We at Crossfit Bytown are proud to have Rachel as out member of the month. Rachel has been with us for awhile now and has embodied the definition of you vs you. She shows up and always does he best. This was her first Open and she got a real experience of what it means to test your limits. A big thanks to WheelWOD for setting up workouts for all the adaptive athletes to follow.
Why did you choose crossfit?
I’ve been on a fitness journey for about two years now, and I realized that after the first year I had stopped making progress and that I kept overdoing it and injuring myself. I had just joined an online community of people with cerebral palsy* and it seemed like a lot of them were getting a lot out of Crossfit. I made the very scary decision to try it out myself.
Why did you choose Bytown?
Honestly, I ended up at Bytown by chance. I emailed a couple of gyms and Everett was the only one who responded to me. I feel very lucky to have stumbled into such a supportive and friendly community.
What are your goals?
For me the goal is just to maintain my current level of ability as long as possible. There isn’t a lot of research on the aging process for people with cerebral palsy and what research there is out there is pretty grim. If I don’t work at it I expect the joints on my right, stronger, side, to start falling apart from overuse and imbalance, and for the spasticity in my left, disabled, side, to grow stronger, limiting my mobility more and more. My thinking is that by getting stronger and more mobile now, I’m delaying that loss of ability as long as possible.
What do you do for a living?
I have a government job that’s difficult to describe and boring to hear about. I really love it, though.
What are your hobbies?
I volunteer as a Guider for a group of Sparks (think Brownies, but younger) every Tuesday night. I get to teach them independence and leadership skills and watch them grow from tiny little shy beings to confident young girls. It’s a real joy.
What changes have you noticed?
Everything has changed and gotten easier. Even things I didn’t know were hard have gotten easier: Climbing stairs is easier, sitting down is easier, getting up is easier, filling up a water bottle is easier, WALKING is easier. Almost every day I notice something small has gotten a little easier because my left side is more mobile and stronger. It’s been amazing.
Oh, and my butt looks much better now too.
What motivates you?
For me, crossfit is therapy. Growing up disabled, I learned that physical activity for me meant letting my teammates down, not being able to keep up, and getting in the way. By the time I got to high school I’d given up on my body doing much more than carry my brain around. It was too risky to put myself in situations where my disabled body could let me down again, so I avoided any kind of athletics. I’m retraining all of that garbage thinking out of my brain by going to crossfit where most of the time I feel strong and like a part of the community.
Some days, crossfit is really hard. I’ve done a lot of crying in the past year. That pain is an important part of acknowledging my limitations for the first time and learning to push them. I keep showing up because it’s getting easier. I’m teaching myself that I can belong in an athletic space and that I deserve to be as strong and as able as possible.
I love doing the Saturday morning workouts with my friend Shauna. She always manages to sneak in extra reps when I’m not looking so that I don’t have to admit I’ve been defeated by burpees again.
Advice to new members?
Some days, I walk out of Bytown feeling sorry for myself and pissed off about everything being so hard for me. Those are the bad days. I go home, I cry, and my husband brings me chocolate. After the bad days it’s most important for me to get back to the gym as soon as possible, because inevitably, I’ll eventually have another good day which will make me feel strong and connected again.
I’ve found that the most important time to show up is when you want to the least. Showing up after a terrible time will make it easier to show up next time, and the time after that.
*Note: My form of cerebral palsy is called hemiparesis and it is the result of brain damage sometime before I was born. My entire left side is weaker, has less motor control and sensation, and has tight muscles because my brain is always telling them to tighten. Please don't ever feel shy about asking about my CP. It's my favourite thing to talk about, other than Sparks.