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Training with Pat Burke, 6x CrossFit Games Athlete

Training with Pat Burke has been the most consistent training I’ve ever had in my life. I’m used to visiting different gyms and training with different groups and people being in or out, depending on the workouts. We all assume most of us are training everyday even if we don’t see each other, but we don’t really know. I used to go from sweaty massacre to another sweaty massacre where we’d have some kind of a marathon session or big group workout, and then I would honestly rest for a while or train on my own and work on what I needed to get better. But it wasn’t consistent because if I wanted to take the time off and go “off program,” it was easy since there was no set schedule, it was just chaos. I’ll give the credit where it’s due though, and that is the training that started this fiery journey, and got me where I am today.

I remember six months ago in December when I called Pat, talking about a seminar I was teaching at his gym over Christmas break. I had already decided while I was living in Ohio that I was going to move home for the upcoming season, but had only told a few people and was bursting with excitement. I was like, “And guess what happens after the seminar?” He’s like… “Christmas?” I said, “ya and guess what happens after that….?” There was a long silence, and I broke it saying slowly, “I’M NEVER LEAVING! I’m moving back to Colorado!” He was totally surprised, I could hear it in his voice, “Well where are you going to …train… what gym are you…” I instantly said, “At your gym with YOU! Pat we’re going back to the GAMES this year man!” He just was silent for a while and said… “OH SHIT….” A few times and we laughed about how much training we were going to be doing as it all sank in. I love surprises.

His wife Janelle was very supportive about the transition, and with their 2-year old and a baby on the way, we built a schedule he could balance training and family. Looking back, she has been such a steadfast partner, and they’ve taught me so much about how caring and trusting a marriage can be.

And so the journey began, where I set out on a mission with one person with the same goal, the first time I had ever done that. No distractions, just training.

There’s something about waking up everyday knowing that someone is holding you accountable. Knowing that if I decided to take off for a few days or couldn’t make it in that he would have to do our programming by himself, or take class, and not that we’re uncapable of training on our own, but it was off the schedule. I learned that people say “Routine is the enemy” and that is true, but a routine in training is not bad. Consistency is dependable, which makes our performance dependable.

We are both very different athletes, as we all are, so we sometimes have opposite strengths and weaknesses. We have different favorites, and I began to learn how to game off him and strategize my workouts just as I would a competitor. For example, two weaknesses of mine are rowing and heavy deadlifts, they just aren’t my favorite. But he’s great at both so I knew early on in those type or workouts that I would have to either accept defeat early, and just try to stay close to him, or just stay calm and do my best… and then try to speed through the other areas of the workout to gain back some time. These are good strategies I need to develop because during competition there will always be someone better then me at a movement, and depending on when I take my breaks and when I make my moves, the experience in training will help me get a faster time, and maybe get me an advantage I can steal the lead with. We both learned to coach, and how to be coached.

Pat is a mountain man. He might as well be, anyway. A Paleolithic caveman that likes the workouts that seem like punishment… and as a natural ex-military athlete (“once a Marine, always a Marine”) he loves training with heavy sandbags and sprinting up hills, flipping heavy dirty tires and running through mountain trails with weight vests on. I remember about a month before Regionals we spent a lot of time getting mentally tough by trudging through grueling heat at altitude. Training at sea level in California for the last three years where outdoors extended to beach training or running next to traffic in the city, I wasn’t used to the mile-high elevation. Outside in the elements where there wasn’t a drinking fountain across the room, a protein shake at our convenience, or trendy music blasting from speakers to ‘keep us pumped.’ We didn’t need it. We depended on our own personal self-talk and the guidance of each other’s footsteps to find our pace.

One day of training sticks out to me that I’ll never forget. We were strapped up with 25lb and 40lb weight vests, running up a steep 600m hill to start, and then continued with rolling hills that looked over the valley of Table Top Mountain. Staying with Pat’s pace until halfway I started letting him break ahead and little by little finding a more comfortable pace. He’s a man of very few words… and all he had to do was turn around and yell, “Hey. Are you training for THE GAMES?” Eyes wide open and completely shocked that he called me out, I sped back up to his pace and my dreams and goals flew through my brain the entire way back.

Learning to ‘train uncomfortable’ has been a personal understatement. The situation and environment in competition might be less then ideal, and learning to adapt in any situation has become my hobby. Lift on uneven surfaces, maybe even on the asphalt outside where my bar rolls around and the sun is in my eyes. You don’t like that bar because it’s too thick or the texture hurts your hands? Go make yourself do an entire week’s worth of training on it so that in case it ever comes up, we’ll be ready.

When the Regionals workouts were announced we finally knew what we were getting into. Training had a direct purpose, and we right away picked out the ones that we thought we could do really good in, and the ones that were going to require the most work. Being new to the South West region made it impossible to picture what any of the other girls were capable of. It had been so long since I had trained with female training partners anyway, I could never gage how my numbers were holding up, and what I “should be capable of.”

As the weekend approached, our conversations got more concentrated and deep. I’ve always asked him questions about different Games events that I’ve only heard of or read about. We discuss how different and advanced the sport is now compared to 2004 when he started, or 2008, the first year he went to the CrossFit Games. He had come far from making it last year, and his goal was to make it back. I said, “Pat someone’s going to win every workout at Regionals. Someone’s going to win every workout. Someone will win the rope climb workout, why can’t that be us?” We agreed that we had a chance to blow up some of the events like we’d been doing in training. The confidence of pre-competition is shaky, filled with doubt, fear, positive self-talk, reminders, visions of completing every workout in the best position possible. When individuals train together, they become teammates, even though they compete individually. We called ourselves “Team Winner” (I’ve got to give Klokov props, he came up with the slogan and it just makes ya feel great).

