Success Stories

23
Mar

Shaun Terrill – Pain Pain Go AWAY!

I was one of those late bloomers to working out.  Although I participated in cross country running while in high school (always coming in the last scoring position for my team – mainly because we only had five people on my team), the next decade of my life was spent on getting my educational degrees.  After turning 30 and not being able to do more than 2 pushups, I realized that I had been neglecting my physical health and that it was time to start getting serious at a gym. Unfortunately, I’m the type of person who lacks the self-discipline necessary to carry out a personal fitness regime.  Almost anything distracted me from my workouts. Most days were spent forming excuses for why I didn’t have to go to the gym. With no coach or workout partner to push me through those lackluster days, my physical fitness failed to improve.

At 35, I decided to try something entirely different – yoga.  Because yoga was held in a class environment, which is something I found that I enjoyed more, I stuck with it longer.  I was actually pretty good at yoga, but a severe spinal injury caused by improperly lifting a weight on one of my few gym outings set me back for years and, eventually, a whole decade.  My health had deteriorated to the point where I had to crawl up the steps in my own house to move from floor to floor because of the severe and crippling spinal pain I was enduring. I couldn’t sit down at restaurants for dinner longer than 10 minutes.  I couldn’t see a movie in a movie theater because of the pain from sitting still. In an effort to find help, I cycled through pain management clinics in the area, until I finally found one that worked for me.

Because the epidurals given to me by the doctors at the pain clinic allowed me to work out again, I started to read up on how to combat severe spinal pain and saw that people who did exercises that strengthened their core complained less about back and radiating leg pain.  Four months prior to having major surgery scheduled to fuse my spine, I decided to take fitness a mixture of yoga and pilates classes to focus on strengthening my core. In just three months, I had gotten myself to the point where surgery was no longer necessary. Now I could subsist on epidurals every few months.

But I was still in pain.

It was then that I thought about CrossFit.  If I really wanted to strengthen my core, why not go all the way and do the most challenging fitness routine I could find.  I signed up for Foundations at Ballston CrossFit in September 2017, after receiving my last bilateral epidural. The classes were fun, and very challenging, but not impossible – and I began to notice changes in my core as well as the rest of my body almost immediately.  Not only was my stomach getting flatter and my back getting stronger, but my arms and legs were more muscular. Everything was coming together to ease my chronic pain.

I am now five months into CrossFit at BCF, and I haven’t had one epidural.  I no longer suffer from crippling lumbar and radiating leg pain. I can now do a rope climb, something I had never been able to do (I was always the kid in gym class who jumped up onto the rope and counted it as an actual climb).  I can now eat dinner at a restaurant without standing up every five minutes. I watched the entirety of The Last Jedi in a movie theater without so much as a twinge of pain.

Soon I expect I’ll be able to do a double under…and then maybe even two of them in a row.  It’s very rewarding to be at peak form in the middle of your life and to continue to make breakthroughs almost every month.  Sure, I’ll never be the guy who hits the real heavy weights or who completes a working in just a few minutes. But training at Ballston CrossFit, with its high emphasis on completing exercises using correct form, and its high-caliber teachers who genuinely inspire you, is making me a better athlete.  And, in doing, so it’s making me enjoy a pain-free life – something that 10 years ago, I never would have thought possible.

 

23
Mar

Amy Schramm – Marathon PRs with CrossFit

I wanted to share my story which illustrates a 100% direct and irrefutable correlation with success in running marathons and Ballston CrossFit (BCF). At the five and 10-month marks, I’ve experienced two major “wins” in my life since joining BCF (and the CrossFit world together).
 
In 2008 I fell in love with the marathon road race (26.2 miles) and have run about one per year for the last decade. However, in 2013 I began to see a decline in progress with my finish times. It was a total buzzkill.
Here’s how it went: 
4:48 (2008)
4:15 (2009)
4:07 (2010)
4:01 (2011)
3:57 (2012). My current PR at the time. Only seeing improvement. Life is great 
4:12 (2013)
3:57 (2014) *missed a PR by six seconds this day
4:16 (2015)
4:05 (2015)
3:58 (2016)
Joined CrossFit in May 2017
3:51 (2017)
3:45 (2018)
 
It was a painful four years spending months and months of training (between 500-600 miles a training cycle) to continually miss my goals on marathon day. Though I loved this sport, I grew doubtful that I could not break through. I knew I needed a change.
 
