We, the Solace coaching staff, are very excited to award our July 2016 Member of the Month to Elias Veneris. Elias walked into Solace in October 2015 weighing 235 lbs and unable to squat a 45 lb bar below parallel. He could barely squat an empty 33 lb bar for sets of five. Since then, Elias has gone on to complete two strength cycles and is a regular at both CrossFit and Body classes, fully taking advantage of all Solace has to offer. He now weighs under 200 lbs and can squat over 225 lbs! Talk about an epic transformation!!!
Besides his dedication to getting healthier, Elias is an all around great guy. Back in April when Coach Wolf had shoulder surgery, Elias grilled up a huge tin of steaks, complete with sides, and brought them over all the way from Brooklyn so Wolf would have some delicious, ready-made food and need not worry about cooking. He works hard, is consistent and is very coachable.
Elias credits the community for being one of the biggest motivators in his epic weight loss journey and consistency in getting healthier. While that may be so, it is also Elias who has been such a tremendous inspiration for all of us. We want to thank him for having the courage to get started, never quit, and most of all, for sharing his journey with us! So what are you waiting for?! Keep reading to learn more about our July Member of the Month, Elias Veneris!
Want to become part of the Solace family? Click HERE to sign up for a free introductory CrossFit class this week!
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: ArchitectTell us a little bit about yourself:
Well since you’re asking and I don’t want to be too much of a bore, here’s the edited version. I’m a native New Yorker and Brooklynite, kind of rare thing from what I hear. My favorite interest outside of my job (yes my job and no I’m not crazy) is snowboarding. Is there a storm coming? Can I use a sick day? Which mountain? Yes, I’m there! My longest season streak is 42 days on the snow. The truth is, when I enjoy something I do, I will not hold back and push in every opportunity. That includes my training at Solace.
How long have you been doing CrossFit and how did you get into it?
Not very long. I started foundations at Solace through a recommendation back in April of 2015. Unfortunately, my job forced me away for close to 2 months and I nearly missed my chance to build a better version of myself and become a part of the wonderful community at Solace. Fast forward to early October, I restarted foundations. Not willing to ‘PR’ my procrastination any longer, it was the beginning of a new mindset for me. I vividly remember the pain in my legs – thanks Tristan for making that into ‘legs that I can’t use on stairs’. In the beginning, I ended up relating more to lifting and signed up for a Strength Cycle with Wolf. The structure was really great for me. Strength gave me goals, it was linear, I was constantly building and everything began to feel more achievable. Before this gets any longer and I sell you on Wolf’s programming, I’ll cut the promo. Needless to say it was fun. Before I knew it, I had 2 strength cycles under my belt and had my eyes set on conquering CrossFit with the same positive outlook. That was back in March. So, the short answer is 4 months.
What were your thoughts after your first CF workout?
Ju-no what you’re in for? Well, I didn’t. Juno was the first WOD I did, lead by one of the brightest coaching personalities, Julia Avery. It’s an 8 Min AMRAP of 5 Deadlifts, 5 Hang Power Cleans, 5 Front Squast, and 5 Jerks at 135 lbs, if you aren’t familiar with the rep scheme. Things going on in my head at the time – this is going to suck, just focus it will be over in 8 minutes and stop staring at Julia’s booty shorts. The next day really sucked but I completed it and was hooked. I haven’t stopped since.
What were your goals when joining CrossFit?
It’s really simple, my goals were to change my lifestyle choices – physically and emotionally. For one, I was a smoker and overweight. Both were getting worse the more I neglected to do anything about it. Physically, I was weak AF. A few years back, I injured myself doing what I loved, snowboarding. I had taken a fall and pinched a nerve in my shoulder, later to lose feeling in my left arm down to my fingertips. It took around 3 months of rehab before I even got some of my mobility back. I never grasped how bad the injury was until I started working at Solace. Ask Wolf, I couldn’t get under a women’s barbell to squat…that improved with work and now I’m squatting mid-200 lbs on my own as a working weight on heavy days. Not impressive but it’s better than where I started – at zero.
