Monday, May 26, 2008

The Power of CrossFit: What's YOUR CrossFit story?

****Author's note- As of 12/6/09 parts of this blog have been changed from the original posting on the main page in June '08, however the original message is still intact.****

You know, I've been thinking. I know I know, I already put the fire out, and don't worry, I didn't really damage anything, but anyhoo. Seriously. I got to thinking the other day about my CrossFit story. The other day, someone told me that I could be an "unabashed poster child" for CrossFit. And that got me to thinking. Moi? A poster child for CrossFit? No. I'm not good enough. I don't know all the moves, I can't complete several of them (muscle ups, Full ROM HSPU's etc), and therefore there was no way that statement was true. But then he said something else. He said, "Define good enough. You're constantly improving, routinely hitting the WOD. Dedicated to CrossFit. I call that good enough."

Now, let me be the first to say, that when it comes to the actual movements of CrossFit, I still don't think I'm good at CrossFit. My form isn't perfect, and I'm certainly not strong enough to be considered good. But what this person said about the poster child got me to thinking. What if MY story could help someone else? What if MY story could help someone else see that they too can do it? What if my story inspired someone else to hang in there? My CrossFit story isn't necessarily pretty. In fact, there are parts of it that are downright unpleasant, but I think, I THINK that it's a good story to tell, because I think it shows the power that CrossFit can have. How forging that elite community can bring to you more than just a fun workout. How in essence, CrossFit saved me. I am going to air a lot of dirty laundry in this post, several things I'm sure that some of you would never have imagined of me, so please accept my cautions in advance. But hopefully, if you stick with me and read this long mess, you may be inspired to post your own story, and you may realize just how strong this program is. So, here's My CrossFit Story.

Through a very strange twist of fate in May '07, I met a wonderful man. I worked with his cousin at my old school, and while he was in Iraq, she was looking for people to correspond with him. My students were in between writing projects at the time, so I used the opportunity to review writing friendly letters and we began to correspond with him. Well, it seemed that he and I had quite a bit to talk about and it wasn't long until our class project had taken a different turn. When he came home on leave in mid-July we decided to meet up and spend a few days together. It was great. A terrific few days. While he was here, he mentioned that he had a friend who had just moved to Alexandria and started his own CrossFit program. Now, Bobby showed me Jerry's website and truly deserves the credit for first opening my eyes to CrossFit. Bobby had every intention of visiting Jerry while he was in town, however, I fed him one too many beers the night before we were going to go and thus we did not wake up in time the next morning. (Sorry Jerry, I take the blame for that one)

Well, Bobby of course had to return to Iraq and it broke my heart to watch him go, but I was really hopeful that when he came back things would work themselves out. Well, almost immediately following Bobby's return, trouble arose at my job and I was basically left with one option: quit. So I did. In my adult life I had never really quit a job. I had moved on, but there was never a severing of ties that was so unpleasant. My old principal was a jerk basically. I was swimming at this time, 3 days a week, but it wasn't doing much to help me. My stress was through the roof, I was panicking about finding a new job, and the end of the summer was drawing very close. I wasn't sleeping through the night, in fact I was barely sleeping three hours. I was not happy at all. Not with my situation, and certainly not with myself. I have always had weight issues. In fact for the middle of my high school years, by clinical definition you probably could have defined me as anoerexic. I didn't eat. It was a control issue. I hated my weight, and not eating was my control over it. Never mind the fact that I was a high school athelete and worked out at whatever sport it was that I did for at least 2 hours a day, usually more during soccer season. My high school sweetheart was a high school wrestler (and football player, and baseball player... yes, I was a good student, honor society lead in the show, and we were disgustingly cute) and eating was a no no back then. So moving into August of last year, some of those bad habits resurfaced, and I really wasn't happy.

