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The BoxJumper, Jean St-Amand

Small business owner, husband, father, CrossFit athlete, trainer and Catalyst Athletics Certified Weightlifting Coach

What does BoxJumper mean?

The name for this site is inspired by three things at the same time:

First and foremost, to those that work out, particularly in functional fitness, box jumping is a foundational training activity: you jump onto a box and repeat. Simple enough.

Second, functional fitness gyms are often referred to as “boxes”. And so with one intention of this site is for me to document visits to other boxes anywhere I travel, and in going from box to box like David Carradine in Kung Fu (I’m not dating myself that badly, given that it was off the air by the time I was born), I am essentially jumping from box to box – or – “box jumping”. And so with each visit I try to write about it.

And third, as you will discover in my “Month 2” recap blog post, I have a love-hate relationship with box jumping (the aforementioned activity) for gravitational and relative dexterity reasons.

So that’s the quick and dirty on what BoxJumper means.

Who is this site for?

Effectively it’s for everyone interested in athletic pursuits, but it’s principally aimed at the over 40 functional fitness crowd. Why? Because that’s the perspective from which my stories will be told. I will be inviting guest writers to contribute to the content of the site as well to offer other perspectives along the way, but they too will focus on the perspective of the masters CrossFit fitness athlete.

It’s meant to inform, entertain, inspire and provoke discussion.

About Jean St-Amand – Author, Business Owner and Masters (over 40) Athlete, CrossFit Level 2 Trainer and Catalyst L1 Certified Weightlifting Coach

My professional life

I’m a specialist in communications project management and design, working in the marketing department for a couple of companies, then in large ad agency for the first few years of my career, and then a I started my own shop – like many entrepreneurs, I was driving by the notion of owning the relationship with the client and having more control over my professional life. So I started my small communications agency, QB Marketing. I quarterback communications assignments for clients all over North America – basically I go where the referrals take me, since that’s how I get new clients. My very first client, Dr. Stanley Jacobs, a Canadian surgeon who grew up in Montreal and then took his skills to beautiful northern California, is still a client to this day. I’ve built a pretty diverse portfolio of clients in one pretty interesting and very different industries – some are small one-person businesses, some are government agencies, and some are very large national and international businesses. It’s a great job. Always challenging, and always changing. But I’m a communications and marketing geek through and through.

My athletic life

I was always into sports, but I’m not what you would call a specimen of athleticism. Throughout elementary, junior high and high school, I played various sports – some team sports and some individual. I did well with baseball for a while as a pitcher, then made the mistake of taking a year off and when i came back, I was up and age division and seriously outmatched in skill by other pitchers. I had a very good fastball and a weak curve ball. Not nearly enough to stay competitive. I was competitive provincially in Badminton mainly because I can pretty decent reflexes, but not a huge amount of speed, so that advantage was also short-lived. In grade 9, I tried Uechi-Ryu Karate and did very well with it, but my instructor, an RCMP police officer, was posted further away and so the dojo moved – and I couldn’t move with it, so I put that aside.

In high school, I performed well in cross country running, but I didn’t take is especially seriously. I trained only when the team trained. Running on my own just didn’t appeal to me.

Just as my first year in university was ending, a Uechi-Ryu Karate club opened in Lower Sackville, the town next to Bedford. It wasn’t too tough to get to at this point in my life, and I decided to check it out. I joined in about 6 months after most of the class had started, but my previous experience in the style helped me catch up quickly and I found it all came back to me really easily. It was a sport that was individual in nature, full of form and theory of technical movement, combined with strength and speed. I figured i could develop the latter two, but the technical side of it I found came naturally to me. So I excelled at it and spent as much time as I could working on it. By the next summer, the Karate club had moved into Bedford only blocks from where I lived, so I threw myself into it even more. I was then asked to help out as an assistant instructor for the junior classes. It was a volunteer thing, but it accelerated my learning of the style even more, analyzing movement in other practitioners and providing instruction on how to tailor the movements to each person.

My twenties

Once I graduated University, I found it tough to get a job in Halifax. I got an offer in Toronto and wound up moving there. I worked out at a Uechi-Ryu club there and when I returned for Thanksgiving, went through my black belt test and was awarded my Shodan rank. I returned to Toronto as a black belt and Dave suggested that I could start a school there, but I definitely didn’t feel ready so I just continued to work out. It didn’t feel quite like my home club, but it did help get me through my time in Toronto.

Once I returned to Halifax for a job in an agency managing their newly-formed multimedia division, I was so busy that Karate studies fell to the way side. And despite my best efforts, I never quite managed to get my schedule back to a point that regular karate classes worked for me any longer. It was a disappointing reality of being a working adult.

Not long after that, I started my own company and my schedule got even more complicated and considerably less flexible. Then I met my wife, who had a four year old daughter when I met her – instant family and even less flexibility in my schedule.

