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Hello, and welcome to Trident Elite Healthcare, a chiropractic and wellness center located in Heath, TX. We are committed to helping our clients achieve optimal health and wellness through various modalities, including chiropractic care, nutrition counseling, and functional movement. I have had the pleasure of speaking with local CrossFit gym owners, seeing their facilities, and meeting their members. I have seen firsthand the transformative power of this unique and effective fitness program. In this blog post, I will share some insights from my interview with CrossFit Heath gym owner Brandon Watson. In the interview he covers topics such as fundamental principles, benefits, and misconceptions, as well as the importance of community and camaraderie in the CrossFit environment.
1. Introduction: who are you and what do you do, and where is your gym located?
Answer: Brandon Watson, I am the owner of CrossFit Heath. We're actually located in the city of Rockwall now. We began in Heath back in 2010. We provide CrossFit classes and nutrition to our members. We try to work with them to improve their fitness and health. We are at West Ralph Hall Parkway which, if you know the Rockwall area, we're next to NTB and Lowes. We are in the same building as the Onassis. Look for the Sonic and you're in the right area!
2. What inspired you to become a CrossFit gym owner, and what led you to believe that CrossFit could be an effective tool for promoting health and fitness?
Answer: I started coaching back in 2012. I've been coaching now for a little over 10 years and I just saw the results within myself. I saw the results of other people. I always had the idea that I'd like to own a gym. It's just that progression of life I guess for me. I saw the results. I saw what it does for others, and I wanted to be a part of that.
My previous life I was a firefighter paramedic, and so I saw the catastrophic results of a lack of Fitness and Nutrition in your life. We responded as medical providers to people that had a lot of health issues that were brought on because of poor choices through life. We're all guilty of it. We all have a family member or even ourselves that have been there. As a person that likes to help people and provide a service to others, this was the next logical step. I love Fitness in general, and so this was an avenue for me and to be able to own my own business and provide that service to others. It means a lot to me and it's important to me.
3. Can you explain the fundamental principles of CrossFit, and how they differ from other fitness programs?
Answer: First and foremost, within CrossFit it's about accountability and we all need accountability in all aspects of our life. CrossFit is constantly varied functional movement performed at relative high intensity. Depending on what we were doing, it's full body movement, it's functional movement. We're going to have you do squatting, sit down, stand up. These are movements that you're going to use in your everyday life because our belief system is that you're in the gym to make your life better outside of the gym.
We provide that to all age groups. I have people in my gym that are in their seventies and they're trying to be better in life. We do that through mechanics first and foremost. You may know that as form. We want to do our best to prevent injury with good mechanics. From there we can turn up the intensity, which might be through speed or weight. Intensity can come in different forms but that is last of the three. We are always through our coaching providing mechanical movement patterns and creating consistency at a very lightweight.
4. In your experience, what are the most common misconceptions people have about CrossFit, and how do you address them? Especially those who feel CrossFit causes a lot of injuries.
Answer: The first piece is the ego. We allow our ego to get in the way especially when we come into the gym, and we see people doing things. We think, “surely I can do that.” The next thing you know is an injury occurs. We view it personally from the standpoint of coaches not doing their job. If we aren't driving that message home that mechanics are first and foremost, then we do see injury and we can see that not only in CrossFit. We can see that in any gym in America. I promise you somebody has gotten hurt; I personally have been hurt in other gyms. It wasn’t the gyms’ fault. It was my fault. It was something that I did. We work really hard to prevent that.
For the naysayers, the thing I would ask is that you actually try it. Some people have tried CrossFit gyms and it didn’t go well. It's like all things in life, if it doesn’t go well at first then try somewhere else. Not all gyms are created equal unfortunately. I wish they were. I wish we were all really striving for that. They are to some degree, but it goes back to that saying, “you don't know what you don't know.”
When you really look at it and go deep into the studies, the highest injury rate within sport or fitness per se would be running. Running sees the highest number of injuries for all exercise movements. We don't hear people saying don't run, that's dangerous. It's just one of those things where people will have a negative outlook on something they don't prefer or like to do. It goes against what they’ve always known. I look at it that way. I try not to really debate about it, and just ask people to give us a shot. If we still aren’t for you then we’ll shake hands and go our separate ways.
