I have been into sports for most of my life. When I was in elementary school, I used to go to my dad’s softball games on Saturdays. When I was old enough, the team let me warm up with them before games. Later in high school, I played field hockey, basketball and softball 11 out of 12 seasons. But after I graduated high school in 1991, I stopped exercising and doing sports. I walked a lot because we lived in Baltimore at the time, so walking was the way I got around town. In 2007, after I broke my elbow, I decided that I needed to start working out again because, by then, I had put on a considerable amount of weight, which affected my self-esteem along with my health. So since I work at Howard Community College and I can take exercise classes for free, I decided to begin a journey back to health.
How has CrossFit affected life outside of the gym?
My mom always told me that I was very brave to try new things and in certain areas of my life, that was true. I can take vacations alone to faraway places and be fine with it. But there were other areas, where I wasn’t confident at all. For many years, I was afraid to try things that were scary, whether it was speaking up for myself at work or having a positive view of difficult work challenges, or even allowing myself to be vulnerable with my friends. But having to face seemingly impossible WODs has changed my whole view of things. For example, when I climbed the rope for the first time, it flipped a switch in my thinking. I had been terrified of climbing the rope for my entire life and then one day, after a lot of coaching, I did it. I was terrified the entire time, but I did it. So now I try to look at life challenges from that perspective. If I can climb a rope, I can face whatever challenge comes my way at work and in life, knowing that in the end, it won’t kill me.
Although I was taking exercise classes at work, I wasn’t really seeing results because each semester the instructors started back at day 1. So I never progressed. Then, back in February of this year, when a friend invited me to her CrossFit class, I decided to go more so to just hang out with her. We did a WOD called 21-21-21. It was 21 movements, 21 reps, for 21 vets. I loved it the WOD and I was instantly hooked. I also loved the community feel and I loved that I was pushed beyond any exercise program I had every tried. I knew that CrossFit would be a challenge and I love challenges. So I looked for a box in Columbia. In March 2015, I found the Cove and I have loved it from day one. Everyday has been a challenge for me. I have had to push through a lot of workouts, knowing that the workout would make me stronger. Today, I can say that I am stronger and healthier than I have been at any point of my life.
You’ve been open about your weight loss journey over the years. Has CrossFit changed your perception of body image or the scale?
I mentioned that by 2007, I had gain a considerable amount of weight. I was about 80lbs heavier than I am now. In 2011, I joined Weight Watchers and in 2014, I reached my Lifetime weight goal. By the time I reached my goal weight, I was running on almost a daily basis. I ran 10 races, including 8-5ks, my first 10k and an obstacle course race in 2014. I placed 4th in my age group for one of the 5k races and in the 10k race. Running helps tone things up like your legs, which helped improve myself-image. But adding CrossFit to my routine helped bring my self-image to a new level. When I was in middle and high school, I had large legs and people bullied me because of how I looked. Now, at 42, I have still have larger legs than many of my friends, but my legs are super strong. My legs help me do cleans and deadlifts and box jumps and I love them for that. I wear shorts now because I’m proud of them.
I am also crazy proud of my “Michelle Obama Arms” or as I call them, my “Arms by Marina”. I recently saw a panel of top 2015 CrossFit Games women talking about how having a strong body is really beautiful. That resonated with me. It was a game changer. Now, I see myself as someone who is beautiful because of my strength.
As much as I love the workouts, I love the people just as much. The coaches really know me and they push me in just the right way at just right time. But just as important as the coaches have been in my development, the other members have been equally important. Everyone is so supportive and in a few short months, we have become a tight knit family. We push each other to do our best and we cheer each other on for every workout. Some members have encouraged me not to give up on skills that are are hard for me, like double unders and the elusive kipping pull-ups. I also love is that even though we see each other’s scores each day, we don’t view the WODs as a competition. As much as I want to PR and see myself on the top of the whiteboard, I want to see everyone else do well on the whiteboard too.
Favorite movement and why?
I can do box jumps all day long. So I would say that I’m the most proficient at the box jumps. But my favorite move is the power clean. It’s a challenging move. But when it is executed properly, it’s so elegant. The perfectly elegant power clean is one of my goals.
Any advice for people who are just getting started with CrossFit?
#EmbraceTheChallenge. Every WOD is a challenge. But it’s a challenge you can face and conquer. Also, listen to the coaches. They are there to help you. They see your potential and they want to help reach it. Lastly, check your ego at the door. We’re not training for the CrossFit Games; we’re just having fun and getting stronger with our buddies and afterwards, we’re going to have a beer.
3 Back Squats OTMEM for 8 minute (use 50-60% of 1 RM)
(work for speed and technique)
10 Box jumps
20 Front Rack Lunges
30 Kb Swings
Fitness 95/65 (35/26) (20/18)
RX 115/75 (53/35) (24/20)
RX+ 135/95 (70/53) (24/20)