March 25, 2013
The Ladies of Diablo CrossFit
By Andréa Maria Cecil

After Open Workout 13.2, four women from Diablo CrossFit sat in the top 10 in the Northern California Region. They say their gains have come from traditional CrossFit programming and training together.

You could say the women of Diablo CrossFit are sitting pretty.

After the third workout of this year’s CrossFit Games Open, the affiliate’s Alessandra Pichelli, Whitney Heuser, Eleni Frediani and Margaux Alvarez were in the No. 1, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 7 spots in the Northern California Region, respectively, as of Sunday night. Pichelli, Heuser, Alvarez and Frediani had occupied the No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 9 spots in the region, respectively, after the Open’s second workout.

“I’m not really surprised that they’re doing so well,” Jeremy Jones, head coach and co-owner of Diablo CrossFit, says. “They’ve been training hard all year. And the way that we do it in our gym … we have them training together all the time. And that really helps them push on the days they don’t want to push and keeps them moving forward. It just keeps them more disciplined, even when they’re not in the gym.”

Heuser echoed her coach’s sentiments.

“Putting three competitive people together … I think it’s totally prepared us for this,” she says of the Open.

Frediani, Heuser and Pichelli train together at least three times a week and Alvarez joins them about 20 percent of the time, Jones says.

Both Alvarez and Pichelli are competing as Individuals, while the other two women are competing as part of a Diablo team. The affiliate, which has three locations, has four teams competing in the Open.

Their secret, the three women said, is simple: Stick to CrossFit.

“We don’t do all this crazy non-CrossFit stuff,” Frediani says.

The workouts in Jones’ programming begin with skill work and strength, followed by a met-con no longer than 10 minutes. And you won’t find the women dedicating training time to specialties like Strongman, for example, or working off of another gym’s guidelines.

“It seems like a lot of people in the CrossFit community and Games competitors will specialize or focus on strength, for example, and do very little CrossFit met-cons,” Jones says.

He says he favors shorter workouts with increased loads.

“I’d rather see people use a little bit heavier weights and have better movement quality,” Jones notes.

Longer workouts, he says, have “diminishing returns.”

Jones’ expectations are high: to see all four women at this year’s CrossFit Games.

Pichelli, who was on Diablo’s team last year at the Games, is “a little bit more ready” for Individual competition, he says.

At last year’s OC Throwdown in Orange County, Calif., she placed second to Lindsey Valenzuela and bested the likes of Christy Phillips, Andrea Ager and Kristan Clever. And she’s wasn’t feeling well, Jones notes.

“Going down there and performing that well … said to me, ‘OK, you’re going to the Games this year,’” he says. “I couldn’t in good conscience put her on the team.”

Jones adds: “Alessandra will be able to handle whatever comes up.”

Alvarez has made “huge gains” over the past year, Jones continues.

“If the right workouts come up,” he says, “she’ll do well.”

Alvarez declined to be interviewed for this article.

“She’s really focused and she knows that she gets stressed out,” Jones explains of Alvarez. “She’s very meticulous with her training.”

So much so that she mobilizes two to three hours a day, he says.

Alvarez does most of her workouts under the watchful eye of her boyfriend, who tailors Jones’ programming specifically for her.

“And then we’d like to get the team back to the Games and back to the podium,” he says.

Last year, Diablo’s team finished third behind SPC CrossFit.

The affiliate has come a long way since 2009, when it finished 16th at the Games.

“I realized if I wanted to have a team … I needed to have them around, I needed to have a good community,” Jones says.

Training as a group was key, Frediani, Heuser and Pichelli say.

“We love training,” Frediani says. “We have fun, which I think is the main thing.”

Jones says he purposely avoids individual programming so athletes seeking to qualify for Regionals or the Games can focus on their weaknesses but still compete with friends.

“When you can get those two things to overlap at the right ratios,” he explains, “that’s when you see the most gains.”