Fast forward. I joined BCF in May 2017. Marathon training began about a week after I started heading to the Box about three times a week. At the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon, just five months after joining, I ran a 3:51:52. I couldn’t believe what happened that day. A five-and-a-half minute PR, when I would have been thrilled with a 30 second PR, or less. 
 
Fast forward again. March 10, 2018 at the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, 10 months after starting CrossFit. I completed the race in 3:45:45. An additional six-minutes off the PR I set five months prior. I am 100% certain that CrossFit played a major role in such large gains.
 
To say I’m beside myself is an understatement – I can’t thank you and the BCF Coaches (and former teammates) enough for the great programming, support, and motivation to help me reach these new milestones in the marathon. It is only making me hungry for more progress, both in the gym and on the road.
 

23
Mar

The Fittest Mommas in Arlington!

Waddle + WOD = Happy Mommas
Meet 3 BCF first-time moms who didn’t put the barbell down while pregnant, they just modified!
Heather Swietlik

  • Kiddo: Max (15mo)
  • Years cross fitting prior to pregnancy: 3.5 years, Fx most WODs, some Rx
  • Things to note:  
    • Had a smooth pregnancy and delivery
    • Throughout my pregnancy I was able to continue CrossFit, making modifications when necessary
    • I was cleared to come back to CrossFit 4 weeks after having Max, which surprised me! My doctor said listen to your body and ease back into things.
    • I was amazed at my muscle memory!

EB Srygley

  • Kiddo: Jackson (9mo)
  • Years or CrossFit prior to pregnancy: 3 years, Fx most WODs, some Rx
  • Things to note:
    • I had major pelvic bone movement during pregnancy
    • Had a Murph Birth (went labor the evening of Memorial Day, after doing pregnant lady modified version of a CrossFit “hero” workout named Murph)
    • Experienced contractions/Braxton hicks starting 4 days before birth. had a very fast hospital labor – 2.5hrs!
    • Had an emergency C-section due to the umbilical cord being wrapped around baby
    • Felt post-partum optimism and excitement
    • Did not return to BCF for over 10 weeks
    • Did a beginner level competition 5 months post-partum (very slowly!) and looking to do an Rx competition in May 2018!

 
Calli Stoll

  • Kiddo: Harper (7mo)
  • Years cross fitting prior to pregnancy: 5 years, Rx most WODs
  • Things to note:
    • Worked out until the day I went into labor
    • I was almost 2 weeks late delivering, Harper took her time
    • Lost the majority of my baby weight by the time I came home from the hospital
    • Lost quite a bit of muscle and strength, but it is coming back quickly
    • Made my way back to BCF at 4 weeks – yoyo’d back into things
    • After just a few months, now feeling full strength and capability again in the gym

CrossFitting while pregnant is a very personal journey. As most doctors will tell you, do not start anything new once you are pregnant, that includes CrossFit, but, if you’ve been CrossFitting prior to pregnancy there is no reason not to continue (there are a few exceptions). In fact, for us, BCF was a great home to bond with other pregnant/post-partum moms, get advice, feel encouraged, and feel healthy while pregnant. Now that we are Moms, BCF has been very supportive by modifying movements, encouraging us, and welcoming our little ones into the BCF family! Women have been preg

nant and physically active for thousands of years, the key is to know your body, listen to your body, and do what you think is best – the female body is AMAZING!

What was the highlight of CrossFitting while pregnant/post pregnancy?

