“I could not believe the soreness I had after. I remember thinking how different CrossFit was, and how much I liked that.”
After only one year of CrossFit, Maria Blumenthal placed 74th in Europe in the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. This year, she’s hoping to qualify for the Games in the Masters Women 45-49 division.
“I knew Maria was going to be an excellent CrossFit athlete, but I think she surpassed our expectations,” Coach Ger McAuliffe says. “I regard Maria to be of the same caliber as Annie Thorisdottir and Rich Froning.”
Blumenthal is a decorated canoeist and swimmer. In 1992, she won a silver medal canoeing for Great Britain at the Marathon World Championships. In 1994, she moved to Ireland and took up swimming, participating in several competitions. She also swam the English Channel as part of a relay team.
In 2007, she was in a horseback riding accident resulting in a herniated a disc in her neck, which left her suffering from continuous neurological problems in her left arm and hand.
“I basically gave up on swimming and riding,” she says.
For the next four years, she didn’t do much training. But in May 2011, she walked into CrossFit Mallow.
“I told Coach McAuliffe that I needed to start doing exercise again to strengthen up my muscles around my neck, traps and shoulders,” she says. “They were wasted due to my accident.”
On the spot, she enrolled herself and her husband. Her intention was to go twice a week for rehab purposes.
Blumenthal’s first workout was 21-15-9 kettlebell swings and wall balls.
“I could not believe the soreness I had after,” she recalls. “I remember thinking how different CrossFit was, and how much I liked that.”
She quickly upped her training to five days per week.
After four months, she entered CrossFit Mallow’s first competition. She scaled, but came in second, and wanted to compete again.
Blumenthal’s upper body strength from canoeing and swimming makes handstand push-ups and other gymnastics movements easy.
“Her major strength is the ability to put weight overhead and she can do handstand push-ups with the best of them,” McAuliffe says. “She also has a great understanding of the correct pace to use during a workout.”
Blumenthal’s favorite benchmark is Diane, which she finishes in 6:25. She is equally adept at Fran (4:54) and Grace (3:12).
Over the past year, she has focused on grip strength.
“My big nemesis has been grip strength due to old injuries in the forearms from canoeing and working, so pull-ups have been a real struggle,” Blumenthal says. “But the last two months, I’ve seen a turnaround and the pull-ups and anything involving holding onto the bar for a longer period have improved immensely.”
Before the Open, she’s practicing Olympic lifting.
“I want to get it solid to see where I go,” she says.
She clean and jerks 150 lb. and snatches 115 lb.
Blumenthal is a chiropractor and credits CrossFit and clean eating with giving her more energy. She frequently mobilizes and has massage treatments to keep fit and healthy.
In January’s London Throwdown, Blumenthal finished fifth out of Europe’s best athletes. She was eliminated in the seventh event, which included pistols. Blumenthal had never managed a pistol prior to the competition, and squeezed out 10 during the workout.
“I know I need to work on squats, box jumps and anything involving legs,” she says.
Blumenthal is looking forward to competing in CrossFit more.
“I used to get very wound up if I wasn't winning or if someone I knew I could beat got ahead of me. Now, I can handle this pressure better and not worry about it,” she says. “I do what I can do, and if I fall behind or make a mistake, I just stay calm and keep going.”
She adds, “I can only do my best.”