Paying forward my gifts

I’m blessed to serve The Boys and Girls Clubs of Muncie as their Vice President on the Board of Directors.  At our recent Great Futures Luncheon (which was sold out), I was asked to deliver the final remarks, and essentially ‘the ask,’ to ensure we have the necessary funding to accomplish the ambitious goals we have for our Club Kids this year.  One of my mentors and friends Juli Metzger thought it would be useful to share the transcript of my remarks with the community at large.  So, below is what I prepared:




I am BJ McKay, Vice President of our Executive Committee.  Quick story, I grew up in Erie, PA to two terrific hard-working parents who loved me, taught me discipline and opened doors for me to walk through.  I am a white man born in middle class suburbia in the United States.  I was born about 10 feet from the finish line of success, all I could do was make decisions to mess that up.  Why I’m standing before you today is because of my parents, my upbringing and my opportunities , which were all gifts.  I’ve done much less than I’ve been given credit for in my life.  I am surrounded by mentors, teachers, coaches, friends and my parents who are all gifts, plain and simple.  I’m grateful, and I’m blessed.  I share this because I want you to think about your gifts right now, the things that maybe each of us in the room have taken for granted in our development as leaders in this community.  That is why I’m up here right now to ask you to pay forward those gifts.

What we need currently is action and awareness.  We exist to prove every kid has what it takes.  By taking the envelope in front of you and writing a check to the Club, you become the fuel that allows us to keep that promise.  You are investing in a national organization, locally run by the people you work with, go to church with, share the road with and whose kids go to school with your kids.  Have confidence that your investment is backed by our proven track record and measurable results in key performance areas of Education, Health and Character.  You advocate, along with us, for all youth and teens, providing them a platform for their voices to be heard.  You are taking tangible action today to filling the out-of-school time gap that adds up to hours and years of impact.  Your monetary investment in Boys and Girls Clubs of Muncie is REAL action.

On behalf of the board leadership, our CEO, our passionate staff and most importantly our Club Kids, I’m asking for as much financial support as you can offer to make Muncie a safer place for our Club Kids.  If you’ve walked around the building today you’ve seen what we are doing with what we have been given in the past.  Give us the opportunity to show you what we can accomplish with even more for our community.  This team is better prepared to serve this community, and our kids, moreso than any time in the 80 plus year history of the Muncie Boys and Girls Club.  Please ask us the hard questions, demand the real ROI and hold us accountable to whatever you feel is the highest standard for your investment in a strong not-for-profit partner making REAL impact in the community where we all live.

Take the next few moments to decide what level you wish to invest with us, then drop these filled out envelopes in one of the boxes when you leave.  If you choose to donate in a different way or are unable to, please fill out an envelope regardless, because by being here today you are part of this movement and we want to keep you connected and aware.  I’ll give you a few moments to fill out the envelopes and then I’ll bring us together to wrap up.  Thank you.

Studies show for the first time in history, the next generation of youth will be left with fewer opportunities than the one before.  Kids deserve better.  We have an opportunity to lift them up.  Help them reach their aspirations.  Give them a great future.

Take one more walk around before you leave because this Madison Street location, The Buley Center Club House, and our school location programming with MCS are going to look a lot different because of you.

This is the formal end of our program, but I encourage you to visit with our Club Kids, staff and board members before you leave if you have any questions or comments.  Thank you, from all of us, for joining the Boys and Girls Club movement today.  Have an amazing rest of your day.


If you did not attend and are moved to join the BGC movement, please consider a gift via our online portal.  Our gifts are meant to be paid forward.  If you pay them forward with The Club, I would be grateful.

My goals are worth(less) when it comes to fitness

Metrics, empirical evidence, tracking, programming, nutrition, wieghtraining, cardio, and the list goes on regarding what formula makes fitness outcomes happen for an individual. I’ve often pondered why the heck I am as fit as I am. Am I really that goal focused? The answer: Hell no. I don’t pay much attention to any fitness goals any more. Honestly, I haven’t for several years now. The only ones I can think of are simple performance outcomes in the CrossFit Open each year. Even with The Open, I don’t think about it much until it comes around. I mean, I’m not setting specific training goals and holding myself accountable for anything that ‘happens’ in The Open. If it isn’t meaningful goals and all kinds of scientific, evidence based, training then what is it that leads to what most people in the world truly want: consistent and sustainable fitness?

I think author Neil Strauss did a fantastic job articulating this in a recent episode of Tim Ferriss’s Tribe of Mentors podcast. I encourage you to check out all 20 minutes, it is fabulous and loaded with wisdom. The statement that stuck with me, however, is this: (starts at minute 18:50 and ends at 21:39)

A friend of mine, Rick Rubin, moved out to Malibu and I notice his lifestyle changed. He lost a ton of weight, 140 pounds or something like that. He started eating really really healthy. He started working out. It was amazing to see that shift happen. So I moved out here as well. Through Rick, I met a community of people that I workout with. Every morning at 8 AM I show up to see my friends. We exercise outdoors or at the beach or in a pool or on someone’s lawn. We end it with a sauna ice session and we talk about life, whats going on in our relationships and dealing with the issues of the day. Literally, it is the highlight of my day. Here’s the crazy thing about it, I’m not trying to hit a weight goal, I’m not trying to hit a muscle goal. I’m just actually going to spend time with the community of people I enjoy. It is the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life, and it made me realize that the secret to change and growth is not will power or goal setting, but positive community… You are basically the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most. If you want to make a change in your life there are two ways to do it 1) Put yourself around a community of people who embody that, that thing you want to become, 2) If there is something negative that you truly cannot control make it impossible for yourself. When will power fails you changing behavior is not enough, there is a belief there. You can change the belief which takes time, or you can make it simply impossible to do… (this transcription is not word for word, but captures the key points)

