“I could NEVER share my story of courage”


As I began writing this blog, I knew that it would be therapeutic to share my ever evolving life challenges, in hopes that my experiences might somehow reach and help others. In my last entry, I asked you, my readers, to share your stories of trial and opportunity with me, so that I may in turn share with all of you. I have been touched and humbled by the many emails I have received. Each story is a testament of the strength of the human spirit, and I applaud you for letting us into your lives and allowing me to post. We are ALL Never Say Never Girls.

Claudia’s Story

Hi Shanon!

I must say I really love your blog! You really are a true inspiration and I loved reading your entries. Then when I saw you asked for some to tell their stories I thought well, here goes nothing!

First and foremost I’m a skinny, tall beanpole who had no desire to be fit..in any way shape or form. I almost mocked it by eating everything and anything I wanted.. at any time too! This meant McDonalds at 2am dipped in mayo and ketchup, late night nachos and a permanent bag of chips next to my bed so I could roll over and eat when I got hungry during sleep! Talk about horrible! But that’s beside the point. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 16. I’m 22 now. I was placed on a cocktail of medications. I know, I know..most people find this alarming, but I promise I’m nothing like what someone thinks to be bipolar. My life just consists of higher highs and lower lows then the average person. Sometimes I hangout more in one state than the other. It’s a balancing act to say the least.

At the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games

2012 Reebok CrossFit Games

Anyway, I had never been an ‘active’ person until I found CrossFit. I couldn’t believe I found something.. a sport that pushed me mentally and physically like never549622_513915948624840_2051075843_n before. Seeing how I couldn’t perform even a push-up drove me insane! I’m not one to be told or shown what they can’t do…I’ll prove you wrong! I fell in love! Medications were dropped, eating habits changed DRASTICALLY, and I became an all around positive, happy person who was an advocate for exercise and good eating, and how it can change your life! It’s like CrossFit was the best medicine for this bipolar girl! I was living every bit of it. I was Claudia again!

Still, being a tall, skinny person in a sport where being shorter and stalky reigned supreme, I felt defeated. I realized once I dove more into the sport, that mobility and strength were my weaknesses. I started eating more, lifting more and worked on my mobility (thanks mobilitywod!) and I saw gains! I was so excited! 

Then on June 1st this year, my world was turned upside down.. My brother was killed in a car accident. He was my best friend, we were 2 years apart and he was absolutely amazing!

Claudia and her brother Hayden

Claudia and her brother Hayden

I lost it. I couldn’t eat. Sometimes I still can’t. I tried doing a WOD a few days after the accident and nearly fainted since my body had no fuel. I cried.. a lot. I screamed. Then I left my home gym for one closer to my house since my mom didn’t like me driving so far. Low and behold the first WOD I did at my new gym, Diablo CrossFit was Filthy Fifty. I cried. I cried so bad. Each day though got better. I never gave up and CrossFit was my medicine. It’s my antidepressant! It’s my light at the end of the tunnel. Even though everyday right now is still a battle to even get up in the morning since I’m slapped with the reality that my brother is no longer here, I do it. I eat so I can go to the gym. That’s the funny part too. I have a rule that I won’t let myself workout unless I’ve consumed enough food. Goodness forbid I don’t make it to the gym!

Festivus Games 2012

Festivus Games 2012

But here I sit, hoping to one day make it to be able to just even compete at a local level. With a few bumps in my path, I’m hoping next year will be my year!


My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family Claudia. It’s so wonderful that you have been able to draw strength from a sport that you so clearly love. I am touched and honored to share your courageous story and look forward to following your many many successes in the future! I am confident that you will Never Say Never!

To my readers…..I would love to share your inspiring stories! Please email me at nursechata@hotmail.com and I will also send you a Never Say Never Girl shirt or tank. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Happy Holidays!




“I could NEVER overcome awesome physical adversity”


“I have WHAT?!”. It’s one of those moments in life that I’ll never forget…what I was wearing, eating, doing before the phone rang. I’m pretty sure that I was also burning a vanilla candle. All senses are apparently heightened in moments when you realize your life is about to change. “The MRI shows two herniated discs at the C5-C7 level. I also see quite a bit of degeneration surrounding the area. Are you having trouble walking? How’s your coordination? Let’s discuss options”.

What the ……???!!!

Before we dive into what happened next, let’s go back to what happened first.

Barbells for Boobs

My lovely and strong daughter Madysn

October is breast cancer awareness month, and in support this year, my gym participated in “Barbells for Boobs”, a fundraiser for Mammograms in Action. Each athlete completed the benchmark WOD “Grace”, which is 30 clean and jerks for time. Everyone dressed in funky pink attire.  I wore a tutu and PR’d my previous Grace by a full minute. I felt strong. I felt accomplished. I felt proud of my 16 year- old who beat my time by 40 seconds. The sun was shining. Life was good.

At 3am the next morning I awoke to a sharp pain underneath my right shoulder blade. Wow! Grace may have taken her revenge by straining a muscle in my back. Ouch! And my neck felt a little stiff. Later that same morning at the gym a coach approached me and said “Oh my gosh! What did you do? Check out your right trap!”. My image in the mirror revealed what looked to be a baseball sized knot in my neck. Gross!! It was sore and stiff, and hmmmm…now that you mention it, my arm and hand felt a little strange. What the heck was going on here?

Attempting to L-sit with two herniated cervical discs. Note my right arm.

Attempting to L-sit with two herniated cervical discs. Note my right arm.

Over the next few days, the plot thickened and the mystery grew. I couldn’t hit a single muscle-up during the warmup. I wasn’t able to L-sit on the rings as my right arm collapsed beneath me. Push-ups and burpees were a struggle. “I’m not going to adjust your neck”, said my chiropractor. “We need to be conservative in the off chance that this could be a herniated disc, which I’m sure it’s not, so don’t freak out”. In hindsight I see now that he knows me too well, realizing that I very well WOULD have flipped out and frightened the other patients had he voiced his true concerns. Instead we passed it off to a severe muscle strain. “Let’s give it a little time and see if it improves on it’s own. If not, we’ll think about getting an MRI”.

