Dark Horse 2013

Dark Horse 2013

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Cheers to Change

The countdown to 2014 has come. 2 and a half minutes on the clock. 3 more muscle ups. 2 minutes left of the year 2013. Six, 55 pound one arm dumbbell snatches. 45 seconds left on the clock, 9 burpee box jumps. 10 seconds left until the new year...one more muscle up.

After completing a 10 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 3 muscle ups, 6 one arm 55 pound dumbbell snatches, and 9 burpee box jumps, we were ready to toast the new year with some champagne. As we drank, exchanged sweaty hugs, and cheered one another with a "Happy New Year", I took a glance back at what had just occurred.

Some fellow crossfitters and I had just rang in year 2014 with multiple, sweat filled, heart pounding workouts. My friends and I got to Crossfit CenterMass around 10:30pm and worked out with quite a few others who were ready to end (and start) the year right. We endured the hardship of these workouts while also fighting sleep, but that was all part of the fun ;)
After the workout portion of the night was over, we all relaxed had a good time together. This collaboration allowed me to sit back with my champagne and reflect on this past year.

2013 was the most life changing year I have ever experienced. It was also, as a whole, the best year of my entire life.

I remember ringing in the year 2012 by sitting on a couch watching Ryan Seacrest make a fool out of himself in the cold and watching live pop music (mostly lip-sung and if it wasn't, they sounded terrible). I spent most of 2012 trying to find myself again after I lost one of my most important assets; my ability to climb. I remember grappling with this inability to perform something that had become such a basic function of mine. Climbing was my lifestyle and without it, I felt as if I was nothing. I remember beginning to change by finding crossfit and delving into better dieting. I researched reasons why this may have happened to me and how I could make it right. I started to branch out of my tiny climbing circle and developed new friendships. From these friendships I was able to learn the importance of patience and having an open mind. This allowed me to view the world from multiple perspectives and begin a new chapter of my life.

I rang in the year 2013 on top of one of the highest hills in Worcester. A few friends and I hiked about a mile so that we could watch the midnight fireworks. It was freezing outside and there was a few inches of snow on the ground. As we watched the fireworks we could feel the inspiration that this year would bring. After all, 13 is my lucky number. In the end, the number 13 did not disappoint. As I said before, this was the best year of my life.

I think 2013 was the greatest year of my life for two simple reasons: Change and Happiness. I made a lot of changes this past year and that ultimately led me to the greatest gift of all, happiness.

A year ago I could never have imagined the position that I am in. I am healthier than I have ever been in my entire life. No more rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. No more asthma. No more headaches, bloating, fatigue, brain fog, stomach pains, cold extremities, depression, sleep trouble, sinus infections, or any other ailment that I had. After starting the year seeing doctor after doctor and trying so many different restrictive diets, I finally found all of my answers and began doing something that worked. Not even in my wildest dreams have I ever felt as good as I do today.
On top of that I am at peace with myself. I am confident, collected and I also believe in myself. I can climb hard and crossfit hard, too. I even placed top 5 in multiple climbing and crossfit partner competitions! I had a multitude of opportunities that knocked at my door which included becoming a certified personal trainer, becoming a certified crossfit trainer, working with athletes and low wage demographics alike, attending mentorships, and being accepted to be a part of an athlete specific internship. On top of that I developed an adult climbing team program and coached multiple climbing teams, all while attending a full course load of school.

A year ago I would also not have imagined how strict of a diet I would have to adhere to in order to achieve all of these goals, or how much time I spend with an alternative medicine specialist to make my body healthy. Through this process I learned even more how important patience was. I also learned how to speak up for myself, my wants, my needs, and my feelings. I found out how important it was to have support and to give that support to others in return.
A year ago I would not have imagined that I would be in the same apartment, or even in the same school! I would not have been able to imagine all of the relationships that were built up and all of the ones that were broken down. I also would not have been able to imagine how many different emotions I was able to feel for all of this.

A year ago I would not have imagined how much I was able to grow from these experiences which has ultimately led to an unwavering amount of happiness. To truly find happiness is an unmatchable feeling. I have never been so proud and so incredibly content with myself and all of my choices. Through all of the thick and thin, I am thankful for everything that has happened this past year, It has shaped me to who I am today and that will ultimately bring a better tomorrow. 2012 was a tough year, but 2013 overly exceeded my expectations.