  • Heather: While pregnant- being able to stay active/keep moving! I really enjoy working out, so being able to work out throughout my pregnancy helped me mentally and physically. Post pregnancy- feeling stronger! While it took a while to get back into a rhythm, I quickly started feeling stronger than I’d felt before pregnancy. I recently did the benchmark workout, “Fran” and beat my previous (pre-baby) time by over one minute!
  • EB: Feeling good mentally – I hear a ton about post-partum depression and anxiety, I believe working out while pregnant, and setting goals to get back into BCF helped my mental state immensely!! Other random highlights: still doing double-unders and handstands in my 3rd Trimester – for whatever reason they didn’t bother me. Also, the day I told Head Coach Tucker I was pregnant and he replied “I’ve suspected for a while” probably because I was insanely slow.
  • Calli: Getting out of the house and into the gym gives me the sense of freedom, strength, and happiness I need to be a good mom.  I love bringing Harper along, anyone and everyone will offer to hold your baby, so if you can’t fly solo, you can always bring your sidekick along; it could be the start of a great bonding opportunity for the two of you!

What was most challenging?

  • Heather: The first few months back at the gym were hard for me. First, I wanted to jump right back into things, but obviously my body needed time. It was frustrating when I felt tired or winded from a work out. It was hard finding the time to make it to the gym! I set a goal of 4 times per week. husband and I (coach Justin) created a schedule that would allow us both to make it to the gym without sacrificing too much time away from Max. I quickly realized sleep and the gym beat out TV time!
  • EB: C-section recovery sucks! I hated not being able to do anything for 6+ weeks. 4th Trimester is a real thing and was a very difficult time for me physically – harder than CrossFitting while pregnant. It was hard not being consistent – I missed CrossFit & BCF friends. It’s still a difficult balance finding time to WOD and be a mom.
  • Calli: There were times when I struggled to show up to a sport that I love because I was too tired, too slow, too uncomfortable, too frustrated, too blah, blah, blah, blah. I would say one of the biggest challenges I’ve experienced as a new mom is finding the time to consistently workout.  When I’m not working, I want to spend as much time with Harper as possible… and let me tell you, Mom guilt is the real deal.  Unless my baby is sleeping (and sometimes even then) I experience feelings of guilt, shame, sadness, and overall like I’m going to miss some major milestone when I leave her.

What are your current goals?

  • Heather: Get to the gym 4 times per week. Keeping track of how many days I make it to the gym each week is a mental motivator for me.
  • EB: to get in a routine of working out at least 3 classes/week.
  • Calli: To set a goal and accomplish it! Right now I’m just trying to get into the gym and move.
  • Heather: Get my ring muscle ups back (which I just accomplished after this was written!)! Before pregnancy I was able to do both bar and ring muscle ups. I got bar muscle ups back relatively quickly (I think because I continued to do pull ups throughout pregnancy), but have struggled with ring muscle ups.
  • EB: Rx a competition by Jackson’s 1st Birthday!

 

What advice would you give to other pregnant Crossfitters?

  • Heather: You can always modify a movement. The BCF coaching staff helped immensely with this. The biggest modification I made during pregnancy was shortening my rounds/reps in a workout. Listen to your body! You should be able to have a conversation in between movements. This is how I gauged whether I was pushing myself too hard.
  • EB: Tell your coaches early (don’t worry they are good at keeping is a secret) and do research, there are tons of ways to adapt and modify.
  • Calli: Just show up and move.  Do whatever you feel you can (and your doctor will allow).  Listen to your body, but know it is capable of more than you could ever imagine.  You’ve helped to create, grow, and have/will birth a human!  There will also be days when you feel motivated, determined, capable, and both physically and mentally strong, because you are!  My advice on these days, enjoy and crush it!
  • Heather: Set reasonable goals for yourself. This helped me stay focused and push through, even when I wanted to quit.
  • EB: DO NOT go all out! I see women get competitive while pregnant and it makes me cringe. Your body is doing the biggest WOD of its life – creating a baby!
  • Heather: Track your workouts! I tracked everything in an app called MyWOD. This allowed me to see progress during and after pregnancy. I quickly built back my strength, however getting my cardio level back took about 6 months.
  • EB: Give yourself grace, it took your body 9 months to make a baby – it will take it 9 months to recover. Don’t expect to be back at CrossFit right away and defiantly don’t expect to be back at your old endurance/strength/skill level.
  • Heather: post pregnancy: set a goal to attend the gym 4 days per week, even if it is just to stretch. I gave myself 4-6 weeks to slowly transition back before I “pushed myself.” The BCF coaching staff welcomed me back post baby and continued to help modify movements and workouts those first few weeks back. Movements I didn’t work on during pregnancy like sit-ups, I couldn’t do 4 weeks postpartum, but movements I worked on throughout my pregnancy (pull ups) I could still do!
  • Calli: Don’t be so hard on yourself.  You need (and deserve) to do things for yourself in order to be the best dang mama you can be which for me includes getting into the gym to throw around some weight … and if all else fails… drink wine!

