Athletes Of The Month: Willie and Nancy!
This month we have a real treat, our first multiple Athlete of the Month honor...the Dynamic Duo of Willie and Nancy Hernandez! They both were among the names being thrown around as AOM choices, and then someone had the bright idea of featuring them both as a couple. Besides losing a collective 70 lbs between the two of them in the last six months, they’re easy to coach, supportive of their rack mates as well as of each other, and a pleasure to have in class. Read on and learn a little about the couple that sat outside in their car before a teaser class going back and forth convincing each other that it was a bad idea and they could just go home or get lunch instead...we’re sure glad they came in.
Fox - Tell me guys, what first brought you through our doors?
Willie - I saw the CrossFit Games on ESPN and then watched some videos online and thought it looked pretty cool and challenging. The real thing that got me looking though was a visit to the ER for a headache. I went in feeling “just off” and after a few tests the doctors told me they might not let me leave the hospital. My BP was through the roof, the nurse couldn’t believe I was standing. Turned out that my blood sugars were also in the red zone as well as my cholesterol...My doctor told me that if I kept on living the way I was that I’d be dead in 3 years. That was a wake up call. I was scared straight.
Nancy - Yeah, he was a real mess and I was scared for us. Willie showed me CrossFit online and I thought it looked crazy, like I wouldn’t be able to do that stuff. I was always bored at the gym though so I wanted to give it a shot. That first teaser class, just even going inside the gym, was scary. We sat in the car for 45 minutes going “this isn’t for us” as we watched the door slam open and closed while people ran in and out...and it was December!
Fox - But you came in and did the Teaser with David. Were you hooked at that point?
Nancy - I sure was. I loved it, the intensity and the competition. I tried to sign us both up right there but the Foundations cycles were sold out until late January. I emailed Jess right away and asked if there was anything we could do to start sooner. So we did a private Foundations with McDowell starting that Monday or Tuesday.
Willie - I didn’t think they would even let me take Foundations. I was crushed by that class. I remember David saying “How bad can 10 minutes be?”. It was bad. The workout was 10 minutes of 300m row and 15 burpees...I didn’t finish one round. I kept bending over and trying to catch my breath and David kept telling me to stand up and keep moving.
Fox - But you came back, and did a private Foundations with The Magnificent Mr. McDowell Myers. I assume he was a great teacher because you’re still here and have been coachable from day one. What was Foundations like? And then your first classes afterwards?
Willie - Every day going in to Foundations I thought I was gonna get cut! I kept telling Nancy, “Today is the day that he’s gonna tell me I can’t take another class...that I need private training and that CrossFit group class isn’t for me. You’ll be ok Nancy, but it isn’t for me”.
Nancy - McDowell gave us scaled workouts and was patient with us. We were nervous because we could see classes going on and it was real busy, but we just kept coming back for the next class. Before we knew it we were taking classes.
Fox - What were you guys doing fitness-wise before CrossFit?
Willie - (haha)...We would go to the NYSC in Atlas Park in Queens. I would pull a new 12 week program out of a magazine for us that we would half follow for a week at most. Nancy would go on the treadmill, I would do a few presses, and then we’d head over to Chili’s for dinner. It was obviously a failed plan but we didn’t know better at the time.
Nancy - Yeah, I would run a lot on the treadmill and lose weight but I wanted to look strong! Willie would always tell me I needed to lift weights but I didn’t really believe him...until you guys told me the same thing!
Fox - So someone didn’t believe something that their significant other told them until someone else also said it? Shocking. I can’t relate at all...anyway...Were you guys athletic as kids? Any sports backrounds?
Willie - I played sports as a kid through the Boys Club. Baseball, basketball, swimming, etc...then when you’re 18 all that ends and I continued to eat as if I were still active. I all added up eventually.
Nancy - I wanted to do that stuff but we started our family when I was pretty young so I never really did. I would go to the gym when I felt I was getting a stomach but didn’t play sports. I stayed at home with our daughter Crystal and then our son William.
Fox - So Big Willie and Little Willie?
Nancy - Actually, we call him King Will at home...he hates it!
