UNSTOPPABLE SPIRIT: Paula White’s 9.5 Year Journey at Blackbird CrossFit

This month’s Athlete of the Month spotlight shines on Paula White, a Blackbird CrossFit staple for an impressive 9.5 years! Paula’s journey began with a nudge from her children, Sara and Stephen, who started at Blackbird while still in high school. Their enthusiasm for fitness was contagious, and Paula soon found herself joining the Blackbird family.

Paula’s dedication is truly inspiring. Even with two bad knees, she doesn’t let limitations hold her back. She’s a master of scaling and modifying movements to perfectly suit her needs, and she absolutely shines in the realm of powerlifting. Beyond her impressive strength, Paula exemplifies the heart and soul of Blackbird CrossFit. She’s a constant presence, participating in every special event and pushing herself further with each workout.

But most importantly, Paula’s positivity is infectious. No matter what life throws her way, she shows up with a smile and a relentless work ethic. She never compares herself to others, simply focusing on the joy of movement, maintaining her strength, and living life to the fullest. Paula’s unwavering spirit is a true inspiration to all of us at Blackbird! Meet Paula…

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Paula, a member of BBCF since January of 2015. I hit a new milestone this year by qualifying for the 55-59 age group for the open, so I guess you can figure my age from that!! I’m married with 2 amazing Blackbird CrossFit alums, Sara and Stephen. I love it when they are around to drop in and remember their CrossFit roots. I grew up in PA, loved sports, and played basketball at Mount St. Mary’s in college. I found my way into teaching high school for a while until the kids came along and I stayed home with them. I’ve substituted at Winfield ES for many years and took an Instructional Assistant position there last year. I also have a part-time job at Martin’s Direct.  

What made you start CrossFit? Has your motivation changed over the years? 

My daughter, Sara, was responsible for my CrossFit beginnings. She was part of the very first high school class run by Coaches Steve and Justin. She was the only girl in there too. After that summer, she continued into the regular classes. I always wondered what went on inside, but I would drop her off and pick her up without going in. She would talk about this person and that person all the time. So, I finally decided to venture into a class to see who my 16-year-old was fraternizing with!! I caught a Black Friday deal, and the rest is history. Sara and I had great talks about the classes at home. I started going regularly and then we both drug Stephen into it a few months after that. I can say the kids were my motivation to keep going early on. I also paid for it, so I didn’t want to waste money! You pay, you go!! Now I continue to do it to keep moving and stay healthy…..and I pay for it!   

What have you learned about movement, fitness, and yourself since joining Blackbird?

Before joining, I knew about as much as Tony Horton told me on P90X. I played in lots of adult basketball and softball leagues but that really wasn’t “working out.” I am fairly certain I never lifted a barbell until joining. I had no clue what to do with it! I’ve learned just about everything I know from coming to classes. There are mental hurtles to tackle too. You need a little toughness to keep working when you are beat and not feeling it or are not thrilled to be doing a certain movement. So, I like how I’ve been challenged not just physically, but mentally as well.  

What is your proudest CrossFit moment?

There were some cool accomplishments over the years, like 1 climb to the top of the rope (never to be repeated and Rebekah missed the pic). I remember doing kipping pull ups for the first time with Sarah Blasko and then getting some in an Open workout. And I loved doing Battle in Birdland with my daughter, the one and only comp I will do…..I really don’t need to do that many workouts in a day to feel fulfilled, ha!  

What is your favorite CrossFit movement, lift, or WOD? Least favorite?

My favorite movements are no-brainers: bench press, WOD’s with rest, and fight gone bad style workouts. Long WOD’s are ok with me too. I am definitely not a fan of thrusters, burpees, or overhead squats.  

What impact has CrossFit had on you inside and outside of the gym?

Lifting has been an amazing activity for me. I enjoy it and have noticed how much stronger I’ve become as a result. Outside of the gym, I can see the movements come to life. I have energy to do everyday tasks like lifting objects or going on long hikes. I push press boxes and farmer’s carry stuff all over the grocery store. I love it when I do something and can connect it to a CrossFit move. 

