When one of your worst days turns out being one of your best

December 28, 2016

Five years ago one of my closest friends, Brooke, told me that she was picking up and moving to a new state and starting a new life for her and her girls. I was shocked and scared for her and jealous of her sense of adventure. I was also so happy for her but didn’t want to see her go. I’m not sure who suggested it but she and I and our “brother from another mother, Cliff” decided to go snow tubing. I had never gone and had always wanted to.

I’m not going to repeat how the day went. You can read it here if you want. But Facebook reminded me that this was 5 years ago, today. Wow, I can’t believe all this time has passed. Some days I think it’s been longer and some days it feels like just yesterday I walked into the gym for the very first time. There are so many things that have changed in my life since that day. To say I’m a different person is an understatement. There are traces of that woman still in me but for the most part I left her on the mountain that day.

Here’s the thing, I needed to be that person. If I wasn’t then I couldn’t appreciate the person I’ve become and the person I will be. It is only through our suffering, struggle and desire to walk through the fire that we can then appreciate being on the other side. Just like the phoenix, we have to rebuild ourselves over and over again.

This year specifically I have spent understanding myself and what makes me happy. Maybe it’s because I turned 30 again for the eleventh time that I realized I’m around the “hump year” of my life and want to know what the future holds for me. Or maybe it’s because I have found the things that bring me joy and I want to make sure I have more of that. Either way, whatever the catalyst was, discovering what makes me tick has been scary and overwhelming and exhilarating and has made me sad and happy but I’m eager to keep learning. I feel like I am the guinea pig in my own social experiment. I’m just going to try things and see if they fit so to speak.

Life is short and we don’t know how long we get to be here but I do know that I don’t want to waste any of it. I want to feel good in my own skin. I want to be ok with feeling confident. I want to go through life saying yes instead of no to opportunities to grow and change. No more stagnation, no more fear of the unknown, no more living meekly, no more dimming of my light. No more apologies for loving with my whole heart, I will own the way I think and not apologize if this makes you uncomfortable.

I don’t really like resolutions but I LOVE goals. If any of this rings true with you, make a goal for yourself to change something. Not on the 1st, not after some party, not on a Sunday or a Monday, not when it’s convenient, if you are not happy where you are, in this moment, change. Do it now, don’t wait. You will never truly be ready. So why wait? Yeah, anything you say right now will just be an excuse. Take it from me, I was the queen of excuses so you won’t be able to convince me there’s a good reason. And this may sound harsh but I have grown to appreciate when I get the facts given to me straight. And luckily I have a few people I can go to when I need a good dose of “in your face, get your head out of your ass” conversations. I almost never like what is said at first because I know sometimes the truth is hard to swallow, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I appreciate every moment of that day. Without it I wouldn’t be able to see the amazing things that lie ahead. And let me tell you, the future is bright my friends. All you need to do is jump on the train, it’s moving with or without you! Thank you all for a wonderful year, I can’t wait to see where we all are next year.

Ciao bella



Leaving my shit behind, where it belongs

October 17, 2016

On the advice of a friend I started watching a show called Shameless on Netflix. Netflix is awesome because you can waste lots of time by binge watching seasons of shows if you so choose. This is one of those shows. It’s just crazy enough to keep you hooked while wondering how any of it could be real. Here’s the thing, parts of it feel very real. Some of it too real and the onslaught of memories have come flooding back.

Living with an alcoholic bipolar parent makes for constant chaos. You never know what you’re going to get. Today may be the day you get the shit beaten out of you or maybe she wants to shower you with all the love. Most days it was watching what you said for fear of poking the bear. For when the bear awoke you had to be ready for her attack. And attack she did with vicious words that I have unfortunately hung onto for too long.

I have so many things that I want to accomplish this year and I am standing in my own way blocking them from happening. I have allowed my past chaos to continue to creep back into my current life, and I’m so tired of carrying these heavy bags into every new year. Today I’m opening up my luggage with hope that I can move on and breathe new life into my desire to move forward.

