December 3rd marked the end of the 11th Annual Wheelwod, an adaptive CrossFit competition held in Raleigh, North Carolina. Throughout the competition, athletes of all abilities showed heart, determination, and a fierce competitive fire. But athletes say the sport has given them so much more beyond the accolades they earned, the memories they made, and the personal records that they hit. Here are four lessons from the sport that transcend the competition floor.

What is the Wheelwod?

The Weelwod is the brainchild of Chris “Stouty” Stoutenburg, a two-time gold medalist in wheelchair basketball with Team Canada. Once Stoutenburg retired from the sport, he started to do CrossFit at the gym he now owns. It was here that he saw a need for an adaptive competition platform, and the seeds of The WheelWod were planted. In December, Weelwod celebrated its eleventh anniversary at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh, NC with a four-day adaptive competition consisting of 12 workouts known as WODs.

In an attempt to establish a fair playing field for all, WheelWod creators have divided athletes into more than twenty divisions according to factors such as range of motion, neurological and sensory impairment and mobility, to name a few. During the competition, athletes compete to be named the fittest man or woman in each division, but the comradery and community forged through these grueling tests keep athletes coming back for more.

Lessons from the Mat

Q A. What has CrossFit taught you about life?
Q B. What is your message to others?

Answer A.
“CrossFit for me, is about community. It’s about doing things you didn’t think you were necessarily going to be able to do, learning new skills, and pushing where you think your glass ceiling is.”

Answer B.
“Stop thinking you can’t. You can do whatever it is that you are up to. You can do it absolutely. That is what CrossFit gives to us. With the way the methodology works is the 90-year-old on one end of the gym and the elite athlete on the other end of the gym are both doing the same thing, just to their level. You absolutely can. There is nothing in the way.

Craig Harrington: Lower Impairment: 2 Points of Contact

Q A. What has CrossFit taught you about life?
Q B. How have you applied what you have learned?

Answer A.
“Do hard things. If you can do hard things in the gym, you can do hard things out of the gym.”
Answer B.
“Often people with my disability don’t do anything. They stay at home. It hurts to do what we do; there is constant pain involved. The fact that I get up and do stuff and become a better human by pushing myself, it shows that you can do more than you ever thought. “

John Jarrett: Lower Impairment Minor

Q.A What has CrossFit taught you about life

Answer A.
“The way I approach a barbell is the same way I approach my problems and everything I have to confront in life, not afraid or scared, but very respectful of what can happen. CrossFit has given me a lot. Friends, opportunities, chances to be here and compete and meet new people. It has made me a better person. I’ve been able to grow with the sport and be someone for the new generation, helping them get that fire and light up so they can come and try this competition and try anything. Not just competing but living.”

Victor Assaf – Upper Impairment 1 Point Of Contact

Q A. What has CrossFit taught you about life?
Q B. What is your message to people who are dealing with a challenge in life?

Answer A.
“I have Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy. CrossFit has been amazing for me and for my mental health. It’s keeping my muscles as healthy as they can be while they are still there. The community and support we get around CrossFit is awesome.”

Answer B
“Stay positive, utilize support, and give everything a crack. You surprise yourself with what you can actually do if you are positive about things.”

Brad Tomlinson: Neuromuscular Moderate


The common theme we can take away from all of these incredible athletes is that how we view our challenges in life often determines if we will overcome them. If there is one thing a competition like the WheelWod can show the world it is that we are all more capable than we could ever imagine.

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