ROCHESTER — The parking lot outside Progression Fitness was full Saturday morning, and two open doors showed a crowd of people exercising in the CrossFit gym.
People were gathered for one reason: John Colbert. Ask anyone present Saturday morning, and it was clear that Colbert was loved and respected by many, including his gym family of over 10 years.
Colbert was killed Sunday, May 8, 2022, at his home in Byron. Almost immediately after the tragedy, the staff at Progression Fitness began planning how they would honor him.
Then, the idea arose: a hero workout.
In CrossFit, dedicating a hero workout to someone is the highest honor a gym can give a member. For the staff and members at Progression Fitness, Colbert was the ultimate person to honor. He was an inspiration to many, and “he left a mark on everybody that he met,” said Jeremy Mghenyi, a staff member at Progression Fitness who planned the workout.
“He was really known for his smile. He had a really, really bright smile. And he just made you feel good all the time,” Mghenyi said. “He’s a very, very bright individual. And, you know, for as old as he was, he still kept up with every single person that walked into the doors. If you’re new, he greeted you. He was so welcoming.”
CrossFit quickly became a family affair for the Colberts. Within weeks of John joining Progression Fitness, his wife, Marcy, daughters, Sarah and Lisa, son, David, and son-in-law Mike were all at the gym, working out together.
“It was just something we could do together as a family,” Marcy said.
Marcy, Sarah, Lisa and Mike all participated in the workout Saturday. To say it was an emotional day for them would be an understatement.
“When they did this for him, it was just so humbling and so honoring, and I just don’t even have words for what it means to me that our gym did this,” Marcy said.
The workout itself was seven rounds of eight kettlebell swings, 22 pushups, five strict pull-ups and a 1,000-meter row. Every number meant something; seven rounds were symbolic of the 70 years Colbert lived. Five, eight and 22 was the date Colbert died. And seven rounds of 1,000 meter row signified the time Colbert kayaked the Mississippi River, starting a few weeks after he retired from IBM in 2012. (The distance to row didn’t equal the distance Colbert kayaked on the river, but it signified the endurance Colbert needed for the trip.)
Colbert always had a dream of kayaking the Mississippi River. Marcy said he had to break it into three sections because of events that took him off the river: the birth of two grandchildren and a tropical storm that hit Louisiana.
“When he went back to finish it, he had 152 miles left,” Marcy said. “I said, ‘Do you want me to finish it with you?’ And he said, ‘I’d love that.’ So I finished the last one with him. We got to the Gulf and I said, ‘Aren’t you glad I was here to take your picture?’ So that was really special. So thankful that I did that with him.”