I’m overweight. I’ve been that way for a while, well really I’ve never not been. And The Bear(as I will refer to her from now on) always made sure I knew it. When you are 8 or 9 years old the only thing you want to focus on is your friends and playing. But it was about this time that I can remember things were bad and didn’t get better until I was kicked out at 16. At 8 or 9 you have no real concept of body image or at least you shouldn’t, but I was. I can remember what grade I was in, what house we lived in, how many things were thrown at me and being called fat, over and over. It wasn’t just fat it was fat and stupid or fat and ugly or fat and a whore, yup, not sure how an 8-year-old is a whore either. Looking back I understand now that she was sick. Or drunk. Or high. But those words stuck and burrowed a hole in my brain and have festered like a virus for all these years.

As the years went by she became more unstable with her moods and I received the brunt of that instability. Her words became more hurtful as I got older. She also started to control how and what I ate. We were poor and I qualified for free lunch at school. Back then if you received free lunch you had to be in a special line or had a special ticket so there wasn’t any way to hide and it was embarrassing, so I just wouldn’t eat(bad habit #1 started around 4th/5th grade). By the time I got home from school I’d be hungry and would make myself something to eat. Well this didn’t go over well with The Bear and the next thing I knew there was a padlock on our refrigerator and pantry. I was told this was because I was “stealing” food and couldn’t be trusted. I played sports after school and remembered sneaking or hiding food so that she wouldn’t catch me eating(bad habit #2-making food “bad”) when I’d get home.

Over time things escalated to her telling me that no one would love me because I was fat and ugly or if I didn’t want to be fat I just shouldn’t eat. And I started to believe her. Part of me still does. Even as an adult I have held onto those words from long ago. It took me a long time to eat in public because I was ashamed and thought anyone that saw me eat would be thinking “if you just don’t eat you won’t be fat”. I went through all the diets and even weight loss surgery. But none of it worked and in hindsight none of it was going to work until I dealt with all the memories that have kept me from believing I can change and am deserving of change. Even being surrounded by people who believe in me and love me for the person I am hasn’t been enough. I needed to get to this point on my own. To be sick and tired of not being good enough. I want to be the best me I can be and that means I need to face the shit I haven’t wanted to face. Yes, I have a slightly fucked up relationship with food. And yes, that was developed at no fault of my own, BUT, I refuse to be someone who is going to continue to use that as an excuse to change. I will change in spite of my past.

There is a scene in Shameless where the female lead is at the beginning of another potential new relationship and her potential love interest tells her that she is a “chaos junkie”. When he said that I immediately said to myself, “shit, that’s me”. I was surrounded by chaos and that became my norm. Then as I got older I would create it where there wasn’t any; relationships, friendships, jobs, anywhere I could. But it takes so much energy to constantly be creating chaos and I have done a good job of lessening the chaos in my life. But the internal chaos surrounding food and eating has never slowed down. But today I am stepping away from the tornado of thoughts and feelings surrounding what I eat and why. I have committed to following a plan and being accountable and setting a good example for my daughter. My personal and professional life will benefit greatly as I learn to take care of myself. I anticipate some bumps in the road but know I have a wonderful support system that will be there to help pick me up when I stumble. But I want this, more than I have wanted anything. I want to be normal. I want to look at a plate of food and just know it’s what I need to feel good or lift all the weights. I will get there, I know I will.

-Ciao Bella





Rio Adventures: The first leg

August 1, 2016

To catch some of you up I’ll start at the beginning. I’ll make it short and sweet.

  • Fall 2014 I applied to be a volunteer for the Rio Olympics
  • Dec 2015 I was notified I was one of 50,000 volunteers accepted
  • May 2016 I found out that not only was I going to be working as a nurse to athletes, I was going to be assigned to the training hall where the olympic weightlifters would be holding practices. Boxing and fencing are in the same building too.

