The fitness community’s penchant for ratcheting things up a notch has culminated in the worldwide explosion of high-intensity training programs such as CrossFit.
Fort Worth, Texas coach and trainer Candice Wagner is an elite member of that group.
Wagner, co-owner of CrossFit Iron Horse in Fort Worth, Texas, qualified in May for her third CrossFit Games, the event that has become the Mount Olympus of high-intensity training, scalable only by the world’s fittest people.
The Games were held July 19-24 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
While competing at the South Regional competition in Dallas in May, Wagner set an event record that, while it stood only briefly before being broken at a subsequent regional, encapsulates the differences between a CrossFit devotee’s definition of physical fitness and that of someone who takes pride in the fact that they took the stairs instead of the elevator.
In a then-record time of 12 minutes, 54 seconds, Wagner completed three rounds of the following: a 400-meter run on a True Form Runner treadmill, which forces the runner into what is considered correct running posture; 40 big sit-ups with feet locked inside a glute-ham developer machine; and seven dead lifts at 275 pounds.
It propelled her to the fifth-place finish she needed at the regional event to qualify for the CrossFit Games.
“I got fifth by the skin of my teeth,” Wagner said. “I just went in there thinking I wanted to have fun and try to get inside the top 10. So it worked out very, very well, way beyond my expectations.”
Wagner’s definition of fun is not standard.
“In my experience, CrossFit people are very different,” Wagner said. “It’s not for everybody. There are people who come in here all about fitness until they have to work hard for it.”
Alex Germain, a coach at CrossFit Iron Horse, agrees.
“I was a college soccer player, and I’m constantly blown away at the level Candice trains at,” Germain said. “Her workouts are intense. Anything having to do with dead lifts or brute strength at the Games, she’s sure to excel there. She’s a true CrossFit original.”
One of the caveats of competing at the Games is that the athletes don’t know the specific events they’ll be competing in until each event is announced shortly before it begins. The Games also unveil a new event each year.
“It’s nerve-wracking for everyone, whether they admit it or not,” Wagner said. “I’m good at the hard work, grunt stuff, so the way I see it, Games events favor an athlete like myself a little bit, whereas the Open and the Regional stages might feature more traditional CrossFit events, a little more high-skilled gymnastic stuff, which I struggle more with.”
The whole idea behind CrossFit competitions is constantly varying functional movements performed at high intensity, basically going as hard and as fast as possible for as long as possible.
“I like the feeling of being pushed, because you learn a lot about yourself. A lot about CrossFit purposely takes us out of our comfort zone, but when you persevere through that you have another tool in your tool bag or next time something challenging comes up.”
It’s a mentality forged in Wagner through five years in the Marine Corps.
“When you get to the Games, it becomes even more similar to Marine Corps training,” Wagner said. “You’re going to be carrying odd objects, heavy packs, carrying a friend. I think it’s an advantage for me to have that experience because a lot of girls that are going probably don’t.”
The Oceanside, Calif., native has qualified for three CrossFit Games.
“In the Marine Corps they instill discipline in you from the very start. It helps me tremendously in CrossFit, because there are many days that I don’t want to come in and train because I’m exhausted,” Wagner said. “But I know I have to do the work to get where I need to be, and that’s something I learned early on in the Marine Corps.”
Wagner said CrossFit on a more basic level is about self-discovery.
“It’s a really good program to find out about your weaknesses, find what they are and work on them. It gives you an idea of your true colors and that there’s always an improvement to be made,” she said. “You’re constantly challenged, regardless.”
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