I got to thinking about Jerry. Bobby had told me that Jerry's classes would make me fit, but that they were packaged in "hard work and sweat". So, I decided to email Jerry, and give this CrossFit thing a try. Well, I tried CrossFit, and wow. Was it hard. But I figured if I wanted to get better, I had to sign on the dotted line. So I did. I was lifting 15lb dumbbells for everything. TGU's were a nightmare for me. Push presses were difficult with 35 pounds. I loved the movements, but felt terrible about my output. Compared to others, I sucked! At the time, I was doing Tuesdays and Thursdays with only about 5 other people in the room. I started with Jerry only 2 days a week, and continued with master's swimming 3 days a week. I will fully admit that during this time I was a train wreck. I had found a new job, and had started at my new school, only to find that no one at my old school would speak to me any longer. I had esentially lost every friend I had made in VA, and at the same time, I was stressed out trying to learn a new grade level, and things with Bobby began to go downhill. Maintaining a long distance relationship was hard enough, but throw in my life complications and the fact that he was in the middle of Iraq and things became even more complex. I had a lot going on in my life and was having a hard time being supportive while he was in Iraq. It wasn't easy, and I commend the people who can do that because I couldn't get my head out of my own backside to do it. I failed miserably. But to me, the ending of that relationship just seemed like one more thing in my life that was falling apart. To me, it seemed everything in my life was falling apart at once. It seemed that life was certainly kicking me in my proverbial nuts. I certainly don't blame Bobby for it, a lot of it WAS on me, but all the same, the timing of it really stunk.

But, through all these things, I stuck with CrossFit. I was miserable, but I did it. I will admit to everyone that I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was at the bottom of the barrel. I could not have sunk any lower. CrossFit at times was the only reason I drug myself out of bed in the morning. Now, was I using CrossFit in a way it was not designed to be used, yes, but did it keep me up and alive? Yes. And that's where the power of CrossFit is amazing. When I was at my very lowest, I still wanted to CrossFit. I was slowly seeing improvements, and slowly was making friends in that elite ocmmunity. I can't tell you how much getting to know those people in that room and going through things with the people in that room helped me. Coach Glassman's idea of Elite Community doesn't end at the workout site. The elite community goes beyond the walls and beyond the doors. Once you have fought through things together at CrossFit, you feel as if you can rely on those people to help you with other things, and slowly but surely I did. And with those people, I was slowly able to pull myself up from the bottom of the barrel, and eventually slowly climb out. I won't lie. It wasn't easy. Letting people go hurt. I probably cried more betwen October and February then I would like to admit. There were days that I know Jerry looked at me with much concern. (hands down, talk about a wonderful trainer who cared that much!) But I was finding the more CrossFit I did, the stronger I became. When I felt physically more fit, I felt mentally more fit. I felt that if I could pick up a 60 lb bar, I should be able to deal with debt, or my weight, or losing a man or friends. And you know what? I was RIGHT.

CrossFit brought back a part of me that I thought I lost several years ago. My strength. Now, I don't want you to get confused. I don't mean my physical stregth, I mean my tenacity, my drive, my strength to be able to keep going and persevere when things in life get rough. I had gotten so wound up in everything, I couldn't see it. I didn't think I had it. CrossFit showed me the way. CrossFit taught me how to be physically strong, and it also taught me how to mentally be strong. I finally had to give up swimming because CrossFit two days a week just wasn't enough. I wanted more. I wanted to be around those people more. And as CrossFit helped me realize and remember all these things about myself, I knew that there was one final hurdle I needed to overcome. My weight. I have always had weight issues since those days in high school. CrossFit showed me how the Zone combined with exercise can work. It's showed me how the will power to eat right, instead of the will power NOT to eat, is a far better thing. CrossFit has not only helped to make me healthy mentally, it has FINNALLY showed me how to be healthy physically, and accept myself. For the first time in 26 years, I am comfortable with how I look. I like ME. And for a girl who used to cry because she hated how she looked, you can't possibly imagine the journey that has been. And I owe every ounce of that to CrossFit, and to Jerry. CrossFit can give you the tools to be a healthy person. I've gladly accepted the tools. I now CrossFit 4-6 days a week depending, and I love it and I pray to God that I never have to give it up, and that someday maybe I can have the money to do a cert and maybe be as contagious as Jerry and pass my love along. Remember me saying that when I started I used 15lb dumbbells for everything? Imagine yourself going from 15lb thrusters to 65. Squat cleaning 110lbs from not knowing what a squat clean was. Front squating 115lbs. Doing a PR 15 chins when before you couldn't even pull yourself over the bar. And that room that only had 5 other people? Now has somewhere between 12-15 other people depending. Obviously, they've caught onto the power of CrossFit too.