This crystalized why I feel as great as I do, and why I continue to become even more fit without really thinking about it at all. At Muncie CrossFit I am around my friends. These friends of mine have similar values to me and their behavior consistently in alignment with those values. I look forward most to the jokes, laughs and conversation that happens in and around the ‘real work.’ Yes, I post my scores, I hope I improved and stayed healthy (uninjured) as a I train, but that is not what gets me to the gym. Not even close. Who are my friends you may ask? It is simply anyone who shows up to the 4 PM class. I know all I really need to know about a person who made that decision any given weekday. Putting myself in close proximity in a shared experience consistently with these people has given me a quality of life, level of fitness and cognitive boost that I would struggle mightily to replicate anywhere else.

If I have one ask of anyone reading this it is to meditate on these questions:

What do I want to become and what do I have to change to be that person? 

Who is already living that change I am seeking, and what do I have to do to spend more time with them?

For me, I wanted to stay very fit after my college athletic career. Now with my friends and family at Muncie CrossFit, at 38 years old, I don’t have to think about it at all. Not with one goal, metric, workout session or even the need to apply will power. At 38 I’m still hitting lifetime bests and the only thing I can point to is our community. Thank you to my 4 PM class partners, and to everyone other member who has made this loving, open and humble community what it is.

Announcing Strength and Speed Sports Performance class

The Arsenal is proud to welcome Coach Zach Posey, ACE Group Fitness Instructor and School of Kinesiology Strength & Conditioning Instructor at BSU, to our team for our new Strength and Speed Sports Performance class (3SP).  This program is designed for athletes ages 10 – 18+ years of age who are active in sports at school.  This program is built on world class programming and tracking technology, informed by experienced coaching and tailored to accelerate every athlete toward her/his desired goals.  The first class is Monday June 12th at 3:45 PM EDT.
What will this program do for me as a young athlete?
  • Improved speed and mechanics = run faster and start quicker
  • Increasing strength and mobility = reduced risk of injury and increased durability
  • Increased energy = when others stop, I have more gas in the tank to compete
  • Increased training IQ = better understanding your body, what it needs and how to manage it throughout your sports life
  • Increased self-awareness = Ego is the enemy, so knowing how to navigate your life, in and out of sports, and make decisions that provide you the best options long term
What should parents expect?
  • Pre – post testing = programming and instruction tailored to meet the specific needs of your daughter or son
  • Competent and experienced coaching team = collective 30 years of training experience to inspire confidence
  • Mobile programming and tracking = know exactly what is being done, what needs to be done and how your athlete is being accountable to your training investment (all tracking will be accessible via our Zenplanner app on your phone)
  • Sport specific focus = knowing that your athlete is recieving training that makes sense based on the time of season and sport they are playing
  • Fun = love of sport is what drives most athletes, if training is not fun we won’t do it.  We want your athlete to be eager to get back to The Arsenal for training each day
Great, what does this cost?  When is it?
The program is priced straightforward: $125 per athlete per training month. This includes 6 total training sessions per week broken down as follows:
  • MWF 3:45 PM – 4:45 PM.  Coach Zach Posey leading dedicated sessions for the athletes
  • Saturday 10 AM – 11 AM. Group training with The Arsenal athlete community (conditioning)
  • Saturday 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM. Weightlifing instruction class
  • Sunday 1 PM – 3 PM. Open gym.  Programming may be set by Coach Zach, and is the responsibility of the athlete/parents to complete and log.
Weekend sessions are optional, but we recommend not missing any available weekday sessions.  As things come up, we will work with each athlete to ensure they are caught up appropriately.
What do we expect of athletes and parents?
  • Be on time (5 minutes early) and ready to train
  • Required gear: basic training clothes (shorts, shirt, socks), training shoes are better than ‘running sneakers,’ water bottle
  • Others first, then me philosophy.  We are here to not just create outcomes for you as an individual, but training each athlete to operate on a team
  • The coach is the coach, the athlete is the athlete.  You, the parent, are free to stay and observe any training session you wish.  However, it is important that you allow the coach to his job without added commentary
  • Parents ensure your athlete is completing an ‘off day’ accessory work that is programmed
  • If there are challenges, communicate pre or post session with your coach so we can take action and adjust whenever necessary
If you have additional questions email us with with subject line: 3SP.
There are limited spaces in this program, so sign up now and we’ll be in touch prior to our Monday June 12th start date.

Runner / Bowflexer / Insane 6-Minute-Abber Christian Morgan finds CrossFit

One of the first times I worked out with Christian Morgan he ran so fast I thought he was joking. As if he were just trying to win the first round of the workout and there was no way he could run at the pace throughout.

I was wrong. He is fast.

Grandma & Grandpa, I have a confession . . . I’m a runner!

“I’d always lie to my grandparents, saying I was at a friends,” Christian told me when we sat down to talk. “I knew they wouldn’t want me to go to the track alone.”

Christian grew up in Marion just down the street from the track at Indiana Wesleyan University. He’d sneak over when he was in 6th grade.

