How CrossFit Changed My Life

When I was a kid, I was almost always the very last person to be chosen for sports teams.

During PE class, I would stand awkwardly, eyes downcast, as two snaking lines of my classmates grew before me.

As more and more names were called, I would remain in the trembling shadows of my sportier peers.

And as my anxiety levels accelerated, so too did the feeling of isolation.

I felt completely exposed, labelled as the ‘unco’ kid. I wished the ground would open up and swallow me whole.

The humiliation was excruciating. Even now, writing this post brings it all back with exceedingly painful alacrity.

The worst thing? My perception of not being good enough shaped my impression of myself for years to come.

But recently that all changed. About eighteen months ago, I began a journey which would lead me to climb mountains I never dreamed of conquering.

It all began when I made the decision to get in shape #midlifecrisis.

As a wife, mother of three young children and Director of a busy leadership coaching business, I had absolutely no idea how I would find the time.

All I knew was I absolutely had to do it.  

So, I found myself the best Personal Trainer in New Zealand – Lucas Bennett from Crossfit Whakatu/LB Strength & Conditioning in Nelson. Yes, that’s you Lucas – you’d better believe it!

Lucas Bennett, PT extraordinaire.

Lucas Bennett, PT extraordinaire.

Lucas introduced me to the incredible tough, painfully challenging, yet weirdly addictive world of CrossFit.

Under Lucas’ guide, I got fitter, stronger and healthier.

As the weights got heavier, my self-talk became kinder.
As the callouses formed on my hands, empowerment grew from within.
As sweat (and pounds) dripped from my body, so too did the negative stigmas from days gone by.

And then, on May 11, 2014, at the age of 43, I  competed in my first ever CrossFit competition, alongside a gym of super-fit athletes with my three children and team mates cheering me on.

Me, competing at my very first CrossFit competition.

That’s me on the ground, competing in my very first CrossFit competition.

Both Lucas and Crossfit not only changed my life by transforming my body to the fittest and best shape I’ve ever been in. Most importantly, my journey changed my perception of who I am, who I can be and what I can achieve in my life.

Here are just  8 of the gazillion lessons my CrossFit journey has taught me: 

1. Beware the limitations. The prisons we build in our own minds are the most potent. I don’t wanna sound like a clichéd self-help douche bag, but as the above story attests, and as Buddha says, what we think, we become.

As a leader, dare to think big – and challenge self-limiting beliefs.

2. Encouragement is king. Never underestimate the power of encouraging words. When I was three quarters of the way through my WOD on Sunday (that’s Crossfit lingo for Workout of the Day, or as I like to call it, Walk of Death), the encouragement and cheers of my fellow CrossFitters at the comp kept me going.

Lucas giving me a much needed pep talk.

Judge giving me the down-low.

As a leader remember a simple “you can do it” can make all the difference.

3. Find an expert. Don’t try to do it alone. Seek out a mentor who has walked the path before you – and learn from them.

I listened to Lucas’ expertise, coaching and advice.  I learned so much from the more experienced CrossFitters in my gym. My participation on Sunday would not have happened if I had ignored their advice. Period.

4. The power of team. Or tribes. Humans are hard-wired to be part of a group where we feel we belong. My CrossFit team is made up of people of all shapes and sizes and ages and backgrounds. But for those few hours a week, we sweat our butts off, push ourselves to extremes, and achieve the best we can, together.

As Ryunosuke Satoro said – “Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.”

My amazing CrossFit team!

My amazing CrossFit team! That’s me, front left.

5. Anything worth having is hard work. But it’s so damn worth it.  There have been times when I’d rather bury my face in a box of deep fried ‘whatever’. But this time, for the first time in my life, I really wanted it.  

See here for understanding the importance of why.

I got hard. I recognised there would be agonising plateaus, blisters, frustrations and tough times. But I kept going. Whether you are leading a business through tough times or embarking on a more personal pilgrimage, remember this – if it were that easy, then everyone would be doing it.

No-one ever said it would be easy.

No-one ever said it would be easy. ‘Aint that the truth!

6. Get outside your comfort zone. Even to this day, every time Lucas unveils the WOD I have a mini coronary. A minor panic attack. A moment where I want to run…home…to the comfort of my cosy couch. Pushing outside our comfort zones over and over and over again is what produces real results.

7. Just do it. Forget your ego, your fears, what others think. Just participate. It doesn’t matter whether you are first or last. Being last in a good race is better than not being a contender at all. And it’s just the start.

Each time you get stuck in, you learn. Those learnings can be applied and improved upon next time.

8. Oh. And did I mention my number one learning? Read it again…

“No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” – William Penn.

Tweet: How #crossfit changed my life #leadership @suzimcalpine

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  1. […] body changed, but my business has also transformed. I’ve raved about Lucas before – see here  to find out […]

  2. Scott Duncan on April 5, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Wow Suzi, do you have a concealed carry permit for those guns?

  3. paradigms of leadership on May 13, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Awesome! A lesson for us all!!


  4. Greg Hunt on May 13, 2014 at 5:33 am


    Good on you Suzi – that’s an amazing accomplishment.

    • The Leader's Digest on May 13, 2014 at 6:04 am

      Haha! Thanks Greg.

    • Nicky Willis on May 14, 2014 at 2:47 am

      Agree Greg! Awesome Suz, well done. Just had a coffee with da Big Al!

  5. Emma Dean on May 13, 2014 at 3:41 am

    So proud of you Suzi McAlpine, I would have picked you in the school team though, first pick! I was always last too :o) xx

  6. Jeanie Truell on May 13, 2014 at 2:34 am

    Wonderul Suzi. You are inspirational.  xx  


    • The Leader's Digest on May 13, 2014 at 6:42 am

      Thanks for the kind words Jeanie. You are too!

    • Bindy on May 13, 2014 at 7:28 am

      Wonderful and inspirational – you have inspired me today, not just saying it, thank you.

  7. Cunningham Communications on May 13, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Suzi, you are a beacon of inspiration to all working mothers and all people on this planet who want to transform their bodies, health and lives. Not only did you achieve your goal, you absolutely blew it out the park, whilst also building your business and being the best mum / wife in the world. How wonderful for your children to share your journey and watch you compete on Sunday. Thanks for sharing your story (and your awesomeness) with the world. I’m so proud of you. AC.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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