"Being new here in Atlanta, it has really been amazing to be supported by so many people and to be surrounded by such amazing athletes."
Last year, Emily Friedman was considered a “dark horse” from the North East with only six months of CrossFit training going into the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. Despite being new to the sport, the 28-year-old former fast-pitch softball player had one goal in mind: make it to Regionals. Friedman did exactly that, finishing the Open second in her region and 19th worldwide. Missing the podium and a trip to the Games by just a few spots, Friedman placed sixth at the North East Regional.
Originally from California, Friedman moved to Atlanta, Ga., in the fall and wants to now shake things up in the South East. With one more year’s experience in CrossFit, she looks to be a serious contender in her new region.
“Being new here in Atlanta, it has really been amazing to be supported by so many people and to be surrounded by such amazing athletes,” Friedman says. “Kelly Levens and Michael King from CrossFit RX have been so welcoming. I also have an incredible support system in Atlanta including the 'Squat Mafia' boys, my training partner, Amber Goppert, as well as a handful of incredible female South East competitors who I have a ton of respect for.”
After playing softball for the University of California, Berkeley, Friedman was drafted by the Chicago Bandits in the National Pro Fastpitch League. She also coached college softball for four years but says she was still trying to find her niche.
“One day I walked into this gym and saw a girl doing butterfly pull-ups and handstand push-ups. I thought, ‘What is this?’ I was instantly hooked,” she says.
When Friedman first started CrossFit, she considered herself fairly small and not very strong.
“I think my back squat was only 160 lb., and I could barely clean 110 lb.,” she says.
Now, the 5-foot-6, 128-pound athlete has a 200 lb. overhead squat, a 315 lb. deadlift and says muscle-ups are her favorite movement. Although she claims that snatches are not her best lift, Friedman has an impressive Amanda time of 4:34. She has definitely found her niche.
”I’m a competitive athlete and when I jump into something, I am all in,” she says. “I never approach something with the attitude of ‘Well, it will be what it will be today. I can always be better tomorrow.’ No! I want to be better — yesterday.”
Over the past year, Friedman has competed in five local competitions both as an individual and on teams, placing first in four out of five of them.
“I love competing, and I love team competitions,” she says. “Team competitions are a different animal because it’s no longer about you. It’s about the person next to you. Not picking up the bar is no longer an option. I’ve played team sports my whole life so that’s just a part of me, but I’ve always considered myself an individual athlete. To go into a competition as an individual and see how I stack up against someone who may have 20 pounds on me, that’s a different challenge and a whole new experience.“
Not only has Friedman spent the past year training hard, she has also been training smart.
“My first year of CrossFit, I never took rest days. I wanted to be the best at everything, and I just didn’t want to stop,” she says. “Now, I understand those rest days and mobility work are just as important to my training. I love my rest days, and I know they make my training days better.”
With a training schedule of three days on, one day off, two days on, one day off, Friedman says she likes to reserve that third day as her “fun day.”
“I love the competitive side of CrossFit, but sometimes it’s nice to workout with someone and just move, not always be on the clock. The fun days help me keep balance in my training,” she says.
Friedman has also taken a step back from working on things that she is really good at, such as running, and spending more time on the things that she struggles with.
“My motto is, ‘Everyday do something that you love and something that you hate,’ because doing something that you hate is going to make you better and doing something you love is why we do what we do.”
With so much success in a short amount of time, Friedman is obviously an athlete with a lot of drive. What motivates her to push through a workout when it gets hard?
“I think it’s really a decision that we make and has less to do with who is in the best shape or who has the highest pain tolerance. It’s more about who is the most hardheaded. For me, it fulfills a need to prove and conquer something. I know before I even start the WOD if I am going to have a bad workout or a good workout because I have already decided. I believe this is the part of CrossFit that really translates into our everyday lives. Being able to commit yourself to something and then stick with it, even when it becomes shitty and when it hurts, that’s a decision that you make. You have to ask yourself, ‘Are you going to give up or stick with it? The answer is a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’“