"Bear Hugs Will Have to Do": A Visit from Sheila Barden

"Bear Hugs Will Have to Do": A Visit from Sheila Barden

Earlier in the month, we were lucky enough to have a visit from one of our favorite people: Sheila Barden. Anyone that spends more than 20 seconds around Sheila can see why she is so awesome, her big, bold, and lovable personality makes her easy to be around. Well, except your abs usually hurt from laughing so much.

While she was in town, we got to spend a lot of time with her, shoot some photos, jump on trampolines, lift some weights, shoot video, and make some cool memories. Here are a few fun shots from the weekend:

Just like exercising for time, Sheila would do a better job writing about her experience than we could.  

Below is what she wrote on her blog about her time with us:

I am blessed with a life that I often feel like I don't deserve. A life full of love, laughter, travels, adventures and people who love me more than I can comprehend.

I love easily, but I don't share my love easily, if that makes sense. I am guarded, apprehensive and quiet with my love. I love more people than I will ever tell, but I am surrounded by people who love me for me and who constantly tell me and show me in ways that I would never even think of or imagine. In ways that make me feel selfish for not being better at expressing my love. Which brings us to Louisville.

A last minute flight was booked, a spare bedroom cleaned and stocked with a motivational welcome basket, an amazing photographer and an equally amazing videographer called in quickly, a seat reserved at Cycle Bar, and a CrossFit gym that is normally rowdy and wild, quieted so I could share my story. A story that makes me realize just how selfish I am during my training and competitions.

The Natural Grip was the second company to ever reach out to me, to see a sparkle and drive in me that I barely believed in at the time. The owner, Ashley, believed in me, in my dreams and goals, and most importantly, in my journey. I joined the Natural Grip team in 2014, and I've ripped my hands exactly zero times since then, but more importantly, I've felt more love, support and encouragement in every aspect of my life since being welcomed with open arms into the Natural Grip family.

The Natural Grip headquarters are located in Louisville, KY, and Ashley has been trying to get me to Kentucky for years. Finally, with a quick last minute decision and the awesome ability of Ashley to be way more organized than I can ever comprehend, I had a flight ticket in my hand and I was suddenly standing in the home of the Derby, Sluggers, KFC and The Natural Grip.

Ashley met me in the airport. As in she parked the car, walked in and waited for me outside security. Yes, you read that right. She didn't say "text when you land, I'll be in a blue Charger when I drive up." No, she waited for me with open arms and a huge smile and helped carry my bags to the car. I just want you to understand what kind of person Ashley is, because she is truly one in a million. A bright star in the middle of a dull night's sky.

She planned out every hour of my 49 hour stay, and made sure we got the most out of my trip. She made me feel like a rockstar, but mostly she made me feel like family, and to me, being treated like family is far more important than being treated like a superstar. And her husband Justin, don't even get me started, I could write a full book on how amazing he is. The perfect balance to Ashley. A perfect example of ying and yang.

From my first ever Cycle Bar experience (and then twice more), to a ribeye as big as my face, to the Dry Bar and a trip to Nike, to driving me back and forth from CrossFit Bluegrass, a trampoline park, home cooked meals, car ride discussions, interviews and photo shoots, board games with the Drake family, puppy snuggles, early morning wake up calls and late night talks. But the highlight of the trip was when I walked into The Natural Grip Headquarters and I met the staff that works so hard to protect my (and your) hands, and then they took the time out of their busy day to help me make my very own set of custom grips. I've always loved my grips, but after trying to make my own grips, and having to have them remade after every step of the way because I would screw it up so bad, I have a new level of respect and love for my grips.

I gave the Drake family huge hugs when I left and said thank you with watery eyes and a huge smile, because the best way I know how to express love is through touch, but it never feels like enough. I always want to leave more, I want to leave a piece of me behind, because the love that they have shared with me over the years is now part of my soul, and everywhere I go, no matter how far I travel, they are forever part of the journey that has shaped me into the person I am today. It feels selfish to take pieces of them with me when I have nothing to leave behind with them. I hope the bear hugs I left them with will last until I see them again.

Thank you Ashley, Justin and Ellie