Dragonfly Strong Women: Rachel

By July 10, 2019 blog

What is being strong? Being strong is rising up. It’s persevering. It’s courage. It’s believing in yourself. Being strong is being a fighter.

All month long we’ll be sharing stories of members who inspire us, and we hope that they inspire you too!

Thank you Rachel for sharing your story with us!

My name is Rachel and I’ve been a member of Dragonfly for 6 months. I chose Dragonfly because I knew I wanted a place that had a small class size where I could learn what to do instead of just being in a gym full of equipment. I honestly didn’t know how to work out, and I had never lifted a weight before I joined Dragonfly. I do not like running, so I wanted something that incorporated cardio in a different form. I wanted a place that would keep me accountable and force me to keep coming back. I have tried to join gyms or at home programs, but I always get lazy and stop after a few weeks.

On top of wanting to stay committed, I also have a medical condition called Cystic Fibrosis (CF). This causes thick mucus to build up in my pancreas and lungs, which makes me cough a lot. If you have been in a class with me, you definitely know who I am by the end of class! Rest assured, the coughing is actually good because I can get the mucus moving. Throughout my life I have been hospitalized 12 times for lung infections and I have a lung function around 40% right now. I also developed diabetes as a result of CF. I do breathing treatments for two hours and take up to 20 pills every day to maintain my health. In 2015, a new medication came on the market that treats the underlying cause of CF. Since I’ve been on this medication, my life has changed dramatically! I am no longer underweight, my lung function increased by 10% and has stayed there, and I feel much better on a day to day basis. I went from being told I’d probably need a lung transplant in my 20s to having my doctor say he looks forward to caring for me for the rest of his career. I’ve been given a new outlook on life and I’m so grateful. 

With my new lease on life, I felt now was as good a time as any to take exercise seriously.  Exercise is one of the best ways to keep my lungs strong, and I have seen its benefits in other CF patients. I grew up dancing and I play sand volleyball every week, but I’ll admit that exercise is not something I’ve ever prioritized. With my health and working full time, I was also putting on more weight than ever before and becoming very unhappy with my body image. So I did something that was out of my comfort zone and much scarier than any doctor or hospital visit: I joined Dragonfly. I met Missy and explained my health conditions to her, and she assured me Dragonfly could tailor the workouts to my needs and wouldn’t push me past my limits.

When I got to my first Lift class, I was terrified! I was sure I was in over my head and everyone would be better than me and judge me. Coach Missy could probably see the fear in my face as she was giving the rundown of the workout for the day. I started the circuit and she made sure to check in with me throughout class, correcting my form and encouraging me that I was doing well. At the end of class, another member told me I did a good job and from there I was hooked (and very sore!).

My favorite part of Dragonfly is the community. All the women I have met have been amazing. Every time I start to doubt myself or want to quit, another member will always tell me I’m doing well or cheer me on to keep going. The classes also bring out my best: if I see someone else working hard, I am motivated to keep going and be better. An important lesson I’ve learned is to not compare myself to others. I’m never going to be the strongest or fastest, and that’s okay. What matters is that I’m improving and striving to be my best self. I have never used my CF as an excuse, and the gym is no different. There are also some days when I am not feeling well, and I can’t push myself. I may only be able to do 6 reps instead of 10 or I have to take more breaks and finish last, but I am still there and I feel accomplished when I’m done.

Since my first class, I have gained so much muscle and flexibility. I went from barely being able to do a squat to squatting with 50 pounds and deadlifting 100 pounds. Even though I still get a little nervous when I try a new class I think “Okay, I can do this,” instead of “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?” I have also improved my stamina, my sand volleyball game has gotten better, and I’m coughing less! I have surprised myself so many times at the things I have accomplished and workouts I’ve gotten through, and I’ve discovered my favorite form of cardio is rowing. All of this became possible because of Dragonfly.

My body is still a work in progress, but I’m starting to see my body for what it can do instead of its limitations. I have gained confidence not only at the gym, but in all aspects of my life because if I can get through these workouts, I can accomplish anything. CF will always be a challenge in my life, but with Dragonfly I feel I am winning the challenge every day.