I grew up playing every sport that I could get involved in- soccer, dance, volleyball, basketball, track, jump rope, I tried them all. I was always active, sometimes going to multiple practices each night. I just loved fitness in all forms and I hated sitting still for too long.
As I got older, I chose soccer as my main sport and I dedicated everything to it. I played on a competitive travel team, my high school team and I then went on to play at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio for 2 years.
All of this time, I had always had a little bit of back pain, but it was never traumatic enough to slow me down- it was just a part of my everyday life. When I stopped playing soccer, I got a job in a gym teaching some abs classes and just interning for a while.
I was still running my 5 miles on the treadmill, and doing my lunges in the corner one day when the owner invited me over to join in on this “CrossFit” class they were having. I was completely clueless, but said yes anyway. I took part in the class, got completely destroyed, and was immediately hooked. I never looked back.
Fast forward about a year to 2011- the start of the CrossFit open. I had been doing CrossFit and learning how to so all the lifts and movements and I was very excited about competing on my own for the very first time. Weeks 1 and 2 were going well, and I was sitting pretty well on the leaderboard for my first time.
During my Monday training sessions of week 3 I was doing back squats like any other training session when all of the sudden I got down to the bottom of one of my squats, felt a snap and extreme pain in my lower back and collapsed underneath the barbell. I couldn’t stand up, and I couldn’t walk on my own. I was having pain in my right hip area as well, so I assumed that my right hip was out of place and I needed to be adjusted.
A couple days later I went to a Chiropractor in the area who took x-rays of my spine and gave me the news that my right hip was not out at all. I had 3 spinal conditions: scoliosis, spina bifida and a fractured L5 vertebra (spondylolisthesis). He told me that I was done competing and I should go home and see a spinal doctor.
I saw the spinal doctor and I got an MRI yielding the same results. This doctor read the results and told me that I would never be able to squat again, and that lifting weights just, “wasn’t for me.” I rested for about 6 months, wore a bone stimulator every day and did not exercise at all, hoping for some bone growth and healing in my spine. Went back, got another MRI and there was no fusion happening. The vertebra remained in pieces and this was told that this is my life now, I need to choose what to do with it and that I would be in pain everyday.
I wrestled with this decision, but being an exercise science major, I knew that gaining strength in the muscles surrounding my vulnerable spine would help to keep it safe and as protected as possible. I also knew that I was going to have to go back to square 1, start over with all of the movements and be slow and steady in my recovery. I did just that.
I very slowly started to work my way back into all movements, making sure that I was listening to my body and being very careful the entire time. Every day was a struggle both physically and mentally overcoming the fear of re-injury and the new start of my much harder athletic career. I kept fighting and never ever gave up on myself and what I knew I could accomplish.
Fast forward to today, 5 years later and I have qualified for the CrossFit Games twice as an individual, and am now competing on a team aiming to be back to back CrossFit Games champs.
ANYTHING is possible.