Attempting a muscle-up and failing

Attempting a muscle-up and failing

Long story shortened, things didn’t improve. In fact, they got worse. I couldn’t snatch more than 75 lbs without practically dropping the barbell on my head. I had trouble gripping a pen. My tricep began to shrink. Discouragement at the realization that this thing wasn’t going away on it’s own set in. I pulled some strings, got myself in for an MRI stat, and a few days later, had a diagnosis.

Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” ~ Michael Jordan

 My decision to have a double anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is not something that I took lightly. I could have opted for more conservative measures…massage, physical therapy, cortisone injections, time. In the end it came down to quality of life. How could I get back into the lifestyle that brings me joy each and everyday? What option provided me with the very best chance of competing again in the sport that I love, in the shortest period of time? Knowing full well of the risks involved, that my nerve function may never recover, that I may require further fusions in the future, and this was surgery so let’s face it, I could wake up paralyzed or not wake up at all, I scheduled my procedure for 2 weeks after my MRI results.

IMG_5607A few days following my decision to have surgery was my forty-first birthday. I am amazed quite often by how certain events occur at just the precise time to make a huge life impact. Recently I have been struggling with my consistency with my blogging, realizing and knowing in my heart that I need to grow NeverSayNeverGirl, that there is a purpose behind all of this. So as I surveyed the several boxes wrapped in Happy Birthday paper, I never could have imagined that I would IMG_5603open them to find my brand, mine, staring back at me in the form of tank tops and shirts, with various logos and designs, all NeverSayNeverGirl. At first I was stunned, unable to process what I was seeing, until my husband, snapped me out of it by saying, “You are now branded. You are NeverSayNeverGirl. It’s time for you to decide what you’re going to do with it”. Countless hours of designing, redesigning, printing and reprinting. He did it for me. For my birthday. For my brand. It is the most amazing birthday gift I have ever received. And at such an opportune time in my life, as I was facing life-changing surgery. I am Never Say Never Girl, and I can do anything, and it is time to get to the business of doing it.IMG_5611

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” ~ Walt Disney



I have two very vivid memories of my immediate pre and post-operative time in the hospital. The first was during the final “timeout” before surgery. When my surgeon stated, “We are doing an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion”, I chimed in, “And a boob job too, right?”. Maybe this was my way of easing my nervousness because I then proceeded to have a panic attack on the OR table as the anesthesiologist placed the mask over my face. The propofol quickly remedied this though, as I drifted off to sleep.

Immediately post-op

Immediately post-op

The second was awakening to my surgeon’s face stating that all went well. I remember moving my arms and my legs and bursting into tears at the realization that I had made it through the procedure alive and intact with surprisingly very little pain. Two hours upon my leaving the PACU and settling into my hospital room, my doctor came to my bedside and tested my tricep strength. “Push against me”, he said. I pushed and guess what? I pushed hard! My nerves were already recovering! My muscle was working! And yes, I cried.

It’s been eleven days since my procedure. For these first two weeks I am prohibited from elevating my blood pressure as a precaution against throwing a blood clot. I cannot lift anything over 5 lbs. I am stuck in a hard cervical collar 24/7. I am bored.

Slow air squats on post-op day 3

Slow air squats on post-op day 3

I am stir-crazy. I am frustrated. But in spite of all of those things, and much more importantly, I am grateful. I am blessed. I am hopeful and encouraged when I look to the future. I am strong. I am Never Say Never Girl.

Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you greater than any obstacle.” ~ Christian Larson

And now my challenge for you. Email me with YOUR story of how YOU overcame an adversity, whether it was physical, emotional, financial etc. Tell me how you NEVER said NEVER. If I publish it on my blog, I will send you a tank or a shirt. I am excited to read and share! Send your story to nursechata@hotmail.com. Good luck!


I could NEVER set a personal record at every workout


At my gym, we have a personal record whiteboard that wraps around the entire pull-up structure. It’s really high up there, so in order to write anything on it, one must first do a bar muscle-up with marker in pocket, shimmy across and stand precariously on the pull-up bar, hold onto a wooden post with one arm, and with the other, record the PR. It’s quite an endeavor, and in no way a feat meant for someone who doesn’t like to take risks. This personal record whiteboard was specially designed for Lifeworx, and only the top 5 men and top 5 women for each lift or benchmark workout earn a spot there. To look up and see one’s name is a true accomplishment and honor.

There’s another board too. This one is lower and accessible by anyone who sets a personal record for themselves on any given day. I love writing my name down here in fluorescent pink marker with stars and smiley faces. It means I pushed myself beyond what I was able to do the last time I performed that particular lift or WOD. And thank heaven there’s no risk of life and limb, no requirement of some crazy gymnastic skill to get there.

As I laced up my brand new Olympic lifting shoes this morning, I was hit with an epiphany of the symbolism here. Of course it was 6am, so this may have been less an epiphany and more of an early morning haze. Regardless, it made sense to me at the time, so I will share it with you.

You may recall from a few entries ago that my coach changed my programming to be more strength intensive for a 12-week cycle. The catalyst was the CrossFit Regional competition this year, for which I became an alternate, based on the weight -heavy workouts. I am happy to report that after a few weeks of whining, crying, complaining and more whining, I have embraced the barbell with determination, purpose, and a tight hook-grip. I am dedicating hour upon muscle blowing hour to loading and unloading bumper plates, squatting, cleaning, snatching, dead-lifting, jerking, pressing, and squatting some more. I’ve increased my protein intake and am spending more time in my bed…sleeping. Each day at the gym has a purpose, a plan, and a goal. My moods are less labile. Family and friends are no longer afraid that I’ll spontaneously combust at any moment. I’m back to feeling like me.

And now you’re wondering. Was my coach right? Is it working? Am I getting stronger? And what the heck does any of this have to do with personal record boards, be they low or high? I am thrilled  to report that, as usual, Coach Shaun was correct. My numbers are for the most part steadily increasing week after week, with some to be expected peaks and valleys. I’ve come to accept the valleys and attribute them to outside factors such as hormones, cheats in my diet, sleep deficit, negative stress, insufficient hydration and electrolyte imbalances. My strict pull-ups, handstand push-ups and muscle-ups feel stronger and more efficient. Last week I decided to kip a few muscle-ups rather than performing them strict from a dead hang. I flew so high up and over the rings that I almost fell through the middle! After laughing and getting over the shock of nearly eating gym mat, I went ahead and linked five together….a goal I’ve had for some time now. I was talking with Madysn, my 16-year old CrossFitting daughter, about how this program is not only about loading weight onto the barbell, but also about repetition and practice. When I squat, I feel my body respond automatically by sitting back on heels, chest up, knees out, drive through the floor. My cleans and snatches are a slow slow slow then quick pull. I’m finding that I don’t need to think as much about the movement. Instead I’m able to focus those thoughts on my personal mantra…”You can do this. Light weight”.

