“I'm happy with my performance and for stepping up to the challenge ... I want to continually challenge my training and what I'm capable of doing. This event gave me that chance and it was a great experience.”
Cool, calm, and collected, Southern California sweetheart Lindsey Valenzuela swept in last minute to take the place of Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet in a head-to-head live throwdown of Open Workout 13.2 against Annie Thorisdottir, the reigning Fittest Woman on Earth.
Her score of 335 reps at CrossFit South Brooklyn landed her in 30th place in SoCal, 332nd worldwide, making her overall standing tied for 99th worldwide, and 10th in SoCal. Valenzuela and her coach, Dusty Hyland, weigh in on her overall performance on 13.2, how they have programmed to improve her weaknesses and what they are expecting this Games season.
“When I first got contacted by Dave Castro (about taking LeBlanc-Bazinet’s place in Brooklyn), I honestly was nervous to get on a plane without my husband. But my husband was the one that convinced me to go,” Valenzuela says. “Once I got off the plane, I was super excited and felt flattered that out of all the great female CrossFit athletes, Dave thought of me to go against Annie.”
Hyland, who has been working with Valenzuela since 2011, echoed her excitement for the thrill of competing against the world’s fittest woman.
“My thoughts were without a doubt that she should go,” Hyland says. “We don't train all year to say, ‘no’ at an opportunity to get on CrossFit’s biggest stage and represent herself, her community and get into some awesome sweaty fun with the best of the best.”
Valenzuela’s adaptability was truly put to the test this week when the workout was announced live and she was to perform it only minutes later.
“This opportunity (to compete against Thorisdottir) was to see where I stand against the best of the best and to see if my endurance has improved,” Valenzuela says.
And with that test, Valenzuela was pleased.
“I'm happy with my performance and for stepping up to the challenge. I never want to feel comfortable with my past successes, I want to continually challenge my training and what I'm capable of doing. This event gave me that chance and it was a great experience.”
Valenzuela gives credit to her programming, her dedication to it and her work with Hyland.
“I have never once questioned my training. The amount of energy being put into my programming is showing, so if something is programmed for me, I do it. I think all my hard work is paying off so far and I plan to continue to work hard,” Valenzuela says.
After tackling the high-pressure situation that was 13.2, Hyland maintains confidence in his plans and programming for Valenzuela as he works on improving her endurance and tank overall.
“I think our training to this point has been spot on. She continues to grow as an athlete and as a human being,” Hyland says. “I think Lindsey’s performance spoke for her preparation and training best; on the biggest stage with moderate/light weights for her, she held her own against the two-time defending champion. She did amazing. She showed that she has an engine and can do it all.”
While preparing Valenzuela’s “engine” for the ever-evolving demands of Regionals and the Games, Hyland chooses an approach that is simple, but targeted.
“We very often couple simple concepts and ideas that have been around CrossFit for a long time, but we’ll set the numbers at a point where she is forced to focus on efficiency and position to get the movement done correctly, at a set interval,” Hyland says. “There’s a very specific amount of time that we spend working on getting in the right position for efficient movement.”
Hyland highlights that although he works hard on keeping Valenzuela on a dedicated programming track, there is no special recipe for programming for a Games athlete.
“We enjoy training together, and she’s become a better athlete since we have,” Hyland emphasizes. “If you both enjoy what you’re doing and you’re finding success, it’s pretty easy. That formula for success becomes very simple.”
It’s a good thing Hyland and Valenzuela enjoy each other’s company – Valenzuela earned herself even more time to train this year by leaving her day job to be a coach at DogTown CrossFit. The evolution of Valenzuela, although not finished, has been remarkable since her 34th-place showing in the 2011 CrossFit Games.
“You look at CrossFit, and to be successful, you want a balance of power, endurance, strength and conditioning. She comes from the power side of things,” Hyland says. “We had to teach her and train her to be able to work in multiple modalities. Some of it was mental training to break through barriers in competition and motivating herself to finish workouts.”
Valenzuela agrees with Hyland that her mental CrossFit game has grown by leaps and bounds.
“I think that people underestimate the need for mental strength. I feel that I have improved in many aspects of my CrossFit abilities, but the biggest improvement has been my mental strength,” Valenzuela declares.
After a year of hard training together, Hyland believes this is Valenzuela’s year.
“Regionals are going to be a war,” Hyland declares. “It’s going to be very competitive. She’s more prepared, she’s fitter, I think everyone agrees on that. I think that we need to keep her healthy and stay motivated. She’s on a path to do whatever she wants to put her mind to.”