"Regardless of today or yesterday, I'm still moving in the right direction and I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing."
It has been a while since Cherie Chan first stepped inside a 24-Hour Fitness to take part in a CrossFit workout – a workout that ended with her hands bloody and "torn to pieces." The memory of the intense early beginnings still burns bright in her mind as the veteran prepares for another round of Regional competition and, if all goes well, a crack at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games.
Now, 38 years old and one of the premier athletes in the South West, Cherie, despite finishing 15th overall at the 2008 games and 40th overall last season, continues to look for new ways to improve on her performance and push the boundaries of her training.
Heading into this season, Chan made a number of adjustments in an attempt to reach her goal of a top 10 finish at the Games. One of the biggest adjustments was the implementation of her own personal CrossFit trainer, which was something of a surprise given the presence of her husband and Level 2 coach, Matt Chan. Despite the unfamiliarity of the new situation, the CrossFit Verve owner decided to work with noted instructor Brian MacKenzie of CrossFit Endurance, believing it was key in reaching that elusive next step in her training.
"I didn't feel like I was reaching my potential with what I was doing," she says. "Matt and I have always been the people we go to in our training, but that hasn't always been the best thing. Brian doesn't let me off the hook."
In fact, Matt also sought outside help with his training. Joe Alexander is helping him with his own CrossFit goals. Both Cherie and Matt hoped their decisions would be beneficial to their training, or as she puts it, “to have somebody else see a specific picture of who we were as athletes."
So far, the decision appears to have paid off. Following the conclusion of the Open competition in the South West, Chan heads to the Regional in May ranked 12th overall in the women's bracket, while Matt surged ahead in the final workouts to lock down the 3rd overall position in the men's division.
"It's been a huge, huge help," Cherie says. "Regardless of how it pans out at the end of the Games season, I'm very happy I went that route. [I've] seen a lot of really great gains ... pretty much across the board."
But it's not all about endurance. MacKenzie has helped her with all aspects of her training, starting with creating a game plan breaking down her weaknesses and building a baseline for her to start from as she approached this season.
Working to improve positioning between exercises, increasing tempos and building a more efficient training regimen are just a few of the tweaks implemented by MacKenzie that have helped Cherie across the board. She's seen vast improvements in her lifting and taken a solid minute off of her mile.
Beyond the physical changes to her routine, there is a certain mental reinforcement MacKenzie has provided that also has paid major dividends. "Brian has been able to put me in perspective mentally," she says.
Cherie acknowledges how important the motivation tactics of MacKenzie have been in helping prepare her mind for the rigors of her training and how it has helped her stay on track as she pursues her goals. "Whether it's me comparing myself to other people, whether it's me having a bad workout, whether it's me being confused about what I specifically should be doing and whether my choices have been correct, whenever I give [MacKenzie] a call, he has this ability to take me back to reality," Cherie says. "He helps me understand that regardless of today or yesterday, I'm still moving in the right direction and I'm doing exactly what I need to be doing and here's why."
Cherie says training with MacKenzie has not only provided a benefit to her, but has also rubbed off on the athletes who she trains.
With many of her trainees setting lofty goals in terms of their own preparation and performances, she knows there can be a great deal of disappointment involved in the process. However, the improvement in their fearless leader's approach has trickled down among her athletes and given them a greater mental edge with regard to their own training and the personal outcome they seek.
"They see a calmer, more confident athlete in me, and therefore they are calmer and more confident," Cherie says as she reflects on the past year, noting that as MacKenzie helped her find her edge, it has, in turn, "helped me help my athletes [find their own] perspective."