“Team Winner!” was exactly what I yelled at him before every event as they announced the men’s heats and they ran out onto the field. I over and over was shocked at how he clearly had a “different mode” when in competition. From PRing his snatch by a gutsy 15 lbs to placing 3rd in a workout he was nervous about to winning the rope climb event, his “rise to the occasion” attitude was inspiring.

Going into the third day he was a contender for one of the three qualifying spots, and recovering from being sick as a dog. The flu had spread around and knocked out a bunch of individual athletes, staff members, and teams. He had been throwing up the entire night before, and that morning he was in the hospital getting an IV. Wondering if this was the end of the season for him, everyone was proved wrong as he sucked it up and earned a 3rd place spot on the podium. A sweet, sweet ticket to the Games. “Proven” because through all the pain and life-altering dedication, they are proven to be the best, and will now compete against the best of the best.

I’ve learned how to deal with many emotions over the last year. The lessons I’ve learned are sent straight from God, in answers to my prayers of “what I have planned.” No matter what comes my way, I’m taking it all in, and realizing what I can and cannot control as an athlete and as a woman. For right now I’m living in the moment, and training for the “next big thing,” which is something that will never end. It’s a habit, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a convincing drive that each season brings a more weathered, experienced version of myself.

I am so proud of my training partner. I’m proud of our progress, and as the weeks spill over of NPGL combine tryouts for me, and he’s on track for the biggest platform our sport has to offer, I’m glad to say not much has changed. I’m finally getting to do the “Games training,” I’ve always wanted to do, including lots of endurance, lake swimming, paddle-boarding, wall jumping, adventure races, and of course heavy heavy lifting. He mixes in some “human performance racing” fun with me for my goals, and we’re both getting “fitter” every day.

When in training, it feels like it’s all about the destination, and it wouldn’t be a journey without one. But LIFE happens on the journey, and it’s such a sweet, sweet ride. Read Pat’s story on how he came back to qualify again for this years CrossFit Games.

Faith RX’d and AgerBomb Seminars

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” MLK Jr

A few weeks ago I was planning on attending a Faith RX’d camp, anticipating a weekend of lectures, scripture, small group discussions and of course, some CrossFit workouts. My friend Becky Conzelman had started this amazing movement to bring Christ into CrossFit, where like-mind people could come together and relate with each other and form a local fellowship. With recognized staff leaders like Spencer Arnold, and Chris Spealler, people from all over were looking forward to attend and learn from these coaches. What started in Colorado has expanded throughout the United States and there are “chapters” we call them, or local bible studies at CrossFit gyms where people are leading and inviting the athletes at their gyms, that are spread out from San Diego, California, all the way to London, England.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

There was a malfunction on the website, and instead of only allowing 30 people to attend, there were 62 people allowed to register before they caught it. The staff of coaches that travels around teaching these camps agreed to add local coaches. So after an intense interview/evaluation process they added three, including myself. The words nervous and excited were an understatement to what I was feeling about stepping in and spiritually coaching these athletes. It is drastically different than just teaching them how to efficiently move barbells…. I was already confident in doing that.

As I was originally planning on attending the weekend, I knew it would be perfect for me to focus on Christ and the word after the chaos of Regionals training and the close of my 2014 CrossFit Games season. But what I didn’t know, was that there would be so much reward in being able to admit insight from virtual strangers on Friday, that left Sunday exchanging numbers and adding eachother on facebook. The support and interpretations of the bible and answering hard questions together in small groups was … irreplaceable. Our lives are flushed daily with CrossFit, and opening up about the source of the inner strength that keeps us going through the trials was something I recommend everyone reading this blog should think about experiencing.

One of the most well-known movements of Faith RX’d is having booths at the CrossFit Games and at the Weightlifting American Open. They gave away the New Testment Bible, with CrossFit athlete testimonies included that talked of their athletic career and more importantly, their walk with Christ. Realizing that it may have been the first time that people happened to receive the gospel, gives me chills on how amazing it is to be a part of this revolutionary movement.

So what does this have to do with AgerBomb seminars? Why am I writing this now, weeks later in anticipation of a new wave? Because I am flying to New Jersey for my first seminar since a month before Regionals and I have…. A special surprise. I have 11 New Testament Bibles with CrossFit athlete inserts to have available for the attendees of the seminar I’m teaching. If no one takes them, then I’ll pack them back up in my Reebok carry-on backpack, not big deal.

My first thoughts were questions that I hoped wouldn’t jeopardize my career. What if it turns off non-believers and makes it so that I can’t reach them? What if men don’t relate to my story, and therefor think that faith isn’t for them? Does this truly make me a bible-thumper? Yes, carrying a backpack full of these at the airport makes me bible thumper… What if no one takes them, and they just sit on a table? What if people of other religions get offended? Does this make me look less professional?

But if people take them, and the gospel can come to life for them for the first time, then I’ll take it as a good sign for the future, and next time I’ll be bold and bring more. God flourishes in my life story and testimony I tell in the beginning of my seminars, and I remind them that the message is not about “my CrossFit career, or my journey with God.” It’s to encourage them with confidence and unity to go forth and follow their dreams. The gospel has lit up my life, and isn’t just the best kept secret that only Christians can share—it’s for everyone.

So at the end of the day, when I look at the grand scheme of things, I can only think of all the reasons why I would bring bibles to my seminars. I’ve been given a sense of clarity and understanding, and I know one thing’s for sure….

Joshua 1:9
“We are called to be BOLD.”

TRES, DOS, UNO…. GO!! San Jose, Costa Rica

“Pura Vida” means “pure life” in Spanish. Costa Ricans have made this term popular, saying it as a greeting, and describing any happy or beautiful situation to say…. Life is Good.

