“Don’t Be Mean Just ‘Cause He’s Colorful”

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Don’t Be Mean Just Because He’s Colorful

As a former “fat kid” in physicality growing up and current “fat kid” at heart (while still attempting to grow up) I had an opportunity not too many in my position often get a few weeks ago. It was an experience that I longed for like a slow burning ember stashed away in my heart walls that I had no idea even resided there until a good friend asked if I’d be willing to do it nearly a year ago. As one of the coordinators of Windsor Middle School’s annual school year “Spartan Stampede 3K,” a fundraiser for the PTA that doubles as a much needed chance to spark today’s youth into being active in the process, Hillary Miller was wondering if I’d come in as a guest speaker for the kids to get them fired up for what had apparently become an “oh, this again? Ugh…” sort of mentality amongst the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

I couldn’t answer “absolutely” fast enough.

Stampede Shirt

For many, going back to their old middle school would be a tangible nightmare. It’s been my observation that most people are either apathetic or bitter at revisiting their old grade school in any capacity, let alone actually getting up in front of the whole school and saying “hey y’all! I used to go here before any of you were even born yet! Here I am again!” To me though… that was the very moment I was unexpectedly craving until the situation serendipitously presented itself.

Here it was… a chance to go back and reach out to the kids with a message that I wished upon many a star for someone to come and give to me when I was their age. A moment to draw them in and even if just for a brief moment in time let them know that no matter how hard things get they are not alone and that everything gets better, you’ve just got to work for it. A shot at giving the gift of self-affirmation that has personally taken me a literal lifetime thus far to gain myself. Not redemption, but rather paying it forward; taking everything I’ve come to learn the hard way to this point and hopefully saving some of the hardship for others so they can focus on all the other guaranteed stresses they’re going through that have nothing to do with self-worth, anxiety, seclusion, and self-esteem.

Life is hard enough. There is absolutely zero point in being your own worst enemy.

Beyond just speaking to the kids, I was hoping to be a representation of hope. An embodiment that the words I’m saying are actually true and that I’m not just some weirdo adult (emphasis on the words “not just”) coming in and spouting off a bunch of words that I think they want to hear but rather someone who truly knows the hardships of being overweight, dealing with an eating disorder, battling self-mutilation, and getting bullied to the point of tears daily while redundantly asking “why me?” yet not having quite the mental fortitude to realize it ISN’T you… it’s them. I didn’t want to just come in and say things get better… I wanted to show them!

Assembly

The date of the assembly was May 8th, a Thursday. I showed up on campus strapped with a Rebel shirt on my back and a shovel in the backseat just begging to be hoisted. It felt surreal since I hadn’t been there in who knows how many years but my shaky nerves told me I was ready. All good things carry nerves behind them so I took it as a sign the Universe was watching and waiting.

This is the point of the story where the tide shifts and I’m no longer the magic maker but instead the recipient of something so personally profound that there will never be enough words to explain how much powerful beauty resided in one simple statement from the mouth of a 6th grader.

Shovel

I want to be very clear… I have no disillusions about the confusingly flamboyant and “out there” caricature I can be with my shaggy hair, brightly spray painted shirts, knee high socks, crazy bandanas, all accented with the energy of a hummingbird/silverback gorilla lovechild. Add a shovel painted up like a watermelon into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of funny looks and murmurs. Not only do I completely understand but from time to time will even let out an “I know, right?!” to the onlookers and whisperers (mostly because it’s fun to catch people off guard but trust me… you’d be surprised at how quickly someone’s perspective on you changes when you acknowledge it rather than fight it).

As I stepped through the gates and onto the actual campus itself the gawking, giggling, and subtle cat-calls immediately started in. Totally ok with me though… Since the last time I was there I’ve had quite a bit of practice at dealing with this scenario. With my chest puffed out like a Spartan shield and my sword drawn in the form of a toothy grin you couldn’t knock off my face no matter how hard you tried, I walked around campus in a “soak it in!” manner while mentally preparing for the task at hand. One boy even gazed up at me in bemused bewilderment and asked “Who are you?”

