2017 Spring Challenge 3rd Place – Brian Donofrio

After going through the Spring Challenge the past 30 days, I can honestly say that I had an awesome experience. My physical results were better than I had expected, but I think the most important thing for me was how much better I feel mentally and physiologically. Being a strength coach leads itself to having to be selfless and willing to sacrifice a lot for my athletes. Working long hours, having a ton of responsibility and trying to balance life outside of work left me with very little time to actually take care of myself and focus on my own personal wellbeing. This challenge was the perfect opportunity for me to lock in on my personal goals for physical and mental health, physique and athletic performance.

I was able to really give back to myself, allowing 8 hours of sleep a night, 30 minutes of foam rolling/stretching a day, scheduling in the time to work out from an hour to and hour and a half (sometime even twice) a day, making sure not to skip meals just so I could get more work done. All this has contributed to me being leaner, stronger, more focused and energized than I’ve ever been.

There were definitely some difficult times along the way in terms of discipline and focus. Going out with friends became challenging when forced to avoid liquor and only being able to eat from a limited number of things on the menu. But with that came the realization that everything is a decision, and the challenge helped highlight that there’s potential consequences to every decision. And it’s all about the priorities that you have and being able to focus on the big picture rather than the situation at hand.

Do I take the dessert now and doc myself a point for the day? Do I let this crappy meal choice negatively effect my goals of losing body fat? What will I regret more? Not having the drink with my friends or feeling lousy the next day from having a few too many? And that realization helped make the decisions for me, and made it much easier to adhere to the rules and allow me to progress towards my goals.

I’d say my biggest takeaway from the challenge is that if you want to talk about goals, then you need to have a plan in place if you ever want to accomplish them. I’ve been training since I was in 8th grade, and this was one of the first times that my main focus was a better physique (losing body fat) first and athletic performance second. And because of that, along with the help of the challenge guidelines, I was able to focus my nutrition, training, sleep and recovery habits towards reaching my goals, and I can honestly say that’s what I did.

2017 Spring Challenge 2nd Place – Rich Fedeli Jr

I joined CrossFit Stamford back in the Fall, right after the 2016 Fall Challenge. As I was reading the essays of the three winners and seeing the amazing results of others, I thought to myself, ‟I can’t wait to sign up for the next Challenge!”

By the time March came around, and the announcement was made that the Spring Challenge would begin in April, I was already excited to start. The initial meeting with Kristie and Dr. Kurt was very informative. Not only were the rules discussed in detail, but I also gained some nutritional information I was not aware of. After the meeting, I felt pretty good about the dietary aspect of the Challenge, though I knew I was going to have to eliminate some of the foods I was currently eating. The bigger challenge was going to be giving up my supplements.

For the last decade, I have been what they call a “supplement junkie.” I have tried nearly every new product on the market. Over the course of the last two years, I had been using a brand that I thought was pretty clean, but learned that I would not be able to take it during the Challenge because it contains SUCRALOSE. This became the “dirty word” ingredient in all the supplements I had to give up for 30 days, including my go-to pre-workout drink.

The first few days were pretty tough. I don’t drink coffee, so omitting my pre-workout drink that contains caffeine was the most difficult part of the Challenge. In the second week, I started eating a small meal before working out – which I have never done before – and it actually helped a great deal. I introduced a plant-based protein instead of whey, and eventually got to a Challenge-friendly, all-natural pre-workout routine (Thanks Woo!!).

My food consumption was on point for the first two weeks, with just one slip-up (eating a protein bar that was not Challenge-friendly). My workouts and energy were definitely increasing, and the trusty mirror showed me I was doing a great job. During the third week, we were allowed one “cheat” meal, and I decided to have two slices of pizza on a Friday night. Wow, was that a mistake! Within an hour, I was sick to my stomach. It was a real eye-opener and absolutely not worth the cheat. My advice to future Challenge participants – if you want a cheat, make it something satisfying but on the lighter side.

By the start of the fourth week I was on autopilot. It was clearly the easiest week of the Challenge for me. I felt like I had made changes that I will stick to even after the Challenge is over. My measurements were all lower, body fat dropped, my WOD and Front Squat increased, and most importantly, the guy in the mirror looked significantly better than he did 30 days earlier.

For me, this 30-day Challenge was more of a permanent lifestyle change than a month-long competition. I can’t say for sure if I will go back to my pre-workout drink or not, but I can say there are many changes I have made in the last 30 days that I will continue doing every day. Thank you so much again to all the coaches and to CF Stamford for your daily support!!!