How did you find Solace and what has kept you with us for so long?
I think I mentioned this above, Solace came through a recommendation. The important thing isn’t how I found Solace but what has kept me going – the community. There is always someone walking through the gym or working out with me in the WOD saying ‘Come on Elias, keep moving.’ That is EVERYTHING for me. I had a few things in my life that let me down and this isn’t one of them; the community is what pushes me and keeps me going.
Since joining Solace, you’ve made an epic transformation losing nearly 40 lbs. Tell us about that.
My first day of training was sometime back in October of last year with Wolf. My starting weight was over 235 lbs. I took a picture of myself, in my boxers, just for giggles. When I ended the second strength cycle, I was bouncing between 220 lbs and 225 lbs. I was having trouble breaking below that so I transitioned to more CrossFit and Body classes, 5 days a week. A few weeks in, I saw some weight transformation posts from other Solace members who had been working with Danielle Gagliardi using a macro diet plan. I’m not a fan of diets or partition control, I like food. But my first reaction was ‘I’m going to try this, what’s the worse thing that could happen.. I stay fat.’ I had nothing to lose. I reached out and in no time Danielle had me set up with a custom macro plan. All I had to do was stick to it. As of today, I’m 195.8lbs. I lost nearly 40 lbs in total, most of which came off in the last 3 months.
What inspired you to make such a drastic change to get healthier? What or who was the biggest motivator?
This is a tough one since it is always evolving but there are a few constants. The main catalyst was my health. According to my doctors, I was on track to develop heart disease and become a diabetic. Not fun news! Luckily, I was told it was still early enough to offset that path. That was my wake up call. What got me to stay were the little things- coaches like Michael Wolf & Kenny Santucci, two truly positive influences over the past months; members like Eric Pogue, who knew what I was going through in my personal life and would call to talk about things but mostly about the workouts and what I thought of them. Overall, I was looking to be a better person, especially to myself.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey? Biggest obstacles?
My upside down personal life, which has almost stopped me too many times from doing this for myself. The strange thing is that I found my center because of training. Although this week’s programming did get me weak in the knees like a schoolgirl getting her first kiss… ok that’s not funny but I’m trying.
What changes have you made to your daily life, diet & workout routine that have been the most successful for you?
First, I gave up smoking. Although I enjoy it, it was an easy choice. I have quit in the past for long periods of time, but I can say that I feel better about this try. I cook 90% of my meals now. The macro plan has worked very well for me. The bigger problem is cutting out the donuts, it’s freaking harder than smoking, I kid you not! I’ve also enjoyed doubling up my classes – a CrossFit WOD followed by Body class. It’s fun not being able to breathe right?
How has Solace positively affected your weight loss journey?
Wow, it feels great!! People I barely know come up to me and tell me how great I look. The best comment was ‘Hey buddy what’s up – I remember how you used to look like a lost cause but you look amazing and I’m so proud of you’. I like that people can be straight with me and say what they really thought… I would say the same, but my delivery sucks. One of my WOW days, a mental breakthrough if you will, was during a Body class. We had to run around the block with a partner. Easy right? There’s a catch… carry a 30 lb medicine ball. My first thought was this ball used to be strapped to me but now at the end of the run I’m able to unload this extra weight. Pretty great feeling!
What keeps you motivated?
Trying to stay healthy and be better every day!
What advice would you give someone looking to start a similar journey?
