Oh man was I excited to get to this place! I have known about Catalyst Athletics for about three years now and I have enjoyed the intelligent articles that Greg Everett, the owner, has put out over the years. This was a visit where I actually had a few butterflies in my stomach. So, I drove on down to just north of San Jose and to Sunnyvale where the gym is located.
Walking in here was like walking into an elite Olympic training center, everything was perfectly placed, clean, and organized, yet it had the undertones of sweat, chalk and damn hard work. I was practically in awe strolling around the empty gym before people started coming in. One side was lined with platforms; bars and racks resting behind each one. In between each was a large collection of plates, and then there were plate stacks and racks all over the gym. Along with the Olympic lifting equipment, they also had quite a collection of all other equipment you could ever need. But the best part about the look of this place are the pictures lining the walls. There is a blown up cover of each Performance Menu magazine all along, then, above the platforms you can gaze up at these huge black and whites of people throwing around massive weights. It is so inspirational.
As people began to roll in, it was very obvious that each of them took this training very seriously. They wrapped and taped up what they needed to wrap and tape up, slipped on their shoes and began to warm up. I immediately felt completely out of my element, something I am not used to at all in any fitness setting. But I was instantaneously aware that I have never been a part of the Oly lifting world and I honestly had no clue how things worked. This feeling had me acting a little more hesitantly than I normally do, but it also made me so much more aware of what was going on around me. Even though I was the new guy there, I never felt like I was being judged at all, watched yes, but not judged. And even though nobody approached me to talk or anything, when I went to talk to them, they were more than welcoming and fun to talk to. Greg told me to get to work on snatches and clean and jerks, and then left me to the platform to get after it. His coaching was simple yet highly effective. Each time I attempted a lift, he would be watching, no matter where he was in the room. And he would just throw out a point, very clearly, then walk away. His points though were perfect; I never felt overwhelmed with too much information, and I felt as though each attempt, with his pointers put to practice, I was better and more efficient with my movements.
I have to admit, I have never been partial to Olympic lifting, it is probably my least favorite aspect in my training (I AM totally aware it is because my lack of technique here); but, after a couple hours at Catalyst and with Greg Everett, I have a new-found respect and excitement for these incredible lifts. I WANT to do them so much more! I think it was a combo of seeing how smooth these athletes were with such technical moves, seeing how strong they were (everything looked so easy, and they were working with weights I struggle with on max effort days), and the motivating set up. I don't want to just lift crap-loads of weight over my head, I want to do it right, and feel confident with each and every attempt, even if I fail.
Despite the well-known rough separation from CrossFit HQ, Greg and his athletes seem to have nothing but positive thoughts on the CrossFit concepts. And what's more, the CrossFit world is beyond supportive of what Catalyst is all about. Coaches and athletes alike not only utilize their insanely popular Performance Menu magazine, but commonly seek out the expert coaching from Greg and his crew. CrossFiter extraordinaire Jolie Gentry (2007 Games winner) has been going to Catalyst for 2 years to be coached. She had this to tell me:
"I've been a CrossFit HQ trainer since 2007 and have traveled all over the US and Australia coaching at various gyms. I was previously a trainer at CrossFit Oneworld in Union City, but went to catalyst to be coached and to be a student. the coaching is simply superior to other gyms I've been to. It is extremely organized and clean. It is just a nice place to be. I love it."
What can I say, it is clearly a place you go if you are serious about your training. It's also very clear that they are very serious about the same thing. It's not a place to go to catch up with friends, it's not a place to hang out; it's a place to get work done, get coached, be supported and, well, get strong as hell. Pretty straight forward. Greg is clearly someone how takes his job very seriously, and if you come in and work your ass off, he'll give you all the help and support you need. But if you come in there with any sort of attitude, you won't last very long. Leave your pride at the door, lift your weights, cheer on the athletes around you and head on home seems to be how things roll around the gym. And while that may not be for everyone, it is enormously effective for most. Oh, and the gains you'll see...yeah, worth it!
On a personal level, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of fitness. And while I realize I am really all that interested in competing in the Olympic lifts, I feel like I am missing out on a culture that is pretty cool. I want to learn more about it, learn more about the lifts, and maybe along the way I can hoist up a 300+ clean and jerk and a 250# snatch. We'll see. In the mean time, to all of you interested in some very good fitness information, check ut the Performance Menu. And if you want to learn to lift, go to Catalyst Athletics. I hope to get there a couple more times in the coming months to touch up on technique before Sectionals. I'd love to pick Greg's brain a bit more, there is clearly a TON of info in there that I'm sure would be awesome to hear. But the Performance Menu will do in the interim.
Oh, and one other thing to all you CrossFitters out there who are not sold on them, get the shoes they help SO much!
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