“Succeeding My Way”: My Mother’s Experience with CrossFit

By Patti Hysell


My son, Craig Hysell,  opened CrossFit Hilton Head (today Conviction Training Facility) in 2010 in a small storage garage space. He was so excited. He showed us his facility and it looked very sparse to me. I remember trying to use a band for a pull-up and nearly killing myself. He saved his mommy from injury but I knew then it was all beyond me. His business grew.

He moved locations and was now working out of a store front. Amazing things were happening. He held his first Garage Games event and his parents helped, of course. I was one of the scorekeepers using an Excel spreadsheet with printouts showing the rankings. It was one of my most awesome days. There were so many athletes doing so many wonderful things. I wanted to be more than a scorekeeper. But I was old and feeble.

Craig knew my interest wasn’t simply to watch. He quietly said when we were visiting one weekend, “You know, there is a CrossFit in Summerville.” He gave me an address. On the way home, we drove there to see exactly where it was. On the way home from work on Monday, I stopped by. Amazingly, coincidentally, one of the owners was there. I was told to come to the introductory class on Saturday. I did.

It was one of the most humbling and depressing mornings of my life. I could do absolutely nothing. I couldn’t even finish the class. I was beaten. I was already a failure and I hadn’t even started. I asked Ryan with tears in my eyes and shaky voice if there was any hope at all for me. He said there was hope for everyone who wanted to work at it. I signed up for the introductory class. I was so sore, even after not finishing the intro class that I could barely move, but I showed up. And that has been the secret to my success.

I couldn’t manage anything even with CrossFit Summerville’s lightest bar which weighed all of 22#. I needed a child’s 4# med ball. I had to use a PVC pipe as a cane so I could lunge. When I say I couldn’t do squat, I mean it – literally. I couldn’t break parallel on a squat. I used to be an athlete. I was an “A” women’s racquetball player when I was in my 30s. I had sat around too long. I was no longer able.

I cried a lot. My gym was very new and the coaches at 6 AM were pretty inexperienced. Their idea of scaling was to drop the weights. No one ever dropped the reps. If I complained enough, I might get a sub movement. I was their oldest member and they didn’t know exactly what to do with me. But Craig had told me it was all scalable and everyone could do this. Damn, but I am someone and I would make it. I cried some more.

It took me over a month to be able to deadlift 42#, the smallest bar with “normal” sized plates. I was proud of this achievement. I knew it was minuscule, but it was something. I don’t remember when I stopped using a PVC pipe to lunge down the mat, but I did. I began using a regulation med ball for wall balls. And then I made a promise to myself. I would have weights on my weight for a back squat before I turned 60. All that meant was I would get 27# on a back squat, but when I started, I couldn’t even get an air squat low enough. It was mountain for me to climb. I reached the summit with over a week to spare.

My dedication is proven not by what I can manage to lift, but by the fact that I have never given up. I’ve cried and I’ve whined and I’ve shown up just as my schedule demanded. At first, I came three times a week, no matter what. Today, I go four times a week, no matter what. And because of that dedication to practice and endurance, I’ve failed my way to success.

“The biggest disability we have as human beings, is disbelief.”


I have been the scorekeeper for three I CAN Games now. I have loved watching the athletes. I knew I wasn’t ever going to be good enough to participate at even this level although there was always a masters division included. It was all beyond me.

Some brilliant person out there in the bigger world decided that people like me are just as important and just as driven as those appearing on TV at the CrossFit Games. We just aren’t at that level of participation. But we do want to challenge ourselves and step out of our comfort zones. We want to put it all on the line, just like professional athletes or those superstars at the televised Games. So the Masters Garage Games were started. Instead of being the scorekeeper that day, I was a participant. My goal was to survive. I did. The medal I earned (by default*) hangs on my mirror. It reminds me that I was brave enough to keep failing. I was courageous enough to keep showing up even when it was less than pitiful.

I am an athlete. I am a CrossFitter. I am a medalist. CrossFit is for everyone. It is all scalable. All it takes is determination, drive, a willingness to put in the work, the humility to try again in the face of defeat. And then the miracle of achievement. I really have failed my way to success.


*My mother did not earn her medal by “default”. She earned it because only she and one other athlete in her age group had the courage to show up and test themselves. This is not “default”. This is boldness in it’s most unique and special form. This is the “elite mindset” that we speak about at CTF.

I cried when I announced my Mother’s name to the podium at our Master’s Event. Things had come full circle for her and she had listened to what people that believed in her were telling her. She had the balls enough to try. Medal or no medal, that’s how you win at life. That’s what my mother and father taught me growing up. That’s how I live my life today… and that’s why I was so proud of my mother doing the thing that terrified her and coming out with a freakin’ medal!

Hell, I didn’t even announce her name correctly when I announced her medal! I called her, in a shaky and proud voice, “My mom.”

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