In life you hit that brick wall and think it’s impossible to get over it. It’s about training yourself and training your mind to get stronger to get over that wall.
– Kelsey Childs
Wise words from Chappaqua’s Kelsey Childs, who found that by pushing her body to the limit athletically, she could also overcome personal struggles by proving to herself that she could do anything. In doing so, Kelsey has amassed a huge social media following inspired by her honesty, self-awareness, fortitude and perseverance.
From Difficulty Fitting In To Spartan Star
By her own admission, Kelsey, now 21, was “impossible,” with ADHD and extreme impulsivity, disruptive in school and unable to finish anything. Medication did not help, and she struggled with sensory integration, PTSD, depression and anxiety. After Westorchard and one year at Seven Bridges, Kelsey changed schools several times before graduating from a nearby boarding school, needing that structure to force her to follow rules. At age 12, Kelsey’s then 16-year-old sister Alexis suggested they take karate together, and they both immediately fell in love: “it stopped being a sport and became a lifestyle,” Kelsey recalled. But it wasn’t enough; a year later, Kelsey transitioned to mixed martial arts (“MMA”), combining boxing, muay thai (a form of kickboxing), jujitsu and wrestling, before a friend encouraged her to try something new: Spartan racing.
Spartan is an obstacle course race (“OCR”) that includes running with obstacles including monkey bars, rings, wall climbing, mud crawling, and climbing under barbed wire. Races range from three miles with 20 obstacles to 30+ miles with 60 obstacles. Spartan and similar OCR events have millions of participants worldwide of all ages with up to 15,000 people per race. It took Kelsey six hours to complete her first nine-mile race in 2016, but she met wonderful people and was hooked, phasing out MMA training and concentrating on weightlifting, calisthenics and running.
The impact of OCR on her psyche was profound, as Kelsey no longer “felt like a victim” in her own life prone to giving up when things got hard. Whereas school and coping with emotions had been difficult, obstacle course racing helped her train her mind to persevere. “OCR made me feel empowered,” she emphasized. “Look what I just did – I can do anything.”
Kelsey started racing competitively (“elite”) in June 2017 and started college, simultaneously training with a bodybuilder, a triathlete/marathon runner, and at an OCR gym to perfect her obstacle form. With her parents’ blessing, she left school after a year and moved home, working at a gym, training, rock climbing, and running mountain trails on weekends, logging up to 60 miles per week. The Spartan company noticed, hiring her as a social media/marketing intern; she also teaches at an OCR gym and competes every weekend in a different state (or country), now averaging two hours per race.
“It’s OK to Not Be OK”
Kelsey developed her Instagram account (“storm_the_spartan”) realizing that her story of overcoming personal struggles through OCR was moving others to accomplish goals. Along with photos and videos chronicling her feats of strength and endurance, Kelsey shares words of inspiration with her 20,000 followers, reassuring that there’s “always someone there” and offering support. “The OCR world is a very close community, because you have to be somewhat dysfunctional to live such an extreme lifestyle,” she said, “but by proving to themselves that they can do it, they’re proving something to others.” “People approach me at races thanking me and saying my story inspired them to become a different person,” Kelsey said. “There’s so much stigma and hate that people don’t like discussing their struggles, whether it’s PTSD, depression, anxiety, divorce, helplessness. From my posts, others see there’s a way.”
Proud Parents, Future Goals
“Marc and I are in awe of the person that she’s become – the kid who never felt she could succeed in life now inspires so many and there’s nothing that she can’t tackle,” Kelsey’s mom Randi says of her daughter’s strength (physical and mental) and resilience. Randi and her husband Marc are thrilled their daughter has discovered this community and endeavor that has changed her life, recalling when Kelsey’s childhood ADHD and over-enthusiasm frightened other children.
“She was a handful but also so delightful, just bubbling over with personality,” Randi recalled, adding that many of Kelsey’s Chappaqua teachers recognized that and kept in touch for years, even calling her every first day of school to wish her luck. Supporting Kelsey’s break from college, Randi and Marc are also proud that she is using her impressive writing skills to inspire others. “She went from the girl who always said ‘I can’t’ to a young woman who can do anything.”
But the extreme lifestyle of a dedicated Spartan competitor isn’t without pain and injury; Kelsey has thrown her hip out and torn her hands apart and burned them on hot metal. Despite the pain, though, she refuses to give up on an obstacle, aspiring to compete professionally and earn money doing what she loves. But she is compelled to keep inspiring people, committed to helping others as she has been helped by OCR. “I found my people, my community, my purpose.”
Sometimes, all it takes is ONE STEP forward.
The truth is – we are so small in such a big world, but the footprints we leave behind will stay forever.
You’re never going to please anyone. The feeling of not being good enough can become overwhelming but you have to untangle yourself from the expectations around you – and rediscover yourself as an individual.
Aim to make yourself happy and not to make everyone else happy. You ARE good enough, and you don’t need others approval to BE good enough.
One step forward, it’s just one step forward. Don’t overwhelm yourself with thoughts of the future. By thinking about everything that “could be” you are missing the simple joys of this current moment.