Written By: Rose Fong
The race is a hurricane, a cyclone of steel. Christmas Abbott, the first female pit crew member in NASCAR, describes the rush of the race.
She says the pit stop is the eye of the storm.
“Everything becomes slow motion, I can hear my own breathing. I get hyperfocused, and my body remembers everything I need to do...it’s out of body and super cerebral at the same time.”
Through middle school, into high school, right up to adulthood, one of the last things Christmas thought she would be was an athlete. After a traumatic car accident at thirteen years old, Christmas floated on her whims, and eventually picked up drinking and heavy smoking.
It wasn’t until she followed her mom to Iraq in 2004 that her life would turn around. “We were there to support camp ops,” she explains, “And I learned to shoot and carry a gun safely for the first time.”
One night, a mortar round exploded near the trailers where Christmas lived and worked. She was at a height of bad habits and bad decisions; she asked herself, “How extreme can [our experiences] get before we need to make a change?”
After this near-death experience, she took her life into her own hands. She quit smoking. She found a treadmill to start running. “It was a slice of hell.”
A Marine introduced Christmas to Crossfit athletics, a training program used in the military since the 1990s. The diverse and dynamic challenges appealed to Christmas. “I’m a little ADHD,” Christmas laughs. “I’m always asking, you know, ‘What’s next?’”
Christmas not only grew into a trainer and coach in the Crossfit program, she participates in competitive Crossfit, made popular on ESPN.
She describes her first competition, “I got my ass kicked, but I couldn’t wait to do it again! It humbles you.”
She takes that first competitive experience and translates it into a natural empathy. “I admire people who are just beginning Crossfit, the people who do what they didn’t believe they could do.”
She describes herself as a constant coach. She gravitates to new people in the gym, remembering what it was like to be new and unsure. She gives them small suggestions and enthusiastic encouragement. When they thank her for being the vehicle of their accomplishments, she says, “I’m the conductor, but you’re the orchestra. You did all the work! Your success is in your hands.”
“For my next tattoo, I wanna get this saying: ‘Pressure is a privilege.’ It’s by a jujitsu fighter.” For Christmas, this embodies her drive to ask “What’s next?”