“I was really chunky. I just decided if I’m going to feel good about myself, I need to take initiative and start doing something. I didn’t have any exercise equipment at my house, so instead of playing video games after school, I would go run a mile every day. I started to see a little change in myself.”

Christian’s mom had him when she was really young and gave up custody to his grandparents who raised him.

“After a few years, I was running two to three miles a day. I was losing weight, looking better and feeling better about myself. So in high school, my grandparents noticed and asked what I was doing. ‘Oh I kind of have been running.’ So my grandma started buying me exercise equipment. She bought me a Bowflex, stuff off the TV. She would watch infomercials and buy me random stuff like Six Second Abs. The Bowflex . . . I used a lot. Grandma bought me a weight bench. I cleared out the garage and we made that into a mini gym. I’d be out there for hours. But I always had to do my homework first.”

Imagine for a moment Christian’s grandma, sitting in the living room, seeing a commercial for an As Seen on TV exercise product, and ordering it for her grandson. She bought him a Bowflex! How sweet is that? No one in Christian’s family was into sports, but, by God, was she going to support her grandson.

“My grandparents never ran, but they always wanted me to,” Christian said.

With the support of his grandparents and his daily commitment to running, Christian was able to run a mile in five-and-a-half minutes when he was in high school.

“I couldn’t look at myself in a mirror.”

When he was 17, his grandma passed away and his grandpa was too sick to look after him, so he moved in with his mom for a bit. That didn’t go the best. They got along better when they weren’t living together. As classes got harder in high school, Christian stopped focusing on working out.

“I gained a lot of weight.”

At 19, he followed a relationship from Marion to Muncie.

“By the time I moved to Muncie, I was back to the 200’s. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do something about this.’ I started working out again. I did Insanity when I was 21 for six months. I have pictures of my transformation. I got to the weight I wanted to be at and just stopped. Then I gained weight again.”

Christian has an uncanny ability to gain and lose weight. At his heaviest, he weighed 280. Then he yo-yoed through the years–215, 250, 195.

“I got to a point where I couldn’t even look in a mirror. When I was 21, I was so big, I didn’t want to leave the house. I would go to work, come home, and not want to do anything. I would sit on the couch all night and watch TV. I got really depressed. I was like, ‘I want more out of life than this.’ I was embarrassed to even be seen in public. I’ve always been a really outgoing, fun-to-hang-out-with person, but I just lost it because of the way I looked. That’s just how it was every time I gained weight. I lost a few friends over it because I just didn’t want to do anything. A lot of them moved on, started making other friends.”

With Applebuddies like this, who need Friendly’s?

Christian met Muncie CrossFit coach Sam Jones while they both were working at Applebee’s. Sam has converted a lot of her “Applebuddies” to CrossFit.

“Sam literally slapped fries out of my hand,” Christian said and I totally, 100% believed him. “She was a big motivational person for me from the beginning. We went grocery shopping together. Afterward she wrote out a meal plan. She was just like, ‘Follow this. If you need help, let me know.’ I was hardcore on that for about three months, and I was losing weight like crazy. From March until August, I lost like 30 lbs. I was at 220 when I started at The Arsenal in August. I weigh 175-185 now.”

Before Applebee’s, Christian had worked at the following places: McDonald’s, Mo’s, LifeTouch, and Walgreen’s. He supported himself. When he turned 24, he was finally able to apply for financial aid on his own without a parent co-signing. He immediately enrolled at Ivy Tech and now goes to Ball State. He has a student membership at Muncie CrossFit, but he still has to prioritize and sacrifice time and money to afford it. When I chatted with him his car had recently broken down, which meant he had to dip into his grocery budget. To compensate, he took advantage of the manager meals at Applebee’s.

I’ve been going to Muncie CrossFit for almost four years and I’ve known folks who’ve quit because they looked at their budget and CrossFit seemed like a luxury they couldn’t afford through tight times. But for Christian, it seems that CrossFit is something he can’t afford to lose.

“If I’m determined to do something, I do it. I have a lot more confidence. Before, I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. I know what I want now. I’m more focused, and I know how I want to look, I want to be healthy. I just want to feel good about myself. I’m not perfect, I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there.”

From CropFit to CrossFit: A Farm Boy becomes a CrossFit Coach

Jacob Competes in Strength on the Streets

Muncie CrossFit Coach Jacob Sprong often coaches the 5:30 AM Muncie CrossFit class at The Arsenal. He’s not a stranger to the early hours.

“I lived on a farm, so I got up at 5:45 AM, dressed, and went to work real quick. We worked 6 AM to 11 PM during planting season. Those were long days.”

His family had hogs for a few decades, before selling them off and moving exclusively into corn and soybeans.

“I remember when I was real little, walking into the hog barn and hogs going crazy. Back then they were huge to me. Four hundred to Five hundred pound hogs. Growing up in the country . . . I liked some of it. I would have been the fourth or fifth generation Sprong to be a farmer.”

But Jacob found sports, especially baseball.

“I played baseball since I could walk. I played middle infielder and center fielder. I wish I could go back and have trained like I do now. I maybe would’ve been a better player, gone on to play in college. In high school, if you weren’t super-motivated and didn’t want to lift weights, they didn’t make you.”

Jacob also gave football a shot, but broke his foot his freshman year and his arm his sophomore year before calling it quits. At 5’10” and 150-pounds, he was as thin as a stalk of corn and nearly as fragile. It bugged him.

