As a growing CrossFit box, we are all getting to know each other and building that tight community we always envisioned. Each month, we profile a CrossFit Grail Athlete that is interesting and inspirational. A person that demonstrates a positive attitude, shows up every day and puts their heart and soul into their workout, never gives up, crushes their goals, cheers everyone on and is passionate about the CrossFit Grail Community. And someone who is pretty cool! Although we think everyone has these qualities, we can only pick one.
November 2019 Athlete Spotlight: Paul Whitaker
Tell us a little about yourself:
I was born in Minnesota, but we moved to Arizona in 1985. I grew up there until I went to Ball State University to swim competitively in college. After graduation, I moved out here in 2006, so I’ve been here over 13 years now. One could say I followed my then girlfriend, now wife out to Colorado, since she was on the same college swim team as me. Together, we have two incredible kids: Declan (6) and McKinley (3).
I’m a career educator. I’ve taught grades 1, 3, 4, and 5. I’ve also been an assistant principal for 5 years at the elementary level. Currently, I am in charge of instructional technology and innovation in a Denver Metro area school district.
When I’m not working or playing outside with my kids, you can find me making something. I love to create things. I’m most passionate about making beer, but I also do a number of projects around the house, whether it’s repairing or decorating. My son and I love to create structures and other fun things in Minecraft… when we play video games, it’s always together. I’m really big on doing things as a family, and this is a perfect hobby for him and I to share (on top of the sports we play together as well).
Check out Paul’s video interview here
How long have you been doing CrossFit and what got you started?
I’ve been coming to CrossFit Grail for almost two years now. This has been my only experience with CrossFit, and I absolutely love it. I initially started because my wife said it would be fun for me to try… I was always putzing around on my own, lifting weights here and there and going for the occasional jog. You could say that she started me down this path. I’ve always had a negative perception of CrossFit… but then I realized, why not give it a go and experience it myself before I judge it?
Really, I just wanted to do something I felt good about and be held accountable for it. Little did I know what a journey I would start when I walked in almost two years ago.
What did you do for your fitness before CrossFit?
I swam competitively since I was 9. Around the age of 12, I committed completely to competitive swimming. It was a 9-10 practices per week commitment, and it quickly became a defining part of who I am. It provided structure, purpose, and direction. It also provided the opportunity to create strong social bonds with people that I stay in touch with to this day. That’s how I met my wife!
Once I stopped swimming, I wandered in and out of gyms for a while. I dabbled with water polo and other various rec leagues, but nothing really stuck. I was definitely missing the accountability, culture, and structure of a team atmosphere. Once I found the community at the Grail, I knew immediately that this was for me.
What do you like most about CrossFit?
Outside of the incredibly diverse workouts that are always engaging? Definitely the community. I’ve built some strong friendships based on a common goal. It’s a blast to come in, throw shade at each other, and then cheer each other on as we bust our butts trying to accomplish our goals. We are all striving for something different, yet we suffer the same path to get there. This is just like competitive swimming culture. I love it, and this community is incredible.
How has doing CrossFit changed your life outside of the Box?
All of the above. This is the strongest I have been in my life, and I definitely feel like it (though I have a long way to go). I’m a constant mover, and now I have the energy to support the lifestyle I love. Most importantly, though, is my ability to keep up with my kids. At ages 6 and 3, they too are constant movers. Now dad can keep up with them! It means a great deal to me when they associate me with play time. I know we are creating memories that they will (hopefully) cherish for a lifetime. I know I will.
What motivates you to keep WOD-ing?
Seriously though… it’s the way I feel throughout the day. I have more energy, my attitude is more positive, and I am a better father to my kids. I feel stronger, and my overall outlook on life has improved significantly. Being here, getting into the grind with the great athletes around me, and recognizing that I can always improve physically and mentally is incredibly fulfilling for me. While the outcome is always worth working toward, it’s the journey that I enjoy most. I feel stronger, more fit, and healthier. I’ve seen how far I’ve come, and I can’t wait to see how far I’ll go.
What are your 3 favorite CrossFit movements?
I’m still waiting for a swimming WOD. Until then, I enjoy:
1. Pull ups
2. Hang Snatch, hang clean, hang clean and jerk… pretty much anything from the hang position
3. Back squats
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?
Nothing makes me more proud than my kids. They are the very best of me and my wife. It’s pretty incredible watching these two littles grow and develop into great humans.
Aside from that, I would say my biggest accomplishment happened when I re-evaluated my life and started swimming again. After high school, I quit swimming and went to a college I had no business being at. I quickly started down a wrong path. After a year on that road, I realized I was going absolutely nowhere. I left that school, got back in the pool, and busted my butt to earn a spot on a college swim team at a different school. I rediscovered my purpose and direction. I would not be where I am in life had I not made those changes that needed to be made. Swimming, and sport in general, has given me so much to be successful in my pursuits. That is why I’m incredibly happy I found the Grail. It has given me what I need to continue to seek success as I enter the second half of my life.
What is YOUR QUEST?
This month: Get 20+ workouts in at the Grail
This year: Back-squat 250lbs
Gain 5-10lbs of muscle
This lifetime: Professionally: shift the narrative for public education
Personally: Spend three weeks travelling and experiencing Europe