January 11, 2012
Telling Her Story: Deborah Cordner
By CrossFit


Deborah Cordner has truly earned her spot to the CrossFit Games. Holding nothing back, she made it there withlymphedema. CrossFit rekindled her fire and love for competition and she found a way to do it even though doctors said it would be too strenuous. 

“I was kind of scared when I found CrossFit,” Cordner said. “I thought my days as a competitive athlete were long over. But the day I left the gym after my first workout, I remember thinking, ‘Well, here we go again.’” 

In order to control the condition during an intense workout, Cordner wraps her legs eight to 12 hours before a workout and wears special compression garments to ensure her safety. Cordner said CrossFit has removed the stigma of lymphedema for herself and for others. “Up until Open Workout 11.2, most people in my life and in my own CrossFit gym didn’t know I had lymphedema,” she said. “I always wore long workout pants. But when I started competing, I knew I couldn’t wear (long) pants to compete at my highest level.” 

Her motivation comes from wanting to inspire others, especially after an article about her storywas published in March. “I got an e-mail form a CrossFitter in Las Vegas whose sister had been struggling to maintain her lymphedema for years,” she said. “I remember telling my coach that if I didn’t move on from this point and make it to Regionals or the Games, it’s OK. I felt like if I could inspire just one person in my lifetime – a stranger – how cool is that? Isn’t that something we all should strive for – to positively impact lives in some way? To know that you have done that gives you so much purpose. It makes me realize that people all over have inspiring stories to tell. I know I’m not that special, I just told my story. “

Cordner decided to compete in summer of 2010, after discussing all the options with her coaches at CrossFit St. Paul and fiancé, Patrick. “I knew their lives would be impacted greatly by this decision so I wanted to be sure they were OK with it.” 

With their blessing and support, Cordner began training. She said she works out most days and a typical day includes a strength portion, the regular workout of the day, and sometimes, another shorter workout. While she has kept her training mostly the same, she said her intensity has changed drastically, since she is more focused on the Games. “I only do coach’s orders right now,” she said. “I love to workout with the CrossFit St. Paul community, so I always do a WOD with the class. I’ve gotten close to a few girls in the gym and they’ve developed into pretty good lifting partners and workout partners, so that has helped as well,” she said. 

Sticking to her game plan, she earned herself a 3rd place finish at the North Central Regional. “I thought, ‘If I don’t make it and I know I tried my best, I couldn’t be disappointed with that,’” she explained. “So, my game plan was to try my best and be happy with whatever the outcome was. What I didn’t expect was how difficult it was to actually go through the three days of competition. These girls are all fantastic competitors and athletes. I’m beyond honored to be able to compete against the best in the world.” 

With her gym and her fiancé as her biggest support system, Cordner will be ready for theGames. “Bottom line, the gym and the community that has evolved, is powerful. I feel lucky that I have a group of people that care about little old me and my goals.”