The Guy at the Back

By Gary Jeffress

In The CrossFit Life

March 15, 2012

PDF Article

Ever wondered what the guy at the back is thinking? Gary Jeffress gives his perspective from the back of the box.

What’s the guy at the back doin’?

Yes that’s me. I’m the guy at the back of the CrossFit class struggling to keep up, at times frustrated and at other times annoyed and self-conscious that I can’t compete. What are they thinking? When will I get fitter? Can I ever beat anyone through a full WOD?

As I bring up the rear, I’m justifying why I shouldn’t be doing this exercise shit. In 1999, while driving for work, I was nudged into the path of an oncoming truck and spent one week in a coma, one month in the ICU, two months in the brain-injury unit and 11 months off work. I received a brain injury, a broken nose, two broken cheekbones, a broken ankle that was not repaired, a compound fracture of my right arm, a punctured lung, a broken knee, a detached ear and broken teeth.

And here I go, pissed off I can’t do a double-under yet, or a correct burpee or a pull-up or a handstand push-up. And I always come last.

What’s the guy at the back doin’?

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38 Comments on “The Guy at the Back”


wrote …

Beautifully written and inspiring story! Thank you for sharing this.
Keep up the great work.


wrote …


The guy in the back can often lead the way, as you are doing. Keep it up.

Craig Nelson


wrote …

Great story! As the girl in the back, I can totally relate ... we are all a work in progress and Crossfit is inspiring at all levels!


wrote …

Gary, Great story! your courage and commitment are inspiring! keep it up


wrote …

Thanks Gary,
That's what I love about our cross fit community. Even the guy at the back does not get left behind. Continue what you are doing and best wishes.


wrote …

Your article just made me tear up Gary. Thank you for writing this. People like you are why I love CrossFit. As a coach, it is incredibly rewarding to be able to witness people's progress day in and day out, and I'm sure your coaches are incredibly inspired by you. I know I am.


wrote …

As I have stated before it is the people like Gary that inspire me. The games athletes are great but Gary (and others like him the are doing the work regardless of the physical limitations they face) are the real crossfit champs!


wrote …

Excellent article, Gary. From another guy at the back!


wrote …

the beauty of crossfit truly expressed!!! THANK YOU GARY FOR SHARING!! keep working brother!!

coach b


wrote …

1. A person, typically a man, who is admired for courage or noble qualities.
2. The chief male character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities.
3. Gary.

What a moving piece (pardon the terrible pun). Very impressive and inspirational.

Keep it up!


wrote …

Gary, we were ALL the guy or the gal in the back. The guy in the back pushes the people in the front. They hear you coming, and they're going faster. You insire us, and push us. But we're going to do all we can to help you catch up. Thats the best part of our community. We're ALL here for each other.


wrote …

Holy frig, goosebumps/tears Gary. Your writing and story are really damn touching. Way to be an eloquent badass workhorse!


wrote …

My wife had a stroke at 16 that made her partially lose function on the right side of her body. At 24 her car was crushed between two tractor trailers and exploded into flames. With a broken neck and her legs on fire she climbed out of the passenger window and put out the flames. She would ultimately lose her right leg. I have yet to see anyone attack a WOD like she does ... and always come in last. In two weeks she will participate in her first power-lifting meet. She knows she will probably come in last but she will be trying just as hard if not harder to win than all of the other lifters. She'll be the first one to congratulate the winner and tell them how awesome they are. She makes all of us at our box better. When she is the last one on the rower we are all pulling for/with her. If she is the "girl at the back" then the rest of us are all facing the wrong way.


wrote …

Gary, you are a badass! Strong work, never stop....never quit....


replied to comment from Jim Krajick

Perfect Quote "f she is the "girl at the back" then the rest of us are all facing the wrong way."

Inspiring doesn't even come close to describing both those stories.


wrote …

Wow, great story. I can relate my friend. I'm 58 years old with Plantar's Fascitiis in my right heel, bum right knee from football, pulled right hip flexor, tendinitis in my right elbow and surgically repaired right shoulder
(thank God I'm left handed)but in three years doing Crossfit I've lost 26 lbs. and six inches off my waist line. I work out with 20 and 30 year olds at 5:30 am Monday thru Friday every week and I have narrowed the gap between us. I may never do a muscle up or a headstand pushup, but they all stop and watch when I deadlift 390# or Clean & Jerk 175# and they yell and cheer and applaud when I'm successful. And yes they are there waiting for me when I complete a run or a diificult WOD. We have a bond that all Crossfitters relate to and wish everyone could experience. Keep up the good work and God bless you.


wrote …

hey gary, you are an absolute champion!!! I still remember when you did extra burpees to help george finish his workout... much respect brother... see ya in class!!!


wrote …

I am proud to say that Gary is one of the most inspiring athletes I have ever coached. Through adversity he has shown that anything is possible and continues to amaze not only me and my coaching staff but the other members.

Gary achievements are slowly growing!

Part of our workout yesterday was 3 rounds of 15 Pullups.

