CrossFit brings together such a big variety of individuals and I think it’s fun to spotlight some of those here — specifically some of the awesome members of my home box, Trident CrossFit. You’ve read about Mason, Karla and Kelly in the past, but let me introduce to all-star coach and Navy veteran Herman Phillips. Like many, he was skeptical about trying CrossFit in the beginning but once he really got started, he was hooked. You all know, I’m a CrossFit junkie so it was fun reading this interview:
What’s your background?
I’m a PROUD native Washingtonian; born and raised 5 blocks south of the original Walter Reed. A career Navy guy, I originally came back to the area in 1998 for my first tour at the Pentagon. I never intended to spend all but two of the subsequent 13 years in the area. It just kinda happened that way. I retired in ’11 and have been the head of corporate communications at the Institute for Defense Analyses since January of 12.
Have you always been athletic?
“Athletic” is somewhat subjective. Never thought of myself as “athletic” I did play football in high school and intramural sports in college and the Navy.
When did you first hear about CrossFit and why did you decide to try it?
I first heard about CrossFit in 2009. I knew a couple of colleagues that were into it but “knew it wasn’t for me.” Fast forward to 2012. I needed to do something because the suits I bought the previous summer were getting tight (and they weren’t “athletic fit” when I bought them 7 mos before). And, quite frankly, I got tired of avoiding mirrors in my own house. Let’s be honest. Don’t we all want to look good naked – with the lights ON?
Why did you choose Trident?
I came to Trident very serendipitously. I had previously made halfhearted attempts to investigate this “CrossFit thing” but they never panned out. I saw a flyer on a friends Facebook page about a charity motorcycle ride Trident was sponsoring. I went on the website and actually saw “normal-looking” people and decided I would actually send an email and schedule the free trial. I came in for the baseline workout. There’s nothing like realizing how out of shape you’ve become to give you some perspective. Once I put my lungs BACK in my chest and peeled my body off the floor, I signed up whole-hog and haven’t looked back.
One thing I noticed almost immediately when I walked in the door at Trident was the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Within 30 seconds, someone greeted me and welcomed me to the “box.” Interestingly enough, it wasn’t one of the coaches — but one of the members. That stuck with me. I also liked the “3-month and under” program. The workouts can be challenging (intimidating) enough for the most seasoned CrossFitter. Having a scaled program in the regular class was inclusive and less daunting.
You’ve overcome some major health issues…can you explain that and how CF helped you get through it?
I was diagnosed with kidney disease in May 2002; went on dialysis 2 days later; and was lucky enough to have a transplant in December 2002. So i didn’t find CrossFit until 9+ years later. But maintaining a healthy diet and getting exercise are definitely keys to maintaining healthy kidneys. The healthy lifestyle that comes with being in the CrossFit community helps support that effort.
How have you changed since starting CrossFit?
How have a I not?! It seems cliche to say its not an exercise or work out regimen — but a way of life. And it truly is. I truly believe that the 35+ pounds dropped, 5-6 inches off the waist and increase in overall strength (it was indeed pathetic) are an outgrowth of my drastic lifestyle change, not not the cause of it. My attitude is as different as my body composition since joining the CrossFit community.
What do you love about CrossFit and why is it different then other fitness activities?
Plain and simple, it’s the community aspect of it. We’ve all had those WODs that get in our head and just fc#k with us…that particular convergence of movements, attitude and body state that make it just miserable. I’d missed the time cap. The coaches had noticed me struggling with the workout and told me to finish. At first, I gave him a look that — well, let’s just say I gave him a “look.” After feeling sorry for myself that he didn’t let the clock save me, as I was hoping (praying), I knew he was right. The cashout was rope climbs – THREE rope climbs. I struggled but finally finished. When I I came down from the last climb, I looked around and realized the ENTIRE class had gathered around and was cheering me to finish. That’s some powerful stuff right there. Name me a sport or an activity where the cheers for the last person are as loud, if not louder, than the one who came in first. There’s no cheering at “Globo” Gym.
What is your favorite WOD? What is your least favorite WOD?
My favorite is Fight Gone Bad although, as sick as it sounds, Ghost is a close second. Put a bunch of thrusters or wall balls in a WOD and you’ve found one that I’m not very fond of (but I’m working on it).
What’s one major goal you’ve accomplished through CrossFit?
I don’t avoid mirrors in my house anymore. Now I just see areas of continued improvement.
How did you decide to become a coach?
Coaching was never a set goal. I was (as I’ve alluded to) more focused on becoming half the man I was. [Coach & owner] Andrea approached me last summer and asked if I was interested. I’d been thinking about it since several of the “fellas” had started coaching. But, at the time, I told her I wanted to have 2 years under my belt before attending Level 1. I wanted to be confident that I had a firm grasp of the movements and a solid experience base before the course and ultimately coaching. In the end, I think the bottom line for wanting to coach was to give back to the community and box that had given so much to me.
What did becoming a coach do for you?
I definitely have a great appreciation and focus on my form (although it may not always be evident as I get fatigued). It give me a sense of giving back. And it has made me a better athlete (I think). Watching people improve and feel better about themselves and knowing I had even a small part in that is the “juice” to me.
What would you say to those considering trying CrossFit?
What I usually tell people is to shop around. Every box is different and has different strengths and areas of focus. They need to find one that fits their individual needs and fitness goals. Then, I tell them to check their egos, ask questions, and listen to the coaches and their bodies. And finally I tell them to have fun. If they aren’t enjoying it you probably won’t stick with it.
What kind of diet do you eat? Do you advocate any certain way of eating?
I went strict Paleo for 90 (cheat-free) days and the pounds/inches just melted away. I found that my strength was off anywhere from 5-15%. I spoke with folks and they suggested ways to stay Paleo and maintain. I generally try to eat clean with a Paleo base. I tell folks I’m 85% paleo 80% of the time. I have certain food weaknesses that I keep at bay most of the time but….
Any athletic role models? Favorite CrossFitter?
Favorite athlete of all time is Rod Woodson (strange coming from a diehard Skins fan). Classy dude all the way around. Favorite CrossFitter is a toss up between Josh Bridges and Neal Maddox.
Anything else interesting you might want to add that I forgot to ask about?
I love this community and family. It is soooooo much more than a gym, a WOD, etc. It’s often called a cult, yadda yadda yadda. There is no Kool-Aid. Just whatever hard work you’re willing to put into it. Only you can determine the mental and physical effort you’re willing to put into it. The individual decides what CrossFit will be to them and the community will be there to help them, support them and cheer them on through that last rope climb after the time cap. I am unabashedly hooked and have been since the baseline. The call of “READY READY…3…2…1…GO!” gets me every time.