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Athlete of Month

Heather D.
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Heather D.

Athlete of the month: June '21
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TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF THE GYM?

I work for two shops in Andersonville (Milk Handmade and Honey Bridal). I also sew and recently joined Lillstreet Art Center as the Intermediate Sewing Instructor.

 

WHAT INITIALLY GOT YOU INTO TRAINING AND WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK?

I dealt with some health issues in my early 20s and saw how a life lacking in physical fitness was impacting my parents as they got older. I started working out on my own and followed my partner, Vasilis, into CrossFit after we watched one of the documentaries in 2016.

 

 

WHAT ARE YOUR FITNESS GOALS? HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO REACHING THEM?

My current goals are strict pull-ups and getting stronger! I wanna ring that bell!  I’d also like to row a 2k in 7:30 or less.

 

WHAT’S AN ACCOMPLISHMENT OR GOAL YOU’VE REACHED AT HARDWARE THAT MADE YOU THE MOST PROUD?

That’s a three-way tie: I finally cracked the 100lb bench press, and during the open I got my first toes-to-bar & faced my fear of going upside down and did more wall walks than I thought possible.

 

 

FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?­­

WALL BALLS ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Any WOD with a wall ball.

 

LEAST FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?

Thrusters. No, they are nothing like wall balls, you’ll never convince me otherwise. Least favourite WOD is Kalsu.

 

ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN TRYING OUT HARDWARE?

Put on your cutest workout gear (that always motivates me to go) and just try it! If you don’t have a cute ‘fit get yourself one, you deserve it!

 

David P.
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David P.

Athlete of the month: May '21
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TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF THE GYM?

Outside of the gym I am a middle school school teacher. Teaching takes up alot of my time; getting my classes to understand content material is like playing whack-a-mole. Before covid I also coached cross country and ran some competitive clubs. When I am not working, I paint and draw, read comic books, travel, go camping, and do dog stuff with my hound, Nova, and my girlfriend.

 

WHAT INITIALLY GOT YOU INTO TRAINING AND WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK? 

I initially got into training because I just wanted to be fitter as I got older. I walked into hardware hoping to find a better gym program that would tire me out so I could sleep better and work off some of the stress that comes from teaching apathetic teenagers 7 hours a day.  I really liked the idea of not having to program anything myself, just turn my brain off and move around for an hour. Eventually, I started to enjoy the competitive nature of the workouts. Every time I do a workout, I am working towards a concrete goal, which is to be better than I was before.

One of the biggest things that keeps me coming back is the focus on the things you can do, not the way that you look. I think it is so much cooler to accomplish an actual movement than it is to try to look a certain way; it really makes a huge difference in the feel of the gym, and definitely plays a role in keeping me coming back.

WHAT ARE YOUR FITNESS GOALS? HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO REACHING THEM?

When I first joined and started doing crossfit, I wanted to learn how to handstand walk. I still cant handstand walk, but I have learned how to do a bunch of other things. I would say I am fairly close, but I dont practice enough because I am afraid of falling on my face.

WHAT’S AN ACCOMPLISHMENT OR GOAL YOU’VE REACHED AT HARDWARE THAT MADE YOU THE MOST PROUD?

I am not a super proud person, I always think of achieving one of my goals as temporary because as soon as I achieve one I set a newer, more difficult one. One big milestone for me recently was getting a clean and jerk heavier than 225 pounds.  Picking up big weights and dropping them is very therapeutic.

FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?­­

Grace, strict pull-ups, heavy barbells, anything with 21-15-9 rep scheme, or descending rep schemes.

 

LEAST FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?

Zercher Squats. I understand them, I just hate them. I would also say thrusters but I feel like thats overdone.

 

ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN TRYING OUT HARDWARE?

Just jump in and try it out. I have learned so much just from being around people who are better at crossfit and more fit than me. All you have to do is show up.

Christy C.
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Christy C.

