Athlete Profile: Michele Kelber

By March 11, 2013 16 Comments
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Name: Michele Kelber
Hometown: Westfield, NJ
Age: “Bitches! I’m 39 1/2!”
CrossFitting Since: January 2010… When Sam taught Fundamentals for Honey Badger and me… back in the good ol’ days.

Favorite WOD or Movement: Annie. I worked at getting double unders forever – it’s one of the movements I’ve put the time in to learn and master.

Least Favorite WOD or Movement: FRAN!!! Despite squatting being the core movement of CrossFit, I find it physically difficult and frustrating. Between all the thrusters and pull ups – the other bane of my existence, Fran is just, well Fran.

What led you to CrossFit? I was an athletic kid and I played soccer in both high school and college. I got pretty lazy and fat as an adult. I graduated from law school in 2001 and moved back to New York thinking I’d get a great job and have this amazing life. I ended up moving home, failing the Bar, and then September 11th happened… and the world as we knew it failed to exist. I spent the next few years trying to find my way, most likely gaining more weight. All of a sudden it was seven years later and I probably weighed 265lbs (at least that’s what the scale said the last time I bothered to get on it.)

My doctor recommended that I look into weight loss surgery. I began to research and consider the surgery, eventually determining that it was right for me. At the same time, my Mom was battling cancer and in hospice. I went to her, secretly seeking her blessing, and shared my choice. Surprisingly, she was on board. She died shortly after. It makes me feel good to know that my Mom knew I was making a positive life change, but it’s bittersweet that she never shared in my success, or that she never saw how truly happy I am today.

Oh wait… what led me to CrossFit, right…

After the lap band surgery, I lost weight consistently for about a year and a half. I completed my second marathon, my first NYC marathon, and decided that it was time to step up my ‘fitness game.’ At the time, my friend Rob Maldonado (who I knew from running marathons,) husband of Annemal, kept encouraging me to check out CrossFit. He would go so far as to send me videos. My response over Gchat: “You’re nuts!  That’s a prison yard workout, there is no way I’m doing that!”

He wore me down. I was contemplating getting a personal trainer but the guy wouldn’t give.  I realized that signing up for CrossFit was actually a cheaper way to take advantage of a trainer, so I tried out the Black Box. I was going to sign up, even though I wasn’t 100% sold… but sharing my news with Rob, he insisted I head to Virtuosity. So I pulled out my passport and made the trip to Brooklyn, and I fell hard. They had me at hello. I was so in love that I used to trek from NJ to Midtown for work, finish work, ride out to Brooklyn to work out, and then go back home to NJ.

Where did CrossFit lead you? Prior to starting at CrossFit Virtuosity, I had lost a considerable amount of weight and thought I had gotten fit and was living a healthy life. The more I became involved with CrossFit, the more I realized that I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to food. Being a part of CrossFit wasn’t just about the athletic component, it was learning about nutrition and digestion. I finally understood that what is presented to us by the medical community, government, etc., is not an absolute – in fact, it can be wrong depending on the specific person’s (or group’s) agenda. You have to be your own personal advocate about what is right for you, including the food you eat.

Because I never really felt fulfilled with my legal career, my involvement with CrossFit opened my eyes beyond my own athletic achievements. I appreciated the nutrition component of CrossFit and it inspired me to make a career change. I just graduated from a year-long program to become a certified health coach to support people in their journey to wellness. I’m helping people who struggle with obesity, weight loss, or failed weight loss surgery to show them they can win and be successful. Sometimes that little bit of support makes a world of difference.

What are you doing now? Last year at this time, I was balancing CrossFit and training for an Ironman. At the end of May, I was having a lot of issues and chronic pain. I’ve spent the past nine months figuring out what’s wrong, recovering and getting back to where I was with CrossFit. It’s been a roller coaster both emotionally and physically. With the support and sometimes unsolicited, unwelcomed but loving and warranted prodding of the coaches, I’ve been consistently doing CrossFit and getting back into the swing of things since December / January of this year. I’m finally reaching new PRs in lifting and am getting better at a lot of movements, including my squat!

For a long time, I felt like I was at a plateau with CrossFit and I’m finally breaking past that. I’m starting to see myself in the top third of the class versus the bottom third, which is encouraging. I even did the unthinkable. I registered for the Open.  Three years of CrossFit, and I finally signed up for the Open. You won’t see me on the podium, but I’m clear something is going to happen. I signed up to be unrecognizable to myself.  You should too!

What would you say to people who have tried different diets, workouts, etc, and have not had success? What is different about CrossFit? Number one, get here. You have to give yourself the opportunity to show yourself what you’re made of, that starts with being a part of this community. You are never going to be ready, so whoever you are, wherever you are, just show up.

CrossFit caused the most drastic change I’ve ever seen in my body in the shortest amount of time. In my late 30s, I found myself doing things I hadn’t done since I was 13 in gym class – climbing the ropes, jumping on boxes, handstands, etc. It was (and still is) fun!  And I realized I was strong, picking things up and putting things down.

My internal dialogue is always, “I can’t do that,” but CrossFit has made me say, “you can fucking do this, you want this, pick up the bar and find out what you’ve got.” When you PR that lift or get yourself on the leader board or do something else that you never thought you could do, you walk away with a spring in your step. You’ve blown the glass ceiling off of your life. Yeah, your life. Sounds dramatic, but CrossFit enables you to see yourself differently. There are opportunities inside these walls that don’t exist anywhere else. CrossFit isn’t solely about fitness, it has the capacity to alter your self perception. You just have to get here.

Any best CFV stories? Uh… What happens at The Whiskey, stays at The Whiskey.

You can find out more about Michele’s health coaching business at kelbercoaching.com or on Facebook.


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