“You’ll find out soon enough, young buck!” was all I said as I high fived him and kept on movin’.

Near the multipurpose room doors was a planter box with benches on all sides of it that happened to be occupied with quite a few 7th and 8th graders who seemed to be the “ring leaders” in terms of making fun of the “weird guy.” I made sure to look them all in the eye… Not in a vengeful manner but instead stating without words “I see you and I’m unaffected by your taunts” before high fiving the boy nearest me and saying “how you doin’ man?!” His reply was a snicker followed by a “good…” I asked a couple other kids close by the same question and they all gave essentially the same answer.

It was as I was walking away when I heard the words that will stick with me forever.

With my back turned to the planter box as I walked to my inevitable destination merely a few feet away I heard a girl’s tiny, feisty voice cut through the schoolyard clutter clear as day:

“DON’T BE MEAN JUST ‘CAUSE HE’S COLORFUL!”

I stopped abruptly and did an about face before it even dawned on me I was doing it. I searched for the body that the voice belonged to but to no avail. I was in disbelief at what I had just experienced… In a cage full of lions rose a single, solitary voice fully intent on taming those beasts. She had no reason to… She could have kept quiet, ignored what was happening, and moved on like everyone else. She COULD have, but didn’t. I’d made it very apparent I needed no fending for, yet she spoke up anyway. She had no idea who I was, but it didn’t matter to her. I was a person. Not young, not old, not fat, not fit, not anything but a colorful human being that she decided to take into her own hands to speak up for when nobody else would.

It’s hard enough for damned ADULTS to do that, but a little girl?! She surely wasn’t going to make any friends by making such a defiant statement in a schoolyard shark pit that thrives on the first scent of “blood.”

Group Run

When I made it into the assembly room I thought to myself “something just happened that completely changes everything I’m going to talk to these kids about…” I was still awestruck by what had just happened when I decided to walk around the campus for a bit before the Circus got started. Shovel in hand I set off towards the playground, my mind racing with the change in circumstances.

As I was rounding the building I walked past a few girls making their way towards their classroom before the final bell rung. One of them says “Hey, what’s your name?”

I knew that voice…

“Josh, nice to meet you! Hey, were you the one who yelled out ‘don’t be mean just because he’s colorful!’?” I asked hopefully.
“Yeah!” she said as her and her friends giggled at the recognition.

“That was AWESOME! What’s your name? What made you say that?” I pondered to her, excited at what her sage-like reply might be.
“I dunno… People shouldn’t be mean. Oh, and I’m Erin” She nonchalantly said back before more excitedly wondering “What are you doing here?!”

“I’m here to fire y’all up for the Spartan Stampede next week!” I shared as the final bell rung, they sped up their pace, and we exchanged our “see ya laters.”

This is where I’ll leave it. Not because that was the end of noteworthy events that I was blessed to be in the presence of that day… but because this tiny voice of love cutting through the deafening voice of judgment deserves to stand alone. It deserves to be highlighted, shared, celebrated, and emulated. It deserves to be downloaded into your mental data banks for those moments when you need a little bit of Erin’s courage to make a brave stand in any dire situation you may find yourself in.

The morning started as an eager opportunity to showcase hope but ended with me detailing a wonderful point in time in which hope was already present. The “Erins” of the world deserve the moon and stars for the beacon they shine. They flicker their light and chip away at the darkness so that all the other love warriors around who maybe aren’t “there yet” have not a reason to stand up… but instead a person to stand up with. Linked arms will ALWAYS be stronger than malicious ones.

Erin, I will always and forever take a stand with you.

Who’s with us?

Little Boy Shovel

– Rebel8

The 10th OYO Workout!

Click on the photo of the workout to download the workout itself, exercise reference guide, and workout tracking sheet!

Click on the photo of the workout to download the workout itself, exercise reference guide, and workout tracking sheet!

