"I don't necessarily mean to take anyone by surprise. I think I usually surprise myself."
Every sport has its legends, and four-time Games competitor, Shana Alverson of CrossFit East Decatur, is a legend in her own right.
Alverson, 36, is on a mission to make it back to the Home Depot Center for her fifth run at the Games.
After a 38th-place finish in the region during the Open this year, one may not expect to see Alverson on the podium come Regionals. However, she says to never underestimate her. Since the Open’s inception in 2011, Alverson has never placed at the top of the Leaderboard, but has managed to earn a ticket to the Games.
“They call me a dark horse every single year even though I've qualified for the Games every year (since 2009),” Alverson says. “I don't necessarily mean to take anyone by surprise. I think I usually surprise myself.”
The four-time Games athlete, known as the ‘Unicorn’ by her fan base, attributes her past four years of success to her ability to perform best under pressure.
“It's one thing to do the Open workouts four or five times, in your own gym, with your friends cheering you on, whatever time you want to show up, whenever you want to start, having all the comforts of convenience, plus your best buddy counting your reps,” she says. “It's quite another to be on the floor of an arena, in front of a crowd of thousands, after traveling and jet lag, staying in a strange hotel, eating out of a cooler and running on someone else's schedule. I've never done well in the Open, but I do perform well under pressure, so maybe that levels the playing field.”
While the competition seems to grow stiffer every year, Alverson is not worried about her chance to represent the South East at the Games once again.
“Everyone is stronger and faster than they were last year, but so am I,” she says.
This past year, Alverson has changed her nutrition and training regimen in order to stay competitive. She says she is keeping the focus on herself more so than her competition.
“Most of the time, winning isn't about getting first place or being the fastest or strongest. Usually it's about overcoming some personal, mental or physical hurdle, and propelling yourself to new levels, going places you've never gone before and doing things you've never done before,” she explains.
In order to attack her weaknesses and refine her strengths, Alverson has been working with Mike Bledsoe, one of the founders and owners of Faction Strength & Conditioning at CrossFit Memphis. Bledsoe specifically programs for Alverson, so she can reach her full potential.
“Every other year, I've followed a template program with a coach as a guide, so this is the first year the program is written specifically for me,” she says.
Alverson trains once per day on a classic CrossFit schedule — three days on, one day off. Her daily sessions begin with a warm-up, which usually include working on some of her goats, followed by Olympic lifting and strength work, skills, and lastly, a conditioning routine.
“Mostly, I just try to improve my overall ‘CrossFitty-ness.’ I am probably better at weightlifting than at gymnastics,” she says. “I’ve been working on my butterfly pull-ups and handstand push-ups lately. Handstand push-ups are probably my worst. Did you see the parallette handstand push-ups at the Games last year?”
She finished 38th on that event last year.
Bledsoe has also helped Alverson with managing her recovery and nutrition. He suggested branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and upping her carbohydrates in order to get the most out of her workouts and to increase her strength.
Alverson says her changes are paying off. She is entering the South East Regional fitter than she’s ever been.
“I do think that age really is a state of mind and that you are as old as you feel. I'll be 37 next month, and I guess I certainly don't feel the way I expected three years away from 40 to feel,” she says. “I can truly say I'm in the best shape I've ever been, and I'm also the oldest I've ever been so age is just a number.”