My 8 Year CrossFit Journey

Some of you have been here from the beginning. Some of you reading this remember when I walked into CrossFit Ansbach in Ansbach, Germany in 2014. I was a 32 year old mom of 2 boys and wife to Joe, who was serving as a flight medic in the Army. Joe had just deployed for his second tour in Afghanistan and I was left in a country where I barely spoke the language, with two special needs children. Jaxon was 3 and in speech therapy and sure start programs, as well as preparing for adenoid removal surgery. Trey was in the process of his Autism diagnosis and all the appointments, paperwork and meetings that go along with that. I was not my priority.

I had gotten to my heaviest weight yet. I didn't own a scale, because I didn't want to know how much I weighed, but in May of 2014 I was at the doctor where I saw the scale hit 250 pounds. Actually it was 113 KG, so for a moment I was almost relieved, until I googled the conversion. 250 pounds. I was at the doctor for back and breathing issues, which I had since I threw my back out for the first time when I was about 21 years old hiking the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. From 14-23 the most consistent exercise I had was moshing at punk shows on the weekend. I was also a smoker from early on during my the mall rats days, then the punk scene days, and then Joe joined the Army, and everyone smoked. I smoked a pack a day for most of my teen and adult life. I would hide it from most people though because I also had asthma. The first time I was hospitalized with pneumonia and asthma was when I was 18. Then it was pretty much yearly I would have to either go to the ER for an emergency breathing treatment or I would be admitted for a few days, pumped full of steroids and sent on my way. I would quit smoking for a few days or weeks, but I was addicted and I would always end up back at a pack a day. I also used drugs and alcohol to cope with a lot of my past trauma. My life has not been easy. If you haven't been following along for the past 8 years, I have had to overcome childhood sexual abuse, severe suicide ideation as well as losing two friends to suicide, getting into legal trouble as a young adult, clinical depression and anxiety and continue to seek treatment for diagnosed CPTSD. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

So, we can all agree I was (AM) a trainwreck, but I didn't want to be. I really did want to be like the girls in the gym. I was subscribed to all the fitness magazines, and I tried all the diets as a teen. I would try to motivate myself to get up and run in the morning, or do a workout video, but I just couldn't manage to get it done or stay consistent. I walked my terrified ass into a commercialized gym when I was 18 years old. I was met with uninterested "trainers" and stares. I let them weigh me, tape measure me and give me a few tips, some shakes to drink and sent me on my way. I lasted there about 10 days. Then I tried a smaller fitness studio that did circuit training, but I felt so lame. Not to put any activity down, but I was the youngest there by probably 25 years, I kid you not, and I was tatted and pierced up. It just wasn't my vibe. I would have some success here and there. I would loose 20-30 pounds, and then gain it back. I did this a few times with a few at home programs. Then I got pregnant with Trey, and I didn't make myself a priority at all. I had other people to take care of now. I also had a c-section; delivery and recovery were rough and I just got heavier and sicker.

When Joe joined the Army in 2009 we really had to make a few lifestyle changes. Joe was getting into shape, and he had certain numbers he had to hit. He also had a lot of back and forth in regards to some of his tattoos, but he was really getting in good shape, and I still always had that drive to get fit. This time I went to a different commercialized gym, and just kept to myself. I would jump on the elliptical machine for 30-45 minutes, and then I would do the circuit machines that didn't confuse the hell out of me usually until Trey got tired of being in the daycare and would get himself kicked out. However, I was drinking slim fast 2x a day, and barely eating. I was doing stupid stuff, like passing out during runs because I wasn't fueling correctly. I was almost under 200 pounds when Joe graduated AIT and we moved to Fort Campbell and I got pregnant with Jaxon. The thing is, I actually did much better with staying active and eating better during my pregnancy, but I had to have another c-section. Joe was deployed, and I just didn't give myself enough time to recover. So, it took a really long time to feel any sort of strength in my core, and I still have issues with feeling sharp pains at my scar site. I did maintain a little bit of my weight loss after birth, and was even motivated to go back to school for Health and Wellness. I figured the best way to learn the best way to get healthy, is to go back to school for it. So 6 months after Jaxon was born I started online college.

It took me 6 years to graduate. In that time I served as Family Readiness Group Leader for Joe's company, stayed at home and raised the kids, moved to Germany and did the best I could to try to figure out who I was and who I was meant to be. I never really had any direction in life, and I was awesome at being a stay at home mom, but I was exhausted. I was at home most of the day, working on school work, still smoking cigarettes, still not having the best nutrition and I gained more and more weight eating delicious German foods. Then I felt like a fraud because I was in school for health and wellness. But out of breath all the time. And just needed a minute, all of the time. I felt bad when my kids wanted to go outside to play, but I talked them into a movie so I could just rest for a little. Walking up the steps took the wind out of me. I knew I had to make changes. I would have to spend an hour just sitting, drinking coffee and smoking in the morning just to "wake up". Then in May 2014, going to that doctor appointment for my "back", and him sending me to the ER, again, and getting admitted again, on Mother's Day weekend was such an awakening for me. I had to miss Jaxon's soccer pictures and it broke my heart. Having them see me like that was scary for them. Did I quit smoking that weekend? Nope, but it was the catapult for everything to come next.