My super cool daughter Madysn

In reality, the weight isn’t light. It’s getting heavy. Really really heavy. Shaun made me chuckle the other day when he said, “Yep, this strength program is awesome. Only problem is one day you come in, load up that barbell and think to yourself, ‘Holy Crap. I have to lift that!’. It’s true, and he’s right. But guess what? I LIFT THAT!

Back to my epiphany of symbolism. All hail to the bright pink marker! I’m jotting down PRs on the low board regularly, and this is by no means as easy peasy accomplishment. I bust my growing booty for the pleasure of seeing my name there, complete with stars and smiley faces. I do the work, then walk right up and record what I did. That’s that.

The high board as you’ll recall has slots for our top 5 women. We have many very talented, strong, female athletes at CrossFit Lifeworx. Their names grace those lines and loom above me in a once thought to be intangible way. Sure, “Shanon” is smattered here and there….line 4, line 5. But in order to earn my name on each board, line 3, line 2, line 1, I have to commit to do more than my best each and every day. I have to commit to being exceptional.

The irony of the placement of the personal record boards may be lost to most. I’m quite sure that our owners and coaches didn’t plan on my dedicating an entire post to their locations. But it resonates with me in a simple way. Seeing my name on the low board means that I did my absolute best. Rising up to the level of the high boards will require my BEING the best.

The road in front of me is long. Sometimes it feels smooth and straight. Other times it’s winding and hilly with lots and lots of potholes. Sometimes I puke. Sometimes I crash and burn. No matter. I will continue to stand up, wipe off the grit and grime, chalk up, and persevere.

At the end of this journey, I will bar muscle-up with marker in pocket, balancing and stabilizing myself with one hand while I record my personal records in bold black marker…line 3, then 2, then 1.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.”
Vince Lombardi

I could NEVER lift heavy weights and still look feminine


If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked the question,”With all of this heavy weight-lifting, aren’t you worried you’ll get too bulky?”, I’d have enough cash to fund a sizeable Lululemon shopping spree weekly. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is, I get this inquiry often, from women and men alike. I feel it’s fitting as I embark on this journey for strength, to address the question formally and dispel some common misconceptions. Afterward, hopefully we will all be a little more enlightened…..but please, don’t stop asking the question…..and toss me a dollar each time too……my passion for shopping is killing my pocketbook!

I’m a very visual person so I’ve posted pictures of three types of women. Each has dedicated many years and I am sure sacrificed an unbelievable number of hours to achieve the body-type that serves their individual purposes, whether those be aesthetic, career, or general health and wellness and functional fitness. The woman on the left is a body builder and likely looks similar to the image that popped into a few people’s minds when I mentioned beginning my strength program. Likely this athlete has made a career out of her sport. She spends hours at the gym lifting very heavy weights, is on an extremely regimented diet and nutrition program, and likely uses a fair amount of performance enhancing drugs, including steroids, or synthetic testosterone. Women naturally have about ten to thirty times less testosterone than our male counterparts. In order to build muscles as large as a man’s, a woman must supplement, illegally, to raise her hormone levels up like a man’s. She also has a very rare set of genetics, and was likely quite muscular before she began her body building career. In short, this woman’s physique didn’t happen by accident. It took years and years of disciplined hard work, and I’m guessing some illegal supplementation. Personally, I could spend my time 24/7 underneath a barbell and never come close to achieving this level of muscularity. I just don’t have the genetic make-up nor the ability to consume 5-8 full meals per day. And quite frankly, I don’t want people running in the opposite direction when they see me coming! While I admire the level of dedication and discipline competitive body-building involves, it’s just not my thing. I think I just heard my husband  breathe a huge sigh of relief!

The woman in the photo to the right is, you guessed it, a Victoria’s Secret Model. Besides being the fantasy of every red-blooded man on the planet, she also has spent her fair share of time dedicated to a rigorous diet and exercise program. Just like the bodybuilder above, she was born with a certain rare set of genetics that have allowed her to achieve this pleasing, to most people, aesthetic. She probably spends a good amount of time at the gym with a personal trainer performing long cardiovascular sessions along with some light weight training. She is certainly on a very strict, calorically restrictive diet and perhaps has undergone several forms of cosmetic enhancement. While unbelievably beautiful without a doubt, I could abandon bacon, run for hours every day, and invest in a set of DDs and STILL not achieve this physique. Again, I don’t have this Angel’s genetic make-up.  Ummm…I think I just heard my husband choke back a tear.

The final photo is of a female CrossFit athlete. In my opinion, she is a hybrid between our bodybuilding diva and our angel, and my body type ideal. Clearly she spends a good amount of time with a barbell as evidenced by her impressive muscular development, but she also invests a lot of energy into her metabolic conditioning. She most certainly puts a good deal of thought into her diet, likely avoiding processed foods and sugars. I’m sure she places a lot of importance on the amount of sleep and rest days she allows herself.  This is the body-type that heavy weight training, combined with a whole lot of discipline in many other areas of life, sans illegal performance enhancing drugs, can produce.  I can see my husband giving me the thumb’s up. I know he’ll sleep much better tonight.

So let’s review. It is extremely difficult for women to build huge muscles like a man because we simply do not have enough testosterone…and thanks goodness! I don’t know about you, but facial hair is not a look I’m eager to sport anytime soon. I appreciate that I’m addressed as “Miss” or Ma’am” over the phone, rather than “Sir”. It’s worth mentioning that women who accept the myth that they will build man-like muscles if they workout with weights will miss out on all of the benefits that weightlifting and bodybuilding can offer. Check these out…

1. Decreased Risk of Osteoporosis – Weight training increases spinal bone mineral density (and enhance bone modeling) by 13 percent in six months. This, coupled with an adequate amount of dietary calcium, can be a women’s best defense against osteoporosis. I’m not planning on breaking a hip ever, thank-you very much!

