So this time I’m going to tell someone else’s Crossfit story. This is my mother’s Crossfit experience so far and what it’s meant to our family.
Pat started crossfitting in 2013 at the age of 67. She enrolled in Crossfit Durham’s boot camps early in the year and was hooked immediately. In particular, she appreciated her coaches, Bea and Stephen. They helped her find appropriately scaled exercises. Challenged her to push herself and gave her confidence in what she was doing. She chugged along doing the best she could three times a week for about nine months. She made progress every week and was having a blast.
When I tell you she was doing boot camp she was doing everything the coaches asked of her. Here’s the proof. Here are a couple of photos courtesy of Crossfit Durham’s Boot camp Facebook page.
That’s Mom on the right doing step ups.
There she is getting her sledge on! She was all in and she was no joke.
Need more proof? One morning one of the coaches mentioned everyone was going to scale the 25 foot rope structure on the playground behind the gym. Pat didn’t want to slow her classmates down, so she slipped out the back door during a transition and tackled it on her own. So when I tell you she did everything the coaches asked of her, I mean EVERY. THING.
Around October, maybe November, crossfit started to be too hard. Movements she knew and used to be good at were unfamiliar and confusing. Fatigue got the best of her faster than it used to. She stopped going to the gym late in the year.
Fast forward through the holidays, Mom’s health is continuing to erode. Family member names are eluding her. She’s losing track of conversations. Balance is an issue, vertigo. She stalls in the middle of a simple action like sitting down or standing up. It’s like she forgot how to finish the maneuver right in the middle of the act. She can’t pick her feet up when she walks. She starts relying on three wheeled walker and she is T-I-R-E-D, always tired.
Her general practitioner orders a myriad of tests. One, a nuclear stress test suggests that she may have a blockage in her heart. This is where things get wild.
Jump to March – She starts the month with double bypass heart surgery. While hospitalized awaiting the heart surgery, the doctors order an MRI and discover she has hydrocephalus, water on the brain. This means that Pat wraps up the month with brain surgery, having a shunt installed to relieve the excessive water in her skull!
How does crossfit work into all of this? A few ways, allow me to explain.
It became apparent that Mom needed an advocate at her various doctors’ appointments. My wife took on this role. Erin found that doctors who met Mom for the first time seemed to accept her condition at that moment and time as her ‘normal.’ I don’t think it was ageism, per se. They didn’t have a frame of reference to know that this woman shuffling along with a three-wheeled walker exhausted just getting from a waiting room to an exam room wasn’t right. They had no frame of reference.
Erin could look at them and read that reaction and say, “no, you don’t understand. This woman was doing Crossfit! She was doing 200M runs, kettle bell swings, air squats, step ups and sledgehammer swings just a few months ago. What you see here now is not her normal and needs to be fixed!”
The more tangible results were evident after the bypass surgery. If you know anyone who’s been through it you know that for weeks afterward the patient is not allowed to use their arms for much of anything. Don’t lift anything more than 5 lbs. No pushing, no pulling. This is all in an effort to allow the surgically cracked sternum to knit and heal properly. This includes not using your arms when rising out of bed or a chair. You have to get your feet under you on the floor. Hug your arms to your chest and stand. It’s an air squat.
Even the physical therapists were impressed at Mom’s leg strength as she would rise or sit as they dictated. Each time one of them would say, “My, Miss Pat. You sure have strong legs.” She would smile a very satisfied smile and say, “That’s the Crossfit. That’s all those air squats!”
So where is Mom now? Well, she’s got some weeks of healing to do from the surgeries. She’ll be doing some PT both related to the neurological and cardiac challenges. It’s not 100% clear how long that will last. But one thing has been very clear. The cardiologist was adamant that once Mom completes the cardiac rehabilitation process, then there are NO restrictions on her lifestyle.
Those of us who know how much Mom values Crossfit and have seen the tangible and emotional benefits are very encouraged by this. For those folks out there who have their doubts, save them. Keep them to yourself. Mom is not going to entertain them. She will look you straight in the eye and tell you that she fully believes that Crossfit saved her life. I’m certainly not going to argue the point.
So, you know that means Crossfit Durham? When the time is right, Miss Pat is coming back! Count on it.