"I just want to work hard and enjoy it, so I can sit back at the end of the day, put my feet up and destroy some ice cream."
Britney Holmberg is famous for her tattoo: the phrase “Eat Meat, Not Wheat” arched over an image of strip loin steak. The adornment sums up her personality and her perspective on life: fun, playful, daring, a little unusual, and definitely serious about health and fitness.
Holmberg was a competitive figure skater as a child, and her experience in the sport profoundly shaped her attitude toward CrossFit and competition. “I really try not to take competition too seriously,” she says. “I never want it to turn into how it felt in figure skating, where you’re just scared and miserable and stressed. It should be fun.”
Holmberg has always understood the importance of intensity, and incorporated it into her programming long before CrossFit. Still, her first CrossFit workout in 2009 left her puking goji berries in the back lot. “They were shooting out like bullets!” she recalls. “But I drank the Kool-Aid, and I drank it hard.”
She immediately signed up for her first competition and entered Rx because she thought scaled meant “for old people.” She was brand new to Olympic lifting and had never even seen a handstand push-up, but her high work capacity helped her finish 5th. What really fired her up competitively, though, was watching firefighter Angie Gauthier at the event. “I was in awe of how strong she was, and I knew I wanted to be like her, to discover what I was truly capable of,” Holmberg says.
By the 2011 Open, Holmberg was good enough to finish 7th in the region, and at Regionals she qualified for the Games with her team from CrossFit Altitude. “The Games were surreal. In that energy you can accomplish things that you never thought you’d be able to do,” she says. “But at the same time, I felt sort of pathetic next to the individual athletes, who were on a completely different level.”
In the 2012 Open, Holmberg thought the burpee workout was clever and liked the idea of repeating 11.6 as a benchmark workout. But 12.3 was her favorite. “Simple, long and nasty,” she says.
As the 2012 Canada East Regional approaches, Holmberg is struggling to make time to train for the event amid working four part-time jobs, pursuing a career in firefighting, and making time for her boyfriend and family. Unsure if she could commit to the time necessary for team training, she’s choosing to compete as an individual, but isn’t changing anything about her training, attitude or diet, and continues to follow her own spicy style of programming.
Holmberg sits 3rd in Canada East after the Open, but she’s focused only on her own numbers. “I set goals for myself and then worry about that,” she explains. “I try not to chase other people’s scores or compete against them. I want other people to succeed.”
Holmberg works hard toward that end. She coaches CrossFit, spin and Zumba classes, and hates when people make fun of these activities. “I’m very big on not cutting apart other passions. People just need to move, and I want to support that,” she says.
Holmberg is also motivated by her passion for firefighting. “When I want to stop in a workout I ask myself, ‘If I had someone’s life on the line, would I stop?’ And the answer is always no,” she says.
Holmberg does admit to the occasional external motivator. “I’ll promise myself a trip to Marble Slab in exchange for three more reps, and I’ll hold myself to it. If I don’t get three more, I’m not going to Marble Slab, and I’m going to sit there like a cranky-pants,” she says.
Her capacity to push through is Holmberg’s biggest strength. Her strategy going into any workout is that she doesn’t have one. Just 3-2-1 … Go! And it works.
Holmberg’s plan for Regionals is simple. “I just want to work hard and enjoy it, so I can sit back at the end of the day, put my feet up, and destroy some ice cream.”
That is, if she gets in the extra 3 reps.