Humans of Hierarchy - Andy Carton
November, 19, 2018

We are all humans. We contain multitudes of layers and beautiful complexities. We maintain a curiosity about the world and the people we see in all settings and environments.

At a CrossFit gym, it’s easy to look around and see one class of athletes completing one workout. Though, the longer we watch and assess, the more we realize that this one class is composed of many individuals with many different talents, stories, and backgrounds. These members are all here for their own reasons. They push themselves using different mindsets and strategies. They possess unique experiences that brought them to where they are.

We all have our reasons for walking into a CrossFit gym for the first time.

We are strong. We are resilient. We are the Humans of Hierarchy.

Today, we meet Andy, his reasons, and his resiliency.


The music is loud and the energy high. The board to the left shows the daily workout, which consists of hang power cleans, wall balls and toes to bar. The scene is almost mesmerizing as athletes go through the movements.

Andy is near the center of the room, surrounded by other members. He cycles a series of hang power cleans together, eyes locked straight ahead as he completes them. It’s almost machine-like, as his movements vary little during each transition into and out of each power clean. He drops the bar and walks to his wall ball, beginning his set instantly, not pausing for a second to rest.

It’s November 2018. Four years ago, Andy wasn’t part of CrossFit.

In 2014, Andy toiled away as a legislative aide and campaign worker during a six-year career in state politics. Though he didn’t find personal enjoyment in the work, he managed to run a statewide campaign by the time he was twenty-eight years old. Success came to him, but not at a healthy price.

“I hated it so much that at one point, I actually voted against my boss,” Andy says, laughing.

He describes the work as stressful and time-consuming, leaving him unhealthy in other aspects of his life. Managing the stress for Andy meant excessive eating and drinking. He led a lifestyle that didn’t leave him healthy or happy. Until 2014, he didn’t always think it was in his control to change it.

“I used to have chest pains pretty regularly, but I didn’t think it was that bad,” says Andy.

At this time, he was nearly 300 pounds.“I felt terrible, but I thought that was normal. It wasn’t until I found another way of living that I realized how bad things were.”

So begun the process of Andy’s journey toward a healthier life.

This journey involved joining a local CrossFit gym after encouragement from a friend, quitting his work in politics, and pursuing a career in Psychology. Andy transitioned into a more active lifestyle as well life as a full-time student at George Washington University’s Psy D. Program.

I sit across from Andy as he talks to me about this transitional time. I ask about what inner motivation and determination sparked during this major lifestyle change.

“I had a difficult childhood. I was in foster care for a short time, but those challenges fostered a great deal of strength,” he says. “All I ever wanted to do with my life was use that strength to help people. I found that I had an opportunity to reboot my life; I could change careers and start a new chapter.”

And this is exactly what he did.

Walking into the CrossFit gym for the first time in Bethesda, Maryland felt “crazy intimidating” to Andy. He tells me this, smiling.

“There was this inner voice that told me that I didn’t belong there. I imagine this is a voice that a lot of people have, especially with CrossFit. It can be really intimidating,” he says.

As a fellow CrossFit member and peer to Andy, and therefore having had the experience of fear and intimidation myself, I ask what kept him there and kept him coming back day after day.

“There was a certain defiance to it all,” he says. “This constant urge to quit because of the voice that told me that I was too heavy to do this. I couldn’t do a pull-up or run 400 meters, but I understood that hardship is the only path to strength, and just kept going.”

He describes the pride he felt leaving a workout each day.

“I think I was most proud of coming in last in a workout but then showing up again the next day.”

Resiliency, formed from experience and mindset, fueled his days.

“The progress almost felt accidental,” Andy describes. “I had great supports in my wife and the community at the gym.”

He took time to tend to his health, adjusting his diet and remaining consistent with workouts. At point, a few months in, Andy thought, ‘Let’s see how far I can take this.’”

Having nothing at stake and feeling as if his life was getting more on course, he did just that. Slowly, he began noticing workouts where he’d finish first, ending before someone who he’d never imagined beating in a timed workout. This developed as Andy’s grad program demanded more and more of his emotions and time.