Perhaps this story makes me a poster child. Eh, I don't know. Nor is it really important if I am or not. But I know that my story shows the power of CrossFit. If this is what I can do, it can work for you. It can be more than just a workout for you. If you are feeling frustrated, that's ok. We've been there. If you are down, we've been there too. Hang with it. It will come and you will be amazed at how different you have become. But let's not get off track, this is MY CrossFit story.

What's yours?


Brad said...

My story does not parallel your's, but I feel the difference in my everyday attitude in general. I can clean 135. My deadlift PR will continue to increase. I can do pullups. I am swimming again. I've lost some 15 pounds of fat. These things help me deal will the petty crap I see daily. Nobody or nothing drags me down.

Potomac Crossfit Of DC said...

Your a strong women Katie! Which I think is awesome! When your 70, 80 or 90 you'll be happy you got strong as a young women!

Katie said...

Thanks Jen. That's a huge compliment coming from you. You always inspire me when you stop by the Blue Room. I hope you stop by to see us again sometime soon! :) I'm working on the BBQ... I'll be sure to keep you in the loop...

Katie said...

Brad, thanks for leaving me a bit of your story. I always am interested to know how other people found CrossFit and how it's affected them. Obviously, CrossFit has had a very profound impact on me! I hope you had a good Memorial Day weekend!

Jerry Hill said...

Great freaking Story Katie...Yes you are an inspiration and a poster are an example of a great person being put in the right environment to finally succeed.

I'm all about character...
Elite is overrated, give me guts and dedication and I'll show you a winner for the rest of your life.

I might not have told this story but a few years ago I spoke at a Fitness Conference with some of the best coaches in the nation - the presentations were awesome...but one after another they seemed to start to blend together...everyone had the golden goose, the "it" program that would take someone from flab to fit...I started to zone out, doze off...Whoa! I'm up!

I was an expert on a Q&A panel...I made some points and as time came to a close was allowed to stand up and give my final remarks...
It went with something like this;

The Battle of Belleau Wood
In 1918, the Germans received a thorough indoctrination to the fighting ability of the US Marines. Battling through the supposedly impenetrable Belleau Wood and capturing terrain that was reported to be unobtainable, the persistent and courageous attacks by the Marines soon had the Germans calling them “teufelhunden”, the fierce fighting dogs of legendary origin, otherwise known as the "Devil Dogs".

This battle is celebrated by Marines, not simply because we stopped the last major German offensive in WWI, but because of the virtues displayed during those battles. To name a few, they include: Tenacity; Bravery; Determination; Dedication; Unselfishness; and Camaraderie.

What does this have to do with fitness and my workouts?

What if Fitness is not satisfying aesthetics, but awakening the Devil Dog within?


Oh you're awake and Kickin' down doors Katie...Congrat's on your much deserved success!

Katie said...

Jerry, I always love when you stop by my page. :) Belleau Woods is actually a favorite story of mine. How did you know?

I'd like to think that both you and CrossFit have reawakened that "Devil Dog within". (I love that saying!) I know sometimes that I give you grief at o' six hundred, but I hope you know how much I value everything you've done for me. You make my CrossFit story possible. THANK YOU!

Anonymous said...

Katie - Thanks for sharing your story. Your strength inspires many girl! I am so happy that you have found strength in yourself to move forward in a positive direction. There is something about being healthy that really does impact our whole being. Stay strong Katie! oh- yeah - LOVE THE VIDEO!

georgia said...

