My Catalyst Story: Stephanie Parniak

Parnz2There was once a commercial with the line “You were in my class”, “No, I was your teacher”.  That’s where my Catalyst story begins.  Tyler was enrolled in an Additional Qualification course for teachers for which I was the course director.  One day I asked him for some basketball pointers.  In reality, it was an interview of sorts.  He passed the test and so began my adventures with Catalyst.  After a few e-mails, he became my trainer (or Captain Motivator as he referred to himself at one point).

My journey began in May 2010.  I have to confess, the idea of being at “the Park” freaked me out a lot.  That’s where the real athletes trained, not someone like me.  I began personal training with Ty.  No gym membership for me.  I wasn’t brave enough to go there all by myself.  Ty e-mailed me homework and I would do it at home or in the weight room at school when no one else was in the building. He noticed that I really liked lifting and during the summer asked me about participating in a virtual meet the following November.  He also told me about “Barbell Betty’s” that was going to begin in the fall, leading up to the meet.  This was my first group experience.  (I felt like the smart kid in the class, skipping Betty’s 1 and 2 and jumping straight to 3!)  Up until then it was one on one only for me.  I met so many great people and used the gym membership that came with it to complete my homework.  I was now part of “the family”.  Betty’s 3 focused on powerlifting and although height wise I fit with the ladies, weight lifting wise Ty placed me with the guys.  November 2010 was a big month for me.  I competed in a virtual meet (something I never in my life would have thought of doing) and had my heavy back squats DQ’d for depth.  As disappointing as that was, the following week I beat it anyways.  330 deadlift, 300 back squat, 135 benchpress all in 6 _ months. As I think back those were my best 6 1/2 months at Catalyst.  When I say that, it’s from a physical perspective.  In those few months my body changed a lot.  I was building muscle and dropping clothing sizes.  3-4 sizes!  I felt great mentally and physically!  I had found that sense of balance and was no longer a “work-a-holic”.  I was on the road to discovering the new me and finally winning the battle of weight loss.  

And then came December.  Turn the Tide was a blast even with a nasty chest cold, which I later learned was pneumonia.  This is where the easy road changes into one full of bumps. In the 7 months that followed I was treated for pneumonia twice and battled a lingering illness until June.  During that time the people at Catalyst and Coop specifically, were more important that ever.  They were my emotional support and helped keep me going.  I still made it to the park when I had enough energy and Kath Fryia (my CrossFit hero!) was my partner for Fran! (Another step outside of my comfort zone).  In March came Murph.  Still under the weather, I completed Murph running/walking on the treadmill and with peppermint tea by my side.  Doing the modified workouts were a real mental challenge.  I had to do everything in my power not to beat myself up over how “wimpy” I felt they were.  I remember an e-mail from Coop, helping me through it.  He began with an analogy about rats in water and linked it to competing in an internal powerlifting meet/marathon every day just to survive physically.  It was difficult for me to drag myself to the Park.  The wall where my records were written tormented me daily and reminded me of what I could no longer do.  There were many days where my goal was to hold back tears of disappointment and frustration and other days where I just lost it.  (Thanks to all of you who have been there for me over and over!)  That’s when the camera came out!  It started with the Open and then anything and everything going on I was going to capture – Defiance, Regionals, Fight on Friday, Catalyst Games …  If I couldn’t compete I was going to capture the moments for those who were.   Everyone loves seeing pictures of themselves doing awesome things and that’s what goes on at Catalyst.  Pure Awesomeness! 
As my energy returned so did the intensity and weights of my WODs.  I was back at it!  I was hitting PRs with bench press, front squat, overhead squat, clean, snatch …  I was back!!!  In University I participated in a running clinic and had always wanted to run again so when spring came I joined the running group that Mike was coaching.  Sadly, I had to bow out because of illness …. again.  That was tough and I had to convince myself that I was not quitting or giving up.  On a positive note, it helped me to be ready for the Non-Annual Bar River Bucketlist Marathon where I ran-walked the 6 km loop on July 1st.  Once again I was winning!  (Thanks to Meagan for the pat on the back during one of my walking breaks and the encouragement to keep going!)  The plates were back on the bar and I was finally feeling strong again.  Then comes August.  Walking in the sand after a great summer paddle, I twisted my knee.  The more I did the less I could ignore it.  Can you imagine my reaction when my physio said “No lifting, no carrying weights, no extra weight on the knee for a few weeks!”?   I mastered the art of all things seated, including shoulder press and one legged KB swings.  (Thanks Esther for the tips!)  I even participated in the Catalyst Games!  Instead of participating in all of the events I participated in only one, but it’s more than all of those people who did not participate at all!  And who can forget the 1889 pictures!!!  
Reality has set in that the knee is not going to get better on it’s own and now I wait for it to get “fixed”.  Much has changed since those “glory days” of heaving lifting.  The weight once lost has been found again and those 4 sizes of clothes now sit in bins waiting to be worn again.  It’s frustrating and disappointing, especially when I look back at the pics from Fran 2010 vs Fran 2011.  But I’m not ready to throw in the towel.  In the mean time, there have been so many things at Catalyst for me to do and to continue making me feel like “an athlete”.  Tag Team Fran with Charity, the Women’s Only Clinic at SSMMA, kick boxing for martial arts (way outside my box and I often felt like the slow kid in the class, but fun none the less), spending a lot of time working on upper body strength and building strength in my legs to make rehab easier after surgery.  I’ve hit new bench press, snatch and shoulder press records.  I’m helping out with Move-a-matics, implementing Ignite in my classroom, heading to Regionals again to cheer (and take pictures).  I’ve started participating in CrossFit groups, often modified, starting with the quiet Friday night group and moving on to the rowdy Saturday Morning group WODs.  
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the family at Catalyst it’s that everyone accepts you for who you are and genuinely cares about you.  You’re not a membership number or an unknown.  You’re tagged with a nickname, or many, out of affection (Parnz, Parnzy, Parnz and Noble …).  The family has stood beside me through thick and thin (literally!)  I can’t imagine not being around the amazing people at Catalyst  and some days I go more for the socializing than the workout.  I still HATE doing WODs for time and AMRAPS but I’m doing them more and more.  I even did my birthday WOD “Parnz” rx’d and for time (men’s deadlift weight – perhaps I should follow the advice I give students to read the instructions first …. Oops!).  I continue to grow and learn more about myself and the person I can and want to be.  Catalyst is so much more than a gym.  I can’t imagine being anywhere else!