Well… We made it! We end our Circus “On Your Own” experiment with the 3rd installment of total body work. Perfect to be able to work yourself from head to toe while still being ready for fit tests! 

Better yet, you now have 10 workouts with over 80 different exercises that you can download at ANY TIME. The excuse of not knowing what to do when you go to the gym has been forever marked null and void. If that’s not enough then help yourself to the 25+ workouts I’ve written for Anytime Fitness. If you’re still hankerin’ for some more stuff to do then don’t forget my complete guide to resistance training covering how to work your shoulders, legs, back, chest, arms, and core properly and on your own.

Ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it now… AhhhOOOO!!!!

Click HERE for all 10 “On Your Own” Workouts!

Reference Guide

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Leg Press “Heel Presses” w/ Shoulder Press – Make your way to the leg press machine and use the lever underneath the left handle to lower the seat to proper height once you’re seated (90 degree angle is the goal if able) and get dumbbells ready to use once in position. Place your feet at the top of the platform shoulder width apart and toes hanging off the top so that you are doing this leg press with only your heels (engages your glutes to the extreme!). Once your legs are extended, press the dumbbells all the way up overhead. In a fluid motion bring them down THEN lower your legs before repeating!

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BOSU Squats w/ Simultaneous Front Raise – Grab a BOSU and a pair of dumbbells of your choice. Place the BOSU black side down and step onto the blue side of the BOSU with your feet all the way together. You’re going to squat as low as you can (keep your knees together!) while raising your dumbbells up to forehead height at the same time. As you get back to upright is when you will lower the dumbbells before repeating!

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BOSU Stiff Legged Deadlifts – Grab a BOSU and a pair of dumbbells of your choice. Place the BOSU blue side down and stand on the black side on one leg (whichever you choose… you’ll be doing both). Once upright and ready use the dumbbells to stretch your body download while raising the leg not anchored to the BOSU as high as you can while keeping it fully extended. Bring your leg back down as you stand back to upright! Do all your reps on one side before switching to the other.

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Side Plank Shoulder Presses – Grab a dumbbell and mat and place the mat where you are going to lower your hip after doing this exercise. You can do this exercise either straight arm or on your forearm (only straight arm is shown). Pick which arm you are going to plank on first and place it on the ground while moving your feet into a wide stance split position. Raise your hips as high as you can and hold them there as you grab your dumbbell with your free hand and press it towards the ceiling. Complete all the allotted reps before switching to the other side!

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Lower Back Extension – Everyone has a different leg length so it’s important to know what adjustment to make before you begin on this one. Move the thigh pads up or down to the point where you can get in position as shown and when you bend at the waist you are supported all the way up to your waist/belly area but there is NO impingement as you go down. Once you have the pad adjusted, place your fingertips gently behind your head with your elbows pointed towards the ground in the bent position. As you raise your body to the point of making a straight line from your heel, to hip, to shoulder (no need to go higher!) flare your elbows all the way out to maximize the squeeze through the entirety of your back. Control yourself back down and repeat!

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BOSU Splitters – Place a BOSU blue side down on the ground and hold it in a push-up position with your legs in a wide stance split. Take one leg and stretch it as far forward as you can with the goal of getting as much distance between your front foot and back foot as possible. Bring it back to the start position and repeat on the other side! Get as much of a stretch as you can!

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Sideways Leg Transfers – You’ll need an open space for this one. Simply start on one leg and try to touch your toe with the opposite arm. While staying on one leg jump sideways to the other leg and do the same thing in one fluid motion. You want to be able to find a rhythm while staying on one leg the entire time. Keep this in mind when you try to touch your toe. It’s ok if you don’t go all the way down as long as you keep moving!

7th OYO Circus Workout

7th Week

Click on the photo of the workout to download the workout itself, the exercise reference guide, and workout tracking sheet!

This week you are tasked with revisiting your core in a major way! The goal here is to take more difficult movements requiring more overall total body usage and get you applying it on your own when maybe normally you wouldn’t attempt these balance endeavors. Every aspect of core is hit with this bad boy so have fun!