The next couple weeks went so fast. Joe deployed on June 5th, his birthday, and then I was planning on visiting my family back in the states, but a bunch of my friends were pushing me to try CrossFit with them. What did I know about CrossFit? That my super fit Army medic husband did CrossFit and it looked intense and I was in the worst shape of my life. In fact, Joe tried to get me to try CrossFit for years, and I thought he was insane, and I thought my friends were insane for even thinking I could do this. These are the same friends who were with me in the Bavarian Alps, just weeks before, and watched me almost die just walking the last teeny bit up the mountain, after we literally rode the cable cars all the way to the top. Like I just had probably 100 feet uphill to the top and I had to use my inhaler. They wanted me to try CrossFit??? However, this is the one time in my life that peer pressure what the best thing that ever happened to me, because I agreed and it literally saved my life.

My first session was in June, and it was with Susi, who was co-owner with Rob, her husband. Johannes and Zach were also the two other coaches there and they were all super shredded and fit. I felt so stupid for like 2 seconds, but Susi was incredibly patient, kind and encouraging with me and my friends. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I left that day sad that I was leaving to the states for 3 weeks. When I got to the states, I looked into a few boxes nearby, but I just didn't have the guts to go by myself. However, I did go to the track everyday and run, as much as I could and that wasn't much. I used the benches and did step ups, and push ups and I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that I wanted to get as fit as I could before I go back to Germany and CrossFit.

When I got back to Germany on July 14th, 2014, it was a Thursday, and with the time difference I was super jet lagged and I pretty sure we slept like 12 hours straight after the flight and car ride from the airport home. The plan was to start on Monday because my friends were going to Paris that weekend and I was not going to go to my first class by myself. But then something unpredictable and unexpected happened. I was so excited about a gym that I got my ass up on that Saturday and I went to my very first CrossFit class by myself. Then I found out it was a partner WOD and I immediately regretted going. I felt so bad for my partner, but she was so amazing and patient. Want to know what the workout was? Panic Breathing! Partner A Rows 500m while partner B holds KBs in the front rack position, then you switch. You do this for 400m, 300m, 200m and 100m. Anytime a partner stops rowing or puts the KBs down, both partners have to stop and rest. It was brutal, but I did it and I felt like such a badass. I had every person in that class cheering for me, and having that support and community is why leaving CrossFit Ansbach, all the people, the coaches, was so extremely hard. I truly love them all to this day. They will always be family and knowing that some of them are my biggest fans and supporters means everything to me. You all watched me grow from who I was, to who I am now and I couldn't have done it without you all. I can't believe that day was 8 years ago. So much has happened.

We left Germany and tried two CrossFit gyms in Pennsylvania. I hated the first one. They literally just did shuttle sprints, and then one day the coaches didn't tell me to take my lifters off and had me run in lifters and I really messed my back up for awhile; and don't come at me, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I was only doing CrossFit for 1.5 years, and my coaches in Germany would have never told me to buy lifters. They are barefoot and/or chucks for life people. We were only in PA for 3 weeks before we moved to San Antonio, but by then, with all the traveling and the "incident", my back was pretty messed up. Now, I had back issues for years, remember?; and that is why I started yoga shortly after CrossFi, to help with the back pain. At this point I was in the middle of my 200 hour yoga certification program that I started in Germany, and luckily was able to find a studio to help me finish my intern hours in San Antonio. So, with my back issues, I was only going to Mission CrossFit (they were also so influential in my journey and recovery) 3x a week and then teaching yoga for the next 10 months. Originally, we were only here for 9 months, but then Joe got a instructor position at Fort Sam, and we ended up moving to Schertz. Friends of ours from Germany, who we also trained with at CrossFit Ansbach, and who Joe went to his L1 with and Joe started talking about opening up a CrossFit box and next thing I know, I am attending the Level 1 course and we are looking at locations in Converse, TX. At this time I am still teaching Yoga, and working on my Bachelors, as well as training clients in our garage, working with coaching mentors, hosting workouts in the park. Side Story: That one group that does workouts in the park all the time were so pissed at us, but I literally didn't know anything about them when we moved here. We had to move parks to not mess with their business, lol. Ok, back to the timeline. I am still on my journey of recovery and fitness, but I really have found my place as a trainer and working with people who are looking to take back their health. More and more people are reaching out wanting to work with me because I am so vocal about how CrossFit literally saved my life. All I wanted to do was and is share that message with as many people as possible.

