It’s getting cooler, and I’m starting to dress in layers. I’m also grazing on Halloween candy and looking forward to Thanksgiving. This is all a recipe for disaster, so I am using this month’s interview for inspiration!
I interviewed community member Crystal L. Denson. Crystal started her journey to a healthier lifestyle a few years back. Since then, she has become active in Hitch Fit and bodybuilding, which includes competing in (and winning) competitions! Crystal has worked hard to meet her health and fitness goals. She is truly amazing!
Are you from the KC area originally? If so, which area? If not, how did you end up here?
No, I grew up on a farm outside a small rural town in central Kansas. I followed my brother’s footsteps through college (Kansas State University) and ended up in Kansas City shortly after I graduated. My brother lived in Kansas City, and I stayed with him for a short period of time until I was able to support myself.
I’ve seen your transformation pictures with Hitch Fit online. Holy cow! What motivated you to begin your fitness journey?
There were several motivating factors to living a healthier lifestyle. First was a declining health profile. My wellness values (blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, etc.) kept going in the wrong direction, regardless of the things I tried. Second, I have a family history of high blood pressure and various cancers. My father died from pancreatic cancer when I was a child, and in late 2015, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer.
In 2015, I attended a Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce B2B [networking event] highlighting one of their new business members, Hitch Fit. I found their message interesting and inspiring, but elected to try a program offered through my work. Fast-forward to June of 2016 and another MAGLCC B2B featuring Hitch Fit. I mustered up the courage to talk to the owner, Diana Chaloux-LaCerte. She suggested I come by the gym and discuss Hitch Fit in more detail.
After my initial meeting with Diana, I signed up for their 16-week program called Lose Weight, Feel Great.
Fast forward: I completed my initial program with one of the Hitch Fit trainers.
I wasn’t quite at my goal weight, so I signed up for one of their online offerings and reached and surpassed my goal. This was about the time Diana encouraged me to try my hand at natural bodybuilding competitions. I ramped up my training regimen and my nutritional plan, I put on my determination cap and went for it – not having any clue what I was getting into. But that is a story for another day.
How did you become interested in strength training?
My interest in strength training stems from my desire to live a healthy lifestyle. Strength training/cardio (exercise) is one leg of a three-legged stool: Mindset, Nutrition and Exercise. One without the other and the stool will inevitably fall. You can’t just be all about strength training without proper nutrition and the mindset to be healthy. All together, they lead to positive results.
You also recently won a bodybuilding competition. Was this your first competition?
Yes, as a matter of fact, I did just recently win. No, this was not my first competition. This most recent competition (Windy City Naturals in Chicago) was my first professional athlete debut. I competed in two previous shows –Mind•Body•Fuel in San Antonio, Texas (March 2017), and the St. Louis Gateway Naturals in St. Louis (September 2017). The show in St. Louis was where I earned my “pro card” and gained the ability to compete as a professional athlete.
How long did you train for this competition?
Each training profile is different, whether it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle or ramp up for a competition. Over the last two years, I have competed three times.
Do you hope to compete in more competitions in the future?
I will have to say, I do like the sport of natural bodybuilding and would like to compete in the near future with the goal of competing at Worlds. Worlds is where professional athletes within my governing organization (International Pro Elite) who have placed in the top half of their category get to compete against each other – kind of a big deal!
Is your wife also interested in fitness?
Yes, my wife is interested in fitness. She has always been very supportive of my new healthy lifestyle.
How long have you been with Cerner, and what is your position?
I have been with Cerner for 6+ years. I am a senior technical solution leader managing a team of system engineers that operationally support Cerner’s cloud infrastructure and mobility applications.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
I would say I enjoy the ability to impact lives through Cerner’s solution implementations. The culture at Cerner allows me to bring my whole self to work, and that frees me up to effectively lead and support my team without societal barriers.
Okay, a fun question. Which bodybuilding competition would you most like to win and why (no limits!)?
I would like to win at Worlds. (I have to qualify first – so stay tuned!) It would be a great honor to compete on that stage with so many great athletes and honor those who have supported me throughout my fitness journey.