Click HERE for the previous 6 workouts!

Reference Guide

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Elevated Plank – Utilizing a BOSU, step, bench, equalizer, or anything you can to raise yourself your feet off the floor you are going to do exactly that while maintaining a proper plank position (straight line from shoulder, to hip, to heel while keeping abs/glutes TIGHT). If you are not able to hold an elevated plank then simply hold a regular plank. The higher the elevation, the more difficulty!

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Function Crunch Raises – Grab a dumbbell (weight of your choice) or stability ball if the weight is too much and lay down on your back with your feet fully extended. Keeping your knees relaxed, heels on the floor, and arms above your chest you are going to crunch all the way into a seated position while keeping the dumbbell or stability ball aimed towards the ceiling the entire time. If not able to crunch into a full seated position simply go as high up as you can for each rep! Eventually you will be able to do the full crunch.

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Dip Position Leg Lifts – Utilized the Lebert Equalizers (a bench or ledge works nicely as well) get your body into a dip position while keeping your arms extended. From here you are going to start with whichever leg you’d like (you’re doing both eventually) and lift it as high as you can while keeping your leg fully extended. While you lift you want to consciously crunch your abdominals in the process to finalize that squeeze in your midsection. You’re going to do ALL ONE SIDE before moving on to the other. To make this hard, place your feet on a BOSU (blue side up).

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Full Length Cable Rows – Find the cable row machine and make sure the isolated hand grips are put on each cable pulley. Take a seat and rather than placing your feet on the outer foot pedals you are going to place your feet together on the CENTER platform. From here you are going to lean all the way back until you are lying flat while still holding on to the handles. Your arms are strictly the catalyst so try not to pull with them too much. Control your body on the way back up to the starting position and repeat! PS odds are you are going to be able to pull more weight than you think you can on this one so keep that in mind if the first set seems to be too easy.

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One Legged Side Crunches on BOSU – Standing on one leg you are going to place your fingertips gently behind your head (DO NOT interlock… interlocking your fingers promotes pulling on your neck and ain’t nobody got time for that), stretch the side of your body out that is NOT standing on the BOSU before squeezing your side by getting as close to touching your elbow to your knee as you can. Go back to the stretch and repeat!

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Swiss Ball Inch Worms on BOSU – Place your BOSU blue side down and stand on top while holding your swiss ball at the sides. Squatting down you want to place the ball on the ground and stretch as far into a full length plank as you can before pushing back to a standing position. IMPORTANT!!!! When you place the swiss ball down on the floor instinct is going to make you want to readjust your hands on the ball. DO NOT re-adjust because it won’t end well. Hold on to the sides and keep them clamped down as you roll out.

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Dual Cable Crunches – Grab a mat and place it on the ground in the center of the gym’s cable apparatus. Make sure the cable pulleys have the isolated hand grips on them and bring them all the way to the floor. Choose the weight of your choice on BOTH cable stacks. Now lie down on your back, bring the cables over your chest, and crunch upward! Be cautious not to strain your neck too much! Control on the way down and repeat!

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Dumbbell Plank Transfers – Grab a weighted dumbbell of your choice and get into a plank position with your feet set wide. Start with the dumbbell off to the side then while maintaining your plank reach out, bring the dumbbell to center, and extend it to the OTHER side. Each time you extended either arm outward that is one rep.

3rd OYO Circus Workout!

3rd Week

Click on the photo of the workout above to download the workout, reference guide, and tracking sheet directly to your phone, tablet, or computer!

Seriously, I couldn’t be more proud as the OYO workouts are not only getting DONE but everyone is helping one another, doing their best, and we can hardly keep up with all the packets flying off the shelf by people NOT doing this challenge and still wanting to work out like a Rebel!

CLICK HERE for the last 2 weeks of OYO workouts!

