Interview by Elizabeth Rockett | Photos by Shena Lee
Working at a coffee shop can sometimes be the start of a brilliant story. That's where Gus Lanza met the owners of Foundation CrossFit who recruited him to begin a new chapter of his life as a CrossFit trainer and all around bad-ass. He was ready to try a fresh new workout routine, build muscle, and immerse into a community that supported him as a trans man.
How did you learn about Crossfit and what made it so appealing to you?
I had always been curious about CrossFit and had heard all the rumors about how "dangerous" and "intense" it is. But it was appealing to me, nonetheless, because I had reached a plateau in my own training and was starting to get bored. Serendipitously, I was working at a coffee shop where the two guys who own Foundation CrossFit would frequent. We struck up conversations about fitness and my goals and they basically recruited me to begin as an apprentice trainer in their box.
What is your favorite thing about Crossfit vs. traditional training?
The thing I love about the CrossFit methodology is that all the movements and workouts are infinitely scalable! Nobody, regardless of age or physical limitation, is left out of any given workout. We coaches pride ourselves on being able to help athletes (everyone who does CrossFit is called an athlete) modify any movement to more or less difficulty depending on strength and experience. The other thing I love is that it draws from gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and high-intensity interval training components so the workouts never get boring. The workouts are constantly varied!
What was your first Crossfit experience like?
My first day "doing" CrossFit was educational. Even though I was brought on to be a trainer at Foundation CrossFit, I still had to complete their beginning course. The first day we started out with basic body weight movements and talked a lot about the subjectivity of "intensity" and how to moderate personal intensity during your workouts. We all introduced ourselves and were encouraged to share a few words about why we were there.
What’s the biggest misconception about Crossfit?
That everyone gets injured. Or that it's "intense" all the time. Whenever you engage in a physical activity or sport you risk injury. Additionally, in my box we are sticklers for good form and body mechanics first over weight or intensity. With newer athletes especially, we stress the importance of learning your limits and how to moderate intensity in safe ways.
How does your journey as an athlete relate to your transition?
I had gotten into fitness and lifting weights in my early 20's as a way to deal with depression, anxiety, and body image issues. When I'm lifting weights and exercising, I am able to turn my brain off and just focus on refining my movement. It has helped me become more confident in my day-to-day life and has given me a new appreciation for my body and treating it with respect. Also, I have always wanted muscles and a more masculine physique and after years of hard work (and hormones) I feel pretty satisfied with the results.
Tell us about the Crossfit community/family?
Another common misconception about CrossFit is that all boxes are the same when in fact they are all independently owned and operated. Therefore, each facility has a very unique culture. I am lucky enough to work for Foundation CrossFit where the owners are extremely welcoming of all races, gender identities, sexualities, immigration statuses, religions, etc. and are very active in the local community, often holding fun fitness competitions to raise money and awareness for various causes. They have embraced me and my trans identity and have been champions for all things related to anti-oppression, from Black Lives Matter to Standing Rock to various unjust "transgender bathroom bills". I am very proud to work and train in a space like that.
What would you say to someone thinking about trying Crossfit?
Do your research! Be skeptical! Not all gyms are created equal. Make sure you ask questions about the types of training the coaches have undergone beyond the CrossFit level-1 course. Look up reviews. Try multiple gyms before committing to one. Trust your gut! If a coach is pushing you to do something that feels unsafe, don't do it! You know your body best. Make sure they offer a beginning course, more than 3 beginning classes seems like a good number. Be skeptical if they require only one beginning class before you are allowed to take regular CrossFit classes.