My whole life I’ve struggled self-doubt. I’ve always had this idea of what I could do, and couldn’t believe I could do much beyond that. I’ve set these walls, these limits, of what I can reach and then — full stop — that’s it.

Every day, CrossFit helps me work through this.

When I was about 21, and in the best shape of my life (finally lifting weights, finally running, finally not giving up) – I started to get heart palpitations. They were irritating, nagging, until they were eventually terrifying. Running could set my heart off, but so could riding the bike, or going for a hike, or getting up off the couch.

In March 2015, at 28, I finally had a procedure to fix all of this; this is all before I found X-Project, but it’s important, because it marked a year where I started to learn what normal interaction with fitness was. Suddenly I could bike, I could hike, and I could finally go to the gym again. It’s a scary thing when you’ve been away for so long. I went to the local gym, where I gained the confidence to walk on a treadmill, and then run on a treadmill, and then lift weights moderately. But after 7 years of untested self-doubt, it was a hard battle. I stuck to the hiking and the biking, and some light personal training until January of 2016, when my husband and I finally decided to give CrossFit a try.

We came in a few days after the first of the year, wanting to try something new. I’d gone through almost an entire year of having no heart issues – my confidence was coming back. Sure, I still got gassed on a run, but I was sprinting again. I couldn’t lift a lot of weight, but I could do a squat without my heart racing unnaturally.

That first time we came to X-Project, we found everyone so welcoming. I still remember it being a partner WOD and realizing I would have to “bring someone down” to my level. But I was never treated that way – I was encouraged, and felt welcome despite being new, despite taking breaks and doing ring rows almost completely vertical. My husband and I decided after that day that this was the place we wanted to be.

I took to loving CrossFit quickly. I have my self-doubts and self-inflicted limits, but I was starting to feel connected and amazed at the strength and grind of all of the men and women coming in every day (especially at 5AM!). I felt part of a true community – and then in March I hurt my back.

With a new herniated disc in my middle back, I felt defeated – I wouldn’t be able to lift heavy, I wouldn’t be able to run: these series of “wouldn’t”, “couldn’t”, and “shouldn’t” activities just kept spiraling.

So in May I went to talk to Michael and he turned my view on it upside down. He was willing to work with me (in line with my doctor and physical therapist) to keep me in the gym. It was a time to work on form, to get back to basics and skill.

I was doubtful at first, and it wasn’t always easy. But I came, almost every single day. While everyone did cleans, I did cable pulls; while the class was doing back squats, I did single-leg work; while everyone was sprinting (one of my favorite activities), I got on the rower; I got better at bench press. In August, when I was finally cleared to lift the 35-lb bar, I wanted to cry.

It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been incredibly rewarding. I’m still struggling with my mental barriers and self-doubt, but I wouldn’t trade this year for a year on the couch, trying to “heal”. I’ve learned all sorts of scales for different movements, and I’ve learned that “scale” doesn’t always mean “easier”. I’ve learned that it’s OK to be the odd-man out and still be part of the class. I’ve gone from being in pain lifting a basket of laundry to doing weighted squats, loving the rower, to my first handstand in my life just last week. Even injured, I can strict press more than I could pre-injury.

I’m going to keep healing and getting stronger – I want to get pistols and pull-ups, and all of these different movements. I know it’s with the help of the amazing coaches at X-Project that I can work towards these things. It’s because they give me new scales when I get too comfortable in my existing workouts, they check out my form to make sure I’m not regressing, and every day they’re making me afraid to slow down on the rower in case they’re behind me looking at the screen.

I would tell anyone, as I tell myself every day, to stop doubting what you can and can’t do. Don’t focus on the couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t activities, and focus on the can and will activities. I will try harder tomorrow, I will keep good form, and there is always a movement that I can do.