"I'm very proud of my consistency with Weeks 1 through 3, and I feel like I've been able to get my name out there as a future contender with these top women."
Emily Bridgers has nudged her way toward the top of the Open Leaderboard as she finds herself among the likes of Annie Thorisdottir, Kristan Clever and Julie Foucher. Before anyone posted a score for Workout 12.4, Bridgers is sitting 5th place worldwide after completing 534 reps in Open Workout 12.3. She owned the top spot for 12.3 until former Games champion Kristan Clever posted 540 reps just as the submission deadline closed.
This petite 24-year-old powerhouse, who finished 9th at the 2011 South East Regional, is focused this year with one goal in mind: top 10 at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games.
“Being as competitive as I am, seeing Clever’s 540 go up at the last minute was pretty disappointing, but I still can’t complain with where I’m at right now,” Bridgers says. “Although I can’t help going back and rethinking how I could have gained an extra six reps somewhere, I’m very proud of my consistency with Weeks 1 through 3, and I feel like I’ve been able to get my name out there as a future contender with these top women.”
Bridgers has been an athlete her entire life, beginning gymnastics at age 3 and continuing to the collegiate level at the University of Georgia. Just after her freshman year, she suffered a compression fracture in her back that left her in a brace for several months and ended her gymnastics career.
“[It was] one of those defining events in my life that makes me appreciate every day I am able to be active and do what I love,” she says. “I also think ending my gymnastics career early contributes to my drive in the gym now – like I still have something left to prove and I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.”
Bridgers was introduced to CrossFit shortly after college through her best friend, Kelsey Ericksen, currently ranked 25th in the South East after 12.3. Ericksen’s brother, Brent Ericksen, owns Classic City CrossFit. “He kept saying we needed to try it, so when I moved back to Atlanta after school in June 2010 and found out the local Gold’s Gym had shut down, I tried out CrossFit Decatur, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” Bridgers says.
She is so hooked on CrossFit that she recently stopped coaching gymnastics to become a full-time trainer at CrossFit Decatur. “I still love gymnastics and miss all of the gymnasts I became so attached to, but I started to realize that my heart and my passion is in CrossFit now, and I need to be able to focus all of my time in one place,” she says. “Nothing like doing what you love.”
Eric Willis, owner of CrossFit Decatur describes Bridgers as “a gym rat. She’s always in the gym, music blasting, smiling from ear to ear with chalk all over,” he says. “I swear she never sleeps and she never looks tired.”
Bridgers credits her success in CrossFit to being a former gymnast where she gained discipline and the ability to push through pain. “Years of emphasis on technique in gymnastics helps with form in all the CrossFit movements,” she explains. “People ask how I am able to do handstand push-ups so easily, and I tell them, ‘I’ve been doing them since I was 7.’ And toes-to-bar used to be a pretty standard punishment if we did something wrong in practice, so I did them just about every day of my life. Last week definitely played to my strengths as a former gymnast as I think toes-to-bar is what separated good from great.”
She generally trains six days a week with one day of rest, spending three days a week working on strength followed by a met-con. The other days usually consist of two-a-days, as well as some skill work. Recently, she began incorporating sprint intervals into her training with the help of a running coach to work on her speed and pacing. Ben Benson, a coach at CrossFit Decatur, primarily does her programming.
Bridgers claims she eats “more normal” than the typical CrossFitter though she does try to stay away from grains and processed foods. Her diet mainly consists of meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables, some dairy and lots of peanut butter. She also says she is addicted to a pre-workout coffee from Starbucks.
“After seeing so many eating disorders in my years of gymnastics, I just try not to obsess over food,” she says. “I’m pretty strict during the week and don’t restrict myself very much on the weekends.”
Bridgers says she is feeling great about her performance in the Open so far. Though she knew 12.3 would be a strong workout for her, she is most proud of her performance in 12.2, completing 94 snatches. She has no idea what to expect in the last two weeks of the Open, but jokes that she would love to see unicycle riding.
“This week, it would be cool if I could challenge myself outside of the realm of gymnastics and prove that I am a well-rounded CrossFit athlete,” she says. “It’s a constant process, but I feel like it’s all coming together for me. I am eager to compete alongside all of these amazing CrossFit women.”