“I was super small growing up. I was the last one to hit puberty, get armpit hair. I was always the smallest kid. I still can’t even grow a beard yet. I was really self conscious growing up, but you wouldn’t know it because I came across kind of cocky.”

Jacob graduated from Delta High School in Delaware County and went to Vincennes for one year where he majored in agricultural engineering. He was still on the path to being a farmer or at least working with farmers when he decided to come back home. His girlfriend Sammi lived in Muncie and he just missed Muncie.

Growing up Jacob’s dad encouraged him to do whatever he wanted to do, but, still, Jacob thought his dad actually wanted him to work on the farm. Jacob finished a year at Ivy Tech while helping out on the farm and then he found CrossFit and started to question his future in agriculture.

Finding CrossFit

“The first time I ever came to The Arsenal, I was terrified because my mom had done it, and at this point she was fitter than me. She had told me stuff you guys did, and I had watched the CrossFit games on TV, the 2014 games had just finished. Rich Froning . . . I watched every video, every interview, every workout.”

“The first time I came in Greg was teaching. It was a little partner WOD on a Saturday, and it was like a med ball carry and burpee workout, nothing too crazy. I was dying during the burpees, literally dying. Then I stuck around and did the Olympic class. There were probably 25 people in the class. Nat Carpenter was my partner. We were snatching before the class, and I did the bar the entire time. I tried to put on tens, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t snatch 65 pounds. I remember I saw Nat snatch 135 pounds, and I thought he was the strongest guy in the world. ‘A snatch with the red plates on!’ I thought it was so cool. I ended up getting a membership after that and the rest is history.”

Jacob took a short break from CrossFit when it wouldn’t fit in his schedule working as a mover, a job he labels “the worst job ever.” When he returned, he approached CrossFit with a newfound vigor.

“I started going again around September 2015 and when I got back, a light bulb went off. I was like, ‘This is what I want to do!’  In February of 2016, I got my Level 1, and I just nagged BJ for the next two months nonstop trying to get hours. I started in May.”

Becoming a Coach

For the first time in his life a job wasn’t just a job, work wasn’t just work.

“When I got the job, it was actually kind of selfish, because I wanted to just be able to have a job I liked. I got to work out all the time, but I realized that I love coaching. I had wanted to be a coach in some sense, maybe not a CrossFit coach, my whole life. Now my goal is to be a strength and conditioning coach for a university. I love coaching all the athletes, but I do have a passion for coaching elite athletes like you Kelsey. [Ok, he didn’t say that part about me being an elite athlete.] That would require my Masters. After I finish at Ivy Tech, I’ll have to decide if I want to stay around Muncie, go to Ball State or go somewhere else. I’m just not sure right now.”

I remember Jacob’s first day as a CrossFit coach. It was a surprise. “Huh, you’re our coach now?” I’m not a leaderboard hawk by any means, but earlier in that week I noticed I had topped him in a workout. “Not bad old man Timmerman,” I thought to myself, “not bad.” That’s all I remember from that day, having a rare moment of pride in the gym. I’m pretty certain that’s the last time I ever beat Jacob at anything other than resting.

Here’s how Jacob describes his fitness level coming into CrossFit:

“If I didn’t walk any of a 400-meter run, it was an accomplishment. My deadlift was like 275. I couldn’t back squat 265. My best clean was 205 at the time. I had no capacity to do anything, not strong at all. I was kind of filled out because of bodybuilding a lot, but no fitness at all.”

So . . . he basically just described my level of fitness and capacity. Anyhow, enough about me, I think it’s important to see where he started from to where he is now.

“Now it’s kind of cool because I can snatch 20 pounds more than I was able to clean. I snatch 240, and I just cleaned 300 about a month ago.”

That’s the fun part. Remember when Jacob said he thought Nat was “the strongest person in the world” when he snatched 135 pounds?  It’s great seeing people grow during their CrossFit journey.

“I pretty much only hang out with CrossFit people anymore. A lot of my friends are either busy working or moved away for college. I usually take weekends off to hang out with my girlfriend, but other than that, I’ll hang out with Andrew, Skyler, Ahmed, Emily, and all of them. That’s part of another thing I love about CrossFit. People become your best friends.”

“It sounds kind of weird, but I want to do well in the open and make members proud. Skyler and Adam? They are going to go to a competition and win or be in the top two. Me? I’m not as good. I’m trying to get better and be an example for the members of how you can come from nothing and get good at CrossFit.”

Coaching at Muncie CrossFit has given Jacob a new appreciation for CrossFit.

“Working out in the gym as an athlete, there were only certain people I’d have the chance to interact with. Being a coach, I get the full community aspect of it. I interact with all the members and genuinely care about what they are doing. Getting a PR, finishing a workout.

“That’s one of my favorite things to watch. If I have a new person, I love watching them figure it out for the first time.”

Being a part of a community where you can celebrate the successes of others and not just your own means you get to celebrate a hell of a lot more.

Introducing the EVOLUTION Series. Do you need to attend?

“The truth is that there can be no proper training that does not educate the whole system of the man (woman).” – Edwin Checkley

Why do we have the best intentions to be a better version of ourselves, yet continually fall short of our expectations?  It seems that our intentions haven’t changed, so why is it that taking action consistently toward that better version of ourselves is so elusive?  This truth is lived out every day by most humans, and the good news is we can solve it, right now.  

