Tag Archives: Member Stories

Member Stories – Paulla Santos

Hello, everyone! Thanks for checking out my member story!

As a child, I spent a lot of time hiking the various forests in the Pacific Northwest and playing different sports. During my first couple years of college, I played for the University of Oregon Women’s Rugby Team and played in the UO Marching Band.

Being active had always been a part of my life. However, during my last two years at the UO, I became more involved in research as a history student. I was busy writing my honors thesis and during that time I paid little attention to my diet and did not take time to exercise.

I began to notice various changes with my body. Specifically, my energy level was incredibly low and my heart and back started to ache as well. After many failed attempts to get back to my active lifestyle, I decided to give it another shot a few weeks before graduation.

I started slow rather than trying to do too much, too soon like I had previously done. I removed various food and drinks from my diet such as soda, sweets, and other high calorie foods. I also decided to walk everywhere I went. By the time I moved to Madison, Wisconsin for graduate school, I had lost approximately 35 lbs. in about four months.

One day in the of Fall 2016, I decided that I wanted to take my fitness journey to the next level. In addition, I wanted to maintain a more balanced lifestyle when it came to school and my mental/physical health. Many people have told me that I would really enjoy CrossFit and so happens CrossFit Recursive is only about a 10-15 minute walk from my apartment.

Long story short, I absolutely love CrossFit. The structure and variety of workouts, and the supportive community are among my top reasons why I enjoy going to the gym.

I have been a member for about 7 months and I have yet to see a repeated workout. There is always something new that will push me in various ways and I find that incredibly exciting.

The community is amazing. I came to the gym immensely self conscious knowing that I was much weaker than how I was during my rugby days. However, with the support of the Recursive coaches and other members, I have regained my confidence. They always have encouraging things to say and their suggestions push me to be a stronger and more efficient lifter.

My personal record of 110lbs. for bench press and my PR of 245lbs. for deadlift are my proudest moments at the gym thus far. Experiences like these prepared me for my return to the rugby pitch during the UO alumni weekend in May 2017.

Now I intend to train for my first CrossFit competition. Here’s to continued growth at CrossFit Recursive and thanks again for reading!

Member Stories – Lauren Sichterman

Dear “Normal Gym,”

We’re over. It’s not me, it’s you.

Let’s start at the beginning. I graduated college in May 2015, and that’s when I promised to spend more time with you. I was in decent shape; I went from a brief stint as a Division 1 swimmer to walking 8-10 miles per day for school and work. However, I found it hard to fit you into my new lifestyle. Sure, call me lazy.

I’ll admit it: I never made you a priority. You were boring. I’d always worked with a coach or relied on functional fitness; I had no idea how to program a workout that would appropriately challenge me. Our workouts consisted of a few half-assed minutes on a cardio machine and a gander around the weight room. I guess you just couldn’t satisfy me.

After almost year of avoiding you altogether, a ten-year-old asked if I would be her jogging partner in a 5K and I had to decline because I honestly didn’t think I could keep up with her. I’d never been more embarrassed!

In a moment of desperation, I signed up for CrossFit Recursive’s May 2016 New You Challenge.  I had never tried CrossFit before, but they advertised attentive coaches, nutrition advice, and workouts that would push my limits. You should know: I’ve been seeing them ever since.

I’m sorry if this is a lot to take in.

“Normal gym,” after just a few months of CrossFit, I overcame my fear by running 5K in a WOD. I was encouraged by an enthusiastic coach and cheered on by a group of athletes who focused only on my accomplishment, not on my struggle to get there. Finally, I was a member of a team again. You never gave me that kind of support.

Throughout the next year, I learned Olympic lifts, mastered the rope climb, and competed in the CrossFit Open. In May 2017, I ran my first half marathon. I’m sure you didn’t see that coming!

With Recursive, I never lose motivation and I’m never bored. Each workout is different and there’s always a new skill to learn or perfect.  Recursive’s coaches are so knowledgeable and patient. My fellow athletes always have me laughing, even through the toughest workouts. I may go into Recursive sleepy or grumpy, but I never leave in a bad mood. I can’t imagine a better way to get fit.

CrossFit has given me the no-brainer healthy lifestyle that I needed.  All I have to do is show up and follow directions to notice BIG results. I have so much more confidence to do whatever activities life tosses in my direction.

Best of all, Recursive has given me a community. I spend every morning with my friends. I’m proud to be a member of a notoriously welcoming group of coaches and athletes. We all have different fitness backgrounds and goals, but we all crush the workouts respective to that. Together.

What we had was never sustainable. What I have with Recursive is real, and our journey is just beginning. I’m feeling better than ever.

