Member Spotlight: Brad Otts

Brad Otts in a nutshell: 7 on the Enneagram, tattoos, self-deprecation, sass.

And for Brad Otts in his purest form, proceed (with caution) below:

Q: What did you think about CrossFit before you started doing it, and why did you decide to get into it?

A: I was originally introduced to “Crossfit” via my Father-in-law (also known as the greatest human in existence) Michael Vasko about 7 or so years ago. I didn’t know much about it, but knew that I personally was very athletic, formidably successful at all athletic endeavors I participated in, and confident in my ability to eventually master all aspects of it. After starting, I learned that there were some movements that would take longer for me to master, mostly mobility issues involving my wrists, hips, arms legs, back, neck, chest, feet, head, and general body area, but as previously stated, I was confident my raw natural abilities, so I proceeded.

Q: What is the worst nickname you’ve ever had and explain the meaning behind it.

A: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a nickname per se, rather it’s my initials. My first name is Bradley, that first initial being the letter “B”. My middle name is Joseph, that first initial being “J”.  My last name is Otts, that first initial being the letter “O”. As such, no matter which way my given name was presented in abbreviated initialized form… I was a moving target.

“BJ” —- you can do the math.

“BO” — yea… strike 2.

Needless to say, that is how I grew a thick skin and mastered yet another aspect of life. Self deprecation.

Q: If you were an animal, what would you be and why?

A: Honestly though, aren’t we all animals in some way? Somewhere deep inside all of us is this deep natural instinct similar to that of a primitive beast. Be it predator or prey, we all find ourselves connecting with that deep naturalistic emotion. Also, I might be part dolphin. Intelligent, high communicative, wickedly fast in salt water and the key character in an award winning documentary on illegal fishing in Southeast Asia.

Q: What is the most ridiculous thing you did as a college student?

A: The details of my life are quite inconsequential… but very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was an 18-year-old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons, and in the spring we’d make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds… pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe and by the time I was attending university I had a lifetime of living already done. By the age 22, I had climbed to the top of the MSC building at Texas A&M University only sit quietly reading 13th Century Jordanian literature.  So really… given my level of life experience, the most ridiculous thing I did in college was start this so-called “formal” education.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment in life and why? 

A: Despite what you might think by this point, I am actually not a complete and utter lunatic… I do have some normalcy to me. I can easily say that the proudest accomplishment of my life is perhaps not necessarily an accomplishment in one single moment, rather a continual accomplishment. This would be that somehow through the the divine mystery of our Creator and the daily patience of my Jersey Girl, that I have been able to convince my wife to stay married to me, despite meeting her online, only knowing her for 4 months, and being a general horse’s ass for the first 75% of our marriage.

I have also had the honor of being a father to 3 wonderful children, 2 of these beautiful young seedlings I helped make (which will be explained in my 1 week Crossfit Renew sponsored speaking series entitled “When a mommy loves a daddy: A Life Explained” – by Brad Otts). The opportunity to be a husband and a father has been the single most humbling experience in my life and that’s saying a lot as we all remember that STUPID WOD where we walked around the entire parking lot doing barbell walking lunges. That said, I am a man of many blessings, more than I deserve, but I would say that being given the opportunity to breathe another day and love my family has been my greatest accomplishment.

He will help you move, he will give you life advice, he will tell you jokes, he will send you podcasts, and he is a killer cook and Green Acres aficionado.  Next time you see him, ask him to guess what number Enneagram you are and get to know each other on a philosophical level.

You rock, Brad!

Member Spotlight: Heather Zeh

Member Spotlight: Heather Zeh

Haaaaaave you met Heather?

Heather is one of the newer faces at Renew, but comes with some CrossFit experience under her belt. If you haven’t met her yet, you’ll probably see her at one of the AM or PM classes because she apparently has the world’s most flexible schedule and is still trying to decide if she wants to A) lose sleep or B) die of a heat stroke.

Here’s Heather’s Q&A — enjoy!

Q: How long have you been doing CrossFit and what made you keep coming back?

A: I was first introduced to CrossFit in the Fall of 2012 when I was in grad school in Colorado. A classmate wanted to try it but was afraid to go alone so we went and fell in love with it. From that point on, any time I found myself in a new area either for a clinical rotation or moving to a new city, it was always a goal of mine to get plugged in to a church and a CrossFit gym. Hands down the community aspect of CrossFit is what made me want to keep coming back and pursuing it.

