CrossFit For the Outdoors


From inside an old gym bag an electronic quack of a duck is pulled. It’s Jason Gentry’s ringtone. The waterfowl season is over, but it’s always on his mind. Gentry hears it and since he’s done with his 1,000-meter row, 50 bar over burpees and 50 shoulder to overheads, he checks to see if it’s his son. It’s not, so he returns to recovering from the latest workout of the day at Ketchikan CrossFit.

Gentry isn’t a guy with two lives – hunting and working out. He’s got three at least. He’s a husband, father of three (ages 13, 11 and 10), CrossFit junkie and waterfowl hunting fanatic. But he’s found a way to splice it all together.

Gentry’s teenage years were spent in Barrow, Alaska, but he didn’t grow up a hunter or fisherman. He moved south (sort of; everything is south of Barrow) to Fairbanks for college and his first job. After Fairbanks was Anchorage, then Wasilla, Fairbanks again and now Ketchikan
– his favorite so far – where everything has come together.

He started powerlifting 10 years ago in a garage gym with a friend when he lived in Wasilla but “needed to do something conditioning-wise.” He ended up joining Ketchikan CrossFit (907-617-4940; two years ago when he continued his southern migration. CrossFit has become a way to satisfy his passion for fitness and get in better shape for the type of hunting he wants to do. Or maybe there was an element of necessity after hunting with a buddy,
Joseph Lanham.

“He had his 100-pound pack and was carrying decoys, and I’m back there struggling with a backpack and a water bottle,” Gentry says. Gentry is all about hunting now – ducks, deer, goats; he wants a shot at everything. He, like other hunters, doesn’t like limitations, especially when
“just over that ridge” becomes “just one more ridge,” and then there it is – the buck of a lifetime.

Participating in outdoor activities is inherently dangerous, but limiting activities for fear of being injured is arguably worse. Internet searches for “hunting-shape workouts” start at a baseline of zero. That is, step one is walking, meaning that between season’s end and season’s beginning, the level of fitness is pretty low.

If you’re carrying 20 extra pounds that you gained over the year, you’re not going to shed that by solely going on long walks three weeks before opening day. Establishing healthy habits are important, and for Gentry, CrossFit provides not only that, but accountability and encouragement, something that you don’t get from the poster you tore out of a magazine or found online.

Internet searches also have critics railing against CrossFit. It’s been blamed for joint deterioration and injuries, but Gentry says that all exercise poses a threat, and gyms that focus on increasing weight without supervision is where a lot of injuries occur. Classes
at Ketchikan CrossFit range from one to eight, which provides instructors Kevin Manabat and Jeff Williams the freedom to keep a close eye on each of the members.

“With CrossFit, like sports, there’s always a risk of injury,” says Manabat. “As a gym owner and a CrossFit coach, I try to minimize the risk of injury by teaching and holding a standard for
movement patterns. Being a smaller box (nickname of a CrossFit gym) isn’t necessarily a downfall; it allows me to have a lot of one-on-one coaching with each individual and truly becoming each member’s personalized coach.”

Where a traditional gym might hold a buffet of muscle isolation machines to be shared among the masses, a Cross-Fit gym is somewhere between hiring a personal trainer and just working out
with a couple friends in a home gym. “Since we’re such a tight-knit group,” says Manabat, “I get to see and know everybody’s strength and weaknesses; plus in a class setting it’s easy for me
to keep an eye on each individual and make corrections or to modify or scale as needed.”

In his more than two years of Cross-Fit, Gentry has not scaled much, nor has he sustained an injury from working out. Last spring he set a trio of state lifting records in the deadlift (485), squat (410) and bench press (250) for his age and weight. That amounts to a lot of
duck decoys.

“It’s fun watching Jason Gentry work out,” says Manabat. “He’s a big 220-plus-pound guy who moves heavy weight like nothing, then turns around and cranks out a bunch of body weight movements like he was a gymnast.” But not everyone is at the level of Gentry. This is the time of year when people are trying just to get into hunting or life shape. Gentry agreed with the idea of self-improvement, but not if it’s dictated by a calendar.

“Every day should be January 1,” he says. “The reason I don’t stop is because I know what it feels like to start back up. It hurts too bad and I don’t want to do that again.”

So it becomes more than just working out to get in shape for long hikes. It becomes concurrent, complementary lifestyles, not merely training for one season. For Gentry, it’s not just about wanting to be in shape for himself or for his hunting trips; he wants to be in shape mostly for his family. “Everyone says you have to ‘keep up with the kids,’ and (my wife and I) are all over the place, but none of that is worth anything if you’re not in the physical condition to enjoy it.”

Gentry loves giving his kids the childhood that he didn’t have when it comes to the outdoors and appreciating the cycle of things and the gift of game resources in Alaska. “I want to experience hunting, not just for me, but for my kids,” he says. “Being physically fit makes me more
successful at work and at home. I’m also an example for my kids. With our national obesity level over the top, it’s nice for my kids.”

He also likes to see how his kids are taking to the outdoors. “The first ducks I brought home,
(my kids) were saying, ‘ewww,’ but now they’re feathering; they’ve got their hands bloody; they’re naming the ducks and they have a love for the outdoors.” Though his daily schedule is exhausting, and working out would probably be the easiest thing to leave out, he doesn’t.

“I refuse to sacrifice that hour of the day. I’m 40 and in the best shape of my life. I want to take my kids on these adventures and excursions. That’s even more motivation.” ASJ