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Fitness and Photos. Marie-Lyssa Dormeus on new beginnings and following your path

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Photographer: Sweat RX
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When people decide to join a gym, most enter with vague and lofty goals of “losing a few pounds”, “getting healthy”, or “looking good for bathing suit season”. When Marie-Lyssa Dormeus entered the Mansfield Club in January of 2011 she had a very specific purpose; she needed to be able to haul her 20 lb camera set-up around, while filming all day, without getting tired.

When her mother passed away of cancer seven years ago, Marie-Lyssa took up photography as a form of therapy. She discovered a love for the art that was so different from her daily corporate life and eventually, in 2010, decided to try her hand at cinematography. She didn’t want to just be in the sidelines, she wanted to be in charge: holding the camera, setting up lighting, carrying rigs. But camera gear is heavy, and film scenes can be long; Marie-Lyssa quickly discovered that she was not cut out physically for such demands. “That was in

September,” she says, “and for the rest of the year, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”When it came time for Marie-Lyssa to reflect on her year and write new goals for the next, her brief foray with cinematography was forefront on her mind. Having recently read “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy, she was inspired to take a holistic approach to her goal setting, considering her personal, career, and other goals as parts of one whole. “One of the questions I asked myself was: with the choices and habits of my current day to day, what would be the compound effect of these in 3- 5- 10 years from now in personal relationships, career, finances, spirituality, and health and fitness.” It was obvious to Marie-Lyssa where she had been lacking. “I tried to convince myself that it would be ok; we can’t be perfect after all but […] without health you have nothing and yet I was not investing in my health.”

So, she walked into the Mansfield Club athletic center with a simple and specific goal: “I wanted to get back to a point where I could actually be functional. I wanted to not feel intimidated in the male-dominated industry (of cinematography).” She told her story to Roberto the trainer, and he suggested she try this new thing called CrossFit.

A CrossFit class was about to start, so Marie-Lyssa put on her running shoes and tried it on the spot. She made it through one of the suggested three rounds of warm-up (already more than she was accustomed to doing in a session), and learned how to do a push press with a PVC pipe.

Then, the WOD: a 50-40-30-20-10 chipper that would look daunting even to a seasoned CrossFitter. Twenty minutes in, the others had all finished, and Marie-Lyssa was still on the first movement. “Part of me was discouraged, but I was mesmerized,” she says. She announced that she would be back the next day. “I don’t think they believed I would show up!” But she did, and this time she did a little better. “I almost made it through the whole warm-up this time!” she laughs.

Later that month, Marie-Lyssa moved to Toronto armed with a list of CrossFit facilities to try out. With a friend in toe, she went for her first workout at Tidal CrossFit and “never looked back.”

Marie-Lyssa credits Tidal owner Jeff Larsh with helping her overcome not only her physical barriers, but mental and emotional ones, as well. “I was afraid of the barbell,” she says. “I had women telling me things like ‘you’re crazy, you’re going to hurt yourself’ and ‘you’re not an athlete, why don’t you try something more realistic.’ And sometimes I would start to believe them. But Jeff always went the extra mile. He believed in me in ways that I never believed in myself, and he did so by challenging me, by giving me goals, breaking down my fears, getting after me, and even pushing my buttons so that I would get angry and push those negative things out of my head.

“When people told me, ‘you’re not an athlete’, that traumatized me,” she continues. “Jeff had to tell me constantly that I was. But this community is so powerful that now, those things don’t influence me anymore.”

Marie-Lyssa experienced the power of that community in a way that changed her perspective when she attended a local competition, CompWOD’s Tag Team open, to cheer on some gym-mates. “At the competition I saw all of these regular people doing crazy things. They weren’t full time-athletes, none of them were going to the Games, but they were putting it all out there anyway. I thought, this is a choice, and it became a matter of, ‘what choice am I making? Is this something that I’m going to do for myself?’”

That competition reaffirmed Marie-Lyssa’s commitment to her own health and fitness. It Also opened up a new, unexpected path in her professional life as well. Marie-Lyssa had brought her camera to the event: “I took some shots of the girls from our gym,” she says, “then I took some shots of other people. I didn’t know them, but they looked good lifting, etc., so I shot them. I had no notion of what or who was ‘important’.”

When she posted her photos on Facebook, she was flooded with requests for more. “When I woke up the next morning I had 30 new friend requests from people I hadn’t even met!” she recalls. Now, one year later, if you’re a CrossFitter in Ontario or Quebec there’s a good chance that you’ve seen Marie-Lyssa snapping away at a local competition, or even been her muse.

And if so, you know that she can haul her camera set-up around just fine, now.

In the last year, Marie-Lyssa’s fitness photography has exploded. Many of her CrossFit photos have been featured in Sweat Rx and WODpress, she has shot ads for Reebok, and she has found she has a talent for athlete portraiture. You may have seen her shots of Games competitor, Matt Lefave: “Matt looked good from a photography perspective,” she says. “I liked the way he approached the barbell.”

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