April 2019--Andy McDonald

1.Tell us about yourself, your family, your occupation, hobbies/interests.  
Mindy and I were married in November of 1999, about six months after I got out of the Marine Corps.  Nine(ish) children, seven moves, and three states later, and here we are.  I have BA in History, one class away from a double minor in Theology and Political Science from Christendom College in Front Royal VA, which is why I manage production at Roll Products.  Because that’s what you do with all of that. Joking aside, I really do like my job at Roll Products and I’m not just saying that because Joe T is my boss.   As far as hobbies and interests, as I wrote in my coaching bio, outside of CrossFit  I enjoy widespread culinary exploration, sustainable farming if/when the schedule once again allows, and spending as much time as possible with my smoking hot CrossFitting/coaching wife and children, preferably outdoors either on or in water, and entertaining myself (especially in the wintertime) searching for real estate in the Caribbean.  That about sums it up.  

2. When did you start CrossFitting? Why did you start? Why do you continue now?
I started CrossFit in the Spring of 2015.  Why?   It was a continuation of the then recently started process of re-ordering my life after far too long of neglecting much what was good in it.  I had been in a very dark place for far too long, which culminated in a ‘wake up call’ trip to the emergency room and subsequent significant re-prioritizing.   I continue now because it works, and it fills a void that I had been filling with things destructive to lives and souls.  To paraphrase Fr. Rutledge, CrossFit, because of its sacrificial nature, the necessary denial of physical and psychological comfort, can till the soil of soul, making it a fertile place for the faith to flourish IF we let it. The soft life, the unchallenged life, is quite sterile. Or to quote David Goggins, “You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft that you will die without ever realizing your true potential.” As Catholics we see that ‘potential” as something much higher than just physical excellence.  In effect, we can tap into that cross of CrossFit and pull so much more from it than just rock solid biometrics.   So why continue?  If CrossFit is physically and spiritually beneficial for me, why stop?    

3. Do you remember your first WOD? What were your thoughts after your first WOD?
I do.  It was Karen. And it was awful, like a bad drinking experience where, for some time after, the mere thought of the guilty beverage causes nauseous sweats.  But that second sip was so much better.        

4. What do you enjoy most about CrossFit?
Three things stand out. 1) I love coaching. I love helping people of every level realize that they are capable of far more than they previously imagined, and that ‘eureka’ moment when they finally believe it.  2) I love the overall mindset shift that I have experienced as a result of CrossFit.   It’s obviously a work in progress, and will be so long as my heart still beats, but how I react physically and/or emotionally to obstacles or difficulties, fear or opposition has radically changed.  For the first time in my life I am learning how to be grateful and happy in the journey, in the process, in the present, and to stop always looking for it in some other place or thing, always waiting for it to come later when circumstances are better or different.  I stress that I am learning this.  Like any learning process, there is ample room for improvement.    3) I love competing, with myself and with others, and the quest for mastery and excellence that it motivates.  It’s a constantly renewing fuel source because what constitutes excellence and mastery is a constantly moving target.  

5. What is your proudest CrossFit moment?
I have had many proud moments.  As husband and father, watching Mindy and Seth compete together last summer at a competition in Manhattan, and watching them both progress in this program has been pure joy.   As a coach,  every time an athlete makes a solid attempt,  successful or not, at something they previously feared, not only is that a proud moment, but it re-affirms why I coach.  As an athlete, there are many small things, little benchmarks met. Finally getting the double under monkey off my back felt pretty good.    

6. What is your favorite movement or lift? What is your least favorite?
My favorite lift would probably be the overhead squat.  Or the snatch.  So maybe the squat snatch, since that is both.  Least favorite…. There are some that I don’t care for because they are kind of monotonous and not overly satisfying: kettlebell swings are in that category.  There are some that I don’t care for because they wreck my world, like running and high reps of front squats.    

7. Have you had one or two challenging CrossFit goals that you've achieved recently? What are your current goals and how close are you to reaching them?
There have been quite a few little things along the way, like I wrote above, finally getting double-unders has to be close to the top.  Running a marathon relay this past year with two of my sons (we each took one leg of the race) was also an incredible experience for a wide range of reasons.  I know that’s not strictly CrossFit, but never would have happened without it.  

Current goals?  At the beginning of each year I set short term goals for that year and reset long term goals as I get closer to them. Most of those are just weights for various lifts or times for some major benchmark  WODs. So I have a bunch of those for this year that I will be working toward.  I also use the Open each year to dial in on specific holes or weaknesses that need to be addressed.  After the 2018 Open, I hammered away at some nagging skill work, like the oft mentioned elusive double-unders. For the 2019 Open I struggled quite a bit with my stamina, especially with some of the higher skill movements plugged into the workouts, so this year I would like put the pieces together and improve ‘the engine’. I’ll be adding some things to my schedule  help with that. I would also like to get closer to moving running off of my ‘least favorite’ list.  To that last end, my sons and I are signed up for a half-marathon trail race at Lake Perry in May.  Goal: Survival.  It’ll be great.  

