Athlete of the Month September 2015


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Name: Adam Gierlach

Hometown: Moraga, CA

Age: 25

Occupation: Video Coordinator for Rice University Men’s Basketball

Sports & Fitness Background

I played competitive AAU and high school basketball growing up. It was a year-round deal of constant skill workouts, practices, and traveling for AAU and high school tournaments. I wasn’t good enough to be recruited at the Division-I level, but I have a passion for basketball and coaching and attended Rice due to a connection I had with the previous coaching staff. I was a student manager and practice player for Rice Basketball while I was an undergrad and have worked in collegiate athletics in various positions for the past 7 years (including my time as a manager).

How did you first get exposed to CrossFit?

One of my friends at Rice taught a CrossFit class through the Rec Center on campus and she constantly pumped it up to us at lunch and whatnot. I never took it seriously; I had been around strength and conditioning programs since high school and didn’t approach CrossFit with an open mind during my first exposure. After my first season of working for Rice Basketball without being able to practice for the team, I found I needed a fitness routine and a daily competitive outlet. One of my college buddies, who took our friend’s class while we were students, really pushed me to try CrossFit.

We signed up for one of the intro classes at H-Town and it kicked my ass. I think the workout was 500m row, 40 squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 pushups, 10 pull-ups. My push-ups were definitely not RX and I couldn’t do pull-ups either. I think the WOD took me around 6 minutes and I threw up immediately after. Like most people who get hooked on CrossFit, the workout sucked but it was one of those great adrenaline, competitive kicks that made we want to keep coming back.

What sort of changes have you seen in your body, health, fitness…?

There are the obvious physical benefits. I think I’m leaner through the waist and broader in the shoulders; pants and shorts are definitely a little looser than they were before. My weight is back to my “playing” weight and I’m able to support the same weight while being leaner and stronger. I think there might be a little more definition when I look in the mirror as well (I could also just be imagining it).

The big thing CrossFit has done for me though is just increase my general happiness. I have a chronic pain syndrome called Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy (RND). I’ve been in intense, chronic pain for over 10 years. There’s no real cure and it doesn’t respond to traditional pain management methods. While it doesn’t physically prevent me from doing anything like a broken arm would, it’s obviously still burdensome. And so CrossFit allows me to stay mentally strong, to get a little bit of a mental toughness kick from doing something incredibly tough given my circumstance. It provides a brief distraction from a stressful work day and provides a way for me to compete every day.

What sort of changes in your life have you experienced that were unexpected…?

CrossFit has helped me become a better basketball coach. The understanding of how the body moves, how to translate power, and recognize deficiencies in mobility or strength in someone else has been big for me in addressing a hole in a player’s game or figuring out why they do something a certain way. Even little things like seeing how a CrossFit workout is programmed has helped me better understand how the programming of our workouts leads to a better training session or skill instruction for our players. Even seeing how the coaches at the gym give cues or instruction has helped me in my communication style. Experimenting with short cues or using creative metaphors to give instruction has helped me become a more effective communicator.

Do you have a favorite/least favorite movement/lift?

My favorite movement is any sort of clean; I’m a big fan of WOD’s with cleans and heavier cleans especially. Typically, the WOD’s I’ve fared well in are workouts with running and one other thing (running + thrusters, running + cleans, etc.). I also like longer chippers where I can try to play mental games to hold a pace for the duration of the workout.

I’m not a huge fan of short, heavy sprint workouts or gymnastics and upper-body dominant workouts. I have poor shoulder flexibility and my chest and shoulders are not the strongest (I need to do more Bro-sesh’s with Mike Phung).

What are your hobbies, interests, and/or talents outside of CrossFit?

My job and CrossFit are the two most dominant aspects of my life and CrossFit has basically become my other hobby/interest since I started. My job isn’t really a job, it’s more of a lifestyle. There are long hours and it’s one of those things where you are always expected to be on call or available. Weekends and holidays are just another day to get better and improve as a program, not off days.

Because of that, my downtime is usually taken up by relaxing, sleeping, or just trying to hang out. CrossFit has become the big other thing in my life that I spend effort, time, and money on. I do like to cook (especially on the grill), I’m always down to play some pick-up basketball, and generally speaking I like to do anything outdoors or competitive.

Any advice for people just getting started/favorite CrossFit moments

Nutrition and sleep matter! In the past month especially, nutrition and sleep have been huge for me in terms of being able to train longer at a higher intensity more often and still feel good the next day. I started cooking for myself more often, eating cleaner, focusing on meats, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and low-glycemic carbs and getting more sleep. That’s not to say I’m perfect (I love cookies and sweets), but that has made a significant impact for me lately. We’ll see if I’m able to keep that up during our season when time and sleep are at a premium and stress levels are high.

Whatever work you put in, it’s important to keep it relative to your goals and your current state. It’s natural to want to compare yourself to others at the gym; I’m a very competitive person so I do it all the time. But everyone has different goals and time they can put in; everyone is at a different place. So rather than comparing yourself with others, compare your effort with yourself. Did I put in an honest effort? Did I push myself beyond where I thought I could go? Did I rest a little less or move at a little faster pace than I did last time? Is the work I put in consistent with what I’m trying to achieve? I think if you can answer those questions positively, then the experience may be a little more rewarding.

Favorite moments have to be just seeing the improvement of others at the gym and building the relationships over the course of the last 2+ years. It’s great to have somewhere to go and relationships that are impactful outside of basketball; it provides a nice break during tough days or the middle of the season. I coach others for a living and so whenever you see individual success or development (regardless of whether you had something to do with it), that’s rewarding. Individual PR’s don’t hurt either. One of the great things about CrossFit is that typically, you can see the hard work you put in, either in physical appearance, energy levels, or actual production during a workout. That kind of reward system makes it a lot easier to continue doing the right thing and working hard.