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True Sports Stories with Lisa Nunley: Crossfit’s Functional Training Reaches New Heights

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A hero is someone who is admired by others. It isn’t about how much money they make, the house they live in, or even how many followers they have. With today’s worldwide media coverage its easy for us to forget those  everyday heroes. Everyday we all must overcome our own adversities. It can be easy to get lost in our own troubles, thinking nobody else understands your struggle. Hopefully through here people will be able to understand that you are never alone. Help and encouragement is at our fingertips. If you can find this page then you can find help.

#TrueSportsStories

One such story I came across was that of Lisa Nunley. A mother and wife, Lisa already had her hands full with life when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It would have been easy to throw in the towel. Fueled by her family’s support and a determination powered by her faith she continues to conquer all the odds that have been stacked against her as climbs the ranks of competitive athletes. Crossfit touts itself on the principle of functional training. The term ‘functional training’ has taken on many meanings to different people. In this post I interview Lisa and find out how she has used Crossfit to forge her own meaning of functional strength

1)    Why Crossfit?

I can get bored real quick with the same routine. Crossfit is never boring. Always challenging. Always something to learn, to tweak, to practice. And anyone can do it. Whether you are competitive (I am) or in it to get fit without competing, Crossfit works. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been a part of a fitness program or if you are already a competitive athlete. It doesn’t even matter how old you are (I have 6 children and started Crossfit when I was 42 years old) or if you are completely out of shape (I couldn’t do box jumps to save my life when I first started), struggling with your weight or have limitations… EVERY movement, every workout is designed to be scalable if needed. I have Multiple Sclerosis. I get to work out alongside Rose, a woman battling breast cancer and Lisa, as she fights Parkinson’s and many others who are defying the odds. There really are no excuses… plus, it’s fun!

2)    What is your favorite WOD or workout program?

Of course, I’m going to prefer a workout that has all of my personal favorite movements! Those movements would be pull-ups (Strict, kipping and butterfly), power lifting, rope climbs, muscle-ups and my all-time favorite is handstand push-ups. I’m also enjoying learning to snatch, which is very technical. I personally do not enjoy split jerks, thrusters, wallballs and double-unders… though I do my best to get better at them. I don’t cherry-pick workouts (only do the ones that have movements I like) because I know even the movements that I don’t particularly enjoy are beneficial.

3)    Are there any changes in your life that have resulted from your time doing Crossfit that have surprised you?

I was diagnosed with relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis in 1999. My MS was getting worse and it looked like I was headed for progressive MS, which for me meant being in a wheelchair full time. Catapulted by this giant leap of faith, I am now a competitive Crossfitter that never imagined that I would get far enough to be within arms-reach of competing in the worldwide Crossfit games in California (the top 20 from the Masters Qualifier go to the games). I couldn’t believe I actually placed 29th in the world during the Masters Qualifier competition in 2014. All of this progress was quite shocking and I believe was an interplay between my decision to just go for it and do Crossfit (my husband introduced me to Crossfit in spite of all of the odds being against me), choosing to completely change my eating habits (making food my medicine and throwing out all of my MS injections), the support of my family, and most especially my faith in God who really does work ALL things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

4)    As a parent and husband myself, I would like to know how your physical transformation helped to shape your relationship with your family?

I felt imprisoned by the MS. I so longed to be an active wife and mother. I remember happily sending my two oldest sons off to Europe for an educational tour with their high school. They got to tour Hungary, Austria and Germany. Parents were invited to go, but there was no way I could at the time since I was dealing with physically debilitating issues with the MS. But then, I started Crossfit and drastically changed my eating habits and my body started healing. When the next high school educational tour came around, I got to go. This was huge for me. I got to actively tour Portugal and Spain alongside my family! The most memorable part of the trip was when I got to run up this very long flight of stairs in a castle there. I couldn’t have done that a few years back, so when I reached the top of the castle, I cried happy tears. Thank you God! I now get to be that active wife and mother I dreamed about being. This unexpected journey of physical transformation wasn’t just about the healing of my body.  I gained a new mindset filled with hope. I was set free from that prison and now I get to do things with my family Inever imagined would be possible… like compete with my 20 year old son in Crossfit team competitions.

5)    I get the sense that your faith is very important to you. For those who are struggling out there is there anything you would say to help reassure them or how to recover when you feel that faith falter?

My faith is everything to me and I have my moments that I feel weak. Please know that who I have chosen to surround myself with has made a huge difference. I guarantee you that if you are surrounded by people who are like-minded in faith, who support and encourage you, you will recover faster. My support system includes my husband, my children, my church family and the crossfit community (especially my crossfit box, but also some pretty amazing people at other boxes as well)

7)    Reading your blog I know people reach out to you for support and advice (such as the man with the wish to be able to dance with his wife again). Do you see moments such as those as kind of spiritual validation that you are fulfilling your purpose of serving others?

