I pride myself on my lack of ego in the gym. I realize that sort of sounds like, “I’m awesome because I’m so humble.” But I’m not so ego-less that I’m going to let someone who is 8-months pregnant pass me.
But here comes Shannon Dieringer, running like a Gazelle, a few steps behind me. Shit! I run faster.
I look back pretending to check traffic to see if she’s still gaining on me. I barely make it in the door before she does.
“I never thought I was going to be one of those weird pregnant workout people, but maybe I am,” Shannon told me after our workout when we sat down to chat.
Of the three years Shannon has been CrossFitting at Muncie CrossFit at The Arsenal, she’s been pregnant half the time.
“It’s really funny the reactions you get from people when they find out you work out and are this pregnant. Everyone at work is really fascinated. They are like, ‘Did you work out today?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I did.’ ‘Are you still CrossFitting?’ ‘Yes, I am.’ I was CrossFitting the last time I was pregnant. I don’t know what is so weird about it. I have always identified as being active so it’s not weird to me.”
Once I learned a little more about Shannon’s story, it made sense why at 8-months pregnant she is able to run down a lumbering heel-dragger, wounded wildebeest like me.
Shannon ran in college. After excelling in high school as a mid-distance runner, she was recruited by the track coach at University of Tennessee. When that coach left her senior year of high school, she changed plans and went to Ohio State University.
“I ran my first year of college and into my second year. I did cross-country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and outdoor track in the spring. I ran the 2000, which was really weird because in high school I did 400, 800, 1500, 1600. I ran all summer. I was just shot.”
“I sat down with my coach. He’s a great guy, I still really respect him. But he was a high-miler coach. I was logging 90-100 miles in a week. I don’t think I was cut out to do that. I don’t blame him. I don’t blame anyone other than my body not being able to handle it. I remember calling my dad crying. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is how I identify myself.’ I just decided it was not going to work.”
“I had trained all summer with the team, I lived with the girls, I was dating a guy on the team, I was a part of the team. So my when I decided I was done, I was not in a good place.”
Shannon went on to get her PhD in Adapted Physical Education after working as an ABA therapist with children with autism as a home therapist. She also met her husband Andy at OSU.
Finding Community in Muncie
“I started looking for jobs right after we got married in December 2011. I accepted the position at Ball State and Andy found a job almost immediately.”
Andy moved to Muncie for his job in April of 2012. That year they bought a house, Shannon began working as a professor at Ball State.
But Muncie wasn’t meant to be a long-term plan.
“All I knew was Ball State. When Andy and I moved here, we were on a seven-year plan until I got tenure and then maybe moving on after that. We are both pretty social so we had friends. We would do social things, but it was all Ball State. When I started CrossFit It was nice to find a group here that’s local. We have really enjoyed that. I met Dani Wasson through CrossFit early on. I remember her bringing Sonora in. We became friends. Andy and I were trying at that point to get pregnant. Sonora was young so there was a commonality there. It has been super nice coming into a community.”
Shannon loves her job at Ball State, publishing papers on autism and exercise (that’s my dumbed down understanding of her research), working with the Ernie Els Foundation, and teaching online courses. She thought about going up early for tenure, but pregnancy and tenure-prep didn’t seem like tasks to be tackled at the same time. At work, in her neighborhood, and at Muncie CrossFit she is planting roots that may keep her in Muncie longer than she first thought.
“Now we are building a house, so it’s not like we are going anywhere any time soon. We feel like we belong. I don’t know if this is going to be our forever place. We are an hour and a half from both sets of parents. I think if we had come in and not found a community to feel a part of, we definitely would not be happy. We are so social in the sense that we depend on friends for so much. If we didn’t feel included or a part of something, it would be hard for us to feel committed.”
“If you would have taken away the CrossFit group in the beginning, I would have had one or two friends at Ball State. We’ve been in our neighborhood long enough now, so I’ve started to get friends outside of that, and that takes time, too. I think what CrossFit does do really well is that you get in there and you have to let down your guard. You are very vulnerable when you walk in there. You have a really bad day, and you can’t do something. You can bond over it. I think it was the right thing at the right time.”
CrossFit just hasn’t just helped Shannon plug into a community, it has helped her get back in touch with herself as an athlete, even while pregnant.
“It is one of the best things for me. It keeps me normal. It’s the one thing that I can still commit to and do. Not that pregnancy makes you not feel normal. Being able to work out is something I can control. So yeah, I don’t go as often as I was. Yeah, I modify things I used to not have to modify, but it’s the one place I feel like I can walk in, and no one is judging me that I’m working out. It’s nice feeling to feel like your old self.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing what normal CrossFitting is like for awhile.”
Since I chatted with her, Shannon and Andy and their 2-year-old son, Titus, have welcomed another little boy, Wyatt, into their family. Shannon is now just getting back to CrossFitting normally, and by normally, I mean the former collegiate runner will in no time be running circles around me.