Wow! You really laid a lot on the line by sharing your story, Katie. It's very powerful and beautiful. You're a beautiful girl inside and out and it's inspiring to see CrossFit giving your the courage to turn into an even more beautiful and amazing woman. Congratulations! YOUR hard work and YOUR spirit are what's making it work for you. Awesome story.

Adrienne said...

Thank you for sharing your story Katie. It's never easy being that honest. You are strong in every way possible, and I'm proud of you for all of them!

Sometimes, the key to life is showing up.. it's incredible what happens when you keep showing up.

See you in the morning.

Mr. Mirek said...

thanks for sharing that story! what say you to actually making you a poster child? you've got the photos; now take them to kinkos and make an actual poster with a cool motto on it.

Cara said...


This post was beautiful, and I hope you are super-proud of yourself for how far you have come.

My story isn't nearly as inspiring as yours, but I can say that the lessons I've learned and the people I've connected with in the blue room have improved my life and level of happiness drastically. And you are one of those people who have improved my life :-)

Katie said...

Wow! I really never thought that I would have this kind of response to my post. Thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. You guys had some really nice things to say about me and to me. I don't try to be an inspiration to anybody, but I feel like I've been dealt quite the hand through my life. If I can make a positive impact on someone by sharing my stories, then I consider it all worthwhile. This fall was really rough for several reasons, and none of those are the result of one person or event. It was the combination of several things and was just the way life panned out. I'm glad that amidst all that I found CrossFit and some of the most genuine and caring, not to mention hard-working, people I've ever met. I feel blessed each day I can get to the blue room. Even amidst the blood blisters... ;)

Mr. Mirek- if you want to put my face on a very glossy poster and then build a shrine to me, eh. I'm ok with that... you go right ahead... ;) It seems the Kult leader should at the VERY least have her own posters. ;)

Kim- Glad you liked the video... I'd like to say I really had a good time making it, but I think I'd be lying a smidge... ;)

Georgia-Thank you! You gave me warm fuzzies today! :) Only three more days until I join you in Chicago! :)

Adrienne- I have lots of good motivation and inspiration around me to keep going. Speaking of inspirations... how about you? You haven't missed a beat in the blue room. You're still putting in great work and keeping yourself in great shape despite your struggles with your shoulder. I hope I can be as inspirational someday! It's amazing to watch you work!

Cara- I am proud of myself, but I know the journey is far from over. There is still much more to learn, and I think eventually do. But for now, I'm going to just keep working hard. It's great to see it pay off for you too!

I know many of you said it was gutsy to post my whole story up on the internet. IMO, yes and no. If you want people to know you for you, you have to be honest with them. I am what I am, my path is what it is and I'd love to hear about some of your paths. I'd love to see a few more CrossFit stories up on your blogs. :)

Tami said...

Hey Katie, great story! I also loved the birthday video you posted.

I am also fascinated by how people find out about CrossFit and what motivates them to keep going. Unfortunately, I am not close to any affiliates, so I work out alone. Reading blogs like yours, plus the main site boards keep me motivated and inspired.

I found CrossFit kinda by accident. I reading a blog by Catra (from CrossFit One World) who was hiking the PCT trail. She mentioned CrossFit, I looked it up, found the Main Site and the rest is history. I had been working out for a few years but had gotten bored with my routine (cardio and weights every other day.) I think the WOD posted the day I found the HQ site was Angie. I remember thinking "Are these guys serious?" Then I did the WOD the next day and ended up in a puddle on the ground. And I thought I was in shape -- I ran, did some weights and martial arts 4-5 times a week. Whoo-boy!

I've been dabbling with CF for about a year, and just started hitting the WOD regularly the last 2 months. I must say, I feel better than I ever have in my life.

My martial arts sensei always tells us "Don't get discouraged if you can't do everything perfectly. You've already done more by stepping on the mat and trying than anyone outside this room has done today." I think that's true of CrossFit too.