After looking back, I sipped some more champagne. If I am able to obtain this sense of happiness with just a little change, who's to know what will happen in 2014? 2013 will be a tough year to beat, but I cannot wait to try! Cheers to change and a Happy New Year to you all!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Success and Failure

Being successful. We all want it. We do not always get it.

Success is awesome. But what makes success awesome is the effort it took to get there. The million struggles, failures, falls. But no matter how hard we fall or how hard we fail, we get back up. We keep trying for that million and one try. Maybe this time it will be successful and when it is, the feeling is gold.

Throwback! DH 2010

I found that success exactly two weeks ago when I competed at the Dark Horse at Metrorock. I have been competing in this competition series since I was 17, through all of my ups and downs of climbing.

I went to this competition with no expectations. I had not climbed in a month because I have been so darn busy. I thought to myself, "all of the kids are going to beat me!" However, I was okay with that. I was okay with that because I knew that I had an entire day dedicated to climbing and that made me psyched. I got so psyched because I missed climbing and I absolutely love the sport. Through thick and thin I have held onto the sport and not let go.




With this thought process, I got this immense amount of intrinsic motivation to just climb. That allowed me to be successful. It distanced me from the actual competition and allowed me to interact with everyone. It allowed me to climb without feeling "jittery". It allowed me to not only climb hard, but do it with a smile on my face. I was able to use my competition as a way to enhance my personal performance. It got me to encourage others and make the competition experience so much more exciting.



I wound up placing 5th at the Dark Horse. I think that is pretty darn good and I am extremely proud. Did I win money? No, but neither did any kids ;)


That competition was the best competition I have ever had. It is a lower placement in comparison to my past, but that is not the point. The point is I felt happy the entire time. I enjoyed every second of the competition and regret nothing. I could feel the energy from the crowd in finals and I could feed off of that! I gave 110% the entire day and that is why I was successful. I satisfied my intrinsic needs and it showed in my climbing ability.



I guess in short what I am trying to say is, don't give up. Don't ever give up. Success will come and it will be worth everything you fought through to get to it.








Here is a little recap of the competition:


Monday, October 7, 2013

Things That I have Learned

Earlier this morning I was sitting in my 3rd floor apartment watching the leaves fall off the trees outside of my window. As I watched I caught myself thinking, "Wow, is it already fall". The seasons are changing, winter is coming closer. It is already getting darker earlier and the air is feeling cold again. As I look outside, I think about this past year and the change of the seasons. Change. Change is something that I have experienced more so in this past year than any other time in my life. My favorite part about change is that it gives you the opportunity to reflect and learn. In the past 365 days, I have learned a lot. So today I have decided to reflection these change and share some of it with you:


Without further ado, here is my list of Top 31 Things I have Learned in 365 Days:

1. Change can be difficult, but so can getting out of bed in the morning. Eventually you will stop hitting the snooze button.

2. Don't judge someone by a single action. That is like taking one lick of a tootsie pop and then judging how good the roll in the center tastes. (Mr. Owl taught me that it takes at least three licks to get to the roll in the center)

3. Competition was originally used to further enhance personal performance. So next time you look at the scoreboard think about what actually matters. Did the competition push you to play harder than you ever have? Then you have been successful.

4. Failure is good. It makes success that much sweeter. 

5a. Pain is a perception. 

5b. However people feel pain on very different levels. What might be a 2 for you could be a 7 for someone else. Pain is still pain and should not be ignored. 

6. Listen to your body. If you don't hear anything, maybe it is time to stop and pay attention. Your body could be drowning. 

7. You can never get enough mobility. Floss on. 

8a. Correct technique is the key to injury prevention.

8b. Correct technique will get you farther than pure strength. 

9. Slow and steady wins the race. Go at your own pace, not someone else's. 

10. Your legs are just as important as your arms. Do some squats (ahem, climbers)

11a. You only get stronger on your rest days. 

11b. If you get too bored on rest days, try active resting. Like yoga. Yoga is amazing for all ages and genders. Your core will thank you. 

