18-year-old medical student Tamara Muñoz has quickly made a name for herself in the Chilean CrossFit community.

"CrossFit made me realize there is a bigger side of things, to life, that the mind is the strongest aspect of the human body."

Photos courtesy of Sebastian Leiva Pinto.

Tamara Muñoz is a quick learner.

Just over a year ago, she started training at CrossFit 1810 in Santiago, Chile. The 17-year-old recent high school graduate signed up for the 2013 Open, and took 50th place in the region.

Four months into her CrossFit training, she helped her affiliate’s team at the 2013 Latin America Regional on Events 1 and 2.

She had to withdraw after the second event because she had yet to get her first muscle-up, and Event 3 called for as many burpee muscle-ups as possible in 7 minutes. Even though she competed in just two events, she learned a lot and it spurred her to go further in her CrossFit training.

In recent months, she has become well known in the Chilean CrossFit community by competing and placing well in unsanctioned, local competitions. Her notoriety has earned her sponsorships from companies that cater to CrossFit athletes, including Progenex’s Latin American branch.

“It’s an honor,” Muñoz said. “It’s really nice to be recognized in this way … (it) inspires me to go harder to become a better CrossFit (athlete).”

During the offseason, she got her first muscle-up and handstand push-up, and increased her overhead squat from an 85-lb. single to a 135-lb. triple. At the same time, she has been balancing her first year of medical school. She has a lot on her plate, but she likes it that way.

“I live life at 100 percent,” she said.

As she has gotten more into CrossFit, she has considered changing her focus to sports medicine. But that’s as far as Muñoz will bend. No matter what, she doesn’t plan on giving up—or pausing her pursuit of—her medical career for CrossFit.

“For me, CrossFit is an emotional release, a hobby that makes me incredibly happy,” she said, “(but) I do not see myself giving priority to an athletic career.”

The 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games second-place finisher and medical student, Julie Foucher, is a role model for Muñoz.

“It is very encouraging to see women such as Julie going so far in this sport, as well as pursuing this challenging career,” Muñoz said.

Training at CrossFit 1810 complements her busy, focused life as a medical student. After hours of studying, she gets to connect with the community at her gym.

“CrossFit makes me feel part of something bigger, of belonging, of being able to go somewhere and immediately having something in common and where everyone will say hello even if they don’t know you,” she said. “That even if someone beats you badly in a workout, he or she will be there, encouraging you ‘til the end.”

Training and competing in CrossFit gives her an understanding of the human body that’s not limited to what can be learned from a textbook or lab class. In school, she learns how the body works; in the box, she learns how the body performs.

“CrossFit made me realize there is a bigger side to things, to life, that the mind is the strongest aspect of the human body,” she said. “Anyone who has practiced CrossFit for some time will tell you that nothing is impossible.”