I grew up in Colorado and enjoyed an active lifestyle of hiking, snowboarding, and rock climbing, I also wrestled and ran track and Cross Country. In undergrad, at Colorado State I began doing mixed martial arts and running half-marathons. When I moved across the country for graduate school at Florida State in 2013, I did not know anyone and was looking for a new challenge. So I started CrossFit, and fell in love with it. I loved the challenging workouts, trying to be the best I could be, and the new level my fitness was being taken to. Most importantly, I loved the people. I formed close bonds with most people there and even though I was 1,500 miles away from my family, I began to feel at home. I enjoyed CrossFit so much and believed in the methodology that I received my L1 Trainer Certificate 9 months after starting.
On July 3, 2014 my dad and I sat in a doctor’s office and listened as the doctor told us I had a hereditary disease known as Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON). Along with this I was told that LHON was extremely rare, the vision loss I had been experiencing would only get worse, and there was no known cure.
I was 23 years old and had 20/20 vision my entire life I was half way done with graduate school, and living over 1,500 miles away from my family.
The doctor’s revelation felt similar to losing a dear friend or family member who had been with me every minute of every day and was all I knew. I was flooded with denial, tears, and so many questions.
How would I finish graduate school?
How would I continue to work?
How would I get around without being able to drive?
Why was this happening to me?
Returning to Tallahassee after this diagnosis, one of the greatest support systems I had was from those at my CrossFit gym. Everyone was super supportive, and always willing to assist with transportation. CrossFit was also a place where I could feel like my old self as I was still able to complete the majority of the movements. The only things that changed were wall balls, running with a partner on a tether instead of solo, and needing a coach to let me know my rowing distance.
What I could have never known at the time of the diagnosis was how great of a blessing losing my sight was, and all the ways my life would improve because of it. With the support and assistance of God, my family, and friends, I was able to return to graduate school and obtain my Masters. This has allowed me to gain employment at large public universities and live out my passions while using my education in the work I do. I have also been able to continue my active lifestyle of running, hiking, and CrossFit.
One of the greatest gifts has been recognizing the way my story is not just about me, but about all of us. Through the loss of my sight, I have learned some of life’s most important lessons. Nothing brings me greater joy than the opportunity to share my story and these lessons. I have been blessed to do so with a variety of audiences covering a range of topics all around the nation.
My first time at CrossFit Clintonville I was just dropping in during one of my visits with my fiancé. I distinctly remember the workout (isabel), the coach (Hannah), and the fact that another coach (Sam) gave me a ride back afterwards so I would not have to call an Uber. When I finally got a job in Columbus, I knew which gym I wanted to join and had no need to look anywhere else. I have loved my time here and have really appreciated all of the support both in and out of the facility. I have been reached out to by people just offering to pick me up, and taken home by people who were strangers an hour before, but friends at the end of the ride.
I do not share my story as a cry for attention or as a means for pity, but one of triumph. I am proud of who I am. I lost my sight, but gained my vision, and that is the greatest gift in the world.
If you want to know more about my story please visit my website aaronreistad.com to check out my blogs, videos and more. Also feel free to friend me on Facebook or follow on Instagram @aaronreistad!