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- Cal D.
- Chuck F.
- Sarah Cawley
- Christine D.
- Cody L.
- Dave L.
- Dr. Fran T.
- Gabe B.
- Gavin M.
- Jake B.
- Jason K.
- Jeff T.
- Jen F.
- Lisa B.
- Megan H.
- Rachel H.
- Stacy K.
Hear from Cal about his CrossFit HighGear experience.
In the Open
by Sarah Cawley
I both started, and finished 17.1 in tears.
Before I explain why, I had probably better explain what 17.1 is. Every year, the CrossFit community holds an open competition. CrossFitters from around the world all complete the same series of 5 workouts, done weekly at your local affiliate gym, Scores are submitted, leaderboards populated with names. The fittest move on to a regional competition that brings the chance of qualifying for the top dog competition- the CrossFit games. Workouts are named for the year and week of the series in which they are performed. 2017, week one workout= 17.1. What sets this competition apart however, is that anyone can enter, and anyone- and almost everyone does. There’s an “Rx” version- the workout movements and weights performed at a standard, and there’s also a scaled version. By and large, the people entering have no aspiration of making it to the games. So why on earth you ask, would anyone enter a competition they have no hope of winning?
By now, most of you have heard of CrossFit. You’ve probably thought that it’s a gym full of people who drink protein shakes, and workout until they throw up…and while I can’t say that I haven’t had a protein shake (I have), or come close to throwing up during a workout (guilty) but if that’s the only impression you have of CrossFit you are missing out. If you crack the door to our gym, or “box”, you are greeted with the scent of rubber, and the faint must of chalk dust. But mixed in between the grit is something else- inspiration.
I tried my first CrossFit class in November of 2012. I was a runner, and wanted to gain some strength. A friend of mine and I took a couple classes, but I decided it was “too hard” on my runner’s body. I was sore, tired, and felt like I was in over my head. Fast forward to April of 2014, when I first heard the words, “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid it’s cancer.”
Words you don’t expect to hear at 32. Words that change your life in a big way. Words that redefine “hard”.
This is when CrossFit wrapped its arms around me.
I had to stop working because of treatment. Our family was already in survival mode after our youngest was born medically fragile and with special needs. That friend who tried CrossFit with me for the first time? She had stuck with it, and was now involved in a local gym. She organized a competition fundraiser at her gym for our family, drawing in many people who supported me, without even knowing who I was. Since my husband was devoting time to our girls instead of the yard when I got sick, this same friends husband, also CrossFitting, organized a day of work at our house- trimming trees, painting our deck, and building a playground surface for the swingset for our girls. Who came to work? Yep, the CrossFitters. They showed up, worked hard, and blessed our family in a way that can only be repaid by paying it forward.
The next 18 months were difficult. 6 rounds of chemo, multiple surgeries, 5 weeks of radiation, and a year of monthly of targeted therapy infusions left me physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted. My chest wall was tight from the mastectomy scarring. My arms mobility restricted from something called “Axillary Web Syndrome”- basically fibrous tissue that forms a band where lymph nodes were removed, further tethering my arms to my chest wall. Treatment had also left me in menopause. Surviving now meant learning to live in a body that is very different. Counseled by my oncologist I began researching ways to combat the effects of early onset menopause, and the inevitable muscle and bone loss that comes with it.
I found myself in the gym at CrossFit High Gear. This time however, it was different. Founded by Tom Karos and Heidi Bogue in 2015, they have cultivated a gym with a passion for hard work, encouragement, and community. The coaches helped me learn the foundational movements, and showed me how to modify what I wasn’t strong enough, or flexible enough to perform. The workouts were still difficult, but every time I found myself face down on the floor, or about to try and lift a heavy weight, the same phrase kept coming to mind….”I’ve been through harder.” There were many days that I would fight back tears- hard work has a way of helping you to reconcile your pain, and there were many days I would cry into the rower because I was well, just mad. Cancer isn’t fair. Cancer took a lot. But, there was always someone to encourage me. Friends who would check in if I didn’t show up. People who didn’t know anything about what I had been through who would cheer me on during a tough workout and I always felt better after I left. Someone is always waiting to give you a high five after a workout, whether you can do a push-up, or just rocked out a set of 50. After a few months, I found my strength was increasing, but so was my mobility and endurance. I entered my first CrossFit Open in 2016. I had to scale nearly everything, completing only a few Rx repetitions, but after 5 weeks I had finished the open 16.1 to 16.5. The sense of accomplishment was thrilling.
