July 15, 2013
From Heartbreak to Triumph: Natalie McLain
By Kyle Wise

"I've always been competitive. It's just a natural part of me."

After a heartbreaking disqualification at the 2012 South West Regional, Natalie McLain will be heading to Carson, Calif., for the first time to compete in the CrossFit Games.

The ultra competitive 27-year-old, three-time competitor will be joined by Tiffany Hendrickson and Emmalee Moore.

“I've always been competitive,” McLain says. “Ever since I was young, I've always been in sports and I've done competitions (skateboarding, snowboarding, rock climbing). It's just a natural part of me.”

McLain started doing CrossFit in 2009, which fueled her competitive aspirations. With several competitions under her belt, the CrossFit Games were the next logical step.

“I like pushing myself. I like to win,” she says. “It's just a natural feeling that I just kind of get a high on. It was just a natural step for sure.”

Already having competition experience proved to be an effective way for McLain to prepare for the Games.

“Doing competitions and stuff like that — I feel like that's a really good sort of landmark. Having something on a calendar like that keeps you focused on getting stronger and being prepared for the next event.”

The benefits of surplus competition experience are mental, as well as physical. McLain saw them as opportunities to help her deal with stressful situations that can arise, such as getting no-repped.

“That is something that tends to really break me down from the inside and it's real hard for me to recover from something like that,” she admits. “Putting myself in those kinds of situations where I will get no-repped and learning how to deal with it in the best manner, that's huge.”

McLain was DNF’d from the 2012 Regional when she was unable to complete the minimum amount of work required Event 3 — the one-armed dumbbell snatch event. This removed her from the running.

Learning to deal with the disappointment of a disqualification “was a big learning curve for me.”

The biggest change in strategy McLain made for 2013 was getting a coach. She enlisted the aid of Spencer Arnold, an instructor at CrossFit Deep Ellum in Dallas. Arnold is a Level 1 Coach and Olympic lifting coach, as well as a Sport Performance and Club Coach for USA Weightlifting.

“I send him videos of my lifts, I go see him,” she says. “It was a big commitment for sure.”

Arnold has McLain focus on her weak areas, which she identifies as heavy dumbbells and heavy kettlebells and “heavy everything.” Her training continues to intensify as the Games draw closer. Due to her size (McLain is 5-foot-1), maintaining her level of strength is of paramount importance.

“I tend to lose a lot of strength pretty quickly if I don't stay on it,” she says.

McLain will continue to work with Arnold in order to bring out the best in her at the 2013 CrossFit Games. His presence has been a great asset.

“I couldn't have done it without him,” she says. “Having a coach to tell you when to warm up, when to eat, when to get an ice bath, when to get a massage, all of that little stuff — it's just huge. To not have to think about it and just do it, that is a huge part of making it.”