Article orginally posted on BOXROX Competetive Fitness MagazineI was 48 years old when I first walked into my local CrossFit box. I had heard about this new type of training, but my body was a bit beaten up and I wasn’t quite sure if it could withstand the intensity of the workouts that were rumored to exist.
Author: Kelly Graham September 12, 2015
A few years prior, I had taken a dare and tried to jump from an elevated dock, across a span of water onto the beach. I landed on my feet (yeah!) but with such force and with my legs stretched out in front of me, that the compression caused 2 disc bulges in my lumbar spine. To top it off, I had already had rotator cuff surgery and abdominal hernia repair. Years of pushing myself to excel in multiple sports had taken it’s toll.
Everything about it spoke to me. I immediately loved the new challenges it presented. Olympic lifting for a 48 year old mother of three? Amazing! Workouts in which you competed against yourself and the clock? Perfect! Other members who would cheer each other on, from the first finisher to the last? Refreshing!
My husband and I paid for the first year in full. Attending Driven Athletics became one of the best parts of my day. The more I trained, and the more I accomplished, the more I wanted to be at the gym. I completed the 10 introductory classes in 11 days, only because the box was closed on Sundays. My body responded and my performance improved. As I developed strength, my shoulder became a non-issue. I have not had any re-occurrence of shoulder pain. My core strengthened and I sought out treatment after treatment trying to find something that would keep my back pain manageable. I finally found a specialist who injected a cortisone type solution into my back to reduce inflammation and discomfort.
I participated in the 2012 Open just 6 months after attending my first class and finished 48th in the world in my masters category.
I continued to WOD about 5 times a week, and attended Olympic Lifting classes off and on throughout the year. As the 2013 Open approached, I gave up alcohol and dialed in my diet to be fairly Paleo friendly. Making it to the Games was on my mind all the time.
Finally I was face to face with the fittest women in the world and my competitive nature and sheer grit took over. Even though I was the oldest in my age category (49), I moved up 10 spots to earn a 10th place ranking at the end of the week in California.
Kelly at the 2013 CrossFit Games
Being on the podium in 2014 was now my new goal, and to get there, I knew I would have to lift heavier. Gymnastics and bodyweight movements were my specialty, but I needed to work on my strength. I came to realize that Regional and Games level athletes follow programs, that they don’t WOD everyday and they have very specific strength training phases. I returned from California having made the promise to myself that I would WOD less and follow a strength program. That lasted about 2 weeks. I love throwing down with my friends and the pull to WOD wore me down and sucked me in.
On Thanksgiving weekend of 2013, I decided to complete “Annie” at the end of a class. I had been having a bruised type discomfort in my heel for a few days, but I just thought it would go away. While skipping, I experienced a searing pain in my foot and I couldn’t continue. Two days later, the pain was in both feet. I had Plantar Fasciitis. I spent the fall/winter in treatment and did upper body workouts at the gym coupled with a lot of swimming.
After the 2014 Open and the additional master qualifiers, I was ranked 7th in the world in my masters category, and earned a spot back at the Games.
In late April, I started to experience a pain in my armpit that would ease off throughout the day. I tried massage, chiropractics, and physiotherapy but it just lingered on. I was performing better than ever and was not only heading to the Games, but at 50 years old had made it to the Eastern Canadian Regionals on a team from Driven. The day before the Regionals and 7 weeks before the Games, what was a nagging aggravation in my armpit exploded into 2 disc herniations in my cervical spine. The nerve damage from the disc compressions left some muscles in my arm and upper back unresponsive. The pain was immense and the disappointment huge as I was told time and again that I could not compete, and that I needed to seriously re-think my future in athletics.
I spent a difficult few months coming to terms with my new limitations and dealing with the pain. I would try and put on a strong, positive face at the gym and ride the bike while watching everyone else WOD, then I would go home and cry. About 2 months after my injury, a friend brought me the book “The Success Principles” written by Jack Canfield. By the end of this book, I set a new goal; I would return to compete in the CrossFit Games some day, but in the mean time, I would create an inspirational book to help others, just as this one had helped me.
Kelly with Rich Froning.
I redirected my passion for CrossFit away from my own personal gains and began to seek out stories from around the world of people finding strength and hope through the Functional Fitness community. Slowly the word spread, and story submissions began to come in. Fourteen months after first posting my quest for stories on my Facebook page, HopeRX’D was published.
As a master athlete, I realize that I went at training too hard, too fast and without much of a plan. I love WODing, but no one should push their body to the limit day after day. A program to keep a balance is so important. I used to think; “If I am not training, someone else is”, and what my mindset should have been is; “If I am not recovering, someone else is”.
I have never listened to my body. Until now, I could just push through pain, thinking it was just an inconvenience. Big mistake! I should not have used injections to mask what was happening in my back. I now know that I was just ramping up the tension in my fascial system, which lead to the plantar fasciitis, and ultimately left me exposed to new injuries. The injections were a quick fix that only masked the symptoms. I am hoping that I can re-train my movement patterns to avoid further damage and eventually compete again.
I have spent the last 15 months learning about progression and developing patience, two things I have never in my life been good at. Now, I have no choice. I still WOD, but not everyday and I am unconcerned with the white board, it does not drive me any longer. Rarely do I complete a workout with RX weights, and I always substitute movements for ones that I can safely perform (nothing overhead). I pay strict attention to my technique and stop as soon as I feel I cannot complete a movement with proper technique. For the first 8 months back at the gym, I stripped down my training to strict movements like pull-ups, ring dips, push-ups, planks and ditched the weights for air squats and pistols. I have learnt how to use my breathing to maintain core stability. I have added movements slowly, but never more than one every two or three weeks in order to monitor how my body would react.
My goal is to be able to complete all the movement standards required in the 2016 Open. This is a far cry from a goal of being the best in the world. I am proud to say that most days I am okay with that.
The people I have met while creating Hope RX’D have taught me about gratitude and what is truly important. Each story is a clear indication that life is good and worth fighting for, that the world is full of wonderful people, that things do not go as planned and what is around the corner may be fulfillment in a way completely unexpected. The power of this book lies in the fact that the collection is so varied and everyone can find a relatable story. Each contributor has left themselves vulnerable in order to help and inspire others. With each story submission, I was becoming mentally stronger and what started as a project to help others, ended up healing me as well.
Hope RX’D can be purchased on Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/1LCyhiO.
It is available in Kindle on a variety of amazon sites. For more information about Kelly or her book, visit her website: www.hoperxd.com