169. Incarceration to CrossFit

 “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” 

– Mother Teresa

I am excited to welcome #FITFAM to the T&T mic, Aaron Brill and Manny Menendez. I have trained for years with Aaron and was excited to learn that he was bringing CrossFit in a unique way to his then day job, as a police officer. Arron was inspired by an experience through a friend that experienced deep changes because of the fitness modality- so he decided to introduce CrossFit and its principles to the other “insiders” and Lions’ Pride Fitness was born. Lions’ Pride Fitness is a CrossFit Community for those in or returning from incarceration. With over 5 years of experience in building CrossFit programs inside prison, they wanted to continue that community success outside. Arron was lucky enough to cross paths with Army Combat Veteran, Manny Menendez, who he brought on board to help guide the Lions’ Pride Fitness process. Arron and Manny share their passion for fitness, community, and questioning a better way regarding re-entrance into mainstream society- regardless of where you are coming from. We all know antiquated systems need change, but what a refreshing approach to take things into your own hands and contribute where you can. This is a great convo about shifting perspectives and providing space for growth and change. What a world we would have if we all could do more of that!

This one is a video, so be sure to check us out on You Tube!


CrossFit and incarceration. Community, commitment, and working towards something larger. Perspective and opportunity. Systems and approach. Mindset of what we CAN do. Viewing people up close to lose your own bias. Humanizing leadership and meeting people where they are at. Taking existing skills and applying them to a legal game. Opportunity, hope, and evolution.

169. Incarceration To CrossFit

Aaron Brill

Aaron is 25-year veteran of law enforcement (retired Feb ’21), with the last 22 on Denver PD. Aaron spent 12 years as a patrol cop,  and 8 as an Academy Instructor where he found and fell in love with CrossFit, and 5 years as a patrol sergeant. He is a Co-founder of two non-profits aimed at bringing the whole person wellness of CrossFit to the justice system involved population. He is a proud husband of an amazing woman and Dad of two littles (6 year old daughter and 4 year old son).

Manny Menendez

SSG, USA(Ret.) B.A.S. CF-L1

Lead Program Coordinator

Veterans Healing Veterans from The Inside Out

My name is Manny Menendez I am a US Army Combat Veteran.  After multiple deployments and injuries, I was medically retired from the service in 2013. I went on to earn my bachelor’s degree after the service. Shortly thereafter I found myself incarcerated at Sterling Correctional Facility; this is where I found CrossFit.  Aaron at the time was the president of the CrossFit program inside the prison and we helped establish/build the program at sterling.  To this day I’m thankful for the work Aaron has done behind the wall and paving the way for CrossFit to be a part of that unique environment.  Thanks to his work I was able to earn my CF-L1 behind bars.  CrossFit has helped me make some foundational changes in my life and given me that structure, discipline, Comradery that I fell far away from during my transition out of the service.  Now I am very passionate about helping those in prison and reentering the community through CrossFit and working out.  I currently work as the lead program coordinator for veterans healing veterans, we are the largest organization advocating for the almost 200,000 justice involved veterans. We run a curriculum, which is based on narration therapy where we go in and help our nations forgot about hero’s process some of their trauma so they are not finding themselves in these same positions.  I have a very unique journey, but am truly blessed to have gone through it all, because now I have found my purpose/life’s work and that is invaluable to me.  Thank you for your time.  I look forward to the future and continuing this amazing work we are doing, truly impacting lives and making better human beings.

Lions’ Pride Fitness:

Mission: We exist to bring the full person wellness of CrossFit combined with peer and community mentorship to the Justice System Involved (JSI) population.

Vision: We see a world where the community supports people in the ‘justice system involved’ population and offer their time, talents and treasures in the success of those people. 

Training Expertise: With years of success and experience in this field, we can help bring the components of a successful program to your area. We have refined the process through in person application and have seen first-hand what works and what doesn’t.

Where we apply CrossFit: We see 3 areas in the justice system to apply CrossFit to help break the cycle: Courts, Corrections, Reintegration including probation/parole. We apply what we’ve seen work into the unique needs of each.

·         Courts: Diversion into CrossFit Community Centers and Affiliates as part of a comprehensive alternative to jail/prison

·         Corrections: We have a proven model for peer lead, Staff and community supported CrossFit Behind Bar(bell)s

·         Reintegration: Access to a global network of CrossFit Affiliates and a developing mentor support system


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