Wille - Don’t put that in the article.
Fox - Definitely not, Willie...Anything stand out for you diet-wise that your new, lower level of activity could keep up with once you stopped playing ball?
Nancy - He would drink three 2 liters of soda a day. A whole 2 liter just at breakfast and then 2 more throughout the day.
Willie - Yeah, after that doctor visit that was the first thing I cut out. That alone made a big difference.
Fox - Holy shit! Three 2 liters? That must've been a hard habit to break, good job on giving that up. You’ve both lost significant weight since joining while also both getting much stronger. Do you know how much weight you’ve dropped since joining?
Nancy - I started out at 155 lbs and am at 130 right now.
Willie - I was up around 280 lbs and am down to 237 right now. My goal is to get under 200 lbs.
Fox - Amazing. You’ve lost a 25 and 45 lb plate respectively! How about strength numbers, where you started compared to now.
Nancy - I started at the 33 lb bar for my squat sets and just hit 155 at Tough Titsday. It was so amazing, the whole day. So cool to see that everyone else was nervous, and that we were all supportive of each other at the same time. Honestly one of the best days of my life. I wound up with a 130 lb squat, a 75 lb bench press, and a 150 lb deadlift. So cool.
Willie - Nancy was a nervous wreck that morning. You couldn’t talk to her! I’m proud of her though and glad she’s embraced lifting weights. For me, I started my squat sets at 165 and have moved up to 255x5x3. I backed off recently to deal with some knee pain but am on the mend and looking to go past that.
Fox - Any gym goals that you two are working on?
Willie - I want to bench 315 and get my weight under 200.
Nancy - I want to keep getting stronger and drop a little more body fat to look and feel the way I’ve always wanted to.
Fox - Those sound pretty within reach, great stuff. What about outside the gym, what does the Hernandez family do for fun?
Willie - Honestly CrossFit is our main hobby right now. We used to go out to eat all the time but now we’re being healthier so we work, head to the gym, and crash early at home. We go to the movies every now and then but we hang out here and at home mostly.
Nancy - That’s about right. We still go to dinner, right now I love Purbird. We also take a family vacation every year which is a big deal. This year we went on a cruise to the Bahamas. Atlantis was amazing. Years past we’re done the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and other stuff.
Wille - yeah, I busted my but on the lazy river at Atlantis. So embarrassing.
Fox - Something tells me that you’re the kind of guy that can take a bit of emarassment and come out ok. What do you for work?
Nancy - I’m a letter carrier for the USPS in the Union Square area. I’ve been with them since 1999.
Willie - I work as a custodial engineer for the Dept. of Education. I’m in charge of 2 schools and a team of 9 people down in the Lower East side. I’ve been with the DOE for 16 years but in this role for about 10. 10 More years till I can retire!
Fox - Nice to be looking down retirement at our age, huh? In spite of your fears and how hard things were in the beginning at CFSBK you kept coming in. I really believe that it takes that kind of commitment to anything to be successful at it. You just keep at it and don’t give up. What are some of the things that you enjoyed that kept you coming back to Degraw street?
Nancy and Willie (in unison) - It’s not boring.
Nancy - The community is so great, there’s always someone to talk to that you like. The blog is fun to keep up with, too. And the coaches are all great and approachable.
Willie - Yeah, you don’t get this kind of experience at another gym as far as coaching. I look at it like this. We all come to this place to basically play. All of us from different walks of life can come to this special place and just play. That’s the trick with CrossFit, it’s not like work, it’s like play. All the hard work is made easier by the fact that you enjoy it here.
Fox - That’s great to hear you say that. We strive to provide a fun environment where people can work hard and get better. Alright, last question. What should we look for in a future AOM?
Willie - Someone dedicated and consistent. Someone like me, Fox.
Nancy - I like how he says that with a smooth face! Yeah, dedicated and consistent. I’d add friendly and approachable. It’s what we love about this place is that it’s filled with friendly people.
Thanks so much to King Will and (Queen?) Nancy for spending the time to tell me a little about themselves. Congrats on all your hard work, we look forward to seeing more of it for a long time.
What Will We Miss? VSauce