I noticed instantly that they have a light-hearted attitude to them. The “Ticos,” natives of Costa Rica, have an amazing ability to laugh in every situation. I noticed even when the boys picked me up from the airport that they straight up pause their conversations to allow time to laaaaughh. Without noticing right away, I actually changed my story telling to socially fit in with their way of life. When I found myself finishing explaining something or answering a question that was ending normally, I would make a joke at the end to make it more happy or ironic and we would all three just take time to laugh cause it just… feels good. Apparently if you’re not making friends out of strangers by finding things in common to sit back and laugh about, you’re doing something wrong. This worked in my advantage because I always try to be funny when I’m teaching. It’s usually a hit or miss but at this seminar I was on a roll- they were like confidence enablers to someone that’s making cheeseball jokes for hours through the seminar. I know I’m not really thaaat funny.

My favorite was when the owners of the gym, Diego and Marco were telling me horror stories about tour guides getting lost in the jungle deep in the rainforest for over seven days in monsoon season. How you could walk hours in one direction thinking you heard a car, and then all the sudden the echo makes you turn around and go in circles. We talked about all the animals that could be dangerous on the jungle floor… panthers, venomous snakes, spiders, wild boars. And then after me being pretty scared, they said, “that’s nothing, you know what freaks me out? We heard that in the states by the mountains some people just have BEARS going through their trash cans in their backyard. Now THAT’s scary- bears don’t mess around! The jungle’s way safer than that…”

Two athletes drove down from Mexico to attend the seminar, and a woman took a 10 hour bus ride in the heat all the way from Panama. There was a girl who reminded me of one of my cousins because of how many questions she had and how close she stayed by my side, who flew from Guatamala to attend the seminar. I have never seen such perseverance for an event I think of as a good time, where I show up and get to have face time with my people, while spilling everything I’ve ever learned into their brains. Here people are going out of their way to attend and take part in special days where they devote time to their personal development. A few girls from last year’s Latin America Regionals attended, and it was so cool thinking I could help them train against Games competitors that will represent their region this season on the big platform. I was inspired by everyone that attended with such enthusiasm.

After a day full of hiking miles in the rainforest to a giant waterfall, we went zip lining through the canopies. My favorite was our guide that looked at me after they told him I was visiting from the states as a professional CrossFitter, he looked at me and asked if that was some kind of dance. Ha! Later, after realizing we were into fitness I made a comment saying it must be hard lifting people up and pulling the heavy wires down all day and he said, “Ya you have to be very strong but we worry since we’re sweating all day from it that we’re not going to build as much muscle… like it is too much fast moving.” Oh it sounds like we sparked his interest!

It was easy to see that the owners of CrossFit 506 who toured me around their country for days after the seminar, were close. Business partners and best friends since childhood, they played devil’s advocate constantly. While one was always trying to scare me, telling me that people used to die on zip lines before they had built in breaks that slow them down, Nicho saying no one’s ever died in Costa Rica, and it’s very safe. Diego would tell me that they see crocodiles swimming next to them while they’re surfing if they go too deep, but the “people pleaser” would assure me when in the ocean they’re not territorial so they leave you alone. If one told stories about how territorial the crocs are when in the river, and how they kill anything in order to protect their 75 year long claim on territory…. the other would remind me- its ok, we are not planning on going in any rivers. When we saw red and blue rainbow macaws, I learned how they stay in couples and mate for life. I learned that if one dies the other commits suicide, but of course, the bright side is sometimes another macaw couple adopts it, and they live as a happy triplet for the rest of their lives! This went on and on until one night we went kayaking right at sunset, and I had to hope to God we would be safe…

We pulled out the kayaks… dragged them the short trek between the house and the rolling waves. They felt light after training all day, and we took them far, too far out, away from the shore. They started making fun of me and we were laughing so hard because I could NOT stay in mine! I was wobbling everywhere and they were joking about how the sharks come in to the shallow water at night to hunt because the water’s cooled off. I’m like that’s not funny- and I would splash into the water until I couldn’t even get in. They realized my kayak had a hole in it and was sinking fast. So we switched, and after they were talking in Spanish to each other for a long time, I started panicking this was serious… Diego ended up having to drag the full of water kayak as I paddled us to shore. Nicho was racing back, as his kayak also was sinking, and ended up having to pull his as well, trying to swim on his own. The moon was our only light, as I with no experience paddled as hard as I could to get this huge load to the beach, barely missing the huge groups of rocks to the right and left of our path. My arms were so tired, it reminded me exactly of rowing a 5K as hard as I could- but with someone on my back! They are so lucky I CrossFit….. After about half an hour, we had MADE it! We were all exhausted, and the boys kept talking about how they were trying to act calm but were scared to death of the sharks that more than likely were swimming below us.

I had a first world moment after I bought a shady iPhone 5 charger that didn’t work at all. Driving three and a half hours from San Jose to the beach on winding unpaved roads, having to swerve around people that were walking on the side of the road, and pulled over worker trucks. I mentioned if they had a highway to this beach it would probably cut the time in half. They instantly opened my eyes with saying, “This beach is secret and desolate and newly discovered. The way it is, is exactly what we would lose if there was a highway here.” I realized that proved I just didn’t get it…. And I made my best efforts to appreciate the road and the village from that moment on. This is why Ticos are the most happy, content, and upbeat people in the world, because life is pure, life is good, and they appreciate everything. They get it.

I ended up getting a little sick while I was there. My diet had changed while I was visiting, and I needed to talk to a doctor (I’m ok…..). On the phone he assured me he and his father are two of the most prepared and educated doctors in their country. To make me feel comfortable, he told me, “since I was so trusted and highly spoken of he considers me family. We are connected, we are all meant to help each other.” God guides us in so many ways, there is no way to possibly pretend there is such thing as coincidence. I tend to be more trusting then I should be, but I know I’m not the only one that’s watching out for me- if I was I would be in trouble.