12. Lifting weights will not always give you bulk. Bulk depends on many factors including (but not limited to) the way the weights are being lifted, how much weight, frequency of lifts, genetic predisposition, gender, age, and caloric expenditure. 

13. It is important to work on antagonist (opposing) muscles. The body will perform better when it is in balance. 

14. Challenge yourself. Life is more fun that way.

15. Think outside of the box. 

16. Dare to do things that people say you cannot do.

17. If you aren't sweating, you aren't working hard enough.

18. Set reasonable goals. 

19. It is not a "diet", but rather a "lifestyle choice". Diets are temporary and can potentially be so strict that it is impossible to live by those standards forever. Find something that works, tweak it to fit you, integrate it into your life. 

20. Occasionally it is okay to give into that nagging craving. Give in, don't feel bad, move on with your life. 

21. The present will dictate the future. Be in the moment and make smart decisions. 

22. There is no such thing as normal. Even if there was, individuality is too special to give up. 

23a. It is important to have variety. Have a variety in activities and interests just like you would have a variety of vegetable colors.

23b. Yes, a variety of vegetable colors is a good thing; it keeps you more full and healthy.

24. Live. Laugh. Love. 

25. Friends are special. Keep them close. 

26a. When using google, grammar matters.

26b. Double check your sources. Don't be that guy who spreads around a false story and then looks like an idiot.

27. Get to know yourself. Learn your patters, likes, and dislikes. Become aware of your emotions. Work together with you body. Having this knowledge about yourself will help you reach your goals faster. 

28. Play on your strengths. Work on your weaknesses. There will always be one of each. 

29. Sometimes it really is just all in your head.

30. Enjoy the little things in life. Like the leaves falling from a tree. This can be very beautiful and very peaceful. 

31. Life does not always go as planned. It may throw you a curve ball that decides to take a hard right turn and hit you in the face. Enjoy that life has the ability to never be boring


Monday, September 2, 2013

Becoming Better


Never feel stuck. If you feel stuck then make some changes. 
It is your life, and you have the power to make the most out of it.

When you are not happy with your life, the world seems bleak. Bleakness is not a way to live, especially when life has so much to give. When I first got symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, I felt stuck. I looked at the big picture and could not find happiness. Sometimes, even when you think you have it all figured out, things have to change.

So this past year I made a lot of changes.  My activity choices, diet, social life, the way I dress, the way I spend my time and my money. All changed. 

And what about climbing? 

Climbing is still very much a part of my life, but in a much different way. Before RA, I looked at the sport as in numbers, grades, excelling through competition placement, hard sends, and sponsorship. Don't get me wrong, these things are still great. I still love sending hard problems and I love getting recognition. 

But climbing means more to me now. I love teaching the sport to others, having them learn and dedicate themselves to the never ending battle of getting better. I love sharing the sport with others, getting everyone to enjoy climbing and feel happy about themselves. I appreciate climbing places for not only the difficulty of the climbs, but the scenery, the way my body moves on a climb, the rock texture, the people. Climbing has become a part of me, ingrained in the way I live my life, and I enjoy it for that purpose. It makes me feel at home. 

This year I have been able to really get to know myself. I have been able to accept the fact that I am very competitive. I have been able to accept that this void I feel can only be filled with competition, which is never ending. Being able to do a sport such as crossfit has allowed me to compete almost every day of my life, which makes me feel content. Being able to separate climbing from the competition of numbers also adds to the release I feel.

This knowledge has lead me to become so, incredibly strong. Much stronger than I ever was just training for climbing. I am stronger mentally, because I know myself so well. Stronger physically because I work hard everyday to keep myself content. I am also stronger technically because I am calm enough to focus on the value technique brings (Whether it be cooking at the right temperature, perfecting a power clean, or perfecting a drop knee). 

I look forward to this coming year. I can feel my success and it makes me want to never stop becoming better.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Big Changes


"The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are" 
- Morgan, John Pierpont

Six months ago I was sick. I had chronic headaches, muscle aches, joint aches, asthma, sluggishness, depression, sleepiness. Even though I was accomplishing things throughout my day, I still did not have enough energy to do all of the things that were on my mind. I had to take naps everyday to try and keep up with my schedule, a schedule I just wanted to pack more on. The more I tried to pack onto my schedule, the worse my symptoms got. 

