September 20, 2012
The Diary of an Adaptive Athlete
By Stephanie M. Hammerman

I decided to go for it. What did I have to lose? Nothing. So, I went to my local CrossFit facility ...

Editor’s Note:

Stephanie Hammerman was a twin born three months premature, weighing 1 pound, 15 ounces and with a mild case of cerebral palsy (CP). CP is a result of the loss of oxygen to the brain causing it to affect motor skills. For Hammerman, certain messages sent from the brain to the rest of the body don’t connect as quickly. She is able to move around with crutches and uses a motorized wheelchair, allowing her to live completely independently. She is also able to drive with a van that has push-pull hand controls. The 22-year-old attends graduate school at Nova South Eastern University, studying college student affairs, and hopes to work as a residence director. Hammerman says she wants to be able to do everything her nine able-bodied siblings can do and is preparing for her next half and full marathons in hand cycling.


I am a young woman living with cerebral palsy, a physical disability diagnosed shortly after birth. From the day I was born, my family knew life was never going to be easy. I was going to encounter many challenges, but none would be too large to handle. I was to live my life like any other child and would learn to adapt to situations along the way.


As I grew, I began to realize that although I couldn’t move as quickly as everyone else around me, I was given many gifts. Intellectually, I developed like a child was supposed to, and as I got older it became apparent that my voice was going to be a tool to help bring about change. I come from a family where independence and perseverance are keys to success no matter your natural ability. So, there was no other choice than to believe in a bright future for myself.


This couldn’t be a more fitting theme for these last few years of my life. My sophomore year of college, I began to realize how important my health was. I was predominantly using my motorized wheelchair to keep up with my friends and our busy schedules that I had neglected getting up and walking as much as I used to. This led to things like weight gain, shortness of breath when I did choose to walk and, most of all, unhappiness. With the support of my family and my willingness to recognize that I needed help, I began working with a trainer.


This trainer was wonderful. He had a history of working with adaptive athletes, had patience and, most importantly, believed I would succeed. Having had tremendous success while working with him, I decided to find a sport of great caliber and work toward a goal. Later that year, I connected with a team of hand cyclists, Achilles International, and began racing competitively. Within a few short months of training, I was competing in my first full marathon.


This fitness bug had bitten me and the itch wouldn’t disappear. I was in the gym three times a week and on the bike five times a week, but I kept looking to do more. I had heard a little bit about the CrossFit lifestyle before speaking to a friend about it, but I had my reservations. Was this something I was going to be able to do? Would the coaches take me seriously? These were the kinds of questions running through my mind. I knew the answer was yes, but as an adaptive athlete, it can be a bit of a hit or miss situation when it comes to finding the proper coach who is willing to take the time to watch you progress and, ultimately, succeed.


After a few days of contemplating whether this was a good idea, I decided to go for it. What did I have to lose? Nothing. So, I went to my local CrossFit facility, asked to speak with the owner and asked for a few moments of his time. Those few moments turned into an hour-long conversation with Scott “Turbo” Lefferts of CrossFit Boca Raton. I held nothing back, explaining my intentions in detail while answering any further questions he had. I left that day feeling nervous. I wasn’t quite sure what I had gotten myself into, but I was so excited to find out.


I went home and began doing my “CrossFit homework” as I like to call it. I began looking at different workouts and seeing how I could adapt them. There were certain exercises I had to be OK with never being able to physically do. I am strong, but I am not Superwoman and my reality does involve physical limitations.


I moved to Davie, Fla., for school and have been working out at CrossFit Affliction with Heidi Bowser. After five months, the progress I have made has been incredible. CrossFit has given a real purpose to my workouts. I will go into a workout with intention of accomplishing it, and some days I come out accomplishing way more than that. Not only have I been feeling stronger physically, but also I truly believe this fitness regimen has helped me gain strength mentally, as well.


It is my hope that any and all athletes realize CrossFit is 100 percent adaptable. If you or someone you know is part of the adaptive community, it is important to remember to be extremely open and honest with the coaches. If and when you do so, it will make a world of difference in the transformations that can occur.


My personal desire for seeking a greater challenge is what began this whole journey. I am one of many athletes who choose to look at what’s possible rather than the impossible, and can now say with pride that much of my athletic successes are a reflection of the CrossFit lifestyle.


Until next time, 
The Simply Passion8 Athlete


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