Dear Reader,
         I am not an elite athlete. In fact, 9 years ago, my doctor told me that I was no longer going to be allowed to lift weights. But that’s getting ahead of the story. Let’s start from the beginning.
         My first of what would become over 5 lung collapses and 4 painful surgeries began with a simple elbow to the chest during a basketball game. Before I knew it, I was in the hospital having a chest tube shoved through my ribs. I was living in Norway at the time and having what the Norwegian doctors consider (a routine occurrence) all I received for the pain was a simple shot of Novocain which only numbed the surface. Needless to say, I know what it feels like to be impaled with a blunt object.
         It’s called a spontaneous pneumothorax. I’m a triplet and I was the lucky one to be born with blisters on my lungs called blebs; whenever there is too much pressure in my chest cavity, my lung collapses. Fortunately I’ve only had them collapse one at a time.  If you’re wondering, it feels like there’s a little man stabbing you from the inside. Fun stuff.
         This would go on to be several years of trips to the hospital, ERs, pulmonologist offices, countless xrays, tests, and rehabilitation.  (For the record, you’d be surprised how many times the radiologists skimp out on the lead aprons.  For all you dudes out there, don’t be shy to ask for that lead apron.) I’ve had a procedure called a thoracotomy. The surgeon goes in with cameras and small surgical tools and removes as many blebs as possible, and staples them shut. With a brillo-like pad, they rough up my chest and lung wall and then apply a talc-like powder that acts as an adhesive ensuring that my lung cannot collapse again. The procedure on my right side was successful and I haven’t had a problem since. However, the left side is a different story. Since the first procedure (on my left side) was not done properly which lead to another collapse (only months out of recovery), I was given a choice. Since there was too much recent scar tissue from the previous operation, there were only two areas they could enter from; through my sternum or through my back. Either way, it was going to involve a long rather painful recovery. As most would agree, I opted for keeping my sternum in tact.
         This procedure would be the worst ever because it didn’t involve camera scopes and small incisions. It involved a catheter, epidural, intravenous needles in both my hands and one in my bicep, hours of dry-heaving, and lots of morphine (what a fantastic drug!). That would be a cake walk in comparison to what would happen prior to the aforementioned “perks”.  The worst part involved opening my back and having the doctor stick his whole hand in my chest cavity to detach my lung in the areas it was attached, to then redo what I like to call the “scrub a dub dub” procedure. My doctor liked to call it a formal kick in the ribs. What a euphemism! I couldn’t stand straight up for months and hobbled around like the hunchback of Notre Dome. I had withered away to 120 lbs. It’s a frightening realization when you don’t recognize your own face in the mirror.
         Each doctor would reiterate the same diagnosis. “No more weight training”. They advised me to take up yoga or pilates. I refused. I was determined to get back into shape because sports and fitness are what keep me sane. I needed something different because not only was I getting bored of bicep and tricep days, chest and back days, etc, the heavy body building type of lifting was not only ineffective but it was making my family extremely worried.
         A couple years ago, I stumbled across CrossFit. This site single handedly changed my life as I know it’s done for thousands of other people. This whole program just makes sense and it’s by far geared more towards someone like myself that really just needs functional fitness. I always thought it was important to be able to curl 75 lb dumbbells. How wrong I was. I’ve been CrossFitting for two years now and I’m proud to say that I’ve proved the doctors wrong. I ran my first half marathon in 2007 and ran my first full marathon this year. I’m in the best shape of my life and I have CrossFit to thank.
         In Professor Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture”, he states this: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” I can’t help that I was born with these health problems but I make the most of it each and every day. One of the most humbling experiences was my recovery from each surgery. They seemed to always be worse than the previous one. There are so many day-to-day functions that many people take for granted. Taking a shower, walking, or going to the bathroom by yourself. Not being able to live an independent life was eye-opening. It quickly put things in perspective. There are millions of people today that have all their motor functions and are capable to exercise and be healthy. So why don’t they? It is fear? Excuses?
         It’s my belief that people don’t realize how important it is to be fit. Not only fit, but fit to the degree that CrossFit acknowledges and preaches. What’s the point in working so hard to build a life for yourself or your family if you’re not going to be around to enjoy it? Like I said, I am not an elite athlete. I’m a designer at an architecture firm down here in Miami living the 9-5 life. So when I say that CrossFit is perfect for the 9-5iver, I mean it. Like everything in life, it boils down to efficiency. CrossFit is as efficient as it gets. If I can overcome 4 lung surgeries, work the 9-5 life and be co-owner of CrossFit Threshold, anyone (I don’t care who you are) can do it and is right for this program. I’m living proof. In CrossFit we are all on the same playing field. So whether you’re pushing a PVC pipe or 95 pounds, you’re doing work based on your limits and threshold. I have unwavering faith in CrossFit and what it can do for anyone that has enough gumption to try it. So to everyone out there reading this that wishes they could get in shape or is looking for something that’s not boring but challenging both mentally and physically, CrossFit is your answer. There are no more excuses.

