No Excuses — A Visit To CrossFit Elysium

The wall at CrossFit Elysium.

Last month I paid a visit to see my friends at CrossFit Elysium and work out with the gang for a couple of days. It had been six months since I’d last been at the box in North Park. It was my experience of being a member at Elysium and seeing firsthand the dynamic involved that makes CrossFit effective that I tried to report in my book.

It’s something else to visit a CrossFit group like the one at Elysium after not seeing them in person for half of a year. The improvements were simply stunning. For example, a fellow runner at the gym, Rachel Barry, was at one of the workouts I attended and we immediately resumed an old joke between us about an odd coincidence that occurred every time we showed up for the same workout hour—it always seemed to be a day when Overhead Squats were on the schedule.

And weirdly enough, it happened again. And it was remarkable how much Rachel had improved with the OHS, the OHS being a mobility nemesis for runners of all abilities. I think the weight she was using was about a 30 or 40% improvement from the last time we’d worked out together.

My training partner for back squats, Scott Caraveo.

In a 4:30 workout that I attended, I got to train with Irene Mejia. I remembered how that particular class was usually five or six people training with Coach Paul Estrada. No longer. The class was full, 12 athletes, and Irene was clearly the star attraction. I partnered up with Scott Caraveo, another of my old training buddies, for squats. I asked him about how much the 4:30 class had grown.

Irene Mejia being spotted by Coach Paul Estrada.

“Absolutely,” he said. “And I think it’s largely because of Irene. She’s such an inspiration to everyone. Including me. You look at how hard she pushes in a workout and it’s just motivating.”

What an amazing thing to say and draws me to the title of this blog, “No Excuses.” I was reading a rather startling article yesterday about data suggesting that Americans are more sedentary than ever. Data that just drives me nuts considering how type-2 adult diabetes is skyrocketing along with obesity rates. Such data reminds me of all of those conversations I’ve had with people–some in the 20s—who claim that there’s no way they could ever so much as run a mile as they might a marathon, and that they have apparently come to some conclusion that fitness and exercise are beyond them. I’d love to see them tell that to Irene. Irene who at one time tipped the scale at 450 pounds but now can’t seem to get enough when it comes to CrossFit workouts and CrossFit competitions.

I’ve talked about Irene a fair amount in this blog, and I’m looking forward to competing alongside her in the “Rumble in Paradise” competition at CrossFit Elysium on December 1 and 2. But words don’t do Irene justice. Check out this video of Irene in a recent competition. If anyone you know wishes they could do CrossFit or any other form of exercise but think they can’t, have them watch Irene in action.


In Inside the Box, veteran journalist and marathoner T.J. Murphy goes all in to expose the gritty, high-intensity sport of CrossFit®. From staggering newcomer to evangelist, Murphy finds out how it feels, why it’s so popular, and whether CrossFit can fix his broken body.