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Life Prowess with Heather Hutchins

Heather Hutchins grew up sporty and competitive, but family life circumstances left her little time to focus on her own wellness. Dealing with a toxic relationship, a child with life-threatening health issues, and not much of a support system, Heather quickly fell into a survival mentality – with herself at the bottom of the priority list. Once she managed to break free and get back on her feet, CrossFit quickly became a life-changing force in her own life, and that of her children. A survivor at her core, there is no challenge too big for this strong and courageous woman. Since joining nearly two years ago, Prowess has been a source of inspiration, fun, and freedom in her family’s life.

Prowess:               

Hey Heather, thank you for doing this! It’s so rewarding to have conversations with people and learn what makes them, them. We only get to see a small part of you in class, and having these deeper conversations really helps build connection among our community, so we’re super grateful for you taking the time to chat!

Heather:                

No problem! I’m an open book. I’ll tell you anything.

Prowess:               

Cool, I like that approach because I think then you know where you stand with everybody. So let’s start at the beginning. You’ve been at Prowess just under 2 years. What brought you in originally?

Heather:                

Originally it was the woman’s event. I found out about it on Facebook. I was looking into CrossFit it a couple years ago, and at the time I couldn’t afford it. Lexi was still having a lot of problems and I got so sick of being overweight. So I saw the women’s event and decided that I was going to start then. I actually came in before the event and signed up. I dragged Tawny to the women’s night with me and made her sign up, too.  

Prowess:               

I’m so glad you did! Because that not only changes your life, but hers too.

Heather:                

Mm-hmm, yeah.

Prowess:               

So prior to that, what got you thinking about CrossFit? Because you said you had been looking into it a couple of years earlier?

Heather:                

I would always kind of see it around and I was a very active sports player in high school. I enjoyed all of the mixed workouts. I played high school volleyball, soccer, basketball, cross country running. And I played college soccer and college volleyball.

Prowess:               

Wow. I had no idea! What did you love about sports?

Heather:                

I liked the team atmosphere. And I was very competitive. I also did competitive horse riding, but that’s more of an individual sport and satisfied my need for individuality. But being part of a team was so fun. We pushed each other.

Prowess:               

Right. And that’s kind of like what we do here a little bit.

Heather:                

Oh yeah, definitely. We all have a little competitive girl or boy within I think.

Prowess:               

Exactly. Tom once told me he wouldn’t be beat by a little girl. To which I replied, “watch me.” Haha. I beat him.

Heather:                

Oh, that’s awesome. I love him. He’s funny. And so motivating too. I’ve been trying to get my handstand walks. So he was helping me with them last night, which is another reason why I love it here. Because we all will stop and help someone. If we can do it, we’ll help you, we’ll give you some tips. And if we can’t do it, then we’ll fall with you. And we’ll get back up and do it again.

Prowess:               

So true. I love that. You’re always trying to improve and learn new skills and better yourself. I love that about you.

Heather:                

Yeah, I want it all. Yesterday. Haha! That’s a fault of mine – I want everything yesterday.

Prowess:               

I get that. Patience was the lesson of the year for me last year. I used to be really impatient and like you, want it all yesterday. But I’m learning to embrace the journey and it’s more about who you become on the way there. That’s a hard lesson.

Heather:                

It truly is.

Prowess:               

So back to your journey… What did you go to college for?

Heather:                

Oh boy.

Prowess:               

Is this topic okay? Or off limits?

Heather:                

No, No. It’s okay. It all ties in. So I went to school to be a cop. Because originally, I wanted to go into the military, but I couldn’t because I had really bad asthma. So the doctor wouldn’t write it off for me to go. So I figured I’d go into law enforcement instead. Then I met my ex-husband. He was a cop, and he turned out to be a very bad person. We had Dustin and he was great, healthy, no problems there. But then we had Lexi and it seemed like he wanted nothing to do with a child who had problems. So that’s when he turned into not a very good individual. We got into fist fights. I had to put him in jail quite a few times. So my health kind of just went on the back burner. My priorities were Lexi and the kids’ safety.

Prowess:               

And it sounds like yours, too. That must have been so hard.

Heather:                

Yeah, it was. It was interesting. It was tough. Then one day I was like, “Yeah, it’s not happening anymore.”

Prowess:               

What do you think switched for you?

Heather:                

We were going for genetic testing for Lexi up in Boston. We were driving route 24 and he was so paranoid about a situation that he punched me in the face while he was driving. Lexi was in the back seat. So she saw, he almost killed us. After that he had the smarts enough to pull off the highway and take off running. That was the last straw for me. We haven’t seen him since that day.

Prowess:               

Oh wow. You’re a strong mom.

Heather:                

Thank you. And then, once I got Lexi healthy it was my time to get healthy. Because I’m the only parent they have left. So here I am. Every day.

Prowess:               

I know you do come every day. Do you find coming here is also beneficial for your mental health?

Prowess:               

It’s mostly what it’s for. I could come my three days a week and stick to my nutrition and lose the weight. That would be great. But mentally it’s an hour. And I get to bring the kids. They get to see positive people doing positive things, which is great for them. They always want do CrossFit and work out with me. That’s part of what’s so positive about coming every day. And I don’t have to go crazy every day. I can literally just show up and push a bar around and do half the workout. It still mentally puts me in a good spot.

Prowess:               

I know both the kids do CrossFit. When did they start?  

Heather:                

Lexi was a year ago in October. And Dustin started when the kids class started.

Prowess:               

And for Lexi, how has it been for her?