Back to 17.1. I walked into the gym that morning feeling pretty low. I was frustrated- the first workout had dumbell snatches which involve using a lot of chest and arm strength, and mobility- two of my biggest weaknesses. Not only that, the weight for the workout was heavy for me-35lbs, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t perform the movement as prescribed. Resigned, the plan was to just get one Rx rep since that counts more than all scaled reps combined, and then finish the workout scaled to 20lb snatches. I tried a few practice movements. The weight felt heavy and I couldn’t quite get it up over my head. Frustrated, I let it get to me….the whispers of “you aren’t good enough to do this” and “no matter how hard you try, you will never be able to be where you could have been if it weren’t for cancer….” That one stings the most. The open workouts are different from regular workouts because you are judged one on one- and it can feel intimidating. Exposed. Critiqued. I was choking back tears as the clock counted down 3, 2, 1…
After the first rep, my judge, and one of our coaches told me to take a breath, and focus on the form, using my hips to provide momentum like a kettlebell. Something between the adrenaline, the anger, and the encouragement clicked. I grabbed that 35 lb dumbbell and pulled it up over my head. I picked it up again, and there it went. And again, and again, and again. Halfway through, my coach kicked aside the 20lb dumbbells. “You don’t need those” he said. The music was blaring, but my friends were screaming louder. I made it to 143 Rx reps before the time cap. That’s 142 more than I thought I could do. 142 times training, encouragement, and community helped me achieve what wasn’t possible a year ago. I collapsed into the embrace of one of my cheerleaders, this time with tears of triumph.
See, this is what happens at CrossFit. We replace intimidated with determined, exposed with coached, and we replace fear with faith. If it weren’t for cancer, I may not even be in the gym in the first place. I would have still been content with “just hard enough”, instead of ultimately seeing the only result that matters the most- surviving, and thriving. The only person I have to compete with in CrossFit, is myself.
The scent of inspiration is intoxicating- once you have it swirling around in your spirit, you are hooked. To me, community, passion, and determination all smell faintly of sweat, and chalk dust, and it’s a pretty sweet smell.
Hear from Christine about her CrossFit HighGear experience.
Hear from Cody about his CrossFit HighGear experience.
Hear from Dave about his CrossFit HighGear experience.
Dr. Fran T.
This is for all of you who, like me, last saw “50” a while ago, rapidly receding in the rear view mirror ….
Hear from Gabe on his CrossFit HighGear experience.
Hear from Gavin on his CrossFit HighGear experience.
Hear from Jake about his CrossFit HighGear story.
Hear from Jason about his CrossFit HighGear experience.
Hear from Jeff about his CrossFit HighGear experience.
Hear from Jen about her CrossFit HighGear experience.
What brought me to CFHG?
I had done crossfit at another box for about a year and half and then stopped with really no intention of ever returning until one day a friend invited me to check out faith rx. It was there that I met Heidi and, after learning that she was the wife of the pastor at my church, and seeing her passion, I went to her with an idea. I wanted to create a wellness program for teen girls at the church. As her eyes lit up, she smiled at me and said “could we do that program at high gear instead?” And just like that I found myself back at a box. SHINE was born and I fell in love with this place!
What do I like best?
The community – it sounds cliché, but when I walk into CFHG I feel like I am walking into a second home. They encourage unwavering support of every person no matter what level they are at. They motivate and inspire each person to exceed their goals and expectations. Its normal to see people cheering each other on at the end of a WOD, going back and helping someone finish those final burpees, fist-bumping when you hit a milestone PR, and congregating in the café after a tough workout to catch up and share life together.
The short answer: The Open! And the PR of getting up and going to a 6:30 class 😉
The long answer: There have been many times that I have lifted slightly more than before or gotten through a workout quicker than the last time, but what stands out to me is the PR of overcoming the voice in my head telling me I couldn’t do something. It’s true we are our own worst enemy and that voice is loud and in charge in the box. But time and time again, through the tears and the sheer determination, these coaches and these fellow crossfitters, have been there. They have cheered me on, encouraged me to do “just one more rep,” and collectively drowned out that voice in my head.
What would I say to others thinking about joining?
I hate working out, I am not self-motivated in any way to exercise, I am about 20lbs overweight, and I don’t have an athletic bone in my body – and I am addicted to crossfit – so what’s holding you back?
Hear from Megan about her CrossFit HighGear experience.
Hear from Rachel about her CrossFit HighGear experience.
Hear from Stacy about her CrossFit HighGear experience.