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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, June 14, 2024
The Echo

More than just CrossFit: A way to give life

By Braden Ochs | Echo

Learning to become a trainer benefits more than simply one person. Sometimes, trainers use exercise as a way to change lives and help people discover their true selves. Because of how exercise can change lives, some future trainers want to use CrossFit as a way of ministering and helping people.

Junior Christiana Phillips is one of those future trainers. As an exercise science major, her dream is to become a trainer to help people with special needs. One of the biggest inspirations for this dream is her younger sister, Briana, who has Down syndrome.

"My sister inspires everything that I do," Phillips said.

Growing up, Phillips went to countless doctor appointments with Briana and learned a lot about her sister's Down syndrome. Doctors told Briana she needed to exercise better and keep her body functioning properly. She was willing to do so, but hadn't found the right opportunity.

Phillips became frustrated that no one was willing to spend time patiently teaching Briana to exercise, and they couldn't find an environment right for Briana for the right price. She helped Briana in any way she could, but she wanted to learn more about the human body so she could better help her sister, and hopefully, in the future, help other people learn how to live better.

When Phillips stepped onto Taylor's campus, she decided to major in biology pre-med because she knew it would teach her the ins and outs of the human body. She was ready for med school and believed God had a plan for her there. However, one year into biology, she didn't think it was a major that fit her.

"There was something lacking in (biology)," Phillips said. "It was my passion (for biology)."

Junior Christiana Phillips cheeses with her younger sister, Briana Phillips. (Photograph provided by Christiana Phillips)

Not sure what to do, Phillips talked to her family and closest friends about what she should do next. Common threads throughout her discussions included two facts: her love for exercise and her love for people with special needs.

At the end of the fall semester of her sophomore year, Phillips changed her major to exercise science within a span of two weeks. Exercise science provided her with classes teaching her the art of training and exercise. She had CrossFit experience in high school and taught a weights class, so exercise was something she was already passionate about.

During the summer of 2017, Phillips decided she would go for the Level 1 CrossFit certification, the basic CrossFit certification. This helped her learn everything from the basics of movement to nutrition to programming a course to best maximize an athlete's fitness journey. She studied for weeks, went to a seminar led by CrossFit athletes and took a test allowing her to show competency in training others. Eventually, she plans on taking the Level 2 certification, which is for athletes who want to be CrossFit trainers.

Many people have a problem with CrossFit because of its tight-knit community. However, Phillips does CrossFit for deeper reasons than simply community. She works hard to be able to train people with special needs. It's difficult for her to see those with special needs become discouraged because they cannot exercise the same ways everyone else can.

"I want to create an environment where community is fostered, healthy lifestyles are implemented and where those labeled with 'special needs' can find the strengths within them," Phillips said. "I want to help them conquer obstacles and reach goals so that they can see for themselves that they are able."

Thanks to Briana's inspiration, Phillips hopes to help those with special needs succeed in their lives, and she wishes to minister to those who may think they do not have ways of exercising. CrossFit training is more than lifting weights and competing. Trainers use CrossFit as a means of helping others succeed.

For more information about CrossFit, visit