5. How does CrossFit promote overall health, beyond just physical fitness?
Answer: In CrossFit there is a pyramid, and the foundation of that pyramid is nutrition. We also need fitness because it helps us to move better, build muscle and strength. These are things we need especially as we age. I think we have that misunderstanding many times that as we age, we need less exercise or workouts.
I came across this the other day with my mother who was in the hospital briefly and the nurses asked her why she is exercising at 70 years old. I thought, why not? She needs to exercise. She needs to build muscle and do all the things a 20-year-old would do. The intensity is what changes. She's obviously not going to be lifting super heavy weights, but it is heavy for her and that's what it needs to be.
That being said, we start with nutrition. We need that Foundation. We need to eat healthy whole foods. People want to complicate it with a lot of marketing strategies, but the reality is we need to eat whole nutritious foods. We look at what we call the sickness, wellness, fitness continuum. Think about it like a speedometer. Your sickness is on the empty side and your fitness is on the full side. Wellness is half tank. A good comparison we see often is when the doctor takes our blood pressure that is supposed to be 120/80. That's wellness. It's not fit but it's not sick. What we want to do is move that needle to fit, so it takes us longer to get sick, just like when we fill up our gas tank and we can go farther before it’s empty. This will also allow us to live a longer quality life. Life is about quality, not quantity. We don't get to pick our end date unfortunately.
When I worked in the fire service, I saw people that had been sitting in nursing homes for 10 to 15 years or more, and to me that that doesn't sound like a great place to spend the last 10 or 15 years of your life. Versus people like my grandmothers in their eighties still living at home, still driving, still moving, still doing really well in life. That's what I want for everybody. To be able to live the most quality life they can live for the longest amount of time.
The more that we can create health through good nutrition, fitness and moving well the better our life will be. Being healthy keeps us from doctor’s office, hospitals, living the life we want to live. When we move that needle towards fitness and sickness comes, we are better equipped to deal with it. Ultimately we want to help people create healthy lives, not necessarily big biceps or six pack abs.
There are plenty of people with six pack abs that are not healthy. You might look at them and think “man, that guy is fit” but I know a guy in that situation with great abs who is also on hypertension medication. We can fix those issues with good nutrition and fitness.
6. What are some of the key benefits of CrossFit, and how have you seen these benefits manifest in your clients?
Answer: I was just talking to one of my members yesterday morning who has been dealing with a couple of things that were just years of bad posturing issues that manifested into a small injury. He has come a long way, and I could tell. I asked how much weight he is down since starting our program. He told me he is down thirty-three pounds. I think he's been with us three to four months. He went from living a very sedentary lifestyle to being in the gym four or five days a week and just doing awesome. Those are the transformations I like to see. I don't find it to be impressive for a 30-year-old guy that is fit and has always been fit. I am one of those guys that has never been super out of shape. I have had to work a little bit to get back to where I wanted to be. I thought I was doing well until I wasn't.
That being said, I just love to see people who transform their lives into what they want it to be. One of my members is in his mid-seventies and he will tell you that at 75 he feels better than he did at 55. That’s because of the accountability of coming in, moving, and getting better at movement patterns. That’s really impressive to see. Members in their sixties come in working hard at their level and they build that relationship and accountability with the other members. They're all getting better together. That's really what drives me to get up every day and go to work.
7. Can you speak about the importance of community and camaraderie in the CrossFit environment, and how it contributes to people's motivation and success?
Answer: That's a piece that's very important. Camaraderie can be a negative or positive thing. If you have a very competitive culture within your gym it can lead to problems. Don’t get me wrong, I am competitive and feel competition is a good thing in the right environment. When competition causes people to increase the intensity and proper movement patterns are lost, it becomes a negative thing, and that’s when we see injuries.
We've made a large mistake in CrossFit games and the idealization of it. Those are elite athletes that move really well. We've seen that in the past, we had a very competitive culture within the gym and people started to get outside of their lanes. What we have tried to do is bring back a fitness culture. A culture of accountability, moving well, being better, and fewer injuries. What comes with that is a community and friendships we have with members.
A gentleman the other day was originally planning to go back to California where he came from because he didn’t have any friends here. He joined our gym and now has met some of his best friends. He shows up every day at the gym to see his friends and get fit with them.
