Mark is one of our most committed Lions in the Academy community. He has participated in nearly all events since joining us and goes out of his way to make new Lions feel welcome. Below are questions that gets us to know a few things about Mark and his growth with us here at the Academy of Lions and what’s in store in his future.

1.How did you get into the Crossfit world?

A couple years ago I moved to the west end, and at the same time my old gym went under. I hadn't been seeing much progress at the old place so I was looking for a change. I hadn't heard of Crossfit but it looked intriguing and I liked the idea of doing functional fitness, rather than isolating with machines.

2.What sort of physical background did you come from prior to the Academy of Lions?

I played rugby (poorly) in high school, but athletics wasn't really a priority in university. When I moved back to Toronto I promised myself I would get active again, and that's when I joined the old gym. I got some personal training and did some Muay Thai classes that the gym offered, but I don't think I was approaching it with the commitment needed to see progress. When I came to the academy, I was in OK shape but lacked a lot of things, especially mind-body connection.

3.What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced while improving your lifestyle?

Nutrition was a big challenge when I started. I jumped into a Paleo challenge very shortly after joining the gym. I had committed to the exercise aspect in my mind but I had only recently learned about how much nutrition factors in, so I decided I had to jump in with both feet. I have a huge sweet tooth, so cutting out sugar was an enormous struggle.

I also felt a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information and knowledge that applies to fitness. I wanted to know it all but had no idea where to start. Thankfully, all the coaches at the gym were very patient with me CONSTANTLY asking questions.

4.What is it about the Academy that has you commit consistently?

The people. Coming to the gym became a social thing as well as a workout, as I started to get to know the people I trained with. There was such a palpable feeling of community when I joined, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with the physical changes I’ve seen in myself over the last 2 years and once I really started to see that progress, it became an even bigger draw for me. But there’s something really special going on at the Academy. When a place consistently draws in people of such high caliber, there’s more at work than just good programming and good coaching. That special thing is what keeps me coming back.

5.What were some of your biggest physical achievements/ milestones?

I was very proud when I managed a bodyweight clean and jerk. Muscle-ups had been a long-time struggle for me so getting them consistent was also a very proud moment. But the biggest milestone would have to be joining the level 5 team. I was so proud of myself for getting good enough to start training with all these athletes that I look up to so much. It’s still a big point of pride for me, every time I go to team training.

6.What kind of impact have these goals had on you? How has it affected your work life?

Having a physically demanding job, it’s been immeasurably beneficial to be in better shape. I’ve also gained a better work ethic, because if you can make it through Murph, you can make it through pretty much anything.

7.What kind of goals have you set for the near future?

I’ve been chasing a bodyweight snatch for a while. Hopefully I can achieve that before the year is out. I’d also really love to do a Spartan Race, just for fun.

8.Are there any upcoming competitions that you plan to participate in?

I’m doing the Beach WOD with a few other members of the L5 team. Last year was amazing fun and an enormous challenge, so I’m excited to see how we do this year. And I believe the Toronto Spartan Race is this summer as well.

9.Could you tell us something that we may not know about you?

I still really like Lego. Once in a while, usually on Boxing Day, I’ll go to a toy store and get a really complicated Lego set and spend the day building it. It’s one way I stay young at heart and reconnect with my youth. Lego has an Architectural Series, where you can recreate famous buildings and houses. I really want to build a Frank Lloyd Wright house out of Lego.

10.Any other physical activities that you’d like to take a hand at?

I’d love to try some parkour training, agility has never been my strong point so I’d like to take a shot at improving that. And I’d LOVE to be able to do a standing backflip.