Fitness has always played a very important role in our founder Cyril White’s life. Prior to founding Strength from Within Fitness and Country Spirit CrossFit, Cyril founded, built and in March of 2014 successfully sold his financial advisory firm White House Investment & Financial Services, which he built over almost twenty years from zero to over 150 long term clients.
Cyril’s fitness journey started by jogging when he was a sophomore in high school, to get in shape for high school sports. He also started lifting weights around the same time, primarily to deter any high school bullying and to impress the girls. He grew up idolizing people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and read every Muscle and Fitness magazine cover to cover. He is convinced that his commitment to fitness in high school kept him out of a lot, although not all, trouble.
Cyril played varsity basketball in high school, and although he was not the best player he always stove to be in the best shape! He was the sick person who actually looked forward to the unending sprints after practice because he loved that feeling of pushing yourself through the mental and physical pain and it was the only thing that he could be better than his teammates at. Cyril believes that is the only reason the coaches kept him on the team!
When he discovered CrossFit type training, he realized that the part, which he enjoyed most about any sport was primarily the fitness aspect and not the sport itself!
Cyril always loved to run and enjoyed the clarity of mind that long runs provided. He never ran a competitive race until the age of 30 when his father-in-law, who ran, got him to do a 10K, the Detroit Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving with him, this led to half marathons and he decided to run his first full marathon at age 35. Well of course he couldn’t stop there and after training and running several more marathons, in 2009 he ran in the Boston Marathon at age 43.
After this he was becoming board with running and his knees started to hurt so he focused more on martial arts which he had started studying in college and had always loved, earning a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and also studying Aikido, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga. While these activities satisfied his lust for competition on an individual level, he still missed competing against a group of my peers in larger events. Therefore, he decided to try his hand at competing in triathlons even though he couldn’t swim very well and hated biking! He began competing in short distance sprint triathlons, then Olympic distance, half Ironmen and finally completed the Florida Full Ironman triathlon ( 2.4 mile ocean swim, 112 mile bike, full marathon 26.2 mile run at the end) in 2011 at age 45.
When his local martial arts school closed he decided to find a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu martial arts school and study that style, in which he had always been interested. The closest Jiu Jitsu school rented space in this gym called Hyperfit USA (AKA CrossFit Ann Arbor) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was located in a warehouse. The Jiu Jitsu school was upstairs, which was open so you could see everything going on down on the workout floor. The people working out on the floor below with a trainer would blast all my favorite heavy metal songs and drop their weighs, row, do push ups, pull ups, kettle bells and all this other crazy stuff! Little did he know that it was in fact CrossFit training!
His Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school also closed and he really needed to do something besides running, biking and swimming, which he had been doing while training for his Ironman triathlon so he decided to check out training at Hyperfit USA and learn more about it. After what he now knows was only the warm up he was pretty well spent and thought, “I must be ill or something. I’m an Ironman!” Then came seven rounds of ball slams and wall balls for time after which he REALLY felt like he was going to die and he thought, “Oh yeah, this is definitely for me!” “Fitness IS the sport!” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Cyril remembers the proud feeling he got when his CrossFit coach referred to him as an “Athlete”. Even though he had been working out since high school he never played anything but club sports in college and never thought of himself as an “Athlete”, however, it felt so good to be thought of this way and it made him think differently about how I was treating my mind and body outside the “box”.
Another great benefit of CrossFit Cyril discovered is that it appeals to, and works for, BOTH people who love fitness and those who do not. Because it gets results fast and is fun at the same time even though it is very hard work! Cyril’s daughter Regan was going through some very difficult times and he needed to keep an eye on her so he brought her, kicking and screaming, to one of his CrossFit workouts. He told her she didn’t have to workout but just watch. He knew that his coach Mike O’Brian would make her feel very welcome, like he did to everyone and he did just that. She saw that it wasn’t just running and the people were all awesome and so supportive and friendly to her AND many were out of shape and not fitness models too. She never worked out seriously before and hated it when she did. So she started doing it and getting great results which led Cyril’s wife Leslie to try it also. Leslie was also one that hated working out but knew that she needed to and she loved it as well!
In addition to fitness the other thing that Cyril is passionate about is building and running businesses. He hates working for anyone else and loves the control of his own destiny and creativity that goes with owning your own business. Because of this he loves researching and learning about other businesses that are successful. Since he was getting so into CrossFit he started researching the business since it was something he was passionate about and was obviously a VERY successful business model. He then tried to implement some of the great aspects of CrossFit in his financial services business but he was becoming more and more frustrated and bored with the financial services business and couldn’t figure out how to make that happen. He tried bringing in a junior partner to help him manage and grow the business, however, the partner had some undisclosed compliance issues and had to leave the business and he offered to buy his business from him, however, he did not want to sell it at a reasonable value. Cyril was really surprised by the fact that he found himself feeling envious of his ex-partner for being able to get out of the business and get some cash for his business at the same time to do something completely different. In 20 years as a financial advisor Cyril NEVER thought that he had wanted to do anything else but now he was having thoughts that he just may! As part of TRYING to bring in this new partner Cyril had to get the business valued professionally so that they would know how much of a partnership percentage his partner would get and what the value would be if he did join the business. When the valuation came back Cyril asked the company that did the valuation if they thought he could actually sell his business outright to someone else for this value and they told me that they could. So he started seriously thinking about selling the business but he had no idea what he would do after that. Cyril knew that he wanted to do something completely different that didn’t just deal with money and that really helped other people. He thought about becoming a paramedic and even enrolled in a program to do so.
One day Cyril was sitting in his office talking to a friend Pat on the phone and he asked him what he was going to do when he sold the business and Cyril told him he was going to get his Level 1 CrossFit coaching certification that weekend. Pat said that he thought Cyril should open a training business at his farm in his barn because he would be good at it. The more he thought about it the more this really resonated with him and he could not get the thought out of his mind! Cyril thought long and hard about exactly what he would do if money were no object and what he loved to do just about his entire life and he kept coming back to FITNESS! He pictured all his CrossFit coaches and it struck him that THAT would be something which was very fulfilling, deal with exactly what he was passionate about and REALLY help people! So he went and became certified and started researching what it would take to open a fitness business.
Cyril sold his financial business in March of 2014 and opened Strength from Within Fitness and Country Spirit CrossFit in June of 2014! He had never coached a class or trained anyone else in fitness besides himself prior to coaching his first class that June in his gym! He was amazed at how natural and easy it was for him. It felt like THIS is EXACTLY what he was supposed to be doing with his life! His daughter Regan also became certified as a coach and works with him in the business so that makes it even more special! It is not easy at all but all the positive impacts in all of the lives we have transformed, and all of the great friends we have made in such a short time makes it more and more fulfilling every day!