Leah: CrossFit for Self-Love

Leah 1Leah is lovely. She has a warm smile and after a few minutes of talking to her, you have the feeling you’ve known her for years. Only when she starts to walk with slow, exaggerated steps do you realize there is something about her that’s out of the ordinary.

Leah has cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by an injury to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.

Although born three months premature, Leah doesn’t know the exact cause of the cerebral palsy that affects her lower body.

As a therapist for young children, she is often asked about her disability. It’s not always easy to explain why you’re different or why you’re unable to walk at a normal pace. “They ask what’s wrong with me. I tell them, and then they move on to something else,” Leah said.

“Kids are good like that.”

Even when you’re comfortable with who you are, there are times when you just need a safe place to be normal. Having cerebral palsy had always prevented Leah from making fitness part of her life. She enjoyed being active, but she found large gyms too overwhelming.

Leah and John

“There was just too much I couldn’t do,” she said. “I stuck out because I would have to do the movements differently than other people.”

Leah 3Then in October of 2013 she came across an article about Stephanie Hammerman, the first certified CrossFit trainer with cerebral palsy.

“I thought, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’” Leah said. So she emailed John Kennedy, the owner of CrossFit West Nashville, attached a link to Steph Hammerman’s article, and told him she wanted to try CrossFit.

John immediately invited Leah to attend CFWN’s CrossFit 101 class, which is an introduction to CrossFit, its philosophy and its movements. “I didn’t have any other goal than just wanting to be able to do it,” said Leah. “From the beginning I focused on what I could do, which was a lot because there are so many ways to modify.”

She was also surprised at how much she enjoyed working out in a group. “I love the support. And everyone has to scale the workout, so I’m no different than anyone else.”

Because of the tightness in her calves, Leah has trouble with squats and movements like box jumps. “The coaches show me how I can scale those things, and I can do them,” she said.

Her favorite movement? “Push ups. And I’m working on getting my pull up.”

It’s been nearly a year since Leah started CrossFit. With coaching and community, she has pushed herself past her initial expectations. Not only can she do CrossFit, she has found new strength within herself.

Self-love is a slow growing process and it’s unbelievable how much Crossfit has helped me love my body just the way it is while at the same time giving me the strength and confidence to push my body to what it is really capable of doing.” — Leah

Leah 2