The Top Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ryan Clark

By now, most CrossFit Autonomy members have met our new coach, Ryan Clark. By how much do you REALLY know about Ryan? We assigned a crack investigative journalist — who insists on anonymity for his own safety — to reveal the inside story on “The Top Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ryan Clark.”

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Ryan Clark Displays Picture Perfect Form. (Photo Credit: Mary Radosh)

#5 – Ryan Once Traded WODs for Mopping The Floor

The Ryan Clark story begins with Ryan discovering CrossFit online while still a high school student. Ryan did his best to coach himself, using videos as a guide. But there is only so far you can get working out on your own on public playgrounds. Ryan realized he needed to join an affiliate. But there was a problem: no money. After a lot of calling around, Ryan was finally able to find an affiliate owner willing to waive fees in return for him mopping the floor and helping out. Ryan will be forever grateful.

#4 – Ryan Has Worked With College Athletes

While earning his Finance degree at the University of North Dakota,  Ryan spent two years as an intern at the university’s strength and conditioning department, working with volleyball, soccer, and basketball teams. Ryan also became CrossFit Level 1 certified and got serious about becoming a competitive Olympic weightlifter.

#3 – Ryan is Following His Dream

At age 22, and with a stellar academic and business record, Ryan passed up the opportunity of pursuing a a lucrative career in corporate finance. Instead, he is following his real passions: Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit coaching. Now an accomplished Oly lifter, Ryan hopes to one day represent the United States in international competition.

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Coach Ryan Clark is here to help.

#2 – Ryan Thinks CrossFit Autonomy is Special

Ryan has already served as a head coach at another CrossFit affiliate. And he interviewed at many other affiliates before accepting a position at CrossFit Autonomy. Ryan thinks the outstanding quality of coaching for members of all ability levels sets CrossFit Autonomy apart.

#1 – Ryan Is a Lot Like You

Ryan recalls “making every mistake in the book” as a beginning CrossFitter, including rounding his back on deadlifts. So he understands being a bit overwhelmed at the start. And he can help get you to the next level — by providing the coaching he lacked when he began his CrossFit journey. “This is where I got to be the most happy and help the most people,” says Ryan.

Top Ten Things That Will Happen When You Begin CrossFit

Here at CrossFit Autonomy, we see lives transformed every day. It’s very gratifying. After all, that’s why we here: to help people lead better, happier lives. So we’re always interested in first-person stories. Which is why a recent Huffington Post story caught our eye.

Josuha M. Brown, an investment advisor and author of Backstage Wall Street who blogs at The Reformed Broker wrote:

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Joshua M. Brown

“What led to me beginning CrossFit was a realization that, if left to my own devices, I would never push myself hard enough to truly make the changes I needed to in order to get in shape…. And so on July 21st, at 258 pounds and sick of seeing my giant moon-face on TV every day, I walked into the CrossFit Lighthouse in Wantagh, Long Island and submitted to a long-overdue comeuppance. I marched my Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man-frame into a firefight I wasn’t truly prepared for. It’s 90 days later and I still have a long way to go to get back to the old me. But I’m happy to report that for the first time in years I feel like I’m back in control and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Every day I get closer.”

Brown goes on to list the top ten things that will happen when you begin CrossFit. Among them:

You’ll begin to respect endurance and stamina. When you’re a kid, your idea of strength revolves around how much one can lift, what someone’s arms and chest look like, etc. If you haven’t yet grown out of this idea, you will upon beginning CrossFit. You will begin to be much more amazed at things like quad strength and lower back strength. You’ll be blown away by the ability of others to do hundreds of airsquats or hold various static positions (holding one’s body in a plank six inches above the ground or half-squatting with one’s back against the wall, with thighs perpendicular to the ground and a 20-pound medicine ball pressed to one’s chest. When you can barely get through 30 seconds in these positions but you see someone hold them for 4 to 6 minutes, all of your ideas about what being strong means will be out the window.

Crossfit highland Park, ILYour friends and family will start Googling the term CrossFit and giving you warnings. “Oh, you’re doing that Cross thing, I think I just read something about that…” They will come across a rare disorder wherein people push themselves past the exhaustion point until their muscle fibers begin to break down and slip through the bloodstream into their kidneys. They will also come across stories about injuries and the like associated with CrossFit search terms. The reality is that these types of injuries can and do occur with any kind of training if taken too far and under the wrong type of supervision. You are equally likely to be injured while ice skating, lifting weights alone, horseback riding, surfing or doing any other type of strenuous activity if you are engaging recklessly and not taking the proper precautions. I would also note that there is an ongoing fear-mongering campaign being waged by the traditional fitness clubs and gyms. They see the proliferation of the CrossFit movement across the country as a massive threat to their membership rolls. There is no possible way that a guy doing his usual leisurely circuit around the same 12 or 15 machines in a gym is ever going to get the intensity of a workout at a CrossFit box

You’ll notice an uptick in energy, even when you’re dead sore from CrossFitting. This new-found energy bounce comes from the fact that you’re dragging less fat around with you all day and you’re breathing easier. You’re putting less wear and tear on your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems and the dividend is you can keep up with your kids and accomplish more each day. The confidence and happiness that comes along with this is self-explanatory. Wait til you see the little and unexpected ways in which these peripheral benefits creep into your daily routine at home and at work!

