Athlete of the Month- Brian Lucke

TK Half StadiumI’m Brian Lucke, and I’ve been a CrossFit Solafide member for about nine months, almost all of which has been spent with Team 5.5. If I were to say that the effect on my life from my short time as a CFSF athlete were profound it would be a vast understatement. Certainly, the path I’m on now with regard to my overall fitness is far different and more rewarding than any I’ve encountered before. Originally from the Washington D.C. area, I wasn’t much more than an average athlete growing up, though I did enjoy and play soccer, football, hockey, and lacrosse as a kid and teenager. Bicycling was important to me growing up as well however, like a lot of teenagers, I forgot about bikes around the time I was old enough to get a driver’s license. Many times over, I’ve had the opportunity to re-discover various athletic activities but never to the point that I would have thought of myself as an “athlete”.

 I’m also a retired Army First Sergeant pushing 50 years old (I’ll be 48 this year), married to my best friend, and father of two amazingly talented kids who inspire me every day. I’ve been privileged to have a rewarding military career, followed by civilian career and accompanying life experiences that have allowed me to continue to learn and do what I love to do; even grow. Increasingly, my passion is for finding ways to make myself, my family, even the community more sustainable and resilient. Beginning with my first post-military employment at Dell in Nashville, I’ve pursued work projects that find ways to produce less waste, yet accomplish more. As a Department of the Army civilian employee, my role as modeling and simulation project leader at the Kinnard Mission Training Complex allows me to find efficiencies for training programs, while meeting or exceeding expectations for unit training objectives.

CrossFit is, for me, a natural fit in my chosen life pursuits because of its inherent inclusiveness and universal scalability more than any other single factors. This inclusiveness, a kind of anti-specialization, requires the CrossFit athlete to challenge conventional wisdom and apply a wide variety of fitness, nutritional, and even spiritual disciplines in pursuit of incrementally challenging goals. Universal scalability means that entry-level access to the building blocks required for achieving a challenging goal are available to anyone. This philosophy mirrors the “thinking out-of-the-box” mentality required of those seeking new ways to achieve sustainability and resilience within organizations and communities because both require maximum inclusion and the ability to scale effort where it makes appropriate sense to do so. The practice of CrossFit, along with the pursuit of other wellness-related interests, becomes extremely relevant daily practice for viewing life’s other activities and challenges in the same way.

Finding the path I would eventually travel with regard to fitness hasn’t been without challenge or setback. The transition from 21 years of military life to working a civilian job, for instance, was something that physically and mentally I just wasn’t prepared for; and it began to show shortly after I retired from the Army. The first year I spent retired from the Army I easily gained 15 pounds, having become much more sedentary in my habits than I had been previously. To make things worse I found out in 2008, after experiencing frequent pain in my left leg, that I had a severely degenerated disk in my lumbar spine. The disk was degenerated so much, that the vertebrae had begun to slip, pinching the nerve running down my left leg and causing an unrelenting cramping sensation that made it difficult to stand or walk. In June 2008, I ended up having a lumbar spine fusion at L5-S1 (known as a TLIF; Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion) which removed the degenerated disk and fused the vertebrae together.

The aftermath of that experience was highlighted by a long, slow road to recovery that lasted almost two years. In addition to a permanent titanium appliance in my back, my doctors at the time said it would be wise for me to give up any exercise that caused excessive stress or impact; like running. For a long while I heeded that advice, avoiding “high impact” exercise which eventually became avoiding most exercise. By the end of 2009, I was in the worst shape of my life, having gained almost 25 pounds since I retired from the Army. I was so depressed I even started smoking, a dirty habit I had given up 15 years earlier. Seeing the direction in which my life was headed, it was clear that I had to change direction. Having the support of my family made the difference when I gave up the cigarettes again, and committed to going to the gym every day at least five days a week. Slowly, over the next two years, I gave back 20 of the 25 pounds of body fat I had gained since 2007.

Working out in the gym alone, however, soon presented new challenges. Though the weight came off and my overall fitness improved, I quickly reached a plateau that I couldn’t rise above. Of course, I was “working out” in the traditional sense doing all sorts of specialized movements on certain days, all cardio on others, with little regard for correct movement, variation, or intensity. In essence, I had corrected one problem and created a whole new set of problems that would require un-learning eventually. Fortunately, the opportunity to learn something new came when I saw Ali Diaz at a Fort Campbell Garrison Town Hall meeting one day in the summer of 2012. We know each other previously because our kids both studied karate at the same dojo. Ali told me about the gym, or “box”, she was going to saying how great it was and how much it had changed her life. By the end of June 2012, I on-ramped at CrossFit Solafide and began having the same experience.

After almost 9 months of consistent WOD’s (4-6 days a week), one successfully completed nutrition challenge, a 9 week half-marathon training program and a successfully completed half-marathon I can honestly say I feel the best I can ever recall feeling. As an illustration of where life and art meet, I made a commitment last year when the new box opened to bicycle there every day. Bicycling for me is more than a sport or an exercise; it’s activism against all the things that trap us culturally into unsustainable lifestyles and communities. Some people seem amazed that I would ride to the box especially on colder days, but I’ve been and continue to be amazed at all the individual stories that brought us together where we are now. My peers at Solafide are the motivation I draw on every day; not just when the WOD is tough or if I’m not feeling well. Combined with the family at home that I love, my CrossFit family and the goals we strive for every day put me on the path I intend to keep for a lifetime.

CrossFit Solafide

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