The Original Swole and Flexy Athlete
Written by Kristen Chandler Toth
It’s a common CrossFit story. The former high school athlete looking for fitness as an adult finds a random website in 2006. Watches fuzzy instructional videos and teaches him- or herself weightlifting and gymnastics and then experiences the thrill, success, and devastation of this thing called intensity. Does that for a few years then hits the plateau of immobility. Squat snatches and a good front rack position seem impossible for the garage-gym athlete and niggling injuries start to pop up.
It’s not surprising that a man with that kind of normal-within-CrossFit story is the co-founder of ROMWOD, a program of daily stretching routines that targets the specific mobility issues that CrossFitters run into. Jeremiah Head, a former teacher and volleyball coach, was that 30-something athlete looking for fitness in his garage who found CrossFit but hit a wall and needed help. Luckily, he found guidance in his own family as his brother Daniel, a well-known vinyasa yoga teacher, stepped in to guide Jeremiah towards becoming the original “Swole and Flexy” athlete.
When Jeremiah left teaching to become a full-time CrossFit coach he started training more. He and his wife Tiffany opened a small CrossFit box in order to cross-train his volleyball team. And he said, “I couldn’t afford a membership at a CrossFit gym, so we just opened our own tiny gym.” Eventually that gym grew into what is now Parakaleo CrossFit in Redlands, CA.
“I started dabbling with competition programming, just to see. And then the 2015 qualifiers for the Wodapalooza came up,” remembered Jeremiah.
He barely made it into the Master’s division. Jeremiah and his wife came to Miami to compete.
“I had the time of my life. The Wodapalooza atmosphere was super fun and something I wanted to keep trying to do,” he said.
As he continued training with higher volume, Jeremiah realized that he really liked competing in CrossFit, but he couldn’t do half the movements, because he couldn’t get into the full positions. As a former competitive high-school and college athlete, Jeremiah had stiffness and old injuries to work through. His squat snatch numbers were lower than what he wanted and he’d hit a plateau in his training because he couldn’t progress to higher weights with things like overhead squats. Advanced gymnastics were out of the question for him, even though he was by then, a seasoned CrossFitter.
Lucky for Jeremiah, in stepped his brother Daniel who happened to know a thing or two about stretching and mobility. Daniel, who in addition to being a yoga instructor had a degree in kinesiology and a background in martial arts. He wasn’t into CrossFit like his brother, but he was happy to help Jeremiah. Daniel prescribed a series of yoga positions to help improve mobility. Daniel’s martial arts experience introduced him to yin-style yoga stretches, where an athlete holds a single pose for several minutes, increasing the stretch as time ticks away.
“I was the original test-monkey for ROMWOD. Daniel would give me a series of stretches to do to target my shoulder tightness or help me get to the bottom of the squat. I would do that for a week or so and then he would give me a different series of stretches.”
Jeremiah found a lot of success with the routine Daniel prescribed for him. Slowly he saw his ability to get in certain positions increase. Movements that were formerly out of the question became accessible. At age 40, Jeremiah did his first muscle-up and handstand push-up.
Because of the success Daniel and Jeremiah found with the mobility routines that Daniel wrote for his for his brother, they shared it with other local athletes. They started sharing their routines with competitive CrossFit Regional and Games athletes in the area. They sponsored their first athlete, Wes Piatt and then Miami’s own Noah Ohlsen. In order to share their ideas with the world, they needed a bigger platform. Seminars reach coaches, but they wanted to reach all of the CrossFit athletes, across the world.
Coming from the yoga scene, Daniel was familiar with the subscription models available online for yogis. He and Jeremiah translated their stretching routines, which were targeted at the specific mobility issues that CrossFitters regularly encounter, turning them into a series of sessions available to subscribers online. The brothers adopted the concept of Workout of the Day (WOD) that was focused on increasing Range of Motion (ROM) and voila, ROMWOD as we know was born. It’s founders were Daniel along with his wife Shawna, and Jeremiah and his wife, Tiffany.
As for the tag line “Swole and Flexy,” Jeremiah, the owner of a Jeep with the SWLFLXY license plate, takes credit for that.
“We were doing our first photo shoot with our Games athletes and I said they were both swole and flexy. We all laughed and I hash tagged it on a social media post,” he said.
Jeremiah has continued competing in the Masters divisions at Wodapalooza every year since 2015. He is one of those athletes that appears to be reversing the aging process.
“Last year I was able to bring my kids and ended up 3rd overall in my division. Hearing my family cheer for me and showing them what is possible with hard work makes it all worth it,” said Jeremiah.
Today Jeremiah earned his best finish at WZA – 2nd place in the Masters 40-44 division. His family made T-shirts and are here in Miami, supporting him wholeheartedly.
“It’s cool to watch the process,” said Jeremiah’s daughter Mackenzie. “When we were young he was just working out in the garage, but now look at him here on this stage. We are so proud of him.”