If you’ve ever walked into the doors at CrossFit Liberate chances are you’ve seen our head coach, Nat Walker. He may be behind the desk, coaching a class, or finding a new way to rig the ropes. You never really know because Nat is one of the those people who does a little bit of everything. Literally. We aren’t exaggerating when we say that this head coach has a whole slew of experiences under his belt that make him one pretty interesting guy.
Are you curious yet? See below for an abbreviated history of Nat Walker:
Nat is from the fair isle of St. Simons Islands, GA. He grew up there, which we can all immediately be jealous of. After leaving the island for college he realized that there were a lot of other things that sounded way more interesting. What could possibly be more exciting that college? Well, how about working as a wildland firefighter in Oregon? Or spending a semester in an outdoor leadership program in the Rocky Mountains? Working a ropes course? Developing skills as a carpenter? Heck, he even worked in the restaurant biz and worked his way up from a dishwasher to a chef. Yeah, nbd (no big deal, for those of you have no idea what “nbd” means, we got you).
So now you’re probably like “Ok, so this guy is cool. He’s been on adventures. How did he end up coaching CrossFit in Athens, GA?”. Well, let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start (ok, well, maybe the middle but its always fun to throw lines from musicals into blogs). After fighting fires and living the mountain man life Nat decided to join the army. At the suggestion of his recruiter, he decided to try out CrossFit as a way to get in shape. Just like everyone else to ever try this workout Nat specifically remembers his first class. “My first class was deadlifts and pushups. I had 115lbs on the bar and this 16-year-old girl next to me had 155lb and acted like it was nothing and smoked me in the workout. Yeah, that was a humbling experience.” Sound familiar? After joining the Air Force via the Delayed Enlistment Program, Nat continued to work out utilizing CrossFit modalities. However, in 2013, he tore two ligaments in his wrist (if you ask him about it he can vividly describe the sensation and sound….ew). This resulted in a medical discharge from the army as well as putting a temporary halt to his CrossFit routine. That’s where Athens comes in.
He had actually already spent some time in Athens back in 2007 and decided it was a good place to end up. So he brought an old 1971 camper up to the Classic City, set up camp (in a permanent way) and became an Athenian. He continued to work as a carpenter, arborist, and even helped open a climbing gym. Around this time he was approached by the founders of CrossFit Liberate about being their head coach.
Nat is a natural fit for this job because he immediately recognized and identified with the vision of CrossFit Liberate. Here we are all about being a community, about supporting one another, building each other up and making your time in this space the best hour (or so) of your day. That is exactly what our head coach identifies as his favorite thing about CrossFit. “Doing this work is hard. Doing it solo is even harder and can be self-deprecating in a way. I guess I’m old school when it comes to brotherhood and camaraderie but that’s what I find in this type of workout.” We’d have to agree with you on that one Coach Nat.
One of the things that makes Nat such a great coach is that he doesn’t forget what it was like to walk in and take that first class. He remembers that desire to change but also that “You have to be patient with yourself and listen to your body. People who come to CrossFit are often here to make a significant change but you also have to be willing to be patient with that.” Remember that people, patience is a good thing.
Not only is being CrossFit Liberate’s Head Coach all about knowledge of technical movements but there’s a people science to it as well. “You have to be able to read people’s personalities. Finding someone’s inner drive is different for everyone. Some people walk in the gym and want to show off immediately and it’s up to you to temper that. Other people need help feeling at ease and others just need some coaching to come out of their shell. I learned a lot about leading others during my leadership studies in the Rockies. You can’t tell people what to do, you have to show them. Just telling people something makes you a boss, not a leader, and I vow to never be that type of leader.” We’ll just let you sit and digest that for second…How awesome is it to know that every day you’re walking into a space where you’re being coached by someone who wants to help you in your most individual way? Pretty freaking awesome.
So, next time your in the gym and see Nat ask him about his firefighting days, the snatch (it’s his favorite movement due to the complexity), his 1971 camper (fondly named Jolene) which is being rebuilt into a tiny house, or his really dexterous toes (seriously, do it). Whatever you decide to strike up a conversation about this dude is down. Coaches like Nat are what make CrossFit Liberate one of the most welcoming communities you’ll find. We’re excited that you’ve chosen to become part of it.