A Life Saved by CrossFit

April 24, 2014

Krystal Ramsden

Through CrossFit, for the first time in a long time, I felt my power and strength starting to return.

I just finished my first Open.

Like many people, I achieved PRs I never thought I would, got my first double-unders, first chest-to-bar pull-ups. And like many other people, the Open and my CrossFit experience have dramatically changed my life.

I joined CrossFit for the first time in 2011 at CrossFit Altitude. It was my birthday gift to myself and I instantly loved it. I was being abused at home, mostly emotionally and verbally, but sometimes physically. Through CrossFit, for the first time in a long time, I felt my power and strength starting to return.

The ability to achieve the impossible every morning gave me the boost I needed to survive the rest of my day. I once described why I loved it so much: “The great thing about CrossFit is even if everything goes south for the rest of the day you have still achieved something if you survived the WOD.” 

The changes in my physical strength and appearance empowered me to do something about my life. Unfortunately my husband also noticed the changes and began to put an end to it—first by being negative and critical. When that didn’t work, he stayed out all night and into the day, so I couldn't get to the gym in the morning. I often couldn't go to work either, because someone needed to be home with our young son. So, I was forced to give it up.

It took me down for a while, but then I started doing CrossFit-inspired workouts at home. While at CrossFit Altitude, the support and encouragement I had received from the coaches and the community began to restore my faith in humanity and undo the abusive programming I was receiving.

A few months later things escalated to a level where, after being assaulted, I had to get away. I literally ran barefoot through the snow to escape the violence. I honestly believe that without CrossFit I wouldn't have had the speed, balance, reflexes or confidence to pull that off.

After the assault I continued to workout at home. I used exercise to get through the stress of dealing with separation, court and legal battles. I got stronger all the time but was left with significant emotional scars, hyper-vigilance, fear of new people and situations, loud noises and crowded places. 

Having moved to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to be closer to family I was finally able to fit CrossFit into my life again. I joined Alchemy CrossFit at the end of January. I decided to jump right in and sign up for the Open and it was a great experience. Being instantly pulled into the community pulled me out of my self-imposed isolation. Having the coaches believe in me made me believe in myself. I was constantly surprising myself by doing what seemed impossible, and that made everything seem possible. 

I have been in the gym on many weekends working on skills and working though fears. In January, I couldn’t do front rack position because the weight of the bar on my neck caused flashbacks to hands on my throat. But I stood there in open gym, un-racking and re-racking, until one week it didn’t make me want to cry. The next time I didn’t zone out. And then, finally, by the time I got to 14.5, it didn’t even cross my mind.

I don’t jump when people drop bars anymore and it makes me less jumpy everywhere else. Now the box is my happy place—sometimes it’s a place to hide out and lift things until whatever is stressing me goes away. And it’s always a community where I feel safe, supported and empowered in a way I never thought I could. 

Art by Donavon Winters