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By: Cheryl L.

Joining Landmark CrossFit in August 2018 not only changed my life’s trajectory, it’s safe to say it saved my life.  On July 31st, 2018 I was scheduled for an orientation session at the Weight Management Clinic at the Ottawa Hospital to choose between a 12 week, 800 calorie a day liquid diet or bariatric surgery. The referral from my doctor came after years of declining health and increasing weight. I was on antidepressants, pre-diabetic, my blood pressure was 148/110, my resting heart rate was 98 and I weighed (gulp) 344lbs. I had zero energy and got out of breath walking up the stairs in my house. Maybe the worst, was debilitating migraines four to five days a week. They were affecting my ability to work and I rarely left the house. I felt like I had tried everything possible to get my health and weight under control and was out of options. I was a heart attack waiting to happen and knew in my heart I wasn’t going to live to 60. Basically, I had hit rock bottom. Scared and uncertain, I spent the weekend alternating between pacing my living room and watching Netflix. A cousin had introduced me to the CrossFit Games movies a few months before and I found myself watching them over and over again that weekend. I was fascinated by the continuing message of using CrossFit to prepare you for anything you may come across in day-to-day life. Of course the CrossFit Games are this to the extreme, but the message resonated.

On July 31st, instead of heading to the Ottawa Hospital as planned I drove straight to work, I just couldn’t keep the appointment. I sat in my car for an hour crying (it’s a theme) trying to figure out how the heck I was going to get out of this hole I had created for myself. I didn’t know where to start but I knew something had to change. On a whim I googled “CrossFit gyms in Kanata and Stittsville” and after going through a few sites, something about Landmark, the coaches and the success stories made me stop. Before I gave myself time to chicken out I sent them an e-mail. Here is an excerpt of what I sent:

“This morning I was supposed to go to the Ottawa bariatric clinic to find out about gastric bypass surgery…
I know I need help but I don’t want surgery! I’m 51 years old, over 300lbs, inflexible, horrible cardio and super intimidated! I’m embarrassed to walk into the gym but motivated to make a change.
 Is it possible to set up a meeting to discuss my options?”

I know enough about my head space at that time to know that once I released that message into the internet I could convince myself I was trying everything possible. When I didn’t get a response (and I truly didn’t think I would), it would be someone else’s fault and I had tried my best. I was in for a surprise. Rob e-mailed back within 2 hours and we set up a time to meet the next day. Walking into the box that first time was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. I met with Jasmine to start my nutrition coaching on August 3rd, and had my first training session with Rob on August 7th.

I’d love to say that everything went smoothly from the beginning. Not so. I struggled with the nutrition plan and how to fit it into my lifestyle. Training sessions were even worse. I couldn’t get halfway across the gym in a bear crawl without panting for breath and relatively simple movements like ring rows made me throw up. I started having panic attacks and dreaded every time I had to walk through the doors of the box. I felt like everyone was watching me and judging me. After each session I’d sit in my car and cry with frustration and embarrassment and swear I was never going back. And then it happened, around a month in I gained a pound. Immediately I started thinking of excuses to let myself off the hook; I’d been on vacation, I’d been stressed, I didn’t have time to plan meals… you get the picture. That night I was angry, frustrated and I decided to quit. It was too late at night to cancel my training session for the next morning but I planned to tell Rob as soon as the session was over that this wasn’t working for me and I was going to try something else. I can’t explain what happened next but somewhere in the middle of ring rows it clicked. I decided I had nothing to lose and everything to gain by just letting go, trusting this guy who seemed to know what he was doing, and trusting the process. From that moment on I was all in.

The tiny stumble you see at the beginning almost made me quit! In hindsight, it lit the fire!

I’ve been asked a lot recently for my secret. Most people don’t like the answer, unfortunately there is no magic pill. That said, there are some changes I had to make that could be applied universally. The first thing I had to do is stop making excuses and start being honest with myself. Yes I have a very stressful job, yes I have a busy life with a lot of responsibilities, yes I’ve had some crummy things happen to me. I had to stop using these things to give myself permission to binge eat and lay on the couch. I had to make time to food prep, get to the gym and make sure I had a plan every day. The second change is that I had to be consistent and do the work every single day. To paraphrase Mr. Mat Fraser “the hard work gets done when no one is watching”. Let’s be honest, changing almost everything in your life is just plain hard! Workouts haven’t gotten any easier, they just suck less – sometimes! Being aware of every piece of food that I ate was a daily battle. I can’t count the number of hours I paced my house using every ounce of willpower I had not to get into my car and go get some crap to eat. The third thing I had to do was trust the process and remember that this was going to take whatever time it took. I had to trust that the people who were trying to help me succeed knew what they where talking about. My way clearly didn’t work, I had to believe in them like they believed in me. Finally I had to constantly focus on my “why”. I didn’t just start this to lose weight, I knew I needed to completely change myself so that I didn’t die in my 50s.