2017 Spring Challenge First Place – Danielle Salters

This was my third challenge, but the first time I truly committed to full compliance. I focused on getting through the first week, knowing from experience that the sugar cravings would fade from there. It wasn’t easy given the two events with open bars that I faced during that time, but I took It one day at a time. I made it through and, surprisingly, by the end of the week, the sugar cravings had faded and I’d settled into a routine.

I attempted another event during week 2 and was forced with the decision to get my 8 hours of sleep and miss my 6am WOD, or keep my perfect score. Because this year’s workout points maxed out at 3 rather than 5x per week, I opted for the sleep to keep the points, but I didn’t feel good about it. At that point, I decided [or accepted] that I had no time for anything during the week other than work, sleep, gym, stretching and foodprep. And decided I’d just have to make the most of the [sober] weekends. And, I settled into a routine surprisingly easily. Midway through week day, I couldn’t stop yawning once 9:15pm hit.

A key to my success was setting my goals and installing a support system. On the diet front, I basically kept a bag of compliant snacks with me wherever I went – almonds, larabars, bananas, and sweet potato chips were my go-tos. I also found surprising support in places like my café at work. I brought them ghee and they cooked with it! Two eggs and either chicken breast, turkey or bacon every morning was done. I also started a water challenge with my coworkers and took Kristie’s advice about keeping a glass of water next to bed. I found that first glass greatly impacted my desire for water and intake throughout the day.

It was important to me to not lose muscle during the challenge, so I added a protein supplement and committed to working out 5x/week. I had the support of veteran Fernanda , commuting to the 6am WOD together ~3xweek. When I needed the extra motivation to get up before the sun, knowing I’d be letting her down was it. I also started the hatch squat program with former challenge winner Lauren Spatz. This meant a gym arrival of 5:30am twice per week (which is really 5:50 to Lauren). That wakeup call meant that I was in bed at 9pm most nights. And it was refreshing! Other resources that I came to depend on were a certified stretcher who I met with twice a week (who knew that was a thing?!), and I treated myself to a massage every three workouts, which helped with the recovery points.

I didn’t get the easy recipe points, largely because I kept meals very boring. I ate a ton of fish, steak and burgers, with variations on sweet potatoes, asparagus and green beans. And that was basically it doe lunch and dinner throughout the entire challenge. I ended the challenge feeling healthier, stronger and energized. My weight loss really faded after week 2, but I replaced that with new PRs. I PRed my clean and jerk and squat clean and am confident that I will PR my back squat when I retest.

Thanks to the combo of the challenge and hatch squat, I added 20 pounds to my 5-rep max front squat and did them at my 1-rep max! I was disappointed that I couldn’t pick up cals in the retest, but I was able to hit the same wall-ball and KTE number across all three sets – 4 more than my highest set pre-challenge. With the massive gains seen during these four weeks, how can I not commit to having my ideal body? I’m going to add a drink allowance, but planning to stick to the rest of the challenge protocol through the fourth of July. It was really miraculous.

Meg Hildebrand 2016 Fall Challenge 1st Place Winner!

Challenge Essay – Meg Hildebrand

As a serial Challenger, I continue to sign myself up for these things in hopes of a shot at prize money worthy results! I’m pretty sure I’ve done AT least 3 of these, all with minimal results. However, I learn a little more about myself with each challenge and think this time around I did finally make some progress.


This Challenge I tried to pay more attention to portions and macros (which is a gigantic pain). I was not always on track and am still trying to figure out what works for me, but I’ve learned that mindless “Paleo” does NOT work. Just because it fits the paleo guidelines, doesn’t mean I need to eat it. Just because I’m not eating crackers and cheese, doesn’t mean I need seconds on paleo dinner. While medjool dates stuffed with almond butter are delicious AND within the guidelines – eating them like candy won’t help me reach any sugar reduction or fat loss goals. I’ve also learned that I have to make a conscious effort to eat a lot of vegetables, which I don’t love all the time.

Eating an adequate amount of vegetables seems to require more planning and prep work. Speaking of planning, my biggest fail happened in the first week when I failed to plan. We had a b-day party for my 4yr old and spent all morning setting up without eating anything. I managed to avoid the donuts, cake, pizza and other non-compliant snacks during the party- but once 2pm rolled around, guests had left, and I still hadn’t eaten anything all day – the leftover pizza didn’t stand a chance. I basically used myself as a garbage disposal to clean up. Gross.


