Archive for December 8, 2011

“The Flower that Blooms in Adversity is the most Rare and Beautiful of all…”

Posted in Articles on December 8, 2011 by oldcountrystrong

One year ago 5 writers decided to speak out.

Their goal wasn’t any radical message. It wasn’t spiteful or full of venom. It wasn’t a fight they were looking to pick. It was simple a statement, “No more, This is our line in the sand.”
They weren’t going to hide anymore. They weren’t going to pretend anymore. They weren’t going to be told what they needed to be or how they needed to look. This was their line, and against what society thought they weren’t going to move.

Last year Roo came to me with a question, “Can I write an article for Old Country…”

That article was the line. And she stood on it. I decided to stand on that line with her. One by one our friends stood on that line with us. We were gonna let everyone know it was ok to be strong. It was ok to not fit some mold we were all told from childhood we needed to fit in.

We wanted everyone to know what we all so deeply believed in, that Strong was Beautiful.

We keep referencing these 5 writers from last year. Marissa, Joey, Carrie and John…
Thats right, we had one former Division 1 college wrestler speak out about his battle with body imagine. Yes we are Strong but even the Strongest are effected by this.

When I started to choose the writers for this years series I knew I wanted to have another male writer. And honestly one named popped into my head. A Club supporter who I actually became close with through this series last year. We live on opposite sides of the border but through this message I found a life long friend in Chris Schaalo.

Chris is a Coach for Crossfit Games Power House Crossfit Taranis and his article today is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever read. Z

When Z asked me to guest post for the annual “Strong is Beautiful” week on OCS I was a little stunned, I’m not exactly a talkative or outspoken person, what makes him think I have great things to say?  However the minute I agreed to take part I knew exactly what I was going to do for the post.  I have a story to share, and I’m probably going to tear up more than a few times writing about it as it is very close to my heart; however, it is one that gives me strength everyday inside and outside the gym.  You see, I have witnessed the quest to be strong save a life and I believe it can save many more.

Now this wasn’t in a physical feat of superhuman strength type way.  There was no mom lifting a car off her child, or boy pulling his younger brother up from a cliff after a slip.  This was far more miraculous.  I was approaching a 23rd birthday, and enjoying the final days of an amazing first Christmas holidays I was able to share with my girlfriend of about 6 months.  Everything was better than I could have expected, I was falling head over heels, spending day after day laughing and learning with her until we had coffee one Saturday night.  She blindsided me, things weren’t working – it was her not me… the usual break up story you hear about.  4 days later I’m pulled aside by a mutual friend at the gym, Alicia is in the hospital – don’t worry she is ok “but she has a long road ahead of her” he says.  He won’t tell me what happened.  Nobody will answer the house phone.  After what was by far the longest 5 hours of my life, most of it spent wondering and worrying on her doorstep, a family friend of hers arrives at the house to collect some things and informs me that Alicia had attempted suicide.  Excuse me?  Suicide?  How in the world does a gorgeous, ambitious, passionate and loving person like this be driven to such an aggressive last resort?

Alicia at 105# (20# heavier than her worst)

It turns out I didn’t know a lot about this girl.  A 5 year period of body image issues, severely disordered eating including bouts of anorexia and bulimia, battles with anxiety, and waves of depression had slowly and brutally beat her down mentally and physically.  Hiding behind an addiction to exercise and an uncanny dedication to seemingly “healthy eating” had enabled her to mask her problems from those who didn’t know her well enough to see through it.  99% of young girls are never able to break free from this demonic struggle – but Alicia has something that most people don’t.  She has the barbell.

The beautiful thing about the barbell is that it doesn’t care.  It doesn’t care whether you’ve had a good day, or whether you’ve eaten the right things.  It doesn’t care whether you’re fighting with your girlfriend, or whether you’re sore from those squats the other day.  The barbell cares about one thing, and one thing only: performance.  The only thing that matters is whether you are stronger than the bar or not, whether you are willing to claw tooth and nail to move it – and if you don’t, are you committed to improving and addressing that load again?  These are traits that can be applied to all areas of life, especially in this case.

For the last 4 years Alicia has dedicated herself to the barbell, she has made a commitment to performance and put her trust in the idea that improving her performance would help her pull herself out of that deep, dark hole.  She has leaned on the barbell during tough times, she has laughed and had fun with the barbell during the lighter times – and each and every day she’s made herself stronger.  Yes, she squats more, presses more, and snatches more than she did 4 years ago; however, her real strength gains have come in mind.  The barbell has taught Alicia a lot about herself, she has learned to be confident, to be proud of herself, and most importantly the barbell has taught her that failing is nothing to be ashamed about, that quitting is not an option, and that success is a product of determination.  Though the demons are still persistent in her mind today, they are much quieter now – more of whisper originating over her shoulder than the every second of every day consuming inner voice of control she used to fight.  Her ability to take the lessons she has learned under the barbell and apply them to herself in her life is truly amazing.

Every moment I catch myself ashamed, disappointed, or down about life – Alicia wanders into my mind. The girl she was before reminds me that I am a lucky person, that things could be much much worse, and that there is always hope.  The young woman she is now show’s me her tattoos, the daily reminders to herself that the fight is worth it, that one day she will break free from it all. The tattoo on her left forearm says “Above All Love Yourself” and the tattoo on her front right trap reads “Beauty in Strength.”  She reminds me that, in the barbell, I have a weapon that most people don’t have.  She tells me to use it, to lean on it when I need to, and to have a little fun with it from time to time.

These past 4 years really have been a long road, along the way Alicia has done nothing but get stronger each and every day, and in doing so (though she probably doesn’t realize it) she has made those of us close to her stronger.  That my friends is truly beautiful.

Article by: Chris Schaalo

I want to thank Chris and Alicia for standing on the line this week. We have celebrated the triumphs and power that come from what we do. But please don’t let it end with this week. There will always be someone who needs some one on that line with them. Please don’t turn off the beacon. Everyone who had read one on these articles. Everyone who has identified with one of these writers please continue to stand on that line. Be that Strength for those who haven’t found it yet. We all can find the strength in each other to stand on this line, our line, and let every close minded person know the truth.

That Strong is truly Beautiful…

Posted by: Z