This is not your standard ‘motivational interview’ which makes sense really because Erin is not your standard type of person. I’ve been trying for ages to pick just one word that describes her and I cant, I can only tell you that she inspires me every single day and I just had to share with you her story.
I remember the day well…I was in week 5 of my injury and had left the gym the day before in tears – frustrated that I couldn’t do the things I could do pre-injury. I threw an internal tantrum and decided I was never going back to CrossFit again. Im not sure why but I decided to go back in the next day and as I started to train I started to get very frustrated again. I went and sat by the couch, in a fouler. Erin was sat on the couch that day – she generally chills out on the couch post training, actually – its Erin’s couch. So I had a really big moan, a proper ‘woe is me’ moan, going on about how frustrated I was etc etc. And then BOOM, it hit me like a 100kg backsquat…you see the thing about Erin is that you forget about her story – you forget about it because she doesnt talk about it, because she turns up to the gym EVERY SINGLE DAY, smile on her face, smashing her workouts, chilling on the couch after. The gorgeous lady that I was moaning my hole off too..
She has cancer
Fucking hell them feels! Like every single day I see Erin and every single day she is training hard, smile on her face, super positive, crazy supportive of everyone. Not once have I heard her moan or whine or even talk about her illness and then I realised a couple of things:
1 – I needed to cop the fuck on and get over my injury whining
2- Everyone needs to understand what real motivation and inspiration is – and thats Erin
So then I begged her for an interview – pretty selfishly really because I was dying to find out how she managed to be so motivated all the time! And here it is:
Erin: I joined CrossFit Ireland in October 2011 after a friend recommended I try it. I remember being really nervous at the start but quickly realising I’d found a unique place to train, filled with amazing people & wonderful coaches and 4 years later I’m still training with them! They’re like my extended family.
In August 2014 I developed a simple pain in my side. I remember Derek, one of the CFI coaches, running through an injury form with me and I put the pain down to stress. The form contained a question about whether I’d seen a doctor or physio in relation to the injury and I answered no. After 3 weeks with no resolution I took the form’s advice and went to the doctor who immediately sent me to A&E. I went to A&E on the Wednesday, was admitted on the Thursday and 12 days later found out I had cancer, malignant melanoma and it had spread to my liver (hence the pain, an enlarged liver is not fun).
I’m living in Bray. I’m lucky to have my family and a great network of friends around me.
I’m 42 now, turning 43 in November and will be celebrating that!!
Why did you start CrossFit and what impact has it had on your life?
I had always trained, had a gym membership, did spin & step classes and steered clear of weights, didn’t want to get bulky you know 😉 Then I hit my mid-thirties and started reading about the pitfalls of just being a cardio bunny and realised the importance of weights and the positive impact they have your health, bone density and metabolism. I started doing small group personal training which incorporated weights and strongman style movements and I got results. I was hooked. My class shut down and my trainer recommended CrossFit to me. I rang CrossFit Ireland, had my intro with Colm O’Reilly and joined on the spot.
Over the next few years training in CFI, I got fitter and strong in a way I never thought possible. CrossFit gave me confidence in myself and what my body could do. It’s intensely empowering for a woman to feel comfortable in their own skin and CrossFit gave me that. I wish I’d found it in my 20’s when I was incredibly insecure and body conscious!
CrossFit has also had another huge impact on my life, in a way it has kind of saved it. When I was diagnosed I went from having a simple pain to being seriously ill quickly, overall in only a few weeks. I was almost in liver failure; I lost every ounce of muscle and fitness that I had worked so hard to build up. I went to skin and bone, barely able to walk 100m without fainting. I think I was lucky to have that reserve to call on. That’s one of the reasons I’m back training with CFI, I want to build my strength up again.
What’s your favourite WOD?
I like WODs that include bodyweight movements, ones that incorporate things like Double Unders, Push Ups, and Toes to Bar. I guess right now I’d say Annie. I still have all my old training journals and I did Annie in June 2014 (pre diagnosis) in 10.57. We did it last month in CFI and I finished in 12.39, not too shabby for someone with cancer 😉 I also love 13.4 (Open workout) as that’s when I got my first Toes to Bar!
Your favourite music to WOD to?
That’s when I don’t break CFI’s music system right? Allegedly I did that recently, but I believe it’s since been proved it was the WiFi’s fault!! I love a bit of cheesy pop or some great power ballads. We’ve recently begun squatting to Cher’s Turn back Time, that’s a tune! I also love the Killers, Snow Patrol, a bit of Bruce (Springsteen for those not of my generation) and Bon Jovi. I believe the word is eclectic but I fear others may say tragic!
