After getting through the door of a CrossFit gym and learning what a Fran was, how to snatch and why taking your shirt off during a WOD is totally necessary I, like most people started to see a change. The weights become more manageable; you understand the lingo and know how to scale a WOD. But it’s also on the inside that something starts to develop. No longer was I looking in the mirror and resigning myself to not being good enough, I was now contemplating how far could I push. What weights can I lift? How strong can I get? What can I do with this body?
A common tale in CrossFit gyms is the story of how life changed once starting, changing in more than an individual’s health and fitness. Your world is opened up to a version of yourself that you didn't know existed or had been lost in the fog of days gone by, pre-injury, pre-kids, pre-ordinary life. You never knew you were in a rut until you started training and new opportunities, new doors, seemingly insignificant, were before you. You are asked to be in competition teams, help out at an event, train with someone extra on the weekend, follow a gym wide nutrition challenge, be part of a gym vs gym throw down, participate in the CrossFit Open and all of a sudden you find yourself part of a community of people on the same journey as you. Opportunities that lead you on the next stage in your journey are come in quick and fast.
As I trained and began to take on the 'CrossFit Prescription', I began to approach workouts with goals in mind, I looked at a heavy barbell with confidence, I set lifting goals, tested 1RMs, taught myself to do new movements and sweated what seemed like blood through countless workouts, choking down that overwhelming urge to puke.
Focusing on my capacity and my capability rather than what was on the outside had me looking differently at my everyday life. CrossFit seeped into my every day, getting ready for work became a WOD for time, getting household chores done an AMRAP and I woke up each day wondering what was life's ‘workout of the day’.
People saw my attitude and physical appearance changing and as a result I was asked to be involved in new sports, Rugby Union being the first.
I was immediately strong enough to run with some of the best and at a reasonably light 70kg in Rugby Union terms, I became a tight-head prop. Having played only a few months I was selected for the Australian Army Rugby Union Team yet with a massive learning curve I approached the challenge with confidence, something you can't fake on the football field.
The next year I was selected again for the next representative level, playing for the Australian Defence Force. I played at the Australian Rugby Union National carnival facing opponents who had 30kg more bodyweight and years of rugby experience, but as with any CrossFit WOD when you elect to do it RXD, you are up for the work till the end.
Powerlifting became a focus for me when I discovered I loved the movements, squat, bench and deadlift. Powerlifting has meets and events where strength and power are tested and having discovered I was strong and powerful, this sport sang out to me as an opportunity to be taken.
Through powerlifting I have met great people, found great inspiration and been able once again set lofty goals to aspire towards. I have been ranked in the top ten of my weight class for the last three years and this year moving into a 2nd place with a top ten ranking over all lifters in Australia. CrossFit has all the while kept me motivated, challenged and inspired me to whilst developing as a specialist lifter.
I have been able to focus on performance and discover what my body is capable of and my physical appearance is a bi-product of the hard work. Although I am not at my fitness goals yet I am no longer miserable with what my body looks like, but happy with who I am, the effort I put in and the lengths I go to in achieving strength.
Things just make sense now because I walked through an open door.
Sarah Petchell is a accomplished CrossFitter, Powerlifter and Rugby player. She coaches and trains at CrossFit Mitchelton and Panthers Barbell Club in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and is an inspiration to sportswomen and men across many different codes.