Athlete of the Month: Damian Arguello
Our featured Athlete of the Month for May 2019 is Damian Arguello. Damian is the co-founder of Redemption Road CrossFit in Limon Correctional Facility. He is also a peer-mentor and a CF-L1 coach. Damian oversees development, operations, staff training and is the head of class programming for Redemption Road CrossFit.
Hey Damian, tell us a little about yourself and your sports background.
I played baseball growing up, I thought I was okay at it. I always played catcher; it was the 80’s so my nickname was “RoboCop”, I guess because of the necessary equipment. I played one season of football, cornerback. I don’t know why I only played one season. In my twenties I lived in Michigan so we played hockey, I loved it. I played goalie. Keep in mind this was when the Avalanche and Red Wings absolutely hated each other. Being from Colorado, I had to represent. The Avalanche/Red Wing games were legendary, at least the rivalry they had was.
I hear you’re an avid reader. What book(s) would you recommend people read?
One of my favorite fiction books is “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaleed Hosseini. He writes about Afghanistan, it’s a great book. I think if a guy is up for parole, he should read “Where the Red Fern Grows”… if he doesn’t cry he should have to stay in prison! These two books are the only books I’ve read that made me cry… Wait, “The Fault in Our Stars” made me cry also! Read them!
There are so many non-fiction books to choose from. I would have to say anything by James Allen. My spiritual worldview doesn’t align with his, he is an existentialist, but his writing is amazing. Books like “As a Man Thinketh”, “Eight Pillars of Prosperity” and “Man: King of Mind, Body and Circumstance” are timeless classics. It wouldn’t hurt a person to read a little Shakespeare every now and again. I am currently reading “Speal”, by Andrea Marie Cecil, and the Bible. Also the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is mandatory.
What made you start CrossFit? Has your motivation changed since you first started?
This is like two questions in one, but for me the answer remains the same for both. It really is as it says in “Building Community Behind Bars”, I liked the idea of pushing yourself with a workout for someone else. I really did do a terrible thing; it is never far from my thoughts, especially during a WOD. My motivation has not changed.
What is your favorite benchmark or hero workout and why?
Murph because of what he did for our country. Also, it sucks. This is a workout you can just non-stop work through without a rest from start to finish if you pace it right. Workouts like this one keep your mind off… stuff.
What is your proudest CrossFit moment?
I have two. When I was doing rehabilitation work with guys, I would be off to the side out of the way. When that clock sounds, and it’s time to work, to see 20 or 30 guys, knowing where they have been, start a WOD together in unison, that’s something special. The second is kind of the same. I’m not the greatest coach we have, but I love programming so I spend a lot of the class managing time or directing traffic. Sometimes this allows me to just sit back and watch all the different things going on in class… Foundations over here, rehab in the corner, WOD in the weight pile and tech work over there; seeing it all in action is really cool.
Who is your favorite Games athlete, past or present?
It would probably have to be Rich Froning. He just seems like a humble dude with a genuineness of character. When you reach a level of elite-ness like he has it seems easy to become impressed with yourself. He seems to have beat that problem with the Bible verse on his torso -- Galatians 6:14. That’s the only way to combat pride.
Where do you find your day-to-day motivation to keep improving upon yourself?
If I’m being honest I would say that I’m not here for myself. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t be here. Whether they want me to or not, I feel like I have to be the best version of myself for my kids. I owe them so much more… but it’s a start.
What was the driving factor that made you start Redemption Road?
I love CrossFit and the ability it has to bring people together. It will work anywhere with anyone, even in prison.
As co-founder of Redemption Road CrossFit, what have you learned since starting the program?
One downside of bringing people together is people are different. I have learned, and am still learning, that you have to value peoples differences. Again, I’m still learning how to do that. Sometimes it’s a struggle, but it’s more important anytime people are your purpose.
This was the first year you and your participants could officially record scores in the CrossFit Open. What was your favorite workout? Least favorite?
