Elijah “EZ” Muhammad, founder of Project Onyx and veteran CrossFit athlete, is in Madison this week to compete in the 2021 National CrossFit Games. But before embarking on the international celebration of fitness where the CrossFit community crowns “the strongest on Earth, ”Muhammad stopped by the Goodman Community Center in eastern Madison to do some community outreach – to exercise with and inspire the youth of the Madison area.
“It’s a really cool place here. When I first arrived at Goodman today, I was overwhelmed with emotions because everything I saw, from the diversity of the staff to the diversity of the children, was amazing, “Muhammad told Madison365.” It was a beautiful thing to see so many young black children who seemed so well taken care of and happy. And to see the black staff overseeing the activities… this portrayal is so important. When a child sees someone who looks like them, it helps them be successful.Even if you might not think it’s something big, it is.
The 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games officially kicked off Tuesday at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison with men’s and women’s competitions and team events and will run through Sunday August 1. CrossFit is a way of life characterized by safe and effective exercise and good nutrition. Muhammad is a two-time competitor at the National CrossFit Games.
On Tuesday morning at the Goodman Center, Muhammad brought the students together for a little CrossFit style workout, devoting 30 seconds to each movement and station.
“We did as many reps as possible – aerial squats, burpees, lunges, sit-ups and jumping jacks,” says Muhammad. “I’m just giving the kids a feel for the intensity of CrossFit, the style of training, and how to train and have fun.”
Muhammad sat down with the kids after training and answered all of their questions regarding CrossFit, fitness, nutrition, health, wellness and life. The kids, for example, asked him who the most famous person he had ever met, and Muhammad, who finished 35th in the world in his last national CrossFit competition, replied “me.”
Muhammad mentioned a video (below) he recently made where he worked closely with superstar comedian Kevin Hart.
A youngster asked if Muhammad, the former college basketball player who is now 33, could still dunk.
After some stretching and warm-ups, Muhammad provided them with the answer (bottom right) which was “yes”.
Muhammad’s goal with this visit to the Goodman Community Center as he prepared for the National CrossFit Games in Madison matches one of his primary goals in life – to involve children of color in health, fitness. and focus on their well-being and helping to diversify the CrossFit world he loves so much.
Muhammad grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from Tennessee University of Technology in 2010. He currently lives in Ankeny, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines, with his wife and four children. Muhammad has been practicing CrossFit intensively for 11 years now.
“I started with CrossFit because my strength and conditioning trainer at Tennessee Tech University wanted to hire me as a strength trainer,” he recalls. “In order to be a strength trainer, he wanted me to participate in CrossFit on his team. He thought I would be good… I had just graduated from college and was playing basketball.
A little over a decade later, CrossFit has become a passion in his life. Muhammad says he would like to see CrossFit, often considered a white sport and featuring white athletes, become more diverse.
“We are working on its diversification. I feel like we are going in the right direction, ”he said. “I have the impression that people are aware of [the lack of diversity]. My nonprofit, Project Onyx, is ahead of diversifying this space. We have 15 children coming this weekend [to National Crossfit games in Madison] it will be here. Two are certified level one.
“If you walk into gyms in the big cities, you’ll see more diversity in CrossFit,” he continues. “It’s just that on the big stage you don’t see enough representation. As a result, he mostly recruits white people because that’s what they market and that’s what everyone sees. “
Muhammad founded Onyx Project with a mission “to remove the barriers faced by underrepresented and underserved people of color by providing affordable and accessible health and fitness services, mentoring for our young and future professionals, and enabling our communities to become more culturally competent, healthy and active.
“I started the Onyx project about 10 months ago. We started after the murder of George Floyd, ”says Muhammad. “When that happened, we just sat down and our hearts were like, ‘How can we make a change in our community? How do we support and help our community? ‘ “
“Along with that there have been racial slurs and things have been said in CrossFit pointing to the black community. Then the black CrossFit community sprouted up and said straight out, “Hey, these are my experiences in CrossFit. It was so disheartening to hear these stories. This is what I invest my life in; that’s what I like. We just want to change that.
One of the goals of Project Onyx is to help black American youth understand that they have choices rather than what the system is telling and showing them, Muhammad says, and to give young people the support they need. . The Onyx project focuses on young people aged 15 to 20.
“We just want them to have access to CrossFit and fitness in general and teach them about the sport and the byproducts of what CrossFit is and what it actually does in our lives,” Muhammad said. “We’re on a mission to close the health disparity gap. It’s so important to teach these kids about health and wellness, what fitness is and what CrossFit does… and then get them into the spaces.
“The beauty of CrossFit that a lot of people don’t see when they watch the games is the community and the camaraderie aspect of it,” he continues. “That’s what I got out of it when I started and that’s what I’m looking to pursue through the Onyx project. What does your community look like? It may look like a beautiful thing.
For more information on the NOBULL National CrossFit Games 2021, Click here.