"I had been doing a three-month offseason periodization program for my whole life. All of a sudden, I was faced with endless years ahead of me with no real goal or deadline to meet."
After spending 17 seasons playing in the NHL, Scott Thornton hung up his skates and dove into CrossFit.
“I just kind of fell in love with it,” Thornton, owner of CrossFit Indestri in Collingwood, Ontario, says.
During his career, he played for six NHL teams and was known as one of the fittest players in the league.
“I just wanted to make sure I was more fit than the guy I was lined up with,” he says. “I never wanted fatigue to be a factor in me losing a battle or costing us a goal.”
Each summer, during the offseason, Thornton trained at his cottage using very little gym equipment.
“I had no idea what CrossFit was, but I was carrying logs, swimming in my lake (and) doing all kinds of natural movement stuff,” he says.
When he retired in 2008, he admits he wasn’t sure how to train.
“I had been doing a three-month offseason periodization program for my whole life,” he says. “All of a sudden, I was faced with endless years ahead of me with no real goal or deadline to meet. I really didn’t know how to program.”
Thornton dabbled in CrossFit toward the end of his career, supplementing his regular training program with workouts from the main site. After he retired from hockey, he started doing CrossFit in his garage with occasional trips to CrossFit Midland.
“I could see what some people were doing and it gave me something to work towards,” he says. “I just found I was getting healthier and healthier as my training went on.”
Soon, he was on a plane to Edmonton to visit friends and attend a Level 1 Seminar.
“It was on my way home on the plane that I said, ‘I’m going to open my own box and start training people,’” Thornton says.
Eight months later, CrossFit Indestri was born.
Indestri opened in September 2010 and now has around 135 members, in addition to 40 kids in their CrossFit Kids program.
“For a small community, I think we’re growing really well,” he says.
As a coach, Thornton enjoys working with all kinds of people.
“I kind of get stoked over different things,” he says. “There are just these random moments that every coach has in a gym. If someone hits their first double-under or gets their first pull-up, I’m pumped for them — it’s super exciting to see that. I’m just as excited for them as I am to see one of our world-class skiers hit a 52-inch box jump.”
With a 13-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son who also CrossFit, Thornton says working with the Kids program is a lot of fun.
“The kids are like sponges and they just listen to everything you say — you see some huge progress,” he says. “That program has been outstanding.”
Thornton, 41, says his hockey experience has helped him as a coach. He says attention to detail is his biggest asset.
“I’ve been watching movement my entire life,” he says. “In hockey, if your stick is angled the wrong way it could cost you a goal. If you are two feet out of position, that could be the difference between you scoring and not scoring.”
On a personal level, his hockey experience has helped him connect with members.
“I’ve been in a dressing room my whole life with between 20 and 30 people from all walks of life,” he says. “You learn that in order to get along successfully in the locker room, you have to be a good communicator, a good leader, understand that there are different personalities and that there’s a way to connect with each person individually.”
Hockey and CrossFit aren’t the only sports Thornton pursues. He has also competed in several triathlons, including an Ironman in Austria. A fan of the sport, he loved watching Ironman races on TV and always wanted to complete one.
“It’s not the typical sport of a guy that’s 225 pounds, so it was very, very challenging for me,” he says. “I guess that’s why I did it.”
Thornton is a huge supporter of using CrossFit to train for triathlons. To prepare for his Ironman, he worked with Canadian Olympic triathlon coach Barrie Shepley and followed CrossFit Endurance programming.
“I was doing two swims, two bikes, two runs and four WODs a week,” he says. “The strength training is what got me through it. I was still strong. My last 10 kilometers was my fastest time split in the run.”
As he looks towards the future, Thornton’s focus is on helping the CrossFit community grow. He recently started The Underground Series, an inclusive outdoor competition circuit that allows CrossFit athletes of all levels to compete.
“I want people to say, ‘I just went and did it, I had fun, I met some cool people and it wasn’t as nasty and hard as I expected it to be,’” he says. “I just want to keep growing the sport.”