April 4, 2013
Hurdling the Competition: Andrea Miller
By Carter Jee

"I've used my legs my whole life, so the upper body fitness isn't there yet.”

Above photo courtesy of Nathan Brayshaw

Above photo courtesy of CrossFit New Zealand

After week four of the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, newcomer, Andrea Miller, sits in 14th position in the Australia Region and 156th worldwide.

After a number of strong performances so far this Open, the 31-year-old from New Zealand, is on track to qualify for this year’s Australia Regional, in her first-ever attempt.

What makes her story even more remarkable is the fact that she only started CrossFit five months ago.

Miller's sporting foundation is in track and field. She started her athletics career at the age of 3, and went on to forge a successful career as a sprinter and hurdler.

"My older brother ran and I wanted to do everything he did," Miller says.

"I started following him down to the local track and that's probably where sports started for me."

It was during her time in junior athletics when Miller took an interest in gymnastics.

"I followed that through to the end and achieved level 10, the highest level you could get in gymnastics in New Zealand," Miller says.

But it was track and field that held Miller's interest, and she continued on with her athletics career.

At age 24, she made her mark on the sport, claiming the national title for the 100-meter hurdles, a crown she held for the next two years.

Miller's talent on the track eventually led to an offer to train with Olympic gold medallist, Sally Pearson, and Pearson's coach, Sharon Hannon in Gold Coast, Australia.

"I saw this as an opportunity to train and be coached by the best in the world," Miller says. "You could say that I have had a very exciting athletics career.”

"In 2009, I won the bronze medal at the World University Games. I also won the bronze medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games."

Miller is the current New Zealand record holder for the 100-meter hurdles. Her remarkable time of 13.10 seconds was set in June 2009 at a meet in Geneva, Switzerland.

In addition, Miller holds the women's under-19s and women's under-20s record for the same event.

Unfortunately, Miller’s Olympic dream ended when she suffered a grade two hamstring tear eight weeks out from the 2012 London Olympics.

Her partner, Garry Green, introduced Miller to CrossFit as a way to rehabilitate her injury. Green brought Miller along to CrossFit Urban Energy, where he had been training since October 2011. It was there where she fell in love with CrossFit.

In January, Miller started training specifically for CrossFit competition under the guidance of Rudy Nielsen from Outlaw CrossFit.

While Nielsen takes care of her programming, Joe Reweti, co-owner of CrossFit Urban Energy, and his coaching staff, provide Miller with hands-on coaching.

"One thing about Andrea is that she is so coachable," Reweti says. "You can show her a movement, and she will give it a go and each time she does the movement, she gets better at it."

Once a week, Miller travels to Ipswich where she trains with another Australian Games hopeful, Brandon Swan.

"Brandon and I follow the same programming, and even though he's younger than me, he is so willing to help me and guide me,” she says.

Despite her early success as a CrossFit athlete, Miller's mature outlook has tempered her goals for the 2013 season.

"This year is more of a transition and learning year for me. I'm slowly finding where my holes and weaknesses are,” she says.

“CrossFit has so much variety to it. In athletics, everything is measured and known. I know the exact number of steps and exact number of hurdles. I can gauge as to how well I will do, but you can't do that with CrossFit."

In the few short months of CrossFit training, Miller has quickly identified a number of areas where she can improve.

"Coming from my event … I lack the endurance work capacity needed in CrossFit,” Miller says.

"My one-rep max lifts are OK, but I need to be comfortable under the barbell for 30, 40, 100 reps."

While she scored a respectable 98 reps for 13.4, Miller acknowledged that it was her lack of exposure and upper body fitness that let her down in that workout.

"I've used my legs my whole life, so the upper body fitness isn't there yet,” she says. “I'm still getting used to the barbell work and it is pretty clear in CrossFit that you need to be comfortable under the barbell."

Her maturity and experience as an athlete leads Miller to recognize it will take time to develop the work capacity in these areas, and she is enjoying the journey as a CrossFit athlete.

"With consistency and clear programming, and another 12 months, I think I can build on this great start," Miller says. "And you just can't rush the process."