Members of CrossFit Perpetua,
I spent weeks trying to come up with a topic that I thought you guys would find of interest. I wrote drafts on nutrition, training with injuries, and the work life balance but felt all of them were missing just a little something. I searched online hoping to find something that would resuscitate my imagination but inspiration was hard to come by (although I did find a gem called “How to add mass to that ass” from the lads at Barbell Shrugged that came close, well worth a read).
Instead I have decided to talk a little about my journey over the past year or so and how I ended up walking through the doors of Perpetua. Its been a strange ride! This story begins a couple of years ago back in Boston, I had just began an internship at Reebok HQ as a marketing strategist intern. To be perfectly honest, I hated marketing but as part of my undergraduate degree it was compulsory to do a 6 month placement so I thought Reebok wouldn’t be the worst of places to spend my time! At that time I was playing football with my University and it was the first time we had a chance to go to the national competitions so all other sports were off the table which soon proved to be quite a hindrance. At work I was surrounded by CrossFit fanatics whose whole conversation revolved around something they called the ‘WOD’. What the hell was the WOD? I used to hear things like ‘I did Fran this morning’ or ‘Hammered Grace last night’ and you know if you are not ‘in the know’ with CrossFit terminology – that can get very misleading. I became friends with the people sat around me, one of them was an American guy, James Hobart, which some of you guys may know. Most days he would pester me to give it a go so we made a deal – if he would play a game of lunch time five-a-side I would go do a CrossFit class. Although I didn’t manage to get him out to play some lunchtime footie, I popped on my GAA shorts, headed down to the ‘box’ and to my shock absolutely loved every minute of it. Unfortunately just as I got a couple of classes under my belt my time at Reebok was over and I was back living the student life. College life in America is great, but money was tight and when you eat beans and toast four times a day – an expensive gym membership was way down the list of priorities. So that was the end of CrossFit for the time being.
A year passed by and I soon ran into some health troubles. Things hadn’t been too easy for me for the best part of two years and life threw me a couple of fast curve balls that I wasn’t in anyway ready for. The ins and outs of what happened are not important but the result of it all was that I began to suffer from small episodes that can be likened to anxiety attacks and for anybody reading this who has had them knows, they are not a nice experience. Coupled with this, recent events in my life had made me extremely sad and unhappy which added some fuel to the fire and made the situation that bit worse. I denied to myself for months that there was anything wrong, purely because I thought it was ‘normal’ and talking about it with anybody was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. However after another few months passed these episodes began to get progressively worse and they started to make a more profound impact on me. It soon became apparent to me that it was becoming an issue. My friends and family soon realised that something was up so and I started to get quizzed by nearly everybody. I knew I wasn’t the same but I didn’t want to let it ‘be a thing’ if that makes sense! So I decided to keep a low profile for a while and went into isolation for a little but, didn’t go out, meet with friends – all that kind of nonsense. Looking back it makes no sense to do this but I guess sometimes you see things differently depending on the type of glasses you’re wearing at the time… Those of you who have had one too many in Coppers know what I’m saying.
It wasn’t long until my family got it out of me and the first order of business was they thought I should go see a Doctor. Now I know this might be hard to understand for some, but I had such trouble with telling my friends what was happening – how was I going to tell someone I didn’t even know? So when I went in to the Doctors office and he asked me what I was in for I just told him I had a sore throat and was out of there in seconds with a couple of Lemsips, happy days! Well not entirely! My Mam knew that was what I would do and marched me straight back in and made me explain what was happening. He told me that I had two options, option one was to go on medication which for me was a huge no no, or option two was to do nothing and in his words ‘let it get worse’, great options right? I have an extremely addictive/whole nine yards type personality, when I’m in I’m all in so becoming dependent on tablets to fight this for me was a terrible solution (in my opinion). For my Mam’s sake I told him I would be back in two weeks and if things didn’t improve I would follow his advice and take whatever he was going to prescribe (which really meant they were going straight down the toilet bowI). Although I knew I was really unhappy I began to accept the attacks and this feeling as semi-normality. It wasn’t until I truly saw the impact it had on everybody around me that I knew something had to change. Friends and family spent their time worrying and that soon became the hardest thing to deal with.
