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Member of the Month: Sebastien Puiatti

When and why did you start CrossFit?

In 2016, with my wife. We were looking for a high-intensity sport we could do together; due to its scalable nature, CrossFit fit the bill perfectly.

What do you do for a living?

I work at "Service de relève de parents de personnes handicapées", an organization that supports families with mentally handicapped children. I work mainly with teenagers. This is a new field for me; I used to be a photographer and motion graphics artist.

How old are you?

40 years since last March.

Where are you from? How long have you lived in Geneva?

I was born and raised in Geneva. My parents come from Spain and Italy.

Why did you take the Adaptive CrossFit training seminar?

I was losing motivation at work, and wanted to do something new. Then I saw a video of a woman with cerebral palsy doing an adapted version of the Open 2018 WODs ( https://www.facebook.com/CrossFitGames/videos/1907570195951496/ ), which stunned me. The fact that she was doing the WOD in her cubicle and was an athlete in the community like the others, and not isolated in a "special" or "disability" division was a revelation. I started following adaptive athletes on social networks and became interested in the subject.

One of my clients at the time was Insieme, an association supporting the families of mentally handicapped people, and it was a working environment in which I felt very comfortable. One thing led to another and I decided to reorientate myself in the field of adapted sports. I'm currently following various further training courses in the fields of sport and working with people with disabilities, and the CrossFit Adaptive Training seminar is one of the steps in this reorientation.

What have you learned?

 The "Adaptive Training" program aims to reduce limitations and increase work capacity for athletes with physical disabilities. This objective is not specific to sporting performance, and is applicable to everyday life for the person concerned. This is where the "functional" aspect of CrossFit comes into its own, in my opinion.

"Adapted" does not mean "Scaled". A one-armed Wall Ball or a 2K on the rower without using the legs become completely different exercises and therefore must have a different Rx, Performance Points and Standards. The course is also very practical, with WODs performed with a simulation of different types of disability, learning advanced movements such as one-arm split snatches, and some tips on adapting equipment to athletes' needs.

The most important thing, in my opinion, is the importance attached to the ways and means of ensuring that Adaptive Athletes are an integral part of the community, and not a niche or special division in the box. On this last point, CrossFit is in a unique position compared to many other sports.

Tell us about William and your work with him?

William is a 14-year-old teenager who likes to move around a lot, is very active, loves Superheroes, and like many teenagers wants to be part of a group, become independent, be more confident and prove that he can achieve things. He was born with Down's Syndrome 21. His parents wanted him to take part in a sporting activity outside his usual environment, which consists mainly of therapists and activities with other mentally handicapped teenagers.

So I suggested he try CrossFit. We organized an introductory session with Titouan, and now William comes every Wednesday to 1227 to train with me, and is coached in turn by Tristan, Mary and Jon. Although he's been given a tailor-made program to improve his fitness, the aim is for him to have the physique, confidence and mental strength to take part in regular classes, albeit initially with the help of a dedicated training partner. We're taking it one step at a time; it's a long-term goal and we'll take the time it takes to get there.

What do you do in your spare time?

I'm a super geek; games, movies, vintage action figures, all that. Seriously, all I need is a PhD to be a character on "Big Bang Theory".

I'm also a musician, and I've toured quite a bit over the last few years, but that's an activity I've put on the back burner for the time being. I was a guitarist in The Erkonauts, a metal band, and between 2014 and 2017 we spent quite a bit of time on the road, in the US, Europe and Asia, and released two studio albums. One of my fondest memories is Spring Scream 2015, which is a bit like Taiwan's Woodstock; we crossed the world just for a gig there over Easter weekend. It was definitely worth it, the festival was incredible. But this kind of life can quickly become exhausting, and I needed a break.

I also volunteer with AGIS, an association that provides activities for people with mental disabilities, and I'm currently restructuring their Urban Fitness program, as well as putting together their team for the next Course de l'Escalade. I'm also taking part in a university study called "Bouger Ensemble", which aims to develop a sports program that integrates athletes with and without disabilities.

Could you tell us a little about your music? What do you listen to when you train?

My music library is a mess, although it's mainly albums released between 1960 and 2000 (sorry kids), with hip-hop and metal taking the lion's share. I've got Cypress Hill's "Elephants on Acid", Suicide Silence's "The Cleansing", Terrorizer's "World Downfall" and Ice Cube's "The Predator" on a loop at the moment, so it's safe to say it's pretty angry, brutal music. But if I had to narrow my library down to five artists, it would probably be Jefferson Airplane (60s psychedelic rock), Morbid Angel (death metal), Iron Maiden (80s metal), Michael Jackson (the king of pop!) and Public Enemy (90s hip-hop).

The only music I like when I train is the sound of barbells in the rack, the impact of heavy loaded bars and the grunts of extreme exertion. I prefer to train in silence.

Which sporting achievement are you most proud of?

During William's introductory CrossFit session with Titouan, we got him to do his first strict pullup. And then everyone in the box stopped and applauded. It was just magic.

Otherwise, on a personal level, we had a killer 20RM deadlift cycle in the competitors class at 1227. I finished the cycle with a set of 20 deadlifts, unbroken, touch and go, at 120Kg. That's more than one and a half times my bodyweight; I'll remember the last three reps for a long time, as will the people around me who heard me scream.

What are your training goals for this year?

Getting out of my comfort zone. I'm holding my own on strength work, but everything else leaves something to be desired. Schwarzenegger said that to get rid of your weaknesses, you have to expose them, and that's what I'm putting into practice right now. So I'm going into competitions with the aim of just getting to the end and surviving it, then going back and aiming not just for survival, but for performance.

Any particular "Adaptative Athlete" to follow?

Definitely;

  • Jon Stoklosa, a powerlifter who competes not only in the Special Olympics but also in non-Special Olympics divisions.
  • Kevin Ogar, CrossFit Invictus athlete and CrossFit Adaptive Training instructor
  • Adaptive CrossFit's Facebook page and Instagram
  • Natalia Ryzhova, CrossFit athlete
  • Chelsea Werner, Special Olympics world gymnastics champion and model
  • Smiles Taylor, 44Kgs of powerlifting, strongman and determination
  • Tate Barber, CrossFit athlete
  • Be Humble Gym, a powerlifting gym

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