2. Reduction in Risk Of Injury, Back Pain and Arthritis – Strength training not only builds stronger muscles, but also builds stronger connective tissues and increases joint stability. This acts as reinforcement for the joints and helps prevent injury. Strengthening the low-back muscles has an 80 percent success rate in eliminating or alleviating low-back pain. Other studies have indicated that weight training can ease the pain of osteoarthritis and strengthen joints.

3. Reduction in Risk of Heart Disease –  Weight training can improve cardiovascular health in several ways, including lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. When cardiovascular exercise is added, or in CrossFit terms, Metcons, these benefits are maximized.

4. Reduction in Risk of Diabetes – Weight training improves the way the body processes sugar, which can reduce the risk of diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is a growing problem for women and men. Research indicates that weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent in four months. Can you say bye-bye medication?

 5. Improved Attitude and Decrease in Depression – A Harvard study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms more successfully than standard counseling did. Women who strength train commonly report feeling more confident and capable as a result of their program, all important factors in fighting depression. For me, this means that Vitamin P stays in the medicine cabinet.

6. Increased Physical Strength – This is a no-brainer. Increasing your strength will make you far less dependent upon others for assistance in daily living. Chores will be easier, lifting kids, groceries and laundry will no longer push you to the max. If your maximum strength is increased, daily tasks and routine exercise will be far less likely to cause injury.

7. Reduction in Body Fat – The average woman who strength trains two to three times a week for two months will gain nearly two pounds of muscle and will lose 3.5 pounds of fat. As your lean muscle increases so does your resting metabolism, and you burn more calories all day long. Generally speaking, for each pound of muscle you gain, you burn 35 to 50 more calories each day. The side benefit here is how amazing you’ll look in a swimsuit.

So there you have it. I can attest to the truthfulness of each of the above points, either personally, or as witnessed in my fellow gym-mates. Weight training can absolutely improve your life….believe it!

Have I been successful in convincing you that I will not be as big as a house in ten weeks? Are you reassured that I will still look and sound like the same old me, only stronger? Please make me smile and tell me that you are a little less apprehensive about stacking more weight plates on the barbell? Come on! Let’s get our fit on and lift like girls!

As promised, I will be blogging about the first few weeks of my program within the next several days. So many crazy and unfamiliar things are happening to my body, my diet, my sleep, my mood. I can’t wait to share it all with you!

I will conclude with a happy event that occurred at Lifeworx this week. I was wearing my black capri leggings, and the owner (who is also a good friend I should add) walked up behind me, gave my tush a nice smack and said, “Miss Shanon! I do believe you’re growing a bootie!”. Suffice it to say I’ve been smiling ever since! Now, back to the barbell!

I could NEVER change my paradigm


“No woman should ever lift more than 3 lbs”, says Tracy Anderson, Gweneth Paltrow’s personal trainer. No, I’m serious. She said this, on Oprah. Don’t believe me? Check this out..Gweneth Paltrow’s Workout Routine. Now, I’ll freely admit that until a few years ago, I was a victim of the “3 sets of 10-12” routine. Three to four exercises per body part, usually divided into chest and triceps, back and biceps, then a leg day. Of course each of these weight training sessions was followed by a minimum of 60 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical, while reading a book no less. I will admit that this dreadfully monotonous routine did prevent my muscles from turning into jello, and allowed me to punish my body during my ultra- marathon days without sustaining any serious, long-term injuries. Problem was, when I finally found CrossFit, I kind of looked like Gweneth. Well, not the face or hair, and I think she’s a lot taller than me, but that thin, emaciated, eat a sandwich kind of look? Yep, that was me. And honestly, I was proud to be a size 2. I liked that my clavicles and hip bones stuck out like a Barbie doll. It was an accomplishment to watch the numbers on the scale go south. “You’re so skinny” was a huge compliment. I had the body that society said I should have.

So what changed, you might ask? Let’s rewind really quickly to my first introduction to CrossFit, a decision I had made for various health and psychosocial reasons. Before my first class, my best friend

Traci asked, “Your body is going to change. Are you okay with that?”. Looking back now it’s hard to believe that I actually had to pause and consider this question. Was I going to be okay with putting on a little bit of muscle? What if I couldn’t label myself as a “size 2” anymore? Would I be comfortable with letting go of “skinny”? Could I change my paradigm?

Struggling with a 110 lb clean during the 2011 Open

Fast forward to 2012. It has been almost a year since I hopped on a scale and WHOAH! Almost eight pounds I’ve gained! Random folks approach me in public to ask about my exercise routine. I’m having a love affair with the barbell. I know it’s love because I think about it nearly every waking moment. I can’t wait till we meet again, when I can lock my hook grip into it’s relentlessly unforgiving steel perfection. I have muscle and I’m relishing in it! HOLY MOLY! My thighs and booty don’t want to fit into my old size twos, and that’s okay with me! In fact, I look forward to the day that my inner thighs rub together when I walk. Can you say “diaper rash ointment”? I couldn’t care less if some people find my newfound strength unattractive. I have experienced a COMPLETE paradigm shift. I am stronger than I have ever been…..but sadly, not quite strong enough.

It’s time now to address that little elephant in the room called “Shanon Needs to Get Stronger to Compete”. Well, it’s actually a huge elephant, and I was able to function around her perfectly fine thank-you very much until recently. Remember my Regionals snafoo? The one where I was sidelined because I’m the fast girl, not the strong girl? Because I can’t hang clean 135 lbs once, let alone FIFTEEN times? Because my max snatch is only 100 lbs? The experience devastated me in a most unexpected way. But now that I’ve clawed my way through each stage of grief, I’m ready to face my demons head on in the form of a 12 week strength program designed by my CrossFit coach. “Are you sure this is going to work Shaun?”, I asked, very skeptically as I sifted through the details of the next eighty-four days. “I mean, I’m forty, remember?”. He smirked in that ‘Oh you silly silly girl don’t you believe me I placed 6th in the region this year and I think I know what I’m doing’ kind of way. “Oh, it’s going to work…trust me”.

