Farrell’s Gave Me Back My Hope!

My transformational experience at Farrell’s Parker with Chad Davis and the crew of strong women who work there have cemented my belief in contagious hope. Sometimes, the only hope a person has is the hope others have for her, and that is my experience.

As a teacher, my life was spent sitting down or roaming a small classroom. In 2009, I allowed a dare to become a reality when I competed in my first Iron Girl Triathlon in Columbia, MD. Before I removed my sweaty hat that day, I registered for five more triathlons in 2010, peer pressuring friends and family to experience the endorphin fueled high as we crossed the finish line and strangers draped gilded medals around our necks and pressed ice cold sponges to our foreheads. I didn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t train and compete in triathlons ALL. DAY. LONG.

Unfortunately, in 2011, I couldn’t even walk to my mailbox; I became gravely ill with a mystery, that while everyone agreed was life threatening, no one could give it a name. I traveled to doctors from Toledo to Manhattan searching for someone to diagnose and treat me so I could get back to training. While I was not properly diagnosed, I was improperly medicated. Almost immediately, I was on 12 different pharmaceuticals, all of which combined to create serious side effects. Doctors doubled doses and hatched new drug plans, though we could no longer find the definitive line between contraindications and genuine symptoms. In 2012, I met the doctor who saved my life. She diagnosed me and began treatment that day. A bittersweet finish line, as the treatment made me vomit, and my hair lay in thick, blonde spider webs in the shower drain.

During all of this, I separated from my husband and soon divorced.

By 2013, I was functional, working as a counselor at a rehab for drug and alcohol addiction. I spent the day encouraging others to believe in their process of recovery, and in doing so, I tried to believe in mine.

My exercise program dimmed to a shadow…. Time and again I was told to be grateful for what I could do: walk, be alive, breathe. Time and again, I was told that I didn’t have to do triathlons, that maybe an evening walk would suffice. While I knew much of this talk of complacency was rooted in well-intentioned love and concern by friends and family, I took a teaching job in Denver and left upstate New York within the week; I knew if stayed close to voices that permitted standing still, I would inevitably slide backward. While I had never been to Denver before, I did know that there were mountains, rivers, and triathlons there; and where there are triathlons, there are people who understand how to push through suffering, into the surrender, and rocket into growth. Many of those people work at Farrell’s in Parker, and have done nothing less than save my life and my spirit by strapping boxing gloves to my clenched and angry fists.

While Denver was novel and ripe with light bulb sunshine and a deep ocean sky, my geographical cure neglected one crucial fact: I had brought me with me. Somehow, the broken glass shards of fear had embedded in my heels, were on my lips when I woke and prepared for class, waited on my pillow case when I laid down at night, and two years passed.

Last summer, a friend told me about her kickboxing class at Farrell’s in Parker. With a fiery spark in her eye, she told me of the fun, the pain, and absolute amazement in seeing what her body could achieve. Joyce had no medal around her neck, but in the wild eyed trance of a storyteller who is no longer aware of her audience, she spoke of how she was seeing such results in her body and her spirit. Joyce could tell me precisely the inches she had lost in her waist and the inches she had gained in muscle in her biceps and thighs. I realized then that there were crimson coals still left from the bonfire that once burned in me, and hearing about this 10-week kickboxing/ strength training program was a billow that fanned the flames again. I caught hope’s contagion that night: If she could do it, so could I.

I registered for the next session early. I was ready. I was focused. I had made vision boards in the past and told everyone of the dream that was about to be realized. I carried boxing gloves in a new red Farrell’s bag.

I quit my first day.

At registration day, there was loud music that thumped into the parking lot and a myriad of smiling inquisitive faces excited to begin; I was surrounded by people and felt completely alone. I showed up, ran a 16 minute mile for my pretest, weighed myself and stood in horror, did 9 sit ups in 60 seconds, had my “BEFORE” picture taken after I shoved my abdominal pudding into a 2 piece bathing suit, and told my coach I was quitting. My anger and frustration kept hot tears from rolling down my cheeks. I felt robbed by the doctors, mugged by the illness, and permanently ostracized by anyone who had not gone through an apocalypse. My grief from the apocalypse raced out sideways as I hissed my tantrum laced with 500 excuses as to why I was unique in my suffering to my sweet baby faced, optimistic coach. Jenn listened, commiserated, narrowed her eyes, leaned forward and replied:

“Leaving all of what you say are problems aside, what are some solutions? What do you need to make this work for you?”

