get to know…Dante and Helen

Dante and Helen are one of the power couples  attending SCCF, they are also great friends and very humble,  but definitely NOT the couple you want to have a bender fender with.  They are both lawyers and most likely you will be in the losing end of that “case”.  However, they are amazing crossfitters and have embraced the whole life style with earnest involving their children and even the parents.  But let them tell us more about them.

San Carlos CrossFit: The SCCF pride is comprised of people living in many different locales. Where did you grow up and what are you doing here now in the bay area?

Dante: I grew up in L.A. – Palos Verdes – and consider California my home.  I went back east for law school, where I met Helen, and after a stint in Asia, we eventually ended up in the Bay Area.

Helen: I grew up in Delaware and came out to the Bay Area – and California – for the first time for college.

SCCF: Do either of you have a history in athletics. If so, tell us your most memorable moment?

Dante: Probably playing in my last high school water polo game, knowing it was about to end and just trying to give it my all for the last minute.

Helen: Um, I wouldn’t call myself an athlete by any stretch.  In fact, I would say, if I can come to CrossFit and not hurt myself and get in better shape, then anyone can.  Really!  This is an example of my athletic background:  one year in high school, I decided to try out for the volleyball team, and the coach took me aside at the end of the second day of tryouts and gently suggested that I consider something else.  This was still a few days before the official cuts.

SCCF: Tell us a bit more on your experience with human movement, while growing up.

Dante: I was not athletic as a kid, but in high school, I played water polo, soccer and baseball, and I swam.  In college, I continued to play water polo and also played a little football, and then in law school, I played football.  After that, I lifted and ran and tried yoga for a short time.  I played in a basketball league for a couple years with some friends in the East Bay.  I love exercising.

Helen: In college and afterwards, I ran, swam and did yoga, just for fun and to stay active.  I ruined my knees with the running though.  I pretty much stopped working out when I had a high-risk pregnancy with our first child.

SCCF: With all the CrossFit and niche training facilities cropping up in the area, why us? And what got you started?

Dante: I wanted to try CrossFit and found SCCF in a Google search just before New Years 2011.  I came and really loved the challenge and coaching.  I enjoy being pushed.

 Helen: I was looking to get back into exercising about three months after having our third child, so I started running again, and I was well on my way to wrecking my knees again when Dante convinced me to do a trial class at SCCF.  I remember it was my birthday, so he was going to take me to lunch, but he ended up taking me to SCCF instead.  The next time I went back, I met Branden and he encouraged me to take the fundamentals class that was starting up.  After I finished that, I started going to regular classes.

SCCF: Tell the community one of your biggest achievements since training with us, and where you want to be a year from now.

Dante: I’m still learning every day.  My technique needs a great deal of work.  I would like to get to a level where I meet my own expectations and can do well at any workout thrown at me, but I’m a long way from that.  I have specific strength and speed goals for myself.

Helen: Learning POSE running has been key.  I’m still working on my form, and Bre and Luis have both worked with me a lot on it.  It’s saved my knees and allowed me to start running again.  Other than that, honestly, I just never pictured myself as ever even attempting to do something like a deadlift or squat clean – so it’s been really fun just to try things and feel like I’m learning and improving.  I’d like to be able to do kipping pull-ups and double unders, and also a strict pull-up without a band, and just keep getting stronger generally.

SCCF: If a workout came up tomorrow that you dreaded the most, what would it be?

Dante: 100 yard sprints, because my body has recovery issues with them when I run on hard surfaces.

Helen: Anything with the prowler.

SCCF: We started this column to highlight members of our community and any hidden talents they may have. What ninja type skills would the community least likely guess you possessed?

Dante: Not much.  I like to bake pies.  I’m really into eating pies.  And I can impersonate Elmo’s voice for my kids.

Helen: Dante makes a mean peach blackberry pie – not too sweet and with a very flaky crust.  Definitely not Paleo though.  I can’t think of anything for myself – I’ve been told that I’m a really fast reader but I’m not sure that counts as a talent.  And I played classical piano for over 10 years, but it’s been a long time since I’ve really played.

SCCF: If paleo allowed all the beer and ice cream you could imagine, what flavors would they come in?

Dante: Old Rasputin’s Imperial Stout and Sierra Nevada Torpedo, both on tap, for the beer, and coconut for the ice cream.  Actually beer and ice cream sound pretty good right about now.

Helen: I’m not much of a beer drinker.  For ice cream, Bi-Rite in San Francisco has an amazing salted caramel.  Closer to home, Cowabunga in San Carlos has a flavor called Goofy Foot which I like.  And Amy actually has a Paleo recipe for coconut “ice cream” which is delicious.  I’m an equal opportunist when it comes to ice cream.

SCCF: Many say it’s the bond of suffering together, which brings this community close to one another. Have you found this to be true? Any other new found friendships worth mentioning?

Dante: have.  I’m an old guy so a bit out of the group’s average age range but I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Bre and many others.  The most fun, however, has been adding to my friendship with Helen by sharing CrossFit.  We talk about the workouts and plan when we can go.  It’s great.

Helen: Everyone is very supportive of one another.  For myself, I really appreciate how encouraging my classmates always are.  People are excited for one another’s accomplishments, no matter where they are in their fitness levels.  I think the positive culture and camaraderie help to motivate you not only in class, but to keep coming to class.  And like Dante said, it’s been fun having CrossFit in common for us; in the past we didn’t work out together often because Dante is kind of intense about his exercising, and I’m not so much.