“The Psy. D program was challenging at this time, and I saw it impact peers’ lives and health. I felt and still feel strongly about physical and emotional health as inseparable things. I wasn’t going to let my academic life diminish my athletic life. CrossFit was a great outlet for me during graduate school.”

Andy erupts in a smile as I ask about big moments during this time. He tells me, almost too casually, that he finished and ranked 45th for Men in DC in the 2017 CrossFit Open.

He describes this Open, smiling, naming it the proudest moment of his life. He says, “the imposter syndrome disappeared during that Open; I no longer doubted if I belonged. This was the first Open that I participated in and the first time that I got a muscle up.”

“There was no luck to it,” he tells me. “Just work.”


But Andy’s story doesn’t stop there.

Suddenly, in June 2017, Andy’s younger sister passed away, unexpectedly. She was twenty-three years old and about to graduate with her degree in Social Work.

“It was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” Andy shares.

He took three months off from the gym, leaving his gym in Petworth.

“I remember that I had a competition that weekend, and I had to tell my teammates that I wouldn’t be able to compete or show.”

Andy looks down at the table in front of us, pausing before continuing.

“I had no appetite and no energy. I wasn’t ready to give up, but I slipped back into eating and drinking poorly.”

He had a friend who would sent him orders of Territory meals, trying to help Andy get back on his feet and back to his health. He tells me that this was one of the hardest things he’s ever gone through, to date.

“Somehow, starting over was actually more challenging than starting back in 2014,” he says. “It was more difficult to have it, then lose it,” he shares, describing the difficulty of returning after losing his sister. He credits the way CrossFit fosters community in helping him recover.

In January 2018, Andy came to CrossFit Hierarchy.

“This community is special because no matter how bad things get, whether it’s a brutal workout, or a major tragedy, you’re going through it together.”

I ask him what an important theme during this time was, during this return to life after losing his sister. He looks up and says, “Well, what’s important to realize is this: I can set and meet goals despite setbacks and tragedy. I can continue to demonstrate resilience.”


Currently, you can find Andy working out at CrossFit Hierarchy in the evenings, around his Psychology program demands. Since losing his sister and having major exams for his program, Andy has begun his focus again on CrossFit, “trying to get back to where I was.”

When asked further, he tells me, “I’m trying to get back to where I was.”

With a small spark in his eye, he looks at me and states, “I think I am nearly there.”

He shares his goal for the next Open and for his future, saying he wishes to “do as well as I felt in the Open in 2017”, during which he finished 53rd for Men in DC.

He shares that he can see himself coaching eventually, “marrying two interests of fitness and mental health.”

We talk about the natural pairing of these two concepts and how it doesn’t always feel easy, especially within the CrossFit community.

“Over the years, I’ve seen so many people left behind- people get intimidated, quitting or finishing last and feeling discouraged,” he says. “I feel like I have a lot to offer. I know what it’s like to be on both sides.”

He feels the community and connection at CrossFit Hierarchy and describes his experience.

“This is the only gym where coaches don’t have to tell people not put their stuff away before everyone finishes. It’s one of the first things I noticed after joining.”


Andy and his journey represent the truest definition of resiliency, coming back from personal and physical setbacks, only to better himself and his health. He combines his passions and his determination and demonstrates to athletes everywhere the power of showing up.

He leaves us with this:

“What people need to realize about CrossFit is that it’s not an individual project. We show up and we pay this money for more than equipment. We pay for the comradery, the community and to suffer together.”

2018 CrossFit Open
February, 06, 2018

Its that time of year again folks, the 2018 CrossFit Open is just around the corner!

The coaches at Hierarchy cant wait to see how all of you do this year and are hoping to make this year the best one yet. Full details on how we will be running it this year, but make sure you head to to sign up!

What is it?

The Open is a yearly challenge put on by CrossFit HQ. Once a week for 5 weeks CrossFit HQ will release one workout, and athletes from around the world will have 4 days to compete the workout and submit their scores online. Athletes are assigned a judge for their workout to count their reps and encourage them through the process.

Why should you participate?

