"It's easy to get all wrapped up in Leaderboarding and placement in the Open, but ultimately, you can't let it distract you from your training plan. I am not trying to win the Open. I'm trying to get back to Carson."
Shana Alverson is a dominant force among the women of the South East. Perhaps the most consistent female athlete in the region, Alverson finished the CrossFit Games Open in 22nd place and will be making the trip to West Palm Beach with every intention of earning a spot to compete in the Final Games for a fourth time.
Yes, Alverson has qualified for the Games as an individual three times, something no other woman in the South East can claim. “I feel like every year I qualify, it’s a miracle,” she says. “I’m honored to get to compete alongside the Fittest on Earth.”
Alverson, 35, is pleased with how she did in the Open. Last year, she finished in 21st place and went on to place 3rd at Regionals. “The Open is your ticket to Regionals,” she says. “It’s easy to get all wrapped up in Leaderboarding and placement in the Open, but ultimately, you can’t let it distract you from your training plan. I am not trying to win the Open. I’m trying to get back to Carson.”
In preparation for Regionals, she has been training six days a week, with one day off for rest. She does anywhere from two to five workouts a day and follows a strict paleo diet. Since January, Doug Chapman of Hyperfit USA/ CrossFit Ann Arbor has been her coach. “There are a lot of great athletes out there, but truly great ones can execute under pressure. Shana is one of those athletes,” Chapman says.
Alverson says one of the reasons she has succeeded at the competitive level in CrossFit is because she does not have any glaring weaknesses. “I have moves or combinations of movements that are better for me, and then I have some that I’d just rather not have to do,” she says.
Chapman agrees. “Shana is as technically sound as any female athlete in the field. She has great skills and can do any task put before her. She is a great coach in her own right and moves very well.”
Chapman, who emphasizes skill work with his athletes, has ensured that any of her minor weaknesses have been addressed, which should pay off at Regionals. “We make sure our athletes have pristine movements, which hurt our placement in the Open,” he says. “Each year, when standards are tighter at the Regionals and Games, our athletes do well. When Shana posts a score, you can know it is to Games-level standards so the biggest challenge facing some very good athletes, we do not need to worry about.”
Alverson was not always the elite athlete she is today. As a child, she struggled with her weight and was even given the nickname “Shamu” by the kids at school. Her athletic background includes showing horses from age 8 all the way through college, running track in high school, and training in martial arts. In sixth grade, she went on her first diet. At age 15, she joined her first gym, and by 19, she was teaching aerobics.
In 2007, Alverson found CrossFit after becoming unsatisfied with her job as a personal trainer at a globo gym where she says she couldn’t do anything fun with her clients. “I discovered CrossFit on the Internet looking for a new job in fitness,” she says. “I watched the OG ‘Nasty Girls’ video and was like, ‘I want to do that!’”
She did do that, and eventually opened her own box, CrossFit East Decatur.
She is not only a stand-out as an athlete, but is easily recognized at CrossFit events by her signature hair color. “Honestly, my hair color has always been an accident so I guess it kind of decides what color it wants to be,” she says, adding that she is now sporting black and violet hair.
Her large fan base knows her as “the Unicorn,” a nickname that came about after a trip with friends to the Atlanta Zoo where Alverson was asked what her “spirit animal” was. “At that point, our friend Ann piped up and said, ‘She’s a unicorn because she’s rare.’ We all laughed, and they started calling me Unicorn, Uni for short, and somehow, it just caught on. I can probably thank Facebook for that.”
Though some may think age is a hindrance in CrossFit, Alverson, who is about to turn 36, disagrees. “Since I’m the fittest I’ve ever been, and I’m also the oldest I’ve ever been, I can’t really say that my age has affected me much, other than possibly mentally. If you think you’re old, you are. I feel young and frisky.”
Chapman says age should not be a factor. “We all know older CrossFitters who have turned the aging clock backwards since starting CrossFit. Age is less of an issue than many of us older athletes would like to use as an excuse,” Chapman says. “Shana is still scoring PRs and getting stronger every day. She is better today than yesterday.”
Having been involved with the sport for years, Alverson appreciates the growth of CrossFit, though she recognizes it has definitely increased the competition. “It’s easy to be a big fish in a little pond, but we’re all swimming with the sharks now, literally. We went from 800 or so women in our region to like 2,500 in one year.”
Her advice to those who will be competing at Regionals for the first time: “Keep your cool. Don’t get distracted by the circus around you. Never give up.”
In the end, Alverson attributes her longevity in CrossFit to her passion for the sport. “My life’s motto is ‘I do what I want.’ Turns out, I want to compete in CrossFit. I somehow feel compelled to do it, like it’s almost not a choice. It’s something I have to do.”