“You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.”
Solid, jacked, beast, swole, ripped, “Chick Norris” are some of the adjectives people at the gym use to describe me – but I don’t think of myself in that way. My name is Kathleen Mitchell. I’m a 40+ year-old wife and mother and I love to CrossFit. My goal is to reach the 1% club and compete at the 2017 CrossFit Games as a Masters Athlete. It all starts with competing in the CrossFit Open, which kicks off February 23.
I have always expected a lot from myself and sports and fitness have always been a part of my life. I grew up participating in all sorts of the sports: basketball, volleyball, karate, soccer, dance, and figure skating. But of all I was best at track and field – mostly track, 400 and 800m sprints. One of my first jobs was at a local gym where I earned $3.15 an hour to hand out towels and greet people. The job perk was a free membership, it was priceless and in my mind I was rich because of it! When I was pregnant I kept up with TV fitness programs such as Billy Blank’s Tae Bo or Bodies In Motion with Gilad. When I was a young mother at home I did Reebok Box Step and Buns and Abs of Steel from the VHS in my living room.
When my kids were older, I headed back into the gym. As an adult I’ve trained and competed as a runner in 5k and half-marathon road races, as well as bodybuilding, Olympic Lifting and CrossFit competitions. And after a wonderful professional career, I’ve found myself back working in a gym again (no towels this time).
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is a fitness regimen developed by Greg Glassman over several decades. Glassman, CrossFit’s Founder and CEO, was the first person in history to define fitness in a meaningful, measurable way: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. He then created a program specifically designed to improve fitness and health.
Monday May 19, 2008 was the first time I walked into a CrossFit “box” and did my first official workout. Up until that time I had been attending a private fitness studio where we “sort of” did CrossFit, but didn’t call it that. The WoD (workout of the day) on the Whiteboard was Helen (3 rounds for time of 400 meter sprints, pull-ups and kettlebell swings), the workout left me in a heap on the floor bewildered! But I was excited to come back and try again. Through CrossFit I’ve grown stronger mentally and physically, I love the endorphins and I have a great body because of it.
The 2016 CrossFit Season
I participated in the 2016 CrossFit Open. The Open is the first phase in a 2-part competition to winning a ticket to compete at the CrossFit Games. It’s comprised of five unique workouts that are revealed each week for five consecutive weeks. Each workout is a test of fitness with the specific purpose of finding the fittest athletes in each region who will then move on to compete at their regional or Masters Online Qualifier (in my case is phase 2). As I am a Masters Athlete, and over the age of 40, my “region” is the World. I need to finish in the top 200 worldwide to in order to stay in the competition and advance to phase 2. In 2016 I achieved that and finished as below:
- 160th Worldwide (of 28,697 Master Females)
- 8th East Regional
- 3rd Ontario
During the Masters Online Qualifier last year I dislocated and tore the labrum of my right shoulder. It’s through that that I learned that “you can’t expect to push hard and not be pushed back.” Reflecting back on that workout today, the injury, although miserable has strengthened my mental toughness and it taught me a valuable lesson in the importance of having a strategy for each workout. Even if you are competing, “3-2-1 GO, as hard as you can” isn’t always the right approach. Sometimes you need to save energy for moves you’re weaker at.
From April though September of 2016 I patiently worked though my injury. It was frustrating at times and that injury has become a part of my process for 2017. During that time I focused on building my squats, core and cardiovascular capacity through running, and rehabbing my shoulder through physiotherapy and strengthening exercises.
So what was missing in 2016? I was consistent in my training routine, I worked out with lots of intensity, but something was off. Looking back, my training lacked purpose – there was no desired outcome or stimulus – just go hard, heavy and fast. Sure, I was pushing hard and training but there was no program to support me to achieve my goal and no process to follow.
The 2017 CrossFit Season
Since September 1 my training leading into the 2017 CrossFit Open has been one of consistency, intensity and purpose. I train 5 days a week, with some double training days, I have very few cheat meals (1 or 2 a week), and a whole lot of planned daily recovery to quickly get back to where I was prior to my injury; and then some. I love this lifestyle and I can’t want to see how good I can get. I don’t believe in limits or limitations, I already have everything I need inside of me to be successful. Now it’s up to me to demand more of myself in order to achieve my goal.
Monday through Friday my first training session is in the morning after breakfast, at around 10 am (I thrive on daily rituals and routine). Typically this training session lasts anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours. I train alone with my coach PK by my side at the Strong Athlete Human Performance Centre. Each training session starts with mobility and myofascial release and a light cardiovascular warm-up. Next is a strength segment, then a technical skill-builder that could be either bodyweight, high-skill gymnastics or Olympic lifting and finally metabolic conditioning – which usually leaves me in a heap on the floor kicking off my shoes. I love it.
My second training session is focused on accessory strength building (squats, deadlifts, single leg/arm strength), technical skills to address weakness. These training sessions usually last an hour to 90 minutes.
Saturday training sessions are social and fun. I head into the gym in the morning and workout with a partner. We warm-up, we focus on an Olympic lift, either clean and jerk or snatch, then we WoD (Workout of the Day), then we rest a for a bit and then we tackle a strongman workout such as heavy d-ball cleans, farmer carries, kettlebell swings, mixed with bodyweight exercises such as rope climbs, muscle-ups, handstand walks, or handstand push-ups. Saturdays are typically 3 hours of throw-down fun.
Nutrition is the second largest factor in my training. I get four meals a day, avoiding sugar and eating meat, vegetables, little starch, some fruit, some nuts, along with some strategically chosen supplements.
My pre-workout is dark roast black coffee and 1L of water mixed with Blonyx’s HMB+ Creatine and BETA-Alanine. For Intra-workout I mix and sip on Pentacarb and IBCAA (both by ATP Labs). Post workout I use a whey protein recovery shake (vanilla) by CrossFuel. In addition I use Vitamin C, Omega-3s, Vitamin D and probiotic supplements and once a month I get a Vitadrip.
Rest and Recovery: Part of the Process
Rest and recovery are the building blocks of any program: train, replenish, supplement and rest is my routine. I am well disciplined, consume quality nutrition and I get quality sleep – at least 8 hours a day. Occasionally I’ll take a 30 to 40 minute nap mid-day between training sessions. I wake at the same time everyday, regardless if it’s a training day or not and I go to bed at the same time. I meditate daily, see a sports therapist once a month, get a deep tissue message on my active rest day (Thursday), dry sauna and cryotherapy 3x a week on opposite days, and I ROMWoD daily. In total recovery accounts for about an hour to 90 minutes of my daily routine. Cutting back on rest and recovery is never a good idea and you’re almost sure to suffer if you do. Again, “you can’t expect to push hard and not be pushed back.”
Join My Journey
I’m happy to share my passion for CrossFit with you and the pursuit of my goals. Through regular blog posts I’ll keep you updated on what I’ve learned about fitness and myself – the good, the bad and sometimes even the ugly. Fitness is a journey, let’s go.
By Kathleen Mitchell