For me, it began with Solace’s Strength Cycle. It got me wanting to be in ‘box’ and gettin’ those gainzz. The key for anyone starting off is to find that ‘something’ you enjoy, could be strength, could be HITT/Body, barbell or CrossFit. Use one of those to build from. Before you get too comfortable, start challenging yourself and add to it by mixing up your programming. Set goals and use the community to learn from. Trust me, once you start getting little victories here and there you will feel good! It’s probably the biggest piece of the puzzle in keeping you going. Diet plays a huge component in the journey. I would say look for what works for your body, whether it’s macros, paleo or plain old portion control. Whatever you chose, talk to an expert so you don’t spin your wheels and waste time. Make it part of your routine. The results will come if you put in the effort. We all know how grueling and exhausting the work is for weight loss but it does get easier. Start believing in yourself and the best of you will come out. Enjoy every moment, including the good and the bad, but most of all have fun with it!!
Do you have any special memories/achievements during your time here?
I’m going to sound like a sap on this but here it goes anyway. During my second Total at Solace, I was feeling really nervous and upset. One of the members noticed, they came over to me to give me a hug and said ‘You got this!’ I regained my confidence to PR both my press and deadlift. That’s was a special memory for me, not because of the PR but because of the gesture.
Favorite WOD/ Least Favorite WOD:
Favorite WOD is Christine (my first Rx), least favorite is anything that has ‘Death by —-’ those words make it sound more painful than fun.
Favorite Lift/ Least Favorite Lift:
Favorite lift is the low bar backsquat, least favorite is thrusters.
Something no one at the gym knows about you
I usually spill my guts and am terrible at keeping things private. If you don’t know, I’m sure you will find out soon.
What was the most awkward/embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you during a workout?
I’m going to go with passing gas on a heavy deadlift… it’s probably the #1 answer at the box.
When you’re not at Solace, where are we most likely to find you?
Practicing my marksmanship at the shooting range. If you’re wondering why, I shoot competitively.
If you won the lottery, how would you spend the money?
Hookers and blow.. kidding! I just always wanted to say that. The truth is, I am not sure, probably give back and keep a little for myself.
3 people you could party with for a night dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Andy Warhol – the guy was a social butterfly and his studio was a gathering place for intellectuals, drag queens, celebrities and the wealthy. That sounds like a party to me, not to mention his large body of work and influence to art.
John Belushi – one word intense; this guy was funny as hell and went out hard.
Ozzy Osbourne – what’s not to love about a guy who can bite a head off a bat and snort a line of ants.
Pre and post workout meal of choice?
Pre workout snack: Fruit salad
Post workout meal: Skirt steak salad with lots raw veggies and greens with lemon juice.
Knowing how far you’ve come, if you could give your past self-advice, what would it be?
Self – You should have found CrossFit sooner!
Rapid Fire Questions
If you had a theme song, what would it be? AC/DC ‘Back in Black’
Last concert you went to: Jane’s Addiction
Favorite pizza topping: Broccoli rabe but it has to be on grandma style pizza. I find it works really well with the crust.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Teleporting, this way I would never run late and maximize my time. It’s about being efficient, no?
What is your spirit animal? Pikachu?! That’s an animal, right?
Drink of choice: Bourbon. Neat, please.
Last picture you took on your phone: Picture of Walter, my little Italian Greyhound. Love this little guy!
One thing you couldn’t live without: My puppy, Walter. We all need love and he’s there for me. For a walk, a cuddle or wet kisses. If you’ve met him then you know why I love him <3
Favorite emoji: Flexed Bicep
Last song stuck in your head: Fat Joe, Remy Ma – All The Way Up. It seems to be playing all the time, thank you Coach Dariel!
Last dream you had: This one scared me just a bit… I was breaking down the number in my birthday to make a rep scheme to work out to. You know you have problems when a workout enters a dream state.
Most important item in your gym bag: Fresh clothes
First album/CD/cassette you ever bought: Iron Maiden – The Trooper on Vinyl
Favorite hidden gem spot/restaurant in NYC: Hudson Clearwater, it’s nicely hidden behind a green door
Favorite healthy snack: Can I say donuts? It’s about being happy inside and they sure do the trick.
Anything else you’d like us to know: Don’t take me too seriously. I forget that I should turn on my filter, especially when stuff is coming out my mouth.