“I knew I had this kind of strength in me before. It has always been there, but CrossFit has helped bring it out and develop it."

“I knew I had this kind of strength in me before. It has always been there, but CrossFit has helped bring it out and develop it."

Photo by Priscilla Tallman


“I have a book problem. I have boxes and boxes of books.”

Meet Emily Lilo. She’s into reading, theater, choir and marching band. Doesn’t sound like the likeliest of combinations for someone trying to perfect her muscle-up, PR a one-rep-max back squat or sign up for the CrossFit Games Open.

But then again, CrossFit isn’t a sport where you can judge a book by its cover.

Leaning more toward fine arts and literature than athletics, Lilo’s sports career was limited to some track events in middle school. The 25-year-old has been acting in stage productions since middle school. It was always just “her thing.”

She first heard of CrossFit while she was working at a warehouse in Wyoming almost three years ago. She would spend nearly 10 hours a day on her feet, then rushed to the gym to get on the treadmill or elliptical. She quickly became bored.

Her husband, who was already doing CrossFit, challenged her to the benchmark workout Helen—3 rounds of a 400-m run, 21 kettlebell swings and 12 pull-ups.

“I could not do pull-ups,” she recounted. “I used a 15-lb. kettlebell instead of the prescribed weight, and did my run on the treadmill. It took me more than 16 minutes to finish, but I was hooked.”

She joined CrossFit Frontier in Cheyenne, Wyo., and immediately realized this was something she was always going to do.

Now living in Arizona, she’s a member of CrossFit Fury in Goodyear, Ariz.

With the Open underway, Lilo said she is excited to tackle the 2014 season. She’s determined to finish this year with a higher rank than 2013—she finished 469th in the South West Region. After Open Workout 14.1 where she scored 327 reps, she’s sitting in 128th.

“On a workout like that, it’s easy for me to think, ‘That’s not too bad. I got this,’ push too hard at the beginning, then I hit a wall,” Lilo said. “I know that about myself, so I really tried to focus on maintaining a consistent pace.”

CrossFit has not only helped this bookworm-turned-athlete with her fitness. She’s also redefined what beauty means to her.

“I don’t focus on pretty as beautiful anymore,” Lilo said. “I define beauty in myself as passion, physical and mental strength, perseverance, dedication and the desire to learn new things.”

Whether it’s learning a new skill, stringing three muscle-ups together or reading book after book (after book), Lilo is always learning something. That is what keeps her motivated in the gym.  

“I don’t think you ever stop learning. I am always trying to improve and get better,” she said. “If you aren’t learning, then you aren’t growing and then you are stagnant. Who wants a stagnant life? Nobody wants it.”

With 14.1 under her belt, Lilo said she feels like she is in her element.

“I knew I had this kind of strength in me before,” she said. “It has always been there, but CrossFit has helped bring it out and develop it. CrossFit gave me a place to apply it.”

And she lifted happily ever after.