That brings us up to the present. Yesterday I jumped on a plane to Miami. After a long delay I finally made it to my hotel, thanks to my Uber driver, Yoslan. We had a nice conversation about how he became a US citizen 5 days ago after moving here from Cuba 9 years ago. “How do you like living here?” “It’s the best place in the world”, he says. I haven’t been all over the world but after listening to his story about coming here, learning the language and finding a way to support himself and his family I understand why he feels that way.

I check-in to The Greenview Hotel. For the next 12hrs or so I’ll call this home. But first, food and lucky for me, two doors down there is a small pizzeria. This place reminds me of a place in Boston around the corner from Berklee School of Music and Boston Conservatory. The first thing you notice is that it’s hotter inside than out due to a large oven that sits behind the long counter. There are no less than half a dozen pies under the glass and even at close to midnight there is a man hand making fresh pies. After picking two beautiful looking pieces and waiting for what feels like forever I finally have some warm pizza that tastes like home. Well home before RVA became my home. 

A fast 8hrs later and it’s time to get a move on. Check out is at 11 and I want to put my toes in the sand. Water, but particularly the ocean, centers me. Looking out into the expanse of water reminds me where I am heading. Into an unknown situation with the potential to change my view of…..everything. 

A quick stop into Walgreen’s for last minute provisions (I forgot the Zofran!!!!!) and back to the hotel to check out in time. I still have plenty of time before I want to get to the airport so I wandered into a Cuban restaurant. If you know me then you know I naturally move to the beat of whatever music is playing. Walking in I felt as though I was transported to Havana and my shoulders started to move with the beat. I was their first patron of the day and the two waiters were still dancing and singing when I walked in. I ordered and drank the most delicious café con leche while waiting for my food. I resisted the urge to drink it in one large gulp and savored ever sip. My meal of sweet fried plantains and a Cuban pulled pork sandwich was exactly what I had hoped for. When that was done one of the waiters suggested I have one of their “famous” Mojitos. Well sure, why not. This really was a perfect Mojito and guessing from the “Miami food tour” group that stopped in for one, it really was famous. If you’re ever in Miami check out Bella Cuba on Washington Street in South Beach. Great food, great atmosphere and friendly staff. 

I only have a 30 minutes until I find myself flying south past the equator to what I hope is a wonderful adventure. I have come to the conclusion that seeing the world is something I am going to make happen. I wish I was sharing this experience with family and friends but being alone is allowing me to reflect in a way I wasn’t really prepared for. I probably won’t have the opportunity to post daily but I will try to post as often as possible. 

Thank you to my wonderful friends who made this trip possible. You have no idea the amazing thing you have done. 

Ciao Bella


Endings and beginnings

November 8, 2015

The last few months have been a whirlwind of change.

I’m not one of those people who doesn’t like change. I actually like it. I was that kid that would rearrange the furniture in my room every few months, just because. I think change feels good, it keeps things fresh. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a challenge the older I get but I understand the importance and benefit so I try and allow myself to not resist it.

There is a part of me that has been waiting for the opportunity to make a change like this. Deep down I’ve always known that I could do great things if someone took the chance to see past my shell to see the potential I’ve held inside. I have looked for this person my whole life. I’ve looked to teachers and mentors and anyone that had the ability to give me a chance. Always thinking that someone else was in control of whether I succeeded or failed because I needed their approval. Not because I didn’t think I was able but because I have based all of my abilities on my self-image. Tying my abilities in life to what size jeans I wear is ridiculous and so detrimental. But I’ve done it, for decades.

I have come to the understanding that I will only be successful if I allow myself to be. Not for any reason other than my ability to do so. I need to be ok with being confident and secure in my abilities, knowing that it doesn’t mean I am cocky or conceited. Once I can allow myself to change there will be no limit on the positive things that are bound to happen. I know there will be roadblocks and setbacks in this wonderful mental game I play with myself but I’m willing to do the work to get there. My goal is to be respected by those I respect and I can’t expect from others what I can’t do for myself.

