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. (And that's just one of the perks of lifting heavy.)
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. (Related: How Lifting Weights Taught This Cancer Survivor to Love Her Body Again)
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.