Another one of my members Jay, I met him one morning at breakfast almost 2 years ago. He was in a similar situation. He was moved here because of work and didn’t know anyone. I happen to see his CrossFit shirt and overhead him talking about it. We started talking and he eventually joined our gym. Now, he has a community of friends.
I talked about how we need accountability in all aspects of our life because we are human. When we have people in our life helping hold us accountable, it makes it easier to get up at 5am and get to the gym. We know our friends are there expecting us to be there. We see the same thing with walking and running clubs. It’s easier to stick to something when you have people helping to keep you accountable.
It’s the same thing with nutrition. If we can provide that accountability to you, you are more likely to succeed. People know what to eat. If I give you an option of a salad or a Snickers and ask which one's healthier, people are going to say the salad is healthier. The Snickers taste much better and if you're not looking, I want the Snickers. When we have somebody that we have to be accountable to we are more likely to follow through. We check in on clients each week, to see who has been to the gym and who hasn’t. If we haven’t seen someone, we send a text message reminder asking if they are okay. Even though most people come to us for weight loss, we want to ensure they feel like family, like part of a community.
8. How do you customize CrossFit workouts and programs for individuals with different fitness levels and goals?
Answer: That's the piece to CrossFit that is so important and that's why as a gym owner I push my coaches to be the highest-level coaches they can be. We really strive to be good coaches because our members deserve that. Within every class I have people from their first day to 10th year and everything in between. We have to be able to take the workout for that day and modify it as necessary to fit each individual fitness level. There are a thousand different ways to write up a workout, but I want the workout to fit in their fitness level.
For example, if I were to say “we were doing a workout of five pull-ups, ten push-ups, and 15 air squats, my mother at 70 years old can't do any of those three movements. Should I say, “sorry Mom you don't get to work out today?” That's not good and it doesn’t get her any further down the road. We would modify that to fit her. Instead of a pull-up, I would have her do a ring pull. By doing that we are getting her to perform that movement pattern. Instead of a pushup off the floor, she can do a wall or counter pushup. For the squat, we can just have her sit on a box or bench.
The same applies for people with injuries. One of my members just had surgery and he is already back in the gym performing modified workouts. Sometimes we do one-sided movements instead of directly working the shoulder that had surgery. Actually, there are studies that show working on the non-affected side will have a neurological benefit and help gain strength in the affected side sooner. We can work around a lot of issues, but we need to get people in the gym. When it’s something we can’t help with, that’s when we refer to chiropractors, medical doctors, etc. What we always say is to get 1% better each day.
9. What kind of nutritional guidance and support do you offer to your clients, and how does this complement their CrossFit training?
Answer: Our nutrition philosophy is very similar to our fitness philosophy and we are going to meet you where you are at. If I were to simply give a meal plan, the individual doesn’t learn how to eat for themselves and their lifestyle. Unfortunately, when we look at nutrition people see it as diet, and they see diet as a negative thing. Diet has a negative connotation. Everyone has a diet, whether you like it or not. I always tell people, you have a diet whether you like it or not. You may or may not have control of that diet, but you have one. We need to get control of that, but we have to meet you where you're at.
We've all made New Year's resolutions, January 1st we say “I'm going to start working out, or I'm going to start eating well. I'm going to do all these things and after one week, we're not doing any of those things. What we have found is that we have to create habits. Within our nutrition we take a holistic approach. We look at your fitness, your sleep, water intake, lifestyle choices and your nutrition. Sleep is the #1 killer of our metabolism if you’re not getting enough sleep. Fitness ability and capacity is also negatively affected by lack of sleep. Sleep is when our bodies recover.
A good example would be the mom or dad who comes in to workout after being up all night with a new baby. We might tell him or her to take a rest day today. I was guilty of that for years in the fire service. I might be up all night long fighting fires, not sleeping, and then go to the gym. The workout ended up not being as effective and I should have just taken a rest day.
