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Athlete of the Month: Holli Stern

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CrossFit Palm Beach Athlete of the Month Questions

Tell us a little about yourself.  

I was born and raised in Indiana, by two amazing parents, with some great siblings…… 3 older brothers and a younger sister.  I am 38 years old and have lived in south Florida for 14 years.  I have been married to my wonderful husband, Craig, for 10 years and we have been blessed with three awesome boys ages 4, 7, and 19.  I am a Pharm.D (doctorate of pharmacy) by education, but have been a stay-at-home mom for several years now doing a bit of “behind the scenes” work for various businesses we have.  I love Jesus, my family, and friends and enjoy spending much of my time outdoors.   

You will find Holli at the 8 or 9 am times almost every day! Always with this exact smile!

What’s something about you that others may not know about you?  Any special talents,hobbies, or interests? 

I don’t watch TV and I love learning new things.  My husband and I try to learn something new everyday.  I enjoy reading scholarly journal research articles start to finish; however, other than my Bible that I read daily (and repeatedly), and hundreds of children’s books, I have not read an entire book in over 7 years! I may need to join the Crossfit Palm Beach book club!

I have always enjoyed mowing grass and would much prefer to be doing that (weather permitting) over cooking dinner almost any day of the week.  I only enjoy cooking in a social setting.      

Talents: I am not sure I would call it talent, lol, but I can still tap/clog dance and play the spoons 🙂  

Hobbies:  Spending time with my children doing the things they love to do and being with loved ones.  Currently that includes ATV riding, playing in the rain/mud, boating/tubing, swimming, and many other outdoor activities as well as movie nights indoors. 

Interests:  I have always been interested in all aspects of health, hence the Pharm. D.  In the last several years, I have gained more interest in Holistic and integrative healthcare to help my loved ones, others, and myself where I can. I love learning ways to help keep us healthy and simplify our lives. My husband likes to tease me about my suitcases of essential oils but doesn‘t deny they work, lol.  I am fascinated with their power when used correctly and in doing so, have recently been able to stop taking a thyroid medication that I had been taking for 9 years.  I have also taken a very recent interest in hydroponic gardening systems.  I will see how much of an interest it remains when I actually try to grow something from one!

What do you like to do outside the gym?

Some days are all about adventure, exploring, and trying new things.  Other days, other than hobbies and interests above, I like doing “nothing” with loved ones to let my mind settle and keep focus of my highest priorities.  As Winnie the Pooh says, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something”. “Nothing” may include cuddles and a movie with my boys or just watching them play and/or read to one another and marvel at how privileged I am to have the opportunity to raise and care for them.  It may be a spa day, a beach day, a boat ride, or a stroll outside with my husband.  It can be enjoying a cup of coffee or a phone conversation with a friend.  It can be a relaxing dinner with family and friends.  Any day shared with a loved one is a great day.    

Holli taking 1st place in the Loggerhead Triathalon as the biker leg of her team – Moms Gone Wild

When did you start CrossFit?  Why did you decide to join CrossFit at that time?  What do you remember most about when you first started?

I started in the latter part of 2014.  Prior to do doing CrossFit, I was doing primarily cardio, mainly jogging, for exercise but I kept getting stress fractures in my feet.  I knew I needed more weight training but I wasn’t sure where to start to make sure I was doing things correctly and safely.  I told my husband I wanted to try CrossFit for three months to see if I liked it, and here I am now, almost four years later loving it.  My first CrossFit WOD was squat snatches and it was definitely challenging.  I was extremely sore the first week but I loved it and knew that was what I needed!  My youngest son was about a year old and from a fitness standpoint, I wanted to be healthy and strong and enjoy playing and keeping up with my children.

What new beliefs, behaviors or habits have you adopted since you started Beachfit/Crossfit, have most positively impacted your life?

Crossfit helps me fill my gratitude wagon every time.  I have always enjoyed exercising but soon after my 7-year old was born I had some heart health issues (that I unknowingly had since birth) and diagnoses where, in very rare circumstances, the life-threatening risks of exercise actually outweighed the benefits of exercise.  This time was also complicated due to my type 1 diabetes I was diagnosed with at 10 years old.  I am grateful for all that I learned and the mental strength gained during the time I could not exercise and though I never focus on it, I I will always remember the frustration of not being able to exercise it.  That being said, Crossfit is a constant reminder of how grateful I am in simply being able to do it.  Some days are better than others but regardless, I get to do it!  Not only do I “get” to do it, but it is something I love doing and provides great health benefits.  Having this gratitude in one portion of my day helps me carry gratitude into the next part of my day.  Since I tend to work out in the morning, my gratitude wagon starts filling strong early in the day!   

What has been your most memorable workout?  

I love seeing people who excel in their areas and/or accomplish new skills.  Their faces just light up and I just can’t help but feel excited for him/her when all the hard work he/she has done has come to fruition.  If I had to choose it a most memorable and inspiring workout it was not my workout but one I saw in person.  It was the first time I saw Evan (I don’t know his last name), an army veteran and leg amputee due to an IED explosion, and another arm amputee come into the CFPB and just crush their workouts. It was pretty incredible.  I read a quote from Bob Goff just this week that said, “We’re not held back by what we don’t have, but by what we don‘t use”.  That is so very true and I just loved the way those kids were not being held back and were just focusing on what they could do.  It made me think how much better my life can be when I remember to do this!

