I was sedentary for the first 25 years of my life.  I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in sports, dance, or after school programs.  My parents let me try 1 gymnastics class because my older sister was doing it.  They quickly withdrew me when I decided to play air guitar while walking across the balance beam instead of sticking my arms out like I was supposed to.  I was told I didn’t have the attention span for sports.  I was 5.  This became a 20 year story I told myself.  Paired with my crippling fear of failure, I never wanted to try.  Even in gym class throughout school I would do the bare minimum just to pass.  I would walk the mile until it got close to the 15 minute cap, and I would run just to make it to the finish line in time.  My thinking was always “what would happen if I tried and I still couldn’t do it?”  Once I graduated high school I was relieved to think I’d never have to move like that again.  Relief turned into fear when I became 30-40 lbs overweight in my mid twenties.  I would catch myself getting winded walking up a single flight of stairs, or unable to speak within seconds of walking in sand.  In April 2012, I decided that I was unwilling to continue the way I was living.  I had been working on my mental health for a few years at this point and was ready to tackle the physical aspect.

As soon as I got my massage therapy license in 2011, I started working for a small franchise studio in the same town I went to school.  I first met Tim as a client at the end of 2012.  When I first saw him, my heart sank a little bit because he looked like a body builder.  Body builders are some of the most challenging bodies to work on.  The tone of their muscles is so exaggerated that it makes it hard just to crack the surface.  During his intake he mentioned he owns a Crossfit gym and beats himself up enough there so, thankfully for me, he just wanted to relax.  I prepared myself for the concrete wall I was about to massage, but that’s not what I encountered at all.  His muscle tissue was healthy and hydrated in a way I hadn’t yet experienced.  I could see every muscle, move it, and know where I was and what I was doing.  I was immediately intrigued and asked again what he does for his workouts.  Crossfit, he said.  Interesting, I thought.

Thankfully Tim loved his massage with me and became a regular.  He loved me so much that he started sending his coaches and athletes to see me.  No matter who they were - age, gender, whatever else they do in their lives - their bodies were the healthiest I worked on out of all my clients.  Not only did their physical health impress me, but they all seemed really cool too.  Each of them in their unique way loved crossfit for the challenge and the community.  It wasn’t long before they were all asking me when I was going to join the gym.

I had gotten pretty into exercising by the time I met my Crossfit clients.  I was really into Zumba and P90X, and would regularly hit up WorkOut World in the middle of the night.  When they would ask me when I was going to try Crossfit, I would just say I could never do that stuff.  They wouldn’t hear of that.  Then I just started saying when I got in better shape I’d give it a try.  They weren’t having any of that either.  They were always so encouraging, saying anyone can do it and I would surprise myself.

In early 2014, Tim told me he was moving his gym to a bigger location and wanted to hire me to do chair massage for its Grand Opening.  I was happy to, and loved being requested for my massage therapy.  I set up shop in what looked like a big adult playground, jungle gym and all.  I saw a lot of familiar faces, who then introduced me to new faces.  I was made to feel at home instantly.  Then came the part of the event where all of the coaches performed an exhibition WOD to demonstrate what goes on in the gym.  I was speechless.  I watched women putting barbells over their heads and doing pull-ups right next to the men.  I had never seen such strong women in person.  It was that moment that made me realize I was only limiting myself by not trying.  I told Tim that day that I was ready.

BayState Crossfit quickly became my home after that.  The community embraced me so quickly and lovingly, like I’d always been there.  I was humbled by how challenging it was, but was even more excited to think of what that meant if I stuck with it.  Tim and I were able to start chatting more and got closer, often having long nerdy conversations about the power of the human body.  He is also a fantastic coach.  He was there when I got my very first pull-up.  We were talking about how I had never done one and had been Crossfitting for a little while at that point.  “Wait, you don’t have a pull-up?” “No Tim, I don’t have a pull-up...” “What would happen if you try to do a pull-up right now?” “I wouldn’t do a pull-up.” “Nikki, get on that bar and do a pull-up.” Goes over to bar, grabs on and starts pulling, “See Tim I can’t do a.... OH MY GOD I’M DOING A PULL-UP!!!!”  

Crossfit has one of those reputations through social media as being one of “those things” that people won’t shut up about.  My response since has been to ask if they’ve ever stopped to listen to what they were saying about it.  Tim didn’t need to encourage me to join, neither did any of my other clients for that matter.  They could have kept quiet in an effort to not look like “one of those people,” but they didn’t because what they had to offer was something truly special.  It helped me realize what I wanted to specialize in with my massage practice, it inspired me to start my own business, and for the first time in my life I became an athlete.  Accomplishing something that was previously thought to be impossible only fueled me more.  What else could I be capable of?

Chapter Six