SCCF: Through pain and hard work comes clarity and results. What inspires you to keep coming back for more?

Dante: I want to conquer my weaknesses.  I think CrossFit has really helped me to focus and measure my improvements.  I also enjoy the coaching – Bre keeps me honest! – as well as seeing and talking to others in the SCCF community.

Helen: Making progress, trying new things, the great coaching and the other members.  I mostly go to Bre’s classes, and she’s a terrific trainer.  She always thinks I can do more than I think I can do, and she’s right!  But she’s also really careful about form and safety.  She and Branden put a lot of thought into the programming so that they’re always changing things up, but at the same time building on what they’ve done, and I think the WODs provide motivation too: there are days when I don’t feel like going to class, because I’m tired or stressed about work, and then I’ll look at the WOD on the website and think, oh that sounds fun, I want to do that, and I’ll end up going.

SCCF: Unknown and unknowable is a training principle we align ourselves with but you will often hear us nagging you to train with proper equipment. If you could recommend something to a new client looking to improve his dress code, what would it be?

Dante: Given how poorly I dress, I may be the wrong person to ask.  I do think good shoes are critical.

Helen: I still need to get the right shoes!

SCCF: Top 5 songs you would sync to our iPod for your next training session

Dante: AC/DC – Hells Bells (for max lifting), Eminem – Lose Yourself, Dropkick Murphys – I’m Shipping Up To Boston, Filter – Hey Man Nice Shot, Nirvana – Smells Like Team Spirit.

Helen: “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers.  But I don’t focus on the music much; whatever you guys are already playing sounds good to me.

SCCF: We constantly preach the virtues of good sleep habits and ancestral type eating. Have you taken that step? What have you noticed most?

Dante: My sleep is suboptimal but my diet is about 85% Paleo (the 15% is due mostly to lots of milk and pie at night).  I’ve noticed my body composition has changed, pie notwithstanding.  When I first changed my diet, my energy level was low for a couple of weeks, but then I think my body got more efficient at burning fat, and I have more consistent energy overall now.

Helen: I changed my eating habits just a short time after starting at SCCF, so I can’t tell what’s attributable to diet and what’s attributable to exercise, but I definitely have way more energy.  I would love to get more sleep, but the baby is a terrible sleeper.

SCCF: If we found you kicking your feet up anywhere in the world, where would it be? And what book would you be reading?

Dante: Kauai.  Book would be “Imperial Bedrooms” by Brett Easton Ellis, which I just started reading.  I also love Hemingway.

Helen: Kauai would be my pick too.  We had our honeymoon there.  Either finishing “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” by David Foster Wallace or revisiting “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry.  If you have any recommendations, I’m always looking for a good read!

SCCF: When you’re not down at our shop taming wolverines, what types of kinesthetic mischief would we find you celebrating in?

Dante: Wrestling with my toddler – he’s actually really strong so I have to try hard to hold onto him.  We also both try to run at least once a week in addition to going to SCCF.

Helen: And we like doing the occasional family hike on weekends.  There isn’t room for much else at this stage of life, since we both work full-time and want to spend time with the kids, but that’s okay.

SCCF: Is SCCF a family affair or are you the only exercise assassin of the bunch?

Dante:  Our girls took the SCCF Kids class this past summer with Heather.

SCCF: Training in so many different modalities almost certainly exposes weaknesses is a person’s skillsets. Since training with us, what has been the most surprising exposure for you? And have there been any elated moments of newfound acquisition?

Dante: I really need to work on my hip and hamstring flexibility.  Additionally, my lifting technique has holes; the coaches have worked with me on them, and I really appreciate that.  On the acquisition front, I was really excited to learn double unders and to climb the rope.

Helen: I was surprised to discover how incredibly imbalanced my left and right sides are in terms of strength and flexibility.

SCCF: I don’t know about you but I am always thinking about my next meal. What’s for dinner tonight?

Dante: A Chinese dish of beef, tomato and egg from my lovely wife. : )

SCCF: If we started taking up a collection fund at the box for you to be surgically modified with any superpower, would we find you banging out iron crosses for reps or cooking one of Amy’s paleo recipes with your eyes?

Dante: Patience.  I really need that.

Helen: Cooking.  Amy is an awesome cook.  We’re responsible for the purchase and consumption of an inordinate amount of her nut butter (and by “we” I mean “Dante”!).

SCCF: We’ve been putting together a new equipment list. Any special requests?

Dante: Maybe sledgehammers.

Helen: More bands, boxes, and rowers.

SCCF: If we want to know more what class would we most likely find you at?

Dante: Noon class.  I like the 8:30 am one as well and have to find a new class as my schedule is changing.

Helen: Depends on my schedule for that day or week.  I can’t make the 6 am classes because of the baby, but I think I’ve been to all the rest at some point.

SCCF: Leave us with 3 words.

Dante: Will to power.

Helen: Another good one for Dante would be “Just push yourself.”  That is a common refrain in our house, from him to me.  However, it doesn’t go the other way so I can’t claim it as mine.  I can’t think of any pithy words of my own though, so you’ll have to go with Dante’s.


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