With each life experience, we are given the chance to become stronger—physically and mentally. Running down the pitch to score a try, getting our hands on a barbell and working the lift-jump-pull-dive-catch of the snatch, or working through life’s day-to-day challenges all change us.
Potentially “life experience” may help explain the rise of the 35-plus Games athlete. This year, nine women 35 and above—Cheryl Brost,Becky Conzelman, Jenny Jacobsen, Annie Sakamoto, Angie Pye, Amanda Allen, Carey Kepler, Shana Alversen, and Cherie Chan—qualified for the Games. Even more remarkably, three finished in the top 10.
Angie Pye was among those three women. The 35-year-old mother of two young children from Victoria, British Columbia, took 10th place at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games. She set the bar high starting with the first event. She was the 7th woman to stagger across the finish line cut into the sand of the Santa Monica Beach—ahead of 40 of the world’s fittest women. The next day, Pye took 2nd on the Killer Kage—28 seconds ahead of 21-year-old Annie Thorisdottir. The day after that she took 2nd on Event 8.
How’d she do it?
“I’d chalk it up to life experience,” Pye says, “The more you have, the stronger you are.”
Before she found CrossFit, Pye played rugby for the University of British Columbia, the Canadian Development Team, and eventually, Canada’s National Team.
She’d always been told she was too intense in other sports, but she fit right in on the rugby pitch. For those unfamiliar with the game, it’s like football—but without any helmets or padding. Consequently, ruggers wear “Give Blood, Play Rugby” shirts with pride.
“I think CrossFit has a similar feel to rugby in that it can really, really suck at times,” Pye says. “Like when I would be at the bottom of a ruck, getting stepped on, and couldn’t get up I’d start thinking, ‘What am I doing this for?’”
Then it’d click. She’d remember that she wanted to do it for her community and herself. Match after match, she’d step up her mental game to push through the physical pain.
In rugby and CrossFit, there’s “a lot of respect for hard work.”
She learned to push through the pain to support her rugby community. Now she fights the same fight for her CrossFit community.
She’s in the best shape of her life and she attributes her success at the 2011 CrossFit Games to the support of her box CrossFit Taranis and the mental strength she gained over the years.
“I read somewhere a while back that women get stronger in their 30s, and I’d say it rings true for myself,” Pye says. “CrossFit has gotten me into the best shape of my life, but also, I think a big part of the strength women gain in their 30s is mental strength. I’m mentally stronger than I was 10 years ago.”
She also appreciates having a competitive outlet—as a mother and mid-30s athlete deemed “past-prime” by most other sports.
“CrossFit is a great break from making snacks for the kids,” Pye jokes, “I’m kind of kidding, but then again that is one of the things I love about doing CrossFit. It’s an hour where it’s just me and my workout.
“CrossFit provides an outlet for people to compete regardless of age and I feel really lucky at this age to have that.”
During the year leading up to the Games, Pye trained with the 2010 Canada Regional winner Alicia Connors. “She regularly kicked my ass. It can’t help, but raise your level when you’re daily training with people as fierce as these ladies,” Pye says about Alicia Connors (2nd place 2011 Canada West Regional, 35th place 2011 CrossFit Games) and the women of the CrossFit Taranis affiliate team (1st place 2011 Canada West Regional, 3rd place 2011 CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup).
Pye follows CrossFit.com programming, three days on and one day off. In addition, she meets twice a month with her coach to work on weaknesses or things they haven’t seen come up on CrossFit.com for a while.
“I think following CrossFit.com was really beneficial for me as I was pretty new to CrossFit and really felt like I needed to play catch up all year,” Pye says, “I intend to keep following CrossFit.com this year, as well as working with my coach on my weaknesses.”
Unlike most Games competitors, Pye doesn’t buy in to high volume training. “I find it too taxing on my body to do many multiple WODs and mostly stick to one a day.”
Like many Games competitors though, she doesn’t follow a strict diet. “As for diet, I do not follow Paleo or Zone and mostly try to eat clean,” Pye says.
She’s hoping to continue to see gains. “My strength and metabolic conditioning are better than they were in my 20s for sure. It’s exciting. I hope to continue feeling like that as I hit each new decade!”