TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma – A Northeast Oklahoma resident overcame a number of personal challenges to become the first person in Oklahoma, and the seventh in the world, to pass the final level of an intense physical training program.
Sara Rose-Brownfield is part of Tahlequah FitRanX, an organization that follows a standardized level training system for gauging fitness progress. On Dec. 24, 2022, Rose-Brownfield achieved Level 8 of this program – its highest rank.
“Currently, Tahlequah FitRanX offers level testing generally twice a year in April and November,” said Rose-Brownfield. “I have been a member of the program for almost five years. It has taken me that long to achieve all of the levels.”
Rose-Brownfield said every FitRanX level builds on the last, and each includes exercises that prove fitness level.
“Once you reach the point of testing for Level 7 and 8, they have to be video recorded and sent to the corporate office in California for judging by a panel approved by the creator of the system. I tested for Level 7 last November and failed. Not by much. I attempted Level 7 again in April and passed."
Rose-Brownfield said local coaches determine when someone is ready for the next level and formally invite them to test. Level 8 essentially combines all the levels at once, starting at Level 7 and going down to 1.
“It is an absolutely grueling and intense four hours,” she said. “It took the judges over a month and a half to get back to us. They reported to the creator that I made no critical errors, and he told my coach he didn’t believe the judges, so he watched it himself, only to find that to be true.”
Rose-Brownfield’s fitness journey has been a long one.
“I have never been a workout person,” she said. “I’ve been heavy, yo-yo dieted nearly my entire life, had children and never fancied I would be able to do pull-ups. I hate running and never liked getting up early. But once I hit 40, I decided if I was ever going to make myself a priority, it was now or never.”
Rose-Brownfield now attends class nearly every day at 5:30 a.m.
“I got to where I was going to test for Level 5, and that was high,” she said. “Not many people can get through it. I thought, ‘If I get through Level 5, I’ll stop.’ Level 6 was where pull-ups came in to play and I just knew there was no way I was going to do them.”
After passing Level 5, Rose-Brownfield said she thought, “Why not me?”
Between attempting Level 7 and 8, Rose-Brownfield found out she had been born with spina bifida, a condition wherein the spinal column does not form correctly.
“I knew I had a major back surgery as a child, but I didn’t know what for, and my parents weren’t given in-depth information back then. A recent MRI revealed it after experiencing some weird symptoms during FitRanX classes,” she said. “For about a month, I let the diagnosis scare me and speak negatively in my life. But I knew I had made it this far without knowing my mind was the only thing keeping me down, not my body.”
Finally, the time came for Rose-Brownfield’s Level 8 test.
“On Level 8 test day, I made my way down all the levels and thought at Level 1, the last level that I could do it, no problem,” she said. “Then I got a leg cramp and it wouldn’t go away.”
But the test didn’t stop.
“My coach was down on the ground, screaming at me to get up and finish. My husband and kids were down on the ground a few feet away, yelling at me to overcome,” she said. “Somehow, I did, and I passed.”
Besides being a mom, Rose-Brownfield said, this was her greatest physical achievement in life.
Rose-Brownfield said it’s been hard to get where she is now. During all this training, she has also been working on challenges with family and school, recently graduating from Northeastern State University with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and then obtaining licensure as a long-term care administrator.
“I can’t describe how great of an accomplishment it is for me,” she said.