Unlike many Crossfit athletes, Kara does not have a history of excelling at athletics. She has a long history of loving playing sports, but just not being good at them. From a young age, her parents enrolled her in almost every community sports team available, probably because she needed an outlet for her boundless energy.
In order of attempt: Soccer: two seasons circa pre-K/kindergarten, one season in 8th grade Dance: several years, quit in 1st grade Basketball: one season, could not coordinate limbs enough to have fun T-ball: two seasons, enjoyed it but aged out of the program Volleyball: 7 years, actually enjoyed this one! Gymnastics: one season Tae Kwon Do: several years, liked hitting things but didn’t have the attention span to stand still when needed Softball: four seasons, spent more time drawing in the dirt with her feet than chasing the ball, was really bad at hitting Cheerleading: attended one workshop, determined after one day that it was not for her because she had the flexibility of plywood, did not return for day two Running/cross country: 6 years, didn’t LOVE it but didn’t HATE it Hockey: wanted to do this in high school, parents said no, probably should have begged a little more, took it as a college phys ed class and was so bad that the whole class cheered when she received a pass properly (it happened once) Rugby: wanted to do this to be with her friends, parents said no, probably for the better So really, volleyball was the only “hit” (no pun intended) in her early years. She played on various community and school volleyball teams up through middle school, but when she tried out for the high school freshman squad, she was literally the only girl to be cut and not make the team. That is not an exaggeration. It was a devastating blow to her confidence, but in hindsight, it’s no surprise why she got cut – she could hit a ball hard, and could kind of control where it would go, but when it came to the typical “strength and conditioning” evaluation – pushups, pullups, wall sits, etc – she failed miserably. Absolutely tanked. While she can’t remember exactly how she did in tryouts, she has a distinct memory of only being able to complete two situps in one minute during her freshman gym final. With her first choice of extracurricular activity off the table, she joined the cross country team (no cuts there!), and while she ended up standing on the sidelines more than she raced due to persistent ankle pain, she enjoyed being a part of a team and was eager to help out where she could with keeping time at events and recording race splits and results. It should not come as a shock to know that her REAL interests were not sports. She was (still is) a self-proclaimed band geek, loved science, and found a passion for engineering after being dragged onto her high school’s competitive robotics team by a friend. She continued on to college to study engineering, and filled every second of her free time by joining her school’s pep band and joining the planning committee for a sport called “broomball”. To make a long explanation short, imagine playing hockey, except you’re outside in -20F windchill and have all of the wrong equipment – you wield a duct-taped broom and are wearing sneakers, and are chasing a rubber ball instead of a puck. On ice. Being good at hockey will give you some advantage in this sport with ball handling, but that means nothing unless you can stay upright. This is a sport that few people can excel at (Kara was not one of those people), but you don’t need to be good to have a blast. Kara may not have the sports background that many crossfit athletes do, but she found the sport in the same way that many do: she was bored. After graduating from college, Kara moved from Michigan to the Philly area and knew pretty much no one. After living a go-go-go-no-time-for-sleep lifestyle through high school and college, she suddenly found herself with nothing on her evening schedule, day after day after day. She started distance running to keep herself occupied, but after running two half marathons, she decided that braving the hot and humid Philly summers was not worth the constant dehydration. She was also having issues finding and making friends in the local area, and the top suggestions from a google search on “how to make friends as an adult” are always along the lines of “join group fitness classes”, so that seemed like a natural progression. She tried out cardio boxing (until the studio she attended closed) and then some boot camp style studio classes, but they did not feel challenging and she couldn’t seem to find an “in” with the community at the studio. One of her close friends had recently started doing Crossfit and seemed to have a positive experience with it, so Kara decided to give it a try. Unsurprisingly, she struggled with barbell movements from the get-go – not much had changed since high school, and she still had no upper body strength and no core strength (though she had since figured out how to actually do situps). She had the range of motion and leg strength to do squats, but a power clean? Oh dear. She thinks that Vinny had probably never seen a worse power clean (note that this has neither been confirmed nor denied). Despite clearly having a lot of work ahead of her, she thoroughly enjoyed fundamentals and started group classes. Her endurance started building, and while barbell movements were still a struggle, she found it immensely satisfying to be able to move weight, and was motivated by the emergence of visible muscles in her arms for the first time in her life. The first Thermal Ladies Night occurred soon after she started, and that night led to a massive camaraderie that formed among the ladies in the gym (worth the really awful hangover). Classes became more fun because she recognized more people, and more people recognized her, and she was hooked. She was initially slow to make progress and was frustrated by her lack of skill compared to the other athletes in the class, but she forged the mindset for herself that it was because she was brand new to a discipline that the people around her had possibly been in for years, so it wasn’t fair to compare, and she made a conscious decision to focus on her own growth and progress instead of lamenting about being the last to finish nearly every WOD. She started making an effort to go in on days that had her least favorite movements programmed because she knew she wouldn’t get better without practice, paid attention whenever a coach was explaining a movement to someone so she could learn as much as possible, and slowly started seeing progress. She’s not entirely sure where this mentality and attitude came from, because she had never seen it before in herself, but it allowed her to thrive and grow and it is now ingrained in her everyday life. A few months after the 1-year mark, she took a tumble off of a box while doing weighted box stepovers, and rolled her ankle…two minutes into round one of a 5 round E5MOM. Not knowing the extent of the injury while it was still hot, she and the coach were able to modify the workout so that she could still get some work in without using her foot, but it was clear by the end of the class that it was not a minor injury. It wasn’t initially clear if it was a fracture or a sprain, but ultimately, it didn’t matter which it was: it meant she would be in a walking boot for a while and couldn’t put weight on her foot (three doctors and one month later, it was determined to be a grade 2 or 3 sprain). She knew herself well enough to know that if she took a complete break from crossfit, she would never come back, and the empowerment, joy, and community that it had brought to her life meant too much to her to let it go. Almost immediately, she contacted Vinny to figure out what she could continue to do without her legs, and they came up with a list of core and upper body exercises that got her through the next three months. In that time, she added 20lb to her bench press PR, got her first three strict pullups, and completed her first Murph by modifying the workout a bit and pairing up with another athlete who was similarly injured. Now almost two years after starting crossfit, she is still almost exclusively on #teamscaled, but she is proud of the progress she has seen in herself both physically and mentally. If you had told high school freshman Kara (freshly cut from the volleyball team) that in 12 years, she would be able to deadlift and squat her body weight (front and back), do some handstand pushups, occasionally nail a pullup or toes to bar, and be signed up for a crossfit competition…she probably never would have believed you.