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.
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.”