CFLA Athlete Profile – Zach Goren
Hometown: Los Angeles
When did you first start CrossFitting?: 2008
When did you first start training at CFLA?: June 1, 2009
Favorite WOD: “The 7” or any other test of grit
Least Favorite WOD: Mobility Island – I’m pretty sure I’m the anti-gumby
Tell us about you sports & fitness background: I’ve played sports for as long as I can remember. From AYSO to little league to flag football, I’ve been participating in team sports and competing since I was little. In high school I was a football, soccer, track guy. My highest potential was in soccer, but football was my first love – the comradery was unmatched and I liked hitting people :). I hated track: too focused on the individual, too dependent on how much pain were you willing to endure. I also really liked training which probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I broke my leg playing football freshman year and started in the weight room as part of my recovery. Never really stopped.
Fast forward to college: I continued to stay in shape, but felt kind of lost. I kept going to the gym, but I also started getting into endurance sports. I ultimately completed 4 marathons (was fortunate to come in 54th overall in the 2008 LA marathon) and played around with road cycling. Ran and cycled tens of thousands of miles (literally), but it just didn’t provide the level of satisfaction I was looking for.
How did you first get exposed to CrossFit? Take us back to your first WOD… what was it, and how did it feel? I used to train at Sports Club LA, and one day saw a guy who looked like he was really in shape (vs. most other people there who treated it like a day club ;). I started talking to him about his training regimen. He was preparing for BUDs and said he was following this site called “crossed fit” (which is what I heard). It took me a while to figure out what he was talking about, but I finally found Crossfit.com and started (obsessively) learning everything I could about it. It was so different than almost everything I knew about fitness. Even though it was only 7 years ago, CrossFit was largely unheard of that point, and it was kind of fun exploring this virtual grunge community. Initially I didn’t really buy into the whole idea that a 20 minute workout (let alone a 3 minute WOD) could really be that effective, so I slowly started adding in components I saw online to my existing workout sessions. Lord knows that my movement must have been atrocious at that point, but even with my watered down version of CrossFit, I still started seeing results.
CrossFit gyms were just starting to really emerge at that time and CrossFit LA / Petranek Fitness was basically the only game in town. I called to see if I could join. They said no. They were bursting at the seams in a tiny facility and weren’t accepting new members. They did offer to let me join a park workout program at Rancho. I thought “F that.” A year later I tried again and thankfully this time they had just moved to a larger location. I had my intro with Becca and signed up. I waited a few weeks before joining as I was about to run my 3rd marathon.
I remember coming to class for the first time at 6am and not knowing what the hell to expect. Andy was coaching and the class was filled with a group of long-time members. I figured, “I got this,” since I’d been sorta/kinda doing it on my own for 15 months. Wow, did that first day teach me what kind of shape I was really in. I remember this little wiry dude (Will C) blew me out of the water. I couldn’t believe how fit he was. I was hooked. I signed up for unlimited immediately.
What sort of changes have you seen in your body, health and fitness since starting CF (before/after)? I was about 20 pounds lighter, and apparently “doughy” as some of my long-time CFLA friends like to tease. My body couldn’t figure out what I was trying to do: I’d run upwards of 80 miles a week, and then try to lift weights 5 days a week. I wasn’t getting much better at either. And my diet wasn’t particularly great to boot.
It took me about a year after I joined to fully commit to what CrossFit was selling. It was also around the time I started competing. Since then I’ve put on 20 pounds and greatly transformed my body. I’m stronger, faster and otherwise more fit than I’ve ever been (about the only thing I’m not better at is running). One of the things I’m most proud of is the massive improvement I’ve made in my movement and flexibility, which still has a long way to go (Andy will tell you I couldn’t overhead squat a PVC pipe when I started). I thought I was at the top of my fitness game when I was 24. Now at 30, I can do things I’d never thought possible. I’ve been able to push my body and mind to break through barrier after barrier, in what I can only describe as some of the most empowering moments of my life.