Q: What is your fondest memory in any gym you’ve been a part of?

A: Between grad school, traveling, and moving to different areas, I’ve been to a lot of gyms. They all have different vibes and things to offer, but my favorite gym thus far (present gym excluded) 😉 was CrossFit the Point in Utah. I went there for a couple months while I was there for a clinical rotation. I don’t have 1 specific fond memory, but I LOVED the coaches, LOVED the members. It was a judgment-free zone and while it was competitive, in was in a safe, healthy, fun way. I seriously almost accepted a job offer because I loved that CrossFit so much. I looked forward to going every time.

Q: What is your biggest accomplishment in life?

A: The easy answer is probably getting my Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology.

But on a deeper level, I would have to say the season of life I’m in right now. I haven’t done CrossFit in 2 years (so basically I’m starting over). I’m coming back from injuries and bad experiences at other gyms. I’m finding it takes a lot of strength to embrace where you’re at and stop playing the comparison game of where you used to be and the things you used to be able to do. Life isn’t linear. There are ups and downs. You make progress and there are setbacks. Letting go of the past is a big accomplishment in my opinion, and I’m learning how to do that through coming back to CrossFit. I love the name CrossFit Renew because that’s what’s actually happening in my life right now – I’m being renewed. My success isn’t defined by how lean I get again, or if I ever am able to do what I “used to do” anymore. I just want to enjoy the community, contribute positively to the environment, and get a good workout in – even if that means I have to scale. You have to meet yourself where you’re at. There’s a lot of freedom in that and opportunities for growth as an athlete and a human. I see this as an accomplishment that’s happening in my life right now and it’s exciting.

Q: What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?

A: Childhood camping trip. Graham crackers with ketchup and mustard. Don’t ask me why… I don’t know.

Do not recommend.

Q: What is the most rebellious thing you did as a child?

A: When we were pretty young, I remember my older sister and I would dare each other to squeeze through the rails on the 2nd story of our home to walk on the wrong side before squeezing our way back in, unnoticed by our parents… for obvious reasons we weren’t allowed to do that. One day I ended up slipping and falling from the 2nd story on my back (I ended up being okay). Maybe that’s what led me to thinking eating graham crackers with ketchup and mustard was a good idea. 😉 Also I’m afraid of heights now.

Yikes. Well, we are so glad to have you, Heather! Here’s to spending the next unmentionable amount of time devoted to knocking CrossFit the Point out of the #1 spot.

Member Spotlight: the Devalls

 

This month’s member spotlight is shinin’ bright on the two and only Michelle and Alan DeVall! These two work so hard, day-in and day-out, and aren’t afraid of any challenge that comes their way — whether that’s triathlons, taking up a new hobby (ice skating, anyone?), running long distances in Texas at any point of the year, or otherwise.. They are also cat people and band teachers (at different schools), so that’s neat and adorable.

Let’s get to know Michelle and Alan!

 

What is the #1 thing that got you hooked on CrossFit?

Michelle: We were members of a regular gym that closed for remodeling. A group of teachers I ate lunch with kept talking about the CrossFit they went to nearby. I decided to check it out while our gym was closed. I really liked that I could attend classes at any time of the day and still get the same workout. I kept going back because I liked the challenge.

Alan: I got hooked on Crossfit through Michelle. In the fall of 2013 we were living in Fort Myers, FL. Michelle tried it out and told me I would like it. She was right and I was hooked. We moved to Austin 6 months later and decided we definitely didn’t want to give it up.

 

What made you both want to be band teachers?

Michelle: I was on the student leadership team when I was in high school marching band. I enjoyed helping other students learn how to march and play better. Teaching music seemed like a natural fit.

Alan: I was always involved in Music growing up (playing piano, guitar and trombone). My high school Band director was the main inspiration for me deciding to become a music teacher.

 

What is the most ridiculous thing a student has done in your time as teachers?

Michelle: I’ve been fortunate to not have too many bad things happen. The worst I can think of is that two students go into some kind of discourse, and one threw a drum stick at another.

Alan: The craziest thing that ever happened to me as a teacher was in 2013. I had two students break into the band hall after I had left. They then proceeded to climb into the drop ceiling to try to hide something, but instead they fell through causing the ceiling tiles and lighting to collapse. They had to pay a couple thousand dollars worth of damages.

 

Were you teachers pets in school or rebels?