My coach, who knows a thing or two about building muscle

So trust I am, and have taken the plunge into a barbell heavy, WOD light, strength program. I am a WOD heavy, barbell light kind of CrossFitter, with super cool socks to boot. I destroy WODs. I thrive on speed and endurance. Hold on! I feel my paradigm beginning to shift once again! Am I going to put on fat without nine to ten WODs per week? What’s going to happen to my metabolic conditioning? How can I possibly endure three strength sessions per day? Aren’t I going to feel lonely not being a part of regular class programming? What if there aren’t enough platforms or barbells, or CHALK? What if I have the sudden urge to become vegan again? Okay, that last one was super ridiculous, but you get my point. This is different and uncomfortable. Very very uncomfortable. The time has come to put on my big girl pants, and by big, I mean bigger than I size 2 please. Let’s do this thing!

Many of you have expressed interest in following my quest for beast status. I may never rise to the level of the elite, but I fully intend to dig deep and rise up just as high as is physically possible for me. I think it’s appropriate then, that I list my PRs as of this week, Week One. Though I won’t be performing one rep maxes on every lift during this program, it will be interesting and telling to watch my numbers over these 12 weeks hopefully head north. And no snickering at what you’re about to see. This is only Week One and I’m already a little crabby without my WOD- induced endorphins and will not be held responsible for my actions!

Back Squat ~ 170

Bench Press ~ 115

Clean ~ 125

Deadlift ~ 215 (though I haven’t hit 200 in over 6 months)

Front Squat ~ 130

Jerk ~ 125

Snatch ~ 100

Thruster ~ 110

I’m having a chalk bucketful of emotions this week. Up, down, sideways! My body is flipping out. I’m having a difficult time falling asleep. My husband and children are treading lightly. My appetite is jacked-up. Even the dog is eyeing me warily. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few spirits as I struggled through endless reps of seven. I even had an out of body experience last night as I tried to sneak in an extra WOD and my coach said “Um, only ONE WOD!”. I then in my mind proceeded to claw his eyes out. All of these things, I am certain, are quite normal and will equalize as my neuromuscular pathways get a clue that this isn’t going to be over anytime soon.

So over the next 11 1/2 weeks, I will be surviving on a Vegas buffet of strength workouts and bread crumbs for WODs. Will I be able to commit to my love, the barbell, and watch the numbers rise? Or will our relationship grow stale and stagnant? Will I cheat with WODs or remain faithful? Accepting and adapting to these shifting paradigms are the key to my success here. Stayed tuned as I sort out and try to make sense out of Week One. Until then, a word from one of my favorite scholars…..

It’s a whole lot more satisfying to reach for the stars, even if you end up landing only on the moon.
– Kermit the Frog

I will NEVER commit to making consistent blog entries


How I have disappointed myself in allowing almost nine months go by without making an entry! For crying out loud…I could have had another child by now! And it’s not that I haven’t thought about writing every single day. In fact, I’ve wasted what I’m sure adds up to many hours sitting in front of my laptop, willing my brain to come up with something, anything, to share. I am happy to report that the dry spell has come to a close as I am flooded with motivation and inspiration. Thank-you CrossFit Open and Norcal Regionals for lighting the fire!

Let me begin by refreshing everyone on why I’ve created this blog and how I hope it will evolve. I have the goal of competing in the Reebok CrossFit Games. “Whoah there my friend!”, you may say. “Have you forgotten the teeny tiny fact that you turned 40 recently?”. Nope. I have not overlooked this important piece of information. In fact, I’m reminded of this often at the gym as I break down in tears at a failed PR attempt or sub-par WOD time, when my coach says, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but you’re 40”. Bless his heart for enduring my female episodes, and I love him dearly because he’s absolutely right. Should I expect to make gains at the same rate as my 20-something year old gym-mates? I did a lot of kicking, screaming, spitting, yelling and tossing heavy objects around before I was able to accept that the answer is no. But instead of stripping weights off the barbell and removing my super cute long socks, I’ve decided to put on my big girl pants, and use age and life experience as motivation and drive to become the best I can be…. all 40 years of me!

In January of this year, I had the amazing experience of competing in the Norcal 40s, a large event hosted by TJ’s Gym for athletes in the 40-49 age group. It was my first time competing as an individual. I must admit that my intestines were in knots thinking about going up against the best in my age category in Northern California. One grueling day and six workouts later, I found myself in third place going into the final event with the top five women. Event 7 involved the airdyne bike, a heavy deadlift, and max thrusters for time, among a few other things. Though I was consistently first off of the bike, I slowed considerably with the heavy weights. My strength deficiency kept me from the podium with a 5th place finish. Though I am proud of my performance, I am even more grateful for the reinforcement of what I already knew….I’m much faster than I am strong, and in CrossFit, this is an imbalance that needs to be corrected in order to be competitive.

This year’s Open and Regionals also served to expose my weakness, ignite a fire under my tush, and awaken my inner beast. Last year, I placed in the upper 100s during the Open in my region. Not too shabby after only six months of CrossFit under my Lululemon shorts. This year I placed 109th, almost 100 spots higher and as number two girl on our Lifeworx team. I did the math, and if I hadn’t blown it on the snatch workout (ah yes, here comes that strength deficiency again), I would have qualified in the top 60, allowing me to compete as an individual in the Norcal Regionals. I was a little disappointed for sure, but super excited to once again have the honor of competing with Team Lifeworx. For those of you unfamiliar with the process of Regionals, the workouts are released several weeks before the actual competition, allowing teams to decide which athletes will be best suited for which movements. I will not soon forget my reaction as I read over and over the standards for this year as they were released. A 135 lb hang power clean? A snatch ladder with a starting weight of 105 lbs? Are you freaking kidding me?! My max hang power clean was 125 lbs! 15 repetitions at 135 lbs? How?! My max snatch was 90 lbs! A 15 lb increase in 4 weeks? How? I panicked. I cried. I almost threw up. What was I going to do?

