Tatum Barber

It’s me, Tatum B. Or Tate, as most people call me. I am an adaptive athlete, 25 years old, and I want to win the WheelWOD Games this July. I was born in Birmingham, Alabama with Spina Bifida, which impairs my lower body, mainly my ability to walk.

Now that that’s out of the way…

I started CrossFit when I was about 20 years old. I wasn’t in shape, had never done sports growing up, but I was fatly tired of being fat and tired. Plus, my dad was doing it, and the naysayers told me it was much too dangerous for someone like me to do it (insert gif of the Trunchbull eating chocolate whilst barking “mmm much too good for children”). Naturally, that last part was all the convincing I needed. I instantly fell in love with the sport.

Let’s be honest, if you never believed in love at first sight, you’ve obviously never tried CrossFit. Don’t believe me? Ask a CrossFitter. Someone would be happy to tell you all about it.

And thus I began my fitness journey. About a year into it, I started looking up competitions that had a division for me to compete in, which is where I found Wodapalooza’s Adaptive Seated RX (seated, meaning wheelchair) division, but by that time it had already past. So, I decided that I wanted to qualify the following year in 2017. I was well on my way to being in the kind of shape I needed to be in when I hit a bump.

I ended up being hospitalized on-and-off for about 2 weeks time and resting at home for the better part of 2 more. By the time I started my recovery, I had lost a little over 20 lbs from not eating--fat and a lot of muscle. I’ve had 20-something surgeries and hospital visits in my lifetime, but this was the worst I’d had in years. I’d lost the strength I’d worked so hard to gain. To put it plainly, it sucked.

I did the only thing I knew to do and got back to the gym. I have learned over the years that there is no sense in not trying your hardest to get your shit together. Take it this way--if you fall on the ground, are you just going to sit where you landed the rest of your life? No? That’s what I thought. Me neither, hun. As my grandmother told me when I was very young, “You just gotta put on your big girl panties and deal with it.” So that’s what I did. I stopped feeling sorry for myself, and I got back to CFR.

Remember my goal to qualify for WZA 2017? I did the qualifier workouts for that, and guess what? I qualified. I met my goal. I went to Wodapalooza that year. And I got 4th place. I was so proud of how far I’d come! I also came to realize that I LOVE competing. So, I trained the whole rest of the season for the Open to go to the WheelWOD Games. I did well enough to advance to the Regionals when disaster struck yet again, and I had to have a surgery which I couldn’t recover from in time to do the Regionals WODs. I was perturbed if anything, but not deterred. (Semi)-Pro tip: Never let yourself be deterred from something you love and enjoy.

I set my sights on the following year of competitions. I qualified again for Wodapalooza 2018 and wound up in 5th place...aka dead-ass last. I hated that. I still hate that. It doesn’t sound as nice. I spent weeks playing in my head what went wrong and what I should have done. And then I had another self-realization moment--I stopped worrying about the past and started using it to help me plan for the future. I started working on the weaknesses I found the hard way, I started getting lean, and I started dialing in my nutrition.

Once again, I set my sights on the Open, and again, I qualified for Regionals. This time, I was going to make it. So help me, God aka Greg Glassman (just kidding). I did the workouts and redid them until I got them right and I was sure I did them just as well if not better than the other girls and I was sure I had the best performance I could have possibly gotten out of myself.

And guess what else? My hard work paid off! I earned 2nd place in Regionals, and 3rd place in the world, and a spot in the coveted WheelWOD Games! Let me tell you, nothing tastes as good as earning something you work hard for, especially when the waters are rough and you come out on top anyway. I can honestly say I’m so proud of myself, but I still have a lot of work to do.

The WheelWOD Games is the closest thing that the Adaptive division is going to get to the actual CrossFit Games--for now, anyway. I’m at the forefront of the Adaptive CrossFit movement. I’m one of the first competitors in my division for the sport. I’m not saying I’m “all that” by any means, but I’m trying to be (just kidding, again).

Together with WheelWOD, Chris Stoutenburg, Kevin Ogar, Alec Zirchenbach, Steph Hammerman, and Logan Aldridge, Adaptive Athletes are fighting for a future division in the CrossFit Games. And it all starts with competitions like Wodapalooza and The WheelWOD Games in Canada.

For me, competing in CrossFit isn’t just about me. It’s about growing the sport for generations to come. It’s about welcoming other athletes into a sport that’s helped me gain confidence, self-love, and ever-important physical strength. I compete for me, yes, but I also compete to show others, disabled and not, that hey, this is what happens when you stop feeling sorry for yourself and get moving. If I can do it, you can too. You just have to put on your big girl panties and deal with it.

Do you know someone that you think would be a good addition to the Kill Cliff Warriors? Email connor@killcliff.com and let him know!