Congratulations to Joel Harrison on earning Great Bay CrossFit’s ‘Member of the Month’ honor for February, 2015! One of the things that we look for when choosing a Member of the Month (which, by the way, can be a pretty tough task!) is somebody who embodies the spirit of GBCF. This can be a hard thing to get a handle on, but we believe that Joel captures this as well as anybody in our community. Joel is humble, he’s positive, he’s friendly, he’s dedicated, he’s intelligent with his approach to training, and he’s been through and continues to face significant adversity. He’s much more than that, too, but in the interest of brevity we’ll just say that we’re proud to have Joel representing GBCF and honored to coach him.

joel harrison wall ball

Enjoy the Q&A!

Q: Congrats, Joel, and welcome to this elite fraternity! It feels sort of lazy on our end, but it’s also become tradition – the first thing we want to know is how it felt for you to be named Member of the Month in February?
A: I was, and still am, rather shocked that I would even be considered for this sort of spotlight. It means a lot to even be considered for this.

Q: Well, you deserve it; as we alluded to in your email, you’ve faced a lot of obstacles and certainly been through some trying experiences. Now, please only elaborate to the extent that you feel comfortable, but we’d love it if you could discuss some of the stuff that you’ve been through.
A: I think after the MoM email, the cat was out of the bag on my health.  In reality, I am sick but I certainly do not feel sick.  I suppose life has handed me a couple challenges, but I don’t look at any of it as “challenging”.   I’m who I am because of these conditions and I’m pretty happy with that.

In going through a kidney transplant, someone else in perfect health decided to step up and put that on the line for me.  In all honesty, I’m never going to step down from any challenge in life knowing I’m now facing each and every day thanks to that someone.  I pretty much owe it all to him (so yes, we can put an asterisk on every PR I get!).

Q: This is definitely a loaded question, but what would you say you’ve learned from these experiences? How have managed to stay on track and stayed committed to your fitness?
A: There’s a quote I read once and it seems to summarize what I’ve learned: “Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional”.  Every day I get up and face life head on – some days are perfect and other days happen to be a bit harder.  For me, everything in life is about being compliant – success in health or life in general.  Just having a plan and sticking to it seems to have gone a long way for me.  When it has come to fitness, I’ve tried to tackle it the same way. 

At GBCF, I am excited to be a part of this community that pushes each other to chase goals, whatever they may be.  And at the end of each gym visit, I’m always greeted with a fist pump or cheer.  That positive energy really seems to feed my pursuit of the long term goals.

Q: Marissa (Heenan – your girlfriend, as you know) jokes that you can’t miss a workout. What keeps you coming back to the gym, and why are you so disciplined? Are there other activities that you’re as passionate about – what do you like to do aside from toss iron around?
A: I think my gym approach is partly in place because my health treatments require a timed schedule around the clock; I’m forced to have a strict regimen. Over my life, I’ve seen how sticking to a day by day plan can impact the long term.

I spend a lot time focused on my career in overseeing clinical studies – in a sense, what has made me sick drives to me to work harder for patients of other medical conditions.  A small attempt at paying it forward, I suppose.  Outside of the joys of work, I’m quite fascinated with nutrition and how it all works – tying it back to my personal health and seeing how/if I can help myself.  I have plenty of other interests but instead of boring the gym even more with my paragraph length responses, I’ll cap it off by saying I love mini golf and ping pong (who doesn’t?).

Q: Nobody doesn’t love mini golf and ping pong, that’s who.  Shifting gears a little bit, you first visited GBCF for one of our Challenge for Charity events. It was a little while after that when you parted ways with your previous gym and joined the team at GBCF. Aside from Marissa’s threats, what was it that you liked about GBCF? What ultimately hooked you and brought you over?
A: While Marissa’s threats can be serious at times (sorry babes), I was set on joining GBCF well before coming in for the charity event.  When I stepped in at the event, everything about that day showcased why I wanted to be a part of this gym.  How the programming was put together, the whole event being focused on a positive cause, and Eric and Jeremiah working with my surgery setbacks to make the workout possible for me (thanks guys!). My only regret is that I didn’t join sooner.

Q: Ok, we’ll finish up with some lighter, easier questions. Let’s say that you’re stranded on a desert island – it goes without saying that fitness would continue to be a top priority – what one piece of equipment would you want there with you and what exercises/workout would you do?
A: While a heavy iron ball doesn’t seem ideal for at least getting off the island, I would prefer to have just a pair of kettlebells. I prefer simple design (not simple to do) workouts: just long cycle double kb clean and jerk would be all I’d need.

joel harrison kettle bell

Q: Now tell us what your thoughts are regarding the newly implemented burpee penalty for tardiness. It’s been rumored that you occasionally leave home with, well, let’s say sufficient time to avoid being late. What are your thoughts here – speak freely!
A: In all honesty, I love the burpee rule! Hate doing lots of burpees, but love the rule. I figure that being forced to work at something I’d rather avoid at all costs seems like a great idea (honestly, not being sarcastic).  

While it does look like I show up just to avoid burpees, I leave home early so that I can get in and warm up before every workout. In having a transplant, my abdominal wall will always be a bit compromised.  Just want to make sure I take the right steps to keep the rest of my body working correctly

Q: Let’s say that we were to invite the Member of the Month to institute one new policy for the month.  What would your policy be (anything goes here – we’ll make no promises, but we will absolutely put it in front of the board in this hypothetical scenario)?
A: (This) MoM takes on half the burpees of any late folk cause why not?  I’ve felt like a member of such a loving community, anytime that I’ve been slow to finish a workout everyone seems to reach out and motivate.  Based on that, I’d love to ease the stress of others getting here late. It’s still winter so this should be fun to for everyone to “enjoy”.  Hint: I come at 6:15 Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Suppose we shall see if tardiness has an uptick at these times now….

Q: Finally, if you could dish out one piece of advice to your peers, what would it be?
A: It’s possible that most of you haven’t heard but I’m deaf (ha ha?). I tend to be pretty zoned out before workouts so please reach out or toss an actual object at me to say hi (preference being foam rollers, not plates). It would be really awesome to get to know everyone even better!


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