April 2013 Proven Athlete - Jessica T.04.18.2013

1. When did you start training at CrossFit Milwaukee?

December 2012.

2. How did you find out about our gym and what motivated you to try our style of training? Tell us a little about your first CrossFit gym and what made you try it in the first place.

Since the summer of 2010, I had been traveling for business (A LOT) to Fresno, CA.  I practically lived there, really.  While I was there, I was invited to join a gym that was geared towards athletes where some of my friends/coworkers in Fresno trained.  Long story short, I was asked to leave that gym in May 2012 because I wouldn’t date one of these so-called “friends.”  (He was one of the founders of the gym.  Let’s call him Mr. Butthead.)  As silly as it sounds, I was devastated because my gym, my boot camp class, and the friends I had made there were taken away from me in one little text message from the owner (who was bosom buddies with Mr. Butthead).  This gym, this class, these people had helped make the business travel fun and enjoyable.  And I found my inner athlete and was in the best shape of my life (thus far)!  I didn’t want that to end!!!  

Since Mr. Butthead and his crew always made fun of the CrossFit gym down the street from them (CrossFit FTF), I decided to make a beeline there and check it out.  After all, everyone I had ever seen entering or leaving CrossFit FTF looked like an athlete, so they must be doing SOMETHING right.  I didn’t know a thing about CrossFit when I entered CrossFit FTF.  But I knew it’d be sweet revenge if I could get in even BETTER shape and show up those buttheads at the old gym.  (Childish, I know.  :P)  Needless to say, my mind was blown!  :)  The people, the culture, the programming was unlike anything I had ever experienced!  They are family!!!  Encouraging, positive, determined, competitive (against the WODs/programming, not each other), supportive, friendly, laid-back, helpful, and FUN! (I could go on.)  And the coach staff is AMAZING!  I was fortunate enough to meet other CrossFitters traveling for work who CrossFitted elsewhere, and they all said the same thing, that the culture was basically the same at their home base CrossFit.  So, once my business travel slowed down, I went on the CrossFit website to find a CrossFit gym in the Milwaukee area.  That’s when I stumbled across CrossFit Milwaukee (amongst others).  At my complimentary class, I knew CrossFit Milwaukee was the right place for me.  :)  And after a few more classes, I knew I was home.  Crossfit Milwaukee, too, is family!  It possesses the same culture and characteristics as CrossFit FTF that I mentioned above.  (Except they’re more raunchy out in CA. :P)  And likewise, we have an AMAZING coaching staff at CrossFit Milwaukee!  And the members totally rock!  I’ve made fantastic friends!  :)

3. What were some of the first changes you noticed when you started training? How did your workouts impact your life outside the gym?

As much as I hate to admit it, the “butthead” gym I was training at had prepared me pretty well for coming on board to CrossFit. Then again, I work hard.  :)  CrossFit FTF makes everyone go through a 4 week/3 days a week (12 sessions) on ramp.  I blew through that in 8 consecutive business days.  And when I say blew, I mean I got through it, but it was hard, especially in the 105 degree weather in an open air box (i.e. no AC).  :P  On that particular business trip, I was in Fresno just long enough to complete the on-ramp.  When I went back a few weeks later (one of my longer breaks in business travel to Fresno), I was there for 3 weeks.  I noticed the fat melt off my body and my speed and strength quickly increase.  This happened EVERY business trip,   whether I was there for 1.5, 2, or 3 weeks at a time.  I could ALWAYS tell I improved by the time my business trip was over.  I’m one of those people who would go 4-5 days a week, take the class, and do the extra strength and skill work afterwards a couple days a week.  So, I started at CrossFit FTF in June 2012.  By Sept, I could run a mile in 8:20.  Before starting CrossFit, my fastest mile was 9:40.  And only once did I run more than 800 meters at a time during a CrossFit class.  Usually, we’d only run 200 meters at a time.  This was the first time in my life that I got BETTER at running!
I also noticed my back got way more ripped.  Interestingly enough, I get compliments on my arms, shoulders and traps a lot these days.  Just what every woman wants to hear, right?  ;)

In addition, I got WAY better at using my entire body to do everything.  For example, when I first starting learning to do a kipping pull-up, I had zero coordination.  I kept trying to muscle it instead of using my entire body and momentum to do the work.  Once I made the mind-body connection of using my entire body, I was able to transfer that knowledge to other functional movements. From there, I improved exponentially at all the full body functional movements.  And let’s face it, just about everything you do in CrossFit requires the coordination of all your body parts working together.  In particular, taking Alex’s Olympic lifting classes has really helped me learn how to explode from the hips.  I’ve got a ways to go, but I can definitely see the improvement since January, especially over the last few weeks.  I recently PR’ed my clean at 160lbs.  Woohoo!

And now, after being with Crossfit Milwaukee, I am in the best shape and health of my life!  I have never been this lean, this small. Number don’t lie.  My cholesterol is 107, and I eat bacon and avocados just about every day.  :)  When I joined in Dec, I was hovering about 185lbs.  I’ve been consistently holding at 175lbs for a couple of months now.  And no, it’s NOT because of football training, I swear!  I’ve only had 6 legitimate football practices to date.  The rest of my training has occurred inside CrossFit Milwaukee, doing the WODs, taking Olympic Lifting classes, the Skills & Drills class, and training with one of the coaches, James Taulbee.  