What do you enjoy most about Blackbird or CrossFit in general?

Basically, showing up causes me to move. That’s a win.  I like having workouts planned for me. And being in a group is great because it makes me go faster than I would on my own. CrossFit is a really good whole-body workout too. BBCF has the nicest and sweatiest members.  The coaches are wonderful. Justin and Matt’s humor never gets old to me.

What are your CrossFit goals? How close are you to reaching them?

My goal each week is to use the 3 day/wk membership that. I try not to let life get in the way of that simple act. I don’t worry too much about the other stuff, PR’s and RX’s. If I can keep myself motivated to keep coming, I consider that good enough. Do I secretly want to hit a certain weight on certain lifts, sure! But I tend to feel my knees cooperate less and less as I age, so I’m happy with almost anything I do.  

When you are not CrossFitting what is your favorite thing to do?

I love to play pickleball! I am not the nimblest, but I get the job done.

What is one fun thing about you that we may not know yet?

I love having my picture taken with the Chick-Fil-A cow. Every time. It never gets old. The cow comes to school once a month to advertise the spirit nights. I always take a selfie with him. He stomps his hooves and dances every time he sees me coming!  

What is the one tip you would give someone considering CrossFit or new to CrossFit?

Do it. Everything can be modified to meet you where you are in your fitness journey. Ease into it, learn the mechanics, and then keep coming back.

What takeaways or insight into training for longevity have you gleaned from rehabbing from an injury? Has your long term approach to your training changed, if so, how?

I have 2 very unhappy knees at times. There is arthritis there now and they randomly swell for reasons unbeknownst to me. I’ve had 3 meniscus surgeries between them, from playing basketball in my 30’s and 40’s. At my last surgery in 2016, my orthopedist told me to keep doing CrossFit, just drop the high impact box jumps and running. I kept running only during pickup basketball and softball, until it just became too painful. So, I’ve made a science out of barely getting off the ground for jump roping and mastering the rower or bike for running. I’ve just modified things to keep moving. Stretching and mobility work outside the gym is so important also. I sometimes spend more time on the floor foam rolling than on my couch!  

What is your diet like? Has it changed since starting CrossFit?

I participated in 3 different nutrition challenges over time. I’ve learned some good principles each time and I’ve also used the RP Diet app to get a better understanding of macros. I think my diet is boring because I don’t vary too much in what I eat. I try to eat real food for the most part. I kind of know what works for me and just keep it simple. Dessert is a weakness, but I don’t eat it nearly as often or as much as I used to.

What is your favorite workout fuel? What about your favorite indulgence?

I don’t eat too much before a workout if I can help it. Food in my system before moving a lot makes me feel a little sick. If I am starving, I might have an applesauce or sometimes a rice cake. My favorite indulgences are cake, ice cream, filled donuts, and different kinds of candy. Wait. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to say all that. 

RESULTS?

Well, I’ve run the gamut of working towards RXing things and now being satisfied to keep moving regardless of RX moves or not. I have always liked to be active, and weightlifting was something I had been intimated of. I can’t imagine where I’d be without it now. I think my attitude has changed over time too. I used to look at WOD’s and cringe. I may still cringe, but I’m mentally ready to just move as well as I can through anything.  

FREEWRITE:

Sara trying BBCF was such an amazing find. I really doubt any of us would have tried CrossFit had she not stepped in the door and been hooked. The three of us have met incredible people and dogs as a result. My kids and I have been positively influenced by a mindset for health and activity created by the BBCF community. We have all felt very welcome and excited to be a part of it.  

Thank you, Matt and Rebekah, for everything over the years. Blackbird CrossFit is such an incredible space to better oneself in. Thank you to all the coaches, current and past, who have given me tips and tricks to make myself better. And lastly, coaches, I don’t need to decrease the reps. I just may take a little longer to finish because I’m going to do every…..single…..one!