Matt Rucker first heard about CrossFit one day while playing “kick-the-can” with a CrossFitter at Centennial Park. He remembers, “This guy just smoked everyone. You just couldn’t keep up with the guy. Again later that night I was trying to chase him down and I watched him climb up a tree like a cat. It was almost scary how agile and strong he was. That same night I learned he did CrossFit.” After finally getting fed up with his own lack of physical fitness progress, he decided to give CrossFit a try. “I knew I needed to have some courage and do something different because doing what I had done in the past was absolutely not working. I knew I wanted something high-intensity, while integrating strength training and cardiovascular aspects. I knew I didn’t just want to burn calories and shed fat, but to be strong again. I also had that looming cloud of back problems,” Matt describes. In High School, Matt played football, and his senior year he suffered a severe back injury. “Looking back on it is almost embarrassing,” Matt says, “I ruptured vertebral disk L4-L5 and herniated vertebral disks L3-L4 and L5-S1 due to improper form and a lack of a proper warm-up while performing power cleans – which required surgery to fix (but I got a cool scar!).” Gun shy about training somewhere unsafely, Matt started to search for CrossFit gyms. “CrossFit Talon was the only option in my book. Other boxes seemed to love CrossFit, sure, but Talon was the only one that had an emphasis on rehabilitation and Dennis and Tara Cheatham. I didn’t want a head coach who used to be an accountant and then loved CrossFit – I wanted an athlete who had dedicated his/her life to the study of the human body. I had already been incredibly hurt by improper form and I was already unsure about my ability to even back squat another day in my life, so I was unwilling to go anywhere or to anyone but the best,” he says.
After his first week of Foundations, Matt felt everything hurting except for his back. “I was under the illusion I had some sort of strength, but I realized at this point I was a soft piece of 330lbs. With that being said, I did feel something other than terrible – I felt like I had accomplished something. For the first time since high school I felt like I was actually doing something that was going to take me to my physical goals. I was sick and tired of not doing what it took to be a different person. I made it my mission to push through the pain and make it happen,” Matt remembers. Just six months later, Matt has seen some incredible changes. When asked to talk about how he’s changed after CrossFit, Matt says, “It’s time for my favorite quote! ‘Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.’ I almost don’t even know where to begin when talking about this subject. I’ve lost 50lbs on the scale (330lbs to 280lbs). I’ve lost 6 inches around my waist (44in to 38in). My back squat has gone from 95lbs to 365lbs. My front squat has gone from non-existent (I didn’t have the flexibility to get into a front-rack position) to 280lbs. My overhead press has gone from 100lbs to 200lbs. My entire body is transforming. Every day there’s some sort of PR – hitting consistent 1:45-55/500m on the rower, actually doing 24’’ box jumps in WODs, going from knees-to-chest to toes-to-bar in WODs, going from ring-rows to jumping pull-ups to now banded pull-ups (I can even do one kipping now), doing a handstand pushup – I could do NONE of this when I started CrossFit.”
Matt recently injured his hamstring, not in class, but while wake boarding (go figure!). However, this time, recovery was going to be different. Taking cues from Dennis‘ mobility class, he has taken the appropriate amount of rest and continued to CrossFit with modifications to keep his hamstring mobile and healing. After just a few weeks, Matt’s hamstring is almost back to normal. He says, “If I had just rested it I would have been set-back in so many ways – I would have lost major flexibility/mobility as the muscle would have healed without being worked and I would have lost strength from the time missed pushing weight around.”
When asked about his goals for the future, Matt answered, “I think my more valued goals are ones that aren’t so quantifiable. I want to be an athlete again. I want to show myself that something as traumatic as back surgery won’t keep you from being one of the best. I see guys in the box like Cy, Adam, Tony, and Bargles and even coaches like Kyle, Garrett, Will, and Dennis and I say to myself, ‘I can do that, I can push myself that hard’ and maybe I won’t be able to really catch some of those people, but that’s not going to stop me from trying my best to do it.”