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How I Started CrossFit as a Masters Athlete

Posted by Tom Bender on

CrossFit, as we all know, can be intimidating, especially for those of us that have had more than a few years pass by. It was no different for me when I started. I had never heard about Crossfit when a friend of mine told me I should try it. I called CrossFit Chino Hills and set up an appointment for a free intro. I remember that day like it was yesterday.

That morning there was a class of about ten people and the WOD had some kind of shoulder to overhead.  I was off in the corner and the trainer was explaining CrossFit to me. My back was to the class and all of the sudden the music began to blast and 10 seconds after that ten athletes barbells came crashing to the floor. I remember being startled and thinking that we just had an earthquake. I turned around and everyone picked up there barbells and did it again. At that point I looking at the trainer and told him, I don’t know what CrossFit is, but if it’s what they are doing sign me up and I have never looked back.

I wanted to turn all of them into Master Athletes because I knew it was possible.

Marco Arredondo & Tom Bender, Co-owners of CrossFit Descendants in Chino, CA

Marco Arredondo & Tom Bender, Co-owners of CrossFit Descendants in Chino, CA

Now that I am a trainer and box owner the challenge for me is how to convince someone my age that CrossFit is for them. I constantly get the same excuses, “I could never do that stuff”,” I have bad knees” (or name a body part). You name it I have heard it. I actually had one potential client tell me he was told by his doctor that he could not squat after his knee surgery. I asked him when he had knee surgery and he said 1993. I soon realized that my biggest challenge, being a box owner and trainer, was not a muscle up, it was old guys and gals getting past the excuses and into the box. I wanted to turn all of them into Master Athletes because I knew it was possible.

I had to ask myself, “How do I get these people to see beyond their concerns and excuses.” I realized one of the best way was to tell my story and the story of my business and training partner Marco Arredondo. After all, Marco and I, along with our wives, started our box with the Master Athlete in mind.

Marco Arredondo, CrossFit Games Masters Competitor, Co-owner of CrossFit Descendants

Marco Arredondo, CrossFit Games Masters Competitor, Co-owner of CrossFit Descendants

Marco has been into health and fitness practically his entire life and was a competitive bodybuilder. Bodybuilding and being a Firefighter had really taken a toll on him. After several knee and shoulder surgeries and two herniated discs in his back, he realized he needed to make a change. He couldn’t even bend over to tie his shoes. In 2007, he found CrossFit. CrossFit made him more mobile, stronger and rehabed his knees. So much so, his doctor was amazed that Marco can back squat over 300 lbs. Marco has overcome all of his physical deficiencies and attributes it to CrossFit. This year Marco placed 7th in the CrossFit games (55-59).

I myself had similar issues with my knees and shoulders. Being a gymnast in high school and college really did a number on my body and at 51 (my age when I started CrossFit) I was really thinking about knee and shoulder surgery myself. Once CrossFit came into my life, I realized I was getting stronger and  I was able to do movements I didn’t think I would ever be able to do again. I regained my balance and coordination. To this day I have had no surgeries and don’t expect to.

It was about community.

It was everything I was looking for in a fitness program. For much of my life I had been a typical gym rat.  I would go in every other day, do 3 sets of something on some machine (never legs). I thought I was in pretty good shape. Little did I know I wasn’t. Frankly I was bored. CrossFit changed all of that for me.  It made working out exciting. It forced me to challenge myself and work on deficiencies. It humbled me and inspired me all at the same time. It taught me to check my ego at the door and scale when needed, so I can become stronger tomorrow.  It taught me to push my opponent during a WOD as much as I pushed myself because that is what they would do for me. It was about community.

It is still challeging. Some masters try it and get it, others try it and don’t get it. But, I will never stop trying to convince the non-believer. To me, at my age, CrossFit is the most important thing you can do for yourself. It will change your quality of life for years to come.

She looked at me… and said, “Wow, how do you become a Master Athlete?”

With all that being said, where else can you go to workout and be called a Master. I was rowing one day before workout. One of the trainers came over with a new client and sat her down on the rower next to me and introduced me. He said, “This is Tom Bender, he is one of our Masters Athletes.” She looked at me like I was Rich Froning’s Father and said, “Wow, how do you become a Master Athlete?” I replied,” Easy… you just get old.”

Left to right: Tom Bender, Donna Bender, Carol Ann Arredondo, & Marco Arredondo - Co-owners of CrossFit Descendants in Chino, CA

Left to right: Tom Bender, Donna Bender, Carol Ann Arredondo, & Marco Arredondo – Co-owners of CrossFit Descendants in Chino, CA

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