Athlete of the month: April '21
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TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF THE GYM?

I’ve been working in university undergraduate admission for 15 years, the last 8 have been at Northwestern University working with first-year international students.  I also have the privilege of coordinating our financial aid program for international students; i.e. awarding students from all corners of the globe regardless of background, full need-based scholarships to study at a top 10 university, it’s pretty incredible.  I’ve had the honor of representing Northwestern in 45 countries around the globe from world-renowned boarding schools, prestigious private schools, US Embassy’s, massive government public schools, to dirt floor outdoor classrooms in third world countries.  The students I get to work with will be future leaders of  communities, corporations, industries, cultures, and even countries. My passion for travel came after studying abroad through the Pacific Rim on a ship through a program called Semester at Sea in undergrad–after grad school I went back as a staff member to circumnavigate the globe on another SAS voyage.  Originally, I was ‘supposed to be’ a high school history teacher, and did student teaching in a small village in England, but found myself in Chicago loving the city and its opportunities to learn about all identities, cultures, environments, peoples experiences.  University admission allowed me to continue exploring the US and world seeing various contexts of education and striving to build access points for students toward higher education.   So far I’ve been able to travel to 70 countries, and 6 continents–still waiting for a way to line Antarctica up on my itinerary.

I met my husband, Collin, here in Chicago at a church dodgeball tournament between greeting team volunteers.  We remain involved in our Park Community Church family, now we are part of the South Rogers Park campus. We moved to Bowmanville (3 blocks from Hardware) 5 years ago.  Our dog, Harold, is our “first born”. He is a fluffy affable mini-goldendoodle, who is 5 years old.  My daughter, Corinne, is turning 3 y/o this week; she is spirited, sassy, sweet, and vocal and is teaching me to try to be a better human everyday! I’ll never forget George, Dana, Melissa, Adrian, and so many others who helped me keep moving at CrossFit through my pregnancy until 38 weeks! Although, it took me much longer than I anticipated to get back into a workout routine after having Corinne; my body, emotions, energy, mental health, working mom life w international travel demands just rocked me.  BUT I was so glad to get back into the community of Hardware, being alongside other moms really pulled me through and so many people that witnessed me workout with my big pregnant belly were there to keep encouraging me post-partum.  Also, I still remember how eerily excited I was to do my first burpee workout post pregnancy?!?!

WHAT INITIALLY GOT YOU INTO TRAINING AND WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK?

I was always a runner, cardio focused, and petite for my age/grade and played casual sports leagues growing up. After my first freshman year high school preseason track meet I accidentally unseated some veteran seniors on various relay teams and honestly had no idea what I was doing, I was just running as fast as I could.  Four years of Varsity track had me on a road to competing at the college level but I just never landed the right combo of focus, weight training, coaching/support, to fully get me directed on that path–so I enjoyed the sport for fun and chose not to go the recruiting route.  Working out became more of a focus of a physical image/appearance I was striving to upkeep or match, which wasn’t always a great thing to focus on.  Eventually I landed on running marathons which felt great in my 20s body, but less so in my 30s life/body, so I needed to get away from the compulsivity of mileage and competitive timing.

For years, I was part of a year-round outdoor no equipment necessary ‘Bulldog Bootcamp’ program, run by a Crossfit gym and phenomenal coach, that transformed my workout routine and mentality/endurance around working out, but the program concluded when I moved neighborhoods and our coach moved on too.   I swore I would never do Crossfit, but in a longstanding funk not finding any motivation to workout and seeing Hardware Crossfit only 3 blocks away from my home, proximity won out.   I did the “intro workout” w/ George and stated the ‘cliche Crossfit concern’ that “I didn’t want my body to get too bulky”.  I think back to that conversation and think how many times Crossfit coaches must hear that (and how composed George was to humbly respond without laughing) and I now realize just how LONG and HARD I have had to work for my little tiny budding arm muscles, ha ha! Starting to notice the changes in my strength and muscles actually makes me quite proud now.

