My Fitness Journey
By Lisa Licari
My fitness journey began in 1999 when four people at work asked me if I was expecting. Was it the oversized shirts? The pants with waistbands? The fuller-than-it’s-ever-been face? All of the above and then some? Sadly, yes. Expecting I wasn’t, but insulted I was...so much so that I joined a gym for the first time and worked with a personal trainer. When he weighed my 5’ 2”, small-framed self, I couldn’t believe the scale; I didn’t WANT to believe the scale. Just over ten years prior, I was a thirty-five-pounds-lighter college student. How the heck did I fall off the track so horrendously? And now where WAS that track so that I could hop back on?
But hop back on I did. In fact, I became a fitness fanatic. Pretty soon, I took various classes such as step aerobics, Pilates, and yoga; ran seven miles at Rockland Lake; and weight-trained three times a week amidst the I-lift-things-up-and-put-things-down types. Within a few years, I had whittled myself down to twenty pounds lighter. Expecting? Hardly!
But then the injuries began. First, my right heel. Ouch! Why did it hurt to put my foot down? Plantar fasciitis? What the heck is THAT? It’s heel pain, that’s what it is. And I got it...for two years...from wearing non-supportive sneakers and from not stretching after I worked out. I had to wear a special brace in bed and orthotics in all of my shoes and sneakers. And the shoes that have removable insoles are not exactly the most stylish types. Sandals in summer? Sorry. Not allowed. Wear sneakers instead. If you ever want to feel like you are ninety years old, invite plantar fasciitis into your life.
After those two years ended, my left foot decided it wanted some injury action, too. That lasted another year. And then there was the shoulder injury that derailed my weight-training and the gluteus maximus injury that made all exercise uncomfortable. Plus, my favorite gym had closed...the gym that had become like a second home to me filled with fitness friends who had become like family. I dragged myself to my current gym...to the same workouts each week. And when it was cold and dark out, sometimes I dragged myself to the couch instead. Don’t get me wrong; the gym and instructors are top-notch! But the classes I truly enjoyed and that fit my schedule were few and far between. I found myself on the treadmill more and more. Working out just wasn’t as much fun...and my fitness level and scale reflected that.
But then I discovered CrossFit with Coach Ray Traitz and his team. And just like that, my love for working out returned.
Variety: Every day is different, so if you are prone to boredom like I am, you won’t be. In my Strength and Conditioning class, we squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. Let’s take deadlifts, for instance. Sometimes we lift from four-inch blocks, sometimes for maximum effort from a rack, sometimes with a sumo stance, sometimes with a snatch grip, sometimes with bands. You get the picture.
Uniqueness: I participate in activities I can’t find in a regular fitness class: pushing a prowler, climbing ladders, rowing with rings, stretching with oversized bands, bench pressing with chains, working out in a weighted vest. The list goes on.
Safety: Coach Ray watches our every move. If we do something that could lead to injury, he corrects us and teaches us the proper form. In my year-and-a-half of CrossFit, I have never been injured. That’s right; the once injury-prone person is no longer injury-prone. Sore? Oh yeah! But injured? Nope! Thanks, Coach Ray, for your diligent eye.
Nutrition: During one of the CrossFit food challenges, I managed to drop down to that weight I had attained nearly two decades ago. Although I’ve gained a bit back, I know what I need to do to trim down further; it’s just a matter of doing it. Sure, exercise is important, but I’ve learned that one’s diet really is key.
Modifications: I am by no means a CrossFit star; in fact, my CrossFit peers are probably shocked to hear that I used to run seven miles. I’M shocked that I used to run seven miles. And my goal is not to become a CrossFit star; MY goal is to continue to work out regularly, make progress, and to have fun in the process. I currently can’t execute some of the moves that others can. Box jumps? I step up. Rope climbs? I lower myself to the ground. Handstand push-ups? I do regular pushups instead, mostly on my knees. Will I one day be able to? I would say, “Perhaps.” Coach Ray would say, “Of course...if you work for it!” No, you don’t have to be a star athlete to reap the benefits of CrossFit; you just have to be dedicated. And because I know Coach Ray will modify for me where appropriate, I show up...all of the time.
Connectedness: Remember that family I left behind in my previous gym? Well, I found a new one: my CrossFit family. I look forward not only to working out, but working out in a supportive atmosphere. It’s kind of like Cheers: “Sometimes you want to go/Where everybody knows your name/And they’re always glad you came.” Oh, and that whole dragging myself to the gym thing? Not anymore.
I’d like to thank those four people at work who asked me that cringe-worthy question almost twenty years ago which catapulted me into my fitness journey. But most of all, I’d like to thank Coach Ray Traitz who rejuvenated my love for fitness. My pace may not always be fast enough, my squats may not always be low enough, and my arms may not always be straight enough, but I can tell you this: I will never feel like I’ve HAD enough of CrossFit.