Reference Guide

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You can do this one in standard push-up position or kneeling, whichever your body can handle. Do a push-up, and at the bottom of the motion reach your harm out and touch as far away as possible before bringing it back and completing the push-up. Alternate each side.

Dips

Find a bench, ledge, or chair that you can leverage yourself on to get this one going. Take a seat and place your hands shoulder width apart on the edge of where you’re sitting. Support your weight on your arms as you bring your hips off where you are seated before lowering your body as low as you’re able while bending at the elbow. Push your body straight back up and repeat!

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Be sure to keep your abs tight, stance wide, and stay on your toes. Do your best to keep your arms parallel with the floor, but don’t OVER squeeze and strain your neck or back.

Start with 2lb dumbbells and work your way up from there. If you can’t fully extend your arms without them dropping to the floor at the end of the movement, then the weight is too heavy.

Cable Rows

Locate the cable row machine and select the weight you feel comfortable with. Grab the handles (any hand grip that has your palms facing each other when they’re holding it), take a seat on the bench, and put your feet in the designated spots to the side of the bench. Keep your core tight and pull your arms back while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Careful not to shrug your shoulders upwards into your ears (very common so be aware!). As you let the weight back down make sure to get a full stretch in the arms before pulling back again and repeating!

Cable Triceps Extension

Locate the cable machine and rope grip (as pictured). Some cable machines have adjustable pulleys so if that’s your club then learn how to adjust the pulley up and down. The ultimate goal is to get the pull all the way up so you can grab the rope attachment with both arms, standing with a stable shoulder width apart stance, and extend your arms all the way downward while allowing minimal movement in the elbows. Control the weight back up and repeat!

TRX Chin Ups

Make sure your handles are SUPER shortened and you have your BOSU underneath the anchor point. You want the handles to be short enough so you can sit on the BOSU securely with your feet extended in front of you while still holding on to the handles with your arms fully extended. Keeping your feet flat on the ground (easier) or staying on just your heels with your legs fully extended (harder) pull yourself as high up as you can while keeping your hips level directly underneath your shoulders. Lower yourself with control and repeat!

TRX Curl to Shoulder Press with Squat

Grab only one of your dumbbells with one hand and only one of the TRX straps with the other. Walk into the handle so you are facing the anchor point with your body square and tension on the strap. Keep your dumbbell hanging at your side while using the TRX not only for keeping form but to help pull yourself back up as well. As you come back up curl the dumbbell then do a shoulder press. Bring the dumbbell back down as you squat back down then repeat!

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This one should be done kneeling by EVERYBODY. Not because you studs and studettes can’t handle it, but because the goal is complete triceps isolation (as much as possible anyway with a push-up). Remember to keep your elbows in at your side, body in a straight line from knee, to hip, to shoulder (no butts in the air!) and push from the heel of your palms.

– Ringmaster8

The Circus Has Arrived!!

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On Sunday, February 16th the 15th Rebel Transformation challenge officially commenced. Under the big top were clowns, ring masters, spray painted super hero uniforms, goodie bags, and shovels ALL overflowing with motivation and inspiration. To stoke the Rebel flames, I put together 2 video projects that kicked off orientation…

The first video I compiled over the last few weeks by collecting videos from all around the country (including our Northern neighbors!) and piecing them together as the catalyst to our Cirque de Rebellion. The goal was to showcase the magnitude of the Rebellion and create a moment to draw from when you’re feeling your least motivated… You’ll always have this video to come back to when you need a reminder of the Rebel name you carry on your back and that you can do ANYTHING!

The second video was a glimpse into the “stage” being created for this circus. A lot of prep work when into this experience and this is an inside look into the creation of it all. With the stage being set it’s your turn to create some magic now…

– Ringmaster8

Rebel Tunes – Playlist #2

Orientation is going to be radioactive!

‘Tis True

Looking for new workout jams to add to pump-up playlist? Here ya go! Simply click the song and check it out for yourself to find out if it’s your cup of tea. New, fresh music is like when you get new, fresh sheets on your bed… IT FEELS SO GOOD!