At The Arsenal, we believe you need to be fit to be useful.  Fitness is not isolated to the body only.  We are talking about comprehensive fitness which includes the mind, emotions and relationships.  This work starts upstairs, in our heads, and in our hearts.  It is the interior work of managing needs, drives and emotion amidst the competing demands of our lives.

We will be launching a new seminar series.  Dates will be selected once we have our first 10 participants signed up, so sign up today!  Be warned, it will be interactive and will not be a passive lecture.  The three-part series is called EVOLUTION, because we are readying ourselves to make real, consistent, sustainable changes to our lives. Essentially, we are evolving to a version of ourselves that we have dreamt about and have intended to become.  

personal development

At the first session, you will be getting results from your Predictive Index® survey which will share deep insight into needs and drives that we must understand to install new habits.  This data point will serve as a consistent road map throughout the process.  Also in this session, you will be sharing, taking notes and building accountability for personal development.  

Sign up here (maximum capacity is 20 people)

Take 5-10 minutes to complete The Predictive Index here

bj headshot advisaThis is not focused on my weightlifting goals, my score in the Open or simple physical fitness.  This is focused on the whole person and my whole life.  The program is designed and led by BJ McKay, who most know as the owner of The Arsenal, but many do not know as Sr. Management Consultant with the firm ADVISA with headquarters in Carmel, Indiana.   This is a role he has served in for over 7 years, working with hundreds of leaders in industries throughout the USA and abroad.  

If you feel you are at your potential as a person and as useful, self-aware and emotionally intelligent as you can be, this session is not for you.  This is built for those who are striving to grow, to gain more self-knowledge, to build self-awareness and to take control of aspects of life that remain elusive.  This is for the hungry and the humble.  

This is for members only and the cost is $30 for the whole series.  Similar courses delivered by BJ range from $500 to over $2,500 per person.  There are only 20 spots available as the sessions will be highly interactive and we want to be sure that each person has space to share, be heard and connect.

I’ll close with this great quote from Christopher McDougall:

We’ve lulled ourselves into believing that in an emergency, someone else will always come along to rescue us.  We’ve stopped relying on our own wonderfully adaptable bodies; we’ve forgotten that we can think, climb, lead, run, throw, swim, and fight with more versatility than any other creature on the planet.

Let’s stop forgetting.


EVOLUTION Series Description:

The EVOLUTION Series built to provide deep insight into my needs, drives and sources of self-confidence.  It is made up of three seminars over the course of three weeks.  Outcomes from the series include:

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Insight to develop greater emotional intelligence/EQ
  • Building personalized strategies for adoption of new habits and behaviors
  • Accountability for goals and progress
  • Highly interactive sessions with equally motivated peers

This is not a lecture, it is a shared experience.  Scheduling email will go out to participants once our 10th person is signed up, expect within the next 30 days.  


CrossFitter Anna Marie is Still the Same Her, Just 155-pounds Lighter

I feel like I've accomplished something. It makes me feel good. - Anna Marie Steinbarger

Everyone has their pre-workout routines. Some stretch. Some use the facilities (why lift more weight than you have to?). Some chat with their fellow CrossFitters. But there is only one person at Muncie CrossFit who reads calmly before a workout–Anna Marie Steinbarger.

I have no idea how she sits there and turns page after page while the rest of us prepare mentally and physically for a kick to our ego. Maybe after working for years as a nurse and then a nurse practitioner in clinics and ERs, not much phases her. She’s an island of calm in the CrossFit storm.

Growing up in a military family, Anna Marie moved around a lot. She wasn’t really into sports, but she was always into a good book. On the road, books are the best friends.

Shy girl becomes a Nurse Practitioner

“I wore glasses,” she told me. “I was kind of heavy.  I’d bring my book along and read in the corner.”

She still likes a good mystery and averages about a book per week.

“I don’t make friends well. My sister and I are total opposites – I’m very introverted and she’s very extroverted. I’ve gotten better at that. As a nurse practitioner you have to talk to people.”

Anna Marie came to Muncie to go to school at Ball State.

“I got married while I was in school and basically never left. We lived in New Castle when I first got out of college as an RN because I worked at Henry County for a little while.  And then I went to Ball, and we moved here, and I’ve been living in Muncie pretty much every since.”  

“In 1996 I decided to go back to school.  There was an overage of nurses, and they were actually laying off nurses in Indianapolis, so I thought if I got my Master’s, it would make me more marketable.  So I decided to go back. They told me about the nurse practitioner option, and I was like, ‘That is what I would like to do.’”

“I’ve been a NP for 16 years now.  We can see all but about 20% of patients, like people who need intubated or are coding, critically ill patients, I don’t do those.  We can evaluate, diagnose, prescribe medications.”

The decision to become even more engaged in the health of others, led to her evaluating her own.

“When I became an NP, I decided that if I had to tell people to quit smoking, I needed to quit myself. You can’t tell other people to quit smoking if you are sitting there smelling like smoke.”

But the long shifts and the irregular schedule of working as a nurse then as an NP didn’t make for the healthiest environment.  

“You have a high stress level, you are so busy, you don’t have time to eat.  You are picking up snacky stuff.  If you do eat a meal, you eat it in such a hurry.  When your work a twelve hour shift, it’s hard to work in exercise and take care of yourself.  It’s hard.”

