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83 pounds in 12 months

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a high intensity strength and conditioning program. Workouts are typically short and intense and are very rarely the same, though they do follow the same flow. Classes start with an intense 15-minute warm up.

“Lots of people come in and joke that our warm up is their workout,” said Melissa Matthews, one of the owners and trainer at the gym.

A skill or strength-training portion follows. “That tends to be more lifting weights, or skill based movements, like climbing rope or jump roping,” Matthews said. “The third part is the workout of the day, which is between 5 and 20 minutes long and includes full body weight training or cardio. An example of a 20 minute workout would be to do as many reps as you can of five pull ups, 10 pushups, 15 air squats. Keep doing that over and over again for 20 minutes and then you get a score based on how many reps you did.”

At CrossFit Venture in Avon, classes take place seven days a week, starting at 5 a.m. The last class is at 6:30 p.m. There are around 90 consistent members and class sizes vary from 5 to 15 people. Members range in age from 13 to 73, though most people fall in the 35 to 45 years old category. The average cost (if you sign a contract) is $135 per month. There’s a 20 percent discount for teachers, firefighters, police, military and students.

A lot can change in 12 months. Just ask Ashley Perrigaud, 30, who has marked the change using a scale. The Edwards resident has shed 83 pounds from her 4-foot, 9-inch frame. As such, life is entirely different now.

For one, “my afternoons and weekends aren’t spent on the couch with a plate of nachos” anymore, she said.

Her breaking point came after a visit to her doctor.

“I had a lot of medical issues going on related to being overweight,” she said. “Weird skin lesions, acid reflux, joint problems; I was constantly in pain. The doctor said ‘you’re too large.’ When I stepped on the scale and it said nearly 250 pounds, that was a breaking point.”

Around the same time, Perrigaud was going through a divorce and taking care of her 3 1/2 year old daughter, Sylvia, alone.

“I realized I’m all that’s left for Sylvia,” Perrigaud said.

That knowledge lit a fire inside, Perrigaud said; she re-enrolled in college to finish her associates of arts degree at Colorado Mountain College and she agreed to take a CrossFit Venture class in Avon, something her longtime friend April Ramker, a trainer at CrossFit, had been pushing her to do for nearly a month.

“I had basically tried everything: Diets, going to the gym by myself, yoga, pilates,” Perrigaud said. “Nothing worked.”

Finally, she took Ramker’s advice.

‘The first step is the hardest’

Walking through the doors to CrossFit Venture in Avon for the first time was the hardest part. She was nervous, especially since she’d Googled CrossFit and seen “a bunch of very fit people lifting weights and running,” she said.

“I was the biggest girl there when I walked in,” Perrigaud remembered. “And for any person, it’s hard to walk into a gym when you haven’t been in one for many, many years. But once I came in and met everyone who was so nice and so supportive, I stopped feeling intimidated.

“The first step is the hardest, but once you’re in there and meet everyone, you realize it’s a community and it’s awesome, so you keep coming back,” she continued.

And she kept coming back. You can find Perrigaud at CrossFit Venture each morning at 9, six or seven days a week (the trainers recommend a minimum of three days per week, max of six).

The first 45 pounds came off fairly easily for Perrigaud, who at first didn’t change her diet much. But she got stuck at around 190 pounds. “I hit a wall because I wasn’t paying attention to my nutrition,” she said. “I couldn’t get anywhere.”

Now along with working out, Perrigaud counts calories, weighs her food and eats an 80 percent paleo diet — basically vegetables, meat, some fruits and nuts. The hardest thing for her to give up was cheese and pasta, but now Perrigaud has a new favorite vegetable — Brussels sprouts, which she either grills or steams.

Along for the journey

It’s the sense of community at CrossFit that Perrigaud credits as making the difference.

“Ashley’s experience is the perfect example of why CrossFit isn’t just for athletes or ultra-athletic people,” said Melissa Matthews, one of the owners and trainers at CrossFit in Avon. “It’s so good for people like Ashley who need accountability. Having everyone know where she started, know where she’s going, and be alongside her on that journey.”

In some cases, literally alongside her. Even when that meant doing burpees, a full body exercise used in strength training that even people in fantastic shape sometimes dread.

“Most people hate burpees. They see it on the board and they instantly complain,” Matthews said.

But after Perrigaud hit her 75-pound weight loss goal, nearly every gym member did 75 burpees to celebrate. “Not only did they not complain, people were smiling,” Matthews said.

‘An all-encompassing change’

Smiling is something that’s always come naturally to Perrigaud, but especially now. A wide grin lit up her face this past weekend when she walked across the stage to accept her Associates of Arts degree.

“I’m happier,” she said. “It’s been an all-encompassing change. Now I’m able to be a better mom, a better student, a better girlfriend. I have a clear head. I can sleep well at night.”

Her journey isn’t over yet. This fall, Perrigaud will move to Denver with daughter Sylvia and her boyfriend, Rane. She plans to attend Metro State, where she’ll work on getting her bachelor’s degree in social work, hopefully followed by a master’s degree in psychology.

While she has yet to figure out where she’ll live, she does know where she’ll be working out.

“I’ll be going to CrossFit Eminence in Thorton,” she said. It’s important to me to keep going with that kind of community, that kind of gym.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at cschnell@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2984.

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