Reconstruction Worker Wants to Do Fran at 90

By Emily Beers – April 24th, 2018

He never thought he’d become overweight.

A former competitive swimmer and the owner of three construction companies, Chris Flury spent most of his life healthy and fit. But that all changed when he got into his 40s.

“I was working 16 hours a day six or seven days a week, and all of a sudden my weight had jumped from about 200 pounds to 255 pounds,” said the 5-foot-10 Flury.

“I had never been like this before. I didn’t think it was in my makeup to let myself go, but I did. My wife was getting more and more active, and I didn’t want to be that fat slob with the gorgeous wife. I knew I needed to make some lifestyle changes,” he added.

Flury’s first move was to take up swimming again, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as it once was.

“After spending 15 years in the pool four hours a day, I was so done with looking at lane lines, chlorine water and touching people’s feet in front of me. I hated it,” Flury said.

ALT TEXTChris Flury (in blue) with wife Lisa, son Jacob and daughter Faith. (Courtesy of Chris Flury)

He switched to spin classes but again found himself bored and uninspired by the lack of results. While he shed a few pounds through swimming and cycling, he was nowhere near his goal weight, he said.

When spin instructor Michele Sparks Nguyen mentioned she was opening a CrossFit gym in 2009, Flury jumped on the opportunity to try something new.

CrossFit Dragonfire in Portland, Oregon, quickly became Flury’s home away from home. At the time, it was located in Nguyen’s garage.

“I couldn’t overhead-squat with a PVC pipe because I’d fall forward, and I needed two green bands to do pull-ups, but I was hooked,” Flury said of his first experience with CrossFit.

Today, the 57-year-old can overhead-squat 195 lb. and snatch 170 lb. He has added 120 lb. to his deadlift since 2009 and can do pretty much every workout as prescribed. And thanks to the Zone Diet and eight years of consistent training at CrossFit Dragonfire, he’s a lean 190-lb. man who can do things he couldn’t do 20 years ago.

Flury is also now a two-time Reebok CrossFit Games athlete. He placed fourth in 2016 and seventh in 2017 in the Masters Men 55-59 Division. In the 2018 Open, he finished 35th worldwide in the same division and earned a spot in the Age Group Online Qualifier.

ALT TEXTFlury finished seventh in the Masters Men 55-59 Division of the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games—a long way from being overweight and unable to do an overhead squat with PVC. (Ross Forte/CrossFit Journal)

“The Games were sort of like my Olympics,” said Flury, who was aiming for the 1980 Olympic Games as a swimmer—a dream that was dashed when President Jimmy Carter announced the American boycott of the Moscow Games. While the CrossFit Games are an important part of Flury’s fitness journey, they’re not why he continues to train hard, he explained. He does what he does so he can keep feeling good and living a youthful life filled with the activities he loves most, such as hunting and managing his 12 acres of land.

Two years ago, at the age of 55, Flury embarked on a week-long hunting trip in Montana.

“I went by myself. It was a six-hour horseback ride into the wilderness. It was a dream I had always wanted to do. I shared the camp with a couple guys who were fat and overweight and sitting on stumps the whole time. I kept thinking, ‘Those guys, they are basically me 10 years ago,’” he said.

Flury added: “I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to handle that trip 10 years ago. That hunting trip, that’s the reason I do what I do.”

His transformation in the last eight years has also led to a passion to help other masters athletes achieve the same results. Flury is not an official coach at his gym, but he’s become an active mentor to many athletes around the box and a real leader, Nguyen explained.

“He’ll help out people all the time, especially new people. He’s always telling them ‘hey, try this’ and is always promoting the ‘train smarter not harder’ approach.”

She added: “He’s always leading by example and always sharing his feelings with others. He wants others to know that it’s doable to get healthy and fit.”

ALT TEXTAt CrossFit Dragonfire, Flury (right) is a role model and mentor to his peers. (Michele Sparks Nguyen)

Nguyen, too, finds herself pointing to Flury to inspire new members.

“We have a poster on the wall of him, and I’ll point to it and say, ‘He’s 57 and he couldn’t squat to depth when he got here. And now look at him go,’” she said. “It’s exciting for new people to see him and go, ‘Whoa, and he’s way older than me.’”

Flury has educated himself about the aging human body and training in recent years, and he shares the knowledge with other older athletes. But he really focuses his attention on the emotional side of the health transformation, he explained.

“I was at my daughter’s state cheerleading competition recently and was sitting next to this lady. If she was 300 pounds, that would be an understatement—and I’m sitting there thinking, ‘What happened? What’s your story?’ In our society, this has become the norm, and too many people just accept it, or they say, ‘It’s just genetics. There’s nothing I can do.’ But that’s just an excuse because you still have free will. You can do something about it, and I’m proof of that.”

He added: “I have noticed that until the age of 30, people still dream. They still think they can do anything. But the problem is they hit 30 and they start to settle. That’s why the lady I was sitting with the other day was in the physical shape she was in.”

Flury wants to tell masters athletes who have all but given up on fitness that they have the power to change. For many people, the journey starts with identifying why they want to get fit, he explained.

“A lot of people can’t identify their why. If they can’t identify a why, then they often get distracted and usually quit the gym because they haven’t learned how to stay focused on the big picture. Once they really understand their why—what’s driving them—then it’s easier to come up with a plan of action so they can move forward.”

ALT TEXTFlury’s goal is not to win the CrossFit Games but to do CrossFit at 90. (Michele Sparks Nguyen)

The second part of Flury’s message is about education and independence when it comes to health.

“I really try to get people to learn about and listen to their body for the purpose of being able to continue as long as possible. People need to be taught how to take care of themselves and not just head to the doctor every time something feels bad,” he said.

Flury is launching a new business to help masters take control: Masters Care is a resource center specifically for older athletes who are looking for reliable information and emotional guidance.

Within five years, Flury is hoping to retire from construction so he can devote more of his efforts to helping aging athletes. Another part of his education was the CrossFit Specialty Course: Masters, which he attended in Sumner, Washington, in December.
Flury also has new dreams for his own health and fitness. His ultimate goal: To do what he’s doing at 90.

“I just reposted (a video) that CrossFit did about a 94-year-old from the U.K. who does CrossFit. Things like that inspire me. I want to be that guy,” Flury said.

“And the only way that’s going to happen is if you’re constantly paying attention to your health and you make it a lifestyle. Going to the gym isn’t just an event for me. I don’t go to the gym to work out. I go to the box to enhance my life.”

About the Author: Emily Beers is a CrossFit Journal contributor and coach at CrossFit Vancouver. She finished 37th at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.

Cover image: Thomas Campitelli/CrossFit Journal

This article was originally published on the CrossFit Journal. You can find it here.

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About The Author

Neil Scholtz

Neil Scholtz is a certified Personal Trainer turned CrossFit coach. He has competed at the CrossFit Games and coached athletes that have competed at the CrossFit Games, but that's not his main focus. Most of his time is spent consulting or coaching individuals to improve their lives through fitness. He has worked with over 1000 individuals from various walks of life. Tailoring solutions to their lifestyle needs.