January 27, 2014
Looking for Redemption: Danielle Sidell
By Josh Bunch

"Everyone says I cheated and that's not even close. That breaks my heart."

Photos courtesy of Christopher Nolan
Danielle Sidell was disqualified after Games staff evaluated the video from her world-record performance on Open Workout 13.2.
Nearly a year later, she refuses to forget the box jumps that cost her the season. 
“I cried for weeks straight,” Sidell said. “Everyone says I cheated and that’s not even close. That breaks my heart.”
While serving with the Army’s National Guard in Fort Lee, Va., Sidell completed 13.2 on base in full fatigues. In just 10 minutes, she totaled 420 reps (14 rounds) of 5 shoulder to overhead at 75-lb., 10 deadlifts at 75-lb., and 15 box jumps to a 20-in. box. Her score beat the next best woman in the world by 31 reps.
According to the official Rulebook, worldwide winners must submit video to collect the prize money, and after considerable work to clear Army security, the video found its way to Justin Bergh, General Manager of the CrossFit Games.
He discovered that Sidell had indeed shoulder pressed, deadlifted, and box jumped 420 times, but ruled that the last 10 rounds of box jumps did not meet the Games standard. 
"There is no indication she was deliberately attempting to cheat, but she failed to show control on top of the box, which is the standard," Bergh said.
The performance was disqualified, and Sidell was suddenly out of the 2013 season. Heartbroken and hundreds of miles from home, she had no choice but to move on and prepare for 2014.
“Drill Sergeants don’t want you crying,” she said. “I put my soldier face on and kept going.”
Today, less than five weeks from the start of the 2014 Open, Sidell is focused on one thing: redemption.
“I want to use 14.1 as a way to redeem myself,” she said.

Putting in the Work

Sidell is no stranger to competition. Before she found CrossFit three years ago, she ran track and cross-country for Akron University in Ohio. She ran 65 miles per week, and competed in the 1-mile, 2-mile and 3-km steeplechase. Her best mile time was 4:56.

After she graduated from college, she walked into SPC CrossFit weighing 135 lb. Over the last three years, she has gained 40 lb. and reached the heights of CrossFit team competition. In 2012, she helped Team SPC finish second at the CrossFit Games.

Besides training, she said eating is the only way to keep up with the fittest women in the world.

“I have a 50-hour-a-week job,” she said. “Other girls have all day to train; I have my diet.”

She eats small meals every three hours. A day in food looks like this:

7 a.m.
2 whole eggs
1 egg white
4 oz. ground beef

10 a.m.
20-gram protein shake
2 tbsp. peanut butter

1 p.m.
6 oz. tilapia
1 c. of jasmine rice

4 p.m.
6 oz. tilapia
1 c. of jasmine rice

7 p.m.
40-gram post-workout protein shake
40-gram dextrose

8:30 p.m.
6 oz. tilapia 
1 pear

10:30 p.m.
1 c. of cottage cheese

Her diet is strict. She admitted it resembles a competitive bodybuilder’s diet more than a CrossFit athlete’s.

“I don’t like the way I feel when I eat bad,” she said. “There's a rhyme and reason to every single thing that goes into my body.”

Still, a 40-lb. weight gain and 255-lb. clean doesn’t come without consequences. Sidell is frequently asked if she uses performance-enhancing drugs.

“People don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes,” she said.

Endless cooking, clean eating, training and sacrifice. She has worked hard for her body and what it can do.

“I had to get rid of a lot of clothes,” she said with a laugh. “You get the stares, but I love the changes in my body. I think women can still be beautiful and have abs and huge quads. I’m comfortable with what I’ve done.”

Over the last year, she has done more than hone her diet. She has spent a lot of time on Olympic lifts. When she started CrossFit, she “didn’t even know what a snatch or clean and jerk was.”

In 2013, she had a 135-lb. snatch. Now, it’s 165 lb., and her clean has reached a staggering 255 lb.

Recently, she left the globo gym for a CrossFit box. Rubber City CrossFit, a four-month-old affiliate in Akron is her new home.

“I went to one workout three months ago,” she said. “It’s been a blessing ever since.”

Part of that blessing was Coach Dustin Shaffer, who now does most of her programming.

“It's amazing to have an athlete of that caliber working out next to the rest of our athletes,” Shaffer said. “She is really inspiring to watch and always wants to do more. It's hard, sometimes, to get her to take a rest day.”

Yet the programming isn’t the most important change. Now that she goes to an affiliate, she is forced to work on her technique—something she was missing while training on her own.

“I already have the motor and the strength; now I need the technique,” Sidell said.

After a full day’s work, Sidell warms up with static stretching and agility drills she said make her feel more explosive. After she hammers Olympic technique, she moves to a conventional strength movement or two, varying her reps through the week. It may be a 5x5 back squat, or a 3-rep-max shoulder press. Either way, it’s skill work, strength work, and finish with two or more metabolic-conditioning workouts in one two-hour evening session.

To make sure she hasn’t lost step by adding mass, Sidell tested herself with a rare 5-km run. She clocked in at 18:56. She has a 2:15 Fran, and can complete a 2-km row, followed by a mile run and another 2-km row in 22:31.

Her season ended early last year. This year, she plans on going all the way.

“I never go into anything without trying to win,” she said.

Shaffer added: “She is going to tear it up.”