"Constantly challenging yourself emotionally and mentally. I love that," says Tiffany Hendrickson of the connection between her gymnastics background and her ascension as a CrossFit athlete. "I love it and I hate it."
It is a love-hate relationship that attracted the Utah-based Wasatch CrossFit coach to the sport in the first place, and one of the main reasons she has been tabbed as a potential "dark horse" contender in the women's bracket in 2012.
Since Hendrickson was an active child, her mother enrolled her in gymnastics at the young age of four as an outlet for her energy. Hendrickson quickly took to the sport and by the age of seven was competing in the Utah Summer Games. Despite suffering a back injury during her junior year in high school that kept her from competing, Hendrickson overcame adversity to earn a gymnastics scholarship from Boise State University where she holds the school records for balance beam and floor exercise.
The two-time Big West Champion credits the constant challenges the sport presented and her extensive gymnastics training for giving her a mental edge when it comes to CrossFit competition in general and, in some cases, giving her a particular advantage in certain events.
She admits there are "definitely a lot of advantages coming from a gymnastics background," specifically pointing to inverted events such as handstand push-ups. "Most adults are not comfortable being upside down," Hendrickson says, adding the "muscle memory is there from years and years of throwing my body around."
Hendrickson's gymnastics background has provided the necessary orientation for visualizing success and, as she puts it, "having the strength and endurance" to transition into CrossFit, for the most part. It has also helped her as she prepares to tackle the women's individual competition after previously competing primarily in team events.
As she continues her preparations for the 2012 CrossFit Games, Hendrickson admits that the biggest obstacle she has had to overcome is strength training, an area which she was not formally introduced to until she got to Boise State. Prior to starting CrossFit, it was mainly calisthenics and agility training for the 31-year-old. However, Hendrickson hopes her continued workouts with top athlete Tommy Hackenbruck and WasatchCrossFit owner Damon Stewart will help her improve upon last year's finish.
She is already up to 225 pounds and 310 pounds on her back squat and deadlift, respectively, and Hendrickson says that she hopes to add an additional 15 to20 pounds by the time she participates at Regionals. To do so, she is putting her trust in the hands of her trainers, who established goals for her early on and are overseeing her preparations for the Games in July, while, in the meantime, trying to compete against the best athletes she can find.
All in all, Hendrickson is confident of her chances in 2012, noting that she is "really happy with her training, strength, and endurance" at this point, and has high hopes for a top three finish at the South West Regional workouts in May before giving it her all at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games.