I have met so many amazing people through Crossfit.  It’s a community of like-minded people that want to be healthier and challenge themselves, but not do it alone.  I met Ryan when I started working out at BayState Crossfit in 2014.  He was a coach there at the time.  For the first two years I was there we were friendly gym acquaintances.  He was relatively quiet and would just work hard whenever he was there.  Our schedules were opposite so I didn’t have him as a coach very often.  He’s a police officer as well, so he has that extra edge about him.

In the fall of 2016 I was going through my last breakup.  It was hitting me hard.  It wasn’t necessarily that breakup itself, but the culmination of over a decade of serial monogamy that clearly wasn’t working for me.  I was sad and lonely, and trying to figure out how to move forward from there.  I know I needed to approach things differently, but that I also needed some serious time off from being a plus one.  I began using Crossfit as a healthy outlet, stepping it up a little from what I had already been doing.  It was around my birthday in October and I had given myself a vacation week.  I wouldn’t utilize open gym time normally, but on this particular Sunday I was restless and needed to blow off some steam.  I got to the gym and just started lifting.  Shortly after, Ryan came in to start a new program he wanted to try.  He came over and asked how I was doing, and I think the look I gave him said it all.  He asked if I wanted to do the workout with him, and I happily agreed.  We had a great time suffering together.  After we were done, he asked if I was interested in working out with him any other time because he didn’t want to do the program alone.  I couldn’t have said yes fast enough.

That began the year of intense training Ryan and I had together.  We would get together 5x a week and train for 2-3 hours.  We would coach each other, and sweat side by side.  This was just what I needed at the time.  It took me out of group classes, which was good for me because I was struggling with confidence and it was impacting my attitude.  I was comparing myself to other women and judging myself harshly for not being more like them.  Training with a man gave me someone bigger and stronger to chase, and didn’t bother me when he would undoubtedly kick my butt.  But it wasn’t just the training I got out of him in that year.  He became one of my best friends.  He knew I was struggling internally.  He would check in with me, and make sure I was ok.  He would give me quick words of wisdom and knowledge bombs, but held me accountable and encouraged me not to dwell.  He would just say, “You’ve got this Nikki, just take it out on the barbell.”  And I would.  Ryan became a role model.  He was just the sort of man I needed in my life.  One that would treat me like a friend, and not just a girl.  He showed me respect, and took quality time to work with me.  Our relationship was stress-free because there was no pressure or possibility for anything to happen between us since he’s married.

His relationship with his wife, Beth, is one of the many things I love about him.  They are hands down one of my favorite couples.  They respect each other, and visibly love each other so much.  If Beth is within reach, Ryan is reaching for her.  Even going out to lunch with a group, they’d be sitting next to each other and he’d have one arm around her while eating with the other.  They support each other in all their endeavors, travel together, and are just all around badass people.  They also don’t have any kids and I feel that camaraderie with them.  They emulate what I hope to have for myself one day.  

That year with Ryan gave me the space I needed to finally break the habit of jumping into relationships.  Not only that, it gave me the space to realize I wasn’t lonely without a romantic relationship.  I was dating my friends, and that changed everything for me.  I began to learn who I truly was, and I didn’t realize I had never really taken the time to figure that out.  He also gave me a platform to see what I was really capable of physically.  I had never been so athletic in all my life, and he helped me accomplish things I never thought were possible.  I competed in an Rx Crossfit competition the summer of 2017, something I wouldn’t have even considered doing.  Competing isn’t something I’ve ever wanted to do, and frankly still isn’t.  The gift of it was knowing I am far more capable than I ever imagined, physically or otherwise.  Learning that I was the type of person that could work hard, stay focused, and accomplish a goal that I set for myself.  A world of possibilities opened.  

I’ve become a regular at their annual Christmas Eve party, and spend time with both of them whenever I can.  Their love and concern for my wellbeing has truly left a lasting impact.  I started calling Ryan “Sensei” when we were training together, for more than one reason.  We may not be training together anymore, or even at the same gym, but he will always be my Sensei.

Chapter Nine