I’ll start with my least favorite – 19.5. Really, CrossFit?? Fran on steroids?? Why do you hate my hands, CrossFit??
My favorite was 19.1. We had just gotten rowers so it was providential 19.1 involved rowing. Also as an AMRAP – constant work.
How does it feel to be the co-founder of a program that has helped change so many lives inside (and outside) or Limon?
Have you witnessed the culture at Limon change since the founding of Redemption Road CrossFit?
There has been a dramatic paradigm shift at Limon. Redemption Road Fitness Foundation can’t take all the credit, but the members of RF2 can take some of the credit because we are involved in a ton of other stuff. There is no doubt not everyone loves us, and that’s okay. For those that do, they still don’t necessarily love us, they love to see something different. I think guys are starting to become tired of the old mentality and are latching on to the new. If I boil it down, it’s simply a care or concern for your neighbor, regardless of who your neighbor is or what clothes your neighbor is wearing. I see people starting to care about each other.
Where do you see Redemption Road CrossFit in 5 years? 10 years?
There are many levels to this question. For sustainability, we need to be self-reliant. Gina (Secretary of Redemption Road Fitness Foundation) once said if we do nothing else we would be a success. While that is true to an extent, what is also true is we grow or we die. I would like to see us operating in a multitude of facilities. Most of all, I would like to see guys getting out of prison and coming back… not as inmates, but as volunteers. I like to say what we do in practice we do in the game. Right now, we are in practice. When we are released, we’ll be in the game. What we do in here matters. We need guys to get out and succeed.
What has surprised you the most about the CrossFit community after Redemption Road CrossFit gained its affiliate status?
What has surprised me the most is the outpouring of love and support we have experienced. Whenever you guys send us comments off the internet about an article or news story, I’ve sat in my cell and cried because I can’t believe it. I have been so humbled by it all, it is truly amazing. It is this love and support that has helped me in my own rehabilitation.
What is the most difficult emotion you have had to overcome while incarcerated?
Probably the most difficult emotion I constantly struggle with is a crushing hopelessness. It sucks on so many levels. On the one hand, it’s hard to submit to the fact that I have a life sentence. As I said before, It really is as it says in “Building Community Behind Bars”, I was supposed to get the death penalty. That seemed, at the time, an easier pill to swallow. Sometimes it still does. I sometimes tell myself I could be done with this. I know I would have gotten what I deserved. A life sentence seems like a death penalty, just slower. The thing is, I know I deserve it. I have never not taken full responsibility for my choices, therefore I have no right to complain. It was Benjamin Disraeli who said “never complain, never explain”.
It’s that constant looming sense of hopelessness that always whispers in my ear, “just give up already”. On the other hand, that voice is the same reason I don’t give up. How do I tell someone like you that? How do I tell anyone that has shown us nothing but love how hopeless I sometimes feel? I can’t. That’s why I say, I am not here for myself. It’s not about me. I put myself here. I think this kind of answers the question, and also sheds light on how I move through adversity now. I will let myself down or break a word to myself before I let you down or break my word to you. It goes back to questions like how Redemption Road has helped me. My heart hurts because I know I don’t deserve the kindness all you guys have shown me, in a way it’s hard for me to accept. That’s my struggle, to accept the love that is shown to me.
What is one thing you want the world to know about you?
I hate talking about myself, it’s weird to me. The one thing I want the world to know is not just about me but about everyone in here. Whenever you watch a documentary about prison, it’s always some drag. It’s always about some jack-wagon making shanks, doing tattoos or just some nonsense. I’ve never made a shank or gotten a tattoo in here and I don’t plan to. The image society has of prison is erroneous at best. I would like to change that. I want the world to know that there are guys in here that genuinely feel bad about what they did and who they were. I hate myself for what I did. It’s with that remorse, but it must be authentic remorse, that is a launch pad for change in a person’s life. I want the world to know that people can change, but they have to recognize in themselves the need. Then they have to want to change after that.
*Interview conducted by Liz Franks, Media Director for Redemption Road Fitness Foundation*