Take on Cancer with Fitness

I am so excited to welcome our special guest blogger today, Melanie Bowen.  Melanie is very passionate about physical health and wellness and the connection between being physically fit and preventing many serious diseases, including cancer.  Cancer will strike all of our lives in one way or another. It’s time to start battling back and look at preventative actions before reactionary treatments. Once cancer is diagnosed it is incredibly valuable to “treat” your physical health and wellbeing along with the cancer. As Melanie shows, physical health is not only very important to beating cancer and a successful recovery but also to your mental state which is also key to survival. 

I wholeheartedly believe that the choices we make today, impact our future – it’s time to make sure we’re making the most of our life and wellness NOW so we can live a long,  healthy and happy life. 

Thank you Melanie for your wonderful piece!

Taking on Cancer with Physical Fitness

By the time a person is diagnosed with cancer, that individual often is already feeling under the weather, if not entirely exhausted.  This disease, which can come in many forms, may compromise a person’s physical wellbeing over a period of time that eventually it leads to him or her going to the doctor and receiving a cancer diagnosis.  The last thing people want to do, or even think about doing, after receiving this news is exercise.  However, doctors urge patients to act quickly by taking up an exercise regimen if they want to be proactive in aiding their own recoveries.  Cancer patients who exercise regularly often recover better and remain in remission longer than those who remain inactive.

According to research, fitness should be a top priority of people undergoing treatment for cancer.  Regular exercise benefits their bodies and helps people feel like they are in charge of their physical conditions and recovery.  Many patients feel helpless about what is happening to them as they go through countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.  They may feel like they have no control over their pain and ability to get out of bed after surgery.  However, when they exercise regularly, people may find that they feel stronger after treatments and have higher thresholds for pain and nausea.  Their commitment to their physical fitness can help them withstand the worst side effects of cancer treatments.

Battling breast cancer, leukemia, mesothelioma and other forms of cancer also proves to be mentally difficult.  In a moment of solitude and silence, it is very easy for a patient to worry about his or her prognosis.  Even with the best of treatment results, people still tend to wonder if they will survive.  Putting their minds at ease and keeping depression and anxiety at bay can be accomplished through regular exercise.  Working out calls for patients to focus on the tasks at hand.  They must concentrate on lifting weights, balancing their bodies, focusing their minds, and other aspects of exercise.  This mental focus distracts them from their fears and anxieties.  By the time their workouts are done for the day, people may find that they are in better moods and that they are more optimistic.

Being committed to one’s physical fitness during cancer treatments also can keep a person in touch with the outside world.  Many people going through treatments may be tempted to shut themselves off from the world and focus on their fears and doubts about the disease and their prognosis.  However, this self-imposed isolation is detrimental and cuts off the social support that people need from friends, neighbors, and relatives.  When patients get out of their houses to walk around the block, meet friends at a gym, or stroll around a local shopping center with relatives, people are reminded that others care about them and their prognoses.  Cancer patients can keep their spirits lifted and remember that others are there to help during their cancer fight.  Physical fitness during cancer treatments should remain a top priority for people going through treatments.

Be well, TRUE Strength!


the Strength at the Finish Line

This post is overdue… but it took a while to really process feelings and emotions and as we’re all currently learning and experiencing, there are still so many unknowns related to the Boston Marathon bombings.  

Long before I became an athlete I took an internship with a running company.  Soon this internship turned into my first real job after college where I worked my way up in the company to become a race director for large half marathons around the country.  Working with this company is how I started running, which led to sweet success and deep struggles in my life and then opened the door to CrossFit and the TRUE Strength journey.  The very first day I started running was not because I really wanted to but because my boss, the company president, said he was going to take a break from the work day and go for a run.  The next day I decided… well hell… I don’t want to sit in the office, I want a break too, so I announced I was going to take a break and go for a run.  It all started in that moment.  I didn’t know how far I was going but each time I went out – huffing, puffing, terrible form, hobbling… I had a finish line.  

And I found strength each time I crossed that line.  

I soon found races to experience and was in awe of the emotional experience and release that came from crossing each finish line. I found finish lines in other areas of life too and felt an internal sense of competition to get to the next finish line… accomplish something new, learn something, grow!

With the company I had the honor of spending most of the four hour races at the start and finish line.  Our company’s philosophy was that every single person who crossed that line should be celebrated – not just the winners.  We even had balloons for the final finishers.  The point wasn’t how fast you did it but that you… DID IT.  Every single race I cried at the start of the race and cried as the final finishers crossed the finish line.  Being a part of their journey and success was an honor.  In those moments we all bonded together and were family. Sharing in the strength that came from that finish line.