Right now I’m staying at a beach house on the desolate North Pacific coast of the country. There are random ants and spiders crawling on the walls. There are no windows, just an entire wall of open shutters on one side of the room. The beach is lit up from the moon and just a short distance away from the house are the waves of the ocean hitting the sand…. and it’s loud tonight. Just another day of surfing and I’ll be back to my training partner and my gym at home, back to normal. For right now I’ll keep up with my bare feet on the platforms we made, a light, medium, and heavy barbell for whatever I come up with. My imagination runs wild with our rings hanging from the trees, and using the beach as our track…. Now this is CrossFit.

Pura Vida….. life is good.

The Biggest Loser with Holley Mangold


I missed it because I was in Australia, but here is the episode where I visited the Biggest Loser ranch and got to lift with Olympian, Holley Mangold. Watch the video to see me, Katie Hogan, Maddy Curley, Amanda Douglas (in her famous orange tutu), Chelsey Hughes, Karianne Dickson and coach Michael Casey lift with Holley and Bob.

I have been so excited for this episode to air so I could talk about it! Holley was an Offensive Lineman and played football in high school when she got into power lifting. She went on to achieve her dreams making it to the Olympics after changing to Olympic Weightlifting only four years before. She was on True Life on MTV, and loves who she is and what she does with confidence. As a 5’8″ 350 lb. World Champion lifter, she competed in London 2012. She says, “Love yourself. Love your body. If you’re convinced you’re awesome sooner or later everyone around you is going to start believing the same thing.”
This season she’s a contestant on the show to see how far she can push herself to lose weight.

Holley Mangold US Women’s Olympic Weightlifter on Youtube

Mangold and Robles lift their way to London: Road to London on Youtube

Mind-set can move Mountains

thegirls

Now, I’m not known for my strength ladders. I’d say I’m actually known for my lack of performance in strength ladders. As long as there are plenty of events, I can usually make it back to the podium, but sometimes it plummets me in the rankings; leaving me wishing I had been more prepared. Getting used to the pressure of the time limit is unlike training: there are rules, judges, competitors, and all eyes are on the athlete to assume whether or not they’ve been practicing enough for “the test.”

It’s no secret… I love to compete. So I test myself on a regular basis to keep me on my toes and keep me … locked in. Almost every CrossFit competition these days has a strength ladder where everyone’s lined up to lift each bar until they’ve reached their potential.

Most often I get done with these 1-reps and turn to my coaches after with very little to say. There’s no… I should have… or this happened… or excuse that will make me feel better, which derives from disappointment. Wondering if it was a frame of mind, a lack of warming up, or just a mystery strength curse that makes me feel like a weak twig that just buckles under the pressure of heavy weight…. Is left unanswered.

Tonight was different. I have never been in a ladder like the one the Granite Games kicked off their entire event with. It was a double snatch ladder, so to go on to the next level you had to hit two lifts in 40 seconds, and then on the top of the minute, went on to the next station- always 10 lbs up. When warming up me Maddy and Michelle Kinney were joking about… ‘ya whenever I get to a heavy shaky double, I always go up by 10 lbs!’ As I was noticing Elizabeth Akinwale and Michelle Letendre do their thang in the warm-up tent as I watched my max be thrown around like a toy. But the rules are the rules- and every competition is different, that’s why we are trained to be resilient as CrossFitters. It’s a part of our lives to be “ready for anything,” which means we have no guess at what could be thrown at us and what could be ruled out.

As a mental strategy- I always convince myself my ceiling is higher than it is. The game I play is that my max is higher than I’ve actually ever gotten so that when I reach my 80%, 90%, 95% in training or competition, I keep my nerves down. I just haven’t hit it YET… but will.

Tonight was different because I actually tricked myself!

The weights were displayed not on Games standards like 120, 130, 140, but true to the 33 lb bars as in 118, 128, 138… etc. We started the ladder at 118, and after the Star Spangled Banner I was one of the first on the bar. Usually I’m waiting timidly behind my judge and waiting for him to tell me I have to go on and… I have to make the next lift. It was always a punishment. ‘Great now heavier… ok I’ve made this before…but ok the last one felt heavy….’ The words present or eager have never described me while I finish a typical 90% lift, knowing my personal records usually come in training not competition.

This RUSH of wanting to bite at the next weight came over me! I was DYING to get past my judge to get to the heavier bar. I was surprised at how slowly they counted down the transitions and was fuming to break down my own personal ceiling. Snatching each weight for 2 as I went up, I came up on my 100%. I turned to the crowd, (naturally hating to keep secrets) and pointed to the next bar and said my PR! They stood on their feet and yelled as I attempted my 1-rep max and nailed it. As I finished the 2nd one I could barely believe it! I advanced to a bar I had never even visualized myself standing up successfully with; attempted and failed ….but couldn’t stop smiling!

The surprise and happiness doesn’t come from numbers, how good it was, or where I placed. It’s from finally believing in myself when it counted, in an area where my MIND is WEAK.

If CrossFit wasn’t a “sport”…. And it was simply a workout to master on different levels on my own account, nothing would change in my training. I would of course still work day in and day out to be the best athlete I could be and fully ‘enjoy the ride.’

But CrossFit IS a sport. We can measurably rank ourselves and compare our programming, natural athleticism and our dedication to training weaknesses. With this privilege we feel the success not in comparison to each other, but while we demand the consistency of ourselves for ‘the test.’

“You’ll always be what you’ve always been if you always do what you’ve always done.”

CHANGE IS GOOD.

Seeing Animals for time: Safari

Madikwe Games Reserve

When I first got invited to go to South Africa with a group of CrossFitters and then go on a four day safari, I thought, this absolutely never going to happen. I told my manager about it, figured it was a few months down the road, and that it was something that was just ‘too perfect, and too absolutely crazy’ to be real. Next thing I find out, is that it’s only in a few weeks and is very real! Before I knew it I was giving out information for my passport so that Reebok South Africa to help bring 6 CrossFit Games athletes to explore and make a connection with the growing CrossFit community.

