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Calluses &

Sweat Angels

Building a Better Me

Sarah at the Granite Games 2017

I have rarely been as nervous as I was January 2015 as I prepared to meet with Tad, a personal trainer at CrossFit Livingston. As I walked through the doors, I was facing my biggest insecurity head-on—my lack of fitness. It would have been so much easier to just drive away, but getting out of the car and going to that intro class was decidedly one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Growing up I was wild. I ran for the freedom of it, I was one of the strongest kids in my class, and I loved gymnastics. Like most little kids I took the freedom of motion for granted. Beginning in the 5th grade, a series of life events—including several moves, increased fighting between my parents and eventually a divorce—changed me. My life, once so stable, was spiraling out of control. Like many people, I found solace in the short-term endorphin highs of food. By the time I was in the eighth grade I weighed close to 180 pounds.

As a 5’2” tall, 14-year-old girl who was very overweight, activity was extremely difficult for me. I learned to hate pain, sweating, breathing hard, and myself. I viewed myself as a victim of fate, trapped, and unworthy of fighting for.

Life continued without much change until I left home for college. Over the next four years, my beliefs were challenged, I became more creative, I made friends of people I never would have thought to talk to, and I also fell in love. My first date with my now husband was horrible. He is a multi-sport athlete raised in the Beartooth Mountains, so he thought it would be fun to go on a short hike to the "M" in Bozeman. Halfway up, he looked at my bright red face and worriedly asked, “Are you okay?” Only a half-mile into the hike we had to turn around.

Surprisingly, he didn't run away after that experience… though I’m still not sure why. He continually encouraged me to try new things and not give up when I was tired or scared. His sister, a former thrower for MSU-Bozeman’s track team, got me to start running 5k races. I found that I like being with other people, and that I enjoyed the fun of competition or obstacles. But since I couldn't always be at fun runs, I decided to try Zumba and Curves—workouts that simulated the atmosphere. They brought me one step closer to living an active life, but I still didn't feel I belonged or that it was having much effect on me.

One day at lunch, I heard a coworker, Regina Wood, talking about her gym. She is quite possibly the fittest person at work so I listened up. She talked about the tough CrossFit workout she had done that day and how sore she was going to be. Oddly, she also said it was really fun! I was intrigued and decided to give it a try at the beginning of the New Year.

At that intro class, Tad showed me around the gym and took me through a short workout to see where my abilities were. Though I struggled through what I assumed were easy tasks and was visibly winded, he never judged. Rather, he kept encouraging me and even gave me a high five when I finished. This was definitely not what I had expected from a CrossFit experience. I was exhausted, smiling, and hooked.

I was the newest person and everyone else seemed to know each other, and I was definitely the weakest. But I was repeatedly taken aback by the inclusive nature of not just the coaches, but everyone. The cool thing about CrossFit is that it doesn’t matter how fit you are; the workouts are scaled so that everyone is trying their hardest at the same time. Back when I was in P.E. class I used to hate when people cheered for me to finish. I knew they pitied me as I walked in the last lap of “The Mile” at school. This was different, when I heard the breathless encouragements of, "good job" and "you've got this", they were stating a fact, and had no doubt I could tough it out.

I learned how to use a barbell, what the heck a kettle bell was, and how to do a handstand push-up. The workouts kept me guessing, as they were different everyday and I couldn't avoid the tough ones since I didn't know what the it was going to be until I got to the gym. The circuit mentality kept me from getting lazy from over-repetition of one movement and the modifications made even tough workouts possible. It was all the best parts of fun-run culture with an intensity I thought I was not capable of.

Two and a half years later, I still get gassed at almost every workout. I still wake up to sore muscles. I have scars on my shins from missing box jumps, bruised knees from doing burpees and I wouldn't change a thing. Through the years I have grown stronger muscles, changed shape, and become more confident. I am still nowhere near the strongest person in the gym, but I know my eighth grade self would think I'm a beast.

It seems strange that lifting heavy weights, and pushing myself physically should have such a big effect on my spirit, but it has. It is something I do for nobody but myself and not because I should. I have realized that I am strong, stubborn, and worth fighting for. CrossFit has taught me that though it takes hard work and sometimes literally "blood, sweat, and tears" to get to your goals, it is never impossible and you don't have to do it alone. CrossFit will help you lose weight and gain lean functional muscle, but more importantly it will help you believe in yourself and become a better, stronger version of who you are.

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