Five years ago, Marcia Yager never would have thought she’d find herself standing on the podium at the CrossFit Games.
A recovering alcoholic, Yager’s body was rapidly deteriorating in her late 40s, when she discovered she has protein S deficiency, a rare condition that causes blood-clotting abnormalities. For years, her condition went undiagnosed, and her body became weaker and weaker, she explained.
In 2017, Yager placed third in the Masters Women 60+ Division at the 2017 CrossFit Games.
Five years ago, Iggy Mazza never would have thought he’d find himself throwing down in front of thousands of people at the CrossFit Games in the Teenage Boys 16-17 Division. He was only 12 then and had never heard of CrossFit.
Now, 61-year-old Yager and 18-year-old Mazza are among the fittest people in the world, and they’ll be united with about 400,000 others for five weeks in the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. Both agree that’s the beauty of the Open: It’s a time when people of all ages and fitness levels can come together to suffer, conquer fears, have fun and become fitter.
Yager and Mazza believe CrossFit—and the Open specifically—has helped them become strong, resilient, confident humans who love themselves more, they explained.
Yager, who trains at CrossFit Conjugate in Cincinnati, Ohio, said CrossFit hasn’t just improved her physical health.
“The challenge and competing keeps me young, mentally and physically. I love feeing strong and confident. … Without CrossFit, my life would be so limited, and I would end up like the majority at my age: depressed and on medications,” she said.
Instead of feeling old and depressed, CrossFit has helped Yager gain the confidence she needed to become one of the fittest women of her age in the world, she explained.
“Who would have ever imagined that little me would have competed in the CrossFit Games last summer after only two and a half years of ever picking up a barbell? I am stronger and healthier now at 61 because I decided to compete in the Open,” she said.
Mazza, an athlete at CrossFit Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario, also credits CrossFit with building his self-esteem.
“It has helped me gain confidence and, most importantly, I’m learning more about taking care of my body. A coach once told me, ‘CrossFit will make everything you do in life easier,’ and sure enough, it has,” he said.
“After all the suffering in training, long hours and tough competitions, it has made me stronger emotionally, which now improves my daily life. … Starting from (the age of) 14, I was able to do things others couldn’t.”
Yager still remembers the 2016 Open, in which she performed her first chest-to-bar pull-ups and managed to string 30 double-unders together for the first time, while Mazza remembers surprising himself in 2015 when he got a PR on his clean and jerk and did his first muscle-ups during the Open.
Mazza said the Open helps him and others reach new heights each year.
“I love how the Open gives the opportunity for anyone to compete from an elite athlete to someone who recently started. It’s exciting to compete in the Open, but it’s also exciting to watch people take on the workouts and surpass (their expectations,)” he said.
More than anything, though, Mazza and Yager use the Open each year to celebrate their lifelong commitment to improving health and fitness. Their thoughts are the same even though one found CrossFit in her late 50s and the other started as a teen.
“I’ll compete as long as my body allows me,” Yager explained.
Mazza: "I don't plan on stopping ever."