Meet the Athletes of Merit: Ashley Buyer and Lauren Mendoza

Meet Ashley Buyer and Lauren Mendoza, CrossFit Merit athletes and good friends. These two tiny, brunette spitfires grace Merit with their kind hearts, bright smiles, and snarky mouths, most often at 5:30 am. They are down-to-earth and lovable, authentic and relatable, hilarious and tender, strong and determined. Everything about them and the energy in the room makes you want to adopt them as your new best friends immediately. At the very least, the 5:30 am class is going to look a lot more fun! 

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Lauren Mendoza, Ashley Buyer, Julie Hartley, and Erica Gunther at Merit after a 5:30 am WOD.

Lauren Mendoza, Ashley Buyer, Julie Hartley, and Erica Gunther at Merit after a 5:30 am WOD.

Ashley: “The first WOD I ever did, at my first box, I did twice. It was overhead walking lunges, running a mile, and kettlebell swings. I thought, ‘This is awesome.’ Afterward, I asked if I could do it again, and they’re like, ‘What? Now?’ People said ‘It’s a cult, you’re going to be part of a cult.’ And I was like, “okay.” I was hooked.”

Lauren: “My self esteem was low. I struggle with depression and I don’t feel like it’s a dirty thing. I got tired of feeling sick and tired all the time. I went to World Gym and felt judged by people. I was all by myself. I felt like girls there who were good at lifting just stared and didn't offer to help. It was everyone for themselves. Snooty women. And their olympic lifting equipment was dookie.”

I’ll show you who can’t do it. I’m gonna do it even more.
— Ashley Buyer

Ashley: “My ex-boyfriend treated me like dookie. I did CrossFit mainly because he said he didn’t think I could do it. I was like, ‘I’ll show you who can’t do it. I’m gonna do it even more.’”

Lauren: “I was super intimidated because the first day that I walked in here was the Murph. There were weighted vests. Everyone was here. And I was like, ‘holy crap.’ I did a mini-Murph. It was terrible.  It was a 100 m run, 30 squats, 20 pull-ups, and 10 push-ups. Three rounds of that. I had to scale it down. I did ring rows and stuff. And I couldn’t finish it. It was so hot that day. I thought, ‘These people are nuts!’”

Ashley: “My most embarrassing moment? They did power hour at CrossFit in South Carolina, and there was drinking involved. You had to take a swig of beer, and do a pull-up. I was so drunk I jumped to get the pull-up bar and I missed and fell backwards, and somebody got it on video. After that, people would always ask if I was ‘the girl that fell off the pull up bar.’ And I was like, ‘Please, I don’t know who that is.’”

Lauren: “The funniest thing I did was after I finished Fundamentals. The very first 5:30 am class I did was wall balls and burpees. Cody said I could do burpees on the ball if I wanted to save time, and I thought it was going to be easier. It’s 100 percent not! I face-planted! Nobody saw me, thank God!”

Then there was the time that Jason asked Lauren about her shirt, emblazoned with Phil 3:14.  

Lauren: “Jason says, ‘Who’s Phil?’ And I say Phil. 3:14 is a workout. I’m sure it is. ‘Google that, betch.’ Ashley says, ‘No, that’s a bible verse! Oh, that Phil! He moves super quick, three minutes and 14 seconds.’

Ashley: “That was hilarious.”

Lauren: “I was so convinced. It’s a workout. Here I am like two and a half months into CrossFit and I’m convinced it is.”

Ashley: “Phil is fast as shit, whatever he did.”

Even the best person in here has something they want to achieve.
— Lauren Mendoza

Lauren: “Then, when I started, I hear about someone nicknamed Thor, a CrossFit legend. I met him for the first time today. He’s probably thinking, ‘That girl’s weird.’ But, that’s my favorite thing: the people.  Regardless of whether your goal is one strict pull up or, like Linny, a 300 lb. back squat, people get just as excited. And they get just as excited about other people’s goals as they do their own. I’m not the fastest, strongest person but it’s like a consistent competition with myself which is really good because I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to do. That day that we sprinted 800 m in the WOD, it was a mental toughness day. Andrew said I could drop it to 600 and I made a bet with myself. ‘I’m gonna make myself run the full 800 because I can.’ I’m trying to get away from ‘I can’t.’ I was the last one to finish but it put into perspective how far I’ve come.”

Ashley: “I’m extremely competitive. I don’t look down on other people but personally, toward myself, I always try to be better. I go as hard as I can as until I can’t do it any more. It’s an ongoing mental conversation with myself that I have to finish. I’ve only not finished two WODs. One I threw up and one I was injured so I had to stop. I’m very goal driven.

Lauren: “Even the best person in here has something they want to achieve.”

Ashley: “You can always set a goal for something. And I think my confidence has increased a lot since doing CrossFit. I’ve done a lot of other workout classes, and this is my favorite. I’ve done dance, kickboxing, boot camp, that was boring as shit, Pilates, yoga, everything. This is my favorite. Period. It’s not boring. I have to have changes. You’re always challenged, mentally or physically.”

