It’ll be tough to find him without a barbell in his hands, but it was CrossFit that fired up his passion for weightlifting. We’re excited to feature Sean Monga as our next Athlete of the Month.
1. When did you start CrossFit? And when did you start turning your focus to weightlifting?
One day in the summer of 2015, my brother told me about a CrossFit trial class he had taken and encouraged me to try one out. At that point, I hadn’t even heard of CrossFit because clearly, I lived under a rock. After two years of no exercise, I finally made it to a trial class in September, and vividly remember how sore I was the following day from all those wall-balls.
A year and half later, I wouldn’t want to imagine a day without that feeling of accomplishment.
As I started Crossfitting regularly, I noticed that while bodyweight movements could be scaled, Olympic lifts felt odd at any weight – even those at light weight. Initially, I began coming to Basic Training classes to ameliorate my technique. As my technique improved, I stayed with training the Olympic lifts because I liked not only how every muscle group is worked in the body, but also how quantifiable and focused it is to measure your success.
Olympic weightlifting, like anything in life, is largely a mental game, and if you fight, and persevere, success smiles upon you.
2. How has your performance changed since you started CrossFit?
Quite simply, I’m stronger and more powerful. And if there is a WOD which has everything I am terrible at, I sure as hell know I’m now tougher.
3. Are there exercises you can do now that you couldn’t do before?
Pull-ups. Strict and controlled. While I could manage to do some questionable kipping pull-ups when I first started, I could barely get a strict, controlled pull up – even with that huge black band! Today, I can do unassisted eight strict pull-ups, but I’m still not satisfied. My goal is to nail fifteen strict chest to bar pull ups before the end of the. Unbroken, of course. As a corollary to pull-ups, the other day I did rope climbs in a WOD, and that was pretty cool. Never did that before!
While I used to be able to pull-ups when I was younger, I never in my life have been able to do any type of handstand push up. A year ago, Gino made this double green band contraption that got me going, and just a few weeks ago I nailed three handstand pushups against the wall! I’d like to continue working on this, and take it further to handstand walking and handstand push ups without the wall.
4. How has your body physically changed since you started?
I’ve noticed increased definition in two areas: in my quads and in my traps/upper back muscles. Gaining mass on my upper back has always been a challenge for me, so I am happy with that.
5. How has CrossFit changed you in other ways?
Ironically, in my long distance running days (and sedentary days thereafter, ha), I used to battle with high cholesterol.
CrossFit and weightlifting have brought my cholesterol back down to manageable levels.
6. How do you describe CrossFit to your friends?
I describe CrossFit first as a sport, and then in further detail as a mix between weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardio. Surprisingly, the most common responses I hear are something along the lines of, “Wait, CrossFit is a sport?” or “CrossFit is so dangerous.”
Then I’ll proceed to recite the CrossFit Manifesto to them until they decide to try a class out!
More interestingly, when I describe weightlifting, I have to first explain the difference between powerlifting, bodybuilding, and then Olympic weightlifting, or simply, weightlifting. Many of my friends haven’t heard of snatching, but are vaguely familiar with cleans. I have actually gotten them excited to try the movements out in the gym.
7. What’s your “why”?
As basic as it seems, I can sum it up in one word:
I love CrossFit and weightlifting, and all that goes into it.
The technique, the variety, the strength, the power, the efficiency, the soreness, the mobility, the recovery, the competition, and the camaraderie.
8. Favorite lift?
That’s like asking who’s your favorite child! If I had to decide, I’d go with the snatch in weightlifting, although I love clean and jerks just as much, really.
In CrossFit , I’d go with the cluster!
9. What advice would you give to a newbie just joining CrossFit Salus?
I trust most new members will listen to the coaches with respect to technique, and also try to push themselves in trying to get a good workout. Therefore, I think it’s really important to breathe.
CrossFit workouts have a way of quickly putting you in fight or flight mode, and your body is quickly trying to adapt to/survive/finish the workout.
If you take the workout one breath at a time and one rep at a time, trust the programming and you’ll surprise yourself.
10. What is your next goal to accomplish?
This is my least favorite question! I have over twenty goals, and for me they are all as equally important!
In weightlifting, it would be to achieve a 160 kilo (70/90) total by the end of September.
In CrossFit, perform one (and even a few) muscle ups before the end of the year. And those damn double unders. I have to finally nail them.
11. If you could design your own WOD, what would it look like?
I love the long epic partner WODs. It would go something like this:
100 Turkish Get Ups 53#/35#
100 Overhead Squats
100 Bench Press
100 Kettlebell Swings
100 Pull Ups
100 Box Jump Overs
100 Sit Ups
1800 meter run
Teams of 3. 135#/95# for Barbell movements. 70#/53# for KB.
12. Favorite thing to do for fun?
CrossFit and Weightlifting haha. If I am not, probably a date with my supernova or double lacrosse balls at home 😉 If you find a girl who enjoys rolling out in spare her time as much as I do, tell’em you know a single guy.
And if I have to give a non workout related answer, I’d say grilling in the summertime, and cooking the rest of the year!
13. Favorite healthy dish….and favorite “cheat” meal?
Favorite healthy dish: this is always changing, but right now it’s a paleo slow cooked jalapeño pork ramen with zoodles
Favorite cheat meal: A porterhouse (bone in) with creamed spinach and lobster truffle mac and cheese. And like a bottle of wine. (For myself, haha)
14. If you could be a superhero/animal what would you be and why?
I have always loved griffins, a mythological animal that is a mix between a lion and an eagle. Griffins represent intelligence, courage, and strength.
15. Favorite motivational/Inspirational quote?
Al Pacino’s speech in the movie Any Given Sunday is a great motivator before meets/competitions.
But a quote I like is by Tommy Lasorda:
The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.
There’s no replacement for hard work.
16. When is your next Oly meet?
A bunch of us are competing on August 26th in the Brooklyn Barbell Open. I’d encourage everyone to come out to cheer the team! I can’t wait.