Katie said...

Tami, what a great quote! I love it. It's going to go with my releasing the "Devil Dog within" quote. Thanks for posting up your story! I love to hear about how other people have found CrossFit and how it's affected them. Keep working out hard. I'm glad to hear that you are doing so well!

PS- You should get a blog... :o)

Tanya said...

Man everyone is serious and nice...I'm just happy that you're getting on a plane this week for the first time!! Think about it...crossfit got you to fly!

Katie said...

Tanya! An excellent point! CrossFit got me to fly... and run a 5K with you... let's not forget that! :)

Jerry said...

holy 17th comment batman.

solid story k-dawg. mine is not-so-similar, however i will say i think the most important thing i've learned from crossfit is mental discipline.

somedays it sucks, i hate it, i want to quit, but you don't. because you know every step, thruster, clean, squat, dip, pushup, whatever is getting you that much closer to the end. when you can collapse.

i think i lacked this toughness when i started, but i have it now and am thankful. Esp. to the guys i train with, cause they don't let me be a nancy.

Katie said...

J-dawg, 17th but still just as important as the 1st. :) Thanks for dropping by. I know what you mean about those days. There are days where as much as I love throwing around toys and heavy weights, I don't want to pick up a bar bell, or get on the chin up bar. But, I always do. I didn't have that when I started either. I'm glad I have that now. I'm sure that drive has done wonders for you as well! Tell the guys at Titan Fit I said good job at keeping you honest. Don't be a Nancy! :P And tell them I said to kick your backside a bit... ;) Just for fun! :)

Tami said...

Hi Katie.

I do have a blog!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing your story, Katie! i am a solo crossfitter -- well, sort of. now i have a small group that emails each other our WODs and times and thoughts. i love my little "community" and have leaned on them greatly through some tough times.

congrats on all your successes and finding that "tuefelhunden". great story!

earlier this year, i was stressed out and distracted during my workouts -- which led to stagnation in my progress. i got to thinking at that point that maybe the "eliteness" that i have gained from CF is not true physical eliteness, but mental. perserverance is my eliteness.

thanks again for sharing your story!

btw, jerry sent out your link on CF Challenge email, so don't be surprised if you get lots of comments!


Katie said...

Colleen, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I'm kind of a nerd, but I love it when people leave me comments! :)

I'm glad that you have found a group to work out with Colleen. I have done CF workouts both with a group, and solo, and I have to say that it is always better when you can share your successes with others. It makes the success feel sweeter, and the failures and defeats feel not quite as bitter.

I didn't know that Jerry sent out my link, but thanks for the heads up. I hope to come back later today and find 100 new comments to read! ;)

I do agree Colleen that part of what CrossFit has given me is my strength back. Through moving and switching jobs, and all the craziness that has been my life in the last few years, I felt like I lost that. I now feel that if I can do Murph or Meet the Spartans, or Beowulf, or really ANY of Jerry's workouts, I feel like I can face anything. I hope that you continue to have success with CrossFit, and I hope your "small group" continues to grow. Everything, especially CrossFit is better with friends! :) Thanks again for your words Colleen! They are appreciated! :0)

Tom Brose said...

Thanks for sharing that!

McSemperFiWife said...

Snaps to you Katie! A very well-written story. You motivate me.

Ditto on how the folks around you keep you going and at times believe in you when you don't.

You rock!

Cheers to the Blue Room of Pain ;o)

Katie said...

Tom, thanks for stopping by and reading! Also for commenting... I love to find comments to read.... ;) I'm kind of a nerd like that... :) I hope you are having a great CrossFit experience! :)

Katie said...

McCall! I love working out with you! You are great to work out with. Talk about inspiration, how about you finishing all 100 chins last week on Angie?!? Girl, you rock! I can't wait to see how much more you continue to improve! :)

Matt said...


GREAT story! I always tell people that CF is a mental thing and not just a "workout" thing. You summed it up much better than I ever could. Thanks for the inspirational story. You ARE a CrossFit poster child! 3-2-1-You Go Girl!