However six months ago I had no idea that I even had these symptoms. Many of them I had lived with for so long, I just forgot that they were there. My rheumatoid arthritis pains I had associated with athletic injuries. My chronic headaches I associated with a busy schedule. My asthma I associated with me just not being fit enough (hah I know that sounds really funny).

"When you expect things to happen -- strangely enough -- they do happen." 
 - Morgan, John Pierpont

Over the past few months I have been a long and life changing journey. After being diagnosed with RA, I became very much aware that I was sick.Western medication and all the pills did absolutely nothing. 

In fact, it wasn't until my previous post at the beginning of this month that I finally saw changes in myself. The past month I have strictly adhered to my diet. Actually I am not going to call it a diet. I am going to call it a lifestyle change. The dietary change in my life has made me, at least when I strictly adhere to it, symptom free. 

I cannot even begin to explain how good it feels to not wake up without a headache. To wake up feeling like I actually got sleep. To wake up and hit the ground running with no coffee, sugar, or traditional breakfast foods. To workout and not be able to breathe because the workout is friggin hard, not because my lungs are inflamed. To be full after a meal full of green vegetables. To be able to say "no" to a piece of chocolate (that is a huge amount of will power, folks).

Now only to I feel better, but I look better. I get compliments about how my skin glows. My co-workers tell me that I smile more. My athletes realize that I actually do have eyes in the back of my head and can see them slacking off! Also, I have not taken a mid afternoon nap since the beginning of May! On top of that, I have had so much energy that I have been able to work out 5-6 days a week, up to three times a day! Not only can I workout hard, but I am injury free and have enough patience to actually stretch, practice yoga, and work on mobility almost everyday. 

This routine has been something I have wanted to accomplish for years. And in the past few weeks is the first time in my life where I finally can, and am well enough to look in the mirror and see my changes! 

Look for yourself!
January 2013

June 2013



I also have hit a bunch of new PR's in crossfit...

March:
Power Clean: 135lbs
Clean+Jerk: 125lbs
Power Snatch: 105lbs
Back Squat: 135lbs

June:
Power Clean: 160lbs
Clean+Jerk: 145lbs
Power Snatch: 125lbs
Back Squat: 155bs


I know that it might seem crazy that I love to workout as much as I do. The fact is, that it is just really fun for me. I love comparing myself, being competitive, setting goals, and feeling confident. 

Now that I have found I can do all of the things I dream about, I am just extremely excited to keep continuing with my lifestyle change and see where this new light at the end of the tunnel will take me.

"Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you'll be able to see farther." 
- Morgan, John Pierpont

Oh and one more thing...thank you all for your support! Since my last post, I have gotten some overwhelmingly awesome supporters. I felt a new drive to keep at it and now I have realized that I never want to turn back!













Saturday, June 8, 2013

Food For Thought

The other day I heard very disheartening but very true statement: "In the United States we have a disease management system, not a health care system" This statement made me think about the fast food, candy, soda, alcohol and the millions of dollars companies will put into advertising these products.

 These products are all hurting us. They are all causing disease. And the worst part is, no one really cares.

When it comes to not caring, I am one to blame. I have a track record of auto-immune diseases, illness, and injury; receiving my first auto-immune diagnosis when I was 16. How did I get this way? Well I am probably genetically predisposed to some of it, especially how my body reacts to food. Random food sensitivities aside, my main problem is sugar. That's right I admit it. I am addicted to sugar and it is killing me slowly.

For the most part, I would really like to be following my diet plan to a T. But sometimes it is just too hard.  Not only are the billions of dollars of food marketing weighing down on my unfulfilled stomach, so are broke college kid problems and societal pressures.

I may not go for that McDonalds burger that looks so good on the 10 billboards I just passed on the highway, but I could sure go for those skittles that are sitting right at the counter when paying for my gas.

With all of these pressures weighing down on me, it is very hard to keep a strict diet at all times. Even now that I understand the health risks and see a nutritionist, I only half-heartedly am following my diet plan. This is difficult because when I slip and eat badly, I feel badly and my symptoms come back. Then I just get frustrated because I did all of that strict diet work for nothing. THEN my friends and family think that I am frustrated at them, when really I just feel like crap again. So they will all go out without me because they feel that is the best way to go about things.