Apparently, a ‘Safari’ is not each individual jeep ride. The entire trip is called a Safari, so saying, “we saw zebras on last night’s safari,” doesn’t make any sense. Also I learned that locals gave us entertained smiles when they’d ask us where we were going when our faces lit up! They’d ask us what ‘Games Reserve’ we were going, and for how long, despite the fact that the ‘safari’ term is so touristy. From Johannesburg, we drove four hours to the North West country border between South Africa and Botswana called Makinwe. Our playground would soon be 289 square miles of savannah, and after seven 3-hour tours we would eventually see and drive through less than half of it.

At first we had a bucket list of animals that we wanted to see, and thought it was going to be hard to hunt for each one. However, on our first ride-along we were less than a mile away from our lodge when we saw a giraffe right next to the path, eating branches! We drilled our tour-guide, Cornelius, for about 10 minutes while we sat back and made videos of our first experience. He is a young, but experienced guide that lives on the reservation and showed us immediately that there was barely anything we could ask him that he didn’t know the answer to, whether it was climate and weather questions to mating to teaching us how to track and identify the creatures by their footprints.

Later, we would find out that we saw so many of each animal in their natural habitat that it would be boring when we saw the ‘easy to find’ ones! I was surprised the wild animals weren’t afraid of our massive jeep full of humans and staring eyes… but they are so used to them that most just carried on what they were doing. Within the very first trip we crossed off ‘dazzles of zebra’ (that’s what they’re called because when all together, very difficult to pick them apart from each other), bachelor groups of giraffes, and plenty of elephants. We learned there are 900 elephants at the park, 2,000 zebras, and only 60 lions.

Each day, we were always lucky enough to find the lions! The longest we sat and watched them was about an hour, just staring in shock at the huge pride, led by the two males that lead all the females in the territory. We learned lions only live to be about 11 years old, and the males were 10, with scars all over their faces and eyes having to fight off other lions for dominance over the years. The two lionesses were sisters and had four little cubs with her that would pounce and act curious, and practice their growl and roaaaaarrrrrr with deep commanding calls! As we found the same pride in different spots over and over, they never minded us getting close enough for us to question our safety and not to mention sanity. We turned the open-top jeep off and let the headlights beam into their haven!

Each adventure involved all of us bundled in our ‘lucky’ assigned seats for where we sat when we saw our favorite animals easiest. Annie, Fredrik and Marcus in the back, Daniel Spencer and I in the middle, and the gym owners that set this whole trip up, Jillian and Lisa were in front. We cheered on Marcus at night when he would sit up front with Cornelius and shine the light beam around looking for nocturnal moving animals as we sped through the dark. We drove slowly through some of the thicker areas, and faster through what we called, ‘the kill zones’, which were flat plains that were easier to spot animals from a long distance away. Annie and I would always remind them we wanted to see a birth, and ask questions about which mated for life and were looking for African animal love stories. Of course the boys joked around about being in the bush, and really wanted to see a kill.

There are few times I’ve met a person passionate enough about their job that I think their love for it over-takes the need for financial support. I like to seek-out greatness from any aspect, whether it’s a sushi chef, pediatrician, or in this case, our ranger, that has a genuine magnetic interest that draws you in closer to see it through their eyes. He told us excitedly one night that he had a surprise for us, and that we had to hurry to get to the site before sun-down in hopes that we could catch his favorite animal in the entire park. As we raced past big groups of wildebeasts, giraffes and elephants, we knew that we weren’t messing around! Finally when we got to a mountainous corner of the site, he stopped to tell us about one of the most endangered species in Africa, the wild dogs. We crept closer, to found 7 adults and 6 two-month old puppies, all ripping away at a Kudu carcass they had killed that morning. They looked like they were splash painted different colors with big huge round ears and moved around constantly frolicking and playing with each other. From as close as 20 feet away, amazed at the energy, and listened to stories of their trials the pregnancy that brought the pups to this new territory.

Cornelius would tell us about the normal behavior for the herds, and the jobs of the alpha male and alpha female in each species, which was surprisingly all different and depended on dominance, spreading genes, and leading the group to find food. All based on research, books he showed us, and close observation of getting to know the specific packs and family history of relationships the animals had with each other. By the end, most of us were agreeing that if we weren’t CrossFit coaches, and into the fitness industry, this would be the second coolest job!

monkeybusiness

During the day we swam in the pool, watched the elephants drink from the water-hole right outside our patio of the lodge. We maintained a “Real-World” like feel as we were all strangers and barely acquaintances before we started this week long adventure and ended up being able to constantly laugh and joke around! We trained during the afternoon with body-weight exercises like partner wheel barrow workouts with pushups, sit-ups and air squats. One night we did 100 hand stand pushups for time in the dark, after making bets and dares and puffing out our chests, as we’re so good at doing. I’m sure the lodge staff thought we were crazy as we would do gymnastics poses they’d never seen for pictures and climb to the top of giant trees.

Big take-away from this trip for me was how much being outdoors is good for your soul! Growing up in Colorado I had plenty of opportunity for that, and we took advantage of the Rocky Mountains. Personally as a Cross-Fitter who’s always trying to get an edge, an upper hand, I often lock myself in a gym for days, weeks on end with little appreciation outside our concrete jungle of Los Angeles. I’m fully convinced that trying new sports and connecting with nature is crucial for our reflection and recovery, and pursuit of being the most physically and mentally prepared for the unknown.