You will learn a lot about your mental toughness. You will find that you barely knew yourself at all before beginning this adventure. That you didn’t have a clue about what really made you tick, your own elemental motivations and desires. In the heat of battle, when your head is soaked in sweat and there is nothing but the clanging of metal and the grunting of others around you, you will reach inside of yourself and go to that next level. When you realize that you are 80 percent of the way through a particularly punishing workout, you will dig deep and find what you need to get through to the other side. It’s there, and maybe you haven’t had to access it in years — decades — but when you finally do…my god.

Read the whole article here.

The Jen and Matt Shaffer Story: 40-Something and Looking Good!


Can a busy 40-something couple with two kids find the time to use CrossFit to lead better lives? The answer to that question is a big “yes” in the case of Jen and Matt Shaffer. 

Matt Shaffer: Funny, he doesn't look Turkish!

Matt Shaffer: Funny, he doesn’t look Turkish!

Jen wears many hats: Mom, wife, Hebrew school teacher, and soon-to-be realtor. Matt is a successful precious metals commodity trader. With two children, now aged 12 and 9, both have struggled in the past to make fitness part of their lives. 

“There are 8,720 hours in a year, but with all that’s going on I couldn’t find one for myself,” says Jen. Matt adds that nice restaurants and “a wine habit” also took their toll.

Not that the couple are slackers. Over the years, they have a tried a variety of fitness programs. Matt lifted weights in younger days. And the couple has tried everything from aerobics, to working out at a community center to kettlebells and even CrossFit at another affiliate. But consistency was always an issue. 

Jen says: “there’s only so much you can do on the elliptical machine before it gets boring.”

All that changed when they joined CrossFit Autonomy. 

Matt says:  “It’s almost one-on-one training” thanks to classes capped at 8. The schedule can “basically be customized” to when members want to work out.

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Jen Shaffer: Looking Good!

Jen and Matt say CrossFit Autonomy Head Coach Kevin Houston is so modest that his extensive training background has only slowly trickled out over time.  The couple praises Kevin’s “great eye” and “his attention to detail” and his “unbelievable” ability to correct movement on even the most complex lifts.

“The level of expertise is unmatched,” says Matt. “I just can’t imagine anyone doing it better.” 

The couple says Kevin has brought them “to a whole new level.” Matt especially remembers doing a partner row with Kevin as the cashout for a tough workout and being motivated to set a PR of 1:41 for 500 meters.

Matt and Jen’s children have also tried CrossFit and will be returning. 

The bottom line? Jen says: “Kevin never ceases to amaze me.” 

Less Running, Better Results: Another CrossFit Success Story

What can a lifelong athlete who teaches PE at an elementary school learn from CrossFit?

Quite a lot, in the case of 28-year-old David Hawk.

David is one of CrossFit Autonomy’s most enthusiastic members. An endurance athlete, David has improved his 50k race time more than 25 minutes to five hours and twenty minutes.

David Hawk, displaying his finisher's medal after PRing in a 50k race.

David Hawk, displaying his finisher’s medal after PRing in a 50k race.

It’s all happened in just five months. And here’s the kicker: David now barely runs at all, outside his CrossFit classes.

“I’ve made huge strides in strength, flexibility and competitiveness,” says David.

He has high praise for CrossFit Autonomy owner and head coach Kevin Houston.

“Kevin always takes the time to explain the ‘why’ on  such things as foot positioning in weightlifting. As a teacher myself, I appreciate that. People are motivated to learn when they understand why they are being asked to do something.”

David finds the CrossFit short duration/high intensity approach “the complete opposite of what we’ve all been told all our lives about fitness.” He’s even started using some CrossFit-influenced ideas with his own students. One example is using Tabata air squats with a soccer team he coaches.

As a coach himself, David naturally sees the value in coaching. He likes the small class sizes of no more than eight at CrossFit Autonomy. There is plenty of one-on-one attention and accountability.

David also like the unique atmosphere: at once welcoming to all, but also competitive.

So David now finds “just running is boring.” He has made great strides in weightlifting and mastered some gymnastics movements, though his double unders still need work.

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Less running, better results!

David’s CrossFit journey began with him trying to do the workouts as prescribed on the main website.

He now laughs of his naivete because “we all need professional guidance.”

And professional guidance is exactly what Kevin Houston and CrossFit Autonomy offer, regardless of your current fitness level.

So what are you waiting for?

Call Kevin today to begin your fitness journey.