I’ll make a painfully long story short. As a result of my strength deficits, I became the alternate girl going into Regionals. Our #4 was simply much stronger than me, and because of this, and for the benefit of the team, I was sidelined. Defeated, crushed, depressed, angry and a little humiliated, I allowed my bruised ego about a week to wallow in my pity party. Let me tell you that a party of one gets lonely pretty quickly, so instead of hanging out there all alone, I decided to chalk up my hands and take some action. I trained with my team. I supported and cheered from the bleachers till my throat was sore. I got with my coach and made a plan.

Here’s how it’s going to go down. I am dedicating this blog over the next year to my journey towards the following. First, and most importantly, my goal of becoming stronger. My training program will look a whole lot different for the foreseeable future and I want to document this every step of the way. Next, earning a spot on the podium at the Norcal 40s this coming January. And lastly, qualifying as an individual for the 2013 Norcal Regionals. Am I expecting to qualify for the Games as an individual? Heck no! Let’s be realistic!  But I DO believe that as I continue to work my weakness, keep my diet clean, decrease my stress and get quality sleep on a consistent basis, that I WILL, without a doubt, land myself at the Home Depot Center competing with my Lifeworx team, AND as an individual Master when I turn 45.

I’m so excited to share my journey with you! My intention is to post consistently with recaps of my training, diet, successes and failures of the previous week. Hopefully I can offer insight and maybe inspiration to those of you who, like me, just want to become the best CrossFitter you can be.

Thank-you to all of my amazing family and friends who offer me selfless love and support, even enduring my blood, sweat-angels and tears. I appreciate you more than you could possibly know!

I could NEVER lessen my stress


I have an unopened prescription bottle of Prozac in my medicine cabinet. It lives right in front, label facing out, so that I can see it every morning. It’s occupied that spot for over a year, so one might think that the lid is collecting dust, but that’s not the case. You see, this particular bottle speaks. Yep, you heard right, and no, I’m not crazy. Each morning, I wake-up, get-up, walk into the bathroom, clear the sleep from my eyes, and open my medicine cabinet. “Vitamin P” as I like to call him, faithfully in his front row spot ,says “Good morning Shanon! Did you get enough sleep last night? What’s on your crazy schedule today? Don’t forget that I am here for you, anytime you need me”. I know. It sounds ridiculous, but stay with me. This is why Vitamin P is not dusty. Most mornings, I smile into that cabinet and close the door. But sometimes, yes, more times that I feel good about, I pick up Vitamin P and carry him over to the toilet where I proceed to have a seat. I have memorized every detail of his label. I have counted his contents through the plastic again and again. I have placed my hand on his lid, and envisioned myself with one of his pretty pills in the palm of my hand. But each time, before I have cracked that tamper-proof seal, I have found the strength to stand-up and place Vitamin P back where he belongs, unopened and whole, in my medicine cabinet.

So now you’re probably wondering…”What the heck are you doing with an unopened prescription of Prozac with your name on it in your medicine cabinet? You have a beautiful family, a fulfilling career and fabulous friends! You exercise and eat right. What gives?”. That’s a fair question, so let’s rewind a bit.

I have been blessed in countless ways. My body is healthy and strong. My husband is amazing. My children are well-adjusted, intelligent and content. I have a network of tremendous friends. Thank heaven for all of these things because without them, I may not be in the wonderful place that I am today. See, I struggled with severe post-partum depression. When my oldest daughter was 7 years old, my son was born. I’ll never forget the feelings I experienced immediately after his birth. First of course was relief, followed by joy, and then horrible, awful dread. I remember looking at my precious, perfect son in his bassinet and thinking “I don’t want to take him home”. As you can imagine, I was mortified and disgusted with myself. How could I have these thoughts at a time when I should feel nothing but happiness? Ashamed, I didn’t share my feelings with anyone, not even my husband. Instead, I put on a happy face and struggled alone during the first several months of his life. I didn’t want to admit what I knew to be true…that I needed help and possibly medication. People like me don’t get clinically depressed, right?

Eventually, over that first year, I began feeling like my normal self again. It became easier to get out of bed in the morning. Life felt more manageable and positive. I began training for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon…my very first race. After completing that race, I signed up for another, and another. When Jacob was 15 months old, I ran my first marathon. Three months later, I ran my second, and five months after that, my third. Over the next 3 years, I ran many marathons…too many marathons as I would later learn.

In 2007 I became pregnant with our third child. My marathon training was put on hold but I continued to exercise at a moderate level. Not wanting to experience the same feelings I had following Jacob’s birth and having learned a whole lot about postpartum depression, I discussed my concerns with my OB. She suggested I begin antidepressant medication immediately after I delivered. I did and continued with medication for about one year. How grateful I was to not feel sad and hopeless! How wonderful to enjoy fully that first year of Hailey’s life!

When Hailey was about a year old, I began training for my first 50K. It was time for a new challenge. So I ran one, then another, and another shortly after that. I was running an average of 50 miles per week….lots and lots of long runs….no speed or sprinting workouts. Funny things were starting to happen to me. I wasn’t sleeping very well in spite of my constant state of fatigue. Fine lines were appearing on my face out of nowhere. I was tense, irritable, impatient and snappy with my friends and family. I was underweight but had an annoying layer of fat around my tummy. My IT band and plantar fascia seemed to be in a constant state of inflammation. I was getting sick a lot. And oh my gosh, I was sinking into that familiar, deep dark pit of depression. How on earth was this happening again? It had been 2 years since Hailey was born. My life was amazing. I didn’t fit the profile of a stressed-out, depressed person. What in the heck was going on??!!!

What was going on was Cortisol. Yep. I’d never heard of it before either, but over the past few years, we’ve gotten to know each other very well. Let me introduce you.

Cortisol is a super important hormone that’s secreted by the adrenal glands. It plays a part in glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation, insulin release, immune function and the inflammatory response. It’s called “the stress hormone” because it’s secreted in response to good and bad stress. In small amounts, cortisol has positive effects, like quick energy in the “fight or flight” response, increased memory and immunity, and decreased pain sensitivity.

So you may be asking yourself…”What gives? Cortisol sounds amazing!”. And you’re right. Cortisol IS amazing… in small amounts. Too much cortisol however, produces profoundly different effects.

