I am writing this to any woman who has thrown in the towel and given up on getting fit and healthy.  It doesn’t matter where you are starting or how old you are.  So much is possible if you hang in there. Real change takes time and effort but it is worth it.  There are no short cuts. No magic pills.  No quick fixes. 

          I am a 42 year-old mom of two, a wife, and a business owner leading a typically hectic life.  Three years ago I was tired all the time and in tremendous pain.  I was heavy for my small frame -- more than 35 pounds heavier than I am today -- with a dangerously high body fat percentage.  I was sad and my confidence took a beating.   

          In 2012, I weighed 158 pounds at 5’3” with a petite frame.  To the average observer, I was just a chubby mom trying her best to be happy and get by with two little kids. I hid behind big clothes and long skirts.  I would not bare my legs. I smiled and hid how bad I felt – physically, mentally and emotionally.  I wanted to change but I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do. I would go on 30-day diet transformations and juice detoxes, I bought exercise videos I saw on late-night TV, and I wasted quite a bit of money on supplements and creams and all sorts of gadgets.  I was looking for a way to turn things around.  I was frustrated. Every ounce of me wanted to be one of the skinny moms that made it look so easy.

          I assumed that pregnancy had ruined me. I was getting older (40 was around the corner) and this was the natural state of things.  I thought surgery was my only real option.  I would spend late-night hours searching the web looking at plastic surgery sites, sometimes bawling my eyes out, convinced that I needed a tummy tuck and liposuction.  I was close to giving up. I thought I needed to accept a body that felt like a fat suit that was slowly crushing me to death.

          Some might say that I just needed to love myself and find confidence within - that outward appearance doesn’t matter and I shouldn’t be so shallow.  It was more than my appearance at stake. 

          I felt like a failure.

          I couldn’t do the things I wanted to. My unhealthy habits made me feel sick, sad and out of control.  Worst of all, I was setting a bad example for my children. 

          When I finally asked a doctor for help, she convinced that me that the well was dry and that I needed to stop taking care of everyone else and neglecting my own needs. On her advice, I decided to forgo medications and see what I could do on my own by making lifestyle changes. I started to read everything I could about getting healthier.  It was like learning a new language – Paleo, GMO, Gluten-Free, HIIT, etc.

          I drank more water, joined a bootcamp, hired a health coach, ate better, got more sleep and tried to manage stress better.  I successfully lost weight, reduced body fat, shed inches, had more energy and less pain. I could do more with my kids and even finished a sprint triathlon in the summer of 2013.  My confidence, mood and energy all improved.  I felt more like the real me but I wanted more! 

          In late September 2013, on the recommendation of a friend, I joined Iron Crossfit North Brunswick.  It is one of the best, most transformative things I have ever done for myself.  I knew immediately that I was in the right place.  Everything clicked for me at Iron Crossfit.  It felt like home.

          The only Crossfit before photo I have was taken just three weeks after I started Crossfit.  I was at the Tough Mudder race held on October 13, 2013.  I had just completed a grueling 13-mile obstacle race.  I was proud of myself.  I weighed approximately 137 pounds and was over 27% body fat.  It was a big improvement and it took more than a year to get to this point.  The weight was not nearly as relevant as my body fat and the things I could not do when I started Crossfit.  I had a long way to go.  Everything felt impossible but I loved it.  I no longer wanted to be skinny.  I wanted to do things.

          With the help of my Iron Crossfit coaches, I kept at it and worked exceptionally hard to get stronger and faster.  My performance was steadily improving. In March 2014, I surprised myself and deadlifted 185 pounds for 12 reps during the Crossfit Open 14.3 WOD. That was more weight than I ever lifted in my life.  I felt proud and confident.  I finished the Open ranked third in my gym, despite the fact that I was much older than most of the members I was competing against.  I stopped hiding after that.

          Crossfit opened my eyes to the fact that so much strength was possible for me. At first, I was convinced that I would never be strong enough to do a pull up.  I told my coach that I read in the NY Times that women couldn’t do pull ups (at least most women).  Coach Mike assured me that that limitation was ridiculous and that I would be doing pull ups if I put in the work.  He was right.

          I no longer need the help of bands or a coach to lift me to the pull-up bar.  I am a 42-year old woman who can do strict pull ups, weighted pull-ups, chest-to-bar pull ups and kipping pull ups for the first time in her life.  I am surrounded by incredibly strong women who can do them and other women who stay after class to put in extra work to conquer their first unassisted pull ups.  One of my favorite things in Crossfit is hearing when another woman has achieved her first unassisted pull up.  It’s exciting and empowering.  I will never feel limited by my gender again. For that matter, I will not feel limited by my age or my size either. 

          As a side effect of focusing on my performance, I was getting leaner.  I dialed in my nutrition so that it would help me lose body fat that was weighing me down and hindering my performance.  Today, I weigh 122 pounds and my body fat is 13%.   My new goal is to gain muscle – that means gaining weight -- so that I can perform better.                                                   

          My before and after photos are about so much more than my appearance.  They are about how I think and what I can do.  Crossfit changed my perception of what a fit woman looks like. I no longer fear that muscles will make me look big or “like a man.”  Muscles make me look more fit and feminine than ever before.  Strong is beautiful.  Strong is empowering.  

          To all of the coaches at Iron Crossfit, thank you for being an integral part of my transformation.   I am so grateful for the excellent programming, coaching, dedication, and genuine willingness to help me and other members improve and reach goals.  Each of you brings something special to the coaching table and I learn so much from all of you.  I appreciate your patience and all of the extra time you have spent trying to help me get better.  Thank you for helping to create such a supportive community that motivates and inspires me to keep going. 

          I am not finished.  I never will be. I look forward to finding out what else is possible for me.  I feel unstoppable.