Gary managed to complete every pullup on his own! His last 15 reps consisted of 7 unbroken pullups, then 5, then 3!

Another member commented as Gary was doing his pullups "Go you good thing Gary! Oh wait.....He's not even using a band!!!!!"

Gary is amazing me and everyone else and I look forward to the months and years to come and see what incredible feats Gary can achieve.

He may be "The Guy at the Back" for now, but he is the guy with the biggest heart and determination to succeed. It's guys like Gary that make our gym so special and our community so tight knit.

Thankyou Gary!

Jeremy Austin
Reebok Crossfit Gold Coast


wrote …



replied to comment from Jim Krajick

jim - what an amazing story and so well said!


wrote …

Always remember you are doing exactly what everyone else is everything you got so that you can walk away with your head up. Great story, keep working because you never know when the next guy sneaks into class and is looking at the guy in front of him in the wod...YOU!


wrote …

Gary, great article! The elite athletes are always impressive but it is you (and people like you) that inspire me to keep pushing myself. It is you that I admire. Your struggles teach us all how to persevere in the face of overwhelming obstacles (and we all have them). You leave us no excuses to be anything less than all we can be. Thanks for leading the way!


wrote …

What a great read to start off my day. I am 'the girl in the back' (or maybe said, 'the older woman in the back' at 52 years young) having started CrossFit only three weeks ago. I am the uncoordinated kid who was picked last in gym, was never athletic, fearful of sports and lacked confidence to try. My first Foundations class -- of course I was 'the girl who finished last' -- by a long shot.

Having a few chronic health issues doesn't help my progress and just as I wrapped up week two of Foundations, I suffered a setback (knee injury - MCL issues). I am crushed by this development but determined to get healed up enough to get back to CrossFit again and continue my journey.

Bravo to you Gary for being the athlete you and for pushing past your limitations. Bravo and thank you for inspiring someone like me who is keenly aware of her lack of athletic prowess but is motivated by those who have the courage to march forward and transparently share their struggles.

From 'the girl in the back' to 'the guy in the back' -- please accept my humble words of gratitude. I promise to pay it forward.



wrote …

Thanks, Gary, sometimes people read things at just the right times in their lives and today reading this puts everything into perspective, you are truly a hero and a warrior, good luck and continue to work your way up from the back;


wrote …

That's the beauty of crossfit for me, even though I'm not putting up the scores, I know I'm working my body harder than I've done with other exercise platforms.


wrote …

Wow - that article absolutely floored me! I thought I was inspired before I read it, but now I know what inspiration is.


wrote …

Dude you MOTIVATE me!!


replied to comment from Kevin Rivich

I'm right there with you! Bum and aching shoulders, knees, ankles, hips, and left wrist, not necessarily in that order, and yeah, sometimes all at the same time. Keep up the good work. I'm inspired by both of your and Gary's stories.


wrote …


What a great story. Concisely, and beautifully depicts other stories I've heard of crossfitters overcoming adversities. I've survived some awful times myself, some that have certainly affected my body, and sometimes dull my spirit. I'm almost always last, and in the back of the room as well. It's great to find that there are great people like you keeping me company.

I'll think of you and this story during my next WOD. Thank you for telling your story.


wrote …

Being one of the older women at the back your story resonates strongly. What obstacles you have overcome. Keep doing the good work! You are leading the way brother. Thanks for sharing your story.


wrote …

As one of the fellow "Guys in the back," thank you. This was probably the best, most motivational CrossFit article I have read in the eight months I've been doing this.


wrote …

Keep up the great work! Your very inspiring! Thank you and remember to have fun too!


wrote …

This is CrossFit! Never give up and don't think about now, think about where you will be in a year! Great post, will publish to the affiliate!


wrote …

This is awesome, and perfect timing for it. THIS is what CrossFit is all about!



wrote …

Hi Gary,
Great article.
You almost made me tear. I admire you and you represent really why I decided to be coach: to see people such you.
Keep going


wrote …

What a wonderful article. You are amazing for even showing up after what your body has been through. Coming from someone who has never even had a broken bone, I admire you. Sometimes with no physical limitations, I have trouble making myself show up or try my hardest when I do. I have the most respect for people like you who have odds against them but go and do their best every time. Keep truckin!


wrote …

From another guy at the back of the class, different detail thanks for the inspiration and courage to publish it !


wrote …

Thank you so much for this inspiring story - I am a recovering diabetic and baby boomer (55) who has worked to loose weight so now i'm off medication - but I am not strong in my body although i have lost the weight - so I just joined the foundation course at LAX Crossfit to find a community of well (healthy) friends {vs diabetic (sick)friends}. However as soon as i paid i got scared, lost my nerve and regretted signing up; especially after watching the pull-up, hand stands and rope climbing which I think are HOT (I am very jeolous others can do but I cant). But after reading your article I feel I can go and be in the back without being embarrassed because thats where I always go and I know thats where I will go - but at least I now i'm going.

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