Experienced CrossFit athletes know the mental side of CrossFit can make or break your game.
Elise Trexler of Panhandle CrossFit has had plenty of opportunities to test her mental fortitude, including during the final week of the 2014 Open.
After the close of Open Workout 14.4, Trexler was sitting in fourth place overall in the South East Region. She went into the final workout with a combination sinus infection and stomach bug.
“My mental state wasn’t the best,” she said. “I tried my hardest, and unfortunately, it wasn’t good enough to maintain my goal of finishing the Open in the top 10 in the region.”
Her 170th-place finish on 14.5 dropped her 14 spots to finish the Open in 18th place overall in the South East.
Despite her disappointment, she is excited to be making her second trip to the South East Regional. And she is hoping the experience she has gained since last year’s regional will result in her making it to the CrossFit Games this summer.
Trexler has been an athlete since she was 6. In high school, she was a three-time state qualifier in the high jump. She attended the University of North Florida on a track scholarship, specializing in the high jump where she was under the coaching of Ken Taylor. Her senior year, she was the indoor and outdoor Atlantic Sun Conference champion, the outdoor high jump school record holder (5 feet, 10.25 inches), and she qualified for the East Regional meet.
She discovered CrossFit in 2011 and decided to compete in the 2012 Open to see how she stacked up against the world.
“I didn’t really think I had a chance to make it to regionals, but when I saw the numbers others put up, I really started trying hard in the second week,” she said.
Open Workout 12.5 called for a seven-minute thruster and chest-to-bar pull-up ladder, and she struggled with the pull-ups.
“During the last week (of the 2012 Open), I fell apart,” she recalled. “I could barely do chest-to-bar, and I fell apart after ripping my hands.”
She ended up finishing the Open in 61st place in the South East, just one spot short of qualifying for regionals.
“When I thought about how closely I missed regionals, it made me mad,” she admitted. “My seriousness sparked after that, and I was determined to make regionals in 2013. 2012 was so upsetting to see my name drop and realize I was out, so I wanted to leave no doubt.”
She ramped-up her training as the 2013 Open neared.
“I was very excited to know I had gotten to where I knew I should and could be,” she said. “I was more serious with training.”
After starting each day at 6:15 a.m. with a full day of teaching seventh-grade language arts, she would head straight to the box to train and coach, often times staying until after closing.
“The toll was both physical and mental, but it was worth it,” she said.
Her hard work paid off. She placed 23rd in the Open and claimed a spot at the South East Regional.
“I have been a competitor my whole life and (was) used to having spectators,” she said. “But the new atmosphere that came with regionals was intimidating. Reflecting back, I realize I wasn’t in the right place to attack the weekend.”
She finished in 21st place.
“All year long, I was determined to get there, but I didn’t really spend much time thinking about what it would be like once I got there,” she said. “I know now that it was a lack of mental preparation that led me to feeling intimidated.”
Last year’s 21st-place finish fueled her training for the 2014 season. The first change she made was quitting her full-time job as a teacher.
“I quit my job because I was unhappy with it, and wanted to pursue a career as a CrossFit coach and athlete,” she said. “Teaching was a job I thought I would like and find rewarding, but it just wasn’t. I didn’t enjoy work.”
She attributes the gains she has made over the past year to her decision to quit teaching.
“I think my vast improvement is related to me quitting my job and having more time to dedicate to the sport,” she said. “I’ve been able to rest and recover much better and, in turn, I can train harder.”
In preparation for this year’s season, Adam Cantrell, her coach at Panhandle CrossFit, has increased her volume of training with more barbell work, heavier weight and more interval training. As of the close of the Open, she has added Jason Leydon of CrossFit Milford as a remote coach.
She also spent the year competing in several local competitions against many of the same 2013 regional athletes she met last year. She is optimistic this will make her better prepared mentally to take on this year’s regional.
With the women’s competition up for grabs in the South East, she is hoping to be standing on the podium at the close of regionals.
“It is anyone’s game,” she said. “Whoever shows up with the drive and fire will be on top of the podium. We will all be gunning for it.”
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