What I’ve learned from CrossFit

crossfit-fierce-play-davidThe other day I went to coffee with a friend/client David Belt. For those of you who know David, he is a friendly, humorous, high energy, positive person. He is exactly the type of person I like to surround myself with.
While we were having coffee he wanted to share an email he sent to his family about his experience with CrossFit. What he wrote meant a lot to me as a coach and reminded me why I enjoy putting in the work to help others with their health and fitness every day.

I asked him if I could share this because I believe what he wrote is powerful and some of you can relate.

Here is the email he sent:

“I thought I’d take a couple of minutes to share what I’ve been learning and experiencing at my Crossfit gym.

I know, I know… Crossfit. A bunch of tools. That’s what I thought about Crossfitters before I joined last June. Since then, however, I’ve been surprised by how diverse, intentional and supportive the group of people I work hard with are.

This past weekend, I experienced something I won’t forget.

To give you context, I first need to explain that I’m not the strongest at my push press (a shoulder/overhead exercise). I get winded quickly, especially if it’s heavy weight. But I wanted to to push myself this particular day, so I put on more weight than usual. The workout of the day was:

  • 20 pullups
  • 20 burpees to box jumps
  • 20 kettle bell swings
  • 20 power cleans
  • 20 push press

I did the cleans and push press at 135 lbs. The cleans were tough, but I finished them. When I got to the Push Press, I did 1 rep and knew I needed to take off weight. I started to take off weight when Jeff (my coach) came over and said I could do it. He said this is an area I need to get better in.


To do a push press, you essentially have to do a clean! Which I had just done 20 of! I was winded. By the time I got to 5 reps, it was only me and another friend, Peter, left. The whole class was done and was cheering us on. The next class was there, too, about to start their workout in 5 min. Lots of people. Looking at us. Uncomfortable, to say the least. Peter soon finished It was just me. I had another 10-12 reps to go. DUMB!

It was hard. Really hard. I was partly embarrassed, but it was difficult to be ashamed when everyone was screaming your name and yelling, “You can do it!”

The last 6 or 7 reps, I began dropping them before I could extend my arms: no rep! This happened several times. People were quick to tell me to get back up and try again. The class time had already finished but people chose not to leave. They all decided to stay and cheer me on.

1 more rep to go. I dropped it. So heavy. So tired. Out of breath. I threw up in my mouth and swallowed it. I went to the bar again, cleaned it to my shoulders, received a shot of adrenaline as people were yelling my name. “C’mon, David!”

Click here to watch happened next 🙂

I pushed it above my head and extended my arms. Done! 20 reps! 135 lbs! I went to my knees. People cheered. Everyone came over and gave me high fives, patting my shoulder, saying what a great job I did. It was a profound feeling. Wow.

There are so many things to observe and take away:

  • Jeff pushing me to do what I thought I couldn’t.
  • One’s body can do more than you think it can.
  • Community. Love. Support.
  • The power of hearing your name.
  • Collective potential.
  • Being an encourager is a choice.
  • Hard work pays off.
  • Nike. JUST DO IT!

This was an important milestone in my personal fitness, as well as my understanding of hard work and encouragement from others.

I also saw this, however, as something that happens so beautifully in the church. As a follower of Jesus, community is important to me in the strengthening of my love and faith in God. My experience at Crossfit reminded me of a moment I had in a recovery class I was involved in a couple of years ago. I remember hearing powerful words of encouragement from my co-recoverers. Their love and encouragement got me back under the bar and helped me continue the fight against addiction.

As the old African proverb says:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

And as the author of the book of Hebrews in the Bible writes:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”

When my wife, Lauren, and I experienced a hurtful family loss earlier this year, going to Crossfit was an important time for me. It was a place to process emotion. It was a time of prayer and wrestling with God. I fixed my eyes on Jesus. I persevered. I ran faster. I lifted heavier. I pushed harder. I didn’t give up… a micro-causm of what was actually being painted in the larger portrait of life. Finishing a ton of burpees and pull-ups helped me finish a tough week of hurt and emotion.

Most of the people I work hard with aren’t strangers anymore. They’re friends. I know their names, their daughter’s names, what they do for a living, why they’re wanting to get fit, and what drives them. It’s pretty amazing.

Crossfit. A place to work out? Sure. But it’s more than that. It’s a place to work out how to better live out a healthier and stronger life with others.” -David Belt

Thank you, David for sharing that with me!


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CrossFit Level 1 Certification



Mark Mancuso started his fitness journey while enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Like most individuals, at first, he only focused on bodybuilding type workouts. Mark learned quickly that focusing just on the aesthetics of the body would get you only so far. In 2013, Mark found out about Crossfit and fell in love with everything that it stood for.

In June of 2015, Mark was Honorably Discharged from the Marine Corps and returned from his duty station in Okinawa, Japan to his home in Maple Grove, MN. Not having any formal coaching in Crossfit he was on a mission to find a Crossfit Box to call home. Fierce Play welcomed him with open arms, and he hasn’t looked back. Mark obtained his Level One Crossfit certification in November 2015 and plans to add additional certifications in the future. He also intends to compete in a variety of Crossfit competitions as opportunities arise.


CrossFit Level 1 Certification


Owner & Head Coach

Jeff Birthler has a contagious passion for fitness. He graduated and obtained a personal training certificate from the National Personal Training Institute in 2010. On his way, he discovered and fell in love with CrossFit. Jeff hasn’t stopped learning, and still seeks a well-rounded education within the health domain, going beyond physical facets. He has trained clients at several corporate gyms, including Fitness 19 and LA Fitness, as he established a plan for his own gym.

Fierce Play was established in 2012 in a 500 sq. ft. garage. After a few moves and upgrades, it now has a permanent, 4800 sq. ft. location in Maple Grove. Jeff calls it “home”.


NPTI (National Personal Training Institute) CPT Diploma January 5, 2012

CrossFit Level 1 Certificate

CrossFit Level 2 Certificate

CrossFit Olympic Lifting Certificate

CrossFit Power Lifting Certificate

CrossFit Mobility Certificate

CrossFit Gymnastics Certificate

USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Certification



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