Not only is Danielle a great friend and talented athlete, but she’s very creative, a great photographer…and she can sing!!! Photo credit: Danielle Barton
Out of the blue one day last year, I received a message from one of my former middle school students, Danielle Barton. I was her 8th grade science teacher waaaay back in 2008-2009. While, we had followed each other on social media since she left middle school, I hadn’t really seen or talked to her very often in several years.
A self-professed homebody, Danielle told me she had recently left her collegiate softball career behind to come back home to finish college so she could be close to her family. But, like many athletes, when she ended her athletic career, she also left behind her life-long motivation and reason for keeping fit.
Not only did she miss working out and training, but she missed being part of a team. She missed feeling strong and fit like she was when she was a collegiate pitcher at two different Mississippi junior colleges. On a side note, before Danielle’s JUCO career, in middle school and high school, she was in on the ground floor of what has been known in recent years as one of the most dominant high school softball programs in the state, Harrison Central. When I was her teacher, I always knew that Danielle would take her talent to the next level. At just 14-years-old, she was a hard worker, and it was obvious that she would work hard to be successful at whatever she put her mind to.
In my classroom, and beyond, Danielle was the kind of kid that every teacher, or coach, wishes she had 20 of. She’s kind. She stands up for what’s right. She’s a hard worker. She’s smart. She is friends with everyone, and everyone loves her. She’s just an all-around, stand-up, genuine human being. And to top it off, Dani, as her close friends and family call her, is/was a great athlete.
I was really excited to hear from her. I knew Danielle was just the kind of person we wanted in our gym. The members would love her sweet and caring spirit, and they would be inspired by her work ethic and athleticism. After we talked, I knew that CrossFit was a perfect fit for many of the things she was missing about playing softball.
We got to work immediately.
She started out with a personal on ramp/beginner’s course with me. In those one-on-one personal sessions, I taught, and in some cases, reviewed the basics of solid movement with her. With her long sports career and natural genetic potential, it was evident that she was relatively strong and had somewhat of a foundation in strength and conditioning. But, she certainly had some work to do, particularly in the mobility department. Danielle’s pulling and pressing strength wasn’t as developed as her core or her legs, so she learned how to modify and progress through all the many variations of pull-ups, pushups, and handstand pushups to meet her individual strength and ability. I assessed if she had any imbalances or mobility issues from her long pitching career. We decided she had the strength and mobility to start learning, or in her case, re-learning the Olympic lifts, clean and jerk and introduced the snatch, which is something she had never tried as a softball pitcher. So, I started teaching her the fundamentals of those lifts and hip recruitment for generating force. She caught on relatively quickly after some basic drills. We found that she had a slight tilt in her pelvis at the bottom of her squat and her knees caved, so we had her squat to a box to remedy any strength, mobility, or muscle recruitment issues there. Her cardio was fair, but she could feel that she was not in the same shape she had been in during her time as a softball player.
Since then, she has never looked back. She’s like a sponge–learning and practicing and trying. She has taken our Bandit CrossFit coaches intern course, and has even helped coach our boot camp classes. She also plans to get her CrossFit Level 1 Trainer certificate in the near future and will be competing in her first competition, the Pensacola Beach Brawl next month on a team. This is all while studying as a full-time student, holding down a part-time job at the Shuckers’ stadium, and giving pitching lessons to aspiring young pitchers in our area.
Danielle has applied her work ethic in school and on the softball field to her time in the gym. With that, she has made some really impressive gains in her performance AND her body composition. She has improved all of her strength numbers by a huge margin. She is getting better and better at toes to bar, pushups, and double unders. A couple weeks ago, she did her first kipping pull-ups on one of our gymnastics skill days.
The funny thing is, we haven’t really put a strategic focus on helping Danielle to “lose weight” or change her body’s look. We focus our efforts on helping her to move better and increase her strength, speed, and skill. We also focus our time with her around building a team atmosphere of fun and family. This is what motivates Danielle, and when she is motivated, she shows up. When she shows up, progress is made–little by little.
If you ask Danielle, she’d probably say she still has a long way to go. But, I hope she has already started to learn the real secret that we are trying to teach in our gym: You NEVER get there. This fitness journey is just that–a journey. It’s not a destination. You will never arrive. You will never have it just right. You will always want to get better and do more. There are ups and downs. You just have to keep showing up.
Thank you, Danielle, for reaching out to us, and putting your faith in your 8th grade science teacher to help you learn once again. You bring joy to our gym and all the people in it. We are lucky to call you a Bandit and have you on our team!
The whole point of this article was to show everyone these pictures (below) of Danielle’s physical transformation. However, I got so caught up in all the other great things she has done and contributed to in the gym that these pictures seem a lot less important. I completely lost the focus in this post. Please forgive me.
For all you visual learners, here’s Danielle, before and after, by the numbers:
Pounds lost (in this photo): 11 lbs
Sizes lost (shorts): size 10 to a size 4
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