Welcome to LHO Barbell. We are small but mighty. Everyone works hard and wants to be successful. I thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to make a difference and trusting me to help you reach your goals. I am lucky to be able to do what I love every day. Sharing my passion with like-minded people is like hitting the work lottery. I am excited about this wonderful change and can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

As always,

Ciao Bella and Lift Heavy Often





Finding my strength

July 14, 2015

wrist7I LOVE max days. There is an excitement in the air that is electric. The energy is palpable. This is the environment for PR’s……..or in my case, a broken wrist. A year ago today I was so freakin’ excited to be attempting a new PR on my clean. I had just re-committed myself to a 3-on-1-off-2-on-1-off schedule and was a couple of weeks in when our programming called for a max lift day. I think I had previously attempted(and missed)a PR a couple of months before and was ready for some redemption. I remember EVERY detail to this day and I won’t bore you with all of them but some are funny to me.
It was a simple enough day: work, lift, coach.

Nothing exciting happened at work, unless you count having to go back as a patient!

In the gym, warming up seemed easy enough. I remember sharing a bar for the warm ups and jumping in on someone else’s bar as I got heavier. I was so happy to have hit my old PR again. Now here is where I should have listened to all the little bells that were going off inside my head. I was so excited to try and lift that I went against my better judgement and did a few things I knew better than to do. I used a 20kg bar instead of a 15kg bar and my grip just didn’t feel the same. I jumped 20# near the top of my max instead of maybe 5-7# and I rushed instead of taking some time to rest. I even remember saying how nervous I was before I walked up to the bar but I set up and started to pull. I turned the bar over and heard two distinct “cracking” sounds. The pain didn’t set in immediately but I knew I couldn’t hold onto the bar which pissed me off because I had racked this weight and I was in the bottom of a squat. The only thing left to do was stand up, grrrrr. After dropping the weight and sitting down I grabbed my wrist to support it and heard my coach ask if I was ok. I told him, “I just broke my wrist”.

Fast forward a couple of hours and this is what we see.












In case you’re not sure what you’re looking at, the top is my wrist, with a curve that shouldn’t be there. The second is a xray of why that curve is there. This is a pretty unstable fracture of my distal radius. This was before the nice PA reduced it in the ER. A closed reduction of a wrist is this fun little procedure where the nice PA holds your hand up by the fingers, grabs your forearm and pulls your fingers up while pulling down on your forearm. This is to try and make the bone more realigned. Normally when most people have a fracture it is straight and clean across and this isn’t required. I decided I didn’t want to be like most people, I’d do something better by splintering the bone! RX+ for the win!

Lucky for me I have an ortho and his right hand lady on speed dial and I was in surgery within 24hrs. Eight screws and one stainless steel plate later I was good as new. But this was just the beginning. The next 9 weeks would be one of my biggest mental tests to date.






I’m a nurse, I make a horrible patient. I don’t like being told I can’t do something and will probably find a way to do it anyway so you better jump on my train ’cause it’s moving forward whether you like it or not. Yeah, my doctor probably wanted to strangle me. We came to the understanding of “just tell me what I CAN’T do and I won’t, but that leaves lots that I can”.  This was my mindset until the day I could pick up a barbell.

  • 7 days after injury I was in the gym just moving
  • 14 days later I was front squatting 90# with a safety bar(I hate that thing)
  • 7wks later I was doing double unders, C&J’s with a PVC pipe, wall push ups and burpees(I couldn’t wait to do these again. crazy right?!)
  • and 9wks to the day, I put a barbell over my head

I tell you this because when something happens that affects most aspects of your life the most logic reaction is to act like nothing is wrong and figure out how to keep moving forward. This may not be the best reaction but it was the one I understood. This injury really messed with my identity.

I know how to be strong. That’s me. When that was taken away I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt lost. There were so many tears and crazy and insane text messages(sorry Bobby, Jen, Lara, etc) that spelled out how I didn’t know what to do with myself and when would my body just get back to normal. I remember picking up a barbell(15#) for the first time and thinking that my lifting days were over because I was just so weak and my mobility was now gone. With all my strength went all my confidence. All that hard work that I had done to get myself to a better place was now lost. I was such a shell of a human when I walked through those doors to meet Jen that first evening and the first 9wks post op felt like I was right back to being that same person.

