James Polanco
Member name:

James Polanco

Athlete of the month: August 2016

James Polanco joined San Diego Athletics in April 2015 and began following the bodybuilding program, which at the time was offered in addition to the CrossFit program.
It was difficult at first.
“I tried to do a lateral raise, and (the coach) said, ‘Dude, just stop,’” James said. “My right shoulder was in my ear. I had shoulder and back issues, and my pecs were so tight my scap was useless,” he said.
James’ shoulder was so messed up he couldn’t do a push-up.
So James, at age 40, committed to fixing his body. He started doing the bodybuilding program three times a week and went to physical therapy one to two times per week.
James works from home in software development. While working from home has many perks, it also can lead to a lot of sitting and the temptations associated with unlimited access to the kitchen.
As with many people, James got out of the habit of being regularly active after college. The years of inactivity were immediately apparent in James’ movement patterns.
“That first week (of bodybuilding) I was in the worst pain ever,” James said, “but after a couple of weeks I got used to it.”
When the bodybuilding program ended, James moved right into the CrossFit program and said it was a smooth transition. He said he’s loved learning the more technical Olympic lifts and also getting to know more of the members now that everybody is doing the same programming each day.
The progress James has made in about a year and a half is impressive.
When he started, he bench pressed about 75 lb. He’s now up to 196 lb. James could not properly do an air squat in April of 2015, and now he can back squat 270 lb.
James made all these strength gains while losing 30 lb.
A few years before joining San Diego Athletics, James and his wife went to see a nutritionist to get a handle on their eating habits.
“We ate fast food on a regular basis,” James said. Not in the habit of planning their meals, they would discover at the end of the day they had nothing to eat for dinner. The prospect of figuring out what to eat, driving to the store, and then coming home and cooking the food was too exhausting, so they would just head to Taco Bell.
At the advice of the nutritionist, James and his wife started to plan meals, which then led to having healthy leftovers for lunch. Now, when James and his wife do eat out, they avoid fast food in favor of healthier options.
James is a regular fixture at the 8:00 am class at San Diego Athletics. His goals for the future include getting a muscle-up, stringing together 15 pull-ups easily, and bench-pressing 220-lb.
What keeps him coming back day after day, however, are not these goals. Not only does James not need help from his physical therapist, he said he’s in the best shape of his life.
“This is top notch,” he said about San Diego Athletics. “The facility, the people and the coaches.”

By Hilary Achauer

Shawn Paone
Member name:

Shawn Paone

Athlete of the month: September 2016

After college Shawn Paone, 25, stopped working out.

“I had a really unhealthy relationship with fitness,” Shawn said.

She struggled with an eating disorder in college and became obsessed with running and working out, so to break that cycle she stopped exercising completely.

Originally from New Jersey, Shawn moved to San Diego two years ago. That’s when she returned to fitness and ran her first marathon in May. A month later she was looking for a new challenge, and tried out a class at San Diego Athletics.

“Halfway through my first class I knew I was going to join,” she said.

Shawn works in software development in Mission Valley, and she usually comes to the 5:00 pm class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. An avid photographer, Shawn frequently heads to the beach after class to take photos of the ocean and surfers. You can check out her work at

Many people come to CrossFit never having lifted weights, but Shawn played soccer and ran track in high school, and back then her training included squats, deadlifts, and cleans.

“I haven’t done that in eight years, but it felt familiar. I missed it,” she said.

The one thing she had never done was snatch.

“The first time I snatched, Bryan said I looked uncomfortable,” Shawn said with a laugh.

Now, just six months later, she can snatch 90 lb.

Bryan told her he can’t believe how far she’s come in such a short time. Excited about the progress she’s made, Shawn said she hopes to get a strict pull-up soon, which she said she hasn’t been able to do since elementary school. She also looks forward to completing the workouts as prescribed.

“The community, the people have motivated me to keep coming,” she said. “The coaches are awesome at San Diego Athletics. Bryan and Jenny are so helpful. They spend so much time correcting my form, telling me I need to slow down, and making sure I’m doing this right before I put more weight on the bar.”

More than anything, Shawn said she loves working out at San Diego Athletics, and how she feels after doing CrossFit for six months.

“I look in the mirror and I’m super proud of who I am and how far I’ve come,” Shawn said.

By Hilary Achauer


"This place has changed my life! It has given me so much confidence in my body, my balance, and my ability to be active.” - Chris Madsen, SDA member since 2010


1019 Garnet Ave
San Diego, CA 92109

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