University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Photo of Kelly Anne Graham
Kelly Anne Graham. Photo by Carlie Graham.

Making the Best of Whatever Life Hands You

How a phys-ed wilderness survival challenge taught Kelly Anne Graham (BPHE 1987) a lesson about resilience

One summer at U of T, I went with some classmates on a partial-credit canoeing and portaging trip in Algonquin Park. We were tested on our ability to survive in the wilderness, and it was my first time in such a situation. We had to plan our food, navigate with a compass and map, and set up shelters. It took a lot of discipline, collaboration and stamina.

I had always been a sports enthusiast, and the wilderness experience reinforced that I had the ability to endure as an athlete. The lesson stuck with me when I played competitive sports, and later when I took up CrossFit. Two years ago, at age 49, I placed 10th in the international CrossFit Games for women ages 44 to 49. Like the camping trip, it was a feat that required being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I recently injured my cervical spine and had to take a break from CrossFit. This time, persevering in tough circumstances meant something different. I wrote Hope RX’D, which features stories from CrossFit athletes on overcoming obstacles such as depression, cancer and car accidents. The experience proved what I learned at U of T still applies: you have to make the best of whatever life hands you. I recently regained my world ranking and am heading back to the CrossFit Games in July.

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