If you’ve ever used the “I don’t have time” excuse to get out of a WOD, please meet Sam Dong. A member of CrossFit 718 since November 2012, Sam holds down a demanding job as a high school Vice Principal, plays competitive dodgeball, has been planning a wedding for the past year, and still finds time to train as a member of 718’s competition team.
We talked to Sam about finding the right workout, having fun and achieving goals.
How did you discover CrossFit?
I was in search of a fitness program, after living a really unhealthy lifestyle. I ate out or had takeout, I slept late, and considered dancing in the clubs as exercise. I noticed that I wasn’t fitting into my clothes. I then looked for gyms by our South Slope apartment, and made my boyfriend Sean sign up for the Y. Unfortunately, we paid for membership for about 2 years, having only gone twice, maybe three times. We dabbled in regular and hot yoga, thought about doing martial arts, and started running loops at Prospect Park to train for races like everyone else. It just wasn’t fun for me, for us. CrossFit 718 was close by, and I stalked their website, walked past it a few times, and youtubed a lot of videos. We were in awe and really intimidated. However, after our basics course, we were surprised that we were able to scale everything so we could complete the workouts. The WODs beat us down every time, but it felt good. The coaches were smart and encouraging, and I started to see actual results.
Why you do CrossFit?
The thing I look forward to most every day is getting to the box. I know I will get a great work out, and I get to hang out with the awesome coaches and people there. At the box, I am always learning something new, working on getting better at something, and the people around me push me to be better. I’ve been so motivated and amazed by the athletes around me that I took a Level I course. It was a great experience to learn about the movements in depth, the reasoning behind it, and how to help others. CrossFit has really changed my life – and I am loving the way I look and feel.
You’re now a member of the competition team. What has that transition been like?
I think it was one of the best things that has happened to me. I used to watch from afar and think that they were crazy to do so much! But, I love the high expectations Coach Iz sets, the camaraderie between the team members, and how much stronger I’ve become. Mentally, I know that every practice I attend will be hard and trying, and I do miss the regular classes. But, doing more also means I get to eat more – that’s always a plus.
What’s your favorite lift?
Anything with squats! I was blessed with huge quads, so they’re the easiest movement for me. Air squats, wall balls, back squats, front squats, even overhead squats are fun. I can load up a lot of weight and I always surprise myself at how much I can do, especially compared to the guys!
Tell me about a recent achievement or PR that you’re proud of.
I remember vividly that we were participating in the Whole Life Challenge with other members of the box. I was getting leaner, and was really determined to do a pull-up. I made Sean buy me a doorway pull-up bar, and I forced myself to attempt five strict pulls daily. Finally, after two years of CrossFit, I was able to do one! Every day from that day on for about three months, I would check to make sure I still ‘had’ them by doing one or two before leaving the house. Just a few weeks back, I surprised myself with strict chest to bars! I’ve come a long way in just eight months!
Tell me about a goal that you’re working on.
I’ve been working on getting a muscle-up ever since it was the first thing that popped up in the Open this past March. I can do a dip, and I can do a pull up, but it’s putting the two together that makes it so difficult! I know that if I put my mind to it, I’ll eventually be able to!
What’s your Fran time?
I finally did it Rx last December, and it took me 10:45. I spent the last two minutes trying to get the last pull-up. We re-did it about three months ago, and I did it in 6:04.
What do you do when you’re not at the box?
When I’m not training, I’m focused on my day job as a Vice Principal of a transfer high school called Lower East Side Prep. We help students ages 16-21 get their high school diploma before it is too late. We have recent immigrants, students who have dropped out, were bullied, or were just unhappy where they were going to school. I spend my day keeping students looking towards the positive, helping teachers grow, and putting out fires (figuratively and literally!). I work long-ish, 10-12 hour days, dependent upon the days we go to the box.
On Tuesday nights you can find Sean and I playing competitive dodgeball with our friends. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is so much fun, and doing CrossFit has allowed me to throw harder and survive longer. Saturdays are my rest days, and if we are in the city we try to go out to a science museum, watch a movie, or most likely, you will find us wandering around looking for donuts to feed Sean. Otherwise, I am perfectly happy reading a Stephen King novel, lounging on my tiny Brooklyn terrace.
By: Jenessa Connor