I’m a lifelong athlete. Love doing stuff outside, love exercising, and love tracking everything I do to see improvement. I ran track and cross-country in college, was on a sponsored team after that and was impossibly fit. Then, I decided I needed to rest… There were a lot of things going on in my life at the time and exercising and the gym didn’t seem to fit into what I was doing anymore. My temporary “rest” period ended up lasting about 8 years, and then I realized I was impossibly unfit.

Since I was once in great shape, I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to get there again. And I was only about 15 pounds heavier off my racing weight. No problem, right? Well, it’s a little harder than I thought. The problem was/is that I lost muscle, and replaced it with fat. And as it turns out, sitting at a desk for 8 hours and running for 30 to 60 minutes a day doesn’t build much muscle. And when you’re not that fit to begin with, running can really beat you up. So, I was injured every few months, which is incredibly frustrating. Especially when your mind believes you can do things your body simply can’t.

Then, a couple of years ago I started hearing things about CrossFit. A co-worker was doing it, got buff doing pushups and squats, and eating a lot of meat. Hmm. But the moment I knew I had to try it was when I was on one of those elliptical torture machines at the gym (because I was injured), toiling away, bored to tears. I saw something on TV that caught my eye. These women were doing pull ups, lifting bars that looked super heavy, and they were swinging across some monkey bars! And they looked amazing! Super athletes! (Did I mention the swinging on the monkey bars?!!)

I looked up CrossFit gyms, and found Industrious just a mile from my house. I joined without even thinking twice. I didn’t even interview other gyms. I just walked in and signed up. I guess I was lucky, because I really think Industrious is a special gym. Molly and Stephen set the tone, and it’s positive and welcoming (thanks guys!). I started on-ramp in October of 2012 and from the beginning it’s been amazing, but humbling.

At this point I’ve been doing CrossFit for 10 months. I modify movements in almost every class. My ankles still do not bend. I will always giggle when I say snatch, and I still feel like a spaz when we do bar complexes. But I have improved! My deadlift max went from about 125 pounds in November 2012 to 205 in July. Push press went from about 45 pounds in early 2013 to 85 pounds in May. And best thing ever is that I can do pull-ups! Not just one, but many! That’s really exciting to me for some reason.

Susan (right) on her way to a 1st place finish in the 3000m Indoor National Championships in Manhattan, Kansas in 1992

The other cool thing is that it’s drastically improved my running. Since I started CrossFit, I have cut back on my miles and have focused on quality running workouts (speed-work/long runs). Because I’ve built strength and muscle, and I’m not running as much, I haven’t had any debilitating injuries since I started CrossFitting. And my times have dropped! My 5k is about a minute and a half faster since this time last year (that’s like 30 seconds per mile!). I’ve been placing in races for the first time in many years. In April I ran the St Patty’s Day Dash where I was the 22nd woman finisher out of over 3700 women, and I was 3rd Master! (For those of you who don’t know, Master=over 40.) And my most recent race (Run of the Mill) I managed to finish 21st in a very competitive field and was the first Master finisher. I haven’t raced like that since I was in my twenties! (Bowing down to the CrossFit gods.)

One other thing that I’d really like to say about CrossFit culture and this gym is the focus on nutrition. When I first started coming to CrossFit, I ate meat rarely. Industrious had a nutritional challenge in February, and it completely changed the way I eat. While I still eat more carbs than is considered Paleo, I have all but cut out processed foods. I’m eating a ton more vegetables than I was when I wasn’t eating meat (what exactly was I eating?). And the result of this has been a modest (but significant to me) drop in body fat, and I haven’t skipped a meal or restricted calories once. I bought a skinfold caliper when I started the nutritional challenge, and have kept monthly logs of my measurements. Since February, I’ve lost 3% of body fat, and 2 inches off my waist. My weight hasn’t changed at all.

Check out Susan now! Knocking out pull ups, improving that range of motion on a full squat snatch, and rattling off 35lb kettlebell swings no problem!

CrossFit is fun, it makes me strong, I can do a lot of things I couldn’t do before, and I’ve made some new friends. It’s improved my self confidence, my appearance, and has made me stronger and faster. It’s also taught me a lot about nutrition. Thanks Molly and Stephen and the Industrious crew for creating such an amazing place to work out!