April 9, 2012
Hungry: Lindsey Smith
By CrossFit

"Turning up the volume has definitely increased my confidence in endurance workouts."

New to the Central East Region, but not the Leaderboard, Lindsey Smith finds herself in 2nd place, qualifying for Regionals. “It’s go time,” she says. “I’m ready.”

Smith says she’s happy to be where she's sitting in the region. “Right now, to be sandwiched between Julie Foucher and Michelle Kinney, I couldn’t be happier,” she says. “They are well respected athletes that I look up to.”

However, she knows anything can happen in live competition. “I’m not so naïve to think that there aren’t individuals out there who don’t have the ability, given the opportunity, to step up and take one of those places,” she says.

Being in a new region has its own challenges for Smith. “The uncertainty factor offers a new element,” she explains. “In South Central, I was very familiar with the athletes and where I stood amongst them. The fun and exciting thing for me is being taken outside that comfort zone. It potentially could make me a stronger athlete, overall.”

Four Years Strong

This is Smith’s fourth Games season. She competed first in 2009 when the Games were still at the Ranch in Aromas, Calif., and finished in 5th place, pre-qualifying her for the 2010 CrossFit Games. In 2011, she finished 2nd at the South Central Regional, qualifying her for the third time. “I’m often asked what my favorite Games experience has been,” she says. “2010 and 2011 have been amazing and, given the opportunity, I’m sure 2012 will be as well. But I wouldn’t trade my experience in 2009 for anything. It was still grassroots. You did the workout, brushed off the dirt, got in line, and did another workout.”

As a veteran, Smith has seen the Games grow into an event where thousands of people gather at the Home Depot Center. “It’s awesome to see how it’s grown. There’s just something very unique about having had that opportunity [in 2009],” she says. “I hold it close to my heart.”

Even with the changes, Smith says the core of CrossFit competition is very much the same. “There is still a lot that hasn’t changed. I remember, in the final chipper in ’09, several of the girls cheering for Tanya [Wagner] and I along in the final heat,” she recalls. “As soon as everyone else is done, they’re out there yelling and cheering. And that still happens now.

“I’ve talked with others, like Chris Spealler, about this and he feels the same way. I almost feel an obligation to keep that alive. It’s what makes our sport spectacular.”

The Open and Recovery

About five weeks before the 2012 Open commenced, Smith was doing Tabata double-unders and heard a pop. After tests revealed a torn popliteal – the muscle inside the knee joint – she proceeded with caution, not wanting her season to be over before it started.

Working with her coach, Brian Mackenzie, as well as mobility expert Kelly Starrett, she refrained from doing any movement that aggravated her knee. “I took three days off, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it kind of was for the level of training I was doing. I shut down everything,” she says. “I relied heavily on things [that didn’t hurt the knee] and stayed away from double-unders and GHD sit-ups. I squatted, but at lighter loads and cut depth, if I needed to.”

Mackenzie programmed around the injury and Smith says she felt good by the time seven minutes of burpees was announced as Open Workout 12.1. “It was about a four- to six-week recovery,” she says. “During the first workout of the Open, I was at about 90 percent.”

By Workout 12.2, she said her knee felt great. The experience put into perspective what she was competing for and if it was all worth it. “It was an eye-opening experience for me. You work so hard, day in and day out, there are days when you wonder, ‘Do I really want this?’” she says. “Then, the second you think it could be gone, you realize, I really do want this. For it to be taken away is completely devastating.”

A New Region, A New Coach, A New Training Plan

Smith says her lead up to the 2012 season has primarily focused on her aerobic capacity. “In ’09, ’10 and ’11, the long endurance workout has been my biggest detriment, by far,” she says. “[Brian Mackenzie and I] are really focusing on eliminating that as a weakness with the use of the watt bike, rower and much more running that I have previously done.”

It’s been working. Smith says her confidence is up and she feels more prepared for the unknown. “The 18-minute workout in the Open would have previously tripped me up,” she says. “Turning up the volume has definitely increased my confidence in endurance workouts.”

With this new confidence comes a new way to approaching competition. As a former heptathlete, she was always counting numbers and points and figuring out the math on where exactly she needed to be. This year, she’s trying not to focus too much on the numbers. “I tried not to get so engaged in that aspect of it. I’d get [online] to check where my placement was, but not necessarily to play a numbers game all day.”

She also made a deal with herself not do to the Open Workouts more than once. “I made a decision before the Open, that I was only going to do the workouts once. I’m going to train through the Open, not for the Open,” she explains. “For the muscle-up workout, I had this idea what my number would be based on my 30 muscle-ups for time. But I realized the time I did that was long enough ago, that I’ve probably improved. I undershot myself with this expectation.”

Between now and the Central East Regional on May 11-13 in Columbus, Ohio, Smith and Mackenzie are continuing to hone in on attacking weaknesses. “I’m continuing to build this aerobic base, continuing to refine skill work,” she says. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year to become a better mover … to move more efficiently.”

But competition isn’t just about physical preparedness. Smith is also working in the mental game, her nutrition and rest. “Everything’s got to be locked in by Regionals.”

A Year of Change

This year, Smith is going to enjoy Regionals, not only because she’ll have a whole new group of CrossFitters to meet, but also because she’ll have a new support system. “This is the first year that my husband hasn’t aspired to compete at Regionals,” she says. “It’s the first year he’s been all in for me. He’s always been supportive, but this is a different level. It’s unparalleled and that’s been really, really helpful for me. I’m looking forward to him being there and him being my No. 1 support system. It’s a benefit that I haven’t gotten to experience. I’m really grateful for that.”

This is also the first year Smith has ever had a coach at a Regional competition. “Brian will be here for that. This is something I haven’t really experienced since I was a collegiate athlete,” she says. “It will be great to have someone there to help me monitor and re-fuel with rest and mobility – things you forget about when you’re in the heat of competition.”

The best part of competition for Smith is just being around CrossFitters. “Building relationships. That’s been the coolest thing,” she says. “Some of my best friends in the world are people I’ve met through CrossFit and CrossFit competition. I’m looking forward to meeting a whole group of women who care about the same things I care about. And potentially find new people to train with.”