CFLA Athletic Profile – Mike Ladd
Hometown: Ft. Wayne, IN / Chicago, IL
Age: Nearing 40
When did you first start CrossFitting? 2008
When did you first start training at CFLA? 2008
Favorite WOD: Anything that takes forever. Any chipper. The best thing that happens for me mentally at CrossFit is when a workout is so difficult and time consuming that you reach a point in your mind that you are thinking about nothing other than the next movement. I love the clarity.
Least Favorite WOD: Overhead squats. When I am trying to get low with weight overhead there’s a feeling of pain and dread that engulfs my entire being. Maybe this sounds dramatic, but judge no man until you have failed to OHS over 45 lbs. in his shoes. If you have ever done a proper OHS in a class that I’ve attended, you’ve probably caught me staring at you in slack-jawed wonder. I have seen people walk in off the street and do a better OHS than I can do, and I have been at it almost 8 years. That said, there’s no mystery to why I can’t do them: I hate stretching and do it rarely and am therefore a big, stiff nightmare. I have to own this.
Tell us about you sports & fitness background: I played basketball in high school, where I was mostly just a hustling spazz on defense who rode the bench for a very talented team, which featured actual future pro athletes. After that, I discovered mild, recreational drug use and decided to give myself over to that for a while. Grew my hair real long, listened to a lot of Dead booters, worked as a garbage man, ate an infinite number of 2am burritos, and swelled up. Then I moved to LA and was like, “I can’t be walking around like this out here, maaan.” So I joined the Y, started playing basketball again, lost ten pounds, and felt great. By great I mean I was only twenty pounds overweight rather than thirty, and that I smoked two packs of cigarettes per week rather than one pack per day. My fitness background is total garbage.
How did you first get exposed to CrossFit? Take us back to your first WOD… what was it, and how did it feel? I learned about CrossFit from my wife’s best friend’s husband, a Marine/awesome individual named Clay. He was doing CrossFit while stationed in the Gulf, told his wife about it, she started doing it, and then she told my wife, Agatha, about it, and Agatha (she’s over at Deuce now, which is closer to our house) said she was going to do it, and I was like, “Look, babe, that sounds weird, and I am doing pretty sweet crushing the elliptical 2 hours a week.” And then she sent me the link to PetranekFit-ness.net or whatever the hell it was called back then, and I saw a picture of three people, post-WOD, crumpled together looking like death in the corner of what appeared to be a gardening shed. This image spoke to me. For reasons I can’t explain, I knew immediately I wanted to share intense experiences in sheds. And I have shared a lot of them, maybe even a thousand by now!
My first workout was the Baseline. Agatha and I met with The Legendary Michael Stanwyck down at the beach when he was just a shirtless guy in white jeans hanging out by the pier teachin’ fitness. So we did the Baseline, and Agatha destroyed me. I think it took me 9+ minutes. I couldn’t do one squat. I went to squat, and my body refused me. I don’t remember how I actually got through them, but I think Stanwyck literally held my hands so that I could lean back and not fall over. After the Baseline I had to lie down and I couldn’t speak for fifteen minutes. Oh, the waves of nausea!
The first “real” workout we had on Day One was Murph. No joke! We did it Cindy-style, with a partner (so, half a Murph), but for crying out loud. I don’t know what the hell Stanwyck was thinking, or if it was some kind jump into the fire deal, but that’s a crazy workout to have be your first official workout, especially if your nutritional routine prominently featured American Spirits and Red Vines. Had Agatha not wanted to keep going, I would have never come back.
What sort of changes have you seen in your body, health and fitness since starting CF (before/after)? The biggest change was that CrossFit broke me of the smoking habit. I had smoked for fifteen years, and heavily. I had tried to quit off and on, but nothing worked. I have had one cigarette in the 8 years I have been doing CrossFit and that was maybe three months after I started. The other changes have been just as dramatic. I can sort of do squats, I have muscles in my body now, whereas before I’m not sure I did, I sleep better, I eat (marginally) better, and just, mood-wise, I am a much happier person than I ever used to be, even though I am still largely a crank.
