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2020 – The First Quarter Reflection

Athena Perez

January 13, 2021

I would typically write about my yearly rundown in terms of breaking it down by topic, but this year I think I will speak in terms of “months.” {{laughing}} too many issues to cover this year, I’m afraid.


I entered 2020 already a little exhausted and tired. I didn’t attend a single holiday or New Years Party and virtually camped out in my dining room trying to get my book finished.  I had put on a good deal of surgery weight and didn’t want to have to fight my cravings for the holiday cookie trays.  After all, I’m kind of a sucker for those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey Kiss on top and uh….. maybe shortbread…. Maybe a little….. (sorry I haven’t had dinner). I completed the book and couldn’t have felt better about that but knew I would be facing a big hurdle getting back to CrossFit. It was wintertime here in Minnesota, and there was ice everywhere.  I was terrified. I wasn’t even walking very well, and here I wanted to get back to deadlifting and cleans. I set myself up for a big disappointment because I think I expected too much from a body that had just gone through hell. I cried a lot because I was frustrated at what seemed to be snail-like progress.  The CrossFit gym I was training when I decided to come back wasn’t a good fit. Accessibility was an issue, and coaches that understood my limitations seemed to be my biggest challenge. One of them was terrific, but I couldn’t get my schedule to align with hers.  Thinking about finding yet another CrossFit gym was the last thing I wanted to do but an essential part of the journey to keep me going.

Quick rewind to several years prior – In January 2017, I decided to turn off the news. If something didn’t contribute to my joy, I wanted no part of it. I wasn’t the greatest at staying on top of current events. Sure, I’d see things on social media from time to time, but I had all but completely obliterated most news sites from my feed, so even if someone had shared it, I wouldn’t have seen it. I kept that promise to myself for nearly four years, so needless to say, I was one of the last people to know about something called Corona Virus.

I have good friends in Italy who regularly check in on Instagram that started sharing stories of going into lockdown. Lockdown? What did that look like?  Of course, I was hearing bits and pieces here and there – if you’re on social media, you’re going to see SOMETHING. I heard the word “Pandemic” for the first time. Maybe I was in a bit of a personal bubble, but I was trying my damndest to heal.


In February, I found another box and met my now current coach Addison. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year already. I still remember that first day I met him and think of it fondly because my legs didn’t seem to scare him off. Because the legs were so wobbly, quite often, they would almost give out in a sort of “tripping” motion, and I would have to recover. It was always a little unnerving because I would still have to look at him and tell him I was okay. I had a few breakdowns that first month or two. One time was because I couldn’t do a snatch. Another time I was walking with the barbell, and the knees would give out, and I tripped right into the rig. It knocked a barbell off that had weights on it, and of course, I’m standing there feeling awful because I thought I could have hurt someone.  It got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying the group classes as much because I was paranoid about someone getting too close; fearful that the slightest bump from someone might send the barbell dropping to the floor, I’d trip, or fall right into someone. The balance was so bad that I feared I might not be able to recover and face slam right into the floor.  It was exciting to be back but dreadfully frustrating for me. Stepping up to 45 lbs plates was challenging and painful.


By the beginning of the month, I heard from followers and friends all over the world about lockdowns and gyms closing down.  My first thoughts were, “Wow,” they are really taking precautions. I don’t know what my initial thoughts were. Closing down gyms was the furthest thing from my mind. I wasn’t trying to be woefully ignorant, but I just didn’t let a lot of outside news in my home with the type of focus I had at the time. I read a phrase one time, and I suppose a lot of it resonated, so it just stuck with me.

“It’s okay to be informed, not okay to be inundated.”

I practiced this phrase regularly. I wasn’t trying to be selfish. I never excelled at trying to do more than one thing at a time.

“Athena, just focus on getting strong. Turn everything else off”.

So much of training, especially during those first few months of the year, wasn’t really Crossfit. It was mostly learning how to do the basics again. Step-ups, learning to balance, learning to walk a straight line. It was as fundamental as it gets. Addison was extremely patient with me. Lord knows I’m not sure how he stuck it out because I can remember there were a lot of bad days. But he was always really good at reminding me it was one step at a time.

When our Governor announced a State of Emergency on March 13, that all changed. Things started shutting down, and I knew gym closures were inevitable. I had just spent 8 weeks working really hard, and now I was going to be forced back home again. On March 26, that’s precisely what happened. It was definitely a blow I didn’t take that well at first, but “two weeks to slow the spread.”  How bad could that be? I wasn’t jazzed about working out from home, but I went and collected a few pieces of equipment and made plans for home workouts like everyone else. I already worked from home, so I wasn’t as affected as many people working remotely. It had always been part of my lifestyle. The only thing that was going to change for me was working out at home. Two weeks – how bad could it be? I left that day with a bumper plate for step-ups, a kettlebell, and a 10 lb dumbbell.

I made it three whole days before irritation kicked in. Mmmm, yes, that didn’t last long. It was apparent, so many others were taking the gym closure easier than I was. I suppose a lot of that had to do with the fact that I just spent 10 months isolated in my living room. Getting isolated again was a bit triggering.

I’m human.

Truth be told……the first quarter was bumpy from day one. Comparison – even of self truly is the thief of all joy. I had no idea what was in store for me this year. I don’t think anyone did.




  1. David Jakes says:

    I was vacationing in Florida in March when stuff started to happen. I saw it as a big overreaction (still do). The box we were dropping in at was still open, as were restaurants. We had no idea how bad it was going to get. By the end of the week travel was banned from Europe and we were worried about not being able to fly home. I trashed talked the virus from the beginning. When I did get it in the Fall, I said I couldn’t die from it, because it would be embarrassing. Spoiler: I didn’t die. My taste and smell did for a couple days, though. As always, I enjoy your perspective.

  2. Ellen P says:

    Now I’m looking forward to the next three 2020 posts.
    As for myself, I got your book in 2020 and I am almost finished reading it. I like the breakdown skills, for want of a better term, that you include with each chapter. Your experiences and the manner in which you learn to deal with them is so useful. I can apply this to my personal life.
    Your story matters. I’m glad you chose to do the difficult work of sharing it.
    All my best.

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I’m Athena Perez, a Christ-loving dog mom and CrossFitter who has lost over 200 pounds on a long journey of self-discovery. I’m obsessed with sharing everything I’ve learned to help you too!  

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