"Grit is something that comes from within, it cannot be taught and, in my opinion, is why underdogs so frequently come out on top.”
For 29-year-old Emily Friedman, the last couple of years have brought about significant changes in her life. The former fastpitch softball player burst onto the CrossFit scene at the 2012 North East Regional where she finished sixth overall after only six months of CrossFit.
Fast forward to 2013 where Friedman found herself in a new city, Atlanta, training in a new gym, CrossFit RX, and competing in a new region, the South East.
She admits she did not think she was at her best heading into West Palm Beach, Fla., for the South East Regional, but she refused to let herself off the hook and went “all in.”
“This year I had experience on my side, which I did not have last year,” she says.
Her experience paid off by allowing her to take risks during the Regional, such as opening her overhead squat on Event 2 with 175 lbs. Not only was she able to separate herself from the pack, but she also gave herself rest going into Event 3’s burpee muscle-ups, which she ended up winning.
“I knew I could compete at Regionals, and I wanted to make waves because I did not want to be known solely as a great Open athlete,” says Friedman, who finished the Open in seventh place in the South East.
After finishing Regionals in third place, Friedman now finds herself juggling training for the CrossFit Games with opening a new gym, the Training Room.
“There have been a million changes in my life this past year including moving to Atlanta, opening a new gym and qualifying for the Games,” she says. “While opening a gym has been an incredibly rewarding experience, it is equally difficult to get everything done, including Games training.”
“My day typically starts around 4:45 a.m. and ends right around 9 p.m., which includes programming, teaching, mopping the floors and cleaning the toilets,” she says.
Friedman is quick to point out that she loves owning a gym with co-owner, Amber Goppert, and loves the people who are a part of her community.
She also says none of these things — running a gym or qualifying and training for the Games — would be possible without the help of “an incredible support team.”
“Lauren Polivka keeps me healthy with soft tissue work and a nutrition plan,” Friedman says.
Polivka requires Friedman to warm-up and cool down during training sessions and instructs her what to eat and drink and when, which Friedman admits is not her strong point.
Friedman is also working with coach Doug Chapman of CrossFit Ann Arbor, who is doing all of her programming. She says Chapman has gone above and beyond in support of her pursuits.
“Doug is an amazing coach,” she says. “Before he arrived, I did all of my own programming, and it was filled with the things I enjoyed like muscle-ups, heavy cleans and running.”
Friedman has now increased her skill work and predicts that much of what will be seen at the Games will be more complex than the movements at Regionals.
“A few of the things we have been practicing are ring handstand push- ups, freestanding handstand push-ups, standing back tucks and triple-unders,” says Friedman of her preparation for the unknown and unknowable.
Friedman will be joining Chapman and several other athletes in Michigan for training camps leading up to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games.
Ian Hardin, owner of Hardbat CrossFit in Delaware, is a close friend of Friedman, and she credits him as being a pillar of support since the beginning of her CrossFit career.
“Ian and I talk almost everyday and he keeps me mentally tough, focused and accountable,” she says.
With the help of her support team, Friedman says the biggest change she has seen this past year is that she “knows herself much better as an athlete.” This has helped her to be smarter and less intimidated.
“There are three things which separate athletes: preparation, self-awareness and grit,” she says. “Grit is something that comes from within, it cannot be taught and, in my opinion, is why underdogs so frequently come out on top.”