Do you have a favorite quote or motto that you live by?

There are three I often think about in CrossFit: 

One my Dad always told us growing up was (original unknown), “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”.

Another from John Wooden, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

The last (original unknown), “ I may not be the fastest, and I may not be the strongest, but I’ll be darned if I am not trying the hardest”. 

Motto to live by:  Choose to be Grateful

Have you had any setbacks since starting CrossFit, what have you done to overcome them?

Along with Athlete of the Month, I could also probably be CFPB Queen of Modifying since I modify the workouts often to fit my specific need or to work around an injured or questionable area.   I have had a few minor knee, hip, and shoulder issues, that are from old injuries.  I have actually never been injured doing Crossfit.  To overcome the physical aspect of any injury, I just modify and keep moving. When I first began Crossfit I felt like I was not doing it “right” if I had to modify.  Now, however, I consider myself foolish if I don’t utilize the expertise of our coaches to help individualize the workout to my ability and best interest.  If I need to modify, then that is what I do. This is where the previously mentioned John Wooden quote applies.  I am happy just being able to workout and put my focus on the things I can do. 

I have not had any major “setbacks” but I would say I do have some daily challenges that require more attention during workouts.  Relatively speaking, I am a bit of a unique case from a health stand point having type 1 diabetes, a history heart arrhythmias followed by heart ablation procedures, very low blood pressure and previously having 3 holes in my heart that were repaired via open-heart surgery.  Especially during the workouts I have to try to be attuned to how I feel.  When I don’t feel as I should I must choose how to proceed.  Depending on the situation, I may be able to stop momentarily and rejoin the workout later, or I may be done with the workout for the day.  Of course these situations are not fun or easy but in any case, but I CHOOSE to be grateful.  I am not grateful FOR the circumstances but I have so much to be thankful for that I am still grateful IN the circumstance.  I focus on the things I did do, on the fact that I have the opportunity to be there, that I am surrounded by inspiring, humbling, encouraging people and that sometimes I even get to do two workouts in one day.   How do I mentally overcome the daily challenges of such?  With mental preparation, practice, and constant reinforcement.   It may sound strange but I have to make just as much effort to train as I do my physical body to get the desired results.  I have my parents to thank for this.  Just one example, they always did a great job focusing on the positive in the simple use of their words.  My Dad may have had a most frustrating day but when asked, it was, “I have had better days”, putting focus on the better, instead of, “I had a terrible day”, putting focus on the negative. I try to do the same to overcome any challenges I face.  For me acknowledging the difficulty in the challenge is good to use as a reference point to see my progress, but my focus is always on being grateful for where I am at to overcome it.   If a negative thought enters into my mind about a situation, I try to immediately replace it with a thought of gratitude for something.   My parents actually bought us a sign that hangs in our dining room and reads, “There is always, always, always something to be thankful for”.  My Mom would add to that, “and God is always in control”.   It doesn’t mean I am immune to the occasional bummed mood but it certainly helps overcome it. 

What is the most worthwhile investment you have made since starting CF (this could be CF related or just personal)

Being a better role model for my children.  My children watch and learn from EVERYTHING I do.  By doing Crossfit, I am leading by example and  investing in my childrens’ future by teaching them the importance of consistent exercise as a healthy lifestyle.  On days I bring them with me to the gym, I give them 20 minutes to watch the other classes and explore (closely supervised) to encourage their desire in exercising.  

What do you do on days when you don’t “feel” like going to the gym, what keeps you motivated?

I don’t tend to struggle with motivation to go to the gym.  I really like having the option to do Crossfit and/or Beachfit and there are numerous class times throughout the day so if I don’t feel like going in the early morning, I can go later in the morning are maybe hit the 12:15 Beachfit.  I have on rare occasion even gone in the evening.   

What do you love most about CrossFit Palm Beach?

The beautiful community that has been cultivated, the wonderful friends made, and the genuine concern that the coaches and leadership have for the members not just as “Crossfitters” but as people.  They take the time and make efforts to see what the members want and they make changes or additions accordingly.  The coaches are always looking out for the members.  Safety is of primary concern.  When we aren’t feeling top notch they help us modify, or sometimes in my case when I need a delayed start due to low bloodsugar, they keep the clock running until I finish.  When I started at CrossFit Palm Beach, I was a bit concerned I might overwhelm the leadership with my health concerns, especially my being susceptible to heart arrhythmias.  At the time there was not an AED (automated external defibrillator) on site.  I made an inquiry about one, and soon after, I cried when they informed they would get one.  I still consider that my favorite piece of gym equipment that I hope I never need or have to use on anyone else!   

Our community getting together to workout

What have you become better at saying “No” to and what approaches have worked for you?

Not getting enough sleep.  For many years, I have not gotten enough or consistent sleep.  I know the importance of it and, since the school year has started for my children, I am making an effort to get at least 5 hours of sleep most days of the week.  I know this is still not optimal but taking small steps in the right direction to get me where I need to be in this regard.