AMY RUSS

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Q. What was your life like prior to your CrossFit training and why did you want to start working with a coach?

A. My mom signed me up for recreational gymnastics at age 4 and I was hooked. I grew up in a family of accomplished rodeo athletes and horse lovers but all I wanted to do was be in the gym or on the trampoline. I did competitive gymnastics until I was 18, did diving and cheerleading in high school, and coached girls’ gymnastics through college. As both a competitor and a coach, I loved being in the gym and missed it terribly when I got a “real job” after college (sitting at a computer all day). I’ve tried many things in the years since – kickboxing, spinning, “globo gym” classes, yoga, fitwall, circuit training – but nothing I could really call my passion. It was just exercise. 

My husband discovered CrossFit in 2006 and completely transformed his body. I used motherhood as an excuse to watch from the sidelines as he got in the best shape of his life and was having fun doing it. By the time our second kid was 2, I was tired of being weak and tired. I missed being an athlete. We moved here in 2012, invested in some CrossFit equipment for our garage and with the help of my husband and YouTube, I learned the basics of CrossFit and I loved it. After two years of teaching myself and working out on my own, I hit a plateau. I was afraid of many of the lifts and was cherry-picking WODs to avoid my major weaknesses, but I knew that wasn’t real CrossFit. I needed help with technique and encouragement from beyond my garage walls. So I decided to give CrossFit Julia a try and last July signed up for the beginners class. It was the BEST decision in so many ways. I love being in a gym again and am so happy to have found a new passion.
Q. What have been your greatest challenges (physically, mentally, emotionally) since you began your CrossFit Training?

A. Before starting CrossFit I had done lots of bodyweight conditioning but I’d never picked up a barbell. And when I started doing CrossFit on my own in my garage, the lifts were awkward and progress was painfully slow. My upper body strength was poor. When I started at CFJ, I was terrified to lift in front of other people. I was sure I had developIMG_1337ed bad technique doing it on my own and knew I couldn’t do the RX weights. Mentally, I had to get over that fear of failure and just pick up the bar. I had to trust in the process and the coaches and scale the weight a lot, always reminding myself that this is MY journey and it didn’t matter what weight the person next to me had on his or her bar.

 

  Physically there were a lot of moves that I had never done or at least hadn’t tried       since elementary school -– rope climbs, ring muscle ups, and pistols among   others. And I’ve never loved running. But on any given day, one or more of these may show up in a workout and that’s just part of CrossFit. I’ve learned to look at my weaknesses as opportunities for improvement and work harder on them rather than avoid them. 

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Q. What have been your greatest successes (physically, mentally or emotionally) since you began? How does your body feel now compared to when you started and WHY?

A. The success I’m most proud of is my consistency. With two young kids, a full-time job and an Army husband who is gone a lot it’s not always easy to fit the gym in my schedule, but I’ve done it. I don’t think there’s a week since I started other than when on vacation that I didn’t do at least three WODs, most often four or five. Progress has been slow and steady but I have gained so much physical strength and with that my confidence has grown, too. Weights that used to scare me are now my norm. Rope climbs are still hard but I can do them in a WOD now. I RX’d pistol squats in a workout the other day and did my first ring muscle

up last month.

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Registering for my first Open in February was scary. The RX WODs were beyond my self-imposed limits, but each week the clock counted down and I just did it. I only had to scale one WOD, which was a huge victory for me mentally more than physically. Last month we did a week of Hero WODs and I was amazed at what I was able to push through. For example, in February I did my first RX handstand push-up and then the week of hero WODs I did 90 in one workout. I’ve definitely learned that my mind stops me from much more than my body does. When I block out the voice of self-doubt, it’s amazing how much I can really do! 

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Q. How has your life changed since starting CrossFit training? Has CrossFit transferred over into any other areas of your life?

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 5.21.39 PMA. CrossFit has made me a better mom, wife, and person. I think moms tend to sacrifice themselves so that others around them can have everything they want and need – we don’t take care of ourselves because we’re so busy taking care of everyone else. Then we feel resentful and take it out on those around us. Investing in myself – in my own health and happiness – has benefited my whole family (“when mommy’s happy, everyone’s happy!”). I want to be my kids’ example of health and hard work, and because they come with me to CFJ so often, I know they see it and get it. I turned 40 in January and I’m so grateful that age has not limited me but rather motivated me to do more and try harder than ever.

 

I also joined Julia’s clean eating accountability group, not for weight loss but because I want to learn how to optimize my diet to fuel my results in the gym. When I’m more accountable for eating well, I buy and prepare better food for the whole family. My choices – good or bad – affect my family. CrossFit keeps me making good choices.
Q. What are the advantages of CrossFit style training compared to your previous workout styles?

A. Everyone says it because it’s true – the community of athletes really separates CrossFit from other forms of fitness I’ve tried. No one cares how old you are, what you weigh, what you wear, how fast you are, how heavy you lift. The only thing that matters is that you are giving it your personal best and supporting those around you who are doing the same. You earn respect by showing up, trying hard, being coachable, and being honest with your reps/times. I’m totally inspired every day by the athletes around me…some younger, some older, some with life-altering injuries from the past, some with four or more kids, some who travel for work all the time…they don’t make excuses. They just show up and do the work. And they’re always smiling. Their motivation and commitment is contagious. I have never left the gym feeling discouraged or wishing I hadn’t gone that day.

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I’ve also realized how much I don’t like exercise that is totally passive. I don’t want to run on a treadmill with a TV in front of me so that I can try tune out what my body is doing for an hour and just hope I get some exercise without feeling the challenge or pain of it all. I LOVE the technique behind CrossFit…I like feeling what muscles activate and respond to different movements and subtle shifts in body position. CrossFit challenges my mind as much as my body; I’m always thinking about what a coach told me to try and then remembering how it felt when I got it right so I can do it again. I crave that type of active, engaged fitness and I think CrossFit is the greatest example of it.

Q. What advice can you give to others?

A. Don’t let the fear of what you think CrossFit might be stop you from experiencing what it can be. Try it. Start with lower weights and scaled WODs but really commit and give it a fair shot. Go four times a week and give it your all every time you go. You’ll be sore. It will be hard. But it will be worth it.  If you go regularly and really try your personal best each time, it is impossible not to see and feel results. Plus you’ll meet a lot of amazing people who have all been new to CrossFit at one time or another and understand what it’s like. I personally am so happy to have found CrossFit Julia. Everyone – Julia, Shawn, all the awesome, passionate coaches and members – have been so welcoming not just to me but also to my kids who often tag along with me. And their knowledge and experience is exactly what I needed to safely progress. It’s been a great fit. Thank you, CFJ!!

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