CFPA Origins Part One

“The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.” – Seth Godin (Tribes)

Tim’s Deep Squats (Thoughts)

In 2004 I was living/working in South San Francisco and playing rugby in SF. I followed a strength program provided by a coach at Cal. In the Spring I started dating a smoking hot police officer that ran marathons, played softball, soccer and ice hockey. During the summer one of her dispatchers suggested that Kristen and I go over to Santa Cruz to try out this gym she went to called CrossFit, since we both enjoyed going to the gym and working out. I distinctly remember saying, “I’m NOT driving over the hill to go workout for an hour.” (This remains my biggest CrossFit regret as this was the Original CrossFit gym and would be closed a few years later.)

I was told the workouts could be found online. I found one I thought was doable and tried it at my gym. Just pull-ups, pushups, situps and squats. I never finished. It took too long and I was too tired! Barbara was her name. It was a warm welcome to the world of “That’s it?” and “Is that all?”.

Fast forward to 2008. I was struggling to find work and purpose after some cross-country moves with Kristen and our growing family. Nicole was 1.5 and Natalie was on the way. My brother, Matt, sent me Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week on cd’s. I learned some life efficiency skills and about passive income. Matt also told me about this marketing guy he saw live named Seth Godin. The guy wrote a book called Tribes and even mentions CrossFit in the book. Like any little brother that idolizes his big brother, I read that book, too. And it changed my life forever.

While searching for work, my dear friend Joe Sarti got me hired to coach kettlebells and olympic weightlifting at CrossFit Silicon Valley in San Jose. I used the idea from Tribes that groups of people can be identified and developed into niche markets. I did this with my weightlifting class in the gym. We became our own little group within the bigger group of CrossFitters at the gym.

By 2009 we were living in Palo Alto and Dean Smith (my pastor and mentor), encouraged me to start my own gym. However, we were broke. We didn’t have savings to spend on a startup gym. And we were not about to take out a loan. Kristen had been working full time while I stayed home with the girls and tried to find employment to trade places with her as the provider for our family. What to do?

Back to these books. I had the idea that if I could create passive income from a product like Tim Ferris did, then I could fund our lives and a gym. I developed a game plan and with a $5000 loan from my parents we got started. That money paid for our affiliation with CrossFit, insurance and a down payment on video production services for the first ever CrossFit Instructional Video available on DVD through internet sales. This was going to be HUGE. Money was going to roll in! CrossFit Palo Alto was formed October 1, 2009.

Maybe it wasn’t that fast, or easy. In truth, we probably sold less than 50 DVD’s in the 3 years before CrossFit sent us a Cease and Desist letter. LOL. During this process I started training people in my garage. Personal training clients from Craigslist. A coworker from Kristen’s job. Neighbors. Pastors. Anyone that I could convince to try it. For about a month. Until the Homeowner’s Association kicked CFPA out of the garage. Like so many times in life, the things we fear become the gateway to something greater.

By November, I found what we now refer to as The Flower Shop in the “Storage” section of Craigslist. 750 square feet. Thank you Gil for being a personal training client that paid most of the rent since CFPA only had about 5 members. But, we had a location! I coached early mornings before Kristen worked and after she got home.

Nowadays, many new CrossFit affiliate owners profess their “why” as a desire to help people and to share the gospel of functional fitness and work capacity. Not me. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew that my wife wanted to be home to care for our kids and I wanted to provide for all of them. This was my “WHY”. I had to find a way to make this work so she could quit her job. No other interviews or career paths were panning out. My skills were/are: I like to workout and I talk a lot.

In early 2010, after spending a weekend day/evening building plyo boxes and paralletes, I was thanking Dr. Dan for helping. He brushed me off and said, “Of course, I’m happy to help. You’ve changed my life. I love this place.”

I can’t sufficiently express the overwhelming effect this had on me. A life was being changed with CrossFit. Here in this little shack called CrossFit Palo Alto! WOW! And not just the training making him physically stronger. His soul and mind were refreshed. We had fun. We laughed. We shared. My life was better, too. This just might be something I can dig into. It wasn’t going to be easy. But, it will be worth it.

In the coming months, I plan to share more about how CrossFit Palo Alto came to be and the role that each of us play in its future. I hope you enjoy the history lesson.


The Flower Shop. November 4th, 2009.

The paneling would soon be torn down and pull-up bars installed on the back wall.

What’s Going On?

Annual Thanksgiving Week Closure

No formal classes during the week of Thanksgiving. But, check out these two offerings to get together and be active:

2nd Annual CFPA Turkey Ruck

Friday, November 24th, 9:05am

Arastradero Preserve

(Coffee Provided)

CFPA Annual Holiday Party and White Elephant Exchange

Saturday, December 9th, 5-8pm

Location: CFPA

Overheard in Class:

“Feelings aren’t results.”


Natalie and I had a fun time watching a couple movies on Netflix while “van camping” in Santa Barbara last weekend. Here are our recommendations:

Home Team  Inspired by actual events, the film tells the story of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton who coached his 12-year-old son’s football team during his one-year suspension from the NFL. Kevin James (King of Queens/Paul Blart) plays the defamed coach.

Hustle Stanley Sugarman (Adam Sandler) is a down-on-his-luck NBA scout who discovers a raw but talented basketball player in Spain and tries to prepare him for the NBA draft. Queen Latifah is Sandler’s wife in the movie and does a great job balancing him.

Send me your influences. Music? Books? Movies? Series?