PARAMUS, N.J. — Joe Pierro is the first to admit he was out of shape when he came on as a Paramus volunteer firefighter in March 2014.
Some would say the 19-year-old coach at Hackensack's Great White CrossFit is also the first to admit how far he's come since then.
He's confident, and based on his latest accomplishment, for good reason.
Pierro, an electrician, placed first among firefighters between ages 18 and 34 in the Northeast Region at the 2017 CrossFit open — 87th in the region overall.
He says he started to prove everyone wrong — to show them that the "fat little pudge" could make it one day.
Pierro's first CrossFit class was in December 2015. He weighed in at 186 pounds and was not the most athletic of the bunch.
His coaches, Steve and Tara Ramos, encouraged him to keep at it.
"I wouldn't be at the point I'm at today without Great White CrossFit's programming," Pierro said. "It's gotten me this far and I'm going to keep at it and do my best to improve in next year's open."
Pierro has become one of the fittest in the gym — and on most firetrucks in the Northeast.
"We all want to be better and push ourselves to our limits," said Pierro, the youngest of the coaches at the gym.
"It's longterm baby steps, so you've got to give it all you've got while you're there."
"CrossFit has built my endurance and strength," Pierro said. "I can do tasks for longer periods of time without tiring out."
Pierro's competitive nature has indeed gotten him far, but has also posed some minor setbacks along the way. Particularly, back and shoulder injuries.
"We all want to get better and push ourselves to our limits, but you have to take a step back and realize that if you injure yourself, you're going to take two steps forward and four steps back," he said.
His injuries have taught him when to rest, but he knows not to give up.
"I’m going to keep going with it," he said.
"If something comes out of it as time goes on, then, I mean, that would be the dream. To do what you love."