Always Look Up
It was August 2nd, 2013 when Krystal Cantu’s reality changed. She was with her boyfriend when a tire blew on their truck. They lost control of their truck causing it to flip several times down the highway. As the car flipped Krystal’s arm was crushed between the pavement and the vehicle. She was miraculously awake and alert the entire time making herself go into “survival mode” she says. She was eventually air lifted to the hospital where in order to save her life they had to amputate her arm.
She was 23 years old when this happened. She had the world in front of her. Everything up until this point had gone relatively smooth. In an instant everything she knew came crashing down and her reality changed. She could have sunk down, stopped caring and let life swallow her up, but she chose to fight. In fact, weeks later she was back doing what she loves, CrossFit. She is now a CrossFit adaptive athlete who sees no ceiling. She continues to improve and compete in CrossFit as well as continuing to try and compete for Team USA in javelin in the upcoming summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Where does your story begin and how did you end up becoming involved with CrossFit?
Well, if we’re asking where it began we can go all the way back to 1989, but for the sake of our readers, we’ll start with where CrossFit comes into play. I was introduced to CrossFit in late April of 2013. I used to be the girl who did the same workout routine every week at Gold’s Gym. I lost weight and thought I was in great shape, until I took my first CrossFit class. CrossFit was offered free of charge at Rackspace, which is where I was working at the time. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and showed me how out of shape I really was. Sure, I was healthier and active, but after seeing what CrossFit had to offer, I never stepped foot into your typical gym again. I wanted to get stronger and I wanted to be like the athletes at that box who were absolutely amazing at the sport.
I wanted more out of myself and CrossFit was just the sport to make me demand more of myself.
Describe a typical day for you.
A typical day for me starts around 9:30 in the morning and goes directly to breakfast and coffee. Around 11 or 12 I take off to train at CrazyTrain CrossFit in West Palm Beach, Fl. A typical training day runs me about 3-4 hours depending on what I have to do that day. I take 20-25 minutes to stretch and warm up each day. My strength portion of the workout typically takes an hour to an hour and a half, also depending on the volume that day. After strength I usually have some drills to do that consist of speed ladder drills, sprints and rowing. From there I have my workout that varies in time and I end with a core workout. I also coach where I train, so if I have any afternoon classes, I’ll stay behind and coach and won’t be home till around 8:30. Getting home I eat dinner, chat with my boyfriend about our day and head straight to bed.
What is your greatest personal accomplishment?
My proudest moment to this day was being strong on August 2nd. I laid on the grass as everyone was throwing questions at me and handing me water to hydrate and through all of that I kept saying aloud, “you’re going to be okay, you’re going to live, everything will be okay.” I put my trust in everyone that was with me that day and I trusted that the Lord would keep me safe. If I had given up that day as I lay in that grass, I wouldn’t be where I am. I told myself that I could and I stand here 2 years later prouder than ever to say that I DID.
Could you please talk about your recovery process post car accident and what helped you get back to competing as a world-class athlete?
My recovery post accident went fairly well. I learned how to do everyday tasks fairly quickly and was back to CrossFit a month later. I motivated myself day in and day out to be a better athlete for myself and to prove that I could still compete despite the challenges I faced. I didn’t want to be applauded because I had one arm, I wanted to be applauded because I was a great athlete who could actually compete and compete against able-bodied athletes at that.
What’s the best advice you were given at this time?
I honestly can’t recall any one person’s advice that has stuck with me to this day, but I can say that one thing that has impacted me so much as an athlete was the fact that my coaches treated me no different than any other athlete. I would do what everyone else did and I would do it well. They took no pity on me and they molded me to take on any challenge that came my way in the sport. I came out stronger because of every coach I’ve had along the way. If I came upon a movement or workout that I wasn’t sure of, I had to figure it out because I wasn’t going to sit back and watch.
What advice do you have for others?
Everyone has setbacks, some are bigger than others, but we all have them. It’s our job to push past the hard times and see the light within the dark. Don’t blame others and don’t have hatred in your heart. Remember that all things happen for a reason. Why did this happen to you? If you don’t know yet, get up and find out. The great people of this world went through setbacks and from those setbacks came greatness. You have two choices, you can either sit and fear everything and constantly be unhappy or you can accept everything as a blessing and fear nothing and be incredibly happy.
Can you talk about some of the differences you see as an athlete who competes in CrossFit versus more traditional sports.
I honestly believe that any and all competitive athletes are wired the same. We must be strong not only physically, but also mentally. Competitive athletes come in all shapes and sizes and it’s the heart that makes the athlete. You can’t coach drive and passion because that comes from within. The athlete that competes is the person who can stay strong mentally through the chaos. The athlete that competes is the person who doesn’t allow him or herself to be mediocre. They all strive to be better.
How much is nutrition and diet a part of CrossFit and your daily life?
I’ve become less strict about my diet over the year because we have to learn to treat ourselves sometimes. I enjoy having a beer with friends and I enjoy pizza. I stick to a healthy meal plan during the week and treat myself on the weekend. When a competition is around the corner I leave alcohol and keep the treats to a minimum.
How much of a presence has social media changed CrossFit and how much time do you have to put into it?
I don’t know how much it’s changed CrossFit as a sport, but it has been a great way to connect our community. We get to follow elite athletes and see how they train and live their lives. We get to see people all over the world participating in the sport we love. Social media has united us. You can take Kevin Ogar, for example, after his accident everyone came together to help support Kevin. We united as a community online and sent him love from every corner. Social media is a great tool to keep the CrossFit family united.
Outside of CrossFit, what are some of your other aspirations?
Next year I will be training with an incredible Paralympic coach in the hopes of qualifying for Rio and representing Team USA in track and field throwing javelin. I was training day in and day out earlier this year but landed myself a foot injury that led to surgery and have been on hold till next year.
How does the appeal of sports let you influence a greater number of people?
CrossFit and my involvement in it has given people a new light into what they can achieve. They see a woman with one arm doing what seems to be impossible and they go back and question themselves. What’s my excuse? Why am I not out there doing what I love? It gives them that extra spark they need. We are all capable of great things if we can just believe in ourselves.
Is there any advice you would have liked to give yourself when you first started out?
Tomorrow is too late, do it now and regret nothing. I wish I knew then what I was truly capable of, but it did come within time and I’m okay with that. But I’ve learned to never take things for granted and take opportunity when it arises.