Goodbye and good riddance,


Member Stories – Rachel Strauch-Nelson

 A couple of years ago, I decided to make some changes in my life. I wasn’t happy with my health or how I felt about myself and realized it was time to do something about it. I started working out more, eating right, and finally, after some persuading from friends, decided to try CrossFit.

My friends (including Todd Kinsman) were pretty convincing, but they also just wouldn’t stop talking about it, so I figured it was time to get in on the conversation.

When I started at Recursive, I brought a lot of nervousness with me, not much confidence, and a very fixed view of myself. I don’t have an athletic background and thought that being an athlete or just being fit was not necessarily part of who I am.

I had also barely ever touched a barbell or done any of the movements we do in class. My first class included handstand push ups and pistols, and somehow, the coaches and community convinced me to come back.

What I’ve learned from being at Recursive is that I’m capable of a lot more of than I thought. It feels great to know how much I’ve grown from that first day and how much more I can grow in the future. Cultivating that growth mindset has helped me at the gym, and also in many other parts of my life.

Plus, it’s ton of fun to come to the gym. I used to be afraid of working out with other people, but now I look forward to coming in and seeing everyone here. Even though I’m usually one of the quieter people in class, the community is a huge part of why I keep coming back.

Especially at Recursive, everyone is accepting of others, inclusive, and ready to support you wherever you’re at. I always leave feeling proud of what I’ve accomplished and uplifted by the community.

I think I held off on writing this because it can sound a little cheesy, but it turns out it’s all true. After being part of this community, I am stronger, have more confidence and know that I’m always capable of more.

And now, just like my friends who convinced me to try it, I am one of those people who won’t stop talking about how great our gym is.

Member Stories – Natalie Huschka

Officer Training School (OTS) or as most people know it as, is boot camp.  When I went to OTS I had 12 years under my belt in the Air Force. I had already been through enlisted boot camp so I had a general idea of what to expect.

I am no spring-chicken, so I worked hard to prepare for the physical fitness portion, doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), before leaving for eight weeks. I enjoyed this type of workout, it offered variety and it improved my overall fitness. It wouldn’t be until I left for another 10 weeks, one year after OTS that I finally tried CrossFit.

I was in Biloxi, MS and found a box that just happened to be having an “On-Ramp” program.  I thought if I liked this CrossFit stuff, it would work out perfect that I would do the beginner course for one month and spend the second month to really get “ripped” before I came back to WI.

Before my first session, I spent an hour talking to the gym owner on the phone about where I was currently physically, what were my goals, etc.  I was impressed to say the least, no “big box gym” had ever worried whether I would be the right fit for the gym.

I was hooked instantly! I couldn’t believe that after leaving the first night, I knew four of the eight people there, I had never been to a “gym” like that.  And then when I came back, I kept meeting more people, and despite being out of my comfort zone with the weights, terminology, etc. someone always made me feel comfortable or paired up with me on partner WODs.  Oh yeah, and HIIT had nothing on these WODs and METCONs!

When I left for WI, I was sad to leave. I had no idea I would make such good friends and CrossFit could affect me so much more than just physically. I was also sad to leave because I hadn’t reached my goal of getting “ripped” in two months!

I was really shooting for a Jessica Biel circa Blade timeframe (don’t know it, Google it). So I had to find a box ASAP to continue progressing toward my goal!  My husband and I did some research, toured a box but when we walked into CFR and met Coach Patrick, we knew our search was done.

I have been at CFR since October and I love it.  I joined CrossFit to get “ripped”.  I’m still not at my goal but in just under a year of CrossFit I have noticed a huge difference physically (I just need to be more patient and realize I am not an actress hired to film a movie about vampires!)

Being more physically fit isn’t the only thing I got from CrossFit.  Sometimes the military causes members to become segregated by the nature of our profession/lifestyle.  I was eager to be around “civilians” again, get to know the community, people and stories within it.  Little did I know I could find that by doing CrossFit and being at CFR.

I return every morning because I love the physical and mental challenge CrossFit gives me.  I return every morning because I’m wondering how everyone’s weekend went, those of you buying homes for the first time, I want to hear the excitement in your voice, I want to know how seeing the grandbaby was, your weekend visiting parents.

I return every morning because I want each of you to hold me accountable, to push me for one more rep or maybe a little bit more weight than I thought possible, so that I can slay vampires someday soon!

Member Stories – Dana Wagner

Basketball has always been a part of my life.  I was lucky enough to be able
to keep playing after high school.  After I graduated college and my basketball career came to an end I felt kind of lost.

