Over the course of the next few months as the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open progresses, one might look at the Leaderboard and think, “I am fit, but I’m not that fit. I can’t even do one pull-up. I’m way too little.”
But at five feet and 105 pounds, Angela Renfro is a testament to the contrary. Renfro, Assistant Manager at Alive Fitness Center and a member at Tucson’s CrossFit Now, shows that with a desire and hard work, you most definitely can.
Renfro says she has always been fairly athletic. As a teenager, she was just like most, participating in various sports such as dance, gymnastics, and tennis. She earned her bachelor’s in Exercise Science from Western Michigan University, and after graduating, kept in shape by doing what most people do, she ran, she used the elliptical, she spent hour upon hour in the gym. Working primarily with bodybuilders, her training regime focused on heavy, isolation-type exercises.
Then, three years ago, while visiting a local rock climbing gym, Renfro noticed a CrossFit workout written on a whiteboard. She copied the workout and decided to give it a try on her own. She admits the first couple of workouts were not all that pretty. “I think my first workout was ‘Fran,’ she recalls. “I think everyone’s is, but I did ‘Fran’ so modified that I’m embarrassed to even call it ‘Fran.’ I’m pretty sure it took me way longer than I would ever want to admit.”
Steadily she began to focus on her CrossFit training, eventually joining CrossFit Now just before the 2011 CrossFit Games season.
On a whim, she decided to register and compete in the Open. “I missed competition, and I wanted something that would push me and inspire me to work harder,” she says.
Not only did joining CrossFit Now motivate her, but it also gave her a great sense of the community. “My first workout at Now was inspiring. I think it was a 20-minute AMRAP of push-ups and pull-ups. I had just gotten my unassisted pull-ups and it kicked my butt,” she says. “I remember Amanda DeRossa being in the class and just thinking to myself that I wanted to be as good as she was one day.”
Although Renfro’s mindset going into last year’s Open was, “do what you can, if you can’t do a movement then at least you tried,” to her surprise, she was able to finish most of the workouts.
“During the Open last year, I got my toes to bar. The Open inspired me and pushed me to work harder than I ever thought I was capable of.”
Following the Open, CrossFit Now had the opportunity to send a team to the 2011 South West Regional, of which Renfro was a member. “Training for Regionals pushed me past my comfort zone; it made me force myself to be uncomfortable, Renfro says.
"CrossFit is just as hard for me mentally as it is physically. Forcing yourself to get better means that you will have failed attempts,” she says. “Every failed attempt makes you better just as much as a success does, just in different ways.”
Last year, the CrossFit Now team finished 23rd overall at the South West Regional. “We worked hard for that placing. I honestly couldn’t have been more proud to compete with that group of people. We gave it our all and we put a lot of heart into it.”
Since last year’s Games season, Renfro’s training has been increasingly focused on strength. She has been working diligently on improving her technique, particularly her Olympic lifts. “Working weaknesses is always a struggle for me because I get frustrated, but I have really worked hard on changing the mindset and focusing on getting better in the long run. I feel much more prepared this year than last.”
Watching some of the female competitors from last year’s Games inspires Renfro. “Annie Sakamoto is a huge inspiration for me,” she says. “Being five feet tall and only 105 pounds makes the heavier weights challenging for me, but Annie gives me hope [that], one day, I could be a fraction of the athlete that she is.”
Joining CrossFit Now also gave Renfro an edge by providing her the opportunity to work with her coaches, Michael Mosley and Chris DeRossa. “I honestly couldn’t ask for better coaches. I feel so fortunate to have someone to look up to and strive to be like. It doesn’t get much better.”
Going into the Open in 2012, Renfro is gunning for the choice to go individual or team. “Making it in the top 60 individual women would be a huge accomplishment for me,” she says. “Of course, if I am wishing for things, I would wish for top 10, but I’ll take top 60.”
She is most definitely on her way, having placed 4th overall in the Women’s Division for the South West Region in Open Workout 12.1, knocking out 123 burpees in seven minutes.
“It is amazing what you are capable of when you are forced to perform at your absolute best.”