Cheryl after her first spartan race
July 27, 2019 – 1st Spartan Race – Calabogie Peaks

So here it is a year later and I can’t believe how different my life is. I have lost 183 pounds, an unbelievable 2 feet off my waist, my fasting blood sugar is well below normal, my blood pressure is 108/68 and my resting heart rate is 68. My body fat percentage has gone from 44% (likely higher) to 17%. I no longer take antidepressants, something that one Dr. once told me I’d be on for the rest of my life and I have more energy than I have ever had. Most significantly I have gone from almost daily migraines to one or two every couple of months and those I do have are far less severe than before, most I can function through, something that was impossible a year ago.

I could not have done this without the amazing coaches and community at Landmark CrossFit. I wanted to be invisible every time I walked through that door but the members at Landmark were having none of that. They smiled encouragingly when I accidentally made eye contact, they introduced themselves and they yelled their support when I accomplished something in a workout (like my first box jump). Slowly over time I began to feel more and more part of the community. Now I look forward to seeing them every time I go to the gym and can’t imagine not being part of it. I can honestly say I have not met one truly negative person. I feel like the CrossFit community self selects, if you are a negative person you’re in the wrong place!

Pants are too big now!
August 7, 2019 – Wearing pants that used to fit a year ago. Note: Not a skirt.

I’ve worked with Trainers before and always ended up hurt. There is no comparison to the amazing coaches at Landmark CrossFit. Coaches Erik, Bre and Terry are skilled, knowledgeable, encouraging and always push me to learn more, get better, be safe and work hard. Coach Val has this amazing way of figuring out what has you feeling insecure that day and cutting right through all your excuses. You want to be a better runner, then run faster and here are some things you can do to run faster. You hate wall balls, then get better at them and here are some things you can practice to get better. It’s so simple but so effective!

Cheryl's 10km Run Map
August 11, 2019 – “Did out and back on Trans Canada. 10k unbroken! Last 2k were a grind but got them done 😀 Not the plan but glad I did it!”

Nutrition coach Jasmine has been with me since day one. She met with me every week, guided my nutrition plan, helped me make adjustments as needed and if she didn’t have an answer to a question she researched it until she did. But most importantly she became one of my biggest cheerleaders, her positivity and excitement for me kept me encouraged on weeks when things didn’t go as well as I hoped. I would recommend her to anyone, I know I could not have done this without her support and guidance the whole way.

You only have to take one class with Coach Rob to know he is really good at his job. He always makes sure you scale appropriately, has a keen eye for movements that might cause you injury, yells encouragement throughout each workout and makes sure you are pushing yourself. He seems to have more confidence in us than we do in ourselves and encourages us to be our best. But all of that isn’t what made Rob the most important person to my accomplishments over the last year. He took the mess I was at the lowest point in my life and helped me become who I am now. He did it by somehow knowing when to push me, when to back off, when to call me on my crap and when to just quietly let me do my thing. There were many days I wanted to quit and not show up. But he showed up everyday and I figured if he was going to show up, so was I. Even more importantly than what he did in the gym, he made himself available to me 24/7 to talk me off the ledge when I needed it, prop me up when I was down and constantly remind me that yes what I was doing was hard but it was worth doing. He’s going to be pissed that I said this, but it’s the truth. Rob saved my life.

I used to quote it to myself when I wanted to quit. Now I just have to look at my arm!

I believe that anyone has the ability to change the course of their life. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 pounds to lose or 100 the rules are the same. Figure out why you want to do it, stop making excuses, do the work and be consistent!

I’ll close with a quote from Mat Fraser, four time winner of the CrossFit Games. He posted this on Instagram after his most recent win and it couldn’t be more appropriate. “Pain goes away. But the pride of knowing you gave everything? That’ll stick with you forever.”

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