In the years after that, I tried the occasional gym membership, but without a structure – and I was in no position to come up with my own – I found it lacking. When I was 29, at the height of the Lance Armstrong craze, and before his fall from grace, I thought perhaps cycling was the right path for me – solitary and flexible in terms of training schedule. I got a basic road bike and spent several months getting into shape as a rider. But as the daylight hours of the fall set in, I realized that the flexibility of the training schedule was limited – at least if you wanted to ride safely. So for the winter, I took up running, joining the run club at the newly opened Running Room in Bedford. I took to it quickly, and enrolled in a half marathon clinic.

My thirties

I did a couple of clinics at Running room and even took a couple of turns as a volunteer instructor. But when my right knee started to hurt constantly, even when I was’t running and continued to get worse, I didn’t slow down until it was too late. Patellar tendonitis built up and never went away fully. It seems riding a desk for a career resulted in some muscles in my legs being weaker than others, and an imbalance between left and right added to it, putting a lot of pressure on my knee with each landing – and over half marathon distances, that adds up. So, after a couple of years as a runner, I put it aside for a while, hoping that enough time would allow things to heal.

Jean St-Amand at the finish line of the Bedford 5k to Beat Lung Cancer
I was plugged into the running community pretty well at that point though, and so in 2008 when my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, I put my frustration to good use and started an annual charity run called the Bedford 5k to Beat Lung Cancer, all proceeds of which go to lung cancer initiatives by the Canadian Cancer Society. It’s been going strong ever since and will celebrate its 10th year in 2017.
In my later thirties, I returned to regular gym memberships, this time at the Canada Games Centre. At least there, I would swim, run, cycle or lift weights – options I hadn’t had elsewhere. I went very regularly. But once again without structure, I found I bored of it, and would go in spurts, then take time off. I even bought a family membership, hoping the rest of the family would get interested and we could go together. But it never quite sparked their interest.

Finally I decided to set up a gym at home. Nothing too fancy though. I already had a treadmill that we had bought at least ten years earlier and it still worked great. I figured if I could get a basic gym going for roughly what I was paying for a family membership at the Canada Games Centre, it would make sense. Then no travel required, etc. I opted for a Bowflex – you can get pretty good strength conditioning out of the flex rods, but you almost eliminate the risk that you ordinarily have with free weights because the rod doesn’t actually provide the full resistance until the very end of the movement – so it’s really hard to over do it. Sure, it’s not the same as lifting the full weight through the entire range of motion, but it’s still pretty good and it means my family can use it too.

My intro to Functional Fitness – as I entered my forties

Just as I was about to turn forty, my friends and neighbours – in fact a couple, both of whom I had known since high school and had moved onto my street when we were all in our thirties – joined a newly formed CrossFit gym on the other end of town. They told me about it and I didn’t quite connect with it right away. I had heard odd stories about this style of working out – people injuring themselves severely by overdoing it and the “cult-like” indoctrination into the “fitness lifestyle”. All of it, nonsense, but as an outsider looking in, how would you know that? But after a few months of seeing how much they liked it, I thought I would give it a shot. It was about a month after my fortieth birthday that a Groupon deal was put up for the club that meant I could try it for 3 full months for just $90, I jumped at it. That seemed like a pretty low risk way to give it a try. At the end of the three months, I couldn’t sign up fast enough for a regular membership.

Functional fitness has brought back an athletic tendency I left behind when I stopped working out in Karate. It has a similar blend of technique and power that I personally find suits my way of thinking. I can push myself as hard or I can take it easy and still benefit. The first couple of months were a bit overwhelming – I thought I was in OK shape going in, but I was 40 and work a desk for a living, so it was a reality check I needed. But it didn’t take long to feel the results. And it wasn’t just the physical result, but the mental result that I really appreciated. Just like Karate, there are points in these intense workouts where you think you can’t continue, and you push through it, with a combination of skill, strength and guts. That gives you as much of a workout mentally as it does physically. It was something I didn’t know I missed until I experienced it again.

Where do I go from here?

Like I did when studying Karate, I decided to push my development in the sport by becoming a coach. Nothing better hones your ability to analyze your own movement better than doing so to help others and learning different ways to communicate with other athletes to help them succeed. So in December 2016, I completed the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer program and received my certificate as a trainer. In March of 2022, I earned my CrossFit Level 2 certificate. In January of 2018 I became certified at a Catalyst Athletics Level 1 Weightlifting Coach. In March of 2018 I launched my own Podcast called, naturally, the BoxJumper Podcast, in which I interview knowledgeable people from the fitness community.

I have a lot of learning left to do, and lots of fitness left to achieve, but if coaching is another way for me to become better at the sport, it’s definitely something I will continue pursue. This is just the beginning.

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