Michelle: Not really either. I mostly kept to myself and just did the work.

Alan: I’m not sure I tried to be a teacher’s pet when I was in school, but I’m sure other people thought I was. I just tried to do my best. As a trombone player we always sit in the back row, so I have seen all the ways people can goof off (even as adults). Now I use it as leverage when my students goof off.

 

There you have it.

They CrossFit, they music, and they mold the minds of baby children to raise up the next Mozart! They are a pair of joys and if you don’t know ‘em, introduce yourself the next time you’re in the gym…

because they will most likely be there.

Member Spotlight: Kim Hernandez

It’s safe to say that Kimberly Hernandez has never met a stranger in her entire life. If you haven’t met her, don’t worry, she’ll meet you, and then she’ll ask you how you got to Renew, what you do for a living, how many dogs you have, why you don’t have any dogs yet, what your relationship with your dad is like, what you ate for lunch last week, what your biggest regrets in life are, and who your celebrity crush is.

If you’re looking for a boost in your day, make sure to sign up for a class that Kim is attending. She’ll boost you right up.

Wanna know more about Lil Kim? Keep reading.

Q: What has been your proudest moment in CrossFit Renew to date?

A: Murph. Hands down.  I had a pretty bad back injury three years ago, and it took about three years of rehab before I could go up and down stairs without hurting.  While I’m proud of every workout, Murph was a testament of how much stronger I have become since joining Renew.

Q: What is the most rebellious thing you did as a child?

A: I just had strict Asian parents that wouldn’t let me into the backyard by myself. I was seriously sheltered. They were like, well she’s either gonna be super weird or use drugs. I think that’s why they let me be weird.

Q: If you had one meal left on this earth, what would it be?

A: OH MAN. Am I on death row for this?  I’d take a magic shroom burger from Hopdoddy, a red velvet shake, and the biggest portion of fried okra known to man.

Q: What is one fun fact about yourself that we don’t already know?

A: I don’t think this is fun, but I HATE liquid sunscreen.  I mean, I know you guys know I’m an ICU nurse, and I do all sorts of things at work involving certain liquids… but liquid sunscreen is the only thing that makes me gag and that I refuse to ever touch it.

Q: True or False: you have a tattoo on your body forever of your dog’s tooth. If true, please elaborate.

A: Beyond true.  I didn’t have a dog growing up, so I never understood true unconditional love and companionship until he was having diarrhea in my bed (which I cleaned up no problem but if it was liquid sunscreen….) and trying to cuddle with me the next second.

We love you, Kim! We’d gather up all of the liquid sunscreen and launch it into space for you.

Member Spotlight: The Guertins

Hello and welcome to the May Member Spotlight, ft. The Guertins.

Cali natives and relatively new to Austin and swampy Texas heat, the Guertins have two fur children that they love maybe more than each other, and they both will talk to just about anyone. Check out this Q&A to learn a little more about them!

Q:  Why did you decide to start CrossFit?

A: We moved to Austin from San Diego and had always wanted to try Crossfit, and decided this would be a great time to not only get started, get in shape, but also meet new people! Cause we knew no one, so we were really hurting for some friends.

Q: Why Renew?

A: We took a look at a few other boxes in the area, and this one seemed the most inviting, plus it was close to our place. So I filled out the form online for foundations! Then Justin wouldn’t leave us alone, so here we are!

Q: What is your favorite memory at Renew?

Tatiana: 12 Days of Christmas WOD. I remember looking at that thing and thinking I was going to die, and I did, but I finished it, and everyone was super encouraging! I was just excited to have finished it and been such of a large group.

Simon: The Open. The way everyone came prepared to work followed by their cheers and chants while drinking! It made me feel part of a team, and you never want to disappoint your team.

Q:  If you could have as many dogs as you wanted, and taking care of them wasn’t an issue, how many would you get?

A: We would have a whole freakin’ farm of dogs! Probably 8 max, because they’d of course be primarily inside dogs, and for some reason 8 seems like a manageable amount. But they would be huge! Huge labs and a few newfies! We want all the slobber and all the cuddles!

Q: As relatively new Austinites, what’s your favorite thing about living here?

Tatiana: All the trees, the lakes and rivers, and all the fun outdoor activities!

Simon:The great beer selection and nature — just like Tatiana said. But I think we both agree that our least favorite thing about living here is the humidity. Tatiana is just sweaty in Texas.

