My most treasured benefit of CrossFit is not a physical attribute. It isn’t that I can lift heavy weights. It isn’t the number on the scale. When I say that CrossFit saved my life, I am referring to the confidence I found in the gym. I am referring to the passion I feel when I am doing something I love – helping people. I am talking about my smile that reaches my eyes because happiness is a real & true thing.
In the first part of this story, I told you about the health and fitness aspects of my life. What I didn’t mention is how the relationships I was building with others during this time in my life would wind up being just as unhealthy as the shitty food I was putting in my body.
I met my ex when I was 20. Our relationship developed during a time that my self-esteem was absolute zero. The fact that anyone could look at me in all my fatness & have feelings for me was baffling. I chalked it up to the fact that he was extremely overweight himself. He knew what it was like, I guess. He was nice to me most of the time. When I found out he was lying to me on a regular basis, I blamed myself for being too fat, ugly, controlling, ball-busting, etc. I must not have been a good enough girlfriend. I blamed myself & I tried to change ME so the lying would stop – so things would be better. A few years later, I married him, knowing deep down, I could never really trust him.
Besides the non-trust of the relationship, there was plenty of other controlling behavior that helped weave our relationship. I was repetitively pushed to “get a real job”. My Catholic School teaching job was not lucrative enough to be acceptable. I loved the kids I taught & my job at the school so I picked up part-time work to try to make up for all of my financial short-comings. I began working as a personal trainer on the weekends, waited tables, bartended til all hours of the night. I was working 4 jobs at one point, 16 hours a day at least 6 days of the week. I was just trying to “do my part”. I sacrificed EVERYTHING, including my physical and mental health, my well-being, my friends – just so I could be seen as enough of a contributor – enough of a person.
When I turned 30, the feeling of “something missing” was too strong to ignore. I knew something had to change. I took some of the cash I was earning & I invested in some fitness dance classes. As I began to spend more time working on getting in shape, I became more confident in myself. I met amazing women who built one another up & were genuine in all they said & did (still dear friends to this day).
All of the confidence I was gaining in my classes and with my new friends was transferring over to “real life”. I had lost a little bit of weight and started to value myself & my time differently. But I was made fun of constantly at home for watching videos online of moves & exercises I wanted to try. Eventually, it got so bad that I actually dropped out of my dance recital & I never went back to class again. And it only got worse when I discovered CrossFit.
Something about CrossFit lit my soul on fire. CrossFit wasn’t just something I did, it became a part of who I am. A part myself that I loved – which was a new, exciting feeling for me. I became confident, and strong, and ENOUGH. And that was threatening.
My ex’s attempts to damage my confidence began to fall on deaf ears – not because it wasn’t happening, but because I was no longer choosing to listen to the negativity. With my newfound love of CrossFit (and myself for that matter), I dropped a significant amount of weight pretty quickly. I didn’t need that protective layer anymore. It was time for everyone to see who I really was. Including me.
I became comfortable with myself instead of trying to “fix” everything and everyone. I accepted that I loved country music, CrossFit, volunteering for dog rescue organizations, hanging out with friends & family, trying craft beers & breweries, all of these things I never knew about myself! And I had fun doing it, even when I did it alone (which was most of the time).
One day, things came to a head at home. My then-husband came into the bathroom as I was showering after class one day. From the other side of the shower curtain, he told me he no longer loved me. When I asked him to name one thing about me that he liked (not even loved), he sat in absolute silence on the other side of the curtain. At the time, this was the worst moment of my entire life. My heart, my life, my dreams, my confidence, everything – shattered. A last ditch effort at control – and it worked – temporarily.
For the next 9 months, I reverted to the “fixer” version of Aileen. I needed to fix our marriage. I needed to fix me because I was the real problem. I changed all the things about me I thought he didn’t like or appreciate. I applied for full time jobs to replace my teaching job. I worked more hours at more part-time jobs. By this time, I was coaching at my CrossFit gym, and that my my only allowance to continue my fitness. It was also my only outlet where I could truly be myself. And it literally saved my life.
One day it happened. Like a lightening bolt out of nowhere – I pictured the life and expectations that were laid out before me and realized they were far more miserable & frightening than leaving the loveless marriage I was in & starting life over from scratch. I realized that sometimes, things need to be broken so they can be rebuilt the way they were always meant to be. So that’s what I did. I admitted to myself everything I just wrote about above. I honored myself. I honored my purpose. I left. I started over. I picked up the pieces & I took a chance on a happier existence. I took a chance on me – my TRUE self.
I can never fully explain my CrossFit transformation using words, pictures, or inspirational quotes. I can say for sure though, that it is not only the physical aspect of a CrossFitter that undergoes changes along this journey. It is the whole person, heart & soul, that is unveiled in this process of change. Sometimes, you just have to be willing to change. Sometimes, you just have to take a chance and embrace the YOU you were always meant to be.
In 2017, Aileen. along with her partner Dennis, opened their own CrossFit gym in Norristown, PA. Bridge The Gap CrossFit is not just a name, but a mission. They specialize in helping people of all ages, backgrounds, & fitness levels get better & be better in every aspect of life. At the time of publication, they are preparing to celebrate BTG CF’s 1st year anniversary with their amazing community of athletes.