The Mid Atlantic Regional is being held at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex. Sharing the venue this weekend is the USA Gymnastics Women's Level 9 Eastern Championships. CrossFit and gymnastics are holding competition side by side this weekend, and one cannot ignore the metaphor in that: gymnasts seem to make great CrossFitters.
Here at the Mid Atlantic Regional, you cannot miss top competitors Gretchen Kittelberger and Jenn Jones sporting their sparkly pony tails, temporary face tattoos and glitter eye shadow. Both Kittelberger and Jones were collegiate Level 10 Gymnasts. "Ever since you're a little gymnast you put your hair in curlers the night before; its part of the ensemble when you get ready to compete," says Jones.
Kittelberger and Jones aren't the only former gymnasts in the ladies competition. Also competing is Nicole Sieller, owner of CrossFit Phoenixville and Pamela Gagnon of CrossFit Charlotte. Sieller competed in high school at Level 8 and Gagnon competed in college at Level 9. All four gymnasts are distinctly aware of the gymnastics competition going on next door.
Kittelberger ironically won the very same competition at this venue in 2001, in what she calls her gymnastics glory days. When she arrived she stopped in and watched the gymnasts practicing and says it’s very nostalgic for her.
Jones thinks it’s neat that the two sports are in the same building and hopes that the young gymnasts check out CrossFit. She says gymnastics is not something you can continue forever and CrossFit is something they can look forward to. Sieller talked to the several young gymnasts peering through a window at the CrossFit event. "When you can’t do gymnastics anymore look into CrossFit," she told them.
Gagnon jokes when asked about noticing the competition nearby. "I might want to put a leotard on and go over there."
It's a common theme among the former gymnasts of CrossFit, after they stopped competing in Gymnastics; they missed competition and did not know what sport to do. Gagnon says she was lost after gymnastics and says CrossFit was like finding heaven. She said she tried everything, but nothing was competitive enough. Sieller got into running but never felt satisfied until CrossFit.
Gymnasts not only like CrossFit; they seem to be pretty good at. They are obviously good at body weight movements. Jones says she has been doing strict pull ups since age six. "We are ahead of the game in upper body strength ... everything else falls into place," says Jones.
Sieller, Gagnon, Jones and Kittelberger all site body awareness as a huge advantage. "We know where we are in space," says Sieller.
Kittelberger says gymnasts are good at complex movements. When coaches tell gymnasts where to put their body, in a movement like an Olympic lift they know how to do it.
However it’s not just the physical advantages that make gymnasts good CrossFitters.
Jones says gymnasts have a terrific competitive drive and are trained to be focused and disciplined. Gagnon says she is used to being out on the floor competing on her own and knows how to handle nerves in competition.
“CrossFitters like Gretchen and Jenn who made it so far in gymnastics, it boosts their worth ethic a lot practicing three hours a day, five days a week, you know how to push your body to its limits," says Seiller.
Like they are this weekend at the Mid Atlantic Regional, CrossFit and gymnastics seem to be neighbors that get along well.