Amy Kievit was a self described “aggressively average” athlete growing up, involved mostly in softball and gymnastics. With her gymnastics background and no gymnastics team or club available to her, the 25 year-old got into diving while attending Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Upstate, NY, but, like her prior sports experience, took to the training more than the competition. “I really enjoyed just diving and learning new dives but I hated competing,” she remembers.

Amy was used to burning a lot of calories doing gymnastics so when she made the switch to diving, she ended up gaining some weight. “I started [going to the gym] in college during the offseason, pretty much because I gained weight since diving and gymnastics are not the same thing and you burn so many calories in gymnastics and not a lot in diving. I kept eating the same thinking I could eat whatever I wanted to,” she says.

Amy continued going to the gym while in grad school but “It was just like, ‘bleh,’” she says. “Like I felt good after because you always feel good after working out but I didn’t like going and it was boring.” Her boyfriend, who had been CrossFitting for about two years at this point and was loving it, encouraged Amy to give it a try. “I was like, ‘I’m not doing that,” she says. “Those people love to workout and they love to show everyone their [lifting] numbers and I just don’t want to do any of that.”

After she graduated from grad school, Amy’s boyfriend, who saw how much she hated going to the gym but loved the feeling she received after she worked out, paid for her on-ramp classes at Yankee CrossFit as a graduation present. Looking back, this present couldn’t have come at a better time for her.

Amy has suffered from anxiety and OCD since she was 10 years old and was just coming off her medication at this time due to some bad side effects. So she was struggling a lot that summer trying to figure out how to deal with her anxiety and OCD without medication.

“It’s weird how CrossFit and that [time without medication] both came together because once I started doing on-ramp, it was the only thing getting me through the week,” Amy remembers. “I had felt awful for about a full month before on-ramp started and the first time I came and worked out, I couldn’t breathe from the workout but I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my chest. I couldn’t feel anxious because I couldn’t think. All the blood goes to your muscles and you can’t breathe so all you think about is surviving.”

For the next four months until her new medication kicked in, CrossFit was keeping her going each week. The intense exercise was part of her therapy and she doesn’t know what else she would have done without it. And although she continues to take medication now, she still considers CrossFit a big part of her therapy. “It helps me handle my stress. I’ll notice if I don’t go three days in a row, that third day, I don’t feel good,” she says.

Even though Amy has a hard time talking about her mental health history in the past—as a social worker, it’s her job to help others who have similar conditions and there’s a stigma that comes with that—she’s been focusing on journaling and wants to submit her story to the CrossFit Journal. “Some people don’t want to be treated for their anxiety by someone who has anxiety. So I don’t disclose my mental health to my clients or employers,” she says. “But I’m all about ending the stigma. And you can’t end that if you’re hiding and not coming forward.”

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