It was the first event of the 2016 CrossFit Team Series, and Christina Krolczyk was nervous as hell.
Though the third-year CrossFit athlete had two Open seasons and one previous Team Series experience to her name, there was one thing she didn’t have: pull-ups. And the event—a male-female pair relay of 21-15-9 reps of synchronized bar-facing burpees, overhead squats and chest-to-bar pull-ups—called for 45 of them (the scaled version of the workout substituted chin-over-bar pull-ups).
“I had been so close so many times, but I never could quite get to where my chin was over the bar,” Krolczyk, 48, said.
It wasn’t that Krolczyk expected to win. The main goal was to have fun, even though her team was ironically named, "You Call This Fun?!"
“My friends would have been excited for me so long as I gave 100 percent, regardless of how we placed,” Krolczyk said. But she wanted to make her teammates proud.
She looked up at the rig.
“This is gonna happen today,” she thought. “I can’t disappoint my team.”
Christina and her husband Dexter Krolczyk started CrossFit for the same reasons as many others have: to get in shape and shed a few pounds. When the couple joined U-Turn CrossFit in Kingwood, Texas, in 2014, neither had a particular love for working out; it was the community that kept them coming back.
“It just got to the point where whether you wanted to work out or not, you just had to show up because this was your fun time,” Christina said, laughing.
When they began, Dexter couldn’t string two pull-ups together and Christina got winded after a couple dozen burpees. But that didn’t stop them from throwing down in local competitions and eventually the CrossFit Games Open.
“Competitions are a lot of fun—the stamina is different, you push yourself more,” Christina explained. “We don't walk in the door thinking we're gonna win anything, but to us if we accomplish more than we expected from ourselves …, to me that's a win.”
“Everybody cheering for you—it's just a really awesome feeling,” he said.
The CrossFit Team Series takes that feeling a step further, Christina noted.
“Personally, I feel like I'm more a part of something when (I’m) part of a team,” she said. “I won't push myself as much when it's just me as (when I’m) on a team. Because they're depending on me, I will push that extra push, and amazing things happen when you do that.”
Despite that acknowledgment, Christina wasn’t sure she’d be able to pull off an unassisted pull-up when Event 1 was announced last year. She couldn’t get the rhythm of the kip to click, loading up on bands whenever U-Turn CrossFit’s daily workout prescribed pull-ups.
It would have been easy to back out; after all, the competition hadn’t even started. But though she hated the idea of holding her team back, the thought of giving up seemed worse.
“You can’t let your teammates down by giving up,” she said.
That Saturday morning, Christina and Dexter joined their teammates Kellie Thompson and Dirk Coetzee at U-Turn CrossFit, along with two other teams. They devised a strategy: Thompson and Coetzee would go first, leaving the Krolczyks the remainder of the 25-minute time cap to get Christina over the bar.
“You can at least get one—you can get your first one,” her teammates encouraged.
After the Krolczyks’ 21st synchronized overhead squat, they turned to the rig. Dexter leapt up first, holding chin over steel as he waited for his wife to join him.
Christina jumped, swung and failed. The couple dropped to the floor. Another jump, swing, fail—and another after that, too. But she was not discouraged.
“By that time everybody just started gathering around, kind of cheering me on,” Christina recalled.
Her fourth try was different. This time she remembered to engage her lats, initiating the movement at the shoulder before exploding at the hip. Suddenly, she had a bird’s-eye view of the room.
“When I finally got that first one and my chin went over the bar, it was so invigorating,” Christina said. “Everybody was screaming at me.”
Dexter beamed with pride.
“I didn’t even mind holding my chin over the bar every time,” he said.
But there was still time on the clock, and now Christina knew what a good rep felt like.
“I can do it again!” she shouted.
By the time the cap expired, she’d done all 21 reps and was fighting back tears. She hasn’t gone back to the bands since.
Today, the Krolczyks are gearing up for their third Team Series experience, this time competing as a duo in the series’ inaugural two-person team format.
Dexter hopes to get his first ring muscle-up, and Christina’s ready for a chance to test out the skills she’s developed since last year—including handstand push-ups.
“It’s really gotten me to try a little harder,” she said of the team competition. “You get a little bit more than you even think you can because these guys are depending on you."