June 14, 2021 by Gabrielle Martin
Analise “Ana” Vrieze (age 16) has lived here in Hingham with her parents, her older brother Colin (age 17), and her dog Leia for half a decade. “I think Hingham is a beautiful town, and like that it’s close to Boston and the ocean,” she shares in our interview, adding that she also loves eating at Stars, Square Cafe, and Tosca.
After attending a small, private school in Rockland her entire life, Ana will be transferring to Hingham High School, where she will start as a sophomore this fall; she looks forward to being in a large school setting, becoming involved in a more diverse collection of activities and clubs than was offered at her old school, and making new friends.
Another thing about Ana: she was born with a complex birth defect called Spina Bifida, a condition that affects the spinal cord and causes partial paralysis in the legs. For this reason, the 16-year-old is a self-proclaimed “full-time crutch user,” utilizing a wheelchair for longer distances.
Her mother Renee says, “Ana has had to overcome a lot of physical challenges, but has proven over and over that she can adapt to things to make them work for her.” Some of her hobbies include baking, cooking, hanging out with friends, horseback riding, skiing, and weight-training as well as cheerleading, karate, soccer, and swimming.
We want to welcome to exceptional Ana Vrieze to Hingham Public Schools by featuring her as our latest Human of Hingham.
Hingham, meet Ana!
How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
"Brave, determined, extroverted, kind, and strong."
What's your favorite subject in school?
What are the challenges of living with Spina Bifida?
"I hope to bring awareness to some challenges that I’ve faced, that I believe able-bodied people don’t consider: I’ve had terrible issues maneuvering my wheelchair through stores that are overly packed with display stands. I have seen able-bodied people utilize the handicap designated dressing rooms at clothing stores, and people without handicap placards parked in handicapped parking spaces. It’s also frustrating when people use handicap bathroom stalls when there are other stalls available."
In 2019, your mother says you approached her about joining her school's running club, insisting that you would use her wheelchair while the other kids were running. What initially made you interested in joining running club?
“I wanted to do something fun with my classmates and to tackle a new challenge.”
Later that year, you completed your first 5K in a wheelchair; how did that feel?
"It felt great! I knew what a big accomplishment it was for me and was really proud of it."
What motivates you to work out?
"Nine months ago, my parents hired a personal trainer to work with me in our home. I learned a lot and began getting stronger and stronger. My dad and I watched some CrossFit competitions on TV which piqued my interest in the sport. After a little research, my dad found a gym in Weymouth where the owner was willing to have me come check it out. I loved it immediately!"
What do you love about CrossFit?
"I love being around other people when I work out. It gives me a lot of motivation! Everyone is so encouraging to one another. It really feels like a tight-knit community that I can be a part of. I’m seeing a lot of progress in my strength which truly builds confidence. I feel very challenged in each class that I attend and I’m making new friends. I have come to realize that, despite my disability, my body is capable of so much. I just have to adapt things so they work for me."
You're currently training for a power-lifting competition for bench pressing; what does that entail? What are your goals for this competition?
"My trainer at CrossFit Wisdom asked if I might be interested in competing. She found a competition in August and thought the best event for me would be the bench press. While this event does offer an adaptive division, Brandi felt I should simply compete in the teen division. I will be training each week in a 90-minute power-lifting class until the competition. I’m currently pressing 100 pounds with a goal of reaching 115 pounds by August."
You recently began a blog and are hoping to help motivated other disabled people to work out. What is the name of your blog? The platform/website?
"In my blog, which I just recently started, I hope to motivate and inspire those who have other physical challenges [and show] that you can still live an active and healthy life."
What inspired you to start writing about your experiences?
"My weight trainer encouraged me to start my blog. I am hoping to motivate other people in the Spina Bifida community to exercise and take care of their bodies. So many people don’t realize what they are capable of!"
Your story is so inspiring to so many, but who inspires you?
"Two women in the CrossFit community: Samantha Briggs and Laura Horvath. Also fitness instructor Amy Bois and my CrossFit trainer, Brandi Bechard."
What are you looking forward to this summer? Next year?
"Attending many CrossFit classes, my competition, traveling to see family in Minnesota and Myrtle Beach, seeing my grandmother for the first time in two years, spending time with friends, and hopefully having my first job. I will begin driver’s education this summer and can’t wait to finally start learning how to drive sometime in the fall of this year!"
What are you looking for from a first job?
"I’m hoping to find a job that I might be able to do from my wheelchair or seated. I was thinking that a cashier position would be best. I think it would be great to save money and meet some new friends!"
That may be the end of our interview, but Ana's story is only just beginning! You can keep up with her via her blog, Vrieze Fitness, where she will continue to share insight into her health and wellness journey, serving as an inspiration to countless others.