A new man

Crossfit conditioning program mixes functional fitness with constantly changing workouts
Adam Laucis performs a deadlift at Rogue Valley Crossfit, where in roughly 18 months he's gone from being an overweight beginner with little confidence to a coach who helps lead fitness classes.Photo courtesy of Lively Images

Two years ago, Adam Laucis looked in the mirror and didn't like what he saw. After a lifetime of asthma medications, poor diet and lack of exercise, the 25-year-old Medford man had ballooned to 340 pounds.

All that weight made his asthma and other physical problems worse, but just as bad was the anchor it attached to his confidence, which was at an all-time low.

How Crossfit works

At Rogue Valley Crossfit, new members go through a workout with a coach to assess where they are as an athlete, whether they're a 25-year-old former college athlete or a 60-year-old woman on blood-pressure medication.

"Everybody is different," says owner Jake Porras, "so we make a baseline assessment, then we do that same workout again in 30 days and see how much progress they've made."

Members are encouraged to record their daily workouts in a journal, whether it's a simple paper tablet or a smartphone app, noting everything from their speed, how much weight they lifted and the number of repetitions they performed to how they felt afterward.

The workouts at Crossfit change every day, but they're structured, with classes meeting for an hour six times a day — at 5 a.m., 6 a.m., noon, 4:15 p.m., 5:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

Two coaches in every class help members maintain structure and technique.

The Crossfit approach is centered around competition — with other people in the gym or with yourself, always looking to improve your times, increase the weight you can lift or the number of reps you can do.

Coaches take members through "benchmark" workouts that measure performance, and those workouts are repeated at intervals to measure progress, Porras says.

Gym members also hold each other accountable, Porras says, often calling or texting each other when somebody misses a workout.

That type of oversight might seem intimidating to some people, but Porras says it doesn't come across as pressure, but as a supportive community helping members be their best and stay with their routines.

— David Smigelski

The first inspiration for his turnaround came when Laucis' cousin returned from a successful stint at a weight-loss camp.

"I thought if she could do it, I could too," says Laucis.

His first step was to join a gym — Oz Fitness — in late 2010 and start eating better. But his personal breakthrough came a few months later when somebody told him about Crossfit, a high-intensity strength and conditioning program that focuses on functional fitness and constantly changing workouts.

He joined Rogue Valley Crossfit, at 3001 Samike Dr., in Medford, one of several Crossfit gyms in Southern Oregon, and went from a beginner with little self-esteem to a coach who now helps lead classes.

"Crossfit has changed my life," says Laucis, the business manager at K&B Auto Complex in Medford.

"It's made a world of difference. My self-confidence and self-esteem have risen, and being a teacher makes me want to be a better person," says Laucis, who at 6-feet-1 now tips the scales at a muscular 217 pounds.

"Adam's confidence was low when he started here," says Jake Porras, who founded Rogue Valley Crossfit in 2011. "Usually people who are little heavier tend to be a little intimidated when they start, but Adam took to the approach and found something he was good at — double-unders," a rope-skipping drill in which the rope passes under the feet twice for every jump.

"He's now by far the best at that in the gym," Porras says.

"It's made me a totally different person," Laucis says. "I went to Mexico with my aunt last year, and they went ziplining. I thought, 'I can do that.' I never would have thought that before because of my weight."

Laucis now works out every day, he says, "and the days I don't feel like working out are usually the days I need to. I push myself out of my comfort zone. That's when you really feel your muscles working."

While it's not a requirement of the Crossfit approach, Porras, a former mixed-martial arts coach, encourages gym members to follow the Paleo approach to eating — sometimes called the Caveman Diet — which stresses high-quality proteins and lots of fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts, with little to no starches, grains, added sugars or processed foods.

"As clean as possible," says Porras.

Laucis is now a proponent of the diet, as well as a fan of the functional fitness approach he learned at Crossfit.

"With functional fitness, everything we do connects to something we do in everyday life," he says. "Like when we do squats, it's the same muscles we use when sitting down and getting up out of a chair. With that movement, you're doing it on your heels.

"When we're doing a power clean and pushing the weights overhead, we're teaching people how to do that movement properly without hurting yourself, like lifting dishes overhead and putting them in a cupboard ... or like a woman in her 70s who can lift her 3-year-old grandson."

Laucis' aunt, Karrie Kay of Medford, says the changes she's seen in her nephew since he started Crossfit go beyond his eating habits, muscle mass or weight.

"He's not even the same person," she says. "His mind and his level of compassion have changed. He really looks for ways to help people, and it just kills him when he sees overweight kids, because he remembers what that was like," she says.

"When he was at North Medford (High School)," she says, "he used to skip class a lot because he was too embarrassed to go to school because he couldn't fit in the seats."

At family gatherings, he rarely joined in physical activities such as swimming because he was too embarrassed to take his shirt off, she recalls.

"It can't be fun to watch your friends and family do things and know you can't join in because you're so embarrassed with your body," she says.

But all that has changed for Laucis, who is planning another vacation to Mexico this summer.

"I plan to go parasailing in Puerto Vallarta, which is another thing I never would have done," he says.

Porras says he's familiar with the kind of changes Laucis has gone through.

"We've got members who were on blood pressure and other medications who don't need them anymore, who are doing things in life they weren't doing before, like hiking Table Rock with their kids or whatever it might be."

Reach Mail Tribune Features Editor David Smigelski at 541-776-8784 or dsmigelski@mailtribune.com.

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