Yep, that incision across my back looks like a hand could fit in there….


chest tube and scopes


30 Responses to “A LETTER FROM CHRIS HOLT”

  1. GREAT article brother. I’m really proud of you.

  2. Lisa LaBruno Says:

    That was very inspiring, Chris. I am going to sign-up for CrossFit today. I encourage all of your readers to do the same.

  3. susan holt Says:

    That letter brings back painful memories for your mom…I am proud of where you’ve come!

  4. Robert Keeling Says:

    It is a great story, and you’ve definitely come a long way. I have to agree that Crossfit is the way to go and can help in so many different areas. It’s pretty amazing when you look at the results.

  5. Jennifer Holt Estrella Says:

    You’re awsome Chris. I love you brother.

  6. Danny Landera Says:

    You are the man! Truly inspiring my friend. I look forward to getting some time to join you one of these days.
    Hope all is well!

  7. Jeremy Holt Says:

    you and your team are the real deal.

    I’m so excited for your future successes and am proud to be your brother.

  8. Kate Bowen Says:

    I am SO proud of you! Can’t wait to catch up – it’s been far too long.

  9. David Holt Says:

    From the skinny basketball star in Norway to the shape you’re in today has indeed shown anyone who has known you that fierce competitiveness and the will to go beyond the pain and fear of another lung collapse has molded you into who you are. You have set a standard that most can only aspire to.
    Keep up the good work but, don’t overdo it…I still worry a little.


  10. Forget lung surgeries. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for all the love and support I get from each and every one of you. I love you all.

  11. WOW! Just wow! Thanks for sharing, Chris, and best wishes to you and CF Threshold.

  12. Brother-

    You are the man dude…Representing Threshold up here in Jersey. If it were not for you bro, I would still be sharing a SQUAT rack with meathead Bubba, as he wraps the Ace bandages around his knees, pulls his lifting belt tight, velcros up his gloves and throws 225 on the bar to do some Curls. Which is followed by an intesne session of stairing at himself in the mirror, comparing his biceps to his buddies, fixing his hair and taking a swig from his Red Bull.

    Thanks cousin

  13. Chris,
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. It’s dedicated people like you who make guys like me take a step back and appreciate everyday life.
    Your story brings an element of high honor to CrossFitters all around the nation and I am humbled to be in this community with you brother. Best wishes in the future.

  14. Kara Dolph Says:

    I’m left speechless after reading that. Awesome letter and hopefully i’ll see you one of these days!

  15. Hi Chris,
    I started reading your story and had deja vu!! I too, was born with blebs/blisters on my lungs and had a spontaneous pneumothorax. I know, pretty rare for a girl. It was 1984, and I had grown too tall, too fast. I was in the hospital for 3 months…the 2nd month they decided to cut me open and I have a scar that runs just under my right breast to the middle of my back (I used to tell people a shark bit me–that’s how big it is). I, too have those lovely chest tube holes. Fortunately, I only had problems with my right lung and my left lung, while they said it may collapse at any time didn’t/hasn’t to this day. So sorry to hear you had to go through FOUR of those surgeries…..To the surprise of my doctors as well, I was out playing basketball a month later and since then I’ve scuba dived, jumped out of a plane, went to base camp of Everest, ect… and have been doing crossfit for 4 years. So great to hear that you too, followed your heart and overcame the challenges and didn’t let anyone stop you. You’re right there are no excuses!

