May 30, 2013
Changing Her Priorities: Nina Arezina
By James Toland

“CrossFit made me the athlete I wanted to be without dealing with stress, overtraining and fatigue. I eat for fuel and performance … before, I was eating to be skinny, and I am completely happy with how my body looks.”

“My last year of college was miserable. After a dozen doctor’s visits, tons of tests and trial (and) error with meds, they finally realized I was suffering from adrenal fatigue. I was stressed out about finding a job locally, but also way over-trained from my obsessive running disorder — as I like to call it — and doing too many triathlons,” Nina Arezina says.

Depressed, Arezina started sleeping 16 hours per day.

“I was awake only to make it to class and eat,” she says. “My cortisol levels were three times the normal level, and I was gaining weight like crazy. All I wanted to do was run, but the doctors recommended that I stop before my adrenals shut down completely.”

If she was to work out, she needed to keep it short, the doctors said. Twenty to 30 minutes at most. Unsure of what to do with the doctor’s advice, she focused instead on her work. She graduated from college and moved to California for her first teaching job.

In between classes, a colleague recommended she try CrossFit. It would give her a way to workout since most workouts take less than 30 minutes.

She walked into CrossFit TSAC and was immediately hooked.

For the first year, she didn’t see rapid physical gains. Her cortisol and adrenal levels were still off the charts, but moving back toward normal.

The most immediate change was psychological. Her depression started to fade, as well as her obsession with being skinny.

“If I didn’t have CrossFit, I’d be depressed. I am hooked,” she says. “Now, I eat like an athlete and have more energy than ever. CrossFit made me the athlete I wanted to be without dealing with stress, overtraining and fatigue. I eat for fuel and performance … before, I was eating to be skinny, and I am completely happy with how my body looks.”

Now, her focus is on her performance.

Last year, she qualified for the 2012 North Central Regional with a 40th-place finish in the Open. She got in with her conditioning, but she didn’t have the strength to handle the loads in arguably the heaviest Regional Events seen yet.

“It wasn’t my time to go, I was unprepared. I did every Open (workout) twice just to make it to Regionals. When I saw the (Events), I was floored. I literally had to get stronger to be able to do most of the movements in the workouts,” she recalls. “My handstand push-ups were terrible, 135-lb. hang cleans was unheard of for most guys in our gym, and I was able to lift the 70-lb. dumbbell a week before Regionals.”

She got smoked and was cut at the end of Saturday.

This year, she feels far better prepared.

“This year, I am twice the athlete I was, with a completely different mentality. I am more than ready. I really started training hard after Regionals last year,” she says.

At the end of the 2013 Open, she was in 12th place in North Central. She excelled on the lightweight deadlifts, shoulder-to-overheads and box jumps of 13.2 (seventh, 361 reps), and remarkably her worst event was 13.1 where she took 67th with 26 100-lb. snatches within the time cap.

“I really put in a lot of work on my snatch the past year, increasing my max snatch by 40 lbs.,” she says. “I pride myself on having good form and technique on my Oly lifts and I have a good engine.”

She adds: “If you look at the Open scores, I hung with every athlete in the top 10 (and) even beat some of them in a couple of the workouts.”

Although she excelled in the lightweight Open Workouts and struggled with the heavyweight Regional Events in 2012, she argues that she’s a whole new athlete in 2013. Over the last year, she has made her weaknesses her strengths.

“Mainly, I am a student of the game. My real strengths, in terms of movements, are oddly enough, the things I sucked at last year … handstand push-ups and muscle- ups for example. Most people wait for someone to tell them how to get better. I do research, watch videos, read articles and work on making myself better every day.”

To succeed at Regionals it takes more than a good stat sheet, she says. Strength and speed can only take you so far. After that, you’ve got to have a solid plan and enough faith to follow it.

“As long as I give 100 percent every workout, it’s going to be a dogfight and it’s going to be awesome to watch,” she says. “Making it to the Games isn’t my goal this year. I wanted to finish in the top 15, but anything can happen.”