February 27, 2014
Kim Knows Best
By Carla Conrad

“I want people to give themselves the opportunity to experience what the Open can do for them, to see themselves as CrossFit athletes and to experience the atmosphere of a community cheering for them ...”

Photos courtesy of Laurie Bowler

While most people can appreciate a trusted friend’s recommendation of a new restaurant or the latest big-screen blockbuster, signing up for a five-week competitive experience that puts your fitness to the test may not be as easily received.

Kim Knickerbocker is a Level 1 coach and an unofficial evangelist for the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open—at least at Rainier CrossFit in Sumner, Wash.

“This will be my third Open and my second year in CrossFit,” Knickerbocker said. “My husband Tim and I had been trying out a CrossFit gym because we wanted someplace where we could lift more weights than at the boot camp we previously attended. We had been at Rainier CrossFit for only about six weeks when he signed me up for (the Open on) Valentine’s Day. I said, ‘OK.’”

Infectious Enthusiasm

Knickerbocker’s experience in her first Open boosted her self-confidence.

“Who I was then is not who I am now,” she said. “It was hard for me to find my niche in a new, larger gym. Yet as I got better with each Open, I got more accepted here. It was almost like a gateway drug for me. I found validation with myself and with others.”

During one of the workouts, Knickerbocker recalled an encouraging voice rooting for her.

“A person I had recently met named Lisa was cheering for me, saying, ‘Go Kim, you got it, you got it,’” she said. “I thought, ‘She is cheering for me, and yeah, I got it.’”

That voice was veteran Games Masters athlete Lisa Long, who placed second at the CrossFit Games in 2013 in the Masters Women 55-59 Division.

“Kim has stepped into our gym and just amped up so many things about her involvement and performance,” Long said. “She earned her Level 1 (certificate), then moved quickly to judging at the Open, then the regional and then at the Masters competitions at the Games. She doesn't seem to know complacency. Kim is a doer; she works hard and cheers hard. I love her confidence and courage to expand herself.”

Opening Doors

Dustin Garrett was new to CrossFit Rainier in the fall of 2012. Participating in the Open was not on his to-do list that spring. 

“Everyone was talking about this thing called the Open,” Garrett said. “I was nowhere near ready for any sort of competition physically, let alone doing these movements in front of people I barely even knew.”

Knickerbocker caught wind of this, Garrett said, and set him straight.

“She explained that this wasn't about ‘them,’” Garrett said. “It was about me … She was right.”

Garrett said the Open did more than launch him toward his goals for CrossFit. It also opened the door to the community.

“Not only did I have fun pushing myself, but I had fun meeting people, getting to know them, cheering for them and taking pictures of them, which everyone enjoyed,” Garrett said. “It helped further the process of getting to know these awesome people.”

A Positive Influence

“I've personally watched her coach and mentor someone through their fears of not being good enough, not being able to do all the skills, nervous they will get a zero,” said first-time Open competitor Jenn Watson.

She puts a positive spin on participating in the Open, Watson said.

Mallory Wilson, another new Open competitor, agreed.

“I never, ever thought I would have what it takes to compete in CrossFit,” she said. “Kim really helped convince me to participate in the Open. She reminds me to celebrate my strengths while pushing me to improve on my weaknesses.”

Though she finds if daunting to participate in a challenge like the Open, Wilson said Knickerbocker encourages her to push herself.

“Kim constantly reassures me that the purpose of it is not to make it to the Games, but to challenge myself and to reach a new level of fitness,” Wilson said.

Growing Together

“We always encourage everyone to participate, every year,” said Rainier CrossFit owner Laurie Bowler. “Kim, as a member here, has some influence and can give first-timers a perspective of what doing the Open has done for her and what they might look forward to by participating.”

Bowler said new competitors often experience breakthroughs—some big, some small—that launch them into the rest of year.

“It might be their first pull-up, a first toes-to-bar, a PR in their snatch weight or just finishing the workout,” she said. “The community gets behind the experience and everybody benefits from it.”

“I want people to give themselves the opportunity to experience what the Open can do for them, to see themselves as CrossFit athletes and to experience the atmosphere of a community cheering for them,” Knickerbocker said. “It has done so much for me in my growth and my journey with CrossFit.”

“A couple of good friends yelling in your ear helps you lift heavy loads, quicker,” Garrett said. “Some people are doing the Open to qualify for their regional and beyond. Some are here because Kim talked them into it and, after the first few workouts, it becomes about being there to have fun with friends and push each other to new and unexpected limits.”

“I learned from (doing the Open) that CrossFit isn't about the whiteboard or how fast your Fran time is,” Garrett added. “It's an amazing community filled with people from all walks of life. And that growing stronger or fitter together is pretty freakin' awesome.”