True, February is the shortest month of the year (even though this year is a leap year), but that’s not to shortchange this February’s AOM. Rickke Mananzala has been part of the Crossfit scene in NY for 3+ years now and is on track to stay part of it for years to come. I first met Rickke when he visited us at the Brooklyn Lyceum a few years back and his skills and engine made an immediate impression on me. I remember him telling me he’d be visiting more frequently, but instead it took him about 2 years to do so...It was worth the wait. A few standout reasons we chose Rickke for AOM are: his undeniable ability as an athlete (yep, there are a few leader board spots that I’ve been knocked off of by Mr. Mananzala), his ever-smiling support of fellow SBKers at competitions and classes alike, and his commitment to smarter training through mobility. In fact, Rickke was a few minutes late for our meeting due to a late running appointment with Alec H (SBK’s resident body guru). A totally acceptable reason for being late, in my book.
I hope you enjoy getting to know a bit of Rickke in this interview as much as I have over these last few months.
Fox - The beginning, how, when, and where did you find CrossFit?
Rickke - It was the end of 2008 and my friend Joseph introduced me to it. He told me there was this thing called CrossFit and I would love it so I should try it. My first taste was actually in my apartment and involved a WOD of burpees and squats or something like that. I had that classic “that was a LOT harder than I thought it would be” response and was hooked. I started perusing mainsite and tackling the “easier” WODs, ones that had a lot of bodyweight stuff. Shortly thereafter I took my first teaser class at CFNYC. Jacinto taught it and that was that. I was in. I was coming off of shoulder surgery and had this sense that if I went back to the same old Muscle and Fitness gym routines at David Barton that I would end up back under a knife again, which I didn’t want. I knew I needed something more functional and it turned out CrossFit was it.
Fox - Jacinto taught my first teaser as well! We did just about every movement under the sun, and I also was hooked. So, you were a gym rat?
Rickke - Not really, although I did have my routine. I was the only active person in my family, so I wasn’t really encouraged to play sports. I ended up joining the basketball team in middle school and played throughout high school and got convinced to play soccer and run track very late in high school. I was a keeper in soccer since my field skills were atrocious and I didn’t like the individual aspect of track so much, so I was mostly into my relay events. So, I was physically active and tried to stay in shape but I wouldn’t say I was a prototypical gym rat.
Fox - Where did you grow up?
Rickke - My dad was a Navy guy so we moved around a lot. I was born in Oakland, California moved to Minnesota and then to Maine later on. Let’s just say I stood out in Maine way more than I did in the Bay Area. I was one of the only brown kids in school, my mom was a domestic worker, and then I came out - all of these things combined created a pretty tough high school experience. My mom cleaned the homes of kids at my school, which seemed like a respectable profession to me, but I learned very quickly that I was different than them, and not a different that they would be cool with. My folks were not very accepting of my coming out at 16, and so I ended up being on my own sooner than I anticipated. High school was tough, but since I was legally emancipated at least I was considered my own guardian and could sign myself out of school early (which I did often)! Jokes aside, the lessons I learned as a youth helped mold me into the person I am today and put me on the path to professional work that is really meaningful to me. Anyway, I eventually moved to Springfield, MA and then to Brooklyn where I’ve been for the past 10 years.
Fox - It seems like you’ve taken challenges and met them head on. How have those experiences shaped the man you’ve become?
Rickke - On a professional level, I gravitated towards social justice organizing and advocacy work. I came to NYC and started working with an organization that is still very near and dear to my heart, F.I.E.R.C.E. where I worked as an organizer and eventually the Director. I really wish FIERCE was around when I was a teenager. I think it’s really important to have spaces for young people to transform individual experiences with isolation and harassment into collective experiences of empowerment and action.
Now, I’m a full-time student (Columbia - Political Science and Public Policy) but I still work as a consultant supporting a variety of grassroots organizations. My professional work is driven my personal values and what I believe about how the world should work. I know it sounds idealistic, but I feel really strongly that all people should be able to live happy, healthy, and empowered lives. Public policy should facilitate this, not create more problems or barriers for people. And public policy isn’t just for policy wonks (I swear I’m not going to school to be one). I really believe every day people can and should make the government work for them through grassroots action.
I think these personal experiences I shared have a connection to what, in part, drew me to CrossFit. Having to take care of myself early on and dealing with bullying in school pushed me to be very mentally and physically resilient. Years later, when I found CrossFit, it was a welcomed change from my boring fitness routine and it woke me up from just going through the motions at the gym. It brought me back to my desire to continue building physical and mental resilience. Now though, 17 years after I first left my house as a teenager (yeah, I'm aging myself), I feel very lucky to be getting stronger in such a fun and supportive community. CFSBK is great.
Fox - Let’s go there. How did you wind up at CFSBK in particular?
Rickke - Well, convenience was a part of it! I left my job in Manhattan and I live here in Brooklyn...Honestly though, I had been looking for a more strength-biased approach to CrossFit because I realized focusing on strength could help me avoid future injury (if I was smart about it) and knew that’s what was available here. I actually did my Level 1 Cert at the Lyceum in the summer of ‘09 and I really liked the people I met from CFSBK. I checked out the blog for some time after that and sensed the community, smart programming, and expectations of members and coaches alike that were in place here. That’s what truly drew me in. I love the community here. I’ve been to a lot of CrossFit gyms and CFSBK is so welcoming and diverse and I appreciate that I can do a tough workout with someone and then have a deep conversation with them about the flaws of our financial system and Occupy Wall Street. I also love the commitment to mobility, especially because I came into Crossfit with some limitations from various injuries. I appreciate the mobility knowledge we have on the coaching staff, instead of the “3.2.1. MOBILIZE!” where people actually get competitive with their couch stretches (I’ve seen it elsewhere)! I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I love the ladies of CFSBK, they kick serious ass! One of my favorite moments is at the Subway Series event at CFLIC where Jess banged out like 10 HSPUs in a row and people just erupted in cheers.
Fox - That Jess moment gives me goosebumps remembering it. We do have a bevy of TFBAs...What are your current fitness goals?
Rickke - I want to train smarter, get stronger, and stay mobile and injury-free. I have a new perspective on training now and want to be healthy over the long haul. No more overtraining for me.
Fox - The accrued hours we’ve noticed you spending on a lacrosse call had no small part in choosing you for AOM! Any hobbies you spend time on, what with your leisurely school life?
Rickke - Ha! Really, doing work and school full-time takes up most of my time and I’m lucky to fit in CrossFit in the remaining hours of my week. I am a bit of a novice foodie and like to try new restaurants and I’m into the craft of making classic cocktails and coming up with my own. Ask Asta about the “Hot Scotty” some time. I love to travel when I get the chance - going to upstate NY to hike and I hit Miami when I can to spend time with good friends down there. I played the alto saxophone years ago and I’d like to try picking it up again at some point. What’s up with the CFSBK band by the way?
Fox - Alright, last stock question. What should we look for in a future AOM?
Rickke - I heard Shane say something recently to people in his Foundations class, “90 percent of fitness is about smiling”. He was joking around and helping them get through a tough workout, but I think there’s truth in that. In the end we should be enjoying what we do and a smile is a great way to show it.
Thanks, Rickke, for sitting with me for this interview. You’ve become an integral part of our community and it feels as if you have always been here. We look forward to you being part of our little fitness culture establishment for a long time. From all the coaching staff at SBK, congrats!
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