Royal Teeth – We Can Glow
Sway – Still Speedin’
OK Go – Get Over It
DJ Snake feat. Lil Jon – Turn Down for What

Tinie Tempah feat.John Martin – Children of the Sun
The Neighbourhood – Afraid
Tech N9ne feat. Serj Tankian & Krizz Kalico – Straight Out the Gate
John Newman – Try
Machine Gun Kelly – Raise the Flag
Lorde – Tennis Court
Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know?

Nappy Roots feat. P.O.D. – Aww Naw (Rock Remix)
Alex Clare – Hummingbird

Eminem feat. Sia – Beautiful Pain
Lorde – Team
Fitz and the Tantrums – Fools Gold

Redfoo – Let’s Get Ridiculous
Echosmith – Cool Kids
Further Seems Forever – Bye Bye Bye

– Rebel8

Keep the Earth Below My Feet

Is this your card?

Is this your card?

On a random December week, right before boot camps were to begin, I asked all the fitness Rebels to do something for me.

I asked them to fill out two cards ANONYMOUSLY; 1 card depicting the number one negative thing they repeat to themselves every day, the other the number one compliment that would absolutely make their day upon receiving it.

Once everyone was done and before we got started I asked everyone how many of them had ever FELT that negative mindset, and I mean TRULY FELT IT, towards any other individual other than themselves.

Not a single hand was raised.

These are those people and these are the actual comments they wrote (In no particular order as to keep with anonymity).

There’s a lesson here.

– Rebel8

Big Top Battle: Cirque De Rebellion

HCB vs Lion TamersA Rebellious Circus is coming to town in mid February… A 3 month physical transformation challenge unlike any other Rebel or Hulk challenge pulled off to date. Sign-ups, full details (cost, days, times, etc.) will be announced between the days of January 13th (Monday) and January 17th (Friday) so be on the lookout (or subscribe!) to be sure to snag your spot under the big top!

For now, I present a sneak preview…

– Rebel8

Cheryl Murray – “I’m not Disabled… I’m Cheryl.”

Cheryl fat face

Cheryl Murray – “I’m not disabled… I’m Cheryl.”

“I’m unwilling to be a helpless victim. Sure I’m scared sometimes, but I force myself to do what I have to do. It’s not the things I’ve done that I’m proud of, it’s the stuff in my head I’ve had to fight through to do it.”

                Those were the first words to come out of Cheryl’s mouth when I asked her what she wanted her story to say once people had the chance to catch a peek through the kaleidoscope that is her. Simple yet powerful her statement cuts like a knife through the gimmicks and trickery often sought after to “make it through” life by trimming away the bullshit and leaving you with a foundation you can either choose to accept or deny; you have the choice to be life’s victim when it attacks unexpectedly and relentlessly but rest assured that throughout that decision making process it will be terrifying beyond belief. We ALL have felt the mind and body blows of that last statement, but it’s what you do with yourself as the dust settles that defines who you are at your core… How do you respond and what actions do you take? If you’re Cheryl you respond like a cat with nine lives and the tenacity of a tornado… This is a glimpse of Cheryl’s storm.

                If you were to catch snippets of Cheryl’s life growing up you’d swear you were watching reruns of “Leave It to Beaver.” You’d see a loving family with a nice home in Northern California that recycled before it was cool. Church every Sunday with full societal calendars for the whole family in between… they were the epitome of the American dream. A dual parent household with one daughter and one son that ate healthy, exercised regularly, exceled in work and school, adorable family dog… I think you get the picture. Don’t get me wrong, per all circumstances her upbringing carried with it the “usual suspects” regarding growing pains and tumultuous times but to her own admittance nothing too extraordinarily tragic beyond that.