Yes. And this was not something I saw coming. I have unexpectedly been contacted by people, not only locally, but from all over the world! I had no clue this would turn into a ministry opportunity. What a joy to encourage them! To pray with them! To let them know there is hope. People who don’t know about my battle with MS have no idea what I’ve been through and are shocked to find out. And yes, I do love that they are shocked.

8) As for myself, I did not realize how very little I knew of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) before coming across your story. Can you give people an idea of what life was like when you were resigned to using a cane or walker, etc.?

I didn’t realize how little I knew about MS until I was diagnosed with it, so I understand. I thought it was a muscle disease that would inevitably land me in a wheelchair. I had no idea that it was my own immune system attacking the protective coating around my nerves causing them to misfire or miscommunicate. I did what I could for my family when the MS would hit (relapse) and then when I went in remission, I learned to pick myself up and do what I could to move again. I never knew what nerve would be affected when I had a relapse. MS is a horrible disease that caused active brain lesions during a relapse that left permanent scars throughout my brain.Permanent… I will never get those parts of my brain back that have been scarred. But through this time of healing, I have noticed that other parts of my brain that are healthy seem to be starting to step up to the plate and compensate for some of what I’ve lost. My biggest challenge is memory loss. I have large chunks of memory gone that I don’t even realize aren’t there until my husband or children say, “Remember when…” I would try so hard to remember to no avail. And I’m not talking about little things. I’m talking about important memories… gone.  As for the moments I was physically debilitated, it was both humiliating and humbling. I was forced to ask for help and I’m not very good with that. But, it did teach me that I have some pretty special people in my life that, out of love, wanted to help.

9) You have 6 kids and have already sent 2 of them to college, participated in a team triathlon for MS, competed in a strongman competition, and competed in Crossfit. What is next?

I would love to someday make it to the games as a Masters level athlete. I came so close in 2014 and have spent 2015 recovering from some injuries because I chose to over train. I hope I have learned my lesson that more is not always better. I want to train smarter, which doesn’t always mean harder. Especially for masters level athletes. Also, my oldest son has asked me to try a power lifting competition at some point. I’m still contemplating that.

10)  What’s the most important message you hope people take away from your journey?

Never give up! There truly is hope. And though it may not be packaged with a pretty bow and simple magic pill that will allow you to sit around and eat whatever you want, it is worth the fight! We weren’t created by God to be sedentary and eat terrible food. We were created to work, to thrive and not just barely survive. Most importantly, we were created to bring glory to God in whatever we do, which does include taking the necessary steps to be healthy spiritually, physically and mentally.

11) Was there anything else we have not covered that you would like to share?

There is a lot of talk and controversy in the fitness industry regarding Crossfit. Consider watching this:http://www.cbs.com/shows/60_minutes/video/2V3s2ipVtqaIhDBTZ9TVxmx7ZvSz6RuW/king-of-crossfit/(unfortunately to watch it, you have to deal with 5 commercials at the beginning of this CBS clip).

Regarding this clip, a good friend of mine wrote: “A huge fault of the fitness and training industry (until Glassman provided a solution and awareness/availability) was keeping Strength and Conditioning/Performance Training separated from the general population and designated as only applicable to athletes. Are we not designed by nature to move and perform? At what point and why did we decide that our bodies don’t need to move as a system (single unit) and that machines should stabilize and support our isolated movements at the gym? At what point did we decide training in one plane of motion (every machine and piece of cardio equipment at a Globo-Gym) reflects fitness/performance in the real world? I’m pretty sure we don’t just move in a straight line all the time. …Fitness got lazy (or it never quite understood in the first place… not sure which), and we ended up with a crap chute of diets and programs that watched a nation grow more obese and more sick. I’m not saying there were not legitimate certifications/programs that existed before the revolution, but I am saying that the fitness industry (as a whole) dropped the ball. Then, along comes a guy, who understood and appreciated what the body is truly designed to do and came up with a program that takes this into consideration. And made it readily available to everyone! …”-Dr. Erik Teece from NWA Spine & Joint in Fayetteville Arkansas http://nwaspineandjoint.com/

I’d say Dr. Teece took the words right out of my mouth, except he said it way better than I ever could.

12) How or where can people contact you and learn more about your story?

I have a website at www.lisacrossfit.com. My email is lisa4given@gmail.com. The Crossfit box that I go to is Crossfit 540 www.crossfit540.com. You can also send me a private message on my Facebook page that tells me who you are with your friend request. www.facebook.com/lisa.n.nunley

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