We love you Guertins!

Member Spotlight: Charles Menzes

The man above that looks like Moses (probably). That’s Charles.

Every time Charles Menzes takes a leave of absence from the gym — be it an injury or a trip to India or a brief stint with Zumba — the emptiness is palpable. They are long, sad times void of joy, alcohol, and BYO barbell clips.

And if you’re like, “who the hell is Charles?” then, well, that makes sense. Because he’s gone a lot. But when he’s here!! It’s great and Charles is great and we’re so happy that he chooses us as his CrossFit home the 1 time a month he waltzes into the 6:30pm.

Q:. When did you start doing CrossFit and why

A: I think that I started Renew in January or February of 2015. Or maybe it was 2014. I lived just two blocks away from the old box, so I really had no excuses left for not doing Crossfit. I had to phone Allman and Whitney like 5 times before they returned my call. I really started wondering if they wanted new members.

Q:  What is your favorite memory at Renew?

A:  There are too many good memories to pick just one.*

*This is a lame answer

Q:  Where did you learn to make mixed drinks so well?

A:  I don’t think that I make drinks that well. I just make them often.

Q:  What is the strangest thing you’ve done for the sake of fitness?

A:  I’m pretty sure that Crossfit is the strangest thing I’ve done for the sake of fitness.

Q:  What is one fun fact about yourself that would surprise all of us?

A:  I make pottery, so if you need some bowls I can hook you up.

We’ll be here waitin’ on that mem. We love you, Charles! Thanks for forcing Allman and Whitney to take your money all those years ago.

Member Spotlight: Anelisa Martin

The alternate title was: Member of the Month: Mighty Mouse. Because she is small, but she is oh so very mighty.

****Pic of Ben included as part of the fam and unofficial member that needs to become official because we all love him****

Q: Why did you decide to get into CrossFit?

A: Honestly I was so naive and I had no idea what I was getting into. I was looking for a gym to help me lose the freshman 15 (which carried over into grad school and turned into more like 30), and there was a CrossFit gym across the street from where I was living at the time. I’ve been addicted ever since!

Q: What is your favorite memory involving CrossFit?

A: Rich Froning delivered a sled to my house for a Rogue commercial. It’s not every day that the fittest man on earth shows up at your doorstep.

[SIDE NOTE: THAT IS NOT CASUAL NEWS AND IS VERY COOL, HERE IS THE VIDEO.]

Q: Have you ever done The Open, and if so, what is your favorite thing about it?

A: Yes, I’ve done the Open almost every year since 2012. My favorite thing about the Open is the community and cheering on everyone! The energy is always so high and everyone puts in so much effort. It’s like Christmas and Dave Castro is Santa.

Q: What is your goal for The Open this year?

A: To not die!

Q: What is your go-to junk food snack?

A: ICE CREAM. All day, err’day.

Q: What is one thing about you that we would all be surprised to find out?

A: See #2. Haha but also, I used to own a CrossFit affiliate in Nashville and we had a team that went to Regionals. I was not on the team (obviously).

[ALSO NOT CASUAL NEWS.]

Anelisa, we are so glad you ditched Karhu (or changed jobs and had to move… whatever…) to be a part of our crew. We love you!

Member Spotlight: Mike Rondini

You will likely find Mike Rondini Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday mornings, crackin’ jokes and slingin’ smiles among the mob of benches in the warmup area. The 8am ladies are his crew, so you mess with Mike, you mess with all of them. And Dayna is scary AF.

For many reasons, Mike is our member of the month. Check out his spotlight and remember, don’t mess with Dayna.

Q: How long have you been doing CrossFit
A: I’ve been doing Crossfit for about two years.

Q: What is your favorite thing about it and why?
A: I like the challenge of mixing strength and endurance. My background is all long distance endurance, so this is a real test for me.

Q: What is your favorite memory with the 8am crew, with us or at BVM?
A: You guys crack me up and are very supportive. It’s the perfect combo. I once got locked in the bathroom at BVM… but that’s for another day.

Q: What is one fun fact about you that would surprise us?
A: Most people don’t know I’m from Las Vegas. I leave my pinky ring and shark skin suit at home most days.

Q: What is your coolest hidden talent?
A: Hidden talent, hmmm. As you know, I’m very modest, so this isn’t an easy one. As a kid, I was a both a pretty competitive bowler and BMX racer — although not usually at the same time. Otherwise, I’m stubborn to a fault and don’t quit. I did my first Ironman about 18 months after learning to swim.