In my case, my stress was coming from several places. I now had three children and was working as a nurse part-time. My vegan diet, as I would later become educated about, was sub-par at best, AND I was training constantly for endurance races. It turns out that while I was running for hours on end (chronic stress as far as my body was concerned), working, raising my children and trying to have some sort of relationship with my husband, my poor adrenals were pumping out cortisol like water from a fire hose. Oh yes…and add in the fact that I was sleeping an average of 5-6 hours per night. Check out this quick video about stress and it’s affects

Cortisol in small amounts, as we’ve established, is an amazing, normal and healthy thing. So what happens when we have too much cortisol circulating around in our bloodstream? Shawn Talbot, Ph.D. and author of The Cortisol Connection, states,”Over the long-term, elevated cortisol may be as detrimental to overall health as elevated cholesterol or elevated blood sugar”. Scientists are finding that excess cortisol may lead to a slew of health problems, including impaired carbohydrate metabolism, which leads to elevated blood sugar and fatty acid levels and ultimately extra weight around the abdominals. Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution states, “The consequences can be dire, as the more stressed we get, the worse our ability to deal with stress becomes. Abnormally elevated cortisol begins to disturb sleep, which makes us more prone to daily stress, which raises cortisol. The consequences of this downward spiral include suppressed immune function, elevated blood sugar levels, decreased insulin sensitivity, impaired long-term memory and decreased sex drive and libido”. Distance training and long cardio sessions lead to overtraining and  are perceived by the body as stress, the same as shorter, sprint type intervals. The difference being that following the sprint, cortisol turns off, keeping blood levels in the healthy zone. Conversely, during distance training, the adrenals continue to pump it out. Chronically high levels can lead to Cushing’s disease and aortic arch dissection…both really really bad things that can kill you. Ever hear about the super-fit distance runner who happens to die suddenly of a heart attack? Yikes! Oh ya, and it weakens connective tissue in our skin and joints. Ah…wrinkles, ITB syndrome and plantar fascitis…..lovely.

I had pretty much become the poster child for “Results of Cortisol Offenses”, minus the death part, though I’m certain had I continued on that path, I could have easily added it to my credentials. It may sound odd, but I am grateful for my experience with postpartum depression, as it allowed me the ability to recognize the symptoms, and consequently the motivation to learn the reasons for them within my lifestyle. I was stressed to the max, both mentally and physically and I was suffering the effects. It was time to make major changes!

I will always be eternally grateful to my very best friend Traci for introducing me to CrossFit, and to my Lifeworx CrossFit family and coaches for gently and patiently educating me with literature, studies, and by example. The following is a list of changes I have made that I truly believe have saved my life.

*Sleep ~ I have learned that my body requires a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night, without exception. When I rob myself of precious Zzzzs, I am punished by decreased exercise performance, irritability, forgetfulness, and my skin just looks like crap! Remember that lack of sleep registers as a significant stressor to the body, which equals increased cortisol, which equals bad news. My earplugs go in and all lights go out, including my alarm clock and computer lights. Total darkness!

*Nutrition ~ Cortisol increases in a linear fashion as we drop below caloric balance. My raw vegan diet wasn’t cutting the mustard in terms of calories, protein and various other vital nutrients that my body requires. I struggled with my reasons for being a vegan in the first place and eventually came to peace with adopting a grain-free Paleo diet. Since doing so, I have never looked back with regret and consider this one of the most important lifestyle changes I have made.

*Work ~ Managing my family life and working 3-4 days per week week was a huge source of stress. Not mention the fact that my job as a labor and delivery nurse is extremely stressful. We have been blessed in that I have recently been able to decrease my work hours significantly, thus allowing me more time to focus on raising my children, nurturing my relationship with my husband, and developing and strengthening my social bonds. Certainly we are having to be much more conscientious of our spending, but the rewards have been indescribable and well worth the effort.

*Exercise ~ The old, waify, endurance runner Shanon is no longer. I have exchanged my long, sustained cardio efforts (which were overloading my system with cortisol), with strength and interval training. The results are stabilized hormones, normalized cortisol levels, lots and lots more time spent with family and friends, AND a strong, beautiful body. It’s a WIN WIN WIN situation!        

*Familial and Social bonds ~ Robb Wolf said it best….”Did you know people who lack supportive familial and social bonds are as at risk to develop illness or die as pack-a-day smokers?”. Who knew that by depriving myself of time spent with loved ones could register as serious stress? No longer! Now I make dates each week to spend with my girlfriends. I set aside time every day to talk and play with my children. My husband and I go on dates, talk and laugh, or just hang out on the couch together to watch our favorite shows. Small changes that have yielded enormous benefits.

There you are! It doesn’t seem too difficult, right? Personally, I found that discovering the reasons why I was feeling stressed and depressed was the hardest part. Once I was able to identify the sources, it was then just a matter of charting my course to eliminate them.

Am I perfect? Have I now become the poster child for “The Results of Healthy Cortisol Levels”? No way! But I will say this…..Vitamin P doesn’t come out of the cabinet as often. In fact, I may have spied a bit of dust on the bottle this morning. And hummm…what color are those pills again? Every single day, I make choices, and so do you. Resolve to choose a happy, fulfilling, low-stress life. Your body, mind, family and friends will thank you for it!

Shawn’s Paleo Testimonial


I recently received this inspiring message from an old running buddy who, sadly for me, moved out of state several years ago. Often times we have no idea the positive influence we can have on people, even from a distance. Thank-you Shawn for sharing your experiences! Miss you!

Shawn's PC 50 Win

Hey Lady~

I want to thank- you for something that you had no idea that you even did! I have gone Paleo and I have never felt better. I am stronger than ever and feel GREAT! I went gluten free in March but slowly went Paleo over the month of May because of your posts. Don’t laugh at this statement …but I am an animal on my mountain bike! As far as activity, I do a little of everything now– but the biggest change has been adding in CrossFit type workouts. I don’t actually go to CrossFit but I have created my own workouts. Wow– I don’t look like a little skinny runner– I look strong.:) I love technical mountain biking and my upper body strength has improved so much I can keep up with the Pro athletes!! I won the PC 50 last weekend which was a 50 mile mountian bike race with 10, 000 feet of climbing– it was my first solo mountain bike race. Anyway, I want you to know it is all because of your posts that I took the challenge. My hubby has even gone Paleo because of me– I never forced him – he just saw the differences in me. 