“Every morning an impala wakes up knowing that it must outrun the fastest lion if it wants to stay alive. Every morning a lion wakes up knowing that it must outrun the slowest impala or it will starve. It makes no difference if you are a lion or an impala, when the sun comes up in Africa you must wake up running.”
-anonymous,  Zambia

“Africa is leslderness than a repository of primary and fundamental values, and less a barbaric land than an unfamiliar voice”   ~Beryl Markham, “West with the Night”

Kendrick Farris Weightlifting Seminar

Training camp highlights

Derrick winning 2013 Nationals

I met Kendrick Farris and Derrick Johnson attending one of their training camps at CrossFit Paradiso in Venice, CA in the beginning of the year. I’m not going to lie, my friend and I saw that Kendrick had posted about “Pancakes for PRs” and we attacked his post saying those pancakes were WEAK, and we knew a place called The Griddle that would change lives! From meeting up that morning at breakfast it’s become a tradition when he’s visiting LA that he has a delicious breakfast with friends and then right after go lift heavy! Since then, we’ve all kept in touch and sent each other lifting PRs, questions, fixes, and gotten in return a lot of tips and help on our lifts. Always fun to be able to throw around some knowledge and keeping it fun with jokes!

As any CrossFitter knows… there’s only so long you can stand talking to a non-CrossFitter that you really like…. until the conversation turns into you looking at them with loving eyes asking when they’re going to dive in! And I tried hard too… we were asking about Grace, and Isabel, and saying it would be really fun, and maybe if it was only one time… He resisted because he’s got his eyes on the prize for the 2016 Olympics. When he said he doesn’t want it to jack up his training we were like, “oh ya ya… that little thing called the Olympics…” 😉

When I start feeling like a creepy drug-dealer that’s trying to sell the addiction to someone and they’re resisting… usually I just press on. But in this case, we said, “No Kendrick you just do you! Respect, no addictive CrossFit drugs for you.”

Then he mentioned… well they might have me do Isabel at the Games this year. We instantly were amazed! We were asking him if he was going to train for it, and he kept mentioning how authentic he wanted it to be, how he wanted it to be his real first time doing CrossFit in front of everyone at the Games. We were so excited and since the winter, I’ve been anticipating the epicness of Kendrick J. Farris doing “Isabel,” which is 30 Snatches for time at 135 lbs for men, and 95 lbs for women.

I have two favorite parts of this video, one where he no-reps his first rep, and then Ronnie, as his judge, reminds the crowd he didn’t get the first one after they had already started counting the reps! He had mentioned he was really nervous about having to ‘do the standards of getting full extension’ because when they practice a few reps for speed they’re concentrating on the speed to the catch, not the stand part. He’s a perfect example of a specialist.

When asked if this was going to be a regular thing, he said,

No not right now because I’m training for the Olympics… Maybe after that for sure, because I’m so intrigued by the workouts…. CrossFit has done an excellent job making USA Weightlifting revelent again. We’ve had the people, just not the exposure, and now CrossFit’s giving us that exposure.

Kendrick and I will be teaching our first event together this weekend, a Weightlifting Seminar in Dallas, Texas.  With his level of experience as an athlete and coach, I am so honored to get to assist him coaching his life-long profession.

Kendrick does Isabel, 2013 Crossfit Games

Kendrick Squat Jerk

Teaching in Paradise

Traveling to guest coach at different gyms is exciting because I never know what to expect! Starting this year I’ve had a surprising amount of gyms contact me to travel to them to teach a workshop. It honestly was nothing I pictured myself ever having the opportunity to do, but it’s opened my eyes to possibilities! It helps prepare me for being an HQ Trainer because I need that experience of working hands on with athletes I’ve never seen move before. Lots of head coaches either coach a lot or have another job, or own a gym that isn’t easy to get away from. Even though I have a lot of clients and teach classes and train, I figure I might as well take advantage of this time when I don’t have the major responsibilities of owning a gym or taking care of a family with a husband…. yet. Looking forward to that time when it come, but right now I’m taking advantage of my freedom!

I recently had a great opportunity to visit a box in Maui when my friend Andrew from high school contacted me about a dedicated gym on Maui that was taken over by a local Christian couple after the owner passed away. When Kehau and Frank, both competitors on the island, went on about the details of the box and came up with fun ideas to coach for the 4th of July weekend, I was sold! We booked it, and throughout the summer I’ve been looking forward to teach “AgerBomb & Fireworks,” a workshop on one day, and ‘hanging loose’ and training for the remainder of the mini vacation days!

The gym, CrossFit Upcountry Maui is on a rural working pineapple farm and has a ‘barn feel’ to it. There are tractors and buses around that transport the workers, and for the most part it’s on peaceful quiet rolling hills that remind the members that class is not a fancy fitness routine, it’s time to get down and dirty! When I showed up decked out in red white and blue for the holiday, I scanned the room as they sized me up. There was a young, tan crowd of about 50 athletes circling the gym, anxious to hear what the surprise workout was. After a fun ice-breaker warmup we led everyone through power snatch and full snatch drills. Working on technique with just the pvc pipe and barbell, and then finally working up to a heavy 1 rep while keeping all the focus on the fundamentals from earlier. I was surprised how people weren’t just ‘doing what they always do,’ instead they were really dialing in on getting comfortable specifically making contact with their hips to get under the bar with speed. We practiced progressions for Hand Stand Pushups, Muscle ups, then they did “Running Nate,” as a 20 minute Amrap adding a 200m run. The time flew by and next thing I knew we were  taking pictures and playing around and talking about diet, competition experience, and power lifts. The next day we took part in CrossFit for HOPE with CrossFit Lahaina and spent the day with them at the beach on paddle boards at sunset.

