Life Changes | MSP GYM

The lessons we learn along the way.

Last year I made the decision to start going to the gym again. Midwest Strength + Performance has since monopolized my heart and I could not be more happy. Read about my journey to the gym, here! I have trained with Mike for a year now. It’s crazy to think how fast time has flown by. I feel like just last month I took my first steps into MSP. I remember the cool, warm smell of the office, the laughter ringing in my ears, the kind faces of those I now call “friend”, and the feeling of comfort and safety within those walls. I was in a completely different place last year. I was bouncing back from the lowest I had ever been- learning how to accept and navigate life post- injury. It’s funny how a facility and people who were once strangers could mean so much to me 365 days later. I never imagined I would love a gym the way I love MSP. I set out to build strength and along the way built new friendships, was presented with new opportunities and a lifetime of memories. I never intended on structuring my life around the gym as much as I have. In fact,. I didn’t go into this wanting to meet anyone new or become close to them. I was content with the friends I had and the amount of people who truly knew me and not just my highlight reel on social media. I went into MSP looking for one thing: to feel like my old self again- but, somewhere along the way I became the person I never knew I could be or wanted to be. Change is incredibly scary and I was not ready for it 12 months ago. Looking back, I am incredibly grateful and eternally thankful for Midwest Strength + Performance. Mike, TJ, Jimmy, Phil and Zane have built a community unparalleled to others and I’m afraid nothing I can ever say or do will remotely come close to thanking them and explaining how much they mean to me… but I’ll spend the rest of my life trying.

I’ve had the honor of training with all of the coaches. I've spent hours watching, working with and learning from these men and I am in awe of their dedication and knowledge. The majority of the time I spend training is with Mike. He has been there since my MSP day one and we’ve been through a lot together. He has seen my good days and the bad. He’s restructured programing because my body was not reacting the way we wanted it to. He was patient as I called in to cancel sessions because I wasn’t feeling well or had other doctor’s appointments. He has stood next to me and showed me unconditional love and support, and he’s there to catch me when I fall… literally. I dropped the bar squatting not too long ago (YEET).

I’ve learned a lot about myself this past year. To me, the gym is where I go to process life- to work through things, to celebrate, move towards becoming the best version of myself for myself, and to clear my mind. The gym is how I show myself love and practice self care. I don’t sweat to loose weight. I sweat to feel strong and to push past my self- imposed limitations. I think there is a misconception around regularly attending the gym. While I like the idea of having a fit physique, I believe there are more reasons to workout than just looking a certain way. The gym is a space where potential is unlocked and barriers are broken. There’s an unrivaled sense of accomplishment and pride with each new PR (personal record), and it translates to the everyday. I’m thankful I get to experience this alongside MSP.

Jimmy Walker, TJ Lawson, Zane Roebuck, Phillip Carlson, Mike Sell

Jimmy Walker, TJ Lawson, Zane Roebuck, Phillip Carlson, Mike Sell

This is one of my favorite photos and the only group photo of us all together… still not sure how that’s possible because we have a million and one events and we’re always taking photos! This is my favorite photo because it represents who they truly are. At the end of the day they took the costumes off- but to me, they’re always superheroes.

Phillip Carlson, Zane Roebuck, TJ Lawson, Jimmy Walker

Phillip Carlson, Zane Roebuck, TJ Lawson, Jimmy Walker

A year ago I never thought I would participate in something called Viking Ninja. I mean the name itself sounds so badass yet slightly intimidating. But, because of these guys, I was able to. Last month I completed (and passed!!!) the VKNJA White Belt Certification and I could not have done it without each and every one of the guys. During my first session I could barely do a pushup. My arms hurt. My shoulders hurt. All I felt was pain when I moved and it was hard to image a day where I would feel strong enough or even imagine being able to walk without feeling like my body is about to combust.. yet here I am a year later completing 100 pushups. Mike, TJ, Zane and Jimmy helped me build strength and conditioned me for that weekend. Phil calmed my nerves, told me when I was being dramatic (but seriously he should know by now I’m slightly dramatic so idk if I 110% agree with that point…), encouraged me to stop over thinking and called me out for doubting myself. These guys believe in me when I’m unsure of myself and I am forever grateful for their support, affirmations and faith. Please, no one pinch me; because if this is a dream I never want to wake up.

7 Things I have Learned From

Midwest Strength + Performance

I’ve thought a lot about the past year- I’ve reflected on the good, the bad and everything in between. I decided to put together a list of a few of the things I have worked on this past year. While I seemed to have these things down (okay, most of them) with other people, I struggled (and sometimes still do) with implementing these things regarding myself.

1) forgiveness

I didn't realize how upset with myself I was. I blamed myself for my injury when it had absolutely nothing to do with something I did or did not do. I was punishing myself for the actions of others and for making slower progress during physical therapy and other doctors appointments based on what I felt was “on track”. I learned to not take it so hard and personal when my body needed a bit of extra rest and when my progress looked different from other’s or how I wanted it to be.

2) Patience

Going off of my last point, I expected myself to get to where I was before, at a much faster pace than my body was ready. I was doing everything by the books- I showed up to appointments, put in the work and made time… so why wasn’t I feeling better, gaining muscle and back to my old self? I noticed I was patient with others yet lacked patience with myself. I was kind and understanding to friends yet harsh on myself. I switched the script and showed myself a bit of grace. I used a softer voice with myself and accepted I wouldn’t be able to do things the way I could pre-injury, overnight. I learned how to become patient with myself and take things one day at a time, acknowledging where I am and focusing on the here and now versus what is next.

