Tampa office paralegal, Stephanie McKinney, recently took on the great challenge of competing in the world wide 2021 CrossFit Open. The CrossFit Open is a global sporting event where athletes from all around the world compete in a series of fitness challenges. Unique obstacles came with this year’s competition for Stephanie yet with each hurdle she pushed through and met her fitness goals with strength, perseverance and determination. In our interview, Stephanie shares with us a sport she is both passionate about and inspired by, and gives us an inside scoop on what it looked like for her to train for a global competition during a pandemic.
How long have you been doing CrossFit? What inspired you to try this type of fitness?
I am coming up on my 3-year CrossFit anniversary in July of this year. My twin sister introduced me to CrossFit when she came down to Florida for a visit. I enjoy this style of fitness as it is high intensity and the movements are constantly varied that combine strength training, gymnastics movements and cardiovascular stamina. The CrossFit community is one of the most welcoming communities to be involved in. Being in an environment where I improve, and being able to witness others improve in this sport, is both inspiring and exciting to be a part of.
You recently participated in the 2021 CrossFit Open. For those that do not know, what is the CrossFit Open?
The CrossFit Open is a competition for all of its athletes worldwide. Hundreds of thousands of athletes are tested on their overall skill and fitness stamina. Each athlete must perform a workout each week for several weeks. By design, the workouts are released moments before you are eligible to begin that week’s workout. Expect the unexpected is something that you have to embrace to be successful in CrossFit. You are not just tested physically, but your mental strength also plays a significant factor. The Open lasts anywhere from 3-5 weeks and each athlete performs a workout in front of a certified judge who scores you. If you do not go to a CrossFit gym in person to perform, you can record your workout and submit it to be reviewed and validated by a judge. This year’s Open had a record-breaking turnout of participants despite the pandemic, which was encouraging to see!
How did you train to prepare for the Open?
Three months before the Open, I began tracking my macros daily so that I could go to a cut phase to make sure my body was in the best performance condition I could get it in. In years past, I always trained in a CrossFit gym leading up to the Open, but this year was a bit different because of gym closures as a result of the pandemic and beginning law school last fall. I transitioned to working out in my garage due to the closures at the beginning of the pandemic, and continued working out in my garage because of my need for more accessibility to a gym at varying hours of the day for scheduling reasons when the gyms re-opened again. I did a CrossFit WOD (workout of the day) for one training session and I would weightlift for a second training session most days.
In May, you went on to compete in the Quarterfinals in the CrossFit Open, representing the top 10% of athletes in your age group worldwide based on your performance in the first stage of the Open. As a female competitor and athlete, what does that mean to you?
The female athletes in the Open are some of the fittest athletes in the world. To be able to compete against that level of athlete, male or female, is both humbling and motivating at the same time. As a female, being able to persevere through barbell movements traditionally performed by men outside of CrossFit is gratifying. Making the Quarterfinals this year was a huge accomplishment for me. The first week of the Open, in my first workout, I strained my calf and I could not walk on that leg for a few days following. I rehabbed my calf several times a day until the next week’s workout so that I could go in to the next workout in the best shape I could get it in. Thankfully, it was a minor strain, and I chose to accept that it happened and did not allow it to be a hindrance for me competing the remaining weeks. Despite my injury, the following week’s workout was my highest ranked workout of the Open.
What goals do you hope to achieve in continuing with your CrossFit training?
This year, one of my focuses is on obtaining bar and ring muscle ups. These are considered highly skilled CrossFit movements. I have a high stamina and enjoy the gymnastics movements the most, so my other goal is to acquire more strength and better technique on the barbell with my Olympic lifts to become a more balanced athlete. From there, I want to advance to the Semifinals in the coming years. You have to continue to set goals for yourself in this sport, and my standing goal is to be 1% better every day.
Image courtesy of Jill Levesque Photography.