April 20, 2012
From Rocks to Regionals: Tina Balfe
By Kate Rose

"I'm not a top-seeded competitor, so I never have anything to lose. I get to just go out and do my best."


Like many people, Tina Balfe's first attraction to CrossFit was the short workouts; they fit nicely with diapers and feedings.

Balfe, a teacher and a mother of three children, aged 2, 4 and 5, started CrossFit after her second child. Her husband took an interest in the main site, and she thought it would be a perfect fit. “I started to enjoy it because 10 minutes at a time seemed to be what I could fit in between breastfeeding and changing diapers,” she says.

Without an affiliate nearby, Balfe had to be creative, using concrete blocks on a metal bar and rocks as free weights. It was the balance that really drew her in. “I also like the fact that it is something athletic I can do competitively, living where I do, while raising a family and working full time,” she says.

Family and location are two major components to Balfe’s CrossFit story. From Manitoulin Island, in Northern Ontario, the closest affiliate is about three hours away. The rocks and concrete blocks highlight the rural nature of the community. Her husband, Jon Balfe, started an after-school fitness club at the local high school where both students and teachers attend. Last year, they became a not-for-profit affiliate. They had to take some pretty unique measures to make the system work. “Most of our equipment is personal equipment brought to the school by ourselves and a few of the students, in order for us to have enough equipment to allow a few people to complete the WOD at a time,” she says.

While working and raising her family, Balfe manages to fit in three to five workouts per week. A former varsity volleyball player, Balfe surprised herself with her own progress. “I have become more involved as I have seen my skills develop far beyond what they have ever been,” she says.

Thrilled with her development, she still didn’t expect to place 7th at Regionals in 2011. She began working on movements she had never done before two weeks before the event. “I had never done a snatch or muscle-up before last year’s Regionals,” she says.

This year, her goal was to diversify her skillset. “I wanted to be more prepared, but my family life is still busy, so my training schedule has still been three to five workouts per week,” Balfe says. She has adjusted her diet, which has improved her overall performance. “My main focus during the Open was to stay injury free and try to do as mentally well as I could the first time, and not redo any of the WODs.”

Her favorite workout?  “Anything I can beat my husband at.”

Balfe enjoyed her Open experience in 2012; she appreciated the nature of the programming. “I was very happy with the way they programmed the WODs so that most people could complete them without having to scale. That way they get to stay in the rankings on the Leaderboard, and they never feel it was a waste of their time or money for signing up and participating. It really does make it a competition that way,” Balfe says.

For 12.1, she managed 111 burpees, and came in 47th. Having learned the snatch for last year’s Regional, Balfe pumped out 91 reps on 12.2, earning her the 10th place spot in the region. With a history of shoulder problems, Balfe slipped a bit in the rankings on 12.3 and 12.4, but still managed 334 reps and 244 reps, respectively.  She did remarkably well on 12.5, placing 15th in the region with 113 reps. Balfe ended up 18th in the region.

Balfe made the decision to join her team for Regionals. Their high school affiliate placed 27th in the region. The team consists of Jon Balfe, another female teacher, two 12th-grade male students, and one female 11th-grade student. “I’d love for our team to make it to the Sunday of Regionals, but we will wait and see … our first goal was to just qualify as a team!”

Her focus on Regionals recently took a turn. “I just dislocated my shoulder during a workout two days ago. To look on the bright side, I could have dislocated them both at the same time, so I should be happy it was only one!” Balfe is icing, heating, and repeating. She is focused on positive thinking, and looking forward to participating in the team event with her students. “I’m not a top-seeded competitor, so I never have anything to lose. I get to just go out and do my best.”

Balfe has a lot going on, but is balanced in her approach. Her love of CrossFit is palpable, and reflected in everyone around her – students, community and family.