River Kiener: “CrossFit is for everybody”


Last week, we had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with River Kiener, one of our #TheloStrong members.

Thelo: “Who is River Kiener?”

Sitting at a table in Java Jolt, our local coffee shop, River told us he had been married for nearly 7 years and recently turned 27 years old. Our chosen meetup spot actually worked out perfectly since he works at Java Jolt as a full-time manager, but he also does graphic design work in his spare time.

Originally from just down the road in Alexandria, River now calls Jacksonville home.

When asked if he and his wife have children, he gave a telling smile. “Not yet,” he responded.

Had our interview with River been conducted a couple of years ago, he would definitely not have added this last moniker to his own description of himself, but with a little shrug and a wry smile, he readily admitted, “I’m a CrossFitter.”

River’s younger brother and sister actually began CrossFit long before he decided to give it a try.

“I couldn’t stand CrossFit,” he told us, “because [my brother and sister] talked about it all the time. I was avidly against CrossFit.”

“But I had another friend,” he began – and from this point forward in our conversation, a pattern began to emerge – and the conversation shifted ever-so-slightly from “River’s CrossFit Journey” to “CrossFit? It’s about the community.”

Over the years, River had lived a fairly active lifestyle, getting involved in cycling and weightlifting in high school, but once he got married in his sophomore year of college, he began packing on the pounds.

River, who once weighed in at a healthy 170 pounds and had successfully avoided gaining the “Freshman 15” in his first year of college, ended up gaining that 15 pounds in his first year of marriage.

Then his job situation changed, and he went from a job where he was on his feet and burning calories most of the day to a job like many of us have – sitting behind a desk.

18 months later, River had hit a whopping 210 pounds!

“I felt winded going up the stairs,” River told us, a look of reflection in his eyes, and it was then he knew he had to make a change.

But River didn’t start CrossFit right away. In fact, he went back to what he already knew – cycling.

“There are some really great trails around here, and I already had some friends who were into it, so I decided to get back into cycling again.”

And River pedaled his way down to 190 pounds, but he wanted even more.

When we asked River what he wanted people to know about making the transition from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one, River didn’t miss a beat.

“You have to really want the change,” he told us.

Thelo: “So, why CrossFit? What was it about CrossFit that made you choose it over other programming?”

River sat back in his chair, contemplating the question a bit, but then told us, “I need somebody to tell me what to do. I can’t just go in the gym and work out on my own.”

Indeed, that’s one of the key elements of CrossFit, where a highly skilled, qualified coach designs the programming around members’ fitness goals.

River mentioned another aspect of his fitness journey though, and this one really gets to the heart of what CrossFit is all about.

“Community – it’s really nice to have that support around me,” he told us.

Now, we didn’t count the times River said the word “community” during our chat, but it was a thread that wove its way through our conversation from beginning to end.

In fact, the community aspect of CrossFit was another key element in River’s decision to start CrossFit.

“Community is intensified in CrossFit,” and there’s a common bond formed when you embrace challenges with people who are going through the same things you are.

Thelo: “When did you realize that you are a success story?

With a humble smile, River told us he wasn’t sure if he would consider himself a success story, but that he is definitely progressing to greater levels of fitness.

But he did admit that about a year into his CrossFit journey, he realized how good he felt, how much better his quality of life had become, and what a change CrossFit had made in his life.

Thelo: “What keeps you motivated?”

It was almost as if River had studied for the test before we even asked some of these questions.

“The people keep me motivated,” he said without an ounce of hesitation. And there was that theme again – community.

In addition to the CrossFit community, River also noted that accountability to others has been key to his success on his fitness journey.

River has intentionally surrounded himself with people at CrossFit Thelo who will keep him accountable to his personal fitness goals. Additionally, he has also created his own community of accountability partners who keep him accountable on his nutrition.

Thelo: “What would you say to people who are nervous about trying CrossFit?”

“The workouts can be modified to any fitness level,” River told us with all the authority of someone who has been there and experienced it firsthand.

If you want a high intensity workout with friends in your local community, CrossFit is for you, but as River told us, “If you just want to get in the gym and move, [you] can do that [as well].”

Thelo: “Who is CrossFit for?”

River nodded knowingly, “CrossFit is for everybody,” he told us. “We have grandparents, moms, dads, and CrossFit Kids and Teens.

And indeed, he is right. CrossFit is for everybody.

That’s right – even you.

Whaddaya say?

Wanna be the next success story?

P.S. You can find River on Instagram and Twitter @river_kiener.