Why One Woman Started Crushing CrossFit Workouts After Losing Function In Her Leg

Burpees, weight sleds, barbell lifts—Amelia Garris, 28, slays them all. She talks about the life-changing power of building serious strength.

Photo: Ellery Photos.

One of my favorite CrossFit WODs is dubbed Grace: You do 30 clean-and-presses, lifting the barbell from the ground to overhead, then lowering back down. The standard for women is to be able to lift 65 pounds, and that's what I do, only I'm in my wheelchair. It's seriously tiring doing a workout like that, but I feel amazing.

If I can lift heavy, I feel successful. It ignites a fire in me.

I like to say that CrossFit put my head back on after I lost the use of my right leg to nerve damage (I was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome five and a half years ago).

When physical therapists told me they couldn't help me any further in my rehab, my mom looked at me and said, "You're going to the gym tomorrow." I couldn't run, and I couldn't walk without crutches, but the next day, when I went to CrossFit, people didn't look at me differently-because everyone has to modify things in CrossFit. So I just fit in.

Photo: Amelia Garris.

Learning how to work out again was difficult, but once you accomplish something-even if it's a small milestone-it's like, wow. I wanted to lift big weights and do everything that everyone else was doing. I just kept going heavier and heavier, and the difference it made both inside and out was quite beautiful.

I started coaching track and soccer at the middle school and high school I attended in Rhode Island-the same sports I played when I was there. I got the confidence to apply for graduate school. Then I landed a great job at an aerospace and defense company halfway across the country.

I now do cardio daily and lift every other day, but CrossFit gave me a foundation to be the athlete and person I am. It has even taught me that I can surpass my old self.

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