CrossFit Fuels Competitive Fire for Former Athlete

To say competitiveness courses through Bryan Watson’s veins would be putting it mildly.

While other kids were sent to daycare in the summer while their parents worked, Bryan was riding tackling sleds on the football field during two-a-days while his dad coached the football team at Walled Lake Western in southeast Michigan.

From that vantage point, Watson witnessed intense position battles between players vying for a spot on the team, which would influence his competitive mindset throughout his upbringing and into present day.

After graduating from high school, Watson matriculated to Northwood University on a football scholarship to play football. And, when his football eligibility expired, he went on to play baseball for Northwood, since sitting still and doing nothing was not an option.

These sports – along with the added bonus of being a college athlete with a high metabolism – filled Watson’s needs for competition and allowed him to stay in shape throughout his college career.

When his time at Northwood was up, he needed to fill the competitive void that had been full for his entire life, so a career in sales seemed like something that he could put his whole being into, which is exactly what he did. He went to work for a well-known recruiting firm right out of college and immediately saw parallels between team sports and placing the right employee with the right company.

“We had a giant board on the wall in our office where everyone saw how many placements each employee accrued over the course of weeks and months,” said Watson. “I replaced tackles and interceptions with how many jobs I filled, but I still got to keep score. I put my whole self into it.”

While Watson was able to channel his competitiveness into something that would provide a nice living for him and his wife, it came with a physical price. The laws of nature dictate that a sedentary lifestyle is not something that lends itself to staying in shape. The corporate dinners and Happy Hours soon started to take a toll.

“I went from being in peak physical condition to gaining twenty pounds of fat two years out of college,” said Watson. “After my first kid was born, I tipped the scales at 205 and knew I had to make some changes because I was a fat tub of goo.”

Watson had begun weight training his sophomore year of high school, so it’s not like his desire to start working out came out of nowhere. He signed up at a big-box gym near his office and started working out in the early morning hours with the sole intent of dropping pounds and getting back to his “playing” weight.

He would go to the gym before work, work late into the evening, then head home. Then repeat for the rest of the week.

While this allowed Watson to get stronger and bulkier, he still wasn’t dropping weight. He bounced around to other gyms, but found it difficult to achieve his goal. When he finally discovered a CrossFit gym that was close to his house, he blew out his shoulder during a game of flag football, which put him back on the shelf.

If we flash-forward to 2015, we find Watson, again, in need of something to light that competitive fire and get back into shape. During a conversation with one of his employees, he learned the employee was planning to participate in the Ironman Triathlon. When Watson’s employee agreed with Bryan that he probably couldn’t complete it, Watson did the obvious thing: he signed up the very next day.

The morning after signing up, Watson was swimming laps in the pool to get ready for this grueling test of endurance, which then turned into one hour each day of running, biking or swimming, along with continuing to lift weights. Exactly one year after signing up, Watson competed and finished his first Ironman at 13 hours and 58 minutes. Along the way, he got into the best physical shape of his life.

Then, he was aimless: “After working my ass off for a year to accomplish my goal, I suddenly had nothing to work toward.”

This is where CrossFit comes back into Watson’s life.

He made his way to Grand Trunk CrossFit, where he’s been ever since.

“I actually knew Brooklyn in college as an acquaintance, so it’s a bit ironic that I eventually found his box, but things have a way of working themselves out,” said Watson.

The allure of CrossFit to someone like Bryan Watson is that everything is measured, so he can see where he stacks up against the fittest athletes at Grand Trunk, which feeds his appetite to be one of the best.

CrossFit has also helped him to understand the importance of having a tribe to rely on that will help him become a better version of himself, which has become evident as he competes with other Grand Trunk members in competitions in the area.

“It’s a lot easier to let yourself down than it is to let your partner down during a workout,” says Watson. “I’ve grown to look forward to working out with others because it’s a great way to push yourself while also pushing somebody else to get into better shape.”

Grand Trunk is also ideal for somebody like Bryan, who juggles the responsibility of running a company, along with the demands of a family life. The flexibility of the class times means he can squeeze in an hour of fitness when he needs to.

But what keeps him at the box is the people, no question.

“The work the coaches put in for each athlete is truly amazing,” says Watson. “It’s not uncommon to get a text from a coach after a WOD complimenting me on my performance, or sharing a tip to get better at a certain movement. You don’t find that anywhere else.”

Plus: “There are no cliques. That’s a big plus when you just want to show up and get in a good workout.”

Watson has taken the long route when it comes to getting back into the peak physical shape he enjoyed in college, but sometimes it takes a few detours before you find what you are looking for. If not for CrossFit, Watson might still be looking for that exercise type that would satisfy his competitive streak and his desire to stay fit. It’s safe to say he’s found it at Grand Trunk.

“If you check your ego at the door and don’t care about where you are from a fitness level and don’t care about what weight you’re lifting, you will get a better workout than you can get anywhere else,” he adds. “Nothing compares to it.”

Interested in trying CrossFit? Schedule a free, no-sweat intro today and let’s talk about your fitness goals.

Photo courtesy of Lex Artis.

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