  16. susan holt Says:

    No mother could be prouder of her child. You and your brothers and sisters have made my life so worthwhile. You all have made wonderful lives for yourselves and you have overcome a lot and kept on going. Your Cross Fit Clients are so lucky to have you. Go get them my son.
    I love you

  17. Incredible story. Thanks for the motivation brother. Best of luck with your affiliate. You enrich us all.

    CF Marina

  18. Allison Holt Says:

    Inspiring story. Your enthusiasm is contagious.


  19. Matt Ganser Says:

    As one who was unfortunate enough to be witness to your precarious lungs, I am infinitely impressed by your path and resolve; quite telling of your strength of character, in addition to your sense of humour and ability to tell a great story. As promised, I’ll come to Miami and give this Crossfit a whirl – see if it competes with ultimate frisbee and Colorado activities. Although, when I participate, I plan to do so on the last day; I’ll probably be humbly grimacing the next day!

    Matt (B4)

  20. Great story Chris! Inspiring and I am so proud of your accomplishments throughout the past 7 years that I have known you. Keep up the motivating work!

  21. that is a great story. I’m so glad that you recovered! I just started crossfit here in Jupiter, but I’m moving to Miami in the next year and I’m so glad that you are locarted in south dade county. It’s only my second day and I already feel like my life has changed. Today for the first time in a years, I am not stressed out like I usually am.

  22. Richard Xiques Says:

    Great Story Chris! Very inspiring and hope it moves others to realize the importance of a great mindset and hard-work/determination. And last but not least being healthy and fit!

  23. […] A Letter from Chris Holt […]

  24. Jami_Crossfit Affliction Says:

    I had the opportunity to participate at 305 challenge, you are an amazing athlete I seen you perform and with that fitness Level I would never imagine you went through all that…. your story is a great Inspiration!

  25. jeff rufolo Says:

    inspiring story. congratulations. i am so inspired, i’m heading to the gym right now.
    jeff rufolo

  26. Lillie Giras Says:

    Chris this is such an inspiration and I thought Irma’s run was proof of your program. Like you I loved the Last Lecture because is talks of life in such a positive motivating way. You are a Tigger 🙂 and you knew the walls in your way were only there to keep those out that really didn’t want it. I am so excited to have become a member of this fitness center and tell all my friends about it.

  27. […] healthier person. I was at some work outs to plan for my weekly WODs, when i cam across this letter, and these words really stood out for me. ” It’s my belief that people don’t realize how […]

  28. Jennifer Deel Says:

    All I can say to this is WOW! I agree 100%!
    I want to thank CROSSFIT for helping me find my true passion is FITNESS!
    Chris…you are definitely a true inspiration for me 🙂

  29. Hey Chris,

    Thank you for the inspiring story. I’m currently in a hospital bed recovering from my first instance of spontaneous pneumothorax. It’s a bummer and I can relate to you in a way – I love being in shape and working out especially weightlifting, but this lung collapse has gotten me a bit shaken up and I’m worried it will happen again. Crossfit seems like something id like to get into but again, I don’t want to exacerbate myself into another collapse, which is what happened to me doing some single legged squats. The fact is I’m just a little lost and confused. I need to reevaluate my health. Weight training is important to me, but more importantly my life and well being are too so I’m willing to make the compromise even if it means yoga and Pilates. But it seems like you’ve found a balance with crossfit? I am a bit worried getting into it cause it seems even more intense than typical weight/body training. What would you recommend for someone in my situation?

    Thank you so much. It’s amazing to be able to relate to people in the same situation like yourself. I appreciate it.


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