How Did I Get Here?
Derec, my wonderful friend and fellow coach, has asked me to tell the story of how I’ve ended up as a fitness professional in Austin.
The more I think about it, the more I realize how odd it is that I’m actually here.
I was born and raised in south shore Long Island, the land of pizza and bagel sandwiches. Pretty normal upbringing, great friends, love my family yada yada. As far as athletics go… well there weren’t any. I played baseball until I was 12 maybe, and played tennis in high school for a couple years. In high school I started going to the gym basically because everyone else did. It was more of a social thing than an “I’m trying to get healthy and fit” thing, and by go to the gym I mean do bicep curls for a half hour and 10 minutes on the stair master then call it a day.
The real fun started when I left high school. My original plan was to go the University of Scranton for four years and get one of them fancy bachelors degrees in computer science like an adult. What actually ended up happening was much different. Early in my college career I started to experience my first episodes of what I later learned was manic depression and anxiety. I feel like most people know what depression is, but the “manic” part makes super fun. Basically nothing triggers it, my ups and downs with my depression are completely at random with no real warning signs for the most part. Without getting into detail my time in Scranton ended pretty quick and I moved back to Long Island.
Not too long after I moved back home, my dad got very sick. He was a lifelong diabatic, career smoker, and early in my life had a series of medical issues; so as he got older unfortunately this was something I expected. He originally suffered a heart attack, which to his credit he didn’t even know happened and didn’t go to the hospital until a few days later, you all now know why I’m so stubborn. During this time I had dropped school and work to deal with hospital stuff and be with my dad. The two or three months following he went through 2 more heart attacks, as well as a stroke, eventually passing away at 72 years old. My dad was my best friend, most of my personality I get from him, my humor is from him, he taught me more things than I could ever thank him for, so as a 19 year old man (boy for sure not a man), his passing was incredibly difficult for me to navigate emotionally, and being someone with mental issues, the years that followed were a mess. I got really good at drinking and smoking, I floated through a lot of jobs, and put on a happy face for the appeasement of others to get by.
Now I know “Jon, this isn’t the high energy fitness content I was hoping for” I’m getting there I promise. During this time I also somehow really got into working out. On a crusade to not end up like my Dad, I had joined a gym, kinda got a handle on how to eat, and more importantly found something that let me turn my brain off for a bit and enjoy myself. Eventually I’d stumble in to Crossfit Queens, and take my first intro class and fall in love with the ridiculous speed exercising for time. Shortly after I had quit smoking, got myself into therapy, and actually started taking care of myself a little here and there. After two years or so of CrossFit, I was working a terrible sales job in mid-town, and was really battling with my mental health issues more than I ever had been in the past. So naturally I did the rational thing, quit my job, move across the country, and pursue a career I’ve had 0 experience with before.
I moved to Austin in September of 2017 and got my L1 the following December, and was fortunate to land a desk position at one CrossFit & Fearless less than a month later. Eventually Ray, our former head coach, let me off the leash to coach a few classes a week. This is where my love affair with coaching began. When I set out to coach, it wasn’t to get a free gym membership, or just make a little extra money. CrossFit’s mission was to bring fitness to everyone, make it available to everyone, and be the front lines in the fight against metabolic disease. Disease that can be easily avoided with a little education and movement daily for everyone. That’s why I wanted to coach, whether it’s to give someone an hour where they don’t have to think about their life outside of the gym, or help somebody take their health into their own hands so they can live a long and happy life, or somebody who wants to be the best athlete they can be, doesn’t matter to me I just want to help. Mainly because that’s what CrossFit did for me, and it saved me in a lot of ways (so dramatic). Trying to wrap up here, coaching has been a joy since the day I started almost 2 years ago, I say it all the time, I never feel more like myself than when I’m with a class inside of Fearless. So to everyone who I have ever stood in front of and have been fortunate enough to have had call me coach, thank you for letting me do this day in and day out, cause now I have literally no idea what else I can do other than this.