What sort of changes in your life have you experienced out of taking on something like CrossFit that were totally unexpected? The happiness thing. Becoming happier is not something I would have foreseen. I am exactly the opposite kind of person that thought he would ever enjoy something like CrossFit. I am deeply cynical, so the positivity, conviviality, and optimism on display at CFLA every single day is a thing I need for emotional ballast. I primarily work alone, and writing (for me, at least) is mostly about managing near-constant failure, which can lead a fella to feeling awful blue sometimes, so to be able to go to CrossFit during the week, and get outside my head, and do it with all these amazing, fun people… it has made a tremendous difference in my life. I am so thankful I gave it a shot, and so thankful for every single person who has passed through those doors either as a staffer or a fellow member. CFLA is a special place. The people are so nice.
Please share with us any favorite CrossFit / CFLA moments: The years of accumulated memories of the people I have met, and who I’ve enjoyed seeing everyday and getting to know, those are my favorite moments. Just seeing how people at the gym have grown and gotten better or done something awesome, even if they didn’t realize how awesome it was in the moment. Steven doing a 1pm class with me after he had just done the noon class so I wouldn’t have to do the tough workout alone. Seeing Ken get double-unders or go viral as a Bar Muscle-Up Hero. Seeing Nina PR a squat clean and let out a yelp. Hell, seeing DCD do a 155 lb. squat clean today. I mean, I remember yelling encouragement at DCD to keep running at like his second class, and now the dude is pulling off squat cleans and chest to bar pull-ups like it is no big deal. Moments like that, where you see how people have stuck with it and improved are the best. I also love that thing that happens after every single workout, when everybody is done, and everybody is walking around in a daze like, “Yay, we all just did that.” That communal feeling is awesome.
Any advice for people just getting started? Just go. This is the most overused piece of advice on athlete profiles, but it’s overused for a reason. For the first four years of my CFLA life, every time I’d think about going, I’d get very anxious. And what I discovered was this: All I had to do was get in the car and go. The mental aspect of getting there was always worse than the actual workout. But I knew if I could just get in the car, then I would make it there, and I would get through the workout, and I would feel better about myself when it was done. Now it’s the opposite: I get very anxious if I don’t get to go. In the beginning you might not feel very “connected” to it because yes, it is strange and intense and there’s all the shouting and grunts, but you just have to stick with it. If I can do it, and stick with it, anyone can.
What are your hobbies, interests and/or talents outside of CrossFit? I spend a lot of time with my family. My aforementioned wife and our daughter, Lucy, those are my main interests. I am super lucky to get to spend as much time with them as I do. I don’t have a ton of serious hobbies. I write a lot so that makes me not want to read as much as I used to because one starts to hate words. I mess around on the guitar a bit. I watch sports. I grill meats. I like brown liquor, and am interested in that, although as of late I have discovered I feel much better in the morning if I drink tequila. I have even had a bit of a “breakthrough” as of late at CFLA with my WODs coming in really fast, and I attribute this to tequila. Somebody should do a study of the use of distilled, 100% agave products and its relationship to subsequent physical exertion limits. Or, try it yourself. I am partial to blanco tequila with grapefruit soda and lime. Have a few belts some night, and then in the morning, see if you really put the smackdown on a WOD. If it works for you, let me know. If it doesn’t work for you, also let me know. Maybe I’ll do the agave study myself. I can be like Coach Jamie, but for people who are looking to drink tequila as a way to maximize athletic performance.
2 Rounds on the 15:00
Up, over, back, and up
Saturday’s Workout (Yes, you read right … we are experimenting with posting the weekend WOD’s. Please note they are subject to change — to a partner, an edit to a movement — at the coach’s discretion.)
And Coming Monday
A) FQL, working up across sets
B) 8 RFT
5 Thrusters (135/95)
50 Double unders