We also look at stress because if you are overly stressed, then your body is also not recovering. An individual’s lifestyle plays a part in stress. Alcohol is also a contributing factor for a lot of people. When we talk about lifestyle, we have to consider those factors that are negatively impacting your health and fitness goals. For example, if an alcoholic wants to stop drinking, the worst place they can hang out is at the bar. That would not be helpful to reach his/her goals. Same goes for the people we hang out with. If they aren’t good for our health and the life we want to live, then we have to change that. That doesn’t mean give up all your friends. It does mean we spend fewer nights out with them, especially if it leads us to drink or not get sleep. The main thing is that we are creating accountability.
Specifically with our nutrition program, we are going to check in every week, and once a month we have a one-on-one to see how we’re creating success. We are building that around habits. As humans we have this need and desire for whatever reason to create habits. If you look at your daily routine, it’s based on habits. You get up in the morning and hopefully at some point brush your teeth because of a habit and discipline. I use the toothbrush analogy often. You wouldn’t skip brushing your teeth one night, then go to the dentist the next day and say, “replace all of my teeth.” You also wouldn’t say “it’s Wednesday, so I’m not going to brush my teeth again until Monday because I missed Tuesday.” Instead, we simply brush our teeth the next morning or at the next opportune time.
It's not a big deal and it's the same thing within Fitness and Nutrition. Just because you missed one day, doesn't mean you should give up fitness and nutrition. “I didn’t do well at this meal, so I’m done.” Unfortunately, that’s the mindset for a lot of people. Instead, we should pick back up where we left off and be as consistent as possible. It’s not one bad meal or one missed workout that kills us. It’s months and years of bad habits that kill us and ruin our progress.
Our process includes checking in with people and creating small habits that are sustainable. Many times, we think in fitness and nutrition that we have to have a complete overhaul, but in reality, we can just make one improvement a couple days a week. We eat a cup of vegetables three days this week. That would still progress us forward. It can be as simple as that. What we have found is that if you try to change one habit at a time, you are 80% more likely to still be doing that one habit a year from now. When you change two habits, the percentage drops to 30%. Three or more habits changed drops to 5%.
One example is to simply drink water every time you brush your teeth. We have one member who is a cop. She decided she would take a drink of water every time she pulls someone over because she knows at some point, she will pull someone over. That helped her to create a habit that is easy to change.
Habit stacking is the easiest way to create a new habit. Meaning, take an existing habit, like brushing your teeth, and add a new habit like drinking water with it. The habit of brushing your teeth is already there, so by adding the new habit with an old habit, you are more likely to stick with the new habit. These are just little ways we can help people create good habits and accountability. This is an especially important part because when you look at diets, 93% fail, but it’s not because the diet is bad. It’s because the individual failed.
10. Finally, what advice would you give to someone who is new to CrossFit or considering starting a CrossFit program, and wants to prioritize their health and fitness?
Answer: I see online often the question, “what's the best gym?” Everybody chimes in and I really do appreciate and love my members and appreciate them stating CrossFit Heath is the best gym. Yes, we think we are the best gym. That being said, I would tell people to try them all. Every Community is a little bit different. If one Community doesn't fit your life, your likes, and dislikes, then try another one. Everybody's a little bit different. The coaching is a little bit different from one gym to the next. I always encourage people to try them all out.
Other gyms aren't bad gyms. Proximity obviously is an important thing to most people. Most gyms that I'm aware of will let you come try it out for free. You can check it out and see if it's for you. I don’t have anything negative to say about other gyms.
A second piece of advice would be to try it out. Don't just listen to what somebody else says. They didn't like it or they didn’t even try it out. If they did try it, it just wasn’t the right gym for them, but that doesn’t mean the gym won’t be right for you. I will say that CrossFit isn’t for everybody, just like bodybuilding isn’t for everybody. I will always recommend you do the things you like because otherwise you won’t do them at all. I love CrossFit. I love the workouts. I love the structure of it. It works for me. It works for a lot of people, and it can work for anybody. You have to figure out what flavor is for you because each CrossFit has its own little flavor.
Each CrossFit is individually owned. We all fall under CrossFit, but because we are individually owned, we can put our own spin on things. It’s not like going to Chilis for dinner. You can go to any Chilis anywhere and the experience is the same. If a member from another gym comments on what the best gym is, more times than not, they are going to say their gym. That’s just how it is, but that can be misleading to people looking for a gym. Google reviews and Facebook groups are a great place to start looking, but keep in mind the feedback given will always be what that person likes the most, and they may not have tried another location.