Brittany Hoover pauses when asked what motivates her to push herself as a CrossFit athlete and coach.
“I don’t want others to feel the way I did,” she says. “For myself, my main goal — the reason I started is to change people’s lives. … CrossFit changed my life.”
Hoover was 8 years old when her dad noticed her back “didn’t look normal.”
After having her back checked out by a doctor, she learned she had idiopathic scoliosis, a condition that causes one’s spine to deviate with a curvature of greater than 10 degrees. Hoover’s curved at a 55-degree angle.
Hoover wore a back brace 24 hours a day for two years while she awaited surgery, which stunts your growth. She recalls how kids would pick on her, calling her Quasimodo and sometimes pushing her down the stairs.
“That really hurt my self-esteem,” she says. “I didn’t think I was pretty, didn’t feel good about myself, didn’t have many friends, and that was two years of my life at a very formidable time.”
One day during a checkup, she learned the curve in her spine had increased to 60 degrees, “and at that point, it starts to crush your organs,” Hoover says. “A lot of people with severe scoliosis can’t breathe very well.”
She couldn’t wait any longer for the surgery. Her spine would have to be fused to reduce the curvature.
Following the surgery, Hoover was told she would never be able to play contact sports, do gymnastics, or perform any repetitive movements. Her doctor recommended that she engage in only low-impact activities like walking and light yoga for the rest of her life.
Despite the recommendations, Hoover started running every day, eventually participating in marathons and ultramarathons. She was averaging 70 miles per week when she became aware of how much her back was hurting.
Doctors told her to take up swimming instead, but with her own research, she decided she needed to do some strength training. She started CrossFit.
“I was scared — when I started CrossFit — about lifting, so I slowly tested the waters,” she explains. She soon realized, “I can actually do these things. It’s not hurting me. I actually feel pretty good.”
Now a CrossFit trainer and yoga instructor at CrossFit Chesapeake in Virginia, Hoover reflects on what has changed and what hasn’t: “I love running. It’s always been my first love, and I still run all the time, but I wish I would have found CrossFit first, because this is the least amount of pain — at 30 — I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in pain since I was 8 years old.”