Workouts with a purpose

Southern Style CrossFit provides modified training sessions for teen cancer survivor

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Left to right are trainer Lana Trussell, Levi Bates and Southern Style CrossFit Owner Misty Thomas. (Sara Gladney for The Cullman Tribune)

ADDISON, Ala. – Southern Style CrossFit Owner Misty Thomas has recently begun offering modified training sessions for a local teen. The gym, located in Addison, welcomed 19-year-old cancer survivor Levi Bates, and is providing specialized services to meet his unique needs.

Diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma at the age of 10, then leukemia at 14, Bates said he believes a previous injury may have triggered his illness.  

“I got hit by a baseball and kind of think that might have triggered the mass that’s in my airway,” he said.

Bates said chemotherapy weakened his muscles, making it harder for them to work. He has been in a wheelchair since his first diagnosis, and his doctors were not sure if he would ever be able to walk again. After 12 sessions at CrossFit with Thomas, he said he feels he has made more progress than after five years of his usual physical therapy, which is the same workout over and over. He believes it does not build his muscles as well as the CrossFit workouts.

Thomas said of her CrossFit sessions with Bates, “It’s constantly varied movements. It’s functional movements, so it’s movements that we use every day of our life.”

The workouts work all of the muscles and are usually high intensity, she explained. Bates’ sessions are modified to match his abilities. He is always moving with weights attached to him. For his last session he did weighted calf raises, deadlifts with kettlebells and squats with assistance.

“It’s different every week here. We don’t really do the same thing all the time. That’s where it probably varies from PT,” said Thomas. “Here we try to build strength. He needs strength in his core to be able to walk again. He’s strong already, but we’re trying to build that core strength. He had ankle braces when he started with me. He’s had a lot of progress in just the 12 weeks with me from having his braces and taking them off, and walking – he walks with my weighed vest with his walker and with us helping him.”

Thomas said that because of her own multiple sclerosis diagnosis, helping Bates means a lot to her. Her doctors told her to stay active in order to keep her ability to walk. Before she opened her own CrossFit gym, she had hoped to work with people like herself, including those disabled or with weakened muscles.

“When I got the email from his mom, I sat out there in my driveway and cried,” Thomas said.

Bates said he believes that he will be able to walk again, and he is working hard to make it happen. In addition to his PT and CrossFit workouts, he has workout equipment at home. He said he has become a big fan of CrossFit and watches CrossFit videos in his spare time.

Thomas shared, “I had never done CrossFit until three years ago, and that’s been the best thing for my situation, so that’s why I got into it because I want to help others whether it’s to lose weight or help people like myself. No matter who you are, the results are incredible.”

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