Now, let me talk about something that happened in 2016 at a CrossFit Gym that is why I never tried another one when we moved. I was pushed beyond my capacity and made to feel weak and that I wasn't pushing hard enough. That I should be at a higher level than I was for doing CrossFit for 2 years, and I was really made to feel less than. I wasn't important because I wasn't fit enough, and that really stuck with me for a long time. That is why I never dropped into boxes on vacation, because I was scared I would have another experience like that. Which was even a bigger motivator for us to open our own Box. To provide a space where anyone and everyone FEELS welcomes and WANTED there, and that is exactly what we did. Converse CrossFit had 4.5 incredible years full of fitness, fun, joy, laughter, hugs. We survived COVID like a boss. Do you remember when CrossFit shared that video of Joe and I doing to virtual open WOD in our onesies and like 70,000 people saw it? Or when CrossFit sent Mike Koslap to come make a documentary video about me and my story during my birthday weekend! If you want to check out the video head to and scroll to the bottom. It is featured on the main page to this day. And I'm even further in my journey than I was then. Maybe they'll do a follow up for my 40th birthday.

So, why did we close the box, and change our name and all of that? And why did I send all of my members to CrossFit Virilis and now I am there working out as a member? That is so weird, and I know. It doesn't make sense. I promise, when I write my book one day, I will give you all the juicy ins and outs of what it's like to run a business with your husband/best friend, when you are both stubborn as hell and have two very different visions on the direction of business, or how hard it is to build a team who has the same vision as you, or making everyone happy, or having people try to sabotage you because of spite and jealously. Oh man, it's going to be a good book. But, until then this is what I want to say about it.

CrossFit saved my life. I am about to turn 40 and I am stoked! I am in the best shape of my life and I keep hitting new goals and accomplishments I never thought possible. I have finally found my passion and purpose. I finally became the person that my 16 year old self always wanted to be. I want to inspire other people to be that person for themselves. I put my health and fitness on the back burner for 4.5 years running the gym. I coached 1,000s of hours of classes over the past few years, and I probably only attended a couple hundred. I don't regret a moment of it, because it has been a gift to watch each and everyone of you accomplish what you have. We were a military community, so we have past members all over the world now. I love watching your stories and growth continue wherever you go. It's inspiring to me.

Which is why I am back at CrossFit (Virilis). I missed being coached, and they have amazing coaches. Trust me, I did my very diligent research before I sent my people there! The members are amazing, welcoming and encouraging, and these last 3 months of not having that has been a struggle for me. I love yoga. I really do, and I am still a yoga teacher, and I still go to Black Swan, a few times a month, but CrossFit makes me feel like a badass, it's my passion, my one true love, it's what I live for and that is why I am back at CrossFit.

I have gotten a lot of questions from my small but mighty following, and I am going to answer as many here as I can, or want to... haha

I still have my personal training clients, and online clients. I love them and my choice of going back to CrossFit for my personal goals doesn't effect my clients. If you want to work with me, you know where to reach me!

If you were one of our members at Converse CrossFit and you have been doing something else, like going to a commercial gym, or another fitness program, but you miss CrossFit and you don't want to try Virilis out yourself, I will be happy to attend any class with you, or reach out to them for you. Please don't be nervous. Every single person who was a member of our gym would fit right in with them, so please reach out to them or me, and we will get you back at it! I already have one of you on the hook for "bring a friend day".

My goals are to work on strength, increase my endurance and improve my gymnastics, hence why I'm going back to CrossFit. I'm good on Flexibility. Literally fine there, lol.

I've been a little quieter on social media because of everyone's opinions about everything. I know people are going to roll their eyes, or make other assumptions, but the truth is, I'm a human, who is still healing after a lifetime of trauma. I am doing the best I can with what I got, and this is where we are, and I'm still ok with all of it. I'm happy, and a little less stressy and depressy these days actually.

Lastly, this is like the most asked. Are we moving. No. HAHAHAHAHA. Ok, once again, we are human. Living in a RV and traveling the country and homeschooling our kids sounded fun at the time. Then school let out again and I realized that this house is too small for all of us, no way we would survive RV living. Is moving back north in the plans? Sure, at some point in the future of the unknown? I would love to visit in the next couple months though! For sure! It's on the list of to-do! We are coming home for a visit, so be prepared! When? IDK...We're human, remember?

There are other projects I am working on. I would love to write more about my story, go on more podcasts, continue to share all the other ways CrossFit has literally changed my life. So, if you are reading this and you have a podcast, reach out. I love them, they are so fun and it is always awesome to have conversations on how health and fitness literally saves lives. If you think I'm a decent writer, I would love to write something for you.

And I just realized that I am still trying to fill every hour of my day! That's ok. Life life to the fullest. Be grateful for one thing everyday. Find what makes you happy and go do it. Even if it is just for an hour a day. You'll be amazed by how that hour begins to grow into two and three and....

Coach Haley

CF-L2 Coach

Precision Nutrition L1 Coach

500 HR Certified Yoga Teacher

BA Complementary and Alternative Health

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