The Open is an amazing opportunity for athletes to challenge themselves and push their limits. Because the workout standards are set by CrossFit HQ, athletes attempt new movements or skills they might not normally try for. Every year we watch our athletes get their first pull-up, their first toes-to-bar, or set a PR for an clean or snatch, all in a supportive and encouraging atmosphere.

How will it be organized at Hierarchy?

Workouts are announced at 8pm each Thursday, starting on February 22nd. Athletes will have 3 opportunities to complete the workout:

Thursdays at 8pm Open Gym

Fridays from 5-8pm.  Normal classes will be cancelled, we will run continuous heats of the workout starting at 5pm, non-Open people are welcome. This is a chance to complete your workout, then hang out and watch others go at it or judge a workout for your friends.

Sundays at 1-3pm Open Gym

How to sign up?

To sign up for the CrossFit Open, go to and register. Registering costs $20. Make sure to list CrossFit Hierarchy as your gym!


We can’t to see the amazing things you all will do this year, so sign up soon!

2018 Nutrition Challenge
January, 21, 2018

Hello Hierarchy,

The coaches are pleased to announce the third CrossFit Hierarchy Nutrition Challenge! The nutrition challenge is an 8-week program designed to educate our members on proper nutrition and support your fellow athletes in improving their eating habits. The goal of this program is to empower you all to make long term positive changes to your diet, as opposed to a brief system-diet or cleanse. Many of you have completed our previous nutrition challenges, and we are excited to continually evolve the program based on your feedback. Whether you are old hand or totally new, there is plenty to learn so read on for more about the program and how to sign up!

Program Details:

What: CrossFit Hierarchy has once again teamed up with our friends at Composition ID to host the 8 week challenge, which will coincide with the CrossFit Open this year. Composition ID will provide the following for participants:

  • 2 DEXA scans per registrant (before and after, please read this blog post explaining what a DEXA scan actually is and how it is utilized)

  • 1 90 minute Nutrition Seminar, led by Nutritionist Daira Duric

  • Weekly Nutrition newsletter content to be distributed to participants

  • A report of the registrants’ final body composition changes over the course of the 6 week challenge (increase/loss of lean mass, increase/loss of fat mass, + relative change in body composition)

  • Coach Christine will also create/re-open the Facebook group for everyone to share recipes and support eachother.


  • Baseline scans: January 30- February 3

  • Post scans: April 1- April 7

  • Nutrition Seminar: February 10, 3-4:30pm at H1.


  • 2 DEXA scans = $159, to be paid directly to Composition ID through the link provided

  • Nutrition Seminars= $0

Sign Up:

  • Please sign at the direct scheduling link here

Why its Important:

  • Same reasons as last year- too many to list. This isn’t a “21-day fix”, rather an opportunity for you to learn about how to eat for strength and performance, how to increase lean muscle mass while maintaining or decreasting body fat, and the relationship between nutrition and fitness. It is also a great opportunity to have the support of the Hierarchy community before and during the 2018 CrossFit Open. Finally, of course, we put in a lot of work at the gym and we want our bodies to reflect that!

For any additional questions related to Composition ID you can reach out directly to Eva Meier at For questions related to anything else, please reach out to Christine at:


Your Coaches

Injury Prevention Clinic
January, 05, 2018

We are pleased to announce that on January 28th Melanie Smith will be hosting a second Injury Prevention clinic here at CrossFit Hierarchy! Mel, a rehab therapist current working for the VA, hosted a excellent session last year and we have gotten a ton of requests to do another.

This session will focus specifically on Shoulder Prehab, our most popular request following the first session. Full details are below, but please note: This session will be capped at 25 attendees and can be signed up for on Front Desk like a normal class.

When: Sunday, January 28th from 3-4:30pm

What to Expect: Review proper shoulder mechanics at rest and with lifting, learn techniques to improve mobility and flexibility, perform exercises to strengthen the shoulder.

What to Bring: If you have a lacrosse ball or foam roller, please bring along, otherwise, we’ll share,

Cost: $10 per person, payable directly to Mel. Cash, check, or Venmo all accepted.

Hope to see you all there, please contact if you have any questions!


