Getting to Know your Coach
“When you do what you enjoy, work becomes play.”
Very few people personify this quote as well as Karen. Given the different training and coaching techniques that exist out in the industry/community, this is a topic that has been discussed at length within CrossFit Amoskeag. It’s rare to come into the gym and find Karen without a smile (even during mid workout!) Whether Karen is coaching or working out, she’s having a good time and that has the pleasant effect of good results for both athletes and herself. So if you’re feeling down or trudging through a workout, don’t forget, you should be having fun while you’re getting fit! Karen is the perfect example!
Also, if you haven’t read her previous article about female athletes and body image, I Don’t Want to Look Like You, check it out!
What is your athletic background?
I’ve always loved physical activity though I’ve never really excelled at most of my pursuits – I grew up playing the whole array of sports, little league baseball, soccer, and basketball. After being cut from the middle school softball team for not being strong enough I ran track. I transitioned back to softball in high school but developed my love for running through indoor track. This also was my first exposure to CrossFit style conditioning as my track coach directed me to crossfit.com and explained that he based many of our workouts on that methodology. Going into college I opted to hang up my softball cleats but my running shoes were never far away. Though I never really liked the thought of distance running – maybe because a mile on the indoor track is 11 laps – after 3 years on our club track team I decided I was ready for a varsity sport my senior year and ran cross country which led to running my first and only marathon that spring.
How did you get into CrossFit?
After college I continued running but found I lost motivation without my teammates – there were times I would get to Best Fitness for a workout, warm up for about 5 minutes before deciding to head home. I started looking into yoga or group fitness to help stay motivated and I found a livingsocial deal for Crossfit. In the back of my mind I thought I couldn’t afford it once my intro month was done but got addicted and learned how to budget more appropriately.
What can an athlete do to stay motivated when they are not achieving a result?
Crossfit is so much fun for the first year or two because it is so easy to see progress – practically every time you touch a barbell it leads to a PR. It gets a lot harder after a couple years when maybe you’ve been trying to get a pull-up or muscle-up or have been stuck at that back squat PR for months, sometimes years with no success. When I’m struggling I always like to think back to where I was and what I once considered unattainable. I very clearly remember watching people compete in a Barbell for Boobs fundraiser (Helen Meets Grace) where I knew I would never be able to do 95lb clean and jerks, not necessarily a bucket list movement but as I struggled to try to figure out muscle ups every once in a while I would pick up a barbell to remind myself how far I had come regardless of my more specific current goal. Plateaus also force a focus on mastering movement instead of relying on strength – maybe strength has plateaued but efficiency can improve, it might mean taking what feels like 10 steps back and getting very comfortable with a PVC pipe and relearning the basics more perfectly.
What do you expect from the athletes you coach?
More than anything I expect a positive mindset – whether you love the workout or hate it as soon as you walk in the door and start warming up you’ve made the choice to join class. It’s perfectly fine if you get through warm-up and decide it’s better to have a rest day or focus on mobility but once you commit don’t bring anyone else down with negative energy.
What are your personal athletic goals?
I’ve already progressed further than I ever would have expected and am lucky to be at a point where I can look at most physical challenges and see them as possible – so now my primary goal is to play. Whether that means jumping into more strongman competitions, PR’ing lifts, running a random race, exploring a new trail or just dropping into more gyms both at home and while I travel as long as I’m having fun and testing what I’m capable of I’m achieving my personal goals.
What is your favorite CrossFit workout/movement/philosophy to coach?
I absolutely love the mental aspect of Crossfit – mindset can make or break a workout or a lift – as soon as an athlete realizes there’s more to it than being strong physically it opens up so much potential.
What is your favorite workout/movement to do?
I think everyone knows I love workouts with running – but I also love workouts that involve strict gymnastics movements. Though still a work in progress, to me they represent the strength and control I’ve achieved that I lacked the most throughout my first several years of Crossfit.
What keeps you motivated as a coach?
It’s easy to stay motivated as a coach – every time I can help someone achieve something for the first time or truly understand a movement they have been doing for months or years it makes it
How has CrossFit affected your life outside of the box?
Crossfit has forced me to keep my life outside the box far more focused – in order to spend the amount of time I do at the gym I have to focus more
on nutrition, sleep and getting things done within an 8 hour workday rather than letting it stretch to 10. Beyond the day to day, Crossfit has helped me to be more independent – though some may question if that is necessarily a good thing. It has opened up my world to travel and actually connecting with locals to truly experience the places I go. A couple years ago I decided to go to Hawaii– I found Crossfit Kailua while I was there – they welcomed me as one of their family, showed me some of the local spots and even let me go in for some extra strength work before the 5:30am class – at that point I realized with Crossfit I will never really travel alone but I can have all the benefits of traveling solo while making friends and acquaintances around the world.
What are you passionate about?
I am definitely a math geek – I love numbers, logic and over-analyzing everything – to the point where I realized I cannot keep a log of my workouts because then I can and will over-analyze the day to day plateaus and successes. When I was logging workouts I also started to log sleep patterns, food intake, resting heart rate, etc. to identify drivers of those off days. People are always surprised when I tell them I don’t log my workouts and I refuse to use powerful (and in my mind fun) apps like wodify but I still know my PR’s and my benchmark times, I know generally what my 5 and 10 rep maxes look like but a lack of record allows me to separate my passion for crossfit from my passion for numbers which is a healthy separation.
What is your favorite movie?
Not surprisingly I really struggle to sit still long enough to watch many movies – that being said Disney movies allow for sing-a-longs and are only about 90 minutes…Aladdin.