Today we celebrate of one the Cove’s best couples, Sean and Ashley D. “Team Danus” as they are affectionately called, have not only been so fun and easy to coach, they are just loved and adored by their fellow athletes. In fact, we often call them the ‘fan favorites’. Everyone just wants to be around them – and we are all lucky that they like to be there – a lot.

Both Ashley and Sean grew up playing sports. Mostly recreational sports and competitive swimming for Sean and soccer and field hockey for Ashley. “I played soccer early on but fell in love with field hockey my sophomore year. It just felt like ‘my sport’.”  Sean, on the other hand, hated the dry land. “I was on the bigger side and had flat feet. Maybe I could have been a great offensive linesmen, but land sports just weren’t my thing.

They went to the same college (Salisbury) during the same years and both studied accounting (her major, his minor). But they didn’t meet until a year AFTER graduation at a bar in Baltimore. They connected through mutual friends they both apparently had in college, but somehow their paths didn’t cross on campus (a fairly small campus we might add). But the moons finally aligned and it was meant to be!

 “A year after we started dating we were at the heaviest we had ever been. We put on the ‘relationship pounds’ and were living the city life of dinners and drinks. We knew we had to so something so we signed up for our first 5K together.”

“We loved the accountability of races and events. After the 5K we signed up for a three-race series that built up in distance, from a 5K to a half marathon. Knowing we had the next race coming up helped keep us committed to working out.

In between races they attended a wedding with their friend Chelsea Rockwell (yes, the sister of our very own Geo Rockwell!). “Chelsea had gone through an amazing transformation; not just physically, but her whole lifestyle changed. She told us we should try CrossFit and signed up for Foundations classes at the Cove.”

Sean said, “Once we started CrossFit, we no longer needed events or runs for goals and accountability – although we still do some just for fun. I mean, it’s a 5k every day at the Cove! I used to go to the gym and you’d have to program everything yourself and you don’t have to push as hard. Here it’s all done for you. Plus I have Ashley waiting on me during Partner WODs so I have to move fast! I remember we had been here six months and we signed up for a long race.   We didn’t do much training behind it (just CrossFit) and ran one of the best races of our lives.”

While Ashley and Sean both have some competitive bones in their body, their humbleness trumps all. During our talk I asked if she was good at field hockey back in the day and she said, “I don’t know. I guess? I think I was All-City.” All-City? Wow. Then I asked “were you the captain?” and she said, “It was so long ago. Yes, I think I was. I just remember I loved it because we were such a relaxed team. We weren’t that good, but we had fun”.

We believe that this attitude and outlook has played a major role in their quest to be happy and fit.  He says, “It’s less about the PRs and more about showing up. It’s about working towards the same goal of being fit and staying active. We love to cheer each other on, but she’ll make me do those reps quickly in a partner WOD. “ She adds, “We need to balance donut life and workout life.” Yep, she’s the one with the sweet tooth and he craves the salt. Typical!

And just like their friend Chelsea, they have both experienced huge transformations. Physically, they are more fit than they’ve ever been and feel amazing– but it goes so much deeper than that. Ashley said, “In the beginning I traveled a ton. For the first six months we really were apart all the time and worked out separately. CrossFit gave me this new found confidence to leave my job and start something new. It was just amazing and changed everything. Now we both work from home, see each other a ton and get to work out together.”

As an outsider looking at “Team Danus”, both look so calm and collected all the time. But Ashley shares, “ I have always been an anxious person. In college it really started to get bad and I had to mange it. Now part of my strategy is to come in the morning because my attitude, mood and energy level is so different if don’t. Its kind of like free therapy for me.”

He adds, “I’m a person who gets stressed about things, but I can usually reflect and put things into a perspective so that it doesn’t get to me. I don’t know what it feels like to have real anxiety like she has, so I try not to give my opinion on how to handle it”. She chimes back in, “Sean is my rock. He’s my calm.”

Besides being fit and managing stress, so much more has changed. “Brittany’s eating challenge changed the way we eat entirely. We went from wings to egg whites. Well, at least Monday through Thursday (they both laugh). But seriously, the meal prep game has changed everything for us. We had to go through nutrition phases until we found what worked for us.”

And a LOT is working for them. Besides being fitter than ever, Ashley is expecting their first baby (a boy!). “If it weren’t for CrossFit, I know I wouldn’t even be working out during this pregnancy.   I was feeling so good I didn’t even feel like I was pregnant. Of course this only contributed to my anxiety, but I just started feeling kicks and it’s so exciting.

And Sean is swimming at a level he didn’t think possible. He just completed the open water swim across the Chesapeake, an event for elite swimmers only. For those of you who don’t know this race, it begins at Sandy Point State Park and essentially proceeds along the same line as the Bay Bridge to Kent Island. He said, “I had always wanted to do it. Coach Chris had posted about it so I put myself in the lottery and got in.”

“We had ramped up how many times we come to the Cove already so I felt mentally and physically ready, even without any swimming. Sure I had to do a lot of work in the pool quickly to get there (you have to qualify via an open water swim timed or get an aquatics director to validate that you swam three miles in under two hours) so I did that and I was ‘in’.

If I had not done CrossFit I never would have gotten into the pool and turned it around that fast. It wasn’t about my fitness level, it was about my mental fortitude at that point”. And with a three-hour cap on an open water choppy swim, he’d need every bit of it.

Ashley said, “I was so nervous and emotional; I was 12 weeks pregnant at that point. Luckily my mom went with me for support, not just for Sean, but for me too! Of course I wanted him to finish, but I wanted him to be safe most of all. Conditions-wise, it was an incredibly challenging race. But he did it and I was so so proud of him. And yes, I even cried!”

So what do they love most about CrossFit and this chapter in their fitness journey? It’s a he said/she said story. Sean said, “I really like the accountability part of it all. The shared suffering. It’s become a big part of our lives. We like to think back the day’s workout or look forward to tomorrows and discuss strategy and how we should tackle it. I love that we have conversations that I can’t have anyone some else. It’s something fun to do with someone who ‘gets you’.”

For her it’s “about doing something positive together. We’re bonding. We are helping our marriage. We motivate each other. When I don’t feel like going, he gets me to go. And when we are there we probably push each other without even thinking about it.”

But now it’s about growing a healthy baby and being fit parents who lead by example. Ashley said, “It’s been an interesting mental shift. Instead of going all out and laying on the floor after a workout, now my goal is to be focused on finding the right level of intensity for the health of the baby. The “why “of my workouts have changed. CrossFit set me up to be in the best shape of my life to carry a baby. And with the scales and modifications I feel included.

While their motivations may have shifted they are staples at the gym and rarely miss a Partner WOD (seriously, only a handful missed in the last year). And two years later, just like they were in awe of their friends’ transformation from CrossFit, we are in awe of theirs. “Team Danus” has figured out a formula that works for them — and we wish we could bottle it for all.