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                It was while she was attending grad school at the San Jose campus of the University of Phoenix when Cheryl’s Americana upbringing suddenly took a turn towards “The Twilight Zone” of the television spectrum. It started with a hospital trip and the two reasons that prompted her to take it; a bruise resembling a black and purple vortex that showed up out of nowhere on her hip and the nonstop bleeding that occurred after casually scratching an itch on her head. Combined with the extreme fatigue she’d been feeling (among other symptoms) she decided it was time to promptly get checked out so she stopped her dinner preparation for that night and had a friend bring her to the ER.

She never made it back home that night.

                After having some tests run Cheryl could hear her name announced over the intercom with a tone of urgency that instantly made her anxiety swell. Her husband at the time was working night shifts which left Cheryl by her lonesome to deal with the fear bouncing around in her head like pieces of shrapnel.

“I was in the waiting room for the longest time. While I was there my greatest fear was that it could only be one of two things… cancer or AIDS.”

                A lot of us have gone the “Web MD” route in our brains of figuring out the worst case scenario and convincing ourselves that’s EXACTLY what we’ve got, but when it turns out to be true… it can be profoundly soul shattering. Unfortunately, it did end up being one of those two things… leukemia. At the very least she had an answer to the suddenly surging ailments she was experiencing; it just wasn’t the answer anybody ever hopes for. Boot straps were pulled up as treatment started immediately and aggressively. With her grit to keep moving forward and the support of her family Cheryl went about trying to beat the cancer that had suddenly found its way into her family’s home.

                Progress was swift and after only a few months of dedicated cancer management (radiation therapy included) the cancer began reverting course! They’d beat the cancer into remission! It was an optimal situation because it gave them more time to get it gone for GOOD.

That lasted 3 months.

                The beginning of 1998 did not bring good tidings as the cancer came back with a vengeance in January forcing Cheryl and her family to get right back into defense mode. It would only be fair for Cheryl to deal with one life-altering catastrophe at a time but as we all know life is FAR from fair and it was April of 1998 when life dropped another sledgehammer driving Cheryl even deeper between the rock and hard place she’d already found herself in… On the day Cheryl was scheduled to have her annual bone marrow biopsies from the diagnosis a year prior, she had a stroke.

“After the cancer came back I harbored a LOT of anger. When I had the stroke though… It was bad… I mean I’m 29 and I’ve suddenly lost the ability to walk, talk, drive, ski… I thought I’d never be able to go to work, travel, or get on a plane ever again…Things you can take for granted until all of a sudden you can’t do them anymore.”

                Awhile back Cheryl and I had a conversation about the daily planner she kept at the time of her stroke. Cheryl detailed how she kept track of everything in this agenda; work obligations, social events, and medical appointments filled the bylines within the weeks up until the day where she was set to have a bone marrow biopsy which was cause for a very powerful moment when she showed me the point of stoppage. It bore a symbolic resemblance to an author stepping away from writing a carefully crafted book mid-paragraph.

                With the leukemia coming back around a second time and in rapid fashion the bone marrow transplant was a necessity still regardless of this newfound “kitchen sink” life had just rocketed Cheryl’s way. After gaining some control on the stroke situation the transplant was pushed from April to July. It was during those months Cheryl found herself dwelling on what she’d lost in her life and reveling in the anniversaries of bad occurrences for a long time afterwards.

“When I was in the hospital my Dad brought in a ‘PEOPLE’ magazine for me and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t read it. I remember thinking ‘I JUST WANT TO READ THE F*&@!ING MAGAZINE!!’ but… nothing. That was hard.”

                When the time came for the transplant fingers were crossed and prayers were sent out that Cheryl’s body would accept the new bone marrow and an immediate road to recovery could begin so they could put as much of this awfulness as possible behind them. At this point in the story I’m sure you’ve picked up on the tone that things hadn’t taken a lucky break yet and I’ll tell you they weren’t about take a turn in that direction now. With her body rejecting the transplant Cheryl suddenly found herself in yet another situation where she wasn’t sure she was going to make it out alive. Things got so bad physically she nearly needed a feeding tube to combat the inability and lack of desire to eat. Luckily Cheryl found herself able to stomach grilled cheese sandwiches which is essentially what she lived off of from July of 1998 until February of 1999, the date she was released from the hospital with her body finally accepting the donor marrow.

