When Leslie Wagner lost her husband from a brain infection he contracted after having chemotherapy for colon cancer, she was adamant she didn’t want to turn to traditional medication, or anti-depressants to get through her grief.
- “I wanted to feel what I was feeling and process it,” she said of her approach to grieving Scott Wagner’s death three years ago this Thursday, a man she had been married to for just one year.
To do this, Wagner turned her attention to fitness and the community at The Loop Fitness in Lake Stevens, WA.
- “I was spinning. I pride myself on being in control. Having to sit and watch my husband die, I had no control. I was powerless. Lifting gave me some control, if only for a small hour each day. The best days were heavy (lifting) days…as well as days where there was a slam ball. I could take all my hurt and anger and put it into that. The physical relief gave me so much that I was able to negotiate my grief without any anti-depressants,” said 40-year-old Wagner.
- She added: “Normally when I get down, I stop eating and I shut down, but I have a little girl, so that wasn’t an option. I needed to be present for her.”
While the workouts provided relief, Wagner said she never would have been so committed to her fitness without the supportive coaches at her gym.
- “There were days I would show up and I’d be falling apart. And the coaches knew that. Sometimes if I was having a bad day, they’d just let me go outside and flip tires, or just deadlift. They gave me what I needed to get through the hour,” she said.
Exactly three years since losing Scott, Wagner who “can finally breathe again,” is focused on helping others use fitness to get through tough times. She got her CrossFit Level 1 coaching certificate and has become a part-time coach at The Loop Fitness.
- “I decided to coach so I could give back to the community who has given so much to me. I don’t look like a stereotypical coach. You know, I’m a mom. I’m a single mom, but I like to lift and I love coaching,” she said.
The Loop Fitness owner Mitch Roehl calls Wagner “one of the best coaches we have.”
- “Leslie has become a pillar in our staff, but even more than that, she has given our members someone to talk to. She is very open with her own struggles. (She’s) the person anyone can talk to and is always their biggest fan,” Roehl said.
Wagner hopes her story can inspire others to keep moving during the toughest times in life.
- “Maybe if someone hear’s my story, they can realize if I kept going when I lost my husband, they can too,” she said.
Her message: “Don’t stop. It’s OK. You might be in a valley and you might not be able to see the sun, but just keep moving, keep pushing yourself physically, and I promise, there will be light again,” she said.
Get The Newsletter
For a daily Digest of all things CrossFit. Community, Athletes, Tips, Recipes, Deals and more.