“The further out of your comfort zone you can get, and the more often you can do so, the better you get at it, and the more enjoyable and adventurous life becomes.”
At 5-foot-4 and 135 lb., Kristin Miller is a bit unassuming in stature.
But the 26-year-old veterinarian who trains at CrossFit Amplify in Lisle, Illinois, is among the top women in the North Central Region.
Miller finished the 2014 Open third in the region and 32nd worldwide after top performances in all five weeks of competition. Early on, Miller set herself up for success with a strong start through Week 1 and 2 of the worldwide competition. She ripped through the snatches and double-unders in 14.1, claiming second place in the region (400 reps). She cruised into the 18th round in the 14.2 couplet of chest-to-bar pull-ups and overhead squats, earning fifth place regionally (263 reps).
Her engine was there, but how’d she handle the increasingly heavy deadlifts of 14.3?
“I remember seeing 14.3 and immediately thinking of the (regional event) last year with heavy deadlifts and box jumps,” Miller said. “My time for that (event) wasn't great at all, so I wondered how my score would stack up against others for 14.3.”
Miller finished 22nd in that event at the 2013 North Central Regional at Navy Pier, with 205-lb. deadlifts. It was her first appearance on the regional scene.
This year, Miller put up 159 reps in 14.3—29 deadlifts at 205 lb., which is the same number Stacie Tovar showcased on center stage during the live Open workout announcement in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“I think most people assume that smaller people will dominate gymnastic-based workouts, so I was pretty happy when I realized my (14.3) score held up decently well for what has been the heaviest Open workout yet,” Miller said.
With strong scores in the final two weeks of the Open, Miller cemented her spot for another regional experience. She said she hopes to build on her 14th-place finish from last year, and is eager to put herself to the test once again against some of the big names in the region.
She said this year will be exciting for the women in the region, as a potential spot to the Games has opened up with three-time Games competitor Deborah Cordner Carson not competing.
“I'm excited to watch everything unfold and to see which athlete takes that spot,” Miller said. “Perhaps there will be multiple new athletes heading to California.”
At last year’s regional, Miller beat Cordner Carson by one second in the final event.
Since last year, Miller said she has put a lot of focus on strength development.
“I'm lucky enough to have a brother, Erik, who is my No. 1 training partner,” she said.
The two have been building Miller’s strength base and supplementing skill work in order to stay well rounded.
“Fortunately, Kristin really did not have any glaring weaknesses coming out of the regional in 2013,” Erik said. “It doesn’t pay to have strengths if you have one glaring weakness, because the programming at regionals will find that weakness and easily take you out of contention.”
He said he and his sister goof around before hitting the gym, but hold each other to very high standards and keep each other honest during workouts.
“But I wouldn’t say I train my sister,” Erik continued. “No one can train her work ethic. I’d say we train together and we coach one another. We have each other’s back. Just as she steps in with coaching cues for me, I do the same for her.”
Miller’s brother was a part of the gym’s regional team last year when CrossFit Amplify barely snuck in as one of the last teams to make it to Navy Pier. Miller said the atmosphere in her gym is positive throughout competition season.
“I think everyone has a love/hate relationship with the Open,” she said. “I love the community aspect of it all and seeing others push hard and maybe even perform movements they haven't before. I also think the Open is a first for some athletes to open their minds to being competitive, which is fantastic.”
Miller is just two-and-half years into CrossFit after growing up a volleyball player.
“I owe a lot of my work ethic to Sports Performance Volleyball Club, because they taught me early on that you have to sacrifice some of the enjoyable things in life and work harder than anyone else is willing to if you want to succeed,” she said. “I'm extremely grateful for that.”
Miller’s demeanor is observably calm but she knows when to put her game face on.
“I try to leave my anger in the gym during my workouts so I don't have any left in other parts of life,” Miller laughed. “Honestly, though, I try not to let anything bother me for too long because nothing is worth worrying about for an extended period of time.”
Miller exhibits this big heart in her professional life, claiming CrossFit is a building block to her work in a veterinary clinic internal care unit.
“CrossFit has helped me be better in my job … in that I can handle stress better and, as a bonus, lift heavy dogs when they are too sick to move themselves,” she said.
Miller’s training and work in the gym has its payoffs in her hobbies, too.
“I earned my A license in skydiving right before beginning CrossFit,” Miller said. “I think the two fit hand-in-hand as far as confronting fears go—the further out of your comfort zone you can get, and the more often you can do so, the better you get at it, and the more enjoyable and adventurous life becomes.”
Miller is in the process of moving into a full-time skydiving instructor position.
“You get a very similar adrenaline dump both before starting a tough (workout) and before jumping out of an airplane, which is pretty cool,” she said. “I'd love to get more CrossFitters into the sky because I know they'd love it.”
With her sights set high, Miller remains grounded, and there are a few movements she’d rather not see at regionals.
“Wall balls are my CrossFit nemesis,” she said. “But I've accepted the fact that I'll see them again soon. I can't wait to see muscle-ups, though.”