Fast forward a year.

These 365 days have been some of the best days yet. I can’t believe that I can even say it but it’s true. So many wonderful things have happened this past year because I took the mindset of “act now because you never know what might happen”. I didn’t want to waste any more time. I set some goals for myself to help get me back to where I was before surgery. I missed some of the dates but surpassed what I set out to do. In the past year I have PR’d my:

  • front squat by 60#
  • back squat by 25#
  • clean by 20#
  • c&j by 20#
  • and my jerk is back to my pre-surgery weight

At first I was so afraid of who I would become if I wasn’t able to be strong. Now I know I have the strength to become anything I want. Being strong is more than who I am, it’s the way I want to live my life; body, mind and spirit. Getting through this past year wouldn’t have been possible without the community of support I’m lucky enough to have. Thank you to everyone that encouraged and pushed and just listened. It all meant more than you know. And Bobby, as always, you are my rock. Thank you.

Now go lift something heavy!

Ciao bella











“You have a confidence problem”

May 4, 2015

As a coach you are always trying to instill confidence in your athletes. I like using the phrase, “I’ll believe in you until you believe in yourself.” This is effective because more times others can see your capabilities clearer than you can. And this past weekend I was reminded of this for myself.

I was having a conversation with a fellow lifter friend that said something like this: “I have to think about my lift as a fight. The bar is fighting to stay on the ground and I’m fighting to put over my head. Sometimes I win and sometimes the bar wins but if I walk in this ring already defeated there’s no way I’m going to be successful.” And he’s right. If you don’t approach the bar with confidence then you’ve already lost. And why do all the work to pull the bar out, put your shoes on(you know that takes forever!), find your wrist wraps, drag all the weights out and chalk up your hands if you walk up to the bar and say, “I hope I make it”. Lack of confidence is a PR killer and I got hit with the reality stick pretty hard this weekend.

If you’ve read any of my previous stuff you know I battle and have battled with confidence and self esteem issues forever. Most all of this stems from not feeling great about how I look and feel in my own skin. I know that where I am today is 1000% better than where I was a few years ago but sometimes I get put in check on how much I still need to grow.

I was lucky enough to get to go to a Weightlifting Mini Camp at CH Fitness and Performance this weekend. It was run by Cara Heads and this amazing and witty red-head, Ursula Papandrea. I’m lucky enough to get to train some with Cara but I had only heard about Ursula from the many wonderful things Cara says about her. To say that I was in awe is an understatment. I had to contain my excitement and pure yearning for knowledge for fear I would look like some sort of crazy person. I took in every opportunity I could to be the athlete and get coached. This continued when I had some one-on-one time with Ursula. We weren’t far into our conversation when I said something about not being a very good athlete. She made a comment and I probably made a face(the one where you scrunch up your nose and shake your head a little) and she immediately said,

“You have a confidence problem.”

BAM! There it was, out on the table. Raw and simple. She wasn’t being mean but just making an observation. Little did she know just how right she was and how that simple little sentence affected me right then and still now.

I became immediately vulnerable hearing those words. I got tears in my eyes because she had hit a nerve. I felt like she had ripped off all of my clothes and left me there emotionally naked. She got down to the core of my weightlifting issues in about 5min. We weren’t discussing knee angles at the set up or foot placement in the catch(although I know so many nerdy things about that now!) we were talking about personalities and about how different types of personalities get drawn into lifting. It takes fire and will from within and nothing puts a fire out faster than self doubt. Yes, there are technical things we all have to work on but if you aren’t emotionally in check then your technique can’t save you. You will fall apart when you need to be dialed in the most. 

