June 24, 2013
All or Nothing: Holly Mata
By Karen Feiner

“Before it was like, ‘Let's just see where I end up. This year, I trained to make top three. That was my only goal.”

In the past three years, Holly Cohen Mata has been through injury, pregnancy and motherhood in her pursuit to qualify for the CrossFit Games.

With a new year and a newfound focus, Mata proved she could overcome all the obstacles. And now, she’s headed to Carson, Calif., for her first trip to the Games.

“Before it was like, ‘Let's just see where I end up,’” Mata says. “This year, I trained to make top three. That was my only goal.”

Mata went into Regionals with very few events highlighting her strength. In Event 4, Mata faced the physical and mental toll of being repeatedly no-repped, but she kept fighting.

“There was a lot of frustration going on with me because of the chest-to-bar (pull-ups) and the counting of my reps,” she recalls of the 100s Event. “But then I think of all the no-reps, mishaps, etc., that's just what happens in CrossFit. There’s never perfection. Those are all just excuses at the end of the day. The bottom line is I made it, and I need to just get better at those types of (events) and movements.”

During Regionals, Mata discovered some weaknesses she wasn’t expecting.

“It's funny because going into Regionals, I truly thought my handstand push-ups were solid. Oh, but I was wrong! That was the (event) that really got me bad,” she says. “So now I know I am not good at handstand push-ups (when) tired. I am definitely putting a strong focus on bodyweight movements when I am fatigued.”

After briefly dwelling on Regionals, Mata is ready to look forward. Her mantra is, “Always better than yesterday.”

“If you linger too long on the past, you won’t allow yourself to get better,” Mata explains. “Regionals are over, it’s a whole new ball game. Everyone is starting the same. You can't predict the (events), so you just don't know how you will do. I am sure everything will be different because that is CrossFit; nothing you do is the same — except for the traditional girl (workouts). I expect to see things I have never seen before. I also expect (maybe more hope) to see more heavy weights.”

After training for the past two years with Paul Smith, owner of Get Lifted CrossFit, Mata is used to volume. But since qualifying for the Games, Mata says Smith has taken it to a whole new level.

“There's been a perfect mix of long, heavy, short, light and everything in between. Paul Smith is a Jedi master programmer,” she says.

“I have been swimming three to four times a week. I am not comfortable in the water so I am doing everything I can to get comfortable. Every other weekend, we go out to the only lake close to our desert city of El Paso (Texas) and swim. It's not the ocean, but it's definitely different than the pool. I also have incorporated a long run every weekend and shorter runs throughout the week.”

Mata is not training alone — Get Lifted is also sending a team to California.

“My Get Lifted team made top three and will be going out to Cali with me. My hubby, Joe, is a member of this amazing team,” she says. “It means the world to me to be able to experience this amazing opportunity with my dearest friends who I consider family, my training partners and my best friend in the whole world, my husband. Also, my rock, Maribel (Smith), who is the person who keeps me calm and sane and my Jedi master Paul Smith will be going.”

The line between family and CrossFit gets even more blurry as Mata’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law, also members of Get Lifted, are heading to the StubHub Center for the week to support the couple and more specifically to watch their son, Shepherd.

“My husband and I hate being away from our son, being able to have him with us is part of the amazing gift of having a supportive family. I could never thank them enough for all the support they give us in helping watch Shep while we train, run, swim, you name it,” Mata says.

“Before Shep, if I lost in something, it was like the world was over. It was hard to take losses. Now, win or lose, I look at my family, my son and husband, and put it into perspective. They are what makes my world go round and knowing I have that no matter how good or bad I do, makes competing and CrossFit all the more fun.”

What does the Mata family do when they are not CrossFitting?

“All we do is CrossFit! Or hang out with our CrossFit friends and family. But what I love to do is nothing — like just sitting my butt down on my couch and watching all my guilty pleasure TV shows — ‘Real Housewives’ especially New Jersey and Orange County, ‘Real World,’ ‘Project Runway,’ ‘Top Chef,’ and I used to love ‘Jersey Shore.’

“Being able to relax with my family doing absolutely nothing is truly what I love after a hard day of work and CrossFit.”