At Hardware I have finally learned that training and fitness doesn’t have to be about being fast and keeping thin. Especially after having my daughter 3 years ago, our bodies are truly miraculous, and I believe our goals should focus on functional fitness and bettering our body one day at a time. I feel incredibly blessed to have my health and a high functioning body as I strive to be an active, strong, full-time working woman and mom, carting around my growing human ‘wall ball’ toddler and all that comes at us in life, especially in my city townhouse living with tons of stairs.

WHAT ARE YOUR FITNESS GOALS? HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO REACHING THEM?

My fitness goals have changed over the years and now it’s about staying consistent with getting to the gym, even when other aspects of my life are super demanding or have me emotionally down.   Now my goals for fitness have been more about stress relief, work/life balance, mood boosts, and sort of a version of self care therapy for me.

My day to day WOD goal is to keep taking skills and weight to the next level even if it means going slower. Sometimes I play it way too safe with weight, since the runner in me is always focused on being competitive and going fast, and so I appreciate when people call me out for ‘sandbagging’ (Sarah, Alex, Adrian, Joel–love you all).

Also, a PULL UP, my forever goal is to be able to do a pull up, just one darn pull up–but then I’ll set a new goal to do more.

WHAT’S AN ACCOMPLISHMENT OR GOAL YOU’VE REACHED AT HARDWARE THAT MADE YOU THE MOST PROUD?

Definitely going RX in the Crossfit Open, I still can’t believe it.  I lucked out a bit in this year’s Open with some more body weight focused elements.  Setting a goal with each workout and then somehow smashing it was really affirming.  Even doing scaled 21.2 because I was too tired/nervous/scared to do RX’d and then coming back with Nat S. and pushing through the Rx’d version, I think we both had no idea we could lift a 35lb dumbbell above our heads that many times.

It’s about appreciating the little benchmarks for me, stringing together Toes-to-bar, moving up to the next weight in dumbbell snatches or kettlebells, finally lifting my body weight in back squat and front squat workouts, doubling my original weights in push press.   I continue to celebrate that I get to use the 35lb barbell on workouts, it reminds me of the work I put in with the lighter barbells when I started out.  Even staying on my toes for push ups in workouts has been a great accomplishment that I continuously reflect on!

Also, staying active during quarantine was an accomplishment for which I’m very thankful, doing those YouTube workouts at home saved my sanity at times.  Beyond the chaos of the pandemic, this year featured an incredible challenge in my life that was painful and lonely, those outdoor workouts at the Smiley Brothers yard were just what I needed.  Hardware people were some of the only humans I saw in real non-virtual life and it felt amazing to stay fit and sane together. And the support I felt even when bringing my unpredictable toddler to workouts truly helped me through a period of solo parenting, juggling a full time job, with a toddler at home.

FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?­­

Running, totally running, but more particularly 200m, 400m, 800m repeats; those are my jam and despite running coming more naturally to me, I still find them challenging when pushing myself against a pace, peer, or to remain consistent throughout various rounds. And I understand that running is a separate sport than Crossfit so…I like really long arduous partner workouts OR workouts that have many rounds or super high quantities of each movements to them.  My marathon mindset gets me excited to go through a grueling long ordeal and also try to set some consistency to the movements, many times during workouts I’m playing mind games with myself trying to match my performance each round, or chip away at 5 reps at a time during huge volume.  So while I find it super challenging I really love those highest and lowest round scoring WODs that go on forever or when a coach/WOD tells me to do a quantity of something that seems impossible. I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of dumbbell snatches, we did like 200 of them in a workout outside and I wanted to do it again with a heavier dumbbell.

Also, I’m one of those weird people who don’t mind burpees–while they can be exhausting– I like trying to keep my speed up on them and figure out form.

LEAST FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?