8. What makes CrossFit different from other fitness programs that you might have tried in the past?  
Ignoring what passes for ‘fitness’ in the military, the only other fitness program that I have done is one that I put together as part of a training program for wrestling.  There were actually many similarities and was reasonably effective, but still had a lot of holes that I now see and feel pretty acutely.   The primary difference in principle is that CrossFit is the sport, and it is designed for general physical preparedness rather than for sport specific strength and skill work.  What I did for wrestling was designed to make me a better wrestler.  What we do in CrossFit is designed to make us better at life.    


9. What impact has CrossFit Benedictus had on your life, in and out of the gym?  
To say that CrossFit has been life changing would be laughably trite. I would argue that it saved my life, probably my marriage, and who knows what else.  It has provided order and accountability that was timely and persistent.    


10. Tell us about your nutrition and how it has changed, if any, since starting CrossFit?
Initially, I tried to clean up my diet as far as processed food and sugar are concerned, but that was about it for the first year.  I knew I needed to do more than that, and I knew that it would directly affect performance, but I wasn’t sure what or how..  During the L1 Coaches Course we were introduced to the Zone and I started tweaking things in that direction.  Then we had the Nutrition Seminar here at the box a few months later and that is the point where I was given the ‘tools’ to really to home in on where I wanted to be.  At present, I follow what could be described as “Zone meets Weston A. Price”.  Zone calculations provide the structure to dial up or down depending on training volume and desired outcome, without just guessing.  Despite the intimidation factor, it is very easy.   Also, as I have told anyone that asks about nutrition, one of the most important components to any successful nutritional program is cheating.  It’s what makes it sustainable.   Pick a day or so, put the damn scale away, and enjoy life. But have the discipline to steer the train back on the tracks.  


11. If you could write a WOD for the classes to do, what would it look like?

I would probably call it something like ‘Frosty’

5RFT
400m Run
21 Pull ups
15 Power Snatches, 75/50
9  OHS, 75/50  

Oh, wait.  Already did that.  


12. What advice do you have for others about the importance of the dedication of taking care of yourself, of investing in yourself? Your life is not your own. It’s not yours to throw away.  Too many people have convinced themselves that there is something noble or Catholic about acting like our lives, our physical well-being, is neglect-able without impacting our duties of state.  Regardless of one’s place in this world, we are, as humans, composite beings, body and soul.  And this life is a gift from God, and is not to be squandered.   Softness of life, or, on the other side, long term neglect of proper physical maintenance (nutrition, sleep, hygiene, exercise) out of a confused sense of duty, will, in the long run, render us spiritually and physically incapable of fulfilling those duties. We are all going to die.  No one is claiming that CrossFit prevents death. Age, tragedy, certain illnesses; these things are outside of our control. Additionally, some of us may be called to pay the ultimate sacrifice of our life for someone else or for our faith.  God willing we have the grace to step up to that task.

Our argument is that living a life of gratitude, of proper stewardship of the gift of life that we have received can prevent the preventable and unnecessary.  Death’s sweep is absolute, but we don’t have to do half of his job for him.  Far from being selfish or over-concerned with the things of this world, it is, rather, one’s obligation.  


13. What advice would you give to someone new to CrossFit or who is thinking about giving it a try?  For many it’s life and death.  For others, it will be eventually.   For those in a highly de-conditioned state, what are you waiting for?  What’s your exit plan, other than a casket?  You have a family, people that love you, people that rely on you.  Step up. And it’s not too late. For those enjoying the benefits of youth, like high metabolisms and joints that don’t ache, those days will pass and you will look back on wasted opportunities to prevent the preventable.  For those hesitating to make that leap, out of fear, or waiting to ‘get in shape’ before starting, we don’t wait to get holy before we visit the Confessional. We don’t wait to get healthy so we can go see the doctor.  Similarly,  don’t wait to get in shape before you start CrossFit.  Don’t wait.  Start.  


14. Open Forum:

A few ‘thank yous’ are in order.  
First, Doc and Cindy.  Thank you for bringing this operation here and sticking with it in spite of the chaos that it must have added to the already chaotic schedule of a country doctor and his wife.  Your generosity of time has changed many lives.  
Second, Jim Vogel, who will not likely read this, but needs to be thanked nonetheless as the instigator that convinced me to give it a try in spite of my objections.  
Third, to the coaches who have helped and continue to help us all become better versions of ourselves, pushing us when won’t push ourselves, and keeping us moving in the right direction.  
And lastly and mostly, to my dear wife, best friend, and training partner (in life and in the Box), who knew in her heart of hearts what kind of can of worms was being opened when I first talked about jumping on this crazy train, but has done nothing but encourage and support the whole way through.   Thank you.  
I am honored and humbled to be a part of this.    

Always grateful.  Never satisfied.  Blessed beyond measure.
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