspoken requirement that you show up with some effort and are nice to the people around you. And that you don’t get chalk all over the floor either, BK hates that.

I asked Brian what his favorite part about being a gym owner/head coach is.

“Helping people gain confidence, there’s a lot of different ways to say that but that’s what it comes down to,” he said. “Being able to do something they never thought they would be able to do, like a muscle up, or the additional confidence that comes from being in shape that translates to other areas of their life.”

Confidence…here we go. Part of the reason I initially had interest in Magna is because it’s one of only a few competitive gyms in Arizona that have proven themselves enough to make it to Regionals. I am a very competitive (arguably to a fault), goal-oriented, driven person. I really want to become a high-caliber athlete someday and I knew in order to reach that level, I’d have to train with people significantly better than myself. I chuckled just writing that…I KNEW that and somehow forgot it rather quickly after starting at Magna. I’d been CrossFitting about 6 months when I joined.

There’s some really talented athletes there. And the thing that still astounds me about high level athletes is they make tough things look easy, it’s like watching those gymnasts perform at the Olympics. Shortly after joining, I lost my eagerness to improve and got immersed in self-doubt and insecurities when I started following the competitor program, thinking I was in way over my head.

But this rut didn’t last long, thankfully. Imagine a scale: where on one end you have the most coddling “rah rah you can do it, great job, you’re going to the Games someday!” coach, and the other end is the one that makes you feel like you’re never good enough, yells absurdly and is ultimately de-motivating. BK, Katie, Coach Marcus, Joe, and some of the members are really that perfect sweet spot in the middle. Couple that with seeing actual improvements in my fitness by following the program to a tee (crazy what happens when you follow a well-written program, eh?), and I was back on track from feeling uneasy, to excited for improvement. I have a feeling, in atmospheres that aren’t as positive or supportive, people quit when they start feeling how I did in the beginning, and that’s heartbreaking.

Meanwhile when I was throwing internal fits that I wasn’t half as good as the people I was training with or comparing myself to, there were full-time doctors, dad’s, high school kids and grandparent-age members busting their ass in class everyday, leaving with the satisfaction that they did their best. They hung out with their friends, made their health a priority and got fitter that day. Man, that’s the way to look at it. People new to CrossFit inspire me as much as BK, who’s 6 years in the game.

Brian likes to hashtag “chasing greatness” and call me cliche, but I just love that saying. You’re never there – if you think you’ve “reached” greatness well then you’re wrong, because life is a constant effort to improve as an athlete, friend, daughter, sister, spouse, you name it. By chasing it, it’s on the horizon, you know where you’re headed and regardless of actually getting there, the idea is to be living intentionally.  

If by this point you’re thinking that I’m just sippin’ the Magna kool-aid, let me stop you right there. I am a former competitive volleyball player, bodybuilder, health club manager, CrossFit coach, freelance writer, ASU athletic department intern, Arizona native, and current college student who’s traveled and dropped into a lot of gyms. If that doesn’t prove I’ve met a TON of athletes and coaches, well then I don’t know what does. I feel perfectly confident saying there is in fact something unique, and awesome, going on at Magna.

This weekend I got to judge several athletes competing in the CrossFit Open. (You can read more about what the Open is in my last post, here.) My point in bringing this up is to express that helping members who had to scale the workout, absolutely crushed it, or fell somewhere in the middle find their mental and physical limits was absolutely exhilarating. Rep counts don’t matter as much as effort, RX scores aren’t as important as healthy, safe movement, and winning a workout doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know the name of the guy sharing a bar with you. Those are a few more unwritten rules at Magna.

Referencing what I mentioned in the beginning, being a member of Magna fills up my cup. Always strive to be better: check. Surround yourself with good people: check. Be apart of something bigger than yourself: check.

In one building I have found an improvement in my overall fitness and confidence, a place for laughter and good times, and a family.

 Pictured left to right: Joe, Brian, myself at CrossFit Magn

Pictured left to right: Joe, Brian, myself at CrossFit Magn