Inspire (verb): to make (someone) want to do something lto give (someone) an idea about what to do or create; to cause (something) to happen or be created; to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion)
What inspires you?
Think about that for a moment.
What gets you going? Motivated? Makes you want to be a better person?
This past weekend, I was inspired.
I had the opportunity to go back to my old stomping grounds in Miami, Florida to work with the media team at the 4th annual Wodapalooza Fitness Festival—covering all angles of the local competition alongside my ‘community’’—my CrossFit family, from all around the world. This was my 3rd Wodapalooza in Miami, and while it may seem like just ‘another competition’ or weekend event, it honestly was so much more. There is nothing quite like the CrossFit community—sometimes thought of perhaps as a ‘cult’ by others who have just heard heresay about it, the community truly is a family—people who genuinely care about and support one another. At no other competition will you see athletes cheer one another on, within the same heat, and spectators and athletes unite as if they were life long friends. Aside from the awesome community aspect as well, the cool thing about CrossFitters is that they are just cool people—people who live by the motto, ‘do what you love, love what you do,’ never settle, never quit, dig deep, and tap into the amazing power of the mind.
Now, on the tails of the jam-packed, 13-14 hour long days over the weekend, I feel like a 7th grader who just got back from youth group camp(ie. Pumped and inspired).
While many of the feats that the athletes accomplished were amazing over the course of three days, I was particularly inspired by 15 athletes in particular—the athletes who competed in the first-ever Adaptive Athlete Division.
One guy-Joe, a military veteran, cleaned a 225 lbs. barbell with no hands! And Luke Ericson, who was missing his entire left arm and shoulder assembly, had an under developed left lung, and severe scoliosis, cleaned 145 lbs! (Maybe ONE day, I will too).
And that was just two of many, many feats accomplished as the crowd cheered them on over the course of the three-day competition.
It was so great to see one girl, in particular, who I’ve come to know more and more as a friend over the past couple years: Steph Hammerman.
Don’t know her?
Best known within the CrossFit community as the first athlete with Cerebral Palsy to take on the sport, as well as become Level 2 Coaching Certified, Steph is simply put: An inspiration.
“The doctors told my parents when I was born, they should name me within the first few hours, because I probably wouldn’t live long; and when I did live past birth, they told my parents I’d probably not be able to speak, read or write in my life. My parents refused to believe that, and, now at almost 25-years-old, I can do all of those things today just fine,” Steph said.
And not only, speak, read or write, but Steph is a pioneer in what is being called: The Adaptive Athlete Movement.
(Check out this video and this video to see more on Steph).
As an occupational therapist, trained in working with persons who have various disabilities, and an avid CrossFitter and CrossFit coach, I could not be more excited to see this movement coming alive—particularly for the naysayers who told me, throughout my schooling and clinical work that things like CrossFit were ‘crazy’ for a population that was wheelchair bound or challenged physically.
“We are not made of porcelain. We won’t break,” Kevin Ogar, another pioneer athlete in the adaptive movement, said during an educational workshop he and Steph led during the weekend in Miami.
Here, Steph shares a few insights of inspiration for all—ultimately, raising the question for all: What would you do if you knew you could NOT fail? You’d get after it!
Q. For those who don’t know, explain exactly what Cerebral Palsy is?
Steph: CP is something that developed shortly after birth, I was born 3 months premature which led to me losing a significant amount of oxygen and blood. In my case it was like I had a small stroke, which led to impaired motor functions. In simple term I tell people that the messages to my brain from the rest of my body don’t always listen and respond as fast as I would like them to.
Q. You really were told you wouldn’t live past babyhood? How has CP affected your life—in positive and challenging ways, and how has it grown you as a person?
Steph: Well, they weren’t quite sure. I was only 1lb, 15 oz shortly after birth so they knew there were going to be complications, but they didn’t know what. Some doctors even told my family to prepare for a life where I may never read, speak or write, but as I got older those accusations would soon be proven false. I was talking by the time I was 2-3 and haven’t really shut up since.
People often ask me, if I had the chance to change having been born with CP would I? Sure it would be nice to maybe move a little faster or jump a little higher, but I don’t let myself think about that too often. This is who I am and there is nothing I can do to change it so, I have to live the best and most fulfilling way I know how to despite the challenges that come with the territory.
Q. How did you find CrossFit and how did you really get into it—to even try it out?
Steph: It’s hard to believe I found CrossFit almost three years ago! I started it right before I graduated college, and my main reason for starting was simply to change up my fitness routine, but like any seasoned CrossFitter knows, once you start you cannot stop. Did I ever think CrossFit would help unveil my life’s passion? Absolutely not, but it did and now there’s no turning back.
Q. What have you learned about yourself and your abilities through something like CrossFit?
Steph: I have learned that the human body is so much stronger than people perceive it to be. Our brains are powerful tools and our bodies will do as our brains say, but we have to be willing to believe in ourselves and our capabilities in order to see real results.
Q. You are a pioneer in the Adaptive Athlete movement—what are your visions and plans for this?
Steph: Being a pioneer is a serious title that comes with great responsibility, but I wear it proudly. The plan is to keep doing what we are doing. Social media is another powerful tool and by putting fear to the wayside and allowing yourself to be venerable for thousands of people, in the end someone else will be affected, and their fitness journey will begin.
I will always be able to say I was the first with CP, but the special part about it is that I know I am not the last. This movement is growing so quickly and I’m just honored to know that we are being seen, heard and respected around the world. Change evolves from opportunity and I along with many others are making the most of this opportunity.
Q. What or who inspires you in your daily life to be a better person, athlete and do things that may seem difficult or challenging?
Steph: There are a few things: (1.) The non-believers, or those who doubt and have fear of me accomplishing something so physically demanding; and (2.) the people who are no longer on this earth and not able to live out their dreams of being an athlete. I have always had a strong personality and believed that I was going to live a full life, but it wasn’t until I was shaken by the passing of a childhood friend that I really began to live my life with a certain purpose.
I am smart enough to know that realistically there are some tasks I will never be able to accomplish due to the physical nature, but that doesn’t take a way the value of hard work. No matter what weights you choose to play with, in this game, your effort should always be “RX.”