What’s been interesting for me the last year or so, is starting to come to an understanding of where health fits into this. Up until recently, all I cared about was performance. I’ve sacrificed a lot see how far I could take myself. Every inch I moved forward I wanted to see if there was another inch. Some of you have asked what it’s like to train at this pace. 90% of the time I don’t want to go to the gym. 100% of the time I wake up with something hurting. Gains get harder and harder to come by and you find out there are new levels of discomfort you didn’t know existed. I know Kenny appreciates this. But it’s been worth it for those moments where I surpass even my own expectations. I encourage people to keep track of their own training. In the day to day, things may seem slow and impossible. Just look back a year and see how much progress you’ve really made.
I think a lot of the motivation for me to do this 30 for 30 is to have a final gauntlet for this stage of my fitness life. I have no doubt that I will continue to train hard and stay in shape, but the grind takes a toll, and more importantly, I want to continue being able to move for a long time to come. I don’t quite know what it’s going to look like but I know that it’s important. It’s one of the things I most appreciate about Andy and now Kenny’s philosophy with CFLA: competition always took a back seat to health and fitness. At times it’s been frustrating for me personally, but it’s 100% the right thing.
What sort of changes in your life have you experienced out of taking on something like CrossFit that were totally unexpected?
The first is CFLA-specific. I never imagined that a gym could actually have a community. I’ve been to lots of them. I probably couldn’t give you a single name of anyone I know from any other gym I’ve been to. And yet, CFLA has become my community and my people. It’s such a rich, diverse and eclectic group of who just show up for each other. It’s really unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. I mean, where else would you have people agreeing to show up in the middle of the night to a gym to do something as dumb as workout for hours on end? It’s a special place and I feel fortunate to be a part of it.
Second, I am a significantly more resilient human being in all aspects of my life. I’ve been fortunate to formally have Kenny as a coach going on three and a half years. Aside from all the physical training, we spend an extraordinary amount of time training the mind. It is really amazing how susceptible we are to negative self-talk and succumbing to all sorts of fear and pain that aren’t dangerous. This pervades all aspects of our lives. These are also things we all experience in a more heightened way when we exert our bodies, particularly in an intense way. What’s equally amazing is how capable we are of managing and overcoming a lot of our own self-imposed obstacles. But it’s also a muscle that needs to be honed and trained. Because CrossFit triggers that fight or flight sensation so acutely and consistently, it’s a powerful vehicle to do just that. This is a topic I could write a lot about, but I challenge everyone to play one of my least favorite games the next time you’re in a tough WOD: the “one more game.” Next time you’re in the middle of something and you just want to stop, commit yourself to doing just 1 more, and then 1 more after that, and so on. But really focus just on that single next rep, without thinking about what comes next. You’d be amazed how much further you can go when you just focus on the next step and not the next 20.
Please share with us any favorite CrossFit / CFLA moments: There have been a lot and I’m not even going to try to remember all of them. There are three that stand out to me. The 2011 Bad-News-Bears style run for Team CFLA to the CrossFit Games. I still don’t quite understand how we qualified, but it was a whole lot of fun training and competing with that team and seeing the sea of (ugly) baby blue CFLA shirts at the Home Depot Center. The second was training for and completing SEALfit Kokoro 30 with Alec, Ricky, Eli and Tatton under Kenny’s guidance. That pushed all of us to places we didn’t know we could go. The third was getting to compete alongside Niki and Shirley with the first-ever adaptive athlete to compete in an able-bodied CrossFit competition, Corey Reed. Such a cool experience.
Any advice for people just getting started? Embrace the opportunity to be a beginner again. My ego got in the way for a long time but there is something very freeing about starting with zero expectations about what we “should” be able to do and just showing up and getting a little bit better everyday. What’s great and terrible about CrossFit at the same time is that there is an endless variety of skills that you will encounter. Some you will pick up quickly, and others will be a thorn in your side for years. None of these things really ultimately matter for most of us in our “real” lives, BUT a little consistent practice over a long period can yield HUGE results. And it’s fun to learn new things! Next time you see Ross G ask him to do a handstand ;).
What are your hobbies, interests and/or talents outside of CrossFit? You all know that I actually live at that gym so this is a redundant question ;). I’ll keep this one short: reading, sports, cooking.
A) For quality load, working up across sets
3 Position squat clean (high to low)
B) Pushup Parade
Focus on shoulder loading
C) 3 RFT on the 4:00
20 RKBS (24/16)
And Coming Monday
A) For quality load, working up across sets
B) 1min max reps
Burpees to target
40 Air squats