After car accident Wasilla woman turns to full-body exercise trend
Jennifer Hoffman of Wasilla struggled to stay alive after a serious car crash left her fighting to breath. “I’m an asthmatic so breathing has always been a challenge for me but then when I was in the car accident I injured my diaphragm and it got so bad I could barely breathe. It was horrible.”
Hoffman has a super active family and was suddenly finding herself left behind.
“I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs let alone climb a mountain with my husband and kids,” she said. “I was a wreck.”
Hoffman’s son has been attending Denali Gymnastics since he was 4 (he’s 11 now) so Hoffman spent a lot of time waiting for him at the gym. When owner Lynn Reynolds became a certified Crossfit affiliate and started offering Crossfit classes, Hoffman became intrigued with the program.
“I’d heard about Crossfit but I really didn’t think I’d ever be able to do it,” she said. “One day I got brave and went to Lynn and said, ‘I don’t know what you can do with me but I’m literally dying here so I have to try and do something.’ ”
Reynolds was not intimidated by Hoffman’s condition or the challenge. He believes that if you’re alive and can breathe and move at all, he can help you.
“Crossfit is about functional fitness,” he explains. “It’s about getting the body moving in a way that strengthens and improves health so that every day movements are easier and pain free.”
For Hoffman it started slow.
“The first day I went to the Crossfit class, I looked at the Work Out of the Day (WOD) Lynn had written on the board and said, ‘There is no way I’ll ever be able to do that,’ ” Hoffman said. “But Lynn assured me I didn’t need to worry about what was on that board. He said he would work with me and everything would be scaled to my ability. I figured there was no way this was going to work but he kept assuring me I would get there. All I had to do was show up and try.”
That was two years ago. Hoffman started coming to the gym two days a week and remembers that when she started she couldn’t hang from a bar, let alone pull up her body weight. But she didn’t give up. She continued to come in and make an effort.
“During the class I’d watch most of the others go through the regular Crossfit workout while I did my own thing. Sometimes I would just stretch or do very simple versions of the exercises. I was surprised that over time, little by little, I began to have more energy, stamina and strength. I was moving easier and breathing better.”
Hoffman increased her workouts to three days a week and then gradually, to five days. The transformation has amazed her family and many of her friends.
“For the first time in 16 years, I was able to hike to the lake in Hatcher Pass this summer and actually climb the mountain with my family. It’s amazing. I can’t believe how good I feel now. When I see people I haven’t seen in awhile they are amazed at the change and want to know what’s happened to me. When I tell them Crossfit, it’s funny because a lot of them look horrified and say, ‘Oh, I could never do that.’ But I was like that. I couldn’t do any of this. Now I’m actually able to do most of the WOD. I’m doing things that surprise me. I can’t believe how good I feel. I’m defying age and gravity. It’s awesome.”
Reynolds wants people to let go of any stereotypes they might have about this fitness trend.
“You don’t need to be an athlete to do Crossfit,” he said. “You may have seen this on television as a competitive sport but you don’t have to do that. It’s your workout and it has to work for you. All you have to do to be successful is show up and try. We can help you with the rest.”
Linda Brandon, a State Farm Insurance agent in Wasilla, agrees. She drove past the gym every day for years but had never stopped in until friends and co-workers touted their benefits from going.
“I saw how well they were doing and I wanted that for myself,” said Brandon. “I’m 61 years old and my shoulders would freeze up from working on a computer for eight to 10 hours a day to the point I couldn’t put my hands over my head. If I dropped something on the ground, I might be able to get down to pick it up, but I couldn’t get back up.”
Brandon said during her first day at the gym, just six months ago, she couldn’t lift her arms overhead or squat.
“Now not only can I put my hands over my head, now I can hang from a bar and hold my body weight. Plus I’m dead lifting a 17-pound bar. It’s tremendous. I’m sure I’ll do Crossfit for the rest of my life now,” Brandon said. “It’s just so incredible from where I started and where I am now in such a short period of time. After working 10 to 12 hours a day, I can show up at the gym exhausted but by the end of the warm-up, my mind feels happy and my body feels amazing.”
Before you decide to start Crossfit, be sure you check the philosophy, safety record and credentials of the gym you plan to attend. Make sure you are healthy enough for physical activity and be prepared to take it slow and focus on completing the exercises properly, even if that means only doing one.
Getting started and committing to try is all that’s required for that first step to a life of energy and fitness.
Debra McGhan began Crossfit at Denali Crossfit after rehabilitating from a hip injury. She has been hooked ever since. To learn more visit urocksafety.com or check out your local Crossfit gym.