Finding Resilience

Bodybuilders describe life-changing benefits of fitness

Crystal Dela Cruz trains at XIOS Strength & Conditioning in downtown Gilroy. Photo: Tarmo Hannula

For nearly a decade, Crystal Dela Cruz has tried to get on a bodybuilding stage.

After years of stops and starts, she committed herself to the sport in January 2020. Of course, two months later, the Covid-19 pandemic changed the world, forcing numerous competitions to be canceled.

But she remained resilient.

“I had to really double down on the work,” Dela Cruz said. “The uncertainty, having to start over and keep going, it was a really confusing situation and frustrating.”

Dela Cruz, who owns XIOS Strength & Conditioning in downtown Gilroy with her husband Andrew, said bodybuilding has changed her life.

Staying active has not only helped with her depression and anxiety, but it’s also taught her resilience and goal-setting that she said carries over to other aspects of her life.

“It really taught me what I’m capable of,” she said. “To not give up no matter what, that I can overcome things that are really difficult.”

Dela Cruz competed in a bodybuilding competition in Sacramento in December, and is shooting for more competitions later this year.

She said many people get discouraged in their path to fitness because they don’t see immediate results. While falling into that same trap in her journey, Dela Cruz said she learned that it takes time in small, but steady, steps forward.

“The smallest amount you can do every day can make a difference,” she said. “As long as you work it into your life and not get frustrated. Tomorrow’s a new day. Try again.”

An eventful time

The Dela Cruz’s opened XIOS in 2018 shortly after they moved to Gilroy.

Andrew, a personal trainer who coaches various sports at Archbishop Mitty in San Jose, had always dreamed of opening his own gym and helping young athletes take their educational and fitness goals to the next level.

Today, XIOS’ client base has grown through word-of-mouth, especially among high school and collegiate athletes, many of whom have earned scholarships and enjoyed success in their sporting careers.

The gym has had quite an eventful couple of years.

A fire at its previous downtown Gilroy location near the end of 2019 forced it to move just down the road at 7387 Monterey St., where it was only open briefly before it had to shut down due to Covid-19 public health orders.

During the shutdown, the coaches offered virtual and outdoor workouts, allowing clients to rent equipment for their homes.

In addition to the fundamentals, the gym specializes in Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting, with its athletes competing in events across the nation.

In honor of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, XIOS plans on hosting its own Olympic weightlifting competition in July called the Garlic City Classic.

“It’s been a crazy couple of years for us and for everybody,” Crystal Dela Cruz said. “We’re very thankful to still be here supporting our athletes and our clients. We have so much going on.”

Valerie Poynor lifts weights at XIOS Strength & Conditioning in Gilroy. Photo: Tarmo Hannula

Road to fitness

Valerie Poynor, who was working out at XIOS on a recent morning, has her own story of resilience.

Poynor suffers from endometriosis, a disorder that causes the abnormal growth of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus.

The disorder is not well-understood, Poynor said, adding that she was under a lot of pain when she was first diagnosed.

A doctor told her that exercise was a good way to alleviate the pain, which led Poynor to yoga and later bodybuilding. That, coupled with a specific diet, helped.

But after landing a job as a mathematics professor at CSU Fullerton, in addition to other life events, Poynor’s fitness routines took a side role, and the pain returned.

“It was hard for me to move,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much I was avoiding movement in my life because of the pain.”

Not wanting to live her life in pain, Poynor recommitted herself to fitness, and began what she called serious research into the benefits exercise and diet can have on endometriosis.

She joined a bodybuilding team, and surrounded by a supportive network, began competing once again.

“My friends have watched this transition of me being so humbled by the pain and feeling weak to now slowly taking those baby steps toward health,” she said. “My muscles grew, my body responded way better than it had ever responded before.”

Poynor stresses the need for patience for those on their fitness journeys, and listening to their own bodies.

“A lot of people think they can’t do these things when they have a chronic illness,” she said. “You have to make sure your priorities are straight. There will be days when you will be taken out. You just have to accept that. Those sort of things happen.”

Poynor added that she enjoys sharing her story to inspire others.

“It’s not easy, it’s not easy at all,” she said. “It’s so worth it. I wake up happy, I feel good about my body and I feel that I look good.”

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