- Matt

Anonymous said...

Your story is wonderful and you bring out the best in Crossfit. It has always appeared to me that crossfits places progress over perfection. It is the constant improvement that counts. Thank you for the honesty in your blog.

Katie said...

Matt, thanks for stopping by to read my ramblings and thanks for commenting. I agree with you that CrossFit is a very mental thing. It's a very daunting task to stare down 120 chins. You have to have that mental ability to just get started and once you're started finish. CrossFit has helped me find that ability to "finish". It's also helped me find that ability to just deal with anything. Once you knock out 100 chins, you start to feel a little invincible, like you can do whatever falls in front of you, or at least I do. I'm glad I found CrossFit and I'm glad that it's allowed me to find that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Robert, thank you for such a nice compliment. I too feel like CrossFit doesn't preach perfection (except in form and standards ;) ). CrossFit would rather see you do 5 perfect reps, than 50 half reps. It doesn't want you to "kill" the workout. CrossFit just asks that you show up and get it done with the best effort possible. CrossFit would rather see you keep putting forth your best effort and progress. I love that about CrossFit. Robert, thanks so much for reading my story and leaving me a comment. I hope that you continue to have a great CrossFit experience! :)

Deborah said...

KT - there is a quote that hangs on my wall, "Our best friends are those in whose presence we can be our very best selves." Sounds like you've found that at CrossFit. Yeah for you! Leave the trash behind and move on - and be an even better crossfitter. Deborah

Divaleh said...

Katie, thanks for posting your story! I think many of us have a deeper reason we turn to CrossFit, and what's amazing is the different things we all manage to get out of it. Knowing that you're beautiful in your own skin is a priceless gift, and getting to that point through blood, sweat and tears is immensely inspiring. Thanks again for showcasing the strength within!

Katie said...

Divaleh, the reason I post is because people like you are reading! Thanks for dropping by! Sharing the story was a little scary, but overall has been a wonderful experience. The road to get here has not been an easy one but if one person can relate to my writing, or take something away from it, it makes it all worthwhile. Thanks for dropping by and commenting! :)

Brendan said...

Hey katie,

I have been reading your blog for a while. I work out at CrossFit Boston and was stoked to wake up this morning and see your blog as our featured article for the day. I say that showing up on affiliate blogs definately makes you a poster child for CrossFit and hope that you keep on gettin some and working hard with the rest of us.

Your story is truly awesome as it shows what the power of community gained through crossfit can do. I got a similar uplift when I recently broke my arm and thought I was going to be out of commission for a while. I posted as such on our blog and within an hour had emails and blog responses to the extent of... you still have three working limbs, get you ass back in here and work a little harder.

The outpouring of support from everyone in the CrossFit community helped through it all and kept me positive. It may not have been as drastic as your situation but it is always nice to know that there is a community of people out there who care.

I hope that if you ever get a chance to get up to Boston you stop by CFB. I am sure that you will be welcome there and you can come throw down on cindy, fran or any of the ladies with me anytime.


Brendan said...

Ohh, and P.S. the cast comes off tomorrow and I can't wait to get back to doing a normal workout, maybe even some pullups

Katie said...

Brendan, talk about inspiring stories.... keeping up a series of steady workouts while you are seriously injured with a broken arm is completely amazing. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts and your very own CrossFit story. I love it! I'm glad to hear that you will be back to full boar soon, but just remember to jump back in slowly. It would suck to do something else to it because you weren't careful....

I'm glad that you have had the opportunity to experience the community that CrossFit can create. You're 100% right when you say that those people can help to lift you up. This program is so much more than just a workout, and that was one of the things I was trying so hard to convey in my post. I'm glad that you have become a loyal reader. Thanks for letting me know. If I ever get up to Boston, I will be sure to drop by your affiliate. Until then, you're going to have to keep sending me updates on your progress. I'd love to hear how you're doing! :) Thanks again for all your thoughts today.