We are very excited to still be CrossFitting, achieving new goals, and passing the love of exercise onto our babies! If you’re an expecting momma, flag us down – we would love to answer any questions!

8
Aug

Cory Iselin


Throughout high school I was always playing either soccer or basketball competitively, and then when I got to college I continued playing intramural soccer.  I never really lifted weights or went to the gym, I just figured playing sports and going for runs would keep be in good enough shape.  After college I found myself with less and less time to play sports and would just go on an occasional run or two each week.  In 2014 I decided to train for a marathon, but during training ended up hurting my IT band and had to postpone the race until 2015.  During the marathon in 2015 I injured my IT band again and had to pull out of the race at the 14 mile mark.  From then on my legs wouldn’t cooperate and would only allow me to run 1 maybe 2 miles at a time without any pain or discomfort.  Due to this pain/discomfort I started to go on fewer and fewer runs.
In January this year both myself and my father decided to challenge each other to see who could lose more weight in the first three months of the year, mostly due to the fact that we were both the heaviest we had ever weighed (right at 200lbs).  As I started to create some kind of self-made diet and exercise plan from different things I had seen on the internet, I saw an advertisement for the BCF New You 6 week program.  I figured I might as well try it out and see how it works since I was sure the people running the program knew far more about weight training and nutrition than I did.
I had heard how CrossFit was like a cult and how the people could be very serious and standoffish.  I quickly learned that this wasn’t the case at BCF.  Everyone was very welcoming and open to helping someone who was new to Olympic lifting (or lifting free weights in general) like me out whenever possible.  The Coaches were very engaging and encouraging throughout the strength training and WODs; they didn’t just tell you 
the workout and then go sit behind the desk.  It made the workouts bearable because I wasn’t struggling to figure out what I was supposed to be doing because they were there to actually coach me through them.
After  the new you program I had lost about 10 pounds, and thought to myself that if I could lose that in 6 weeks I wonder what I could lose if I came for 3 months, so I signed up for a membership.  In the six total months (inclusive of new you) that I have been doing CrossFit I have lost a total of 40lbs (and am now the lightest I’ve been since high school) and gained strength, stamina and overall fitness.  I am now able to go for longer runs without pain or discomfort and just have an overall better quality of life.  I am a firm believer that the atmosphere you work in (in this case workout in) can make or break the work you are doing, and the atmosphere I found at BCF makes working out fun, interesting and challenging.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

19
Jan

Derek Ramsey-Aquino

DerekUntil I graduated from high school, I was a very active person. I played several different sports and generally spent my weekends doing something outdoors. After having to make the decision to drop out of college during the Great Recession and find a full-time job, I found it very difficult to keep with a fitness routine of some sort over several years. I was bored with doing the same things every time I would go to the gym, and my odd work schedule prevented me from maintaining a habit that involved being active on a regular basis.

