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Learning to Love CrossFit with Danielle Melnick

As part of our Healthy Living Blog Series, we’re partnering with local experts to bring health and fitness advice, tips and articles directly to you. Keep an eye on this space for everything from motivational musings on nutrition to the latest trends in fitness. Discover a happier, healthier you with DiscoverNEPA.

“I’m even more inspired to do my best both in and out of the box.”

In November 2019, I walked into NEPA CrossFit with a stale water bottle from my car, my old running sneakers and a sour attitude. After years of living away from home, I returned to take care of my mother in her final months, and although I loved the Bloomsburg Fair, Leggio’s and the Pittston Tomato Festival (like any good NEPA native), I was miserable. Most of my good friends had moved away, and it felt like I had to start from square one.

I realized that no one was going to be my friend unless I put myself out there. This could be a chance to try something totally new and different. This could be my fresh start. So, I did the scariest thing possible: I emailed Brennan Morton, the owner of NEPA CrossFit, and asked about taking a class.

 

 

I had a few CrossFit classes under my belt prior to NEPA, but not nearly enough to mask my “deer in the headlights” look the second I picked up the barbell. Coming from a low-cal, high cardio lifestyle, I was awkward, anxious and absolutely the least experienced person in the class. However, I felt nothing but encouraged from the moment I walked into the gym. Though clearly humbled, I was eager to learn more, and I immediately became a member. I left feeling hopeful for the first time in months.

My intentions for starting CrossFit were to learn new skills, build some muscle and hopefully make a friend or two. NEPA CrossFit achieved just that and so much more. Outside of the gym, I was faced with caretaking and enduring a long, hard goodbye to my mother, and I often felt lonely. However, our gym offered me friendship, family and a love for the grind. Over the next few months, I got to know the other members, and it wasn’t long until going to the gym became something I genuinely looked forward to. It was a place where I could take an hour for myself.

I also started embracing (and loving) how my body slowly started to change. My shoulders became more toned and my legs showed some serious muscle. Additionally, CrossFit became therapeutic—it was a place where I could be angry at cancer and throw my grief into heavier power cleans. It was where I could forget about the outside world and truly be present. When I pushed my limits, I joined those who crossed the boundaries of mental and physical endurance, and I felt connected to something so much greater than myself.

 

 

While all sports have a competitive undercurrent, NEPA CrossFit pairs it with positivity, warmth and humor. People of all abilities and walks of life are welcome here. The coaches are skilled in programming scalable workouts that are accessible, yet challenging for seasoned athletes, novices and everyone in between. Rather than feeling intimidated, you become inspired to learn new skills. For example, I finally got several kipping pull-ups and am now working on my toes to bar and rope climbs. Several members are also helping me learn double-unders!

One member’s success quickly becomes a gym-wide celebration. Whether someone gets their first bar muscle-up or graduates from the training bar, there are always people cheering you on through every milestone. Outside of classes, coaches and members often plan fun events. I’ve been lucky enough to volunteer at competitions, have a few girl’s nights and post-WOD breakfasts and so much more.

 

 

The physical results from CrossFit are undeniable. My arms are a little less “noodle-y,” I have more energy and I feel stronger than I ever have in my entire life. I went from being a 1,200-calorie cardio bunny to fueling my body for greater strength and endurance. Because of NEPA CrossFit, not only do I have friendship, community and belonging, but I have a healthy and nourishing relationship with food and understand how it impacts my performance. Beyond physical improvement, I’m mentally stronger and far more confident. I’m even more inspired to do my best both in and out of the box.

There’s no doubt that CrossFit challenges you in ways unlike any other sport, which is why people are drawn to join NEPA CrossFit. However, what makes people stay at NEPA CrossFit is something special beyond words. Whether it’s the adrenaline rush of finally nailing a move, cheering your friend on when they set a new PR or cracking jokes near the couches post-WOD, you walk through those doors feeling like you’re home.

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