One specific way in which these workouts impacted my life outside the gym is that they improved my mental toughness.  We all have bad days when we think things are too tough and we can’t deal.  On days like these, I think of some of the WODs I’ve accomplished even though everything in my body seemed to hurt.  If I can make it through those types of WODs, I can push through anything.  Mind over matter!  It really IS amazing how much our brains control what we think we can and cannot do.  We are all way more capable than we realize!

In general, since starting CrossFit, I have more confidence.  Or rather, I should say I have more confident days/moments outside (and inside) of the gym.  I realize now, even before the football thing, that I AM an athlete.  And that athleticism has ALWAYS been supported and praised at CrossFit.  I’ve also made lots of awesome friends at both CrossFit boxes.  They probably have no idea how much they’ve positively impacted my life over the last few months.  That’s the best thing by far!

4. Shortly after working out with us you caught the attention of one of the football coaches at Dominican High School, who had connections with the Green Bay Chill Women's Arena Football League. Tell us about it!

Talk about being in the right place at the right time!  :)  

I have to be honest, I initially thought the coach was just checking me out.  *laugh*  (Does that sound egotistical?  Oops!)  For a couple weeks, I noticed the coach watching me during Alex’s Olympic lifting classes.  Then, one day he came up to me and asked me if I played any sports, specifically football, and if I’d be interested in playing arena football.  He went on to tell me there was this women’s arena football league, that Green Bay had a team, and asked if I’d be interested in possibly playing.  I totally thought he was blowing smoke, but was totally intrigued.  I always wanted to play football when I was “a kid.”  (I was about this same size in 8th grade, though not as strong.)  Anyway, the coach said he’d get my info before he left the gym that day, but he never did.  I wasn’t expecting to have another conversation about playing football with the coach, but decided that if opportunity knocked, I’d be open to answering.  Though, at the time, I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly contribute to this professional team, especially at age 36 (soon to be 37)!  

Over the next couple of Mondays, the coach would come pick my brain about playing football, but still didn’t get my info....until the week of Valentine’s Day.  He told me to expect a call from the assistant coach/defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Chill.  I was still skeptical at this point, but since I promised myself I’d answer if opportunity knocked, I gave the coach my number.  To my pleasant surprise, I got a call from the assistant coach Wed evening of that week!  I called him back the following day, Valentine’s Day and went through a phone interview of sorts.  By the end of the conversation, we had connected on Facebook and within a couple hours he was sharing some of my gym pictures on his FB page.  And I also got a text saying that the head coach, Gilbert Brown, wanted to talk to me.  OMG!  Seriously?!?!?  GILBERT BROWN wants to talk to me about playing football for him?!??!! PINCH ME!!!  Needless to say, this was THE best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had!  (and I didn’t even get any flowers!  :P )  

Gilbert and I finally connected on Friday for the second phone interview.  This is when I learned about the re-branding of the LFL.  It used to be the Lingerie Football League, and is now the Legends Football League.  Slowly, they’re trying to get away from the Lingerie stigma, so I was told.  OK, I can support that.  But, what?  Gilbert needs to see pictures of me in a bikini?!?!??!  EEEEK!!!  And he needs them TONIGHT!  I don’t have a bikini!  It’s mid-Feb!  Who the heck sells bikinis this time of year?!??!  Do I even WANT to do this?  I’ve NEVER taken or sent pictures like this before to ANYONE!  ACK!  OK, you only live once, right?  Thankfully, one of my awesome friends from the gym rescued me.  Not only did she have a bikini I could borrow (I still have no idea how I fit into it!), but she also takes semi-professional pictures, so off I went to have a “photo shoot” Friday night.  I remember getting a text from Gilbert around 10:30pm asking if I had forgotten about him.  *laugh*  I was in the middle of choosing which pictures to send to him.  At 11:24pm, I got a text from Gilbert, and I quote, “WOW!!!!  Lookin’ good hun...  Yes I want u on my team... You look great :)”  Holy crap!!!  REALLY?!?!??!  I look good enough to play football in a sports bikini??!??!?!  OK then!!!  Let’s see where this adventure takes me....

I had the honor of meeting the coaches and some of the players at Gilbert’s birthday party.  After meeting me, they trusted me to participate in the BIG practice that Sunday (2/24).  The Commissioner from the LFL was there to see how the team was looking.  I must have done something right because they kept telling me to come back to practice, and eventually handed me a contract to sign.  :)

5. Name three areas that you feel that training at our gym will help you for this opportunity.

Only 3???  :)

1. Tapping into the knowledge base of the staff/coaches especially since some have football experience.
2. Exercising mental toughness by completing the WODS.
3. Improving lower body power and multi-joint movements in the Olympic Lifting classes, Skils & Drills classes, and the WODs..