This is going to kill me

“I was fat most of my life. I probably tried every diet in the world. Finally my turning point was when I walked up  a short flight of stairs, with an overnight bag on my shoulder, and it probably took me 5-10 minutes just to catch my breath.  ‘This is ridiculous,’ I thought.  At that point, I was 285 pounds.”

“I remember flying, being in those seats and having trouble with the buckles. I remember how hard it was to sit in those seats when I was heavy.  The seats are narrow, you feel cramped.  It’s awful.”

Anna Marie decided to get a lap-band. an inflatable device placed around the top portion of the stomach that slows food consumption.

“You have to have a psych eval to make sure you will be ok with losing the weight.  Food for most overweight people is a coping mechanism, and if it’s a strong coping mechanism, and you take that away from them, they don’t do well. They have depression, psychosomatic issues.  They get a lot of perceived illnesses that are not there.”  

“I finally said, ‘I have to do something, or this is going to kill me.’  I did really well with it. I lost 155 pounds.  That’s a whole other person!  I still have it.”

“Losing weight has made me feel better about myself.  It was hard to interact with people when you are that heavy.  You are just treated different.  People are not as friendly to you when you are heavy.  They don’t want to be your friend.  You’re treated like you are lazy.  They think that is why you are heavy, because you are lazy.  They think you don’t care what you look like.  That’s not the truth.  That’s not how you feel.  You try and do all that stuff.  When you try to exercise, it’s hard because you don’t have any energy, stamina. My whole life, I was treated different.  Now that I have lost the weight, the difference is amazing.”

We interrupt this story for a few thoughts on weight discrimination from Kelsey

Weight discrimination is real, and it’s almost accepted by our society.  Susie Orbach, author of “Fat is a Feminst Issue” wrote this in The Guardian.

Fat shaming is a new and vicious sport … Children and their parents are being shamed for looking different than the thousands of Photoshopped pictures we see weekly on our screens … No wonder society has a thing about fat.

The paradox of consumer culture is that we should and must consume — our economy depends on it — but we should at the same time do so discreetly and expensively. Fat challenges this idea. Fat dares to show. Fat is disdained because it is read as greed and an inability to choose or say no…We value holding back and then assign to fat people the contempt we can feel for our own longings.

Many medical students have an unconscious bias against overweight patients. Heavier workers earn $1.25/hour less than their peers.  

As a fitness community, I think it is our responsibility to not contribute to body size discrimination. One of my favorite parts of CrossFit is that our community is made up of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities.

Still the same me

“I feel like I am still the same me, and I, to be honest, still look at myself and think I am fat sometimes.  But that feeling is still there, you just feel like you are still fat.  I mean, people will say you have lost so much weight, and you are so skinny.  I’m like, ‘I’m not really skinny,’ but when I look in the mirror, I’m like, ‘Yes, you are skinny.’  I used to fixate on my weight.  I used to weigh myself every day, and if I gained a pound, I would hardly let myself eat that day because I would be worried.  That has been a struggle for me.”

Anna Marie was working out with a personal trainer, but when he left she struggled to workout consistently.

“I was looking for something that would make me commit to exercise, and I knew going to the gym randomly wasn’t going to work for me.  The personal trainer had been gone 6-9 months.  He had given me a list of exercises, and all I had to do was go in and do them, but I wouldn’t make myself do them.  So after someone told me about Muncie CrossFit, I went in and met Adam.  I really liked it.  I like the fact that they change it up all the time.  You might in one week do several squats, but you are doing them in different ways.  I love that it’s always changing.  They do accommodate people who have a lower fitness level.  The modifications that they do are wonderful. When I’m done exercising I feel like I have accomplished something. It makes me feel good.”  

“I still watch the scale like a hawk.  But with Muncie CrossFit, I’m like it’s alright, it’s alright.”

So that’s Anna Marie’s story. She’s not shouting, “I lost 155 pounds!” from the rooftops. She sits quietly in the corner reading a page-turning mystery until it’s time to workout. She has a remarkable story, but one that she’s not quick to share unless she feels like it can help a patient.

“I can kind of understand where they are coming from when they are struggling.  When someone asks me, I try to help where I can.”

CrossFit Helps Marissa Dudley Face Life After High School Sports

Even though I literally feel like I die every time I do it, CrossFit makes me as happy. - Marissa Dudley

There are two kinds of people in this world. CrossFitters who love to talk about CrossFit and non-CrossFitters who will set PRs in speedwalking and eye-rolling to avoid ever being a part of a conversation about CrossFit.

If you don’t fall into the first category, I’m not sure you’d want to join Arsenal member Marissa Dudley’s family for dinner. They are a family of CrossFitters. Marissa often works out at the 8 AM class, her 12-year-old brother does the CrossFit Kids class, and her mom and dad both take private coaching.

“We all have struggled with weight and working out,” Marissa told me. “But since we’ve started CrossFit, we are all losing weight and eating healthier. It’s awesome. It’s making my family nice! We aren’t mean, but we all get in good moods when we get a good workout in the morning.”

If you know Arsenal member Pam “Pamalee” Peters, you know Marissa’s mom, Geneva. They are BFF concert-going buddies who are surely the country group Parmalee’s biggest fans. I asked Marissa about the concert thing.

“Honestly, by now they should be famous. Pamalee and ParmaGe! They like know them! My mom is friends with one of the band member’s mothers. I’m like, ‘How is this a thing?!?!’ They get right up to the stage, and they are not afraid to punch people if they get up in their face. I think Pam dances more just because my mom likes to listen to the music rather than feel the music.”