-The Coaches


December Holiday Hours
December, 11, 2017

Hi All,

Happy Holidays! The holiday schedule for CrossFit Hierarchy will be:


Adams Morgan Location:

Christmas Day: CLOSED

December 26: 10am, 5/6/7pm

New Years Day: 11am and Noon

Ivy City Location:

Christmas Day: CLOSED

New Years Day: 10am and 11am


Please contact with any questions!

November Announcements
October, 30, 2017

Hello Crossfit Hierarchy,

Its hard to believe its almost the end of the year, but before we move on to 2018 we have a few exciting annoucements for you for the end of the year!

Barbell for Boobs

Tomorrow is the final day to donate to Barbells for Boobs! Thank you again to all of you that have donated and attended. We have raised $1,542 so far and I for one cant wait to see Tyler row 500+ calories. Timelapse video will be taken. If you have not donated year, please consider doing so here.

Schedule Changes

Starting this week (October 30th), Ther are two important scheduling changes which will begin this week (October 30th). These changes are:

  1. Open Gym on Thursdays – In response to member request for more open gym availability, we will be replacing the Thursday 8-9pm class with an Open Gym session. This time will function the same as Open Gym on Sundays, wherein members are welcome to attend and work on skill, movement, or workout they choose. Those who would like to attend and simply do the Thursday workout are also welcome! Additionality, It is our hope to be able to use this time moving forward to offer more varied one-off clinics, such as gymnastic, rowing, or injury prevention
  2. Removal of Noon Classes on Saturdays – Due to consistently low attendance numbers, we will be removing the noon class from the Saturday schedules. Ten and eleven AM classes will continue as usual, while the F3 and Free Classes will be moved up to the Noon slot.

We are always open to feedback, so you have any questions or concerns regarding the changes (or requests for other changes), please do not hesitate to contact me at

The 2017 Gobble Gauntlet

Finally, for the second year in a row, CrossFit Hierarchy will be hosting an intra-box competition! On Saturday, November 18th we will be hosting the Gobble Gauntlet at CrossFit Hierarchy Ivy City. Like last year, it will be a partner’s competition with Rx and Scaled divisions competing in three WODs over the course of the morning. Find a partner and sign up here now! 

After the competition we will be hosting a potluck at H2 to celebrate their three year anniversary! Cant wait to see you all there.

Its been a great year at the gym already and we cant wait to finish it out in style.


Barbells for Boobs Recap
October, 26, 2017

Barbells for Boobs is one of our favorite events at Hierarchy each year, and this year was no exception. This event more than any other we run showcases just how amazing our community is. The event this weekend was an absolute blast from start to finish, and I cannot thank all of you who came out, donated, competed, and or cheered on enough.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. With that heavy knowledge I’m so proud to say that right now CrossFit Hierarchy has officially hit our fundraising goal of $1,500! The $1,512 will go towards providing early detection screenings and post-diagnosis support to patients regardless of age, race, or economic disposition. Thank you all so, so much. We will be continuing to collect donations through the end of the month, so if you haven’t donated yet please consider doing here. Reminder, every dollar over $1,000 that we raise is another calorie Tyler has to row!

Finally, we have a few awards to hand out from the weekend! Our winners in each category were:

Women’s Rx: Anna

Men’s Rx: Chris Holcombe

Women’s Scaled: Anne Giebel

Men’s Scaled: Kenneth Rub

Congrats to all the winners, you’ll have some swag coming your way soon!

Thank you all again, and we can’t wait for next year!

Barbells for Boobs 2017
September, 17, 2017

We are pleased to announce that CrossFit Hierarchy will be hosting our Fourth Annual Barbells for Boobs event on October 21, 2017! We invite everyone to join us to perform the workout Grace and see the best of the community that makes CrossFit Hierarchy so special.

For those of you who are not familiar, Barbells for Boobs is our annual breast cancer fundraiser. Barbells for Boobs is a non-profit organization supporting the early detection and post-diagnosis support of breast cancer for all, regardless of age, gender, income, or insurance status.

This is our fourth year of the event, and we hope to make it our biggest yet. Anyone who wishes to participate in the workout, or just support a wonderful cause, can donate here on our fundraising page

 Thank you in advance for helping make a difference and we look forward to seeing you on October 21st!