All my life I had always been part of a team and suddenly I didn’t have a team and my life lacked structure.  I dabbled in other activities trying to find structure and challenge myself.  But, I always felt like something was missing.  I
really missed being part of a team.

After a few years of searching I found CrossFit Recursive and their six week challenge.  CrossFit had intrigued me for some time but I always intimidated to try and start it on my own.

When I found this six week challenge and saw it was for a small group for beginners I decided to give it a try.  When it came time for the first class I was nervous, but, quickly learned there was no need to be.

I immediately felt welcomed by the group and all the coaches.  And, I’ve continued to feel that way ever since even when I transitioned from the small group class to the regular class.

As I continued to attend CrossFit classes I learned that there would be the opportunity for our class to compete in the CrossFit Open.  I decided to signed up for it and decided to give it a try.

My goal was just to try and finish these workouts.  I looked at the first and decided not to scale it, and, to my surprise I RX’d the entire workout.  After that, I decided to try and RX the other workouts; and, with the support of the coaches and other participants I was able to RX the other workouts too.

CrossFit and competing in the Open has made me realize how much I’m truly capable of.  I love the community of CrossFit Recursive; it has truly filled the void that I was missing for all those years.

Member Stories – Elly Raulin

Well hello there, my name is Elly and I love CrossFit.  My tale is like most others you have read.  I wanted to better myself and get more in shape but hadn’t been able to do so on my own.

I was always active in high school and college, participating in Track and Cross Country.  I loved the team atmosphere and social side of working out.

After college, I stayed active but was finding it harder to stay motivated – especially when it came to strength training.  My workouts started to plateau or decline.  I had tried lifting before and thought it was not for me.  So I ran and ran, and, when that got boring, I ran up hill.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t really seeing or feeling the results I wanted.  Something was missing.  Then at the end of 2015 I found CrossFit, specifically the wonderful world of CrossFit Recursive.

I had heard of CrossFit before but never thought it was for me or something I would grow to love.  I was a runner!  I did cross country and track; I don’t lift and do gymnastics… Not just I don’t but I can’t. Right?

have never been so happy to be wrong.  The first day I walked into CrossFit Recursive Coach Vivian greeted me with so much excitement and spunk that it was almost a physical sensation.  She had a lot of coffee that day. We talked and, by the end, I thought I was already a part of the gym the way Viv joked around and chatted with me like she already knew me.

At the beginning, I would come to the gym with my head down thinking this was like any other workout spot – you come in, lace up, work out, and go home.  At other gyms I went to, you were there to work out, not hang out.  Again I was wrong.

Everyone greeted me and wanted to get to know the new member of their community.  That right there is what told me this was going to be different and that I was never going to leave.

The community, friendship, and support of Recursive is what I love.  Sure the workouts are great, and I am hands down in the best shape of my life, but what has me coming back time after time is the people.

I will be moving soon to a new house (in Waunakee) and my friend asked if I was going to find a new CrossFit gym…. “Why would I” was my reply.  I never even thought about it.

There might be a gym closer but it is not MY gym.  I have been a part of the Recursive family for just over a year now and couldn’t imagine a better place to work out.  I’m staying in shape, achieving new goals, watching others improve and succeed and all while meeting new people and making friendships.

Like many people, I have struggled for a long time with body image issues and self-confidence.  The CrossFit workouts and sense of community have been a huge help in working to overcome those problems.

Some of those demons may never go away, but I will continue to fight them into silence and submission with my successes at CrossFit.  For every handstand pushup and PR, they get a little quieter.  The feeling of setting the next goal and having the coaches and my fellow members cheering me on is exhilarating.

I am thankful every day to the community and support this gym has created with its members.  It has helped me to try new things and push myself harder in my workouts.  I love showing up for class and always leave happier and stronger.  It is another home. So thanks for reading and I will see you at the box!

Member Stories – Todd Kinsman

Hi. My name is Todd and I do CrossFit. Honestly, I still find it hard to believe that I do CrossFit.

I didn’t even know what CrossFit was when I came to the gym. Three years ago I set out to find a fitness program that would help me get in shape in time for my wedding (2 months away at the time… in 2014) and I stumbled upon CrossFit.

Because I’ve always been an ‘indoor kid’ I didn’t realize that CrossFit was also a sport that had an increasingly bigger following—I just wanted to have my pizza and eat it too. I came because I was told by a friend that there was a gym downtown offering a free class and that I should check it out if I wanted to get into shape. So that’s what I did.

I signed up for the free class (member number 6, whoot whoot!) and met Nikole and Dirk for the first time. (That’s a photo from the day we all met!) They were kind people who were passionate about fitness in a way that wasn’t intimidating. I felt welcomed to the community and immediately signed up for more classes. About 6 months later I realized I joined a sport but it was too late to back out, I was hooked.