Thanks so much for the inspiration. I have friends ask all the time what I have been doing different and they all say it must be soo hard– but it so wasn’t! Keep being a great example!

Shawn :)

Keep up the great work Shawn! I’m so proud of you and your amazing accomplishments!

I could NEVER bake healthy treats


The day I eliminated grains, legumes, processed foods and sugar from my diet, my life dramatically changed for the better. But in spite of the amazing improvements to my health, body composition, strength and overall well-being, I must admit that I still get cravings for baked goods. Thankfully, adopting a paleo way of eating does not mean I have to give up these simple pleasures. I can still enjoy them in moderation. It just means I can no longer pop into Starbucks and grab my beloved pumpkin scone or apple fritter. Instead, I need to plan a little, making sure to have certain staple ingredients in my cupboard at all times, so when the cravings hit, I can make smart choices. It’s pretty nifty to have some yummy paleo muffins or cookies stashed in my purse when I meet up with my girlfriends for coffee talk. Knowing I’m fueling my body with foods that make me look and feel fabulous is my just reward!

I will go into more detail about what paleo is and how it’s changed my life in a later blog post. I encourage those of you who are interested in learning more now to pick up Loren Cordain’s The Paleo DietRobb Wolfe’s The Paleo Solution, and Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo. Each of these books provide detailed instructions for acquiring a paleo lifestyle and improving health and longevity. There are also lots of mouth-watering recipes, some of which I will be posting in my blog. In the meantime, I will share with you my nifty list of items I keep on hand at all times, so that my beloved baked goods are only a mere Kitchen Aid and oven away.

*On a side-note, paleo “treats” should always be considered only that, treats. Just because these baked goods aren’t made from grains doesn’t mean that it’s okay to go hog wild and eat them every single day. The key is balance. If you find yourself beginning to gain weight, or are having a hard time losing weight, it may be a good idea to limit these delicacies .

1. Almond Meal – I buy mine at Trader Joe’s. You’ll find it in the packaged fruit and nut section. Whole Foods of course carries it, but at double the price. Almond meal is far healthier than processed flour. I keep mine in the refrigerator to keep it fresh.

2. Eggs – Preferably free-range (not fed soy) or omega-3 enriched

3. Coconut Oil  – Coconut oil is a short-chain saturated fat (meaning it won’t clog up your arteries) that is delicious and great for higher temperature cooking. It’s pretty easy to find in any grocery store. Whole Foods has coconut oil in spray form, making it perfect for greasing muffin tins.

4. Raw Coconut – Coconut is a healthy fat and is also DELICIOUS added to muffins, cookies, or just mixed with some almond butter and dark chocolate chips. It’s a little tricky to find without added sugar. Check any health food store, or Whole Foods carries it in the bulk food section.

4. Bananas and Apples – Buy organic if possible.

5. Coconut Milk – This is easy to find in the Asian foods section of most supermarkets. It has potent antimicrobial action and helps heal irritation in the digestive tract. Plus, it’s super yummy.

6. Almond Butter – Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats and have been shown to lower cholesterol. Sadly, peanuts are forbidden as they are not a nut at all; they’re legumes, and legumes contain lectins and other antinutrients that can affect your health adversely. Make the switch from peanut butter to almond butter.

7. Canned, organic, unsweetened pumpkin – Adding some healthy pumpkin squash to cookies and muffins will make your baked treats super duper moist.

8. Dark Chocolate Chips – Dark chocolate is a potent antioxidant, which gobble up free radicals. Choose chips with at least 65% or higher cocoa content.

9. Coconut Flour – Easy to find in the bulk sections of your favorite health food markets. I also store this in the refrigerator.

10. Agave Nectar – This delicious, natural sugar substitute has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t shoot your blood sugar through the roof.

11. Cocoa Powder – Essential for baking brownies!

Now that your cabinets and refrigerators are stocked, let’s get to the fun stuff! I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite recipes, tried and tested to get you through the the wildest of sweet cravings. Remember to store all paleo baked goods in the refrigerator as they of course contain no preservatives to keep them from getting moldy sitting on your countertop day after day.

          Paleo Brownies

                        1 16 ounce jar unsalted almond butter, smooth

2 eggs

3/4 c agave nectar

1 T vanilla extract

1/2 c cocoa powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 c dark chocolate chips

coconut oil

In a large bowl, blend almond butter till smooth. You can heat it in the microwave for a few minutes to soften first. Blend in eggs, agave and vanilla. Add cocoa, salt and baking soda. Fold in chocolate chips. Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with coconut oil (the spray varieties come in handy here). Pour batter into dish. Bake at 325 for 30-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Get creative and add walnuts, pecans or coconut to the batter. Enjoy!

Sarah’s Paleo Apple Muffins

This is one of my favorite recipes from Sarah Fragoso’s “Everyday Paleo”. I double the ingredients and freeze half. These are super delicious with a bit of almond butter on top.

2 1/4 c almond meal

4 eggs

1 organic apple, finely diced

1 very ripe banana

1/4 c coconut oil

1/3 c water

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 heaping T cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Using fork, mash banana in large mixing bowl. I use my kitchen aid and it works great. Add all other ingredients and mix. The batter will not be very thick, but more like a cake batter. Add more water if necessary to achieve this consistency. Grease muffin tins with coconut oil (spray is less messy). Fill tins 3/4 full and bake for 15-20 min or until toothpick comes out clean. Makes approximately 16 muffins.

Tiptoes Paleo Cookies

1 very ripe banana

1/2 c unsweetened canned organic pumpkin

1/3 c coconut flour

3/4 c almond butter

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 apple, diced

1/3 c coconut milk

1 T cinnamon

1/2 c dark chocolate chips

1 c raw shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350. Mash bananas. Add flours, almond butter, pumpkin and baking soda. Add apple, coconut milk and cinnamon. Mix well. Add chocolate chips and coconut. Grease cookie sheet with coconut oil and spoon by heaping tablespoons an inch or two apart. Bake for 25 minutes. Makes 20 cookies. 

There you have it! Now proudly, shop, bake, and walk right on past that donut shop and bakery. Share these treats with your family and friends and see if they can even tell the difference. Good for you for trading unhealthy for healthy!

Let me know how it goes!