Simultaneously, I loved her and wanted to shove her off a ledge.

Looking back now, I had no idea what I would ultimately receive in return: after only 10 weeks, I am forever changed. I can’t even say I am who I was before the apocalypse. The athlete in me has returned. This athlete is grateful, more humble. This athlete is infinitely more compassionate to the struggle of others. This athlete also has a closet full of clothes that fit once again.

Because all of the coaches have been through their own 10-week Farrell’s experience, Jenn was uniquely qualified to speak to my hesitation and fear. She told me if she could do this, I could. She told me she learned how to dig deep, bring the body and the mind would follow. She told me that sometimes she had wanted to give up and she showed up anyway because she always transformed in a way she never had before.

When I started, I was really bad. I wore HUGE black gloves standing in front of a TOWERING black bag, and still managed to miss the bag altogether. My balance was horrible, my stamina was light, and my attitude soured like that of a 3-year-old who needed a nap. I had a stadium in my head screaming YOU CAN’T. The harder I worked, the louder the music, the more the studio felt like being in a snow globe in the hands of a reckless child.

Defeat is a disease that gets better when I talk about it. The more I opened up about my journey to Farrell’s Parker, to Chad and Heather and the other instructors, the more I emptied the corrosive fear, and the more space there was for encouragement, compassion and rigorous honesty about my own lack of discipline. In the last two years, I had conspired with the fear and allowed it to make excuses as to why I didn’t have to try anymore.

I started to receive emails from the staff with quotes saying “ Every champion was once a contender who never gave up.” The instructors called out directions over the music’s heartbeat; once we got going in the endorphin craze, each instructor would yell encouraging words like, “You’re all miracles! Look what you can do! You couldn’t do this yesterday.” One day, I heard, “Today you can either make excuses or you can make plans—every day you have that choice!”

In the first two weeks, each thread of each fiber of each muscle screamed anytime I moved. Getting out of my car in the grocery store parking lot, I inadvertently made a loud, guttural noise, like a Cro-Magnon man throwing a spear in a hunt.

By week 4, I found a groove. Muscles tightened throughout my body, my jeans fit again, and I felt like a Green Beret everywhere I went. By week 5, I was landing my punches and I had beaten up every doctor, every symptom, and much of the trauma. Cutting each tie to the past, I experienced a freedom to move fully into this present moment and feel alive. Our instructors reiterated that each combination of punches and kicks, while at times complicated and confusing, could be accomplished if I completed one at a time. I have extrapolated this philosophy and many others from kickboxing into my life in the real world without gloves.

While the sign above Farrell’s says “Kickboxing,” I can honestly say I experienced a molecular rearrangement during my 10 weeks. And it hurt. A lot. Every person in my class saw measureable results by 10-week testing day. We each celebrated our individual successes, as well as the success of the unity of everyone who had worked so hard. Some people climb Mt. Everest for an extreme transformation; some swim the English Channel. I said YES that first day, and climbed into the ring to confront the only true challenge there ever is: me against the stadium of fear and doubt in my own head, and today I choose to win. So much so, I signed up for another six months.

Many years ago, when men and women paddled out into the ocean to fish or explore, they dared not travel past a set of self-imposed limitations, lest they fall off into oblivion. One day, someone was inspired to paddle out further, past everything they had ever learned about what they could accomplish and why. By choosing this, they found that the horizon is only a delusion that must always be challenged, always questioned, and that has made all the difference generations later. Today, I scan my environment for opportunities to paddle out beyond the horizon because I know I will starve staying too close to shore.

Sandy is a FIT Member at our Parker, CO Farrell’s eXtreme Bodyshaping location.

 

Disclaimer: The above testimonial and photos were contributed by an actual member. We cannot guarantee everyone will achieve similar results. We do believe that everyone can achieve measurable results, but the specific results will vary from person to person.

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