April Athlete of the Month: Mark Gallardo!

I am originally from the Philippines and I moved to Canada in my 20s where I quickly realized that it is possible to use your balcony as a fridge during winter, lol. Wanting to go full Canadian and growing up being inquisitive while food was used as a form of greeting, I was determined to eat everything the North had to offer. I got introduced to addictive Timbits, notorious Rocky Mountain Candy Apples, and piles upon piles of Toonie Chicken Wings. It was only a matter of time that the wrong kind of gain train would come barrelling down the tracks.

The same inquisitiveness led me to a career in Process Engineering where the main goal was finding out areas of improvement in a business. Fitness was a clear area that I needed to work on so naturally I used what I learned from work and went on to try out everything I could ranging from insta-fad diets to all the gym apps that would fit in my phone.

CrossFit came to my radar when I was walking along one of the gyms in the city and I peeked inside only to be confused about how can people workout without traditional gym machines let alone have no shirts on. This lead me to YouTube the heck out of everything I could find and saw all these people doing seemingly impossible things. Curiosity turned into researching and eventually signing up for a free intro session in CrossFit 416. I remember how intimidating stepping into the gym was because of music blasting and plates crashing down the mat. That intimidation turned to surprise when I saw the sensory overload was being caused by these regular looking people from all shapes and sizes.

The free session started and it only took approximately the first 10 seconds for me to realize that the coach at the time (Rachel) knew her stuff as she explained the air squat. We finished the the warm up and I just thought we would grab barbells and magically start snatching. Instead we were treated to the unassuming CrossFit classic couplet of dumbbell thrusters and burpees. On paper it looked simple enough and I foolishly thought it would be easy, effortless and CrossFit was a joke. In reality, the 10 minute AMRAP would leave me sprawled on the floor, lungs absolutely burning, and smile ear to ear from the ultimate high.

The WOD I would bring to the gym is called the “Throwback” as a reminder of that first workout that got folks addicted to CrossFit:

10 min AMRAP

10 Burpees

10 DB Thrusters

Since that workout, I knew I was hooked because I loved the challenge and realized how much I needed to work on. I followed CrossFit more and I saw CrossFit 416 evolve alongside the sport of fitness. I would hear people talk about Strongman and next thing I am doing power cleans with sandbags and pushing Prowlers. I would read about the importance of nutrition and there I am knee deep into a gym-sponsored lifestyle challenge. The best thing about the journey in the gym are all the people you throwdown with along the way. Everyone’s hard work is infectious and inspiring.

My best memory of this was when I attempted to Rx the dreaded double-unders. Flashback to the previous Open and it took me 36 minutes to complete the thruster double under couplet that should normally take around 12 minutes (shout out to Gys for judging me). I remember the other athletes cheering me on to complete the workout and it fired me up. After working on double unders for the entire year of hanging back after class and practicing, I was able to string them together for a PR streak and it felt unbelievably rewarding. The Open however would not be complete without a fair share of humbling experiences. This came in the form of 21 reps of a 225 deadlift as an opening section of a workout but it was 10 lbs over my 1 rep max lift at the time. It was ultimately a blessing in disguise because now there is a clear training goal I have my sights set on for the rest of the year.

I have been doing Crossfit for over two years now and it has taught me so many things that crossover with all other aspects of life. Most importantly, it has taught me that hard work pays off both inside and outside the box. There are so many things that initially seem unreasonable as movements in Crossfit but tackling something everyday that’s seemingly scary guided by awesome Crossfit 416 coaches and a community that doesn’t stop cheering makes ordinary people do handstand walks, ring muscle ups, or maybe even a 225 deadlift for 21 reps.