Heather:                

She loves it. She has made so many gains and built so much strength from CrossFit. It’s done more than any other therapy has ever done for her.

Prowess:               

Are you okay sharing a little bit of her story?

Heather:                

Yeah, of course. So when Lexi was born, she was very sick. They thought I was the crazy sleep deprived mom.  I took her to an ENT to help diagnose her. The ENT said she was not going to touch her because there was something genetically wrong with her. After millions of dollars of testing, they’ve come to the conclusion that though she has some conditions, she has a connected tissue disorder that makes her muscles very weak. It gives her the autoimmune deficiency. She is actually the product of a vaccine injury. So when Lexi was a baby, anytime she got a vaccine, she got pneumonia. Anytime that she got a vaccine, she had a 105, 106, 107 degree fever. So they think that’s what eventually did it. You’ll notice she speaks a little different. Her learning’s a little bit different, but she makes strides every day here.

She also has a club foot. They did a lot of surgeries. They did a brain scan on her, and one time they told me she would never be able to function like a normal kid. She would never be able to even ride a bike. The kid rides a bike perfectly fine. She rides a dirt bike perfectly fine. She’s amazing.

Before they found out that a lot of her issues come from the vaccines, (her body didn’t take to them very well) when she was on her 15th pneumonia, the doctors told me she was going to need a lung transplant at four years old. That she was going to have to live in a bubble, that she couldn’t go to school. I couldn’t go out.

Prowess:               

How did you deal with that?

Heather:                

I made the decision that I wanted her to have the most normal life that she could possibly live for however short that was going to be. And that was it.

I pushed the doctors. Health-wise, developmentally-wise, they sent her to physical therapy, occupational therapy, whatever therapy they could. And the thing that showed the most signs of improvement for her was doing CrossFit.

Prowess:               

You’re kidding. Seriously?

Heather:                

No. Her holding on to the bar and just gripping little weights has improved her handwriting. She’s the number one kid in her gym class. The doctors thought the lack of strength in her leg was really going to impact her. That kid could just run for miles. She did the Craig WOD with me. And she did all the running. Before, she would never step up with her left leg, her club foot. Now she steps up with that foot all the time. It’s given her so much. So although it’s given me a lot, it’s given her even more. And she sees the women, she sees all of us and says, “Look at what they can do… I want to do that!” And I tell her, “Well, you can do that.” And she can do that. So it’s been a hell of a ride.

Prowess:               

Oh wow, yeah, it sounds like it. We never truly know what’s going on in somebody else’s life.

Heather:                

No we don’t.

Prowess:               

How’s Dustin been about everything?

Heather:                

Dustin’s great. Aside from the normal 10-year-old boy stuff, he’s great. Haha. He copes and adapts well. And he’s such a smart kid.

Prowess:               

How is it for you finding space and time for yourself? This is must be basically all you can do.

Heather:                

This is my time. I don’t go out. I don’t drink. I don’t do anything that normal people do socially because with Lexi, I always have to be on my toes. Because if she has to go to Boston, I have to be there. But it’s okay – this is my time. And I’m okay with that.

Prowess:               

That is true strength, Heather.

Heather:                

I’ve always had to work on the opposite shift of someone else. And for seven years Tawny has actually co-parented the kids with me. It was just the four of us for the first four years of their lives.

Prowess:               

That is the most beautiful thing to hear. Wow, what a sacrifice.

Heather:                

That she never had to make. But she did.

Prowess:               

I’m so glad you met her. And you got her to come here, too.

Heather:                

Working out is just not her thing. But she does it. So my obsession is good for her, too.  

Prowess:               

Yes. I don’t know if you’d call it an obsession… more like a healthy hobby that brings you joy. What else brings you joy in your life?

Heather:                

Watching my kids. And watching my kids with John and them doing and achieving new skills. And the relationships are so important. Lexi loves John more than anything in this world. She calls him Johnny boy. It’s funny because she’ll say that, “John makes me strong…” and I will tell her, “John helps you be strong. You’re the strong one.” So the relationship she has with him is so cool to watch. And even Kristen with me…Lexi knows that Kristen’s kind of like my person. In Lexi’s eyes, I strive to make Kristen happy. I went for a cookie at Thanksgiving and Lexi’s like, “Mommy, Kristen, will be so sad at you.” And I’m like, “Oh, thanks a lot.” I put my cookie right back down.

Prowess:               

Haha, you gotta love the guilt trips from kids. So back to you :). What is your favorite CrossFit movement?

Heather:                

My favorite? Burpee box jumps.

Prowess:               

Really? What do you like about them? They’re hard. Do you like the challenge?

Heather:                

That’s exactly it – I love the challenge.

Prowess:               

And if you could hone in on what you love most about CrossFit in general, what would it be?

Heather:                

I feel like a kid, again. You have your cardio and then you get to weightlift, and then you get to practice gymnastics skills… kind of like you’re on a jungle gym. And you get to fall down all the time and nobody laughs at you. You feel like you can be a kid again and there’s no judgment.

Prowess:               

No judgment. Yeah. I love that too. Do you have any goals? Well, you’re working on the handstand walks…

Heather:                

Handstand walks, and then a bar muscle-up will be next.

Prowess:               

You’ve made such incredible progress over the past two years. Weight-loss-wise, and strength/skill-wise. You really are an inspiration.  

What do you feel your purpose is at this point in your life?

Heather:                

To be strong for my kids.

Prowess:               

Yeah. I love that. And this helps you do that.

Heather:                

Mm-hmm, it does mentally and physically. It helps keep me healthy in all the ways.

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