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March 11, 2020 4 min read
By Jessica Danger

When I first found CrossFit, I was relieved. It was like finding a home I never realized I was homesick for. Here was a space where I could come in and get to work, on my own terms. It was okay to be strong, to be confident and competitive, and my personal favorite, to be aggressive. I had tried spin, yoga (we all knowhow I feel about yoga) and even long distance running. Nothing quite fit until I found CrossFit. I got bigger and stronger and then one day I mosied on over to the “other side of the gym”. 

You know how in Lion King, Simba’s dad tells him that everything the sun touches is his? But like, stay away from the dark part over there? And then Simba grows up and defeats his horrible evil uncle, conquering even the dark part and then voila! Everyone is happy and whole, the world is made right again and now they have a whole kingdom of light.

I used to not even make eye contact with people on the other side of the gym: Weightlifters. First off, they were huge. Second, they were very much “the cool people” and I have never really been one of those social people that acclimate instantly, or at all, to “cool people.” (What up book worms?) Third, I was much older than all of them. I could be some of their mothers. (There is a reason everyone calls me Mama Danger.)

But you know what I did acclimate well to?

The barbell.

I fell in love with Olympic Weightlifting even faster than I fell in love with CrossFit. I started competing locally and surprised myself by (finally!) doing well at something athletic. I discovered a whole world of legitimate competitive athletes out there that are my same age,Masters Athletes, and the companies that are bad ass enough tosupport them. A masters athlete is, for CrossFit and Weightlifting, anyone over the age of 35. The divisions are sorted by age, in five year increments. We call it leveling up. 

At my very first weightlifting meetI podiumed in my division, qualifying for the American Open and The Arnold. It was a hell of a time. Coach walked up to me and said, “Congratulations. You qualified for Vegas as an old person.” No joke.

Then I took more than a year off of training, focusing on all the life-y things. My kilos fell, as did my confidence under the barbell, and my weight climbed. But then one day before Christmas, my coach walked right up to me and said, “You look like a really strong woman with absolutely nothing taxing on her plate, or any overwhelming life responsibilities right now. Come lift on a team with me in February.”

He has a knack for sarcasm and I have a knack for over-committing so earlier this month I found myself on a platform again, in a super flattering from all angles singlet, with three judges in front of me. I made five of my six lifts, placed second in my division, and qualified for both Masters Nationals and the Nike American Open.

I did it again.

Let’s jump back to Simba. (Yes I am definitely still bringing this back to a Disney film.) By the time Simba knew enough to come back and call his uncle out, he had the help of Nala. He also had one other key component: Age.

I wasn’t planning on qualifying forMasters Nationals. So when I looked up the qualifying totals against their competition calendar, I discovered that I get to “level up,” competing in the next age group. I was well above that qualifying total. I messaged my coach and, five or six text messages later, he said “Let's get this.”

Celebrations ensued. BUBS, who has alwayssupported me as a Masters athlete, sent me a training package full ofCollagen Protein andMCT Oil Powder. This Masters athlete was ready to go.

Three days later, when I saw the announced openers so far, I was saddened to see that I fell just above the middle line. No one wants to be a middle of the road weightlifter in a Masters competition. I walked into the gym, defeated.

My coach, who has spent the last few days personalizing a shortened cycle for this meet, who texts me reminders not to self-sabotage, helps me stay in my weight parameters, and who will be leaving his life to fly all the way to Florida with me for this, looked at me baffled when I asked him if I wasn’t just wasting everyone's time here.

“Danger, there is a reason Master Nationals exists,” he told me. “Start fucking training.”

So I did. I wrote down all the names and totals of the handful of women ahead of me in my division. I am memorizing them, taping them to the rack on my favorite platform while I train. Everyone knows which one is mine.

It's the one withall the light.