Three years ago, fitness and competition were the two furthest things from Mattie Smith’s mind.
The former high school cheerleader was stuck in a lifestyle that was making her miserable.
“I grew up in the small town of Beaumont, Texas, all my life. At age 25, I decided I needed a change,” Smith said. “I had tried the college thing, but it wasn’t for me. I moved to a bigger city—Houston—where I got a job as a bartender. And what do people in the service industry do? We go out and drink.”
Not long into this lifestyle, she hit 220 lb.
“I had my fair share of living the social life,” she recalled. “Before I knew it, there I was weighing over 220 lb. and wearing a size 16 blue jeans—up over 60 lb. and six jean sixes (bigger) than my original size.”
When Smith was out for a bachelorette party, she reconnected with an old friend. Her friend had lost weight and looked “amazing.” CrossFit was the reason.
Reality didn’t hit until Smith saw pictures of herself on Facebook.
“I couldn’t believe what I had let myself get to,” she said. “I was depressed and overwhelmed. And that’s when I Googled ‘CrossFit.’”
In November of 2010, Smith walked into CrossFit The Woodlands for the first time.
“I was introduced to burpees pretty quickly,” she said. “I couldn’t walk for what seemed like weeks. But for the first time—ever—I began to see some pretty rapid results. I began to feel happier, more energized and started to love me again.”
“I felt confident about who I was becoming,” she added.
Less than six months later in March of 2012, after a move to CrossFit PRX to follow a friend, Smith was down to 147 lb., and wearing size eight jeans.
Now, 29 and 160 lb., Smith is looking to start and finish the Open.
In 2013, she signed up for the Open and performed the first two workouts. But she decided to go on a snowboarding trip and the rest of the competition went out the window.
Smith admits she didn’t care enough about competing then. In 2014, her mentality has changed.
“CrossFit wasn’t really in my bloodstream the way it is now. I didn't notice or realize the ability or love I really have developed for the sport,” she said. “This year, I was inspired to do it for multiple reasons ... mostly to see my lacking areas and compare (myself) to other people that share that same dedication and drive I have recently met.”
“So my inspiration kind of came from the inner me and that voice telling me that if this is really truly what you want, you will build from the bottom,” Smith continued. “Well, this is the beginning and the start to my personal CrossFit project.”
Her former coaches at CrossFit The Woodlands and CrossFit PRX provided Smith with a solid foundation she still appreciates almost three years into CrossFit.
Recently, she joined CrossFit OverTake. There, she has discovered a fresh perspective and a no-excuses atmosphere that dovetails with her competition goals.
Her new coach, Marco Coppola—a former regional team competitor—is helping her with advanced movements such as muscle-ups and pistols. Smith said Coppola is “tough, hard and believes” in her.
“Mattie is having a little bit of an overhaul right now,” Coppola said. “We are really focusing on technique in everything she does—especially her knowledge of weightlifting mechanics (and) positions and building some comfort with gymnastic movements. She has some pretty good baseline strength and that is a huge advantage for her. My job is to teach her how to utilize that strength and not let it work against her.”
Coppola admits he’s still getting to know Smith as an athlete, but so far he likes what he sees: a young woman looking to improve and work hard. His philosophy with every athlete is brutal honesty. He gets them to write down and verbalize their goals. Then he holds them to those goals.
“The more comfortable we get around each other, the higher the bar will be raised,” he added. “Helping better her life and hit PRs is just part of the fun.”
Smith may be apprehensive about competition after being on the sidelines for so long, but she’s also excited.
“Any line of competition really gets my blood flowing,” Smith said. “I am eager to do the best I can, but I never stop getting nervous. Even when I was the absolute best cheerleader, I was dead nervous for any tryout or anything I was judged on. I shake with nervousness, but I don't see that ever changing, and I love that feeling.”
The competitive environment at CrossFit OverTake has helped her. At last year’s South Central Regional, the gym’s team finished sixth.
“CrossFit OverTake is a no-excuses type place,” Smith said. “I believe, ‘excuses only satisfy the creator.’ I’d say that I am being prepped for the Open for sure ... and I am already planning to train all year for next year.”