June’s Extraordinary athlete is Dr. David Podeszwa. Dr. P is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Yeah, you probably wouldn’t expect to see one of those in CrossFit, would you? He has a beautiful wife, Ann, who ran her first marathon right after he joined us and who is now working on her master’s degree, and two beautiful daughters at ESD and Hockaday. Dr. Podeszwa joined us about a year and a half ago – one week after the passing of his son, Alex. Alex lost his life to a very rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma. As you can imagine, this was a difficult time for David and his family. However, his friends saw his pain and wanted to help.
Wait… he was in pain so they took him to try CrossFit? Well, yes. He needed to get out and be around his friends. He needed to put his head down and push hard through something difficult – something difficult enough that he couldn’t think about the really hard stuff going on in his life. He needed to laugh. He needed to move and sweat. And he needed to forget… yet still remember.
This is one of the most difficult things I have ever watched in my life as a coach or a parent. Dr. Podeszwa would show up and walk through the workouts in a bit of a daze, but he did them. Every now and then he would laugh at something someone said and then he would catch himself… you could see in his face that he couldn’t believe he was laughing when his son had just passed a week or two ago. You and I know that his son would want him to laugh, but that is hard to remember when you are in the moment. His face would turn white and he had to pause to catch his breath. Then he would slowly begin to move again. After a while I think those moments turned into moments of reflection where he could smile at the memory of his son. Of course… this is all what was playing out in my mind as I watched him grieve and grow.
When Dr. P began he wasn’t very interested in getting better. He didn’t care much about how heavy his back squat was or what his Fran time was. He just needed to make it through – to survive. However, lately there is a new spark in Dr. Podeszwa’s eyes. He has found his path again – that path that helps us be the best we can be and live our lives to their fullest in honor of the people we love. Currently his goals in CrossFit consist of double-unders and high box jumps. You will catch him before and after class each day working on them. My favorite quote from him is, “you know you’re a CrossFitter when you see the operating table and think, ‘I could box jump that'”. The best part is that this drive isn’t only in CrossFit. He is also taking flying lessons and soon hopes to earn his pilot’s license on what would be Alex’s 16th birthday.
One of my favorite saying is, “Live the life you want your kids to live.” We all have lofty goals for our children. We want them to be kind, healthy, generous, passionate and fulfilled. We tell them that but then we get caught up in the mundanity of our own lives so we never SHOW them what that looks like. And our children are much more likely to do what we DO, not what we say. Dr. Podeszwa is following that rule and attempting to live a beautiful life with his beautiful family…. and that is indeed extraordinary.