Pull Ups are my nemesis–and anything on the pull-up bar– but I am determined to win this life long battle and after finding a small amount of success with a handful of toes to bar, I’m declaring 2021 my year to get a single pull up–yep that’s it, I’d be perfectly happy with just 1 stinkin single pull-up. However, I need accountability and to force myself to consistently put in the extra work to get there, which I have been slacking on, so if you have read this far you have my permission to tell me to go hang on the bar for extra work before/after WOD’s. I also despise wall walks, it’s more my attitude than my ability, so 21.1 was nothing short of miraculous for me (Thank You Joel H for judging and listening to me complain). Snatches and Overhead squats something about my range of motion or how my arms are built, just makes them incredibly difficult and me looking ridiculous when I try to do them.

ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN TRYING OUT HARDWARE?

Hardware’s inclusive environment completely shattered my impression of what I thought CrossFit was, and I like to believe that I have learned so much from the athletes and humans alongside me, to build each other up and celebrate one another all ages/shapes/sizes/cultures/identities/accomplishments.  Also, I want to build up that  open mindset on fitness and all humans for my daughter, so having her come to KidsFit and hang around the gym has been meaningful for me. I think Hardware is special because it has allowed me to be inspired by the hard work of others and see each person where they are at while witnessing their progress too.

Scaling, scaling, scaling, is so key and so essential for everyone. Scaling has been a huge part of my journey into the Crossfit world. My competitive side used to think scaling was a deficit and that I wasn’t strong enough to do the “real workouts”, but I slowly started to accept it is all about making the workout tailored to you. Whether it’s a specific movement you are working on, a weight you are trying to get to, speed on part of a WOD, an injury you are being mindful of, or just the path that you are on as you work to acquire new skills. Having coaches that consistently talk up scaling, and tune into my ability to help me scale effectively, has been a great shift for me in my workouts and encourage me to push myself but not shame myself.

Track your workouts in Beyond the Whiteboard, it’s free through Hardware and I didn’t do it for like 2 years. It has really helped me chart out goals and accomplishments, watch my growth, as well as admire the work of other athletes at our gym.

Joel H.
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Joel H.

Athlete of the month: March '21
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TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF THE GYM?
I am currently fun employed thanks to “Rona. However, my usual job is being a Company Manager (Tour Manager) for touring Broadway musicals (Les Mis, Phantom, etc). It sounds like a cool gig, but it’s basically being Mrs. Garrett in a world full of Natalies (for you youngsters, that is a Facts of Life TV Reference). My next gig is “The Prom” national tour which should start rehearsals in the fall. Being Company Manager means everyone reports to me and I am ultimately in charge of the whole deal (travel, payroll, HR, housing, etc.) It’s the strangest job that nobody knows about. The job is fairly stressful with lots of little fires to constantly put out. As you can imagine, everyone is fairly dramatic and tears flow fairly easily (theirs, not mine, I have no emotions) . A flight delay will make some people act as though I just kicked their mothers in the face and that I am personally responsible for weather. I also tell everyone that I am a lifelong competitive swimmer (Chicago Smelts), but with the pools being closed, there is no way to check me on that.
WHAT INITIALLY GOT YOU INTO TRAINING AND WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK?
As I was turning 40, I was noticing that I was starting to walk like my 75 year old father (who was my high school football coach) and I had to switch things up. At the time I was constantly throwing my back out and needing a chiropractor every few weeks. With traveling so much (90% of the year) I wanted to find an outlet that I could socialize with people that were not my employees and be able to have real conversations with normal people in addition to a workout that would kick my ass. A few of my friends on tour all started training for CrossFit, after a few weeks, I was the only one left doing it. Currently, I am now up to almost 100 different boxes all over the world, which is something I am sort of proud of. So if you ever need a recommendation, I can give you a few. It’s really a cool thing to drop in and experience different coaches, styles, athletes, etc. Plus, they haven’t heard any of my stories, so they still think I am charming, somewhat funny and obviously extremely handsome. My favorite is going to a box in a foreign country and not understanding a single thing that the coaches has to say, but a squat is a squat in every language. I went through an entire workout in Copenhagen in which the coach realized at the end of class I had no idea what he was saying, he just thought I was really dumb.
 
