Member Spotlight: Neal Rivera

As a child, I was a three-sport athlete, playing soccer in the fall, ice hockey in the winter, and lacrosse in the spring.  Hockey was my main sport – I played AAA travel through under-16’s before a pre-season meniscal tear led me to walk away from high-level competition.  When I got to college, I had the opportunity to play club at Towson University in my native Maryland, but ultimately decided that fraternity life seemed like it had more to offer than the dreary prospect of waking up for 6 AM practices Monday through Thursday (if only I could go back and talk some sense into my younger self!).  By my senior year, I had put on more than enough beer weight and realized something needed to change. I took up running, which I figured would net me the greatest caloric burn in the least amount of time, shedding that beer weight as quickly as possible, and started a years-long pursuit of faster and faster half-marathon times.

About a year after finishing undergrad, I met a girl who would introduce me to CrossFit in a co-ed flag football league in Baltimore.  We ended up dating for a while, and while things ultimately didn’t work out between us, I couldn’t shake the feeling I had gotten from the handful of times she had persuaded me to drop in with her or from my growing understanding that my background in hockey would probably make me a successfulCrossFit athlete.  I spent the next few years continuing to run but also working some of the workouts into my time in the weight room at the local Globo-Gym.

In the Fall of 2017, I moved to Columbus to get my MBA at Ohio State and, in following my own fitness programming, ultimately came to two conclusions: 1) there are few things more demotivating than waiting for a squat rack and 2) after graduation, I wanted to be a part of the kind of community one finds at great boxes like CrossFit Clintonville.  During the summer of 2018, I came up with a two-fold plan.  I would finally check the box on a full marathon, and I would finally start CrossFit.  I promised myself that I would join a box after the 2018 CrossFit games.  I finally walked into CrossFit Clintonville for my 101 programming during the following week.


My experience at CrossFit Clintonville has been everything I could have imagined and then some.  The welcoming personalities that fill the gym make it so that the only time you’ll walk in to unfamiliar faces here are literally the first moment of day one – everyone knows how intimidating that first time was and wants to support you in your journey.  It’s a place to improve as an athlete, but the challenge-by-choice model means you’re free to choose anything from between supporting a healthy lifestyle and the competition floor.  CrossFit Clintonville is truly representative of the many great things a CrossFit box can be, from a community to a “lifeboat” for those seeking respite from today’s chronic disease-ridden world.

I find that CrossFit naturally pushes members towards living a more balanced, healthy lifestyle.  The constantly varied nature of the programming forces athletes to get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable, which I’ve found to be an incredible way to approach new challenges at work, and in life in general.  The intensity of the workouts means that yes, you do need to take a rest day occasionally, and fueling up adequately means that yes, you should probably do a little meal prep on the weekends instead of eating out for lunch every day.  These factors have made me a better athlete (maybe also better person) than I have been in probably the last decade or longer. Ultimately, what I love about CrossFit is that it is a movement that society desperately needs today – in a world where we’re increasingly interacting with others digitally and working jobs that have become more and more sedentary, for an hour each day we get to strip all that away and celebrate being human.

Patrick Woods