Actually as I write this, most of my friends are out at bars or eating fancy dinners. They will come home and they will tell me all about the fun that they had, wishing that I come and join them. This is the absolute worst. These people that are so close to me have no idea how badly I want to join them. I even do go out sometimes, letting my diet slip and then feeling shitty for a few days after. But no one understands how I really feel. So jokes are made about how I diet and how "I'm in good enough shape so it must just be all in my head".

Unfortunately this cycle starts and restarts over and over. It has been a constant battle of mine for the past year, and it is time for me to take a stand and stop it.

I need to somehow stop this cycle. Right now I am 20, and at the end on the summer I will be 21. I am currently taking 7 pills a day to manage my diseases. 7 pills at the age of 20......that scares the shit out of me! Where will I be at 30? 40? Will I even live to old age? Will I be well? Will I be happy??

Unfortunately these questions are ones that I feel like many of Americans are asking themselves. They have the same pressures and do not know where to turn for help.

Somehow I need to get away from this backwards health care system in the United States. I need to put my foot down and be strict with this diet stuff. Because in reality, it is the only light I can see at the end of my tunnel. If I want a drug-free life that I can live fully for years to come, I need to do this.

But in order for me to do this, I need some help. I need some self confidence in my ability to get better. In order to do that, I need to have friends and family that will fully support this change. Right now I don't feel fully supported, and it is extremely difficult for me to go about this diet without the fear of losing great relationships with people. I know that many others who have been dealt the same hand as me feel the same way.

So please, if you know someone who is trying to make a lifestyle change, give them your support. 

Even just confident statements and reassuring that you are behind them 100% are enough to keep them on the right track. I know that is all that I am looking for. No matter what it takes, I am still going to fight on. I am going to try my best to stay away from the pressures and to be fully committed to making my lifestyle health change.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Whole New Chapter Is Being Written

When I first began this blog, I never expected to write a new chapter. I saw myself as an up and coming professional climber and I saw this continuing throughout my life. I saw world cups, high rankings, breaking into the double digits of bouldering, and traveling. Every climbers dream. To be completely truthful, I still want to continue that chapter. 

There is about to be a whole new chapter in the life of Melissa. 

My last post was filled with questions. So many questions. And now, finally, I have an answer. A valid answer. An answer that makes sense. 
A couple of weeks ago a saw a rheumatologist. Just a week ago I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. RA is an auto-immune disease where your body attacks joints and organs, causing inflammation. Other effects come with RA, including extreme bouts of fatigue. 

From what my doctor and I have observed, it seems that my RA is mainly in my finger joints and lungs. That is why it is so difficult for me to climb or do crossfit. The RA has also caused me to have chronic tenosynovitis in my ring and middle fingers.

This is the answer that I have been searching for. It answers all of my questions. But is it true?
25% of rhuematoid arthritis patients will have negative test results and it seems that I am part of that 25%. However all of my symptoms match up with RA. So only time will tell if this is the correct diagnosis.

My doctor is having me take a pulmonary function test to see if the difficulty breathing is associated with RA or asthma, or both. I have also been put on medication that is supposed to relive my symptoms for RA. I should begin to feel the effects of this medication within a couple of months. It will take about 6 months for me to feel the full effect of the medicinal therapy. 

So will I ever be able to climb? Will I ever be able to be the climber that I want to be? Only time will tell. My doctor seems confident that I will be able to climb again with no pain.


My biggest question that I had answered:
Why was I able to climb hard during the fall and some of the winter? There are two reasons:
One: I sustained constant activity with my fingers and lungs. I climbed every other day and I did crossfit enough to satisfy my RA. As soon as a took more than three days off, I was in so much pain. So by sustaining the constant activity, I helped relieve some of the symptoms. 
Two: Quite simply, I relapsed. The disease was in a lull, not affecting me as much. After a stressful event and some time off (Nationals and the post national week) it flared up worse than ever. 


So today is the start of a new chapter. I am waiting for time to tell me what is next. While I am waiting, I am keeping up with crossfit, climbing, lifting, stretching. Just keeping some consistency. If the doctors are correct, my pain will be relived soon. So soon.