From Swedish ballet to Spanish CrossFit

When I think about all the physical moving around I have done through my 41 years, I feel like I should be a whole lot fitter! But it just proves that it really is a journey and I am grateful for how my body has served me so far.

I grew up with a father who was a gymnastics coach and a mom who did everything from Jane Fonda workouts to running. I did neither (Dad tried to get me into gymnastics and swimming, I especially regret skipping out of gymnastics now!) Instead I got really into classical ballet from a young age, and at 16 I was accepted to the Swedish Ballet Academy. I couldn’t afford the tuition fee so instead I went on a scholarship to a contemporary dance school in London the year after.

The following decade or so I spent countless hours in studios, stages and commercial work. At this point I had done zero weightlifting, the most I lifted was the diet coke and the Twix I had for breakfast (absolutely terrible!)

So I was very active, but not really healthy at all. Despite being signed up with two major agencies, I was always very critical about how I looked and often felt stressed. 

Eventually I got tired of the lifestyle but had no idea what to do. I started taking classes at the local gym and got hired as a group trainer. I took my PT license and learned everything about the Krebs cycle and anatomy, but no real hands-on application of how to apply that knowledge was taught.

One day a guy at the gym told me there was a CrossFit box opening, the first one in the South of Spain where I lived at the time. And the first 2 (two!) weeks were free! I really had no idea what it was, but the website looked cool and I had seen the “Nasty Girls” video so I figured I’ll try it. We were five people the first day. The owner was a young British guy in his twenties, who, let’s just say, had a lot to learn as both business owner and coach, however, he was very enthusiastic about CrossFit and we did get results! Most of our workouts consisted of watching who would collapse first, but we had a really good time doing it.

I couldn’t do one strict pullup, nor handstand push up, not even run 400 m with a medball without stopping. Eventually I did get it and it was very encouraging. 

I felt more confident over what my body could do, and it didn’t hinge on how it looked. I took my L-1 and started coaching, then my L-2. By this point, I realized that just doing loads of volume, not recovering well and avoiding weaknesses just didn’t work anymore.

I was lucky to get to know a female athlete who competed at a high level and learnt a lot about the sport side and the mindset that comes with it. At the time I had a lot of time on my hands so I could put in hours and competed as a master. Now, the funny thing was, although it was cool being able to snatch over my bodyweight, do 10 strict pullups, handstand walking and all that  jazz, that old insecurity of never being quite good enough came back! And was I really “healthy”? That’s a different topic I may write more about later.

One positive thing about getting older is that your perspective and priorities shift, and that’s okay. I was lucky to never have a major injury but life happens, as they say. Other things take over. I thought about what really got me into this functional fitness journey, and really: it is truly community. Meaning getting to know so many different people I would never have met otherwise. And do it in a setting that we can all share in a positive way. It’s very humbling and creates a growth mindset if you’re willing  to listen.

I got my L-3 and it still makes me excited to read, talk and share fitness. I am looking forward to continuing my fitness journey, don’t get too caught up, don’t give up and the best advice I can give anyone is to have fun!

Maria Coley CCFT L-3

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