Nicole Hartman

"I just fell in love, and lifting weights is empowering.
Through that I was able to heal."

In October, Nicole Hartman entered her first CrossFit Throwdown at another local YMCA. She and her partner took first place in the Open Division, notching her first victory in her first competition.

But look back over the past 7 years, and Nicole's life was very different.

After the birth of her second child, Nicole was the least healthy she'd been and was at her heaviest weight.

How Nicole got to that point was a long journey through an abusive and unhealthy relationship that led to hating exercise.

"It's been an interesting journey," Nicole said.

Nicole eloped when she was 19 years old, and she notes her 18-month marriage wasn't Christ-centered. Her husband was deployed to Afghanistan and came back a completely different person. Nicole had gained a little bit of weight during his deployment, which was something about which her husband was unhappy.

"It became a new normal that, every day, I needed to run or things would blow up at home," Nicole said. "It had a huge effect on me, because it turned into me hating the gym."

A handful of times, Nicole's husband actually followed behind her in his truck to ensure she was running.

"It only takes one time for somebody to follow you in a truck to make sure you're running," Nicole said. "I would look at the clock and think, 'I have to hurry up and run before he gets home and I get yelled at.'"

"It consumed my whole life. It took until the last eight months to realize that was abuse and trying to heal past that abuse. The gym was a place of pain in the past."

Then, after seven years, Nicole came to the Powdersville YMCA to get friends to stop bugging her.

"So years later, here I am at my heaviest weight and people are encouraging me to come to the gym," Nicole said. "I said, 'Fine, I'll do it just to hush them.'"

First Nicole tried a POUND class. It wasn't for her. But she kept coming. Then she tried the bikes in the Wellness Center. It wasn't for her.

"I was just praying for an out. I wasn't ready to start working on that healing," Nicole said.

But she kept coming!

One day she noticed what was happening in the outdoor Beast Mode area, and she was intrigued.

"I saw Beast Mode going on, and I thought, 'That's intense,'" Nicole said. "I pulled Tyra (Balcombe) aside and asked her if she could teach me."

Tyra, a Wellness Coach at Powdersville, took Nicole outside, taught her how to handle a barbell and the rest is history.

"I just fell in love, and lifting weights is empowering. Through that I was able to heal," Nicole said.

As of November 2018, Nicole had lost 60 pounds, but she gained infinitely more. She has gained a love for health and wellness. She has gained a renewed sense of pride and self-worth. And she has gained a new group of friends who cheer for her every step of the way.

"I'm big into community, and I think everybody needs a good group of friends in their life," Nicole said. "I've built friends, and we encourage each other, and that goes out from these four walls."