“We would love to make it happen for the both of us. We’ve worked really hard all year for it.” ~Alea Helmick on going to the Games with her husband
For married couple Gary and Alea Helmick, owning their CrossFit affiliate and training together has become a way of life.
The Helmicks opened CrossFit ReVamped in the summer of 2012, and quickly created a caring and competitive community of athletes. The couple entered the competition scene in the 2013 Open and continue to make their way to the top of the Leaderboard.
“Owning a box is huge for us. That’s our life,” Gary said. “It’s everything to us and it’s at the forefront of our mind all the time. As a CrossFit athlete, that obviously takes second, but it’s still really important to us. We have always been involved in athletics, and this is another way for us to be involved in a sport.”
Now, in 2014, Gary and Alea enter the Mid Atlantic Regional ranked second and first, respectively.
Last year marked the beginning of a new phase of CrossFit for the couple, as they were able to compete together at the Mid Atlantic Regional.
“It’s kind of incredible to be together during that experience and kind of put the world on pause a little bit, and just kind of enjoy the moment and the whole experience,” Alea recounted. “It was an exciting experience from the start to the very end and every event throughout. I got to see Gary perform really well throughout the whole weekend and there was hardly any down time. We were always preparing for one of our events.”
Heading into last year’s regional experience with excitement and an open mind, Alea considered herself the “underdog” and had minimal expectations. With less than a year of experience in CrossFit, her performance was well above her initial expectations—she placed in the top five for each event, with the exception of Event 3.
In her first year, she finished in fourth place overall, just two points shy from qualifying for a trip to the Games.
“I have learned that this whole process is really a way of tackling weaknesses,” she said. “It’s really important to not be afraid or to shy away from them, but really tackle them and do them more often.”
Alea had one particular weakness from Event 3—the burpee muscle-up event—and made quick work of developing a plan to transform her performance for the better.
“After reflecting on that weekend, and even in the midst of it, I knew that muscle-ups were going to be a struggle,” she recalled. “So all throughout this past year, that was a huge focus for me. I would record when I did them, how often and how it felt. I would really reflect on the growth over the year and that helped me build some confidence in that area.”
Although she barely missed a spot on the podium, Alea was happy to cheer on her husband as he secured his position for second place in the region.
With a consistent race between Gary, Jordan Troyan and Kyle Ruth throughout the weekend, Gary said he was thrilled at the opportunity to compete at the Games.
“Regionals was a surreal moment in itself,” Gary said. “It was one of those moments when you take off from the rest of the world, and it’s really one of those times in life that’s truly special. Our wedding day was an amazing day in my life and regionals was like No. 2.”
2013 Reebok CrossFit Games
Gary said he was honored to represent the Mid Atlantic Region at last year’s Games.
“It was a crazy experience,” he said. “It was extremely exciting, obviously just being around the crowd that was there athlete-wise, and the amazing crowd that the Games supplies was … surreal.”
In his inaugural year as a Games competitor, Gary absorbed as much as he could from those around him.
“The Games was a true accomplishment,” he shared. “I had worked on that all year and it took the year of us working toward that goal to get there. So it was really more of a, ‘Let’s enjoy this moment and have fun,’ type of situation. There weren’t any huge expectations, I really just wanted to give it all I had and see where I ended up.”
Gary finished the Games in 38th place. His best finish was second place in Legless, behind SoCal’s Josh Bridges.
Once they returned from the Games, the couple immediately began to strategize for the 2014 season.
The Helmicks have developed a solid training plan that keeps them well rounded.
“I think it works out really well for us, especially since we both have similar mentalities about wanting to do well consistently,” Alea said.
“So, I push him and he pushes me in those areas,” she continued. “His strengths are my weaknesses and my strengths are his weaknesses, so we program together and make sure we hit different components. This way we hit on our strengths while working on those weaknesses.”
It is not unusual to see the couple training every day of the week, including a rest day scattered throughout any given month. Gary typically does two workouts a day, with a gap in between for coaching.
Alea, a full-time teacher, has a more varied schedule. Most of her intense workouts come after her school day is over.
“It’s funny because while I am at work I will often think of CrossFit, so I am consistently thinking about what workout I’m doing after school,” she laughed. “It’s just always on the forefront of my mind, especially after how regionals ended up going last year.”
“I think that the drive to wanting to do better and the need to push your body to certain limits is what really fuels me,” Alea added. “I’m very competitive, so if Gary texts me and says he did our workout within so many minutes, I am going to immediately start thinking about how I can shave 30 seconds off his time.”
Although the Helmicks take training and competition seriously, it doesn’t hinder them from having a good time.
“I think it’s also a lot of fun. Not only do we get to train together, but we get to program, eat, sleep, breathe CrossFit at home as well as in the gym,” she said. “That was really our focus because we really want to succeed and do well in the sport.”
Gary agreed—having Alea as his training partner makes the entire experience more meaningful.
“That’s just the greatest part of owning a gym,” Gary said. “There’s no better partner to have than my wife.”
2014 Game Plan
The new season brings a new plan and a renewed sense of motivation for these two athletes. Coming out of the Open, Alea finished first overall in the Mid Atlantic Region.
She consistently placed in the top five every week with a full 10 points ahead of second-place finisher Anna Tunnicliffe.
Gary took second place in the region as the six weeks came to a close.
Even though the Open was a good measure of athletic performance and preparation, the couple has had their sights on regionals.
“We completed the majority of the workouts before any of the regional competitions started, just to get a feel for how we felt,” Alea said. “We wanted to see how we stacked up.”
“Then once the regionals started, we definitely saw a lot of different perspectives and approaches on how people attacked the workouts,” she continued. “It’s just neat to see the differences and where we can make adjustments to hopefully make things better. We really tried to replicate the regional experience as if we were actually there.”
Each athlete has a favorite.
“It’s the long, miserable one,” Alea said of Event 6, the chipper. “Give me that workout and I will be happy. I am ready for that event.”
Gary, on the other hand, said, “For me it’s legless (rope climbs) and Nasty Girls. I cannot wait for those two workouts.”
Gary and Alea said they both fully intend to qualify for the Games.
“We would love to make it happen for the both of us,” Alea said. “We’ve worked really hard all year for it.”
“If I were to make it again this year, I would definitely go in with a little bit more attitude,” he said. “I would have more of a target or a goal in mind.”
Many members of the CrossFit ReVamped community will be on the sidelines at the regional in Fairfax, Virginia to cheer them on. Some even already have plans to go to the Games in hopes of seeing them compete there, as well.
“The members and the coaches at our gym are incredibly supportive and flexible,” Alea said. “We couldn’t do what we do without them, and ultimately we want to do the best we possibly can and be there for them no matter what.”
If the Helmicks are headed to Carson, Califorina in July, they’ll add their names to the list of husband and wife Games athletes.
The last time a couple made it to the CrossFit Games was in 2011 when Matt and Cherie Chan received invitations to compete as individuals. First, they need to make it through this weekend.
“At the end of the day, our hope is to stay consistent,” Alea said. “We want to really embrace the workout at hand and leave it all on the floor.”