As a United States marine, Jay White defended his country. As a mixed martial artist, he defended and fought for his honour. Now White has moved onto a different challenge: winning the annual CrossFit games.
CrossFit, a fitness regimen that was developed by Greg Glassman in 2000, has been described as the “sport of fitness.” The training program was developed by Glassman and his wife, Lauren, over several decades and aims to define fitness in a meaningful and easily measurable way. The program centres on fitness optimization, such as a variation of high-intensity, functional movements to gain the best qualitative results.
For White, a former two-time Pan American Games gold medalist in jiu-jitsu, taking part in the CrossFit games brings a new challenge to his life, and it’s one he welcomes.
“I want to see how far I can go with CrossFit,” said White of the games, which offers $250,000 to the winner of the annual fitness competition.
During his time in MMA, White fought a number of notable veterans of the sport, including Jeff Monson, Jake O’Brien, Christian Wellisch and Eddie Sanchez. While he had moderate success in the sport, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt is a five-time Grappler’s Quest champion in the Advanced division, a multiple time grappling champion with NAGA and won a heavyweight championship in MMA in 2008. Despite his accomplishments, the lifelong athlete and 6-3, 265-pound White didn’t expect the challenges his body would be subjected to in taking part in the games.
“I’ve been an athlete all my life, but I didn’t realize how weak my core was,” he said. “I had to learn all the stuff I’m bad at.”
While White had little problem with the high-intensity regimens familiar to him from his MMA training, he noted that improving his core strength through the Olympic level weightlifting drills he did at the recent Albany CrossFit “boot camp” was a lot of work.
White credited the Albany CrossFit staff for his success and improvement since joining the program.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of gyms, but I’ve never been in a place like Albany CrossFit,” he said. “The whole atmosphere is more friendly than normal and the coaches are more willing to help. They’ve just been great.”
White recalled being taken aside by one of the gym’s coaches, Kevin Houston, who stayed after a session to offer him extra coaching on his weightlifting technique.
“That was pretty cool and just wouldn’t happen in other gyms,” he said.
Jay Ackerman, the owner of Albany CrossFit, echoed White’s sentiments about the coaching and training available at his gym.
“We’ve got something special going here,” he said, welcoming White to the fold.
Leading up to the annual games, scheduled every July in California, White will be participating in various local CrossFit competitions along with tens of thousands of athletes from around the world. If White performs well in the smaller regional events, he’ll secure a berth in the annual games next summer.
While White isn’t making any predictions just yet, he’s content to continue working hard with the gym’s coaches and members to get ready for the games. His success, much like that of the gym’s other members, is dependent on their collective growth, which led to the opening of a second CrossFit gym in Albany — near Clifton Park — in 2011. The key though is the openness of the program, which welcomes individuals of varying fitness levels into the fold to promote personal health and fitness.
“We treat everyone who walks through the door the same way we treated Jay White, like an athlete regardless of their current fitness level,” Ackerman said. “Our members are great about encouraging each other, so people at all fitness levels are able to go way beyond what they thought possible.”
Andrew Ardizzi is an honours graduate of journalism from Humber College, and is currently working out of Toronto as a freelance writer and editor. He’s also the Senior Editor at Crystal Fractal Comics, a Toronto-based comic book publishing company. Andrew has been a fan of MMA since 2005 and has watched several hundred fights too many. You can find him at his blog, or follow him on Twitter