Originally published – Nov. 2012.
Nearly a decade ago, Mike Ute started doing CrossFit in a 7-foot-square space in the gym on the Wind River Reservation in Fort Washakie, Wyo. He found the one barbell in the entire place and some old bumper plates, and he did Fran.
“I started to believe that CrossFit was going to be the way for everybody to become more fit,” says Ute, of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.
Then he told his friend of 10 years, Cody O’Neal. At 6 foot 8 and 344 lb., O’Neal was facing grim news: his doctor had told him his fate was sealed if he continued his lifestyle.
“I was pretty much headin’ for an early grave—just with the alcoholism part, the diabetes part. That’s the problem here in the Washakie reservation. I was just another number of that,” he says.
After six months of CrossFit, O’Neal started to show characteristics of a good CrossFit coach, says Ute, the first Native American CrossFit Level 1 trainer.
“It hit him just like it hit me,” he explains. “I believe that once you yourself see change and feel better about yourself, then you can teach others.”
But the changes don’t end with O’Neal and Ute. In the past couple of years, the gym has attracted dozens of people from across the reservation who are now doing CrossFit and learning about healthy nutrition.