I’ve had various forays into fitness over the years but nothing ever stuck until I started coming to Catalyst. I also didn’t stay in one place very long to set up a good fitness routine. When I was 18 I moved to Ottawa for university, from there I lived in the United Kingdom, Whistler, Vancouver, Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Inuvik. The first moves were school-related, the next were personal preference and the last ones were for my career. I eventually moved back to Sault Ste. Marie ten years later in the summer of 2016 to be closer to my family. When I got here I didn’t have a job, house, car or many people left that I knew as they themselves had moved away. My mental health was struggling again after a year in the remote Northwest Territories. It took having almost nothing to my name and the infinite free time of the unemployed to finally put my sincere efforts into improving my fitness, which is when I started coming to Catalyst.

SarahPI began researching gyms in Sault Ste. Marie, unsure of what I was looking for or really needed. I had been to larger gyms before but didn’t venture off the cardio machines. I had no idea how to do strength training and personal training was out due to cost. Then I remembered the documentary I had seen on Netflix about the 2015 CrossFit Games, found there was actually a CrossFit affiliate in town and thought I’d give it a try. What the hell, right?

I had five On-Ramp sessions with Jess and loved it. Then I started coming to the classes and loved them too. Everyone seemed to be there from a genuine desire to be healthier and fitter and never once did I feel judged on my beginner status. In fact, I have not yet met a member of Catalyst that put me down, sneered at my empty barbell or made me feel inferior. The people who attend classes or open gym seem to perpetuate a positive feedback loop of encouragement. It’s probably not possible to feel discouraged with that many post-workout high fives.

At first I wasn’t sure what to expect from the workouts themselves, as CrossFit culture is known for pushing its athletes hard. The coaches at Catalyst are phenomenal, suggesting weights or scaled options for my own level of fitness and helping improve my technique to execute movements safely. However, they cannot know how my body feels and thus responsibility also rests on each person to make sure they are finding the right balance of pushing themselves but not so much as to tempt injury. I learned that the hard way when I tweaked my wrist during some overhead squats, ignored that minor injury and made it worse and ultimately had to take a month off for its recovery. When you do find that balance though, I think the coaches and atmosphere of Catalyst are poised to help people achieve goals they may not have thought possible. That has certainly been the case for me.

My proudest moment was undoubtedly when I kicked up into a handstand without help for the first time. I think I even yelled out a loud ‘YES!’ when it happened. I have never been able to do handstands before in my life – I just never had the upper body strength. CrossFit teaches a lot of gymnastics movements and those are my absolute favourite. The control and grace of those movements is shear perfection to my mind. They’re also something I never thought would be possible for someone like me.

And that is my story 🙂 Catalyst has improved my physical and mental health in significant ways when many other avenues failed and I can’t give it any higher praise than that.