Spotlight Saturday

I’ve been posting monthly member spotlights to highlight members and attributes we like to see round the gym and am looking to change the format slightly so that the message is better portrayed. I think sometimes it comes across as an athlete of the month and I don’t want that to be the case. At random intervals I’d love to share members stories and experiences.

Our Spotlight today is Sara McCullough, one of 4 Sarah’s but the only Sara in the gym. Sarah has been open from the start about her exercise history and motivation and I’ve loved seeing her fit right into our family here at CrossFit Ballymena. I love seeing her improve each week and share her stories (some of which she’s included here), from the very start she said she didn’t want just a gym but more of a community, like in the other parts of her life. I hope that’s what she’s found.

First off, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I’m from the States, originally from Michigan.  I moved here 10 years ago as my husband, Brian, is from here.  We have 3 sons aged 14, 12 and 8.  I am an accountant currently working for a company called CDE in Cookstown, just started a week ago!

You actively choose to fight people, how did that start?

I started jujitsu almost 5 years ago.  My sons were actually the first in the family to start.  To keep them motivated, we told them that if they stuck with it and advanced to the senior class that adults also train in, then we would start.  My middle son was the first to advance, and held us to our promise!  I train with my husband and a great group of adults in Galgorm.  We have just received our Brown Belts and are training for Black.  My sons are Brown, Junior Black Belt and Purple Belt and within the next 18 months we’ll all be Black Belts.  It’s a great sport, especially for women and learning self defense.  Jujitsu actually means gentle art, so it is not an attacking form of martial arts. I don’t do jujitsu to attack people, I do it to stop people from attacking me whilst providing them with a significant level of discomfort. Just ask my husband, lol.  Our sensei is very encouraging and a great teacher.  He has also helped me to become a jujitsu coach which has helped improve my skills.

Do you compete or is the training more for health and mindset?

Jujitsu is more about training for belts than competitions, so I mainly do it for the fitness.  At each level, there are more advanced moves, and the addition of weapons which is quite cool.  Occasionally they do grappling competitions, which is the ground work wrestling.  It’s like the MMA fighting minus the kicking the crap out of each other.  It’s mostly about groundwork skills and subduing your opponent until they tap out.  I haven’t participated!  I haven’t had the confidence in my fitness or strength before, CrossFit has definitely changed that.  

What made you start CrossFit?

I wanted to find something to improve my fitness and strength, and I was tired of being the out of shape winded one every week at jujitsu. I’ve been trying to lose weight and get fit for about 4 years and was not having much success.  Then last year, my friend Iris posted her before and after pictures from CrossFit.  She looked amazing!  So I got together with her to find out what it was all about, and she and Duncan couldn’t say enough good things about it.  I have them to thank for introducing me!

Has your reason for doing CrossFit changed?

No, I started with the intention of getting fitter, and it’s working! I have no idea how much weight I’ve lost, as I haven’t weighed myself in months.  But I’ve lost 4 inches from my hips and 3 1/4 from my waist in 3 months.  Still have a long way to go but I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

Have you noticed any difference in your performance or recovery?

Definitely.  I recover much quicker and can train for longer.  My Brown Belt grading couldn’t have gone better.  It was the first time I gave 100% for the whole grading and still had more to give at the end.  My husband struggled to keep up with me, which has never happened before!  My strength has also improved, which makes a lot of the moves we do in jujitsu not only easier but less stress and fatigue on my body.  We train with all ages of adults at jujitsu, and a few teenagers.  We were grappling a few weeks ago, and I was able to throw one of the 17 year old boys off me for the first time ever.  Not sure who was more surprised! Every week, they all notice my shape changing, and I won’t be surprised if a few of them want to join CrossFit. It’s also helped my running.  I’ve just finished a Couch to 5K program and just did my first 5K race in 10 years. I finished in 33 minutes, was much faster running without doing 100 burpees! 

Anything else you think would be beneficial for people to know?

I have really enjoyed the CrossFit experience.  The gym is full of great people, so encouraging and always there to push you on.  I can’t thank everyone enough for that, it makes all the difference!

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