March 20, 2013
A Big Girl Does Burpees
By Andréa Maria Cecil

Who says big girls are slow at burpees? At 6-foot, 180 pounds Brandy Richardson proves that theory wrong by winning Open Workout 13.1. The former collegiate basketball player is competing on CrossFit 808's team, alongside Elyse Umeda.

It ain’t easy moving 180 pounds. Just ask Brandy Richardson. She wears it on a 6-foot frame.

So when this year’s first CrossFit Games Open workout was announced, she wasn’t exactly thrilled about moving her bodyweight down to the ground and back up again for 100 burpees.

“If you meet anyone who hates burpees, I’m one of those,” emphatically says the former University of California, Santa Barbara basketball player with a laugh.

When it came time for her to complete 13.1 — which also included sets of 30 snatches at 45, 75, 100 and 120 lb. — dozens of fellow athletes arrived to cheer her on at CrossFit 808 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Plus, affiliate owner and longtime friend, Elyse Umeda, had given her some simple-yet-effective advice.

“She told me, ‘Don’t spend too much time on the ground,’” Richardson says.

With her torso still on the deck, Umeda told Richardson to lock out her arms and then bring her feet in to start the 6-inch jump.

It worked. So much so that the 29-year-old finished with 201 reps, enough to win the workout in the Northern California Region.

“They still sucked, though,” Richardson adds of the burpees.

The snatches, on the other hand, were no problem.

“The ongoing joke at the gym is that my technique is terrible,” Richardson says. “At Regionals last year — on pure adrenaline and my teammates’ support — I literally power snatched 170 (lb.) and I’ve never been able to do it since. And I’m sure it was the ugliest snatch anybody’s ever seen.”

These days, she’s able to squat snatch 165 lb., she notes.

“We kind of knew that the burpees (were) going to be her rest,” Umeda says. “Whenever she stepped up to the barbell, (we) had to put (in) deliberate rest.”

At 45 lb., Richardson did a set of 20, then 10. At 75 lb., she did 15, then eight, then seven. At 100 lb., she did sets of five.

“Where anyone else would have slowed down, her size was such a huge advantage in those barbell movements,” Umeda explains.

At 120 lb., it was “her time to shine,” Umeda says. There, Richardson knocked out 11 snatches.

Despite the impressive performance, which placed her 15th worldwide, Richardson says she’s taking the Games season one workout at a time.

“I enjoy CrossFit. It’s a passion, it’s my release, it’s my outlet, but I also coach basketball here in Hawaii, I teach, I have my family,” she explains.

With limited time to spare for training, Richardson is married to her decision to compete on CrossFit 808’s team alongside Umeda.

Umeda, who finished 23rd at the Games in 2011 and fifth at last year’s NorCal Regional, opted to compete as part of the team this year.

She described her decision to go team as “extremely hard.”

“I sat on it for a while. As an athlete, I had been training as an individual and working on a ton of weaknesses,” Umeda says, who also competed at the 2010 Games. “The team we have now we might not have again. One coach is leaving at the end of the year.”

After she consulted CrossFit Invictus’ C.J. Martin, who programs for Umeda and the team, her decision was set in stone.

“’Sometimes,’ he said, ‘you can’t replace the feeling you get when you’re competing on a team,’” Umeda recounts. “Training is a lot more fun with these guys. We’re training with each other and, more than that, we’re friends.”

Three women on the team, including Richardson and Umeda, have known each other for 15 years

The team’s theme for this year: redemption.

Last year, CrossFit 808 won the Regional, but was disqualified after testing positive for banned substances.

“You go from this crazy high to complete lull. The week we found out we were disqualified was the worst week,” Umeda says. “I can’t even put it into words how devastated we were.”

Now, team members are “a lot smarter” about every supplement they use, she adds. Umeda says she pre-approves all supplements team members take.

Team members train about five times a week, including as a team once a week. Workouts, which usually take about three hours, include gymnastics skill work, strength and then two or three met-cons.

Like last year, the CrossFit 808 team has its sights set on qualifying for the Games.

“There’s a lot more to it,” Richardson notes. “This year is going to be more special because we have some unfinished business to take care of.”