Marissa and Pam’s daughter Alyssa played volleyball together at Munciana and at Burris.

Life After Volleyball

“I started playing volleyball in third grade, just doing little lessons and stuff with my sister because she played.  And then at Burris, I played on a team in fourth and fifth grade and then I played for Munciana for years and years. I liked meeting a lot of new people.  Munciana is so big. People from Ohio, Indianapolis, everybody comes.  I met [Arsenal member] Megan Hicks there. Every weekend I was doing volleyball, and it’s crazy. My entire life was volleyball.”

Her entire life was volleyball until it wasn’t. Her last two years of high school volleyball didn’t go as planned. A new coach started at Burris and taught a different style than she was accustomed to at Munciana.

“I was clueless and looked like I never played volleyball before. I wanted to play volleyball.  Volleyball was my life.”

Marissa stuck it out despite the struggle.

“All my life I thought I’d play volleyball in college because I never wanted it to end. But I literally cried my way through both junior and senior year. I started to get burnt out. My senior year . . . it was awful. I don’t talk about it a lot because it was such a bad time in my life.”

This isn’t uncommon. When we live and breathe a single sport, and that sport becomes not as fun or we walk off the court for the last time, we mourn the loss. Many of the former athletes I talk with suffer through this period. When you define yourself as a volleyball player, what do you do when volleyball ends?

A Family That CrossFits Together

Marissa graduated and is attending classes at Ivy Tech with the intent of enrolling at Ball State in another year. She’s not sure what she wants to do yet. She’s still getting used to all the time she has when there are no volleyball practices. One of the ways she is filling that time and facing life after volleyball is through CrossFit. Pam Peters convinced Marissa, Marissa convinced her mom, and together they convinced her dad and her brother.

“I found The Arsenal. It makes me happy. Even though I literally feel like I die every time I do it, it makes me as happy as I was before all of that went down with volleyball. All the people are so nice. I just love going there. I just love the atmosphere, so friendly and uplifting.”

At home, the Dudleys are complaining about workouts, getting in a few burpees before dinner, and talking about something they never thought they would be talking about…CrossFit.

“Now we have The Arsenal, it’s something we can all talk about. It’s more like laughing at each other. My mom will be like, “Oh man, I can’t walk,” or “I can’t get up off the toilet!” I’m kind of nervous about when she comes to actual classes because she will probably kick my butt! She wants to make the transition. I know she’s going to come, so I’m trying to get really, really good.  She’s actually really strong, she doesn’t give herself enough credit. It will be a fun day when she comes.”

“My brother is a big video gamer and doesn’t do a lot of physical activity, but he loves it and never complains about going. Afterwards, he’s always like, ‘Well, Skyler just killed me!’”

“It’s made us a fun family because we are laughing all the time at each other. My dad will come home after a workout and lay on the living room floor, and I’m face timing my mom telling her how funny it is. Dad doing CrossFit . . . it’s crazy.  I love it!”


“My whole life I have struggled with confidence. I’m trying to get it back up so it helps when the coaches say something positive or when Dani Wasson says, ‘Oh my gosh you are doing so well.’ I am just one of those people who thinks I can always do better. I often don’t think I’m good at anything. I’ve always been like that. Being good at something helps me see, ‘Oh I can do it.’  With volleyball, I felt good about it because I know I’m good at it, I know what I’m doing.  And then when that stopped, I’m like, ‘Ok I’m not good at anything anymore.’”  

And that’s where Marissa is wrong. She’s good at laughing and smiling. She seems to be good at being a daughter, sister, and aunt to her niece Franni. She’s good at CrossFit. Don’t take my word for it, I asked Coach and Arsenal General Manager Adam James to weigh in.

“It has been incredible to see the transformation Marissa has undergone in her time at The Arsenal,” Adam told me. “Not just in a physical sense, but a mental and emotional one as well. Seeing her transform from a shy, timid, athlete into a strong, confident athlete, has been truly inspiring.”

Agreed. Marissa is so much more than a volleyball player now.

Staci Anderson: Finding perseverance through CrossFit

When it's too uncomfortable...that's when you know the end result is worth it. - Staci Anderson

Arsenal member Staci Anderson fell off her horse in 2007.

“We were out looking at a horse,” Staci said. “The horse was very out of shape, hadn’t had his feet trimmed.  I wanted to check out the horse for my daughter, and I made the poor thing jump.  It was uneven ground, I just fell right on my back really hard. I wasn’t a good enough rider to maintain my position as he stumbled. I was trying to brush it off like I was fine.  On the way home I was like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t feel good. Should I go to the doctor?  No, I’ll be fine.’  I just ignored it.”

“I didn’t realize it then, but I had fractured one of my vertebrae. I didn’t do anything about it at the time, just struggled through it and rested a lot.”

Staci still struggles with her injury. But it doesn’t keep her from riding or from doing CrossFit at The Arsenal.

If you see the mother of three grown children at The Arsenal deadlifting 215 pounds, you might think the same thing 19-year-old Kylie Mennel thought when she first worked out with Staci: “The first person I saw was Staci, and it was crazy because she was doing a pull-up and I had always wanted to do a pull-up. I was like, ‘Ok, she’s a badass!’”