If something makes me truly happy, I need to stick with it.
— Ashley Buyer

Ashley: “It’s not just a workout. People at work don’t understand and tell me, ‘Don’t freak out if you miss CrossFit.’  But it’s my hobby and I like doing it. I’m not going to get thinner. I don't care about losing weight. It’s about getting stronger. My diet for the whole day will depend on that workout. It doesn’t look like it but I try. Like today is going to be Taco Bell when I leave. Even if I’m having a really crappy day at work, and I get to do a CrossFit workout and see people I like. It makes me happy. I show people at work all the time, ‘This is a clean!’ And they’re like ‘I don’t care.’”

Ashley: “I take anti-anxiety and depression pills. If something makes me truly happy, I need to stick with it.”

Lauren: I’d say when I first started, I was in one of the lowest self-esteem mental states I’ve been in.

Ashley: “I was like that when I moved here because I knew nobody.”

Lauren and Erica

Lauren and Erica

Lauren: “I had been here almost two years when that started. I was so socially removed from life except from my old Facebook friends. When I came in, I was very socially awkward. I remember when I first got here. I saw someone at the gas station and I had a feeling she did CrossFit. It was Erica. I walked into Merit and she said, right away, “I just saw you at Wawa!” and I was like, “So, not snooty!” She acknowledged me. She pointed Jason out. So I wasn’t just wandering into a room full of people. From the second I walked in, as uncomfortable as it was coming into a group of people I didn’t know, one person was just like, ‘Hey, I’m Erica.’” So, for me, when Erica said “oh hey!” it was just nice because I felt weird and I was like, ‘What if people judge me?’ People are too damn worried about themselves to be like “Oh, she finished so slow.” And there’s that thing that says, and it rang true, CrossFit is the only sport where the loudest cheers are saved for the last to finish.”

Ashley: “And the first finishers will come finish with the last finishers.”

Lauren: “They’re all in the parking lot waiting for me to finish the WOD, and it’s awesome to not get back up the hill to a closed door. I saw them and I took off in a sprint to finish.”

Ashley: “She had smoke coming off her shoes, I was like, ‘Whoa!’

Lauren: “It’s crazy. I realized how much I really enjoyed coming when I couldn’t get myself to the World Gym at 8 am every morning, but I get here 4 days a week usually at 5:25 am, and that really says something. I mean, I do take 2 hour naps afterward.”

She had smoke coming off her shoes, I was like, ‘Whoa!’
— Ashley Buyer

Ashley: “I used to never come to the 5:30 am class until I met you.”

Lauren: “See, people? Come at 5:30. I’m a party.”

Ashley: “I remember one morning, we’re laughing and talking, and Andrew had this look on his face like, ‘Would everyone just shut the hell up.’ But I can’t imagine Andrew ever saying that. He looks like Aladdin.”

Lauren: “He looks like Mowgli.”

Ashley: “He has great skills from all this mobility WODs. His name is Mobly.”

See, people? Come at 5:30. I’m a party.
— Lauren Mendoza

Lauren: “I put real pants on for the first time on Wednesday night. I felt like it was sausages in panty hose… my quads. I tried on two dresses I already had that were tight on my arms, and ripped out the back, and I was like ‘dang!’ Basically all I wear now is pajamas and gym clothes. I can’t dress like a civilized human. I’m just gonna wear leggings when it gets cold. I really want a onesie.”

Ashley: “Think how much money people spend on diet crap.”

Lauren: “I used to say CrossFit was expensive. It was an excuse. Because I don’t make a ton of money but I also don’t go to Starbucks every day any more. I feel like if there’s a will there’s a way. Cut out the stuff you don’t really need."

Ashley: "Like Netflix?"  

Lauren: “No, I would never. That’s a little much.”

Ashley, practicing her butterfly pull-ups. 

Ashley, practicing her butterfly pull-ups. 

Lauren: “Oh! That’s how we became friends! We went to Starbucks, talked for an hour and half.”

Ashley: “I called my mom afterward! The week before, I’d met someone and called my mom, saying ‘I think I made a new friend!’ And nothing really came of it. So, this time, when I called to tell her about Lauren, she said, ‘Don't get your hopes up, you know what happened last time!’ OMG, I have a friend now! And my mom says, ‘Just see how it goes.’ And I’m like. ‘It’s not a date, mother.’”

Lauren: “I knew I was going to get a long with Ashley, when she was making fart noises as she did power cleans. I was like, ‘We’re gonna get along just fine.’”

Ashley: “Turbo boost! That’s the girl that fell off the pull-up bar.”

Lauren: “I was reading an article, about ‘why you can’t do a pull-up.’ They said it’s your diet. You weigh too much. As I’m eating chips and watching the Facebook Live screen of a Saturday WOD.”

Ashley: “Why does my belly jiggle when I’m having fun? I’m a mess. Little bit.”

Lauren: “Everyone is.”

Ashley: “Yes. I embrace the messy-ness.”  

Frankie, Maggie, Ashley, and Lauren 

Frankie, Maggie, Ashley, and Lauren