While visitng Maui, I learned about the “Road to Hana” a 69 mile drive with 59 bridges and 620 turns; just a little backround if you can imagine this was a long and winding drive through a thick jungle! Kehau took off work and acted as tour-guide for me, Ronnie and Andrew. Keeping the ocean on our left, we climbed up and down in elevation with tropical rainbow flowers and big sweeping branches and misty waterfalls. While taking pictures on the way, we stopped at five different typical tourist spots, and local secret spots you had to pretty much be a local to know about. Stopping at the side of the road with no turn off and walk through fences and fields and climb around bends and all the sudden be at a huge cliff. The only way to swim in the huge pond connected to the ocean was jumping, and we jumped! We dared each other on tricky jumps and hiked to new spots and swam. Stopping at fruit stands to get exotic fruits on the way kept us fueled for more hiking and adventure like finding sea slugs at Red Sand beaches, climbing windy staircases, and jumping off waterfalls at the Sacred Sevens.

I was shocked at how many different types of beaches and climates there were on one island. One second it would be thick dark green mush, the next a savannah terrain, the next a white sandy beach. Scaling a cliff by only holding onto a rope we lowered ourselves into tide pools with rocks looking like lava tubes that would scrape your skin off if given the chance! We ended the long day by meeting an entertaining semi-nuts farmer and feeding a gigantic Boar in a wooden frame at a road-side burger joint.

The gym members were about to start a 30-day Paleo challenge so one night they treated us to a pre-paleo celebration. It was complete with dancing shenanigans and crazy stories…. teaching us how to dance to Hawaiian reggae music. I tried to learn the dance moves, but I quickly gave up. Being the sober one learning to dance is always embarrassing! A big dark local with long black crazy hair started asking me if I had ever heard Pidgin and ended in me getting full rundowns and history of Hawaiian culture. Frank and everyone were jumping in with examples of the language. Pidgin began by the boiling pot of Hawaiian, Asian, Samoan, and Japanese languages and them needing one they could teach in school together that each could understand. It went all the way to describing the attitude of ‘Haoles,’ and the history and traditions of the islanders and how it set them apart from people that were new from the mainland. They taught me Pidgin slang like ‘have too much’ is ‘choked’.  ‘Grab me …dakine’ that word could mean anything they’re gesturing for and need. When someone says ‘see ya later,’ the word, ‘Shootz’ can basically mean bye, see ya later, good job. I even got the run down on the cool relaxed local way to do the shaka, which is barely even closing the fingers to the palm, (opposite of me who would stick my finger and thumb way out and close my fist like a sure tourist!).

There are many different ways to show love, one of the ways is spending time. Giving up their priorities or laundry list of things to do to dedicate time with us spoke volumes. It showed me two things about the Hawaiian ‘Aloha’ way. They show unending friendliness and hospitality and are truly genuine, and they care about the quality of life and how much you can enjoy it. Personally, living in Los Angeles I had a big take-away on the memories we share… versus the hours of hard work we put in. When I look back on my life I’m not going to be like… ‘I wish I had spent more time on my computer’!

A well-known young Pro Surfer named Isaac Stant is a member at their box, and one of their good friends. We couldn’t hear his name without someone mentioning how he surfs “Jaws”, one of the world’s best known waves breaking at the deep reef off the shore by Hana, rumored to get up to 120 feet and 30 miles an hour. On my last day a group trained early, and Isaac made a video to show how CrossFit workouts have made him fitter than ever, and prepared him to “rip the gnarliest waves brah!” Working with him that morning and trying to decide the workouts and what weights would be best, we put together a bunch of little sprints that would show a good variety of skills and heavy weight. After a few hours of constant training and coaching we were ready for a break! But we still had the other half of the deal…..

The core group from the gym all met at Lahaina beach to surf. I had little experience and had stood up before, once, in Canada about five years ago but remember having no balance, falling constantly, and having my brain rattled with salt water. I was more than nervous to try it again… but when we got to the beach the waves looked pretty doable so we all set out to ride. Of course, this was only after many pep talks and I actually did practice pop-ups on a towel, which I decided reminded me of a burpee mixed with a split-jerk… I could do that. Isaac basically babysat me most of the day and even would spin my board in the right direction and give me a push as I started to paddle out. I never had to ask , and they were all constantly at my side watching and yelling, “Wooh Yaa Andrea!” everytime I stood up and was able to ride to shore. Not because riding a calm 3 foot wave with a huge foamy long board is impressive, but because we’re all CrossFitters, and it’s naturally embedded in us to be linked together. Greg Glassman says we should, “Regularly play and learn new sports,” but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy! Supporting each other when we are vulnerable is a part of understanding our community, and we can’t get away from it even if we tried!

In the water surfing in, I was hit by the fact I would have no connection to these people if it weren’t for the sport I’m involved in. If teaching had not given me a “trade” I could offer, then the opportunity would have simply gone to another coach. There would be no reason for this tight knit group to have included my tourist butt in their fun and let me live their lives for a few days.  After insisting I sleep in one of their beds, while they took the couch, and having a car I could use if I needed it, this was out of the ordinary; I could see the ‘family away from family’ that is CrossFit. It’s not just from our own gyms, we can be linked to anyone in any box purely because we can relate to eachother by living by the clock, and training for the unknown. Kehau showed me what ‘Aloha’ meant by saying after I got on my plane that she felt like one of her friends moved away….. If we can slow down and apply that closeness and connection to our everyday lives, our impact will be unforgettable.

What’s with Project AgerBomb?

andrea is on the beach

People always have a lot of questions, and I have a lot of answers. Project AgerBomb was the title of a fundraiser that was really fun… and raised a lot of funds… but then we gave it back to the raisers. 😉

I have always wanted to start my own gym. Like most people that dream of opening an affiliate, I felt like I was ready, and had learned from three of my closest friends owning gyms and me working at two of them. Seeing on the inside how much work it was, and how rewarding building a community from the ground up could be, I knew it was now or never. There had been opportunities floating around with investors for the last year, and I was currently in the middle of one of them, working to open a gym in Santa Monica. The amount of growing, learning, and experience I received from working with them for a common goal is irreplaceable. It didn’t end up working out as partners, and wasn’t meant to be, but they still opened and have a nice community by the beach where we were planning.

