"I want to win. I want to beat everyone. But if somebody beats me, I'm going to be looking at myself when it is over. I only can improve my own game."
Becca Voigt has competed or qualified as an individual in every CrossFit Games since 2008, never finishing below 20th place. She shares the distinction of competing as an individual for six Games with Jason Khalipa, Matt Chan and Chris Spealler.
So, what is the secret to her consistency and longevity?
Simple: Get back to the basics, train with friends and attack new challenges.
In the midst of her seventh season, she explained how practicing with expert coaches, training with friends and taking on SEALFIT, has helped her improve.
“This year I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “I know that where I am today is not where I will be, or where I will end up. As long as I can regroup and analyze what I do, I’ll be a little bit better each day.”
After the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, Voigt and her coach, Ben Bergeron of CrossFit New England, thought about what she could do to improve as an all-around athlete. Upon reflection, they decided to focus on practicing the bread and butter of CrossFit: gymnastics and Olympic lifting, and getting back to the basics.
“I have been in the sport a long time,” she said. “I have seen everyone get stronger and faster. … I’ve improved, too … but I needed to do more, so (we) looked at what I was doing last year and knew that I had to work on gymnastics and Olympic lifting even harder to stay in the game.”
“It wasn’t that my gymnastics and lifts were weak, but that they both could be stronger if I understood how to use my legs and hips more effectively,” she continued. “Both gymnastics and lifting rely heavily on the hips (and legs), so working on using them has made me stronger.”
Bergeron added: “It is a challenge for every coach to help an elite athlete like Becca improve, but when you do find some weakness … it is much easier going from a 4 to a 10 than from a 9.5 to a 10. When you improve weaker points, all of your strengths get stronger, too, because you are becoming better in general.”
To help her improve on these weaker points, Voigt hired Sean Waxman to coach her in Olympic lifting and continued practicing with Tina Angelotti on her gymnastics—she had already hired Angelotti in early 2013.
“Since working on my gymnastics and lifting this year, I’ve gone from only being able to do a cartwheel to doing tumbling runs with back handsprings and back flips,” Voigt said. “I’ve also added 13 lb. to my snatch, going from 150 lb. to 163 lb.”
On top of the extra work with lifting and gymnastics Voigt did, she continued with Bergeron as her primary coach. He programmed for her remotely and held more than six training camps for her at CrossFit New England.
“Working with Ben, Sean and Tina has been amazing. They all contribute greatly to different aspects of my development as an athlete,” she said. “Training with all of these coaches has also given me time to train with other athletes who they coach. This has actually reminded me of what it was like to train with friends earlier in my career, in a simpler time when the sport was new.”
And those relationships are vital to Voigt.
“When I made it a priority after the 2013 Games, getting back to the basics wasn’t just about CrossFit, weightlifting and gymnastics,” she said.
“It was also about getting back to what I believe is the reason I have been so successful in my career. Training with friends is a big part of that.”
Early in her career, Voigt became a household name, especially as a “Valley Girl.” The women of Valley CrossFit—Lindsey Valenzuela, Katie Hogan and Kristan Clever—dominated the sport in its early days.
“Training with the Valley Girls got me where I am today,” Voigt said. “We worked out with each other every chance we got and were so competitive and driven … we fought tooth and nail together to be better. Though we are all with different coaches and in different places now, the Valley Girls never broke up. We just set out to blaze our own trails.”
Voigt kept the idea that training with her friends could push her harder than training alone when she decided to add a different type of challenge to her training.
“When you have been in the sport so long, you learn how to get around the pain zone, or to push just as hard as you need to, to accomplish the immediate goal,” Voigt explained. “I wanted to remember what it was like to push to that red line … that place where you have no idea if you will be able to do it or not.”
Some time getting sandy and wet was just what she needed.
“I decided to do SEALFIT with Katie Hogan, Elisabeth Akinwale and Kenny Leverich on Halloween 2013.”
Doing this challenge with her friends helped Voigt get through the toughest parts of the experience.
“This definitely pushed me to that red line,” she recalled. “I hadn’t gone there in a while. Huddled together in the water, down in the sand, on our backs with water crashing on our heads, I think we all reached another mental level.”
That night, Voigt remembered what it was like to go beyond her limits.
“With my head facing the water, I was totally unaware of the waves,” she said. “Eventually, we learned that we had to listen to the waves break and then breathe just at the right time. It was a challenge I had never experienced before, the timing, the wet and cold … and doing (SEALFIT) with other athletes that I knew made us all push even harder. … That experience definitely made me stronger. It made me believe in my ability to do anything.”
With a renewed confidence and many more hours of gymnastics and Olympic lifting practice, Voigt carries this momentum into the upcoming SoCal Regional in Del Mar, California, where she hopes to qualify for her seventh CrossFit Games.
“I want to win. I want to beat everyone,” she said. “But if somebody beats me, I’m going to be looking at myself when it is over. I only can improve my own game.”
Regardless of this season’s results, Voigt intends to stay in the sport indefinitely.
“My goal is to compete when I’m older. I’d like to go team eventually; I’d like to do masters when the time comes. I’ll do CrossFit for the rest of my life because I love it and I love the community,” she said. “It has made my life what it is today. When it is all over, I want to chill out and surround myself with good people.”