Athlete of the MonthDecember

Matt M (he/him/his)

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF THE GYM?

I’m kind of a vagabond: I was born and raised in Northern California, graduated high school in Philadelphia, went to college in DC, and have lived/worked in 16 states. Despite all those moves, Chicago has always felt like home: my parents both grew up here and are high school sweethearts, and my whole family lives here now. Make no mistake, though: I’m a passionate San Francisco Giants and 49ers fan who tolerates the Cubs and Bears.

I’ve spent my career in politics and government – the first 15 years or so working on campaigns around the country, the last eight in Chicago.

Like many others, Hardware is a family affair, and you can often see my wife (Lourdes) and daughter (Madeline) at the gym or in the playroom. Fun fact: Lourdes and I first met on a relief mission to Puerto Rico a few months after Hurricane Maria. As of May, we live a few miles west of the gym, in Sauganash.

WHAT INITIALLY GOT YOU INTO TRAINING AND WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK?

I remember this pretty distinctly: I was at a wedding in the Bay Area in May of 2015, and a bunch of us went hiking the morning after the ceremony. It wasn’t a particularly grueling trail, but I was out-of-breath, sweating profusely (hard to do in coastal, 58-degree weather), and generally struggling. I was holding the group back, and I was embarrassed. I had been a decent athlete through high school and always enjoyed competing, but a pretty serious shoulder injury, and normal life circumstances (plus plenty of food and booze) had led to this point.

At the time I had just moved back to Chicago to work on a campaign, and was living down the street from Hardware. I sent an email inquiry the day I got back from the trip, and had my intro class with George two days after that. I’ve been coming back (more or less) ever since. Before Hardware, I usually always had a globo gym membership in whatever city I was living in at the time, and occasional bursts of commitment. What was missing was the consistency, and really a plan. Hardware provided a level of structure and accountability I hadn’t realized I needed – even (or especially) on the days I didn’t want to hear it. But having coaches who were invested in my progress and potential – and who observed my effort and attendance – made a huge difference.

As virtually everyone else has noted, Hardware’s is also an incredible and dynamic community, and I’ve been fortunate to make some really good friends here.

WHAT ARE YOUR FITNESS GOALS? HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO REACHING THEM?

Good question. I’m probably guilty of complacency and riding an interminable “maintenance phase” at the moment. In general I’m happy just to get to the gym regularly and to keep up with younger/better athletes on most WODs and not embarrass myself. More specifically, I want to get my cardiovascular fitness/engine closer to what it was pre-pandemic/fatherhood, and I’d also eventually like to perform the elusive muscle up.

To get there, I need to drop some weight, which means more time in the gym, and a better nutrition plan. So, not as close as I’d like?

WHAT’S AN ACCOMPLISHMENT OR GOAL YOU’VE REACHED AT HARDWARE THAT MADE YOU THE MOST PROUD?

Honestly it’s hard to top the initial 6-8 months where progress is most obvious. It was really rewarding to see and feel the work paying off. From there, being able to consistently Rx most WOD’s felt really good, because I still remember feeling early on like I would never be able to do some of the most fundamental movements. That’s really a testament to the coaching, which has always been so good here, particularly on the more technical lifts.

Completing Murph each Memorial Day is also a proud if sobering accomplishment.

FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?­­

On balance I like barbell movements, and WOD’s that incorporate a good cardio burn with something like a dumbbell snatch.

LEAST FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?
My aversion to double-unders is well established: it took me more than three years to be able to do them consistently, and even today I’ll occasionally find myself in a rope-throwing rage when they’re not clicking. But this is also a redemption story: I (kind of) enjoy them now, and seek out WODs where I can put this hard-earned skill into practice.

While I don’t hate them per se, I don’t care for WODs with a high volume of toes-to-bar. And I’ll never use a metal-plated dumbbell again.

ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN TRYING OUT HARDWARE?

Once you’ve walked in the door the first time (which is an accomplishment in and of itself), give yourself three months. Even if you’re instantly hooked (like I was), there will be some days you don’t want to go to the gym, or you may get to class but just want to walk out the door during one of Coach Owen’s warmups. You will have some days where you’re tired, frustrated, or feel like your progress stalled out and this isn’t worth it. Resist that temptation, embrace the discomfort, and allow yourself some patience and grace until it becomes routine. CrossFit isn’t for everyone, and there’s no shame in that. But I genuinely think most everyone can find something meaningful in Hardware’s approach – and in the community here – if you’re open to putting in the work.

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