Confidence and being self assured are two things that make me incredibly uncomfortable. When I look at myself all I see is room for improvement. Which in some cases is good. Forward movement is always better than stagnation. But, I forget to take stock of the accomplishments along the way. It’s ok to say “I do ______ well”. There will always be room to improve but without acknowledging the good things you leave the door open for self doubt and you will lack confidence. 

From here on out I will be doing a better job of acknowledging the things I do well. I have lots of goals to accomplish and there will be successes along the way. Taking ownership of the small successes will set me up for bigger ones down the line. I encourage you to do the same. Then walk up to the bar and let it know who’s gonna win the fight!

Ciao Bella 


Wow! Where did all that time go?

March 9, 2015

It’s been awhile, I know.  Hope to do better but sometimes life happens.


WODjournalSo, a couple of weeks ago I realized that my CrossFit anniversary was coming up. I stopped what I was doing, went into our office and picked up my first WOD journal.

I was relieved to see that I hadn’t missed the date. I still remember everything about that day. I had just finished group on Ramp classes two days before. I knew right away that I wanted to start group classes when I was finished. I was so nervous to start classes. I knew how hard the workouts were during my on ramp I could only imagine how hard the workouts were going to be in a class setting. But I walked in and was ready to work. I was there for make up day so I let my coach guide me into doing a workout she thought would allow me to feel accomplished when I finished. I remember thinking that it wasn’t going to be too bad…..I was wrong. She modified the rep scheme for me so that I got the intended stimulus, but it still sucked. The workout? “Annie” 50-40-30-20-10 Double unders and Abmat situps. Luckily I didn’t have to do the workout all by myself. Whenever I do “Annie” now, I always think about Marcy and how incredibly nice and encouraging she was while we did that workout together. I’ve done the workout many times since and have gone from highly modifying it like on that first day to now doing the workout as written. This system of measurable data is what helps to keep things in perspective for me when I don’t feel like I’m progressing like I should. I have to continually remind myself where I started.firstWOD

I’m not the best athlete and I was so incredibly out of shape that everything we did was uncomfortable. I was last all the time and I didn’t have clothes that fit. I didn’t move fast and I couldn’t do simple movements. BUT I WANTED TO BE SUCCESSFUL. I knew right away that I wanted my coaches to be proud of me. I wanted them to know that I could do anything if they gave me the chance to show them. And they did, over and over again. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. They stood right next to me and encouraged me to do one more rep. They looked me in the eye and told me it was ok when I was tearful from trying over and over and not being successful. They reminded me that I needed to be proud of what my body could DO instead of focusing on the numbers on the scale.

Fast forward THREE YEARS!!!!!

Now I’m still not the best athlete, I still come in last sometimes, things are still uncomfortable BUT I am such a different person than I was back then. Those coaches that I wanted to make proud gave me the best opportunity I could ever ask for: to believe in those that don’t believe in themselves yet. When I walked into West End CrossFit three years ago I NEVER even imagined the direction my life would take. I was looking for a way to get in shape, be healthy and have fun while doing it. If you had told me that day I did “Annie” for the first time, that three years later I would be coaching others, I would have laughed at you. Some days I still don’t believe it, don’t feel worthy of what I’ve been given. I think back to that girl who had no confidence in herself and want to tell her, “Guess what? in three years you’re going to be strong. You’re going to be proud of yourself. You’re going to make a difference. Keep moving forward because you’re going to get better every day.”

So on this awesome day filled with lots of PR’s(we maxed out front squats today. I increased 40 pounds since November from 240# to 280# even after having wrist surgery in July which ended in a plate and 8 screws in my left radius) I am so thankful for so many things. Tim and Jen, thank you for believing in me and seeing the potential that I never knew was there. Thank you for entrusting your athletes with me, I feel very lucky to do what I do everyday. Thank you for everyone that told me “you got this!” because at some point I believed you and that helped me to not give up. And of course, Bobby. Thanks for allowing me to follow this passion that I never knew I had. I’m so lucky to have you, even if your cookie obsession drives me crazy.

Ciao bella



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