So I began to do some research and found this guy who was dealing with similar panic episodes. He talked about how as soon as he felt himself starting to slip he would just quit whatever he was doing and start running, and he would keep running and running until it would stop. And to this day I will love this man forever. I decided to give it a try and it was as if I had just popped a few of those magic pills the Doctor promised me earlier. I would run so hard for as long as I could that by the time I stopped I didn’t have any ability to feel anything else but my heart going into semi cardiac arrest. This to me was heaven, I knew that whenever I would be down or felt something coming on to just get up and run. It came to a point where my neighbors thought I had gone a bit mad running around in my pyjamas in the middle of the night so I thought maybe there was another way. I joined a gym in Dundalk and began training again after being out injured for over a year. I trained everyday twice a day for months not because I wanted to get super fit, just because I knew when I was training nothing ‘bad’ for want of a better word was able to happen. I spent all my spare time there and began taking half days from work just to go and train. I became over dependent on it but I didn’t care, I was happy for the first time in 18 months and that was all that mattered.
I began making drastic improvements over the next couple of months, the attacks became less frequent, less severe and I was slowly but surely getting back to my old self. I started meeting up with friends again, heading out, playing sports and all of that had a positive knock on effect, however I knew the real reason was the training. I talked with my parents and decided that although I was fresh out of college studying international business that for the time being at least I needed to try my hand with working in the fitness industry. So I halved my work hours (because they are the best people they allowed me) and began a part time course in Dublin to get a qualification in Personal training, at least it would be a starting point and would give me an excuse to be in the gym for as long as possible. A plan was in motion!
However this story is not over yet. Since I’ve been about 15 years old I’ve seen almost every physio in Ireland. None of whom had ever found a definitive reason for a recurring lower back injury which kept me watching on from the sidelines for far too much of my youth. It had kept me out for the past year from all sports and exercise and probably had a bigger part to play in what happened me over the past year then I realized at the time. Football for me was something I loved more then anything but almost every year I would be out injured, trying to rehab my back for the next season only for it to happen again and after a while I just began to accept that maybe it would never be right. With my new found dependency on the gym I prayed that it would stay away for a while at least till I was fully better but of course it wasn’t long before it was back on the scene. This time I went straight up to Santry for an MRI to try and get to the bottom of it so I could get back training as soon as possible. I soon got the call from the specialist who told me I had a bulging disk in my lower back and surgery was the next step. He went on to deliver more great news by telling me that unless I was going to a private hospital which would cost up to 10,000 euro I would have to wait 10 months for the operation. 10 bloody months or 10,000 euro, talk about kicking a dog while its down. He told me I wasn’t allowed to as much look at a weight and that he would refer me on to another specialist to move forward. Absolute nightmare!
I lay in bed for the rest of that day utterly devastated. The one thing that finally began to go right for me had turned on its head. It crushed me and sure enough the anxiety and all the old feelings came back on the scene. I continued with my course in Dublin as it had just started and while I sat in class scrolling through Facebook, an add for a CrossFit gym in Dublin popped up. So I decided to take an extended lunch and go check the place out and that was the first time I walked in the door of Perpetua. The first thing I saw was the sign saying ‘Home of the Unbroken’ and I thought to myself, not if I join! There was a CrossFit class going on in the background and I met Dave who told me all about the gym. I got so excited seeing everyone train that I completely forgot that I couldn’t. I left knowing that it was a special place and that I had to sort myself out and start training here. So that’s what I did. I went back to Santry to see another specialist and he gave me all the answers that I needed to hear. There was no surgery necessary and best of all training and moving weights correctly would only help my back. Talk about a difference of opinion between two professional specialists (anyways we won’t go there but I knew which one I was listening too)!
The following week I text Dave and told him I wanted to come on board and become a member and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I love everything about the place. The coaches, the members, and the atmosphere here are in my opinion second to none. I haven’t really looked back from that day, Ive been doing great and in a much better place then this time last year. The anxiety still rears its ugly head from time to time but nothing like it used to and I’ve no doubt that the worst is well behind me. After all, last year I couldn’t tell a soul about it and now I’m writing a blog like this so I’ve come a long way. (even though I did take about two months to actually send it on to Jenny). I have to say a big thank you to Dave, Andy and all the other coaches here for giving me the opportunity to do the apprenticeship program and although I had never mentioned my past to them they have all helped me along the way without knowing.
Anyhow I hope I didn’t bore anybody to death. My goal of this piece isn’t to say that training is the be all and end all and it is certainly not saying not to take the advice off your Doctor. For me, if I never had the anxiety attacks and the rougher days maybe I would never have started training again and may never have come back to CrossFit.
What I’m trying to say in my own roundabout way, is at the end of the day – maybe it just comes down to spending time doing the things that make you happy and trying to spend as much time at that as you can. And for those of you who are currently going through struggles – persevere, maybe it will just take you to where you are supposed to go!
See you all soon in class.