I began competitive sports at a very young age, around 4; in fact, I don’t think I have any non-sport memories. I grew up playing every sport I could try. Everything – baseball, basketball, cross-country, tennis, soccer, football, ice hockey, water/snow skiing, skateboarding, snowboarding – you name it I grew up playing it or had at least tried it for a bit. I continued this all the way through high school. Once I graduated and went to IU I picked up some different extracurricular activities, mainly beer drinking, tailgating, video games, and 3 AM pizza calls. I had always been in good shape but these new activities quickly caught up with me, can you say “freshman 15”. These unhealthy habits continued throughout college and beyond. In the fall of 2012 I was in the worst shape of my life and decided I was going to do something about it. I went out and bought some running shoes and started there. I would run maybe 2-3 times a week and did ZERO weight training. Needless to say that lasted all of a month and the new shoes were thrown in the closet. Fast-forward to March of 2013, I got the old running shoes out of the closet and decided to try again. This time I enlisted an expert endurance coach (my pops), more on him later. We started meeting at the YMCA in New Albany after work and running on the treadmill and riding the stationary bike. I found it more enjoyable to be exercising with someone as it wasn’t as boring. This continued until it warmed up a little bit and we moved outside for our runs and rides. I never got to the point where I actually enjoyed the running (still don’t) I just continued to do it because I knew it was good for me and I was starting to feel a little bit healthier. We did some mountain biking that I enjoyed, but I started to get bored with training overall and knew I need something different.
Enter CrossFit. I had heard of CrossFit before and had seen the games on ESPN but that was about all I knew about it. I had been seeing a lot of things on Facebook about a CrossFit gym in New Albany. As I looked into it I realized that Case was the owner and head coach. I had known Case, or known of Case, for a long time. He went to a rival high school and we had played baseball and basketball against one another growing up. At this time they offered free classes every Thursday night. I decided I wanted to go see what it was all about but I sure as hell wasn’t going alone. I called up an old room mate who was into exercise and asked him to go along and so the next week we went to check it out. My first impression of the gym was, “this is awesome!” – big bay door open, loud music, barbells being thrown around, this was my kind of training. The first thing we did was go through a warm up, which I thought was going to be some kind of static stretching. I thought I was an athlete and knew how to exercise. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After the warm up I was about dead, but I wasn’t about to quit. Case then got us ready for the MetCon, showed us everything that we would be doing and explained different scaling options. The work out included burpees, barbell thrusters and box jumps. I think I made every mistake a rookie crossfitter could possibly make. I underestimated how much burpees were going to suck, out of suggested barbell weights I, of course, picked the heaviest, and I flipped the box up to 24”. Long story short, I didn’t check my ego at the door. I finished and after a few minutes spent lying on my back I felt pretty good about it. When I woke up the next day I was sore from my ears to my toes and knew that anything that made me feel like this had to be effective. I signed up the following week.
As I continued to train not only did my strength and health improve, but so did my mentality. I have always been confident (ask Carrie, it drives her nuts!) but seeing what I was able to lift in the gym and how much faster my benchmark workouts were getting in such a short amount of time sent it through the roof. The return on investment was unquestionable! My energy increased, my back quit hurting, and waking up to go to work became exponentially easier.
Just like everyone else who finds Crossfit, it was all I wanted to talk about. I realized this might be considered annoying to some people so I tried my best not to give everyone I ran into and ear beating about it. Just one person bore the brunt of my new hobby and that was my wife (fiancée at the time) Carrie. Like me, Carrie had always been active growing up being involved in tennis, volleyball, horseback riding, gymnastics, and cheerleading. Unlike me, she continued on living a healthy life style by going to classes at the Y. Sometimes she would spend 2-3 hours there doing various classes. I was absolutely convinced that Carrie would LOVE Crossfit, so I did my best to try and get her to ditch the Y and come join me at what was now Four Barrel. At first she resisted, in fact she resisted for close to 8 months. Finally the ear beatings wore her down and she decided to sign up for On-Ramp. Again like me she didn’t want to go alone and convinced my cousin’s wife, Courtney, to start with her. There was now going to be 3 Byrne family Four Barrel athletes. Carrie hates it when I am right, but I was right about her loving Crossfit. She said that she gets twice the workout in half the amount of time compared to what was she was doing at the Y. Now that I had 2 more Byrnes with me it was time to get 1 more. My pops, Kevin, has been an endurance athlete longer than most of you reading this have been alive so I thought he might be more difficult. He completed his first marathon in 1985 and has done over 20 since then. He has completed 2 full Ironman races and has 1 planned for this fall. Dad was another one of my victims of the CrossFit ear beatings. Since he was happy I found some form of exercise I enjoyed he would listen, but I think most of it went in one ear and out the other. Eventually his curiosity got the best of him and I convinced him to come to one of the free holiday workouts. Like me, he came in a little over confident and thought we were done after the warm up. Afterwards he said he enjoyed the workout but went back to his endurance training. A few months later I put down the guilt trip on him and said that I had tried his endurance training, so he should give CrossFit a fair chance. He did, he loved it, and has been a member ever since! After about a year of training Four Barrel hosted a beginner’s competition that I signed up for. Carrie’s sister Erin came to watch and support me (what a great sister-in-law). After seeing what CrossFit was all about and seeing what a great community it was Erin was signed up for 101 not long after and has been a member ever since. This CrossFit thing was really becoming a family affair.
As a couple, Four Barrel hasn’t only strengthened our bodies and minds but it has without a doubt strengthened our relationship. We have been together for close to 12 years and are closer now more than ever. CrossFit has given us a hobby to have in common. We talk about the days workout while we eat dinner and what each other’s weights and times were (she loves beating me, I hate it). On Sundays when we do food prep and wait for the weeks programming to be posted we try to guess what it will be. People think we’re nuts that we exercise while on vacation but we enjoy dropping in at different CrossFit gyms when we go on vacation, it’s fun to brag about our famous coach, Lindy Barber 😉 ← see what I did there with the wink, and see how other gyms around the country train.
Right now 4 out of the 6 Byrnes and 1 Elrod do CrossFit. My cousin Tim was a member for a while and enjoyed it but with a busy schedule found it difficult to make it in. Mom is the only one who has never tried CrossFit and she may prove to be the most difficult to convert over, but I haven’t given up yet!