Project AgerBomb was what we called a genius plan my friends came up with as an outreach to help open a CrossFit community by the beach where there were barely any gyms. We were the first gym to use Indiegogo, which is an online crowdfunding site that helps start-up businesses. Having the finances of a 24-year-old that just graduated college and was coaching at a few different gyms, I knew it was something I couldn’t do on my own. Rent and property are so expensive in Los Angeles, and the hoops to be jumped to open one in a good area, were difficult and could prolong opening for months, even a year. Gyms in the area were opening up immaculate facilities with startups of 200k, 250k, 300k, left and right, and we knew to have a competitive gym, we’d need to be able to open with an idea to make the money last. We quickly went to work to raise money, and we spent every waking hour planning, streaming, writing, brainstorming, filming, and losing sleep over a common dream we all shared of making this successful before it even began.

The entire AgerBomb team came from the gym, and slowly as more people heard about it, more wanted to help. Ideas for incentives filled our pages with options for the donation packages, as sponsors flooded the doors with deals and discount codes and I was in awe of the amount of people that genuinely wanted to help. A designer friend that worked for Stussy designed the shirts and logos, and a local CrossFit jewelry company were all in to help the cause. A close friend in finance helped produce the AgerBomb indiegogo page, and set up everything to help write details on the project and complete the site and help write back and forth with sponsors. Our crew extended through a well-known CrossFit HQ photographer that wanted to produce the video and had a very specific vision of how it should be portrayed, which took weeks to plan. Spending an entire 12 hour shoot at the beach and countless hours and days and weeks of editing by a Disney animation editor was only a slice of the work. Having Fitness Lonnie, a close buddy, follow me around with a camera while I was coaching, being shy of the camera, and constantly stumbling on words trying to pretend he wasn’t there, having to remind myself it was for the project. Spending hours on interviews and footage we couldn’t even use because I was so naturally bad at talking in front of the camera, we got a lot of… practice… I finally had an idea of how my actor friends feel, and didn’t know how they did it, or why do they like that pressured feeling? Give me a place to workout and I’ll be on camera all day, but make me look at the screen and all I can do is laugh loudly and snort and say dumb stuff that doesn’t make sense!

I remember the day we launched the project. We were all sitting in my kitchen, going through the process of unleashing all our hard work. Each one of us had our laptops out, crowded around and I felt like Mark Zuckerburg’s crew starting Facebook as we spent the first day messaging, creating, writing back people with questions, and responses, updating on progress and sharing posts. Behind the scenes we were corresponding with investors, companies, and potential sponsors and making connections through networking. Immediately, the CrossFit community responded with enthusiasm and after digesting the whole project people donated anywhere from $5 to $1,000, whatever they could afford to help our cause, and it was beautiful. Starting with members I coach at the gyms I worked at, and spreading through SoCal, then slowly across the country, until we got a picture of a jar from CrossFit Insurrecto in the Philipines that said AgerBomb on it with change filling up half the container. It was impossible to not feel the love coming from people that either sympathized or knew it was a long-shot, or plenty of people that just wanted to be involved. The sharing of the videos, and posts, and updates was contagious, and we all continued to work around the clock to keep up with all the traffic for four weeks straight.

Reflecting on our idea over six months after the last day of the fundraiser, I can’t believe how much I learned and grew from taking part in such an experience. We came nowhere close to the goal, but it was sheer success that we had raised over $15,000 in just 30 days. We had signed up for an option where if we didn’t make our goal (what we realistically predicted we needed to open a gym) we gave back all the money. So on the 31st day, the money went back to all the funders accounts we were back to zero, and the incentives never got made or ordered, as we knew it was all coming to an end, we looked forward to seeing what was next.

I remember we started all this insanity right after one of the toughest competitions I’ve ever competed at so far. At Regionals in 2012 I got 5th place in Southern California, and was one point away from making it to the Games, and that’s where my athletic journey that year was on pause. One point away from qualifying, and in hindsight its clear that it was a blessing in disguise. When we went to the Games two months after regionals I was trying to promote for AgerBomb, and would sneak into the front row of the stadium to watch every single female individual heat, wishing I was out there. I realize now that this entire project was the healthiest distraction for me not making it to the Games. It was the best thing for me, and although I think the timing was off, Project AgerBomb still goes on. It’s a hope, it’s a dream, it’s an extremely bold and aggressive move for what we can accomplish if we ask for help.

The nickname stuck like glue, I always joke that it might as well be on my birth certificate as “Andrea Lea Ager(Bomb).” It is something I love to hear because to me it represents taking a chance and a risk, and that’s exactly what I always find myself on the edge of doing. The “Project”, is my journey, a continuation of my road to the fittest on earth; my road to the Games.

Women – Evolved

Women- Evolved. from Tony and Max – Video Production on Vimeo.

Check out this great video Tony Swan made with footage he took this weekend at The OC Throwdown. Here is what he says:

The sport of fitness never ceases to amaze me with it’s rapid ability to create a stronger human body. Especially for women. Previous generations of women are brought up to believe ‘thin’ is healthy and eating less or dieting is the avenue to success. This is not the way. We are at the forefront of a health revolution. A revolution consisting of individuals who believe health care means eating clean whole foods combined with function fitness, not pills and dieting. We are seeing women of all ages tap into a potential which was previously dormant, creating a new generation of strong self-confident women that no yoga or zumba class could match. These women are still your mothers, sisters and daughters but they can now lift, run, squat, and press.

Women are setting the bar higher these days and it is great to see. Keep up the astounding work, ladies. I applaud you.

Take a look at some of the raw footage I captured this weekend. More to come.