Student Spotlight: Jacob Levin

Jacob racks the barbell for a front squat

Where are you from?
Beaufort, South Carolina, originally. I’ve moved around a good bit in my life. Sometimes I even forget a few of the states I’ve hit.

When did you first start training at CrossFit Missoula?
August, 2013

Tell us about your sports & fitness background:
I was never a very athletic kid. I preferred books to sports, though I spent a lot of time racing small boats in sailing regattas as a kid. Growing up, I spent time studying various martial arts, though I never stuck to one past a year or so. I’ve studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Krav Maga, Hawaiian Kempo, Muay Thai, and Jeet Kune Do. I served in the US Army and, while that didn’t turn me into a champion athlete, I certainly learned a lot about fitness and about how to push myself far outside my comfort zone. Apart from my general running and rucking, I also attended the US Army Combatives Level One and Two courses.

How did you first get exposed to CrossFit?
I was in college, back in 2006. The movie “300” was either just coming out, or had just come out, and everyone was talking about that wacky “300” workout. My friend Amber and I got curious, did some research, and discovered CrossFit. We spent the next two years training ourselves, though we weren’t really any good at it! My first affiliate visit was in 2008, while I was studying in Leeds, England. I attended CrossFit Manchester, and was absolutely humbled. That was when I realized that I needed a real coach, if I was going to get good at this stuff. When I got back from overseas, Carolina CrossFit had just opened, and that became my new home.

What was your first workout and how did it go? How did you feel after?
I don’t remember my very first workout, but my first one at Carolina CrossFit was “Murph”. I was doing jumping pullups rather than regular pullups, but I did wear the weight vest. It rocked my world. I think I spent thirty minutes afterward just rolling from my back to my side. I loved it!

What’s your favorite workout?
I’m not sure! Maybe “Nicole”? Anything with pullups.

Least favorite workout?
Anything with double-unders. God, I hate double-unders.

What sort of changes have you seen in your body, health and fitness since starting CrossFit?
When I was in college, before I started CrossFit, I weighed 117 and looked like a skeleton. I could stick my hands inside my ribcage. I’m over 20 pounds heavier now, and have a much better body composition. I’m able to do things I wouldn’t have thought possible five years ago. In particular, since I came to Crossfit Missoula, I’ve overcome a serious back injury. I’m able to run again – and to even enjoy running, which used to hurt like hell. Health-wise, I sleep better, I feel more energized throughout the day, and I’m far more conscious of the way my body is moving and feeling than I ever have been before.

What sort of unexpected changes in your life have you experienced out of taking on something like CrossFit?
The biggest thing that I’ve noticed, particularly in the past six months, is a shocking increase in mental clarity. I’ve always been a smart guy, but I’ve suffered from things like ADD and depression at different points in my life. I’ve had a hard time focusing on tasks, or finding the motivation to stick with them. Since I’ve really committed to CrossFit, I find that those problems are largely gone. I can focus, and think clearly, in ways that I haven’t been able to for years.

Please share with us any favorite CrossFit moments:
My favorite CrossFit Missoula moment was actually during one of my coaching sessions. We were doing one-rep max  jerks, and I watched my two athletes both set new personal records. I think that I was more excited than they were! Realizing how far I’ve come, from barely being able to understand a jerk to helping someone else improve theirs, was amazing. It just felt great!

Any advice for people just getting started or new to CrossFit?
Get excited! These workouts are tough, and they can be intimidating. But they’re only as scary as you let them be. Change the way you’re looking at the challenge – tell yourself how pumped-up you are to crush this thing! Bring that level of enthusiasm to every task, and you’ll succeed massively.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I get pissed off when someone tells me that I can’t do something. It flips a switch in my head, and I set out to crush that thing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching myself and everyone else in the gym, it’s that we should never let someone else tell us what we can’t do. I see people doing some amazing things every time they come in.