How Did I Get Here

Growing up, my usual sports of choice were swimming and basketball. I always worked hard, but was never one of those naturally gifted athletes. I did it because it was fun and because the other alternative was being cooped up inside. Once I went to college, I found rowing. Rowing was really the first thing I found for which I had a natural aptitude. I was strong and had a decent anaerobic tolerance. Good enough to get started at least.

For four years it was up before sunrise, long training afternoons both on the erg and in the weight room, and countless weekends spent racing and training. By my junior year I had a 7:12 2000m time on the erg. That’s an average split of 1:48.5 per 500 meters. I had a 125 pound clean and that was considered to be pretty good by my teammates. Here’s the problem: I was miserable. I never saw myself as thin enough or fast enough to move up to the next tier of competition. As a result, I started cutting back on how much I ate.

Decrease calorie intake and increase output to lose weight, right? Initially I started losing weight, but eventually I hit a hard plateau and the weight loss slowed. I continued to decrease how much I was eating on a daily basis. At my lowest point, I was eating around 1000 calories a day while still training 20 plus hours per week. As a result I felt like I wasn’t good enough and was really tired of training so hard for what felt like no reason. By the end of my senior year, I was burned out.

What Kind of Athlete Do I Want To Be

After college I stopped working out regularly and ended up gaining about 25 pounds over the next three years without even realizing it. When I moved to Colorado in December of 2012 I thought everything was business as usual until I failed my first official weigh in at that command. For my job I am required to maintain certain weight and body composition standards at all times. I came home that day in tears and zero confidence, I had no idea how I had arrived where I was and knew it was time for a change. People I worked with previously talked about CrossFit and had always left me wanting to try it. Failing that weigh-in was was the push I needed to get in gear. After some online research, I chose a location, walked in the next day, and asked for help. I was so embarrassed.

During my on-ramp fundamentals course, I was pretty sure the coach was trying to kill me. I felt slow and frustrated, fully realizing just how far I’d slipped from what I used to be able to do. Thankfully there were coaches who took a genuine interest in helping me reach my goals. They were always there with an encouraging word whenever I needed it. Over the next six months I lost those 25 pounds. More importantly, I started to find a confidence I’d never before experienced.

I had found something else for which I had a knack. Pick up the heavy thing as fast as you can, then do it a couple (hundred) more times. I found a love for the grind. A love for those training sessions I knew were going to suck before they even started. More than anything, I found an athletic community who loved and supported me just the way I was. There was never “you’re not fast enough” or “you’re not strong enough”. That was a first for me.

Who I Am Now

Fast forward to 2017. I can’t pull a 7:12 2k anymore, but I can clean 200 pounds and have a 325 pound deadlift. My 500 meter repeats are not as fast as they used to be, but when I get off the erg I am able go right into doing something else despite how bad my quads hurt. Sometimes I still struggle with the urge to revert back to severe calorie cutting, but I don’t. I’m happy with who I am. Even on frustrating training days I’m still thankful for the chance to get to do something I genuinely love and that has given me so much over the years.

“No, I’m not the athlete I was then.
I’m different now. 
I’m the athlete I was always supposed to be!”

  •                                      – Vanessa Jansen




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