March 10, 2014
A Winner's Mentality
By Christina Roth

"I’ve just fallen head over heels in love with CrossFit. The quality of our coaches and the community in general is just so special. I just cannot imagine life without it now."

Above photos courtesy of Anna Tunnicliffe
Photo courtesy of Kevin Beamon

After years of competitive running, Carrie Lehman discovered a new method for staying fit and staying clear of an ongoing battle with alcohol.

“I hit a point in my life where I knew I had to make a change,” Lehman said. “I am going to be 40 years old pretty soon. I knew I couldn’t keep drinking and attain the goals I had for my life.”

Running Her Race

Lehman once found solace in running during rough times. She said no matter what was going on, she could put on her running shoes, hit the pavement and release all of her worries.

“I wasn’t really an athlete in high school or college,” Lehman said. “And when I say ‘not really an athlete,’ I mean not at all. But occasionally I would go out for a run because I felt like it came naturally. I only got really into running after my children were born because I found that I was able to perform well and placed (in races) several times.”

Placing in distance races helped boost her confidence.

“I was running all distances—anything from a 5k to a marathon,” she said. “I liked the way I felt, so I just kept doing it. But there came a point where I had to make a decision about my fitness goals.”

Finding CrossFit

Lehman heard about CrossFit from friends and fellow runners, but wasn’t sure where to begin since she had minimal fitness experience aside from running.

“This past summer, I heard that a new box was going to open just down the street, in my own neighborhood, literally a mile from my house,” she said. “I knew that this was my chance to be involved, seeing as it was going to be so close.”

Taking a leap of faith, Lehman contacted one of the owners of CrossFit Mt. Lebanon, Kevin Beamon, just before they were set to open the doors. She told him she was eager to start and wanted to know all about CrossFit.

Beamon recalled meeting Lehman for the first time and could tell her background in running would be an asset to her CrossFit journey.

“Carrie is an all or nothing type of athlete. She had all this experience with winning races for her age group and our hope was to transition her into CrossFit using those strengths from running,” Beamon said. “She has a definite winner’s mentality. She wants to be at the top of the gym leaderboard every day, and I could tell that she was looking for a new challenge.”

Lehman signed up for the 2014 Open with the encouragement of her coaches. She scored 211 in 14.1 and got her first chest-to-bar pull-ups in 14.2, ultimately finishing with 18 reps.

“My first two Open scores have really exceeded my expectations. I really didn’t know what to expect,” Lehman said. “When it comes down to it, it’s something measurable for me. No one is measuring how fast I unload my dishwasher, no one is measuring how many loads of laundry I do every day. There isn’t a day that I walk into my workout and I don’t feel challenged. I am continually being challenged each and every day.”

Battling with Alcoholism

When she found CrossFit, Lehman had been struggling with an alcohol addiction for years.

“If there was a drinking (workout) for reps or time, I would win it,” she said. “I would’ve been on the leaderboard each and every day. I was the quintessential party girl, always the life of the party. I was the first to show up and the last to leave. For a long time, that’s what made me happy.”

Despite her efforts to control her drinking and maintain a balanced life, she realized, “years of binge drinking were taking its toll.” She noticed a change in her close friendships and her family responsibilities were suffering.

“My friends often made jokes that my pre-run carbo-loading was a 12 pack of beer that I could drink in one night. I was the social drinker, the fun drunk. The one that everyone invited to parties because I was certain to put on a show. Unfortunately, mornings were often the worst when it came to recovery. So my husband ended up taking on the duties of both mother and father while I was curled up under the covers paralyzed with anxiety and depression.”

After a moment of clarity last September, Lehman gave up alcohol. She said it was the best decision she’s ever made.

“Every day I focus on my recovery and strength, and hope to live an authentic life. I am hoping to be who I was really meant to be all these years. I have finally said goodbye to the partier and embraced the athlete,” she said.

Community Support

Lehman admitted that working through her addiction wouldn’t have been as easy without the support of those around her at home and at CrossFit Mt. Lebanon.

“I am loving CrossFit. I needed the community of the people around me. I shared my personal struggle with my coach and I felt like he was truly holding me accountable,” Lehman recalled. “I was at a point where I knew this was the best place for me to be during my own personal life changes.”

Beamon appreciated Lehman’s honesty and willingly stepped into the role to support her.

“Carrie told us early on that she had stopped drinking, and I believe she shared this because she was really looking for additional support to hold her to this standard. It’s just like any other standard in the gym. She was truly looking for someone to no-rep her in the gym and in life,” Beamon said.

Lehman said CrossFit has been a positive influence in her rehabilitation.

“I feel as if CrossFit has really taught me a little bit of fearlessness. It’s given me a great deal of mental strength,” Lehman said. “Quitting drinking was hard and necessary, but this community has taught me that I want something different for my life.”

Lehman's family quickly realized she was hooked on her daily workouts at CrossFit Mt. Lebanon. Every morning her children still give a little chuckle and ask her if she's going to workout again.

“My kids know that this is part of my life now. They know the routine,” Lehman said. “My husband is extremely supportive and he’s so happy that I have found this community. He knows that I am a better person because of this experience.”

Lehman’s husband, Scot, said Carrie is inspiring.

"It has been incredible to see Carrie approach the challenge of CrossFit with such personal discipline and humility. She has been all action and no talk. I think it’s great that CrossFit has exposed what we already knew about her. She is setting an inspiring example for our family, and I will continue to be right behind her for support,” he said.

“It’s not every day that you meet so many genuine people and connect on such an amazing level. I’ve just fallen head over heels in love with CrossFit. The quality of our coaches and the community in general is just so special,” Lehman said. “I just cannot imagine life without it now.”