On a separate note – I once nailed Sarah really hard in the face during dodgeball and I feel like I can never leave until she has had her revenge. Until then, I live my life in fear.
WHAT ARE YOUR FITNESS GOALS? HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO REACHING THEM?
Is this the section that I lie? My next goal is to be Athlete of the Year (watch out Lucy & Emma!) After partially tearing my Achilles 2.5 years ago, I’d love to be able to do double under’s again. But singleunders are so much easier. For a hot second last year, I thought I might be able to get bar muscleups, but I’d rather just eat a pizza.
WHAT’S AN ACCOMPLISHMENT OR GOAL YOU’VE REACHED AT HARDWARE THAT MADE YOU THE MOST PROUD?
Oh, wait, THIS is my humblebrag section! I would probably say that I am most proud that I when I make it through a workout without getting a coach frustrated with me from my constant talking or being a smart ass. Can you imagine how terrible I was to my own father when he was my coach? Are you sure you are giving AOTM to the correct Joel? #uncoachable
FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?­­
I am really good at resting. If the open had a whole workout of resting, I would totally nail that. I am also really good at not collapsing on the floor after a tough WOD. Thirdly, I am pretty good at talking smack during a WOD. (Who chose this workout?) My current favorite movement is overhead squats, which is strange since I hate all other squats. It took me forever to figure them out and I love how much other people hate them.
LEAST FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?
I hate doing any movement that requires my legs. Being a distance swimmer, legs are just extra weight to pull along. Also, I possess no fast twitch so I am crap at sprints, give me a really, really long aerobic workout any day. I will go the same pace for 3 minutes or 45 minutes. (And I am single, guys)
ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN TRYING OUT HARDWARE?
I tell people that this is Adult Gym Class but with all the kids that you most likely eat lunch with. Hardware is an extremely friendly, community-based box and that starts with George, Darcy, all the coaches and works it’s way down to all the members. Everything is scalable and yes, everything is goofy. We know it’s goofy and we have a good sense of humor about it (Fitness!). I mean, we jump on and off boxes for no reason. We throw a weighted ball at the wall for fun. We pay to do burpees. And to be cliche, we even can flip large tires. It’s all so silly and so much fun, especially when you like the other people that you get to work out with.
Emma R.
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Emma R.

Athlete of the month: February '21
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TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. WHAT DO YOU DO OUTSIDE OF THE GYM?

Hi! Ok, this answer in the before times was less complicated than it is now, so I’ll (try to) keep things as brief as possible. I’m an actor (mostly theatre), but since theatre has ceased to exist for the time being (get vaccinated and wear masks, people!), I’ve been doing a lot of sitting with the giant question: “who am I when I’m not doing the thing that I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember?” Yay existentialism! I still consider myself an actor…we’re just all of us in limbo…a big collective holding of breath. I’m just trying as best I can to be grateful, present, engaged with the world and what’s going on in it, and to use this abundance of time to discover/learn new things and figure out how to not suck at wall balls…and double unders.

My side hustle is cakes; currently I’m working at ECBG studio. I also make treats for friends. So if you want a sweet something, let me know!

Beyond theatre and cake and lifting heavy things, I love to cook and clean and craft and write and doodle and play board games. All activities that help quiet my anxiety and squirrelly nature. My sweet husband’s name is Aaron and he’s wonderful, and we have a very fluffy and very (very) bossy rabbit named Phil.

 

WHAT INITIALLY GOT YOU INTO TRAINING AND WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK?

