Fitting Fitness into Life: Suzy DeShields

April 19, 2019 6 min read

I started gymnastics when I was about 7. It was the perfect sport for me because I’m a daredevil, love to dance, and I’m just super competitive. Once I set my mind on something, I will work until I get it right. As a gymnast, you don’t get to do much of anything else, other than school.The discipline a gymnast has is intense. I was so committed and so determined to reach my goals, I persisted through injuries and long days through high school. Then I was fortunate enough to experience the thrill of collegiate gymnastics. This is where love/hate for the sport enters.

We had about 6 weeks until Nationals my Junior year, and I’d made it to the back of floor line up; the anchor position. It was a lot of work for me to get there, working through low back pain, focusing on nutrition, and staying consistent with sleep and school. I’d finally figured things out and learned to trust the system my coaches had for me, which worked incredibly well in and out of the gym. It was a home meet. Warm ups were great. During competition, I landed my first tumbling pass just fine (a double tuck), then when I straightened my knees to initiate a lunge to finish, my right ACL tore. Completely in half. Along with some meniscus. A lunge is something automatic for us, something you literally don't think about doing.

I would have to learn that my role as a teammate, assumed coach, and team co-captain was just as important. I would also learn that life isn’t fair. I tried to come back my senior year. I rehabbed all summer and had grown incredibly strong. But I couldn’t land anything on it without searing pain through my leg. Apparently I’d grown scar tissue as big as my graft that we had to scope out 6 months after reconstruction. My career was done.

Fast forward a few years, (something about getting an engineering job, a fabulous wedding, childbirths and raising very small children in there, what a time warp lol) … I remember watching CrossFit on TV the first time in 2012. I loved watching it. I had a friend tell me about it around the same time, and she encouraged me to try it. But my husband and I had just moved, had a 3 year old and 1 year old, and the corporate world had taken over my life. I remember the announcer saying how many of the women were former gymnasts. I remember thinking I wanted to try it one day, but I was just so nervous and intimidated and didn’t really know how to start or how it could fit in my life. I couldn’t even think to pick up the phone or email a gym... that was terrifying to me. I guess I just wasn’t ready. When people say they feel like they need to get in shape before going to a CrossFit gym, I don’t judge. I remember the feeling.

But by the end of 2014, I’d had enough. I was ready. I needed to find myself again. The person that was afraid to try CrossFit had to try CrossFit. The person that died inside when I blew out my knee had to live again. My confidence was shot, and I was sick of it. A friend of mine encouraged me to try her gym with her. It was the day after Christmas. It was the most fun I’d had with a workout since college. Incidentally, it was also the most sore I’d been since college too! When I started, I had to learn movement fundamentals and pretty much wake up all my muscle so I would take a few days in between workouts at first. But I was hooked.

Three years later, I got laid off from my job. Instead of finding a new position at my company I decided to start my own photography business, something I’d been side-hustling for a few years already. In entrepreneurship, you don’t have a team. You’re the only one you can count on. Because of the time commitment to the business, I started missing workouts. I wouldn’t show up for a week, then that became two weeks. I realized something had to change so I could stay fit. I bought a barbell and a few plates and cleared out a small space in my garage.

Then I cleared out more space and got rid of old boxes still from the move. I bought a wall ball. Then a kettlebell. Then I painted the walls in the garage. I got an AirDyne bike. Then I guess you could say things got serious… I designed the floor layout for my gym, including rings hanging from the ceiling and researched squat racks. I hadn’t squatted or done pull-ups since I left my membership, and I was really missing it. There are a few really good rack options out there, but I decided on the PRx Performance rack. I liked that it stores upward, rather than wings swinging in or out, so I can have permanent stations on both sides of the rack. I liked that the kipping bar comes out far enough so I could do kipping pull-ups and chest to bar pull-ups. And the icing on the cake, the kipping bar could be lowered with a simple extra hardware kit so that I could do bar muscle ups on my rack! I couldn’t be happier!

Workouts now are different. I head out to my gym when I have natural breaks in my work. My husband and I have workout dates. My girls can work out with me and they’re learning that fitness is a fun part of life, and how to do it safely. The dog hangs out with me out there. My very own bathroom is just a few feet away, and this is actually a big deal! If I need to take a phone call, I totally can. I can listen to my music, loudly (sorry neighbors)! I can warm up as long as I need, and cool down as long as I need. If I want to cherry pick a workout, I can. If I don’t feel so hot and want to scratch the workout and do yoga instead, I can. I’m never late to work out. It’s extremely liberating. Since I had the fundamental training at my membership, I know how to move safely. I’m able to follow different programs and reach new goals. I actually hit a few PRs this year in my gym (strict press and snatch), and plan to do more!

If I could help someone out there get started in fitness from home, my biggest piece of advice to them would be to set aside a dedicated space. Having a treadmill in a bedroom, or a set of free weights next to the couch in front of the TV just seriously won’t work. That treadmill becomes a laundry storage station, and the free weights are just toe stubbers when you walk by them. Having a room, basement or in my case garage dedicated to fitness (or car at night) is the key. Decorate it and make it a place you love. It’s like my sanctuary... my space just for me (and hubs, and kids... and dog). It’s my getaway, where I can lose my mind in my music and movement. It’s my happy place. Then let it take you where you need it to, to reach your personal goals. If you need to learn how to squat, by all means hire a trainer to come over and teach you! If your nutrition needs to get on track, seek professionals to help there. Whatever your goals are, there is a way to tackle them. The solution is to shift your focus on how you can get it done, rather than reasons you can’t. Realize that your life is yours only to live, and there is no reason you can’t live it the way you want to.

I created some social media accounts to document my fitness and healthy food adventures, and hope it inspires others to either start or continue a fitness routine and healthy eating. Getting started is half the battle but staying in the game and being consistent can be just as hard. I have found following others’ paths through fitness and nutrition to be extremely helpful, and I’ve love for you to join me for the long ride. :)

Fitness and food Instagram @barbelleinspire

Photography biz insta: @lindandlovephotography

Facebook Barbelle Inspire and Lind and Love Photography

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