How has your training been affected since going through treatment?
At the start I totally stopped training, physically I couldn’t I was way too sick. Last December I started moving again, just simple walks along the prom with the aim of getting a little further each time. I also started doing some pilates type training, simply bending down and touching my toes, progressing to rolling out into a plank and holding it for a few seconds. When my liver was enlarged it had put pressure on every internal organ (there’s not a lot of space in there, especially when it was so enlarged I looked 6 months pregnant). That left me with nerve damage in my shoulder, so I started physio for that in February of this year. So I added in my daily shoulder exercises with the aim of being able to hold my arm up overhead. I kept up the pilates training and did some PT sessions, gradually getting a little stronger and building up some level of fitness.
I rejoined CFI in May, when they reopened after moving premises. Training again is hard. I had to accept the new me, the one with the dodgy shoulder and other limitations! My first squatting session in CFI was a 5RM test. I got the bar and squatted it slowly & painfully for 5 reps. I looked at my coach Colm and we both agreed that was my 5RM for the day! It’s hard to start all over again, it’s not easy going from full push ups to using 24inch boxes, the ego takes a bit of a battering. But at the end of the day I just accepted this is the new me. Yes I can’t do everything I could before my diagnosis and I can’t lift the weights I used to lift but I’m training and I’m getting there. In ten weeks I added 20kg to my squat, I’m now using a 12 inch box for my push ups and I can jerk a respectable weight again. I’m chasing that full push up, I’ll get it soon. Metcons still suck. My aerobic capacity is no where near what it used to be and that’s what I struggle with the most. I have learned to pace myself, work to my own capacity and accept that I’ll probably be the last to finish!
Generally when I’m feeling a bit crap I lose my motivation to go to the gym,
How do you keep motivated?
Training again and getting stronger is my way of regaining control of my body. When you get a cancer diagnosis you lose control of your own body. You give your body to the consultants, to the drugs and to their side effects. I’ve been lucky, I’ve had three different treatment types so far and the side effects haven’t been as bad as they could have been. My consultant, GP and the nurses attribute that to being fit and strong going into this and being back exercising again. They have recommended that I do as much exercise as I can, they know it’ll help. If I’m fit then my body’s able to handle the treatment better and fight the cancer better too,that’s the ultimate motivation! There are days when I’m fatigued or feeling really nauseous. Some of those days I know I just have to stay in bed and sleep. Other days I know it will do me good to go to CFI and do a workout, maybe not what is prescribed on the day, but to do something. Colm and Derek, my coaches in CFI,are great. I can tell them how I’m feeling and they’ll help me vary or scale the training to suit me on the day. If I’m feeling really rotten I can turn up and just mobilise, have a cuppa and sit on their very comfy couch and watch other people train and shout various words of abuse, oops of course I mean words of encouragement 😉
People often talk about the community aspect to CrossFit, does that make a difference on days you don’t feel like training?
Absolutely. I mightn’t feel like training but I know if I go to CFI I’ll get to see genuine friends, hear some Colm O’Reilly comedy and essentially have fun. I’ll get to see faces that I’ve trained with and known for the last 4 years and other people who I’ve only known a few months but are part of my CFI family. I have been known to go up to train and leave 3 hours later because I’ve been hanging around chatting, laughing, having a cuppa and generally setting the world to rights (shout-out to Alice and Siobhan, my couch buddies!). I love being part of a community that facilitates that #oneteam
If you could give one piece of advice to women out there who would like to start CrossFit what would it be?
Join, now! I think some people are scared of CrossFit because they don’t think they are strong enough or fit enough or fear they will be the worst in the class and stand out for all the wrong reasons. Hey if I can do CrossFit anyone can! No one judges,every member respects every one who starts on their CrossFit journey. Everyone is supportive. In their own way every member in any CrossFit box, even the most advanced athlete, is working on something. Joining CFI was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’d encourage anyone who is considering starting CrossFit to do it.
If I could also give just one more piece of advice to anyone who stumbles over this article it would be don’t ignore what your body is trying to tell you. Looking back I did have other symptoms but put them down to having a stressful life and a stressful job. Don’t assume it’s due to stress, treat these symptoms seriously. Stay healthy CrossFitters