 After years of becoming more and more sedentary, I ended up suffering from a major knee injury that required surgery to correct. I went through months of physical therapy to recover and then attempted to continue being active after ending my PT sessions. Again, I ran into problems maintaining a consistent fitness routine. I tried several different programs but would eventually get bored and quit over time.
Finally, after moving to the DC metro area for a new job and getting comfortable with my new surroundings, I decided that I had enough of being out of shape and gaining weight. I hit my highest weight at 345 lbs when I finally decided that I needed to do something to turn things around. I walked by Ballston Crossfit many times and one day made the commitment to join. I knew it would be a challenge but I was determined to stick with it.
My first day of foundations was terrible. I could barely make it through the warm up routine without feeling extremely winded. I struggled to make it back to my apartment after every session. But I kept coming back because of the sense of community that I felt as well as the extremely supportive coaching staff at BCF.
It has been seven months since foundations, and I am amazed at the progress I have made. I have lost 50 lbs, increased my strength much faster than I thought possible, and I complete workouts without having to scale as significantly I as did when I started. In one of my happiest moments since joining BCF, I completed my first Rx workout a few weeks ago, and since then I’ve Rx’ed a few more workouts. Many athletes are able to complete workouts much faster than I can, but for me, being able to make it through these workouts occasionally without scaling is something I am most proud of.
I have noticed a big change in my mental health as well. I have more confidence at work which has led to better productivity. I have also become more social and more willing to interact with people. My ability to handle stress has improved tremendously. On top of all of that, I finally feel like I am making progress on goals that I have put off for so long.
I know that because of the coaches and community at BCF that I will achieve many goals this month. Had I not joined and committed to being a part of the BCF community, I doubt that I would have made as much progress as I have so far.

3
Jan

Liz Meserve Testimonial

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24
Dec

Kelly Barber

 
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Embracing fitness was without question the best change I made for myself in 2016. I recently passed the one year mark of starting Crossfit (my first foundations class was on 11/9) and while I wish I had done some things differently, I’m proud of the modest progress I’ve made so far and I’m in awe of the residual effects on my mental health.Growing up, I mostly did individualized sports: tae kwon do, gymnastics, diving, swimming, and flying trapeze. I preferred refined activities that required flexibility, grace, technical precision, and body awareness. To this day, I don’t think anything has been more satisfying than doing back flips or more exhilarating than a successful catch in a flying trapeze show, punctuated by the crowd’s roar.
As is unfortunately common, I picked up unhealthy habits when I went to college and fell into four years of lazy indulgence. Once in a blue moon I would do yoga with a friend or go rock climbing, but exercise was no longer a part of my normal routine. My senior year it dawned on me that I was about to lose free access to a 140,000 square foot state of the art fitness complex I had hardly touched. I started taking classes 3-4 times a week: pilates, total body, cycle. My main motivation was cosmetic; I was at my fattest and pastiest and wanted to do something about it. I measured success solely in how toned my legs and stomach looked. My experience with exercise was about as superficial as most college relationships.
In 2014 I moved to D.C. and told myself that all of the walking and stair climbing I was doing counted as exercise. By the time I joined Crossfit in 2015, I was as out of shape as I’d ever been. Dan encouraged me to take a foundations class at Ballston Crossfit and I did, since I liked the idea of utilizing personalized coaching and a group setting to learn how to weightlift. I’d never lifted a barbell in my life, except for one embarrassing experience in college when I tried to do a back squat and immediately fell on my butt, before exiting the gym as fast as humanly possible.
I was hooked from the start due to the constantly varied programming (combining cardio, gymnastics, and lifting) and the ambitious, inspiring culture fostered by the BCF members and coaches. The strength training and skill building sessions gave me the technical challenges I’d always loved in individualized sports and the signature short WODs (workout of the day) tricked me into enjoying cardio and allowed me to tap into a whole new level of sustained, intense focus.
In a year, I went from being completely incapable of a single knee raise to doing toes to bar. I learned to do double unders, rope climbs, scaled handstand push ups, and heavy, unbroken sets of wall ball shots and kettlebell swings. I can run farther and faster than I ever have before. I can strict press 70 lbs, deadlift 175, back squat 150, squat clean 110, snatch 70+, and clean and jerk 105, all big improvements from my meager lifts this time last year. And perhaps most importantly, I’m a much better arm wrestler.
For the first time in my life, I feel strong. Now that I know what a deeply empowering experience that is, I can’t believe our society has largely abandoned physical strength as the baseline for personal development. It pains me to think about how few women in particular take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity to boost their confidence and improve their lives. Lord knows I wish I’d had Crossfit when I was an awkward, miserable thirteen year old with body issues.
But the most dramatic evolution Crossfit has made in my life isn’t the physical feats or even the self-confidence, it’s the changes to my mental health.
When I first started to take control of my own life in high school, I identified obsessive, perfectionist tendencies in myself and acknowledged that I’d probably always be fighting to keep those characteristics in check. I still remember the day I first shifted my mindset by realigning my priorities and expectations. As a result, I became a more relaxed person, someone who lived more in the moment and didn’t overthink things or worry unnecessarily quite as much. It was easy to maintain this perspective while living inside the enclosed safe space that is college. But after entering the real world, I gradually felt myself losing those traits I’d carefully collected and with them, part of my chosen identity.
Most of the anxiety and stress that resulted began to manifest itself in my professional life. I developed a dysfunctional, obsessive relationship with work that launched me into a downward spiral and caused me to dissolve into tears in my boss’s office more than once. My behavior was sustained because part of me thrived in the comfortable familiarity of constantly throwing myself at task after task. Ticking off the check boxes wasn’t really providing me meaning but it gave me quick, addicting fixes of fleeting satisfaction. I fed that part of myself by staying endlessly busy, causing it to grow in power and size until it choked out the rest of me.
During that time, I started Crossfit and it quickly became my form of therapy. After furiously typing away at my keyboard for nine hours nonstop except to scarf down lunch, I would force myself to go to the gym. It seemed magical: I would enter the gym a zombie and would leave energized and full of life. And the best part was that it was 100% effective.
Crossfit became my refuge of meditation where I didn’t think at all. All I had to do was show up and do the proscribed programming, usually scaled down. Each time I gave the workout my all, but I didn’t spend any time outside of the gym setting goals. Crossfit was my space for anti-obsession.
As a result, it ended up being the place where I learned to develop real self-control. In the middle of a workout when I realized everyone else was way ahead of me and I felt myself start to despair, I would dial into the reason I was there in the first place and would renew my focus on my individual journey, letting go of the fear of being last. Or, when I was on the verge of giving up during a particularly tough movement or run, I would talk myself into continuing, latching onto whatever dumb thing came to mind to give me the motivation I needed to keep going.
These acts of mental gymnastics allowed me to exercise my ability to shape my own path through conscious decisions during emotionally taxing moments. Working out has helped reprogram my neurological pathways in ways that affect all other areas of my life. Just last night when I felt creeping anxiety and stress, I was able to hold the sensations at bay by simply recognizing the feeling and making the choice to relax and have a good time instead. It wasn’t easy — just like during a brutal workout, I had to keep recommitting to my decision, but it got easier as the night went on.
I used to think behaving obsessively was a sign that I was too controlling. Crossfit has helped me develop the self-awareness I needed in order to realize that it’s actually a sign that I’m allowing myself to be controlled by negative emotions and that I need to dial back into my sense of inner peace and purpose so I can live ambitiously in a healthy way. I’m still a novice both physically and mentally, but I’m grateful for how much I’ve learned already and for how much is still in store.
 

