The Masters Division: An Origin Story

Back in the summer of 2015, I was 6 months into CrossFit and I was enjoying training. I had just watched the 2015 CrossFit Games. It fueled my desire to get fitter and stronger and it really helped me see female athletes look strong and healthy and I really wanted that for myself.  I was training five days a week and was working on my nutrition in relation to my fitness.

In August, I was out of town at a convention and throughout the weekend, I started experiencing cyclical tingles/tremors on the left side of my body. At the time, it was primarily in my hand and foot. At the time, I thought that it was stress. But when I got home, it didn’t go away. In fact, it got more intense.

Within a couple of weeks, the tremors got really intense and I decided to see a doctor about it because the pain was spreading. But I didn’t know what kind of doctor to see. I started with Patient First and the doctor that saw me said that the symptoms I was experiencing sounded like someone who had Multiple Sclerosis. I made a follow up appointment with my general physician who ordered blood tests to rule out a whole host of conditions. She also referred me to a neurologist who order MRIs on my brain because by this time I was also experiencing days where I couldn’t move at all, short term memory loss, temporary blackouts, and intermittent difficulties using correct words.

Clean and Jerk 65lbsDuring this time, I started doing research about the value of continuing fitness during health challenges. I had seen several CrossFit YouTube videos of people with various health challenges who still made room for fitness within their abilities each day. For many, continuing fitness lifted their spirits and it helped them improve other aspects of their health.  I wanted to work out, but some days I just couldn’t move. They days that I could move, I went to the gym in the morning while I had strength. Moving helped me get through part of the work day. But after sitting for hours on end at a desk, my joints felt like they were full of cement.

By December, I still didn’t have any relief and no answers. The MRI showed that I have lesions in my brain in an amount consistent with MS. But the shape of the lesions were not. The results of the spinal tap confirmed that I didn’t have MS. We did one more MRI on my back and neck and discovered that I have degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis in my back. I currently take medication to manage the occasional pain and get period massages to help manage pain.

Several things came out of that experience. I learned to be persistent with my medical care. I had to advocate for myself and really insist that all options be considered. I learned who was really in my corner. I had a couple of friends who went to doctor’s visits with me to ask questions that I didn’t think of and to describe the symptoms that I was having as they saw them. One friends drove down from New Jersey to take me in for a medical procedure and to make sure I had someone with me for the days following the procedure since I had very specific post-procedure instructions. One friend just came over and sat with me to help me deal with hard days. You get to know your community in these moments.

The other thing that emerged was this idea for the Masters Division. When I tried to find a repository of information for people in my age group who use fitness to regain their health. It was incredibly hard. Even though CrossFit media has videos with some older athletes, at the time, there was no central place to find articles or stories of how fitness has helped people over 35. And that’s when I knew that I needed to create the Masters Division. Initially, I wanted to curate content from various websites so that people could go to one central place for advice. But as my research and training grew, I knew that this could be so much more. Since the seed for the Masters Division was planted in 2016, the website has grown to be more than just a site with reposts of fun workouts and CrossFit Games interviews. It has grown into a place that supports masters in dealing with everyday life on their terms. 

You see, a master isn’t just someone who is over the age of 35. A master is someone who has a life, a family, a job, community service. Masters take care of themselves and others because that’s just what we do.

We’re grown ups and do grown up things. We don’t everything perfectly everyday. But we do what we can do to take care of ourselves so that we can be there for the folks we love. So that might mean getting up for the 6:30 am fitness class or doing a workout in the garage after work while the kids do their homework. We might not be able to meal prep 15 perfect Pinterest worthy meals each week… or maybe we can. We do what we can to make things work… because that’s what masters do!

Two characters from Captain Marvel walk to an airplane and one woman says, "about to show these boys how we do it."

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