On this new episode of Got Your 6, Tony Nash talks to athlete and US Army Captain Dee Clegg.
Dee talks about CrossFit and her life in West Point and the military. She also opens up about her guarded optimism regarding her impending transition.
As she prepares to transition to civilian life, Dee says she is nervously excited for her future. She says she plans on taking a brief break first before deciding if she wants to go to school or get a job.
Two habits she learned from the military that she still takes with her are: having a routine – including her daily planning of activities and her calibrated circadian rhythm, or waking up at the same time everyday – and being punctual. Dee firmly believes that punctuality is a sign of a person’s respect for others.
She has also started practicing her listening skills. A self-professed talker, Dee admits she is not an active and engaged listener but she has decided to work on it to improve her relationships and communication with other people. She does this by regularly listening to podcasts and audio books, as well as calling up friends and family – methods that she says allow her to listen intently to others and learn from them.
On CrossFit and coaching
One course that has greatly influenced her life is CrossFit Level I, which brought her into the new world of competitive fitness.
Dee says CrossFit opened her eyes to the power of the body, the role of nutrition, and proper body movement.
“It drove me to want to do more and I could also influence other people. I fell in love with not just training my body, but training other people and seeing what they can do. I like helping people get fitter.”
With this, she is encouraged to pursue physical therapy. Owing to her own injury and recovery experience, Dee says she wants to help injured people by being a hands-on therapist.
Painful failures that led to big changes
Dee has her fair share of crucible events in her life. But the most painful one was when she failed her soccer teammates at West Point during sophomore year. She got suspended from the soccer team for an alcohol violation. She says she failed her team as a person, and not just an athlete.
“It was one of the hardest moments I’ve ever had because I realized I’ve been putting myself first, I didn’t think of the team. I just wanted to have fun. It was a super selfish act. I regretted it instantly. That’s changed me in so many ways.”
While serving her suspension, she joined the track and field team where she met great and inspiring people. She worked hard and joined the Fellowship of Christ to practice her faith.
“It was like I had to make that mistake to meet these other people who helped me, influenced me going forward. This isn’t about you, it’s about the team. It was a huge monumental moment but I didn’t know it at the time. It’s something I needed to happen. I needed that failure to become a better person.”
She sought the help of a mental skills coach and was able to return to the team – but this time armed with significant life lessons.
“It definitely shaped who I am today. I am so glad it happened like looking back. I needed that. It was a kick in the ass. What are you doing? Get your shit together.”
Injury and recovery
That failure has somehow prepared Dee for what was to come. She suffered a back injury in 2020 that prompted her to transition out of the military earlier than intended. This injury was so severe that it required back surgery. She is still on the road to recovery, but moving and feeling immensely better .
One important thing she learned during her rehab is to trust the process. From squatting 300 lbs to deadlifting over 350 lbs, Dee could not sit, drive, or bend over to tie her shoes. She trusted her coach and the recovery program – no matter how slow the progress seemed.
“It’s so cliché to say trust the process but I’ve had to really just believe in it. This injury 100% has made me believe that you really have to. And don’t just like [quit], there are people who quit so easy. ‘This hasn’t been working,’ but it’s only been a month. It takes a long time, it takes years.”
Now a year after surgery, Dee says she feels so much better and can now “function as a normal human.’ The recovery taught her to let go of control and expectations and to celebrate small victories daily. She lived day to day, enjoyed the present, and practiced positivity.
“Tomorrow’s a new day. There’s always a new goal for the next day. There should be no ‘Oh this is my end goal’ or ‘This is the day this goal ends.’ Every day you should be trying to improve. Every day you should have some form of a win.”
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