February 24, 2014
Rachel Martinez: Flying Solo
By Keka Schermerhorn

“Going into this year as an individual, I already know I am giving it my best shot, so no matter the outcome I can have no regrets. I will continue to push to be the best I can be.”
Colored photos courtesy of Shaun Cleary.
Black and white photos courtesy of Preston Smith.

Rachel Martinez is a generalist.

As a collegiate gymnast, she competed all-around—vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise—throughout her college career.

Many records she set while attending the University of Maryland still stand, nearly 11 years later.

After college, Martinez, a native New Yorker, moved back home, joined a gym, and dabbled in running and tennis. But nothing was as challenging or gratifying as gymnastics. In 2011, while at the beach with her family, a friend of her mother’s asked Martinez if she’d heard about CrossFit.

“I went to a few classes here and there with her at a local kickboxing gym. It was a great introduction to CrossFit, but the space and equipment were limited,” Martinez said. “When I started to watch videos of CrossFit, I realized I wanted to try that kind of CrossFit.”

Martinez found a local affiliate, O-Side CrossFit, and started to train, but was not interested in competing.

“I swore I was just doing it to get in shape and that I would never compete,” Martinez said. “A few weeks later, the 2012 Open began and I was right in the mix, absolutely loving it.”

Martinez had the top score in the North East for both 12.1—130 burpees in 7 minutes—and 12.3—526 reps of an 18-minute AMRAP of box jumps, shoulders-to-overheads and toes-to-bars. Her worst performance was a 36th-place finish on 12.2, the snatch ladder. She finished the Open tied for sixth with Games athlete Alicia Gomes and qualified for the 2012 North East Regional.

She finished the regional in ninth place, placing outside of the top 12 only once all weekend—Event 2, the row, pistol, hang-clean triplet, where she tied for 19th.

Now motivated, she set her sights on the CrossFit Games. Martinez decided to change her strategy, so she moved to Boston, started training at CrossFit New England, and earned herself a spot on Ben Bergeron’s widely recognized CFNE Team A.  

“The biggest takeaway (from being on the CFNE team) is that hard work really does pay off,” Martinez said. “That may sound like a given, but it is true. All the early mornings, late nights, hours put into giving it your all—it’s all worth it.”

The 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup Champions had a disappointing 12th-place finish at the 2012 Games and were eager for another shot at the podium in 2013. The last thing Martinez wanted was to let her teammates down.  

Her performance at the North East Regional, where she and team captain James Hobart set the record for Event 6, helped the team earn its fifth consecutive invitation to the CrossFit Games.

Once in California, Martinez continued to prove herself a valuable addition to the team. CrossFit New England finished the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games in second place, and claimed a spot on the podium once again.

For 2014, Martinez is changing strategies again. She is back to flying solo.

“I have done team and would love to test my abilities as an individual athlete this year,” Martinez said. “The team has taught me a lot about myself and they are confident and supportive of my decision. My coach Ben is also very supportive and encouraged me to go individual this year.”

Bergeron said he believes she has a real shot at the podium at the North East Regional.

“Rachel is very fit, strong and well rounded,” Bergeron said. “She has worked hard on becoming even more well rounded this year. Rachel knows what it takes to be the best and is willing to suffer and make the sacrifices to get there. And if she wants to test herself as an individual, she deserves that opportunity.”

Martinez credits Bergeron’s guidance for the improvements she’s made in the last year.

In preparation for the 2014 season, Martinez has been concentrating on her weaknesses.

“Rachel works hard and is critical about her training; how to find, address and improve weaknesses,” Hobart said. “And to add to that, the skills Rachel is good at are world-class.”

The 5-foot-1, 127-lb. athlete boasts 110 kipping handstand push-ups, 13 max-effort muscle-ups, a 165-lb. snatch and a 215-lb. clean and jerk.

Martinez’s small stature plays to her advantage in gymnastics, but proves to be a nuisance in another modality. She has been tirelessly working on her metabolic conditioning and addressing her imbalances as an athlete.

“I have always struggled with wall balls, running and rowing,” Martinez said. “I do not like to use the excuse of being short because that is not going to change. I’m pretty sure I will not be growing anytime soon and I know I will never be the best wall-baller, or rower or runner, but I need to get to the point where if those movements come up at regionals, they will not take me out of the top three.”

Her programming incorporates volume training with wall balls, including using heavier balls, higher targets and experimenting with different rep schemes. She has also been focusing on shortening the rest periods between her sets.

“As far as rowing, I am on the rower six days a week,” Martinez said. “James Hobart sends me a row interval to do each day and a goal pace. I just listen and do it. I don't look forward to them, but I am getting more comfortable being uncomfortable on a rower.”

Hobart said Martinez’s commitment, competitiveness, and recent performance at the Kill Cliff East Coast Championship make her a good candidate for earning an invitation to the CrossFit Games. She placed fourth in that competition with Games competitors Talayna Fortunato, Lindsey Valenzuela and Stacie Tovar taking the top three spots.

“Going into this year as an individual, I already know I am giving it my best shot, so no matter the outcome I can have no regrets,” Martinez said. “I will continue to push to be the best I can be.”