Raise your hand if you’d like to see him bowl and bike at the same time! Mike, we are glad to have you, and thanks for making Tuesday and Thursday mornings so dang fun!

Member Spotlight: Ari Olsh

When she’s not doing techy things for Ama-Whole-Foods-zon or playing with her doggo, you can likely find Ari Olsh bangin’ out back extensions on the GHD or sleeping in her bed because she signed up for the 6:30am and then cancelled last-minute.

That’s right: this month’s member spotlight is shinin’ on our resident Russian and probably coolest member, Ari Olsh!

  1. You tried a few gyms before Renew, so what made you stick around here?

I really like how tight knit and friendly Renew feels. Folks really engage and make an effort to get to know each other.

  1. What is your favorite thing about CrossFit in general?

Like many others, I love the sense of community that comes with CrossFit. The feeling that regardless of someone’s individual fitness level or ability, we all share the same goal of becoming better. And also I love the fact that I have to register for class and someone then expects me to be there because, let’s be honest, if I wasn’t held accountable in some way, I would never show up!

  1. Where are you from originally and where is your favorite place you’ve lived?

I’m originally from Odessa, a coastal city in Ukraine, but ethnically I’m Russian. My first language is Russian. (Yes, it’s true. I’m spying on all of you for Mother Russia). My favorite place I’ve lived is Atlanta. Atlanta is super diverse and very green. Similarly to Austin, it has a rich culture with lots of stuff to do, eat, and see every weekend. It was also my first Southern experience after being a lifelong Yankee, and like all firsts it holds a special place in my heart.

  1. If you had all the monies, what would you do?

Go to Iceland.  

  1. What are your fitness goals for next year?

Improve all of my gymnastic and bodyweight movements. Push-ups, pull-ups, handstand push ups, ring rows, all that stuff. I’d also like to learn to walk to my hands.

And there you have it. So next time you see Ari stroll in a few minutes after class time, first, congratulate her for showing up. And then ask her about Putin. She’ll love it.

We love you, Ari. So glad you chose (and continue to choose) Renew as your gym home! Long live Mother Russia! (Just kidding. Texas forever.)

Member Spotlight: Becca Harris

This month, we have the pleasure of highlighting one of our OG members, Becca Harris. You might know her by her bright workout garb, her abundance of supportive gear, and her “diabetes”. She also has two adopted sons (cute fam pic above) and is the BEST parent to them. Or you may not know her at all, which is totally fine and this blog is about to be super insightful for you.

Let’s jump in!

  1. How long have you been doing CrossFit at Renew?

Since January 2015.

  1. Why did you decide to join?

Because I wanted to be awesome at burpees. As you can tell, it has totally worked. OR, because I wanted to be stronger than my 2 man cubs so I needed to pump some serious iron. The CrossFit box I was a part of previously moved and it was too hard to make it consistently. I had a lot of friends that worked out at Renew and the ol’ shed was literally behind my office so rather than creepily watching everyone workout, I decided to join.

  1. Over all the years you’ve been a member, what is your favorite memory at Renew?

Oh man, how do I pick just one? There was the time I ripped my shorts doing wall-balls and Allman* made me stand in the back of the class. Then there was the time I PR’d my front squat and I peed a little. This also happened when I PR’d my deadlift. Pee and PR’s. Yup I just shared that with you all. You’re welcome.  The 2016 Open was one of my favorites.  It was my first CrossFit Open to compete in and I did it all Rx. It was the first time I did chest to bar pull-ups (!!) and I tried super hard to fake a bar muscle up because my judge was drinking a beer, but alas, we are gym that believes in honesty and dignity and stuff.

  1. What is that thing you wear in your little black pouch when you work out?

My steroids. Its how I juice before a WOD. Just kidding. It is an insulin pump. I have Type 1 Diabetes and that thing is what keeps me alive. I don’t think it is the reason I lay on the floor after EVERY WOD, but I will always use that as my fall back excuse.

These 4 questions hardly scratch the surface of who Becca is. If you’ve never met her, she usually works out at the 11:30am or 5:30pm (and occasionally the 6:30am when pressured), so get yourself there. Or ask her to hang out. She’ll say yes.

We love you, Becca!

*Chris Allman is the founder of Renew and previous owner and all around legend. Know him. Love him.