Other challenges I’ve faced over the past 4 years as a CFS Challenger are similar each time, but seem easier to overcome each round. Wine and leftover kids meals are two difficult areas that stand out from the past. They really didn’t seem as much of an issue this time. Old habits die hard, but it’s possible! Overall, the more practice I have being mindful of what I eat, the easier it gets.

While I don’t have drastic physical results to use as persuasion, I would absolutely recommend this type of challenge to anyone. I love (and seem to need) the accountability factor of these Challenges. It definitely helps me stay on track vs telling myself I’m going to do it on my own for 30 days. It seems to be a slow learning curve for me, but I did find a “before” pic from one of the first Challenges I entered and am happy to see I’ve come a long way. A lot of trial and error for me (ex. birthday party binge), but I feel like I’m in a better place after each Challenge and I’m pretty sure this won’t be my last CFS Challenge 🙂


Lost 3.5lbs – gained .5lbs of muscle and frame mass decreased by 1lb (and my muscle to frame ratio is within 1lb, so I think that’s good?)
lost 1.5inches on waist and .5 inches in hips
I’ve also birthed two nearly 10lb babies and never thought I’d be able to get through the extra skin and stretch marks to find muscles – but I can see a couple now!

22 seconds faster on WOD test – which was a real struggle. Within the last week of the Challenge I PR’d Grace, which I didn’t think possible because I’ve not been lifting heavy during class. AND I Pr’d Fran by over 1 minute while just sticking to my usual ladies class a few times a week. I started Crossfit over 7yrs ago (in my 20s) and the fact that I’m still able to improve makes me feel less like a middle-aged mom and gives me hope that it doesn’t have to be all downhill from here! Thanks CFS!

Laura Spelling 2016 Fall Challenge 2nd Place Winner!

At the end of 30 days Laura had lost 11 pounds / 3.5% body fat / 3.5 inches on hips / 1.25 on waist!

Challenge Essay – Laura Spelling

Throughout the challenge I learned a lot about temptation and willpower which I never knew was in me. I also learned how to cook something other than pasta – Joe and the dogs were thrilled to wake up to the smell of fresh bacon. I tried so many new things and ventured into wholefoods on an almost daily basis because I found some new recipe I wanted to try that I didn’t have an ingredient for (download the wholefoods app, its life changing). I have never eaten or cooked butternut squash, zucchini noodles, coconut aminos, RX Bars, and making curry from scratch – I’m never ordering Indian again!


I learned to appreciate and look forward to going out to eat, focused on it for days, and imagined what it would be like to leave the house! I must admit, by the third week of not leaving the house, turning down invitations, and being downright bored, I was ready to get out! I only consumed one cheat meal and it was absolutely worth it. I methodically planned one drink with dinner, one drink after so I can be semi social– this is technically one meal. We did get out in other ways; we went hiking and walked the dogs more just to have a small resemblance of fun.

The most important takeaway from the past 30 days for me has been that preparation is key; if you prepare for the day then everything else falls into place. The first week was rough – I mean rough! But then when you get into a groove, go food shopping, plan what you need, stretch during lunch break (although I don’t think my manager was a fan), get to CFS by 6pm to ensure I’m home to cook dinner and lunch for the next day and get enough sleep, only to wake up and do this again. There was really no room for variation in my schedule, kind of felt like Groundhog Day…


Although I expected coworkers to judge me HARD, they were actually very supportive and as I brought in my lunches they’d ask for recipes and now even they’re more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies. I did have an awkward encounter when I was invited to the Executive Dining Room (which is filled with the most delicious and FREE lunch options) and had to get a pathetic little salad and ask for olive oil and vinegar in front of 8 members of senior management. Not the highlight of the challenge. I converted people over to this crazy meal plan and even cooked a challenge compliant meal for my friend before a 7pm MBA class. Even she was surprised by my cooking skills and how something that tasted this good was approved per the challenge.

Getting the 8 hours’ sleep was rather easy and quick amazing. I vividly remember my friend asking if I wanted to go to her apartment for a show that starts at 10pm- I had to say no…what a shame ☺

Overall, people were very supportive and complimented me on my willpower; however, I will be thoroughly enjoying the Halloween Treats Party at work (which I planned) with real sugar and flour, without shame. I lost weight, lost inches, and have more energy – what more can you ask for?

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