On Monday, April 15th, so many of us instantly became family as we had to find strength at the finish line in Boston.  Those who were at the scene and ran towards the victims are true heroes.  So many gave their own safety to help others in need and help protect those around them.  Around the country and world we felt a sense of violation and deep, true sadness.  Many of us are still finding ways to support and help from afar.  The thought of such a celebratory time being stolen is sickening.

Nothing I write, can make any tragedy better, but I can beg of you to remember the strength found at that finish line and each finish line of every day.

I remember when I still worked for the running company and my mom walked the half marathon.  I framed her finisher photo with a caption saying, “Smiling across all of life’s finish lines”

As we all sort through the tragedies that have seemed to come one after another in world recently, please fight to find the strength in your situation, your finish lines, your ups and downs. 

TRUE Strength 

The 2013 CrossFit Open is… Closed

Well… the 2013 CrossFit Open has officially wrapped.

My goal when the open started was to submit a score for each wod.  I knew the scores would most likely be one or two reps each wod but it was important to me to at least try my hardest, stay safe, and prove that there are no excuses to be made.

Five weeks later… five wods… five scores… no DNF’s…

I’m proud of that.

To say I didn’t leave a few wods thinking to myself… “Oh, I could have done a lot better” would be a lie.  I even had a minor breakdown after 13.2 (wod 2) because I had a score in mind and thought I could have done better.  I even considered doing it again just to prove to myself that I could.  But with the gentle reminders from those around me and the straight forward truth of my coaches, trainers, and husband I was snapped back into place remembering my goal… just enter a score and keep these babies safe.  I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, other than myself. And what did I have to prove?  That I could do what I loved and be a part of the community I love WITHOUT being the top, the best, or the winner. I could just be a part of the family and cheer everyone on as they worked hard.

I approached this Open season and each Open WOD with the same desire to succeed as before and the same intensity and excitement as past years (minus my traditional iced coffee which I miss oh so much!). The difference this time was that I knew after my two or so reps I’d have to switch to the modifications deemed safe for me to use.  I was NOT however, phoning in my few reps and then taking it easy.

I missed the competition, I missed the training, and I missed being able to do things RX’ed, but I didn’t miss the stress and the time away from my family.  I was able to see with much clearer eyes this time around how much tunnel vision I had last year and how if I get back into training down the road how I will NOT let that happen again.  How can I guarantee that? I can’t give you a sentence or two that will leave you saying… ah I see, you’ve found the secret.  All I can say is that I’ve been blessed with the perspective of both sides and for me that is what it took to see how I want my future to be.  I can work hard and still be present in my family and personal life.

Our box is lucky enough (or just damn good enough!) to have individuals who qualified, a qualified team (ranked 38th in the WORLD), AND the #1 Masters Man in the WORLD!!!

I’m so proud of them.  Maybe even more so, I’m proud of every person who undertook this journey no matter what their score or rank.  They may have signed up with trepidation but in the end they proved to themselves that they can do amazing things – one rep at a time.  I’m proud of each person who stayed after a class to cheer someone else on.

Proud of every one who didn’t let fear stop them.  

Fear has stopped me before… it’s derailed my success… but it’s made me stronger.  I no longer fear failure, I’ve been humbled by this 2013 Open and I’ve learned there is no black and white here, no all or nothing… it’s all perspective and all balance.  No fear, balance, and no excuses!

I ended this season ranked 1,799th out of 10,705 in the Central East Region.  A little different than last year… but I’ve gained so much in this year that I’d never trade spots!

TRUE Strength


Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement, and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.
-Brian Adams

Que the cheesy “Deep Thoughts with Jack Handey” music from SNL…

My ever knowledgeable mom sent me this quote with a simple line saying… “I really liked this, thought you might too.”

Now, when you read between the lines the real message said… “you could really internalize this quote… try to work on quieting your ever spinning mind, my dear”

I admit I am not a patient person… I’m patient with others, but with myself and my goals… ummm not so much!

I stress over outcomes that haven’t even happened yet and stress about so many what if situations that I have projected into my future, I set myself up for stress and worry.

With hindsight being 20/20 I’ve been able to learn this lack of patience is what has caused anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure in my CrossFit and other athletic journeys… Since getting pregnant I’ve been able to take a step back from training and competition and gain a much deeper perspective and realigned priorities that will help in reaching new goals and becoming much more successful.

Outside of the CF box, I am learning patience in life. There are SO many unanswered questions and unknowns as we approach the debut of our little twins.  I logically grasp that I cannot predict how things are going to be and cannot know how to handle every situation before we live it… but that doesn’t mean I am not already trying to think through it all… trying to control the outcomes and results.  Patience…

Patience does not mean resting on your laurels… work hard, set goals, work harder… but have patience in the process and confidence in your hard work and life process.

Patience my mind… quiet… in patience comes confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.

Patience in your fitness, patience in your goals, patience in your love, patience in life, and perhaps above all… patience with yourself.

Patience to all of us. 

TRUE Strength