barbells in the gym for weightlifting

My Guest Blog – A Little Backstory About Me

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Last week I did a guest post on CrossFit 616’s blog. I thought I would also post it here with a few links for references if you aren’t a gym member.

Some of you know my story, but for those who don’t, here’s the short version. Until about 5 years ago, I had never played a sport or done anything athletic in my life. Then fate and good fortune took a hand. I ended up in one of Christian Roberts’ boxing classes. No one was more shocked than I was when I loved it. Up until that point, it was the hardest thing I had ever done physically, (and to be honest, I was absolutely terrible at it,) but I was hooked. I took more classes. And I met a group of adventurous, awesome, tough people who talked me into joining them in training for a Spartan race.

Spartan Beast, Texas
One of my all-time favorite photos. Us after completing our trifecta with the Spartan Beast in Texas.

One race led to another, and then another. Four of us decided to travel to Texas and do a Spartan Beast. And that is what led me to CrossFit 616. It was the perfect training for what I needed, but it also very quickly became home. There were a few problems, however. My lower body mobility had epic problems.

For starters, my years of avoiding all things PE meant that my mind-body connection was a bit… fuzzy. I simply didn’t know how to use my body. Even now occasionally a Coach will give me a cue and I have to admit I have no idea what they are talking about. (Never be embarrassed about asking – our Coaches are happy to explain!)

On top of that, I have always been a toe walker. I learned to walk on my tip toes. Today if a child did that they would likely get them to a physical therapist, but this was the wild 70s. Things were a little different back then. When I turned 13 and my mother bought me my first pair of heels, I never looked back. Ever hear the Southern expression, ‘the higher the hair, the closer to God’? That’s how I felt about my heels!

And finally, when I was a teenager I was in a really bad car accident. I ended up having back surgery for a ruptured disc. The back pain came back in my late 20s, and I spent a number of years figuring out how to deal with extreme sciatic pain. At one point I was so twisted up I wore a 1” lift in one shoe to try to straighten my back. Here’s a hint – my legs are the same length, it was my hips that were messed up. I finally figured out how to handle it without surgery, (and I still have a ruptured disc on L5,) but all those years of pain and contortion had taken their toll. My lower body was messed up.

How messed up?

I couldn’t squat. My squat looked more like a Good Morning. I had to do wall balls to 20” box. (Try that sometime, it’s like doing them to a bar stool.) It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to do, but my body was simply locked in place. It would not move. It was so bad that during my first CrossFit Open Brian had to cut me from a workout. Not only could I not meet standards by getting below parallel, but the even the scaled weight was pulling me so far forward that he was afraid I was going to hurt myself.

So, I became determined to get my squat back.

I gave myself 6 months to give it everything I had to get comfortable below parallel.

It took two years.

It took giving up my gorgeous shoe collection, getting dry needled, getting regular massages and seeing a physical therapist. It took two years of twice-a-week personal training sessions with Tom on my lunch hours. It took countless, countless hours of listening to podcasts while doing my mobility homework in my living room. And this is why mobility work is so important.

Coaching Mobility Clinic Grand Rapuds

Look, I know it isn’t sexy. It’s the least sexy thing. Me, all I want to do is lift really heavy things. But to get the most strength, power, speed, what-have-you, you first need technique. And in order to get the technique, you need your body to move well. It’s like brushing your teeth. You want to have fun and do the sexy things? Then you need to do the daily maintenance.

Mobility work can be boring (although I am happy to share my podcast list.) It’s tedious – do you know how many hours I have spent just trying to get 1 more degree of movement out of my right ankle? It hurts. (Cramps, so very many cramps.) But the important thing is – it pays off. It keeps you moving. It gives you the ability to do more. You don’t have to say, “I can’t do X” because your shoulder doesn’t move right or your hips won’t open. There are solutions. Talk to your 616 Coaches, take one of the mobility clinics. Learn what you can do to move better – and then do it, every single day. You won’t regret it.

Important Links and Information:

Allegro Coaching

My first gym. This is a fantastic community of people if you are looking to get started on your fitness journey. They offer a ton of great classes!
Allegro Coaching: 1422 Robinson Rd SE #201, Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Back to Better Massage

Annika at Back to Better knows her stuff. If you are an athlete with sore muscles or need a particular spot worked on, she can help you out. As a fellow athlete, she knows what it takes. She offers a number of services, including cupping.
Back to Better Massage: Various locations, Grand Rapids

CrossFit 616

My home away from home. If you are curious about CrossFit, but a little nervous or if you just want to join an amazing community of awesome people, this is a fantastic place to go. I can quite literally say that this place changed my life, in all the best ways. If you are interested in giving it a try, they do offer a free trial. And there is “Bring a Friend” free Wednesday classes at the end of the month – let me know if you’d like to come and be my friend!
CrossFit 616: 2430 Turner Avenue Northwest Suite A, Grand Rapids, MI 49544

Good Life Physical Therapy

I got tremendous help from Good Life Therapy. They are used to working with athletes and have a number of techniques at their disposal to get you up and moving again.
Good Life Therapy: Eastown Clinic, 1331 Lake Dr. SE, Suite 105, Grand Rapids, MI 49506


Thinking about trying an obstacle course race like a Spartan Race or a Tough Mudder? These folks can help you train for it. I trained with Craig when did my races, and I highly recommend it. (Plus it’s fun!)
GritLife: 1730 Olson St NE Suite C, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Recover Massage

Kyle at Recover Massage has been working on my back and hips for years, in addition to helping me recover after races. He has a great location and can help with all those aches and pains.
Recover Massage: 1331 Lake Drive SE, Suite 205, Grand Rapids MI 49506 (Located in Tonic Salon)

Street Fit Coaching

Christian Roberts was my first trainer. He offers Personal Training, Small Group Training, and Online Coaching.
Street Fit Coaching: Various locations, Grand Rapids, MI

Train Out Pain

I went to see Dr. Graf at Train Out Pain and have attended a number of the TOP Mobility Clinics. They are so good! They announce mobility clinics regularly on their Facebook page:
Train Out Pain: 456 Plymouth NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

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