How an Amputee Found Strength and an Olympic Future With CrossFit
Natalie Bieule is one of the most inspiring souls I've yet to encounter on this earth. An Olympian, a mother of two, a dancer, a CrossFitter — and one of the strongest women you'll ever meet. The last thing that defines her is her amputee status, and she lives her life as such.
A little back story: Natalie grew up dancing salsa and performed competitively until her career came to a sudden halt in 2001. At the age of 18, she was hit by a drunk driver and lost her right leg. What would have been a career-ending accident was merely a minor setback for Natalie: despite the doctor telling her she could never salsa again, she committed herself to adapting, changing, growing, and never taking no for an answer.
"I want to be a role model for my girls," said Natalie, speaking of her two daughters — 7-year-old Ava and 1-year-old Valentina. "You can't tell me no. I'm not setting any limits for myself." She tells her girls, "Mommy might be missing a leg, but Mommy will still jump boxes and lift those weights, because nobody is going to tell me no, just like no one is going to tell you no!"
She truly has no limits. She still dances and challenges herself constantly. After her first child was born, Natalie jumped into CrossFit. "It was a way for me to prove myself," she said — and a way for her to continue being a great example to her daughter.
With CrossFit, Natalie loved how she could take small "baby steps," yet see huge improvements — but she was breaking prosthetics left and right. In her mission to find the right kind of leg for her intense exercise, she met Paralympian April Holmes, who invited her to try out for Team USA. She tried discus, and six months later, Natalie had the American record and made the national team. Talk about overcoming obstacles!
Natalie's schedule is now a balance of two-a-days (two workouts in one day) and two little girls, balancing time with her husband and children, weightlifting, and eating healthy. Something I loved about Natalie is how she'll work out with her oldest daughter, Ava, and will reschedule her training retreats around Ava's field trips. "Family first," said Natalie. "Don't let anything interfere with that. Find that goal, the thing that inspires you . . . the one thing I look forward to is making them proud."
With her girls as her inspiration, Natalie has found the vigor and motivation necessary to train for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Her favorite workouts include weight-training, Spinning, and CrossFit . . . with CrossFit being her favorite, for very special reasons. "It's one of those sports that you surprise yourself," she said.
After only three months of trying the sport, she noticed a huge difference in her training and started "crushing numbers." She mentioned, "I would see someone doing one of those one-legged squats, thinking 'How in the world are you doing that?!' but now I am doing it too." Natalie also loves how CrossFit is so malleable for what she calls adapted athletes. "I don't like the word disability," she said. "I was competing against able-bodied women in CrossFit and taking podium . . . CrossFit has that floor playground for everybody."
When she's not showing her daughters a positive example through fitness, they're eating healthy together as family. They cook as a family and always eat a healthy breakfast — Natalie loves "smart pancakes" and Special K with berries. She's looking forward to her whole family being in Rio to cheer her on — and we're looking forward to cheering her on, too.