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Christmas of ’98 was spent in the hospital. Making it to Christmas of ’99 was in genuine doubt in this picture…

                Once released from the hospital the fight was far from over, but things were at long last starting to look up. With the bone marrow transplant going from being rejected to being accepted it wasn’t longer after Cheryl was deemed cancer free. The rigorous, aggressive, and draining treatment paid off! Sure, she had to get annual marrow biopsies for 10 years (they have to drill a hole in your hip to put in perspective those unfamiliar on how “not simple” this task is) but that’s better than actually having cancer! Cheryl’s spirit, however, was far from healed… The unexpected and sudden loss of abilities coupled with the weight gained from the drugs she now had to take left her in a dark, defeated place.

                It took a fateful crossing of paths at church with a single mom who had multiple sclerosis that started the revolt against her own demons keeping her down. 

“What I really admired about her was that she never let the MS get her down. I started going with her when she ran errands and even went to the gym with her. She helped introduce me to people after I’d been in a cave for so long. She showed me that things could be different…”

Bit by bit Cheryl started to crawl out of her shell as the days went on. She even started to do some volunteer work at her Church again! Over the years Cheryl dug deep to regain her life back even though the realization that it wouldn’t be the same life she had before had a tendency to send her on a roller coaster of ups and downs. Through the rough times Cheryl retaught herself how to drive, how to walk, and how to eat healthy again. She got herself back to work, travelling with the family, and even joined several gyms with yoga becoming a new favorite therapy for not only her body but her mind, too.

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Getting back to everything she was able to do before sometimes means needing a cane or motorized transport to aid with the devitalized left side of her body, but it all goes back to the first words Cheryl said when we sat down to put the pen to paper on this;

 “I’m unwilling to be a helpless victim. Sure I’m scared sometimes, but I force myself to do what I have to do. It’s not the things I’ve done that I’m proud of, it’s the stuff in my head I’ve had to fight through to do it.”

It was 2009 when Cheryl found her way to Anytime Fitness.

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“I’ve belonged to a lot of gyms in my life, but none of them hit like Anytime did. It was different… I found myself actually wanting to go and really liking the people there. I also remember thinking ‘who’s the weirdo who yells a lot?’”

(Spoiler alert: I was am that weirdo who yells).

Wasting no time she joined up with a transformation challenge that just so happened to be on the verge of starting and wouldn’t you know it… she won the damn thing. She even lost 20 lbs in the process! It was soon after that when Cheryl, who was once told she wouldn’t ever regain the ability to walk all that well ever again, trekked across the Golden Gate friggin’ Bridge.

“When I walked the Golden Gate, it wasn’t exactly something I’d been fantasizing about for years and years or anything… It was that things were going really well and I wanted to make a bucket list to give myself some goals and aspirations. I needed that, or else I wasn’t going to keep pushing myself. You need to have goals to work towards or else you won’t do anything.”

To know Cheryl now means most would be surprised finding out that for as gregarious as she is, she still sticks to her reclusive tendencies  (only they are much healthier now). From that initial challenge in 2009 Cheryl has joined damn near every single Hulk/Rebel challenge since (missing one due to hip surgery in 2011), putting her up there as one of the most tenured Hulkster/Rebels there is. Her presence is coveted and her inspiration is legendary as she’s shown more people than she knows the true meaning of strength, inside and out. If you ask her about her inspiration and her take on it though, you get a much different and humbled response:

“I get it, you know… People being happy for people with disabilities being able to make it past them, but I don’t see it that way. In my head I don’t see myself as disabled… I’m Cheryl.”

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This photo was taken once we concluded our session. What you’re seeing is the first time Cheryl crossed her legs casually in a conversation since her stroke. The best part is it was inadvertent yet instantly recognized. Thank you Cheryl for such a wonderful moment :).

AhhhOOO.

–          Rebel8

PS Check Cheryl out!