The first time Michael Moberg set foot in a CrossFit box, he was a college student at the University of St. Francis in Joilet, Illinois, he’d just been leveled by a breakup, and he weighed more than 400 pounds.
Moberg, who now coaches at CrossFit Salvo and plays goalie for FC Denver, had done sports his whole life. He was the goalkeeper for St. Francis’s men’s soccer team. But he had always been the “out of shape, overweight kid.” That’s how others knew him, and as much as he wanted to shake off the identity, it was also how he knew himself.
Looking back, Moberg credits the beginning of his transformation to his breakup. He went to CrossFit Alpha Dog (Lombard, Illinois) on a mission to show his ex how much she was missing. Before he knew it, he was on a journey to self-improvement that involved far more than post-breakup spite and numbers on a scale.
There are two Michael Mobergs in this story: Michael Moberg before CrossFit, and Michael Moberg during CrossFit (after CrossFit won’t happen until it’s impossible for him to move).
Before CrossFit, Moberg described himself as angry at the world and ruled by both food and his emotions. His father died when Moberg was a kid, and that loss drove his anger—not just because his dad was gone, but because: “He chose alcohol over us, his kids.”
Moberg buried the loss, even as it fueled his anger.
CrossFit gave Moberg control—over himself, his emotions, his body. He walked into CrossFit Alpha Dog that first day looking to prove something to his ex. A snatching session and Fran WOD later, and Moberg was laid out on the floor, in love all over again.
“Everybody’s got their workout that they realized, this is what we want to do,” he said. “Mine, unfortunately, was Fran, and it slapped me in the face really, really hard.”
He had another year of college to go, staying an extra semester to help coach his soccer team, graduating December 2013. After that first CrossFit session, he was hooked, but not ready to totally jump on board. He followed Alpha Dog’s programming online and did the workouts in the basement gym at St. Francis, next to football players doing powerlifting and track and field athletes doing plyometrics. Did he get weird looks? You bet. He also began to see results; the number on the scale gradually ticked downward, and he felt better, physically, mentally, emotionally.
His last summer before graduating, he started showing up to Alpha Dog three or four hours a day to train. That fall, he kept working out in the basement gym. The semester sped by. His future was staring him in the face. He had decisions to make.
Stay in Chicagoland or go somewhere new?
“I had been judged for so many years for who I was,” Moberg said. The out of shape, overweight kid. “And I had put so much effort into changing that lifestyle and living a healthy lifestyle, but I was still seen as this, you know, bigger person.”
He’d been to Colorado before, come out a few times since elementary school to snowboard and spend time in the mountains. He didn’t have family here or lifelong friends, but he was looking for a fresh start, a place where he could work on himself without other people dragging him down with their low expectations.
“Three days after I graduated college, I packed up my Mustang and drove out here.”
Now, four years later, he’s made his home in Brighton and left a well-paying job in business to coach full-time at CrossFit Salvo.
Since starting CrossFit, he’s lost more than 200 pounds.
“I’m told every single day that I’m not the same person,” he said, “that I was a certain person for that first portion of my life, and once I found health and fitness—and specifically CrossFit—I’ve become a completely different person.”
There’s the fact that he’s healthier. He no longer weighs 400-plus pounds. But he’s proudest of the emotional and mental change: His moods and appetites aren’t the governing forces in his life; he’s happier, more disciplined, balanced.
Michael Moberg today is a fun, outgoing person who likes to get other people excited about what he’s excited about. He loves sharing his passion every day through coaching, and enjoys witnessing the physical changes in his personal training clients and the CrossFitters in his classes.
On a recent episode of Lewis Howes’s School of Greatness podcast, eight-time CrossFit Games competitor and 2008 champion Jason Khalipa talked about the power of “why”, particularly the need for competitors to have a strong internal reason for doing whatever they’re doing:
“When you’re 10 reps away from finishing the event and someone over there has a similar fitness as you, but [your competitor] has a strong, deep ‘why’ … they’re going to be able to push harder.”
Moberg’s “why” started pretty shallow: Prove the ex wrong, or something along those lines. Then, he started realizing that working out made him feel good, and he started hitting the gym for his own benefit.
His first fitness goal wasn’t to lose a bunch of weight.
“My goal was to be able to run a 5K. And then my goal was to be able to power clean 300 pounds. And then my goal was to run a half marathon. And then my goal was to do Fran [in] under 10 minutes. And then it was under five minutes.”
Somewhere along the way, he lost 218 pounds and his “why” grew deeper:
Moberg wants to be a better father than his was. No, he doesn’t have kids. But he’s already made the decision for if and when he does.
“I spent so much time being negative that I just want to put nothing but positivity back out there,” he said. “There is an end goal: to be the best person that I can be—not only for me, but for those that I influence.”
Right now, those that he influences include staff and athletes at CrossFit Salvo, personal training clients, his family and friends, his girlfriend, his teammates at FC Denver, and everyone else in between.
To those setting out in the new year to lose weight or get in shape, he offers this advice:
“Be ready for the challenges. Understand that it’s not going to be a walk in the park. … Find that why. Find that reason and make it really, really strong. … Remind yourself of that and … find those little victories that you can celebrate along the way.”
Now, get after it.