How Chalkline Came To Be...

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 15:24
Coach Em

I'm Emily Cabral, and I own Chalkline CrossFit. I'm often asked how I came to be a gym owner and my story may not be what most people expect. I wasn't an athlete all my life, I haven't always had a love for fitness. So to help you get to know a bit about me, and how I ended up guiding others to lead healthier, more fit lives... here's my story

2004 B.F. (before fitness)

When you’re in the fitness space, it’s an easy assumption for people to make that you’ve been fit and active your whole life. Many trainers and coaches are former athletes themselves and it’s a pretty obvious and natural transition to move from athlete to coach.

But that was definitely NOT me!

So how did I get started? I found my way to helping people by being one of the people that needed help myself. Yep, former “fatty” right here (no offense intended to anyone, this is literally how I used to refer to myself - which is a whole other blog post about negative self-talk!).

In my mid-30s, I found myself overweight and feeling very unhealthy. I swear it just happened overnight! I’d always been “normal”, not overweight, not thin… just average. I was never really into working out, other than loving the outdoors and doing walks and hikes for fun. So to find myself looking in the mirror at someone who had rolls upon rolls and couldn’t fit into her clothes was a huge shock to my system (and ego!).

I kept the blinders on for quite a while, a few years at least. And by doing so, continued to gain weight. I hit my “bottom” when my baggy, loose fitting size 14 pants were snug and hard to button. I quite literally couldn’t imagine having to go to a store to buy a size 16, so I decided enough was enough. To drive it home, I stripped down naked, set up a tripod and camera, stood in front of a stark white wall and proceeded to take front, side and back “before” pictures of myself 'in the raw'. When I sat down to look at the photos, I burst into tears. What we see in our mind's eye can be VERY different than what the actual reality is… and that was the day I came face to face with that harsh reality.

Not really knowing what to do, I signed up for Weight Watchers. On the first weigh in, I was mortified… the number on the scale was 165! I couldn’t believe at 35 years old I’d let this happen. But I needed help, so I followed the program. Luckily for me, it coincided with a major kitchen remodel so at the time I just stocked up on frozen weight watchers meals and counted those points! I lost about 20lbs in the process, but quickly found myself stuck... again.

Reluctantly, and with a friend who also wanted to get in better shape, I went to my local gym and joined. I hated working out. I hated cardio. I hated gyms and “gym people”... I was miserable. After a few weeks of spinning my wheels, I finally decided to seek the help of a trainer. Even the thought brought anxiety. I envisioned a bubbly “Jane Fonda” type or some meat head former football player trying to motivate me to be like them. It was hard to imagine anything worse. Fortunately for me, the gym paired me with a great trainer who was “just like me” and we immediately hit it off (and are still best friends almost 20 years later). Thanks to our bond it was much easier to push through the things I hated about the process, and eventually something shifted. Those remaining 15 pounds started to fall off and I started joking that there was an inner “fit girl” hiding somewhere inside me, she just hadn’t been able to claw herself to the surface yet.

Because this shift was still so new and I was still fighting some of the “I hate this” demons, I decided to take a job working the front desk at the gym. I mean, I couldn’t flake if I was already there… right? I knew if I was really going to cause a lifestyle shift, I had to embrace this AS a lifestyle. This is really where my journey started…

"Fit Girl" makes her appearance

Working at the gym and getting to know members and trainers alike, I started to notice something. I saw a lot of turn over between trainers and clients and when I paid closer attention, I saw that a lot of these trainers simply couldn’t empathize or relate to their clients’ struggles. They were former athletes or gym rats who has always been fit, always loved the process and hadn’t had any of these struggles themselves. As I would talk to some of these members and we could relate and share our experiences, they would often ask me “can’t you be my trainer?”. So eventually, I made that answer “Yes!”

I was still finding my own fitness and healthy lifestyle, but I saw that I had a unique perspective to help people who were just like me and struggling like I did. Really, my struggles were pretty tame when compared to some issues people have battled most of their lives. But the physical, mental and emotional toll these struggles take on a person are similar regardless. To overcome that dark place, it takes a LOT of work… both mentally and physically, and if you aren’t someone who’s a self starter or self motivated, having someone who can relate and meet you where you are is key.

