|By: Big Jeff Pearce|
I was farting around on Facebook one day when I saw a status update that had found its way onto my Newsfeed. It was by a woman named Sara-Clare Lajeunesse and this is the update and picture I saw:
“Never give up on yourself. After bulging L5, a fractured left radius & losing my brother in the past 8 months, I had no choice but to focus my training on celebrating the small victories. Some days took 5 steps forward & then 5 steps right back. But other days I took 5 steps forward, 4.5 steps back. Today I beat my original Nov comp numbers for long cycle & ran my fastest 5k ever. It also helps to have amazing people in my life. Thank you guys for your never ending support & love”
Sara-Clare is a 32 year old, pretty blonde woman who stands at 5’5”. She shatters preconceptions that women have to be timid and weak; this woman is about a Strong-Athlete both mentally and physically. When she told me her story, I questioned my own grit; unsure that I could weather the storm that she did.
Sara-Clare comes from a family of athletes. Her little brother was a National Cyclist and a Cross Country Skier, attaining elite levels in both sports, and her older brother a sprinter and track coach for McMaster University. She is an athlete herself, starting out in dance and then making the obvious move to weight training in university. One of her favourite movies is Pumping Iron. Then she went into CrossFit, kettlebells, yoga, olympic weightlifting, gymnastics and hand-to-hand balancing. She has a philosophy that every 6 months or so, she decides to take up something new and learn it. I can’t blame her, how entertaining can dumbbell curls really be?! She now finds herself working for Agatsu, training Agatsu Trainers. Her main focus is on joint mobility and movement. Did I mention that she is also an IKSFA Kettlebell Sport Coach? Well, she is.
Her story starts out with her competing in CrossFit. In May 2010, she was competing in a CrossFit competition in which she sustained a hairline fracture to her Calcaneus. The Calcaneus is your heel bone; in case you’re not 100% up on your anatomy, Einstein. As a result, Sara-Clare had to wear an air cast (boot) for 2.5 months which caused compression on one side of her spine.
After healing up from the foot injury, she moved on to completing her Level 2 Agatsu Certification in Los Angeles. Her back was still bothering her but she still passed the certification with 96% overall. If you’re interested in the list of requirements, here’s a LINK.
From January to June 2011, she competed in many different competitions ranging from the CrossFit Firepower Challenge, Mud Runs, Academy of Lions Foundation Charity Event and so on. All of a sudden, she bulged her L4 and L5 in her back. She says that she can’t remember exactly when it happened, it was gradual. In pain, she hobbled to a Sports Specialist. They told her that she had a weak core and that she had to immobilize herself and heal. Well, that didn’t sound quite right to Sara.
She started to heal herself. She is a mobility and movement specialist, it’s what she does. She checked her ego at the door and utilized her knowledge base:
- She went back to Yoga, Mobility and Joint Prep work
- Took three months off of weights.
- Focused on bodyweight/movement work.
Fast forward to August 23rd, 2011, Sara-Clare’s little brother’s 30th birthday party. Roughly a month later on September 21st, 2011, the unimaginable happens: Sara-Clare’s brother, Joshua Lajeunesse, passed away in his sleep. She was heartbroken. Anyone that has a sibling can relate to how horrible it would be to suffer that kind of loss.
Sara-Clare knew that Josh wouldn’t want her to sit around and miss her competition. She had just overcome her back issues and had begun training for it before he passed away. They had talked many times about the frustrations of healing from an injury while still trying to maintain training. Although Josh was younger than her, he was wise beyond his years. When it came to dealing with struggle of any kind he always had patience, an open heart and mind to listen and help counsel. He was also a social worker at Homeless Shelters in the Hamilton area and a member of the Big Brothers Program. November 19th, 2011 even with all of her injuries and heartache, she got up on the platform because of him. He taught her to not let anything stand in her way and even though people told her she shouldn’t do it, she knew Josh would want her to. Even with a stress fracture in her left radius from trying to make up lost training time.
She competed for a full 10 minutes. She dropped a weight category, because of her radius, to 16 kilos. Before the competition, the pain in her radius wasn’t too bad and very manageable. That changed pretty quickly during the competition. It was now Sara versus 10 minutes of Kettlebell Long Cycle Hell. She had to go 10 minutes with only one hand change. Sara’s strategy was to go 7 minutes on her good arm and then 3 minutes on the stress fractured arm. Just as her luck would have it, after 3 minutes with the good arm, her grip failed; faced with the decision to quit or switch to her injured left side, she chose to switch and deal with 7 minutes of sheer pain. She thought about her brother Josh, and took it one rep at a time. Each rep was for someone she loved or for someone she cared about. She refused to give up.
She reflects on it now admitting that it was not an aggressive moment for her, rather a calm one. She focused on love and self-fulfilment. She admitted to me that shortly after this whole affair, she enrolled into another competition in March 2012; the Canadian Nationals IKFSA. This time, she went up a weight class to 20 kilos with a small tear in her medial deltoid. She took 3 weeks off before the competition to try to heal but she decided to get up and try anyway. Her philosophy, better to get up and try. Do what you can do, rather then sit on the bench in regret wondering what could have been. She had never done 10 minutes with that much weight. Never one to disappoint, she finished 3 reps shy of CMS, the 3rd highest rank that can be awarded.
One thing is glaring in my mind – Sara-Clare has guts. In the time following all of these events, she has assisted in creating The Joshua Lajeunesse Legacy Scholarship for LIFT TORONTO. This is a scholarship available to At-Risk Youth (ages 12 – 19) who are in need of opportunities like this, from The Academy of Lions Lift Toronto Program. It is awarded to the individual who best exemplifies Josh’s love of athletics, community and strength of spirit. If interested, you can check it out here: http://lifttoronto.com/josh-lejeunesse-legacy-scholorship/
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a new contributor to Strong-Athlete.com, Sara-Clare Lajeunesse. You can always check out her blog at http://saraclare.wordpress.com and get more information about Agatsu at http://www.agatsu.com – Welcome Aboard, Sara-Clare!
Jeff Pearce, Editor-In-Chief
Big Jeffrey Pearce, is a physical culture writer, editor, personal trainer, and a lifetime natural bodybuilder from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been bodybuilding and strength training since he was 16 years old and remains a dedicated gym rat to this day. Big Jeff is one of the strongest athletes you will ever meet, routinely bench pressing 500lbs and tossing up 150lb dumbbells for reps in a typical workout. An honors graduate from the University of Toronto, Jeff’s brains also match his brawn. Jeff has a passion for writing and has been in featured in Muscular Development. Jeff also coaches high school kids on the benefits of strength training and nutrition.