It’s been over 3 years since I signed up and I’m so happy I did. Recursive has been a constant in my life that has not only given me a place to achieve my fitness goals, but also a sense a community and belonging during busy times, sleepy mornings, and exhausted evenings.

Watching others work hard to learn a new movement or reach a new PR has kept me motivated to set similar goals for myself. In the first year I tended to scale most of the workouts but as time passed the awesome coaches have worked with me and showed me techniques to build the strength and flexibility needed to be successful in the WOD movements.

Thanks to CrossFit and the Recursive family, I’m in the best shape of my life. I even enjoy working out and finding new fitness challenges. Last year my goal was to learn how to do a ring muscle up, and I actually did it.

I’m still not great at ring muscle ups but it was a wonderful reminder that the daily work, however tedious, can really pay off. There are so many lessons in the gym that I have applied to my daily life, helping me succeed and generally be a better human and because of that I’m grateful for Recursive and it’s many amazing members.

Member Stories – Jennifer Madden

I am over 40, overweight, have a knee injury – and I CrossFit.  Nine months ago, I was looking for an exercise program that would support my weight loss efforts.  I knew about CrossFit.  My sister was addicted.  I endured hours of conversations revolving around the WOD, her latest PR, her new Olympic lifters, etc.

She encouraged me to check it out so I googled CrosFfit affiliates in Madison.  CrossFit Recursive (CFR) popped up as the closest affiliate.  As I poked around their website, I saw they had a New You: Six Week Challenge program that was geared towards beginners.  I signed up. It was a no brainer.

Of course, the day of the first session I was questioning the ‘no brainer’ part of my decision.  When I showed up to CFR, there was a group of women sitting in the waiting area nervously making small talk.  What I loved immediately about the group was that it was composed of women all ages and all sizes. We were all stepping outside our comfort zone.

Over the course of six weeks, we were introduced to the various CrossFit movements, a nutrition program and, most importantly, the lingo. I remember the first time we did sit-ups I couldn’t believe how bad my abs hurt – they hurt for days!  But each week I kept going back and I wasn’t alone.  Slowly but surely friendships developed. We supported and encouraged each other as we entered the unknown.  “She wants us to do what?!?”  By the time the six weeks were over, I had dropped 10 more pounds, developed muscles I didn’t know I had and made new friends.

The 6 week challenge was over.  Now what?  Do I dare consider attending the regular CrossFit classes?  There was a group of us who really wanted to continue CrossFit but were nervous about attending the “Big girl” classes.  They seemed so intimidating anytime we entered the main room during a WOD – barbells being dropped, music blasting, people were chalking their hands (why would we need chalk?), etc.

Our answer was to pick a class time we could all attend so we had each other to lean on during the class.  During our first class, everyone was so welcoming and encouraging.   The coaches were awesome.

I remember one day my CrossFit partner-in-crime and I were staring nervously at the bars we were expected to hang on to.  The coach came up to us – clearly aware we were ready to dart out of the building the first moment we could – and talked us through the WOD and gave us options to scale the movements.  Lo and behold, we actually were able to hang off the bar and lift our knees at the same time – who knew?

Every time I finished a workout, I amazed myself at what I could do.  I would get so nervous before a WOD but then I did it.  What a great feeling!  Even though I had to scale almost everything we did, I quickly learned that no matter your fitness level the WODs are still hard for everyone – scaled or not.

The other thing I learned is to get over myself.  It is my body and my workout.  I simply cannot compare myself to anyone else.

Now that I was hooked, my sister suggested I do a CF competition because it would be a “good fitness goal”.  I signed up for Festivus, a competition geared to the novice and intermediate CrossFitter.  As I signed up, I thought “What am I doing?”  Then I looked at the workouts and thought “I can’t even do some of the moves! Seriously!  What am I doing?”

Box step ups were my nemesis.  I couldn’t step up on a 20 inch box to save my life and now I was going to do a competition that had them in one of the workouts.  It was then I decided I needed to get a one-on-one training.

I started working with Coach Aaron in January.  The competition was in April.  Four months to get ready.  Initially, Aaron did a base line assessment and determined a week by week training plan that would build my strength and increase my mobility.

I still didn’t believe I would ever be able to do box steps ups but then I did them – and I did them after only a handful of sessions.  I couldn’t believe it!  The best part was the excitement from Coach Aaron.  He immediately said ‘We need to share this with everyone’.

At first, I was embarrassed to share it.  It was such a basic move for most people.  The support I received from CFR was overwhelming and speaks to what I love the most about CrossFit – the community! The community at Recursive is what keeps me motivated to continue to show up.

