Strong is Beautiful

Some of you may have seen this article when b posted it on the Zone Facebook fan page about Alicia Conners, a Taranis CrossFit competitor.  I thought that I would share this post with everyone because I have known Alicia Conners since before my CrossFit life.

I met Alicia about six and a half years ago when I was helping train her at DPL in Colwood.  From my eyes she seemed to be a smart, strong, and beautiful teenager.  When I first met her, I had no idea of the demons that haunted her.  She was always smiling and was such quite a joy to be around and coach.  I had heard about her eating issues, but did not realize they were that serious until I was no longer a trainer at this private studio.

Take a read of this article that Chris Schaalo wrote for Old Country Strong

“The Flower that Blooms in Adversity is the most Rare and Beautiful of all…”

When Z asked me to guest post for the annual “Strong is Beautiful” week on OCS I was a little stunned, I’m not exactly a talkative or outspoken person, what makes him think I have great things to say? However the minute I agreed to take part I knew exactly what I was going to do for the post.  I have a story to share, and I’m probably going to tear up more than a few times writing about it as it is very close to my heart; however, it is one that gives me strength everyday inside and outside the gym.  You see, I have witnessed the quest to be strong save a life and I believe it can save many more.

Now this wasn’t in a physical feat of superhuman strength type way. There was no mom lifting a car off her child, or boy pulling his younger brother up from a cliff after a slip.  This was far more miraculous.  I was approaching a 23rd birthday, and enjoying the final days of an amazing first Christmas holidays I was able to share with my girlfriend of about 6 months.  Everything was better than I could have expected, I was falling head over heels, spending day after day laughing and learning with her until we had coffee one Saturday night.  She blindsided me, things weren’t working – it was her not me… the usual break up story you hear about.  4 days later I’m pulled aside by a mutual friend at the gym, Alicia is in the hospital – don’t worry she is ok “but she has a long road ahead of her” he says.  He won’t tell me what happened.  Nobody will answer the house phone.  After what was by far the longest 5 hours of my life, most of it spent wondering and worrying on her doorstep, a family friend of hers arrives at the house to collect some things and informs me that Alicia had attempted suicide.  Excuse me?  Suicide?  How in the world does a gorgeous, ambitious, passionate and loving person like this be driven to such an aggressive last resort?

It turns out I didn’t know a lot about this girl.  A 5 year period of body image issues, severely disordered eating including bouts of anorexia and bulimia, battles with anxiety, and waves of depression had slowly and brutally beat her down mentally and physically. Hiding behind an addiction to exercise and an uncanny dedication to seemingly “healthy eating” had enabled her to mask her problems from those who didn’t know her well enough to see through it.  99% of young girls are never able to break free from this demonic struggle – but Alicia has something that most people don’t.  She has the barbell.

The beautiful thing about the barbell is that it doesn’t care. It doesn’t care whether you’ve had a good day, or whether you’ve eaten the right things.  It doesn’t care whether you’re fighting with your girlfriend, or whether you’re sore from those squats the other day.  The barbell cares about one thing, and one thing only: performance. The only thing that matters is whether you are stronger than the bar or not, whether you are willing to claw tooth and nail to move it – and if you don’t, are you committed to improving and addressing that load again?  These are traits that can be applied to all areas of life, especially in this case.

For the last 4 years Alicia has dedicated herself to the barbell, she has made a commitment to performance and put her trust in the idea that improving her performance would help her pull herself out of that deep, dark hole. She has leaned on the barbell during tough times, she has laughed and had fun with the barbell during the lighter times – and each and every day she’s made herself stronger.  Yes, she squats more, presses more, and snatches more than she did 4 years ago; however, her real strength gains have come in mind.  The barbell has taught Alicia a lot about herself, she has learned to be confident, to be proud of herself, and most importantly the barbell has taught her that failing is nothing to be ashamed about, that quitting is not an option, and that success is a product of determination.  Though the demons are still persistent in her mind today, they are much quieter now – more of whisper originating over her shoulder than the every second of every day consuming inner voice of control she used to fight.  Her ability to take the lessons she has learned under the barbell and apply them to herself in her life is truly amazing.

Every moment I catch myself ashamed, disappointed, or down about life – Alicia wanders into my mind. The girl she was before reminds me that I am a lucky person, that things could be much much worse, and that there is always hope.  The young woman she is now show’s me her tattoos, the daily reminders to herself that the fight is worth it, that one day she will break free from it all. The tattoo on her left forearm says “Above All Love Yourself” and the tattoo on her front right trap reads “Beauty in Strength.” She reminds me that, in the barbell, I have a weapon that most people don’t have.  She tells me to use it, to lean on it when I need to, and to have a little fun with it from time to time.

These past 4 years really have been a long road, along the way Alicia has done nothing but get stronger each and every day, and in doing so (though she probably doesn’t realize it) she has made those of us close to her stronger.  That my friends is truly beautiful.

~ Article by: Chris Schaalo



I am so proud of Alicia and where she has taken her life to in the last couple of years. Words can’t describe of how proud I am of her.  She is so strong and beautiful! Every time I watch her compete, it almost brings a tear to my eye.  I Also love seeing her parents come out and cheer her on, you can see how happy and proud they are of their daughter. She has worked so hard to get to where she is today, and after reading the post above, others will understand what she has climbed not just Rogue walls, but mountains to be the woman she is today.

The section in the post where Chris talks about Alicia having the barbell, reminds me of a video he posted on Alicia’s Facebook wall a year or so ago.  It was an olympic lifting video, and the essence of the video was to not put any more weight on the barbell, when you are doing your workout, it should just be you and the barbell.  If you are worrying or stressing about other things in your life while you are training, you are just making that bar heavier for yourself.

Today’s Workout:

Buy In – Muscle up practice 5 x 5 reps

  • Use a band and work on a few different scalings
  • Try to string together 5 reps with full turn out
  • If you have a muscle up, try strict muscle ups (no kip)

WOD “AirForce”

For Time:

  • 20 Thrusters
  • 20 Sumo Deadlift High Pull
  • 20 Push Jerk
  • 20 Overhead Squats
  • 20 Front Squats

* On every minute, do 4 burpees.

* Workout starts with 4 burpees.


Rx – 65lbs/95lbs

Zone 3 – 55lbs/75lbs

Zone 2 – Scale bar as needed

Zone 1 – Scale as needed

Cash Out – MWOD 27

Test: Row (on an erg or upright) using good technique see how hard it is to arrive at full compression with hammies and glutes fully loaded.
Mwod: 1) Contract relax that high hammie 2-3 minutes each side. Keep seeking our difficult ranges
2) Active Tack and Stretch that high hamstring tissue while seated. 1min each side
Re-test: Try pulling your 500 m split now.

Part 1 –

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Part 2 –

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