Oh boy. Ok. It’s been a journey. I was a *very* serious ballet dancer for most of my young life; I danced about 12+ hours a week beginning when I was 10 until I was about 16. It became pretty clear that my build and strengths weren’t aligned with what ballet dancers were supposed to be – I was (and am) built like a gymnast and excelled at all the things that men were supposed to excel at: jumps, turns, powerful aggressive stuff. Long lines and delicate softness…not so much. In high school was when I got really seriously into theatre, so ballet (and most physical activity beyond the demands of whatever show I was in) took a back seat for a long time.

It wasn’t until I was several years out of college that I learned that going to the gym could encompass way more than begrudgingly using the treadmill or elliptical for hours on end. I was in the middle of performances for one show (West Side Story) and had just been cast in another show several months down the line that was, arguably, going to be one of the most physically demanding plays I’d ever been a part of. Basically 2+ hours of straight cardio. So I decided it was time to get serious about fitness in order to be able to do this play 8 times a week to the best of my ability.

Enter Adrian Aguilar, also in West Side Story. He taught me how to do my first proper push-up while backstage at the theatre, and then introduced me to the world of LIFTING HEAVY THINGS. Landree Fleming then took the baton from Adrian, and trained me for my very first powerlifting competition. That training cycle was revelatory for me – it was the first time I saw my body as an instrument, not an ornament. Nothing makes you feel like more of a badass than having a barbell on your back. Or picking a barbell up off the ground. Or pressing a barbell over your head. I mean WHAT? The human body is INSANE.

I won that first powerlifting competition, and was in the middle of training for my next competition when the world shut down…and my gym shut down. For the first several months of the pandemic, I made myself go for long walks and runs outside because I was losing my mind cooped up in my apartment, but nothing compared to being able to be under/over a barbell.

Then I came to Hardware. *cue moody lighting and hallelujah chorus*

I hadn’t ever considered doing CrossFit while I was strictly powerlifting, but now that I’m here I can’t imagine training any other way (or anywhere else because the Hardware crew is THE BEST CREW). Being at Hardware makes me feel like a beast, surrounded by other beastly humans, all of us pushing ourselves to be the best we can be. And I think what love/appreciate the most about this kind of fitness is that there’s always something you won’t be great at. Which means there’s always a goal to chase, always something to improve on. I’ve fully consumed the Kool-Aid.

Plus also, I guess some folks might say I’m competitive. If you ask me, I’d say I’m the most not competitive. Therefore I win at not being competitive. I win.

…I’m competitive.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR FITNESS GOALS? HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO REACHING THEM?

Oh boy. The goals never end. Currently I’m trying to get as ready for the Open as possible…chasing muscle-ups and toes-to-bar and handstand push-ups and consecutive double unders that don’t end with me whipping myself with the rope or throwing it across the gym.

I want to keep adding #s to my squat and deadlift and bench because I’d love to do another powerlifting competition down the line. Plus also I want to keep improving at Oly.

So I guess…all the goals? Alllllllllllll the goals. But that’s what keeps things interesting and fun!

 

WHAT’S AN ACCOMPLISHMENT OR GOAL YOU’VE REACHED AT HARDWARE THAT MADE YOU THE MOST PROUD?

Oooooh. It’s hard to pick. Every day feels like a win to some degree because just showing up and doing the dang thing is a win. Especially these days. But in terms of specifics, stringing together kipping pull-ups was pretty exciting. And so was getting a sub-9:00 2K row because my legs are SHORT and rowing is HARD. Ditto for consecutive Rx wall balls, see above re: short legs.

FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?­­

I mean how can you even pick? Deadlifts…back squats…squat cleans, squat snatches, rowing, PARTNER WODs.

LEAST FAVORITE WOD/MOVEMENT?
Echo bike. Full stop.

ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE INTERESTED IN TRYING OUT HARDWARE?

Just do it! Showing up for the first time is the hardest part. Just do it. Because once you show up, you’ll continue to surprise yourself with what you’re capable of. There’s a beast in there. Give yourself permission to unleash him/her/them. Go team go!

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