Dawn Bancroft felt as if she’d accomplished a great deal in the three years since she discovered CrossFit. At 50 years old, she felt – and looked – as fit as a woman half her age, and she was helping to empower other women everyday as the owner and head trainer at CrossFit Sine Pari in Doylestown, Pa.
Her volunteer assignment at the 2011 CrossFit Games made her hungry for much more.
She spent the weekend working in the Masters division, and after witnessing a few WODs, she started to see herself in those elite middle-aged athletes.
“When I was watching these women out there competing, I was maybe a little bit delusional, but I was thinking, ‘I can do this. I can do that. I can lift that weight. I could do that WOD,’” Bancroft says. “And that was what really hit home to me, thinking, ‘You know what? I’m going to be 50 this year, and that pushes me to the next [age] category. I could really try my best and see where I could go with it.’”
Right then and there, Bancroft made the commitment: She was going to do whatever it took to reach the 2012 Games in the Women’s 50-54 Division. With the support of her three kids – two daughters and one son, who recently returned from military service in Afghanistan – she amped up her training, adjusted her diet and focused even more on mobility, rest and recovery.
“If I don’t make it to the Games, it wasn’t because, ‘Oh, I should have done this in my dieting,’ or ‘I should have slept more.’”
That meant deep tissue massages that left her crying on the table and sore for several days afterward. That meant strict paleo eating with all grass-fed meat, and – here’s the hard part for the fun-loving Bancroft -- no wine. (She did allow herself to imbibe at the 50th birthday party her friends threw in her honor last month.)
Training for the Games also meant dropping off her two dogs, Dolce and Cooper, at her parents’ house so they couldn’t interrupt her sleep cycle by pawing at her face and asking to be let out in the middle of the night.
“I don’t want any excuses,” Bancroft says. “If I don’t make it to the Games, it wasn’t because, ‘Oh, I should have done this in my dieting,’ or ‘I should have slept more.’”
From December through the start of the Open, Bancroft has been doing two workouts a day with fellow Sine Pari trainer Horacio Barroso, who at a strong, speedy 31 years old always pushes her to her limits and beyond. They follow CrossFit.com whenever possible and work on strength in the mornings and endurance in the evenings.
Bancroft says she has tried to maintain a three days on, one day off training schedule. But she admits that sometimes, that one rest day doesn’t feel like nearly enough.
“Oh my god, it’s really been kicking my butt,” she says. “I’m tired. I keep having to remind myself that I’m 50.”
Whenever she’s feeling her age, Bancroft reminds herself why she’s pushing so hard, and that makes it all seem worthwhile.
One of her biggest motivators is a tireless devotion to all things military. She feels extremely blessed that her son returned home safe after several tours of duty in the Middle East, but she often thinks about military families who weren’t so fortunate. She takes every opportunity she can to host Hero WODs or special fundraising events, such as 31 Heroes or WOD for Warriors, at her box.
“When I’m in the middle of a WOD and I’m tired and I want to quit, I think of our heroes,” she said. “I think, I can get up tomorrow, and in five minutes, this is going to be done. Those people, they don’t have that opportunity. So when I’m whining and moaning and tired and sore that this hurts, well, yeah it hurts, but you know what? I’m going to wake up tomorrow and say, ‘Man, I did great in that WOD.’ And that’s what goes through my head.”
Bancroft also draws inspiration from her Sine Pari membership, which is three-fourths women, and relishes the chance to show them how much a female athlete can accomplish -- regardless of her age.
“My box is a box of women, and how empowering would it be for me to make it to the Games as a 50-year-old woman?” she says. “How empowering is the message that I would be sending to those women, ages 14 all the way up to 61? That’s my goal. To empower those women.”