3) Acceptance

Hand- in- hand with patience is acceptance. These were a “two bird, one stone” hone-in on this lesson type of thing. I could not do one without the other. Once I accepted I was too harsh on myself and cut myself a bit of slack, I made it a priority to accept where I was every day. This may sound like an overkill, but every day (especially on gym days) I would accept the exercises and movements I was doing. I acknowledged my body’s ability to perform those tasks and I sat with that. I appreciated what my body was able to do for me that day and it became enough. It was not where I wanted to be, but slow progress is still progress and I desperately needed to remember that.

4) Vulnerability

My goodness have I really jumped all in with this one. It took a while, but I realized it was easier connecting to people when I really, truly let them in. Mike helped me with this as he saw me at my most vulnerable. I published an article about him which you can read below. I also noticed how vulnerable the guys are. I view them as strong (not just physically) and have oodles of respect for them. If the people I look up to can let their guard down and say what’s on their hearts and minds, I can too. My opinion never changed based on their decision to vocalize an emotion or provide a glimpse into their life. When I think of strength, I think of TJ, Mike, Jimmy, Zane and Phil because they lift these crazy heavy weight, hit PR’s and show their humanity. Their emotional intelligence and ability to be vulnerable makes me respect them even more and encourages me daily to reciprocate and follow in their footsteps.

Article: Trauma Doesn’t Define You

5) Purpose + Timing

Another two that go had-in-hand for me. Here’s why.. the last half of 2017 and the majority of 2018 I felt lost and out of place. I was wondering where I fit now that my injury overpowered my life. I was fired from the job I loved, I was asked to step down from a non-profit role and on top of it, my volunteer season had come to an end. It seemed like everything I had worked for and the life I had built came crumbling down- I was left with the ruins of the life I built. One day in late June I received a text out of the blue from Phil asking if I’d be interested in meeting with him to talk about potentially helping MSP with their social media. Honestly, I wasn’t sure. It sounded like a fun thing to do. It’s something I know I’m good at but it felt too soon and so raw. I was missing my old job and I was so over social media at this point. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it and I felt exhausted after investing in a company that ended up erasing me from their community. However, I took a step back and realized that was a different experience, with other people, and it’s not fair to project my old job’s behavior and experience on MSP. So, I agreed to meet with him to hear him out. Spoiler alert.. I ended up agreeing and July 4th is my MSP 1- year workiversary (aw). MSP constantly reminds me it’s okay to take risks- to make that jump when something is exciting yet terrifying. Everything will work out when it’s the right time and if it is meant to be. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but there’s a purpose for everything and everyone in life whether that/ they are testing you, teaching you or using you as a lesson in their story. We’re constantly being taught while also teaching.

6) Courage

I’ve pursued things I never imaged I would all thanks to the MSP guys. I’ve taken risks in and out of the gym that have drastically shaped me these last 12 months. I stopped being afraid to say yes and started saying “yes, and” instead of letting the possibilities of the uncertainty deter me.

7) Love

I didn’t realize how closed off I was to new people. I like people, truly… I just kept them so far away after my injury and dismissed the thought of growing closer to others- especially anyone new. My recovery was my top priority and everything else seemed insignificant compared to my health. There is a line in a Taylor Swift song, Dancing With Out Hands Tied, that gets me every time: “my love had been frozen, deep blue, but you painted me golden”. It took a while, but they cracked the code. MSP melted the icebox I didn't realized I had around my heart and they painted me golden.

I have so much love for these guys, the community they have built and everything they stand for. A majority of my favorite memories/ things that stand out from this past year are with the guys or at MSP. Sushi runs, after school time with Jimmy’s kiddos, country music workout sessions, new snack tastings, daydreaming with each other, running errands, the late night co-working, and quite literally watching paint dry is the most enjoyable and rewarding because of who I am surrounded by. It doesn’t matter what I do or how mundane the task. Mike, Zane, TJ, Jimmy and Phil make the ordinary feel extraordinary.

Zane Roebuck and Macaila Britton at the Viking Ninja Training System Event  in Chicago
Phillip Carlson and Macaila Britton attending the VKNJA Certification in Chicago at Midwest Strength and Performance

The past year showed me the right people will show up in my life whether I’m ready or not. We will always find the people we’re supposed to and those who are meant to be in our lives will stick around no matter what because they have a purpose and that can be as simple as caring about you. I struggled off and on this last year with feeling left out because for so long I was at home and being shuffled from one doctors appointment to the other. I felt left out of my own life as I was too exhausted or in too much pain to actually do things besides my post- injury routine. I watched friends and family have “wins” and I craved to be in society again.. even if that meant enduring a stressful day at work- seriously, there were days I longed to work and missed the craziness of scheduling our team calls and errands. I missed the routine and balance of working, deciding what to do on the weekends, accepting invitations for events and volunteer activities, etc.

A few months ago I was texting one of the guys about a side project we were pursuing and I was feeling so irritated- mostly with myself, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being left out. I had no reason to believe this self- doubt. He is incredibly kind, thoughtful and I know he would never do anything shady or single me out. I was caught off guard when I replied and then text I received back was “you’re not being left out”. How did he know? I re-read my text and there was zero indication I was feeling this way. I mentioned nothing nor had I ever to him. This was a secret I struggled with and he just understood me. This was the moment I realized I am exactly where I need to be with the people I am meant to be with. You see, the people who are meant to be in your life will be there and they will truly know you. Loved ones pick up on the things we think we mask. They affirm us and remind us of the truth- who we are and not who we think we are based on a bad day or untruthful negative emotions.


it was becaue of Msp when One day I woke up and I didn’t wish to become the person I once was; I realized this version is better- stronger.

Midwest Strength + Performance Gym

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