After getting certified as a trainer and taking on my first few clients… I quickly came to the realization that this is what I was put on this earth to do. Helping people make these changes and work through the dark place and into a place where they feel confident and comfortable in their skin is what gives me life. It's also what helped reinforce my own behaviors. Working with clients and helping people change their lives became my identity and my driving force. I worked as a trainer for close to 10 years, pushing myself and my clients to new and more challenging milestones and I loved it every second of it. Fit Girl was finally here.

Redefining "Fitness"

In 2008, my 40th birthday was approaching and I decided it was time to push my fitness a bit further. I wanted to do something that said “SCREW YOU, 40!”… a Spartan Race? Climb a crazy mountain? Run a marathon (oh hell no)? And then there it was… a Figure Competition! Now, anyone who knows me knows that I do not have a competitive bone in my body and that prancing around in lucite heels and a bedazzled bikini isn't really my thing, so entering a figure competition for me was NOT about winning. It was simply a way to take my fitness and my physique to a whole new level for a milestone birthday. So, I started training… and training… and dieting… and training… and cutting… and dieting. Man, it was a grueling process and I can’t say it was enjoyable… but I did it. After my first show, I wasn’t quite satisfied with my physical results so I decided to do one more a few months later. That one had me where I wanted to be physically and it was a great feeling to accomplish that goal (even though I actually placed worse than the first show!)… that is, until I tried to walk down a flight of stairs after the show and almost fell because I was so dehydrated... my legs literally gave out underneath me. I looked great, I was ripped and lean... but I could barely walk. That was it, I knew that lifestyle wasn’t for me and that I’d never do it again. Health was far more important and that didn’t feel healthy.

Enter... CrossFit

After giving myself a few weeks off to just chill, recover (and yes, eat ALL THE THINGS I’d avoided for almost a year), I knew I had to get back to my routine. There was only one problem, I didn’t WANT to! Every time I would start a workout I would want to cry. At first I couldn’t figure it out, but I soon realized it was an ugly beast knows as BURNOUT! So… rather than trying to force myself and suffer through it, I looked for something new and fun and fresh to get me back into a routine. Enter… CROSSFIT.

I’d heard about it for a while and had always wanted to try it, so why not now? I found one close to home, signed up for a trial and looked forward to trying something new. My first class was pretty uneventful… no crazy tire flips or insane things that CrossFit had a reputation for. It was a workout called Helen. 3 Rounds of a 400 M Run, 21 KB Swings and 12 Pull ups. Didn’t seem so bad… I was "fit", lifted decent weight, wasn’t much of a runner and couldn’t do pull ups, but how bad could it be? 15 minutes later, after finishing the workout, I was laying face down on the floor trying to catch my breath and literally saying to myself “I’m fit, how the hell did that workout do this to me?” 

I signed up for a membership on the spot, got certified to coach a few months later, became head trainer at my box and did that for 4 years before deciding it was time to open my own. The though of owning a business had never even entered my mind, but CrossFit literally changed how I viewed and defined fitness and in its model I saw the opportunity to help far more people that I could one on one as a trainer. It changed my life, and I wanted to help change other people's lives. So I did some research and dove in head first. 

Chalkline is born

We opened doors on May 5th (Cinco de Mayo), 2013. The 8 years since opening Chalkline have been quite a journey. There have been SO MANY struggles, as well as many wins and even a few fails… but I wouldn’t change a single part of it. Every year that goes by I learn more about myself, about being an entrepreneur, and every single day I get to do what I love and help people improve their lives. Some of the best people I've met and best friends I have are people that crossed paths with thanks to CrossFit. The people who walk through our doors are truly family and I can’t imagine spending a single minute of any day doing anything else. It’s definitely not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

The next chapter

Almost 20 years after I first decided to try out this whole fitness thing, I'm entering the next phase of my life as a 52 year old woman going through the struggles of menopause and having to keep a business alive through an unforeseen global pandemic. As for everyone, the events of the past year have brought about new and unique challenges and through those struggles I've begun to add to the list of services we provide here at Chalkline. My own experiences help me realize that as humans, we are far more than just our physical bodies, or our jobs, or our titles (mom, wife, dad, CEO, etc)... we are whole and complex and to be our best, we need a well rounded complete approach to health and wellness. Chalkline continues to evolve as the needs of our members do and my hope is that I'm able to continue learning, growing and helping people for the rest of my life.