When I sat down with Staci she tried to convince me how unathletic she was since she was a kid. Yet she is the same person that said these two sentences:

“CrossFit is so important to me that I don’t want my riding to keep me from doing CrossFit.  And I don’t want CrossFit to keep me from riding.”

Have Kids will Travel

Horseback riding was something Staci wanted to do since she was a girl living in Ft. Wayne.

“I always dreamed of having a horse. Every Christmas morning I looked out my window and wondered why there wasn’t a pony, even though we lived right in a neighborhood!”

Staci started to ride in high school, but riding is a hard hobby to keep up in your twenties with moves, school, and young kids. Staci married her high school sweetheart Drew Anderson. They met at a pool party. Staci was 16 and Drew was 15. Staci was taking driver’s ed that summer and a friend had to drive the young couple home from their first date–a high school football game.

Staci earned a degree in culinary arts and operated a catering business with her mom. Ft. Wayne could’ve been her forever home, but Drew was destined for med school and the semi-nomadic lifestyle that can come with residencies and speciality training.  

Drew’s first year out of med school, they had their first child in Indianapolis before they move to Muncie. Next they lived in Warner Robbins, Georgia for three years, where they had their second daughter and found a church community that strengthened their faith.

“That was our first move so I immediately got really involved in that church and built really close relationships. Then when we were going to leave, it about killed me. So the next place we went to, I was like, ‘I’m not going to do that again–open myself up.’ I protected my heart a little more from friendships.”

The next move was  to Dallas, Texas, where there third daughter was born followed by another move to Charleston, South Carolina, and ultimately back to Muncie where Drew settled in at Lifetime Skin Care Center.

Making Muncie Home

The move back to Muncie was one of the more difficult moves.

“I have to say when I came to Muncie, I didn’t find community right away. I found people were a little more guarded.”

In Houston and Charleston people come and go all the time, but in Muncie it seemed everyone went to kindergarten together. Staci found it more difficult to connect.

“I think just the fact that I don’t feel like I make conversation easily with people.  Once I introduce myself and get beyond, ‘I have three kids…,’ and then that next level, I don’t know what to say.  I love being around people. I draw energy from being around people. But I want to be sincere in my interest in other people.”

As she settled into life in Muncie, she had the opportunity to pursue her love of horses and riding once again. She started taking English Riding lessons from Arsenal member Liz Carder. Staci now has two horses, including one that is retired.

I had a lot of questions about what retirement looks like for a horse.

“He’s in a little private place where he kind of babysits the younger horses,” Staci explained.

As a girl, Staci wanted to grow up and be a mom. She considered careers in catering and respiratory therapy, but put those aside to be a mom who successfully raised three girls while moving all over the country.

“There is no higher calling than motherhood and taking care of your home and your family, however, I am encouraging my girls to have a higher education, so there is a piece of themselves that maybe they can pick up in the future.”

Staci’s youngest daughter is a senior and soon she’ll be facing an empty nest. But riding her horse two to three times per week and working out at The Arsenal five times per week keeps her busy.

Finding CrossFit

Staci heard about CrossFit at The Arsenal from Jennifer Stanley and went to the new gym’s open house.

“I was like no way I can do this because of my back.  I left, and the more I was thinking about it, the more I knew I had to try it.”

After one month she was hooked.

I was hooked, but scared to death every time I came in for a workout. ‘Am I going to throw up in front of people?’

Staci’s back nearly kept her from continuing (keep in mind this was 3 years ago). She took some time off and worked with a chiropractor before getting back at it. She even started to sell Drew on the idea that he should join The Arsenal.

“I was like, ‘Honey, you don’t have to do this!’  He was really seeing the change in me. I dropped 10-15 pounds that first couple of months of CrossFit.”

Drew started and has been a staple of the 5:30 AM class ever since.

“Now we talk about workouts every day over dinner. ‘How did that go? How many reps did you do? Did you do it unbroken?’  I feel badly sometimes when the girls are around because they are just sitting there listening to us talk CrossFit.”

At times, Staci worries that CrossFit could keep her from riding her horse, but it has also helped her in other ways.

“I think CrossFit has helped my body awareness which has transferred to my riding because of my core strength.  Core strength is huge in riding.”

She’s had other falls riding and admits to getting down on herself at the gym, too.

“CrossFit is very humbling.  I look at all the people on the leaderboard.  I do compare myself, and I have to remind myself that they are a lot younger.  I have to not get overwhelmed that I can’t do such and such. I have to be ok with being at the bottom; that was a process.  You just have to accept that this is what you can do. You take little steps forward. I have always struggled with self-acceptance and just being comfortable in my own skin. Not growing up with sports, that ‘keep going!’ attitude, that perseverance when it gets really tough.”

Staci credits CrossFit for enhancing her perseverance.

“Perseverance translates into personal struggles or relational struggles. This feels really, really hard right now, and I just want to give up, but the clock is still ticking, this is going to be over. There is a tendency to think, ‘I’m just not going to engage in this relationship anymore; I’m just going to be done because it’s not worth it.”

Here’s one of the things I like about Staci: she is real. She didn’t sugarcoat her story. CrossFit is tough, but not as tough as riding a horse, not as tough as being a mom, not as tough as life. And sometimes we fall off our horses, and even though we are scared to get back on, we do, and have to look deep inside ourselves–not others–for the confidence that it take to know that we belong here.

“When it’s too uncomfortable,” Staci told me. “That’s when you know the end result is worth it.”