9
May

Judi Clary

I’ve been a “runner” since 2007, when I realized my “freshman 15” had become “graduation 30.”  Not only did running help me lose fat, but it became my stress relief.  Unfortunately, in 2011, I began having knee pain that limited my runs to under 2 miles.  I tried other cardio, but it wasn’t the same.
I had to do something to stay in shape and keep from going “JUDI SMASH” so decided on weight lifting.  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but was afraid of injuries. My first personal trainer got my endurance back up, but failed to push me or actually have me lift weights.  I eventually changed gyms and got a different trainer.  He showed me how to lift weights, but I knew my form was wrong because my knees and shoulders would hurt.
Finally, after months of sadness and gaining weight, I decided to look in to crossfit.  After doing some research, the box with the best reviews was literally right outside my apartment.  From the first week of Foundations, I knew I had found my fitness home.  The work outs were great, form was always stressed, and it was like a little athletic family.
Two months later I got back in to running, since the knee had been holding up during run WODs.  One day on a leisurely run, I checked my watch and stopped in my tracks.  3.5 miles!! I hadn’t run that far without pain in years.
Now, almost two years later, I’ve never had a recurrence of knee pain.  I was even able to complete the Army Navy Half Marathon with another crossfitter.
I will forever be grateful to the coaches for always pushing me to do my best, in a safe manner.  I’ve never been more happy with my body and plan to keep making improvements.Judi