We do things differently in Austin. “Dressing up” means Lululemon’s lifestyle wear or a pair of darkwashed skinny jeans. A walk or run at Lady Bird Lake smack dab in the middle of the work day is completely normal. Setting up your own office space at a local coffee shop is welcomed with open arms. A “cold winter” is defined as 50-degree temperatures with an occasional gust of wind. We have communities of hippies, hipsters, artists and fitness gurus— most of which are progressive about being expressive. The art form of tattoos, in particular, are part of the cultural landscape here in the heart of Texas. Walk into any gym, yoga studio or fitness facility, and it’s highly likely you will encounter someone with a sleeve, a blade, or at least a bicep displaying some personalized art work—many with a story behind them.
I have a handful of tattoos. I'll give you the top three most meaningful.
My dad grew up on a dairy cow and horse breaking farm. When he was 5 years old, his dad and uncle were kicked and killed by a horse they were training. At that point, his family of five boys took a serious turn. I now have that brand as a reminder of how quickly life can change. Also, if that had never happened, my dad may have never turned to sports, become a coach, and led me to where I am today.
I got this a few years back on my birthday. My parents came to the studio and wrote the phrases on my ankles. “Grow up” for my dad, the hard-nosed coach, and “stay young” for my mom, the dreamer. The artist tattooed them onto me right there. I think as fitness professionals we have to walk that line between fun and work every day. I know that I do.
This November, I hit 10 years of being a vegan. During that time, my diet has not slowed me down as an athlete. The leaping bunny is a vegan symbol/logo, and my artist helped me to create a more realistic version of it. He leaps right across my chest. And, the Gandhi quote “Action Expresses Priorities” applies to all aspects of life, but fitness in particular. You can talk about goals all you want, but until you take action, it isn’t truly a priority.
My first tattoo was a vine that has grown up my side and over my chest over the years. Each leaf represents something in my life, family or important moments. I have 30 total leaves so far. A few of them are blank for my niece and nephews. When they grow older, they’ll help me pick out the designs. I also have one that’s the color of a rusty barbell to represent fitness and an atom symbol for my time at Atomic Athlete.
1. The tattoo for my mother is a combination of her favorite flowers, the iris and daffodil. Both grow in our yard, and she’d cut them and fill the house with them during my birthday month. My mother is my hero and my role model—I try hard to live up to the woman that she is.
2. The tattoo for my dad is his signature that he uses on all the cards and notes he’s ever written me. Without his tough love I wouldn't be the strong woman I am today. My tattoos for my parents are daily reminders of their love and support, all they have sacrificed and done for me and my brother, which has afforded me the opportunities I've had in life.
3. My Hawk is my spirit animal. I can't sit still. I always am moving. I'm always dreaming of the next step, my next project, another place to explore, new things to try. I have the hardest time focusing. My hawk represents focus and vision.
4. My kickboxing upper half/ lower half dagger chick is a representation of the fighter embedded in me. My parents put me in martial arts as a young child in order to learn discipline, courage and have the ability to defend myself and others. I was feisty growing up and have spent my entire life studying different forms of martial arts on and off when I have time. She's not just a representation of the physical fight but the mental and emotional fight that is necessary to achieve your dreams.
My body is my canvas. I have the ability to be, look and make it whatever I choose as long as I'm willing to put in the work. Each of my tattoos (with the exception of one from a wild spring break) means something important to me. They don't define me but remind me of my journey thus far.
I have a chest piece of a winged skull with red roses, flames, and a banner across the underside that says “earthbound.” This tattoo was inspired by the loss of both my parents to cancer, my father in 2009 to bladder cancer and my mom to pancreatic cancer in 2010. I took care of both of them, and the experience brought me to believe that we are all on a metaphorical (and literal) earthbound trajectory, and so we might as well live it up.
I also have a rib piece of a bald eagle standing on an American shield, which is about gratitude that I was fortunate enough to have been born into a country that has afforded me so much opportunity.
My first tattoo was two of my initials on my shoulder blade, done with a homemade gun when I was 16. Seemed like a good idea at the time…WRONG!
My tattoos thus far are a reflection of my experiences, whether it be getting sober, coming to appreciate being alive, or feeling gratitude for all the opportunities I have. All of which are related.
Yes, I will most likely get my other rib done, although I haven't yet decided what. And probably more after that, slowly and deliberately.
I have two tattoos. A matching set on my shins and one going down my back.
My coach, Dave Hall of Redside CrossFit, was the tattoo artist—he has a parlor out of the gym. The shins were his idea at first, but I wasn't sure since it was my first tattoo. Finally, I decided I really wanted them. This piece is really unique because not many people have their shins tattooed. They’re mandala flowers at the top and lotus flowers at the bottom. I picked the pattern to connect them.
At first I got them because I thought it would be different and the artwork would be really awesome. They mean a lot more to me now, as the mandala is a symbol that represents the universe—extremely complex and intricate, but everything always comes full circle. There are cycles that we go through in life that mirror the universe, and I feel like I've just gone through a cycle and started a new one. The lotus flower is a symbol of overcoming obstacles. It grows from the bottom of cloudy pools of water through the muck and blossoms into a beautiful flower at the top.
The other tattoo on my back is Polynesian tribal. I picked out each piece of it as the different symbols have meaning. It is symmetrical like my shins, and both pieces are like my armor. The shark teeth represent ferocity and adaptability. The spear heads express courage, dominance, and willpower. The turtle shell represents a shield as well as harmony and long life. I also had a lotus flower out at the top to match my shins and for the same reasons.
