June 11, 2012
Emphasizing Volume: Jenny Davis
By Keka Schermerhorn
From rugby to Yale to CrossFit.
From rugby to Yale to CrossFit.

"She is incredibly intelligent, has a wicked sense of humor, a laser-like focus in competition, and an engine that just won't quit."


Jenny Davis started CrossFit to improve her rugby game.

Now, as she heads to the CrossFit Games for the second consecutive year, the qualities that made her a great flanker in the rugby pitch — upper-body strength, speed and toughness — might just be her greatest assets.

While a student at Yale University’s School of Nursing, Davis commuted from Connecticut to New York City to play rugby. Eventually, the time commitment became a burden and she retired from the sport. Her devotion to CrossFit, however, remained.

“I miss the team,” says Davis, who won the North East Regional. “But I can still be competitive and athletic. CrossFit filled that void.”

Davis forged a partnership with BK Athletics’ founder and head coach Ben Kelly. A former rugby player himself, Kelly knows how to play up Davis’ strengths. Her programming is the result of collaboration between the two athletes.

“We will sit down together and decide on what the cycle is going to focus on,” says 29-year-old Davis. “We will put together a skeleton. Then I will start filling it in with specifics, and Ben comes up with new stuff for me to try.”

Davis often trains alone, but has found an occasional training partner in fellow Games competitor Amy Mandelbaum.

“She (Davis) is incredibly intelligent, has a wicked sense of humor, a laser-like focus in competition and an engine that just won't quit,” Mandelbaum says. “Training with her over the past two years has been a gift to me as an athlete.”

Mandelbaum sits at the No. 1 spot in the women’s Masters 45-49 division.

Last year, Davis placed 22nd at the Games. And while most returning athletes have a specific target of where they would like to place at this year’s Games, Davis is approaching things a bit differently.

“I’m not framing my goals that way. I want to complete all of the workouts and be able to move well — unlike last year where I just stood there staring at the rope for the rope climbs and clean and jerks,” she says. “Gymnastics movements are still a challenge for me. I don’t dread them anymore, but they are definitely my weakness.”

With graduation from nursing school now behind her, Davis is able to focus on training full time. Her main emphasis has been volume, with shorter met-cons taking a back seat.

“I’m training five days a week, with a mixture of singles and doubles,” Davis says. “I’ve been doing a lot of higher volume bodyweight movements and trying to incorporate some gymnastics play in there. I won’t do 30 muscle-ups for time, but I’m constantly working on the skills.”

She takes recovery just as seriously as training.

“On days off I’ll try to do a recovery swim or a hike, making sure that there is no stress and no adrenaline involved,” Davis explains.

In terms of what to expect at this year’s Games, she doesn’t have any predictions.

“I’m preparing as well as I can, but if something comes up that completely throws me for a loop, I can only hope that everyone else will be in that same boat.”