December Athlete of the Month: Matt Penney!!
I’m a born and raised Ontarian, I’ve lived in various places around the GTA for my entire life – from sleepy Georgetown, to gross old Oshawa. As with apparently everyone else from the suburbs, I moved to Toronto when I started working for a bank back in 2009 (and then another a bank, and then…). I’m an independent IT consultant (which is a fancy way of saying contract software developer), presently engaged at U of T.
I came to Crossfit a little while after retiring from beer league rugby. I missed training and playing with friends, and I started getting tired of rehashing the same type of training on my own, so trying something new in a social setting seemed like a fun idea.
I found that 416 had a particularly good reputation for its coaching and programming, so I decided to take the dive and sign up for the basics classes. I thought, if I like it, maybe I’ll stick around for a while. Nearly two years on, here we are.
My first impression of Crossfit was a little overwhelming to say the least! I wasn’t really capable of doing most things particularly well. My conditioning has always been historically awful, so I also got a nice early reminder that I needed work there as well. Nearly two years on, I can’t get enough of it. I really appreciate that there’s never really any truly “bad days” of training any more – there are always at least some positives, and I’m always getting better somehow, even when I’m feeling weak, tired, or generally like a train wreck.
There have been a lot of firsts and great personal moments over the past couple of years, but I’d say my favourite was getting my first HSPU in the 2018 open. Gymnastics have never been my strong suit (part of the territory with being tall, lanky, and awkward I suppose), but Max was there to coach me through my first three reps. I finished 18.4 with a whopping 24 total reps (21 deadlifts + 3 HSPUs), and I’ve never been happier to have a low score.
Right now, I’m working on building strength, posture, and movement quality in heavy barbell movements — or, in other words, learning how to move well with heavy weights. Once I’m done with that, I intend to see off my gymnastics weakness for good, focusing on gaining new ground (muscle ups, strict HSPUs), as well as tightening up the things I presently can do.
I recently wrote myself loaded carry based workout that I’ve enjoyed enough to do a few times. It’s based off of the benchmark workout “Annie”, but replaces the sit ups with sandbag carries. The intention is to build dynamic core stability under fatigue through long carries building up to short and heavy carries. It goes like this:
50-40-30-20-10 double unders / 500ft – 400ft – 300ft – 200ft – 100ft sandbag carries with increasing loads. The last carry should be pretty uncomfortable! Maybe it’d have some sort of clever name like “Firefighter Annie” (“Core Stabilizing Annie” doesn’t really have much of a ring to it).
My favourite memory at 416 has to be the 2018 weightlifting competition. The gym really had an air of excitement that night, it was awesome to have so much positivity while cheering each other on through PR’s all around. From a personal perspective, I had to miss last year’s competition because of a stubborn shoulder injury, so it felt great to be able to do the competition without restriction this year.