I went through a lot last year and trained really hard for the CrossFit Open. Everything sort of came to a head on February 6 when I tore my ulnar collateral ligament in my elbow. It was a complete tear, and I thought I was going to have to have surgery. Everything really started crashing around me. It became really hard for me to coach, and I had to cancel my gymnastics seminars among other personal things. Two weeks later things started to resolve themselves, I didn't need surgery, and personal issues were passing. I went through a really tough time, but now I am better for it. Even though I can't compete in the open this year, I don’t see it as a disappointment. I was using working out as a distraction and ignoring other parts of my life. Getting hurt helped me take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It is an opportunity to move forward and direct my energy into other things until I am healed.
That’s an easy one. The day Brittaney and I got married, we had a small wedding—just her and I and our photographer. We got all dressed up and went to the Cultural Center in Chicago and got married, took pictures and then, of course, went to the bar. We called up some friends to meet us, and when they came out, that’s when we told them we just got married. We hung out for a bit, celebrated, and then went to get tattoos. I have a “B” on my ring finger, and it rules.
Stories?! Oh jeez, stories are for people who overthink their tattoos.
One tattoo is this battleship on my forearm, and I got it because I nailed this job interview. Nailed it!
Another tattoo is a small white star on the inside of my left elbow. The shop should’ve won an award for “Dirtiest Tattoo Shop in the World,” but my sister and I got matching star tattoos there anyway, and it was a little terrifying. We tried to convince the artist to let us do the tattoos on each other, but for some reason, that was where he drew the line.
I have a tattoo of a smoking hot Viking lady with big boobs just because I had some time to kill.
I also have one that is a screaming Native American skull, and I tell people that it’s my mom when she’s mad. She loves that joke.
My first ever tattoo was a dragon on my back. I got it cause as a kid I always thought that’s what you get when you get a tattoo. You know, like a snake around a dagger or something like that. Now I look at it, and it screams 1997! People tell me to consider getting it fixed or touched up or whatever, but screw it, it’s been there for a long time and it proves I’ve been alive for a while.
My favorite part about tattoos isn’t the story that they may define, but the glimpse of a timeline into a person’s life. You can probably tell a lot about who I was by looking at these things. I have serious respect for women who are rocking that lower back tattoo, because I know where and when they’re coming from. Now I realize we should just get a new tattoo every six months whether we need it or not.
I have quite a few, but the most meaningful would be: my traditional MOM tattoo on my arm; the words “Passion Over Consequence”; “Choice” on my hand; a wolf that says, “I’m going to show you how great I am”; a phrase that says “Live with Passion”
“Choice” is a reminder that I always have a choice regarding where I am and what I want in life. I can achieve that by simply making the choice to work for it, to do what it takes to get it. I was young and dumb, and heavily into drugs—meth especially—and was a regular user, but I was able to call it quits all at once. I would never say I was addicted because I made the choice to do the drugs every single time, and I eventually made the choice I didn’t want that life anymore. I quit in a single day and never did it again. No matter what, I have a choice to be a kind human, a brave human, and to make the right choice.
“Live with Passion” means exactly what it says: If you aren’t living passionately then what the f*** are you doing?! Passion is what makes life worth living, so find what makes your heart beat faster and bury yourself in it. Let it bleed out of you.
They don’t define me. I get mine based on what makes me happy. It’s eye candy for me, and I want something that’ll make me smile when I see it.
Simply put, ink is art. It doesn’t have to have some deep meaning behind it to be cool or worth getting. If you like it, and it makes you happy, ink it up. I have a doughnut and dumbbell because I like it. That’s all. I have a bomb on my hand for no reason other than I like pop art.
Inking people up is a physical feat in itself. Check out our exclusive interview with tattoo artist, Erik Axel Brunt, who speaks to the stamina needed for his job and how he stays in shape. He also gives great advice on what factors you should consider prior to getting a tattoo.
AFM: What kind of fitness level is required of a tattoo artist?
The level of fitness for a tattooing profession is fairly minimal, other than a strong lower back. We have a necessity to lurch forward to get over our client to apply the tattoo most effectively, so back strain is a real concern… Though I've found having overall body strength, durability, and endurance has reaped unbounded benefits in my tattoo career. Being that I'm obsessively fit, I have zero aches and pains related to tattoo work.
AFM:What do you personally do to stay in shape and why? How does this effect your profession?
I train endurance/strength at Atomic Athlete, Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Gracie Humaitá Austin, Muay Thai kickboxing at Austin Kickboxing Academy, and Krav Maga at Fit & Fearless Austin. The diverse training regimen keeps my body versatile, and far more limber than solely gym-style weight training, like I formally did. I used to have a sore lower back fairly often when I only threw weights around and rode bicycles for cardio; but with my more core based functional strength training regiment, I have zero body issues related to tattooing.
AFM: Is carpal tunnel a common issue for tattoo artists? If so, how is it managed?
Carpal tunnel is a serious issue- I have eliminated that effect on my body through the diverse use of my hands via grips! Gripping different items, materials, and people through training gives my hands/forearms a dynamic workout daily that offers a variety of daily movements to break monotony that caused carpal tunnel.
AFM: What's your best piece of advice to anyone considering getting a tattoo for the first time?
My best advice for the first time tattoo recipient is to get to know your artist before sitting down with him/her. I always advise setting up a consultation to meet and greet, if you will; because not every artist can do the tattoo that you may want. Every artist have preferences, and the tattoo recipient should as well.