Pandemic Doesn’t Stop CrossFit Community from Rallying for Barbells for Boobs

October 18, 2020 by
Photo Credit: Barbells For Boobs (
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In January 2020, Lori Shaw, wife of RP Strength CEO and founder Nick Shaw, was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.

  • “I had pain in my armpit…it’s your armpit so I didn’t even think about breast cancer,” said Lori on the Behind the Bra podcast. She assumed the “nagging pain” stemmed from something she had done at the gym, or maybe from an infected hair follicle. A second reason neither Lori or her husband Nick considered breast cancer was because “the general vibe we kept hearing was (breast cancer tumors) don’t hurt…So the big takeaway, and what the oncologist told us, is that it’s not always the case,” said Nick.
  • In the months following her diagnosis, Lori underwent radiation, surgery and chemotherapy and is “now in the clear,” Nick said.

Giving back: In light of October being breast cancer awareness month, Lori, a cookbook author, quickly put together a mini cookbook featuring 10 simple and healthy recipes and is selling it for $5 on the Renaissance Periodization website. All proceeds go to Barbells for Boobs, a non-profit organization that provides support and education to incorporate physical activity as the foundation for breast cancer reduction, treatment and survival.

  • Though his company has contributed to Barbells for Boobs for the last three years, “It definitely got a lot more personal this year,” Nick said. “So we wanted to do something, and offer a little something in return, to encourage people to donate.”

Remind me: Barbells for Boobs was founded by CrossFit athlete Zionna Hanson in 2009. In the last 11 years, the CrossFit community has raised more than $20 million for the non-profit, mostly through hosting competition fundraisers that often include the classic CrossFit workout Grace — 30 clean and jerks for time.

  • The money the CrossFit community has donated has helped fund more than 52,000 early breast cancer detection services.
  • “In the last two years, however, we have shifted our focus more on supporting women who are going through or who have survived breast cancer,” Hanson said. “We realized we really wanted to give back to those in our community.” This has included financial support, educational resources, and more recently hosting zoom workouts and online happy hours for women affected by breast cancer.

One big thing: Because the global pandemic has hurt so many affiliates financially in recent months, Hanson decided not to ask affiliates to participate in the October fundraising efforts this year. Despite this, 200 gyms still registered with Barbells for Boobs and are hosting fundraisers this month without any prompting.

  • “The community was attacked so hard, so we didn’t put an ask out to affiliates to participate. It just didn’t seem right…but once again, the community stepped up. It has been completely humbling and inspiring, that even after the trauma of the last year, they are still showing up…Two gyms have even raised more than $10,000,” Hanson said.
  • She also gave huge props to the equipment company Eleiko, who recently donated 100 barbells as prizes for top fundraisers.

The bottom line: Despite financial challenges, as well as logistical hurdles in hosting a fundraiser during a pandemic, participating gym owners say breast cancer is just too important to ignore.

  • “It matters to us for many reasons, with most of our folks having some connection to someone who has battled breast cancer or has been affected by it in some way,” said Matthew Gilstrap, the owner of Lander University CrossFit in Greenwood, SC. He is hosting a CrossFit, powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting competition on October 24, adapted to be COVID-compliant.
  • “I know that times have been tough for most everyone in our country financially…and it wouldn’t surprise me if we do come up a little short on our fundraising goals, but that won’t stop us from having a great time at our event and throughout the month,” Gilstrap said.
  • Nick Shaw added: “Breast cancer rates are one in eight women, so that’s a very real number, and the biggest thing that stood out to us this year was pretty much every single person we spoke to knew a close friend or family member impacted by cancer.”

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