April 18, 2014
From Intimidated to Inspired
By Alex Brown

“Why am I putting myself through this at my age? Why am I standing here, shaking, feeling sick? It is because the feeling when you finish is so unbelievable.”

 Photos courtesy of Andrew Fairclough

What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago, Chrissie Watling struggled through her on-ramp course and was wondering if CrossFit was right for her.

Now, she’s finished her first Open in 193rd place worldwide in the Masters Women 55-59 Division.

Inspired—and cajoled—by her daughters, Rachel and Jess Watling, Chrissie took up CrossFit in 2013.

Rachel, 27, competed at the 2013 Europe Regional with the team from Dragon CrossFit in Cardiff, Wales, and Jess, 24, coaches at CrossFit Central London in London, England.

Chrissie admitted it wasn’t love at first sight when she turned up at Reebok CrossFit Velocity in Swansea, Wales.

“(My daughters) told me, ‘Mum, you will love this,’” Chrissie said. “But I hate the gym. I am one of those people who turns up in January with great enthusiasm, but then stops before the month is over … . I think I did two sessions and phoned my daughter and said, ‘I hate it. It is so intimidating—everyone is so young.’”

But soon after, Chrissie was inspired.

“I lifted an 80-kg deadlift and actually did a box jump,” she said. “It was amazing. I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not so bad at this after all.’”

In just a few weeks, Chrissie had gone from nervously entering the box, wondering if she was in the right place, to having trouble taking a day off.

“‘Addicted’ isn’t the word,” said the 54-year-old, who turns 55 just before the Games. “Why am I putting myself through this at my age? Why am I standing here, shaking, feeling sick? It is because the feeling when you finish is so unbelievable.”

The 2014 Open didn’t start well for Chrissie, as she hadn’t yet mastered double-unders.

“I really struggled with double-unders,” she said. “When that came up, I just wanted to cry.”

The movements in 14.3 were better suited for her, she said.

“I loved (14.3),” Chrissie said. “When I got up and saw deadlifts and box jumps had come up, I was delighted.”

And in 14.4, another challenge arose.

“I’ve never had a problem with toes-to-bars, but then I got to 14.4 and I completely lost it,” Chrissie said. “I just couldn’t get any rhythm. I was focused on the (wall-ball shots) as I love them, but I couldn’t even finish the toes-to-bars.”

She admitted she was an avid watcher of the Leaderboard during the Open. Although regional placing is irrelevant for the masters competition, it was anything but for Chrissie.

“I just wanted to keep that third place in Europe,” she said. “I can’t explain why …”

“I was hoping to be in the top 200 worldwide, but that wasn’t as important to me as that third place in Europe,” Chrissie added. “I was so excited when the final scores were up.”

Rachel, a team member of Dragon CrossFit who finished the Open as Europe’s top team, said her friends now know where she gets her ability.

“It is amazing,” Rachel said. “We are so proud of her. When she did her fundamentals, she rang me almost in tears. I begged and pleaded with her to keep going. I knew how good the community is in CrossFit and knew she would enjoy it.”

Chrissie shared her gratitude for the CrossFit community at Reebok CrossFit Velocity, singling out her friend, coach and fellow masters athlete, Terri McAllister.

“She is absolutely brilliant. She is such an amazing inspiration,” Chrissie said. “It was quite hard being older and going into a young person’s sport. Her being there giving me so much inspiration has been fantastic.”

Now, she’ll take on the Masters Qualifier.