The week leading up to the competition, I kept thinking about the workouts and I would get nervous and question my sanity.  However, the day of the competition I was surprisingly calm.  I was there to celebrate my accomplishments from the past four months.  I was now able to physically do all the movements.

The energy of that day was amazing.  It was exciting to watch people all shapes, sizes and ages compete.  There were five of us from CFR participating in the competition.  I loved that we were there to support and encourage each other.  It made the day so rewarding to watch each of us give it our all.  Participating in Festivus turned out to be a really good decision – and I even PR’d my clean.  (Yes, I speak the CrossFit lingo now.)

I am amazed at what my body can do now that I wouldn’t have been able to consider doing this time last year.  CrossFit has been life changing for me.  I can’t wait to see what I will be able to do this time next year!

Member Stories – Jason Phipps

After my daughter was born in August of 2015, I spent the next year being stressed out with a job change, sleepless nights, and having a borderline horrible diet. I tried to exercise when I could, but I wasn’t focused and had no defined goals on what I was trying to accomplish. This caused me to continue putting on weight and feeling sorry for myself, until I was up late with my daughter and the Crossfit Games happened to be on ESPN. Probably like many people, I thought that the Games was Crossfit.

I assumed you had to be in great shape and have an affinity for going shirtless to be a Crossfitter, so I never considered joining a gym until that night. I talked to my wife about it the following morning, and made a ‘No Sweat Into’ appointment for later that day.

What struck me the most was that Recursive didn’t seem like any other gym I had seen. I have had memberships at a few globo gyms, and those worked like they’re supposed to; go religiously for a month, then quit going and continuing paying until your contract is up. I remember being surprised at how minimalist Recursive was compared to other gyms I had joined before.

Still a little nervous, I decided to sign up for Foundations just to see what it was all about. The six classes were an eye opener, and a great avenue into full classes. I had done some Olympic lifting in high school, so I was familiar with some of those movements. What really stood out was how difficult moving my body weight around was. I had never really done that before, so I realized pretty quickly what my strengths and weaknesses were.

Fast forward to my first few classes, and I finally started to understand what Recursive was all about. I naturally felt intimidated my first full class because I was the oldest person there by about ten years, and overhead squats and running were on the menu that morning.

Like most newbies, I felt like I needed to keep up with the rest of the class and I went out way too hot. About round 3 of Nancy, I thought about walking out the front door and never coming back because I wasn’t ‘good’ enough. What I didn’t expect was the positivity coming from the other athletes in the gym. I was getting high fives on the run, and was being encouraged by the coach and the others when they finished up. Had I been doing that workout on my own, or with a group that didn’t care about helping others finish, I probably wouldn’t have come back.

The same thing happened on my first Sunday workout. Hot Shots 19 seemed simple enough on paper, but it completely wrecked me. I finished dead last, but even the people that finished 20-25 minutes ahead of me stayed to cheer me on. That’s what kept me motivated and coming back. Finishing that workout finally made me realize that it isn’t about competing with others, it’s about getting better every time you step into the gym.

After a solid five months, I decided to sign up to compete at the Festivus Games this past weekend. I think I needed that because I had been going to class anywhere from 2-4 times per week, but hadn’t really changed my lifestyle habits other than showing up to the gym.

I’ll admit that I was starting to feel a little discouraged when I had to step on the scale during my daughter’s last check-up. Check that, a lot discouraged. I finally decided that I needed to take this seriously, otherwise the money I was spending and pain I was putting myself through each week probably wasn’t worth it.

I made a few changes, including giving up alcohol until the competition was over (roughly 40 days) and completely giving up soda in favor of water. I also made it a point to go to Open Gym on Sundays and work on the WOD’s that made up the Festivus Games. In that 40 days, I dropped about 15 lbs and can now fit into a few pairs of pants/jeans I hadn’t been able to wear in over a year. That’s a great feeling.

I know it might sound cheesy or cliché, but the past eight months have really changed my life. I have a newfound toughness in my work life, and I fully contribute that to having to gut out a few more reps before the clock hits zero.

And though she doesn’t even know it yet, I’m setting a positive example for my daughter that I wasn’t doing before I started at Recursive. Another big part of me getting to the point I have is the support of my wife. She has been unbelievably supportive of me and has probably taken a back seat at times when I want to go to the gym. I think it’s vital to have someone in your corner, and I wouldn’t be making the positive changes I am without her.

Overall, the entire experience has been fantastic, and I hope that anybody that is on the fence when it comes to starting Crossfit takes my story and decides to jump in the deep end. It’s totally worth it.