May 30, 2013
Gymnast, Turned Lifter, Turned CrossFitter: Diana Shaw
By Tarynn Swobody

“I want to show everyone that age is not a factor, but that with the right mindset, training and goal setting, anything is possible."

Photos by: Kier Smith

At 43, Diana Shaw will be one of the oldest competitors at the 2013 North West Regional.

As her fellow competitor Cheryl Brost has shown, age isn’t an obstacle. In her 40s, Brost has been competitive at the Games level for the past three years.

Throughout her life, Shaw has reached impressive heights in gymnastics and powerlifting. During childhood, she spent countless hours in the gym working on her gymnastics. She eventually was chosen for the gymnastics team at Seattle Pacific University. Her collegiate career ended just two weeks before Nationals her sophomore year when she was sidelined by an ankle injury.

Unwilling to let her athletic career die due to the injury, she found a new sport in powerlifting. Just five years later, at 25, she stood atop the podium with the AAU National Powerlifting Championship title in the 105-lb. weight class. She set the American and Canadian back squat and deadlift records in her weight class at 250 lbs. and 275 lbs., respectively.

And then, to everyone’s surprise, she gave up powerlifting altogether. Instead, she committed herself to graduate school, and later, a full-time teaching job. She hadn’t touched a barbell for 12 years when she walked into Northwest CrossFit in 2008.

“I got involved in CrossFit by accident. I stumbled on it online and saw a picture from a gym of people doing overhead squats, someone on a set of rings and someone doing handstands,” she says. “As a former gymnast, of course I was intrigued. So, I went and took a class. I still remember the workout: med-ball cleans, push presses and sit-ups, 20-minute AMRAP style. I thought I was in good shape until that workout.”

Since then, she has been in near daily contact with the barbell and made quick gains in workouts.

“I think my gymnastics and powerlifting (and) Oly lifting background is what has helped me progress so much in CrossFit,” she says. “Even though I had not picked up a barbell in over 12 years, the movements have all come back, and I think they've come back even stronger. My max deadlift at the age of 25 was 275 lbs. — now it's 265 lbs. My max squat at age 25 was 250 lbs. — now it's 230 lbs. I have set all new lifetime PRs in my Olympic lifts!”

In 2011 and 2012, Shaw was a casual competitor. But when she learned there would be a 40-44 Masters Division this year, she started training in earnest for the 2013 Open.

She decided to put her programming in another coach’s hands. For the last few months, she has entrusted her programming with Rudy Nielsen. Since he lives across the country, she had to get used to not having a coach by her side. Rather than hearing the cues in the moment, they communicate via text and video after the training session is over.

“The other challenge in working with a remote coach is it's hard to improve your own technique without someone there to watch you on a daily basis. Rudy and I, as well as his coach Spencer Arnold, did do some work through video. It was hard to fix the flaws in my lifts, even though I could understand what they were telling me to do, implementing it on a daily basis from video was difficult,” she says.

Shaw did well in the Open Workouts, including finishing 24 of the 100-lb. snatches on 13.1. Her best workout of the 2013 Open, however, was the never-ending chest-to-bar Fran. She made it through 90 reps within the first four minutes, and went on to complete 38 more reps. Over five weeks of the Open, she turned in top-100 scores in the North West on all but one workout (13.2).

In the end, she landed 11 spots outside of qualification for the new Masters Division at the CrossFit Games (31st) and six spots outside of automatic qualification for the North West Regional (54th).

As some women opted to go team, a few spaces opened up. On April 18, she received an email from the CrossFit Games team inviting her to the North West Regional.

It wasn’t her goal when she entered the Open, and she knows she’s an underdog, but she’s looking forward to showing what she’s got.

“I want to show everyone that age is not a factor, but that with the right mindset, training and goal setting, anything is possible,” she says.