6. Besides CrossFit and Arena Football do you play or have you played other sports?

I played slow-pitch softball from ages 9-16 and golf in high school.  Do those count?  :P  
I also played rec leagues in college for softball and flag football.  In the past year, I’ve played a little indoor sand volleyball.

7. What are three training goals you want to accomplish in the next year?

1. Complete 5 consecutive strict pull-ups.
2. Complete 25 consecutive hand release push-ups.
3. Dead Lift 300 pounds.
4. I’m adding #4 because, for some reason, I have ALWAYS wanted to bench press my body weight.

8. Given your experience so far with Arena Football, do you have words of advice for those looking to get in the sport? Something that might have helped you when you first set out on doing this?

Keep doing Crossfit and train hard at least a couple days a week.  A couple other girls on the football team CrossFit as well, so while it’s not the same as football drills, it translates.  Find out when tryouts are for next season (my guess is this fall) and try out. If you’re really serious, train with me.  :)  And most importantly, follow your heart/gut/6th sense.  Being at the right place at the right time AND training hard is what got me spotted for the team.  Some call it luck.  I call it fate.  :)

9. Anything else that you want to add?

Who me?  Write more?  :)

Age is just the number of years you’ve been alive on this earth, nothing more.

Follow your heart/gut/6th sense (whatever you want to call it).  It sounds cliche, but I can speak from experience that when I do this, this is when the best stuff in my life happens.  Sometimes it’s hard to block out “the noise.”  But through trial and error with hindsight, you’ll figure out what’s “noise” vs what’s the good stuff.

In case you don’t know “my story,” here’s the short version.  I grew up the fat, ugly and VERY unpopular kid.  I had coke bottle glasses, braces, permed hair, and was 5’9 by the time I was in 7th grade (I’m now 5’11).  The teasing was unbearable at times. In high school, I weighed 215lbs at my heaviest (leaning out for a bit Senior year).  But then in college, I topped out at 245lbs and was a size 20.  That was the same weight as my dad who is 6’4.  That was the wake up call I needed.  After college I decided to get healthy, making my nutrition and fitness top priority.  I don’t remember how long it took me to lose the weight and get healthy, but I got down to about 180lbs (give or take) and have been holding steady ever since, except for 2 times in my life where I creeped back up to 190-195.  Both of those times, I was in a very bad/negative place in my life.  Clearly, my body was telling me so, but I didn’t understand it until after the fact.  Through determination and focus, I changed my health and my life.  I even went on to teach group exercise for about 7 years (spin, step, yoga, Pilates, sports conditioning, kickboxing, strength training, etc).  I am proof that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.  (refer to my last comment.)

I know a lot of people don’t go to the gym/exercise because they are nervous/scared that people are watching them at the gym. Who gives a sh1t?!?!?!  Let them watch you change your life.  Let them watch you get/stay healthy.  Who cares what they think?  If people are not being supportive of something positive you’re doing in your life (no matter WHAT that is), they’re not worth having in your life.  Everyone has an athlete inside of them.  It’s just a matter of allowing it to come out.  No excuses (see my last comment).  Humans were meant to move and move A LOT. So MOVE!  Even if it’s not Crossfit.  JUST MOVE!  :) Lift heavy or go home!

We are what we think!!!!!This is my favorite saying because it’s true!  If you make excuses as to why you can’t or don’t do something, then you’re not going to do it because you’re THINKING that.  If you think you can do something, you WILL be able to do it.  If you think that you are something, then you WILL become it.  I’m living proof of that.  During the summer of 2012, I was visiting my brother.  I went out for a sprint workout in his neighborhood while he went to go run an errand.  When I got back to his house, he told me on his way back home, as he was driving in his neighborhood, he saw this woman running, and thought, “Wow! What an athlete!  Wonder what she plays or is training for.”  This, coming from my brother who has been an athlete his whole life, completing triathlons and century rides.  As he got closer to the woman, he realized it was me.  Definitely a defining moment in my life, and probably his.  It was the first time I ever considered that I WAS an athlete.  And I don’t think he ever thought of me as an athlete, either.  

Ever since that day, I started telling myself that I am an athlete and BELIEVING it.  While playing for the Green Bay Chill doesn’t define me as an athlete, it sure is good proof that I am one, right?  :)  Funny how life works.  If I hadn’t followed my gut and moved up to Milwaukee 3.5 years ago and taken my current job, I wouldn’t have gotten out to Fresno, CA.  And if I hadn’t gotten out to Fresno and “experienced” Mr. Butthead at the negative gym, I would have never found CrossFit.  And if I hadn’t found CrossFit, I wouldn’t have met all the amazing people I’ve met and I wouldn’t have been able to have this Green Bay Chill adventure.  I don’t like to admit this, but a little part of me is proud to be sticking it to the buttheads at the negative gym, a gym whose main purpose is to train athletes.  I’m more of an athlete now doing the CrossFit thing than I ever was at that other gym. So, they can keep their negativity and shove it.  I’ll stick with my positive peeps/experiences at Crossfit.  <3

Copyright © 2008 CrossFit Milwaukee | 120 East Silver Spring Drive, Milwaukee, WI 53217
Site Designed by IDOC Systems, LLC | All Rights Reserved