CrossFit body and mind

Bend woman stays mentally, physically fit with workouts

By Tara Bannow / The Bulletin / @tarabannow


Published Jan 31, 2014 at 11:27AM / Updated Feb 11, 2014 at 02:49PM

A day in the life of Jennifer Boone involves a lot of unloading.

Clients tell Boone, a licensed professional counselor in Bend, about their fears. They share tales of crippling depression. Of grief. Loss.

She loves her work. But by the end of the day, it gets to be a heavy load.

“That has its own intensity to it,” she said.

Perhaps out of necessity, the 37-year-old mother of two has found a place she can go to turn her brain off for a while. She’s been doing a workout called CrossFit at her gym, Xcel Fitness in Bend, for nearly two years. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that blends a fast-paced rotation of aerobic exercise, gymnastics and Olympic-level weightlifting.

It’s in these sessions that Boone does her own unloading. She enters the room harboring stress and frustration, only to let go of it as she sets her body in motion.

“It’s so intense, I can’t think about anything,” she said.

Tough workouts

On a recent Monday morning, Boone’s CrossFit routine began with a “light” warm-up: 100 or so jumps with a jump rope, 50 sit-ups against a wall while holding a large medicine ball against her chest and some other goodies thrown in there.

Boone and more than a dozen of her peers, moving to the beat of hip-hop music blaring throughout the large, industrial-looking room, then shifted into a series of exercises using kettlebells, weights that look like cannonballs with handles — swinging them up and down, eventually graduating to an exercise that involved holding the kettlebells above their heads and slowly, with calculated movements, lowering their bodies to the floor and back up again.

Throughout all of this, Boone appeared collected. She aligned her movements with her breath — exhaling and inhaling with each swing of the kettlebell.

There are days when she’s so stressed out with work and family, Boone said she doesn’t even want to go to her CrossFit class.

Once she’s there, though, that all changes. Recalling one particularly stressful day, Boone said, “We finished and I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I just totally let go of all of that.’ It was amazing. I felt really refreshed and ready to go at the end. That is why I do it. That’s what gets me in here a lot of times: Knowing how good I’m going to feel at the end.”

As the class progresses and the exercises get tougher, shouts of encouragement can be heard over the music. “Nice work!” “Keep going!” “Good job!”

Boone has never been in the military, but she said she imagines CrossFit creates bonds in the same way boot camp might. As she and her classmates push their bodies to their limits, there’s an inherent need to talk to one another about it.

“You’re working so hard together that you feel somewhat connected through that experience,” she said, “And it’s just a lot of fun. We laugh a lot. We cheer each other on. CrossFit’s really big on encouraging one another and pushing your friend to do a little more than they think they can.”

A people person

A Bend native, Boone left her home after high school to pursue her undergraduate degree in psychology at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.

After graduating in 1998, she took a break from school and worked administrative jobs, eventually taking a position at Oregon Health & Science University, where she renewed her desire to join the ranks of professionals devoted to helping people. She briefly considered following her mom’s path to nursing, then decided against it. She went back to Lewis & Clark, this time leaving in 2007 with a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

“I was looking for something where I felt like I could have relationships with people, not sort of feel like they were just sort of passing in and out of my work life,” Boone said.

In 2007, Boone and her family moved back to Bend.

Exercise had been a constant in Boone’s adult life long before CrossFit. Growing up, her parents were avid exercisers, but it wasn’t until college that it became a daily part of her own routine. College was her first taste of real stress, especially the stress Boone associates with sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Cardio activity and weightlifting in the morning became the remedy that prepared her for a day of being sedentary while she learned. The practice spilled out into her post-college life, when she took on desk jobs and, ultimately, into her counseling career.

Having an encouraging husband helps, she said. And her daughters, 12-year-old Sofia and 7-year-old Vivien, have grown up knowing that exercise is an important part of their mom’s life. Setting a positive example for her daughters is another reason Boone said she takes care of her body.

She strives to teach them, “how to take good care of themselves as a woman, as a girl in this culture,” Boone said.

Boone’s husband, Zak Boone, became familiar with her love for exercise early on. Their relationship started in college, but they rarely would get out of bed at the same time.

“He will still tell stories about when I would get up at the crack of dawn and leave for the gym and he’d sleep for hours afterward,” Boone said, laughing. “Even when we met he knew that was really important for me. It was just a given, something I was going to do every day if I could make it happen.”

In their married life, Zak made sure he was around after work to watch the girls when they were younger so that Jennifer could work out. It’s not as high a priority for her husband as it is for her, Jennifer said, but he’s still respectful of her desire to hit the gym.

Boone’s work allows her to schedule patient visits around her CrossFit classes. Now that her kids are more independent, she’s better able to piece together a schedule that permits time for exercise.

In the end, she said, her patients benefit from a more focused, mentally clear therapist.

“People know if you’re sitting there and you’re not really there,” she said. “They know if you’re preoccupied with something, and that’s a horrible feeling.”

To ensure clients are getting Boone’s full attention, she has taken to scheduling four or five sessions per day instead of seven, as she had in the past.

That, and she tends to her mind and body with exercise.

“I honestly don’t think there’s anything — medication or even talk therapy — that can replace it,” she said. “Those are all part of being well, but having a solid exercise routine can save people a lot of money and time.” •