February 27, 2014
Test Your Limits
By Jennifer Day, Greg Okuhara, Scott Todnem and Nicole Scott Smith

"The Open is an opportunity to test your limits and achieve new fitness goals."

Photo by Jennifer Day

Photo by Richard Jensen

Photo by Chase Smith

Landscape photo by Patrick Yeagle

Regardless of your abilities, the Open is an opportunity to compete against some of the fittest athletes in the world.

For Mollie Easter, there’s no cheering from the crowd, no loud music and no “3-2-1 ... go!”

The 34-year-old from Algona, Iowa is deaf, but she hasn’t let that deter her from competing in the Open.

“Competing (in the Open) in 2013 was a blast, even after only a few months of doing CrossFit,” said Easter, who works out at CrossFit Vise in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “I am very competitive and love the atmosphere of everyone giving their all. I also love to compare to see where I stand against elite athletes such as Lindsey Valenzuela, Sam Briggs and Julie Foucher.”

Easter was born deaf to normal hearing parents. She said being a deaf CrossFit athlete certainly comes with challenges.

“I am constantly looking at the clock to see how much time I have left,” she said. “I assume I probably miss about 90 percent of what is said in class.”

However, Easter made videos to help teach her coaches and members at her box how to use sign language. She said there are at least six other deaf athletes at her box.

Easter said CrossFit has changed her life and despite being deaf, the CrossFit community has been the most welcoming community she’s ever been a part of.

 “Even though I don't hear anything at all or have regular communication or small talk, people encourage me all the time by patting my back, giving high fives and hugs,” she said. “I love that the CrossFit community is so friendly. It motivates me like nothing else.”

The Open is an opportunity to test your limits and achieve new fitness goals.

About two years ago, reality hit Bobby Moody like one of the trains he works on as a conductor.

His father had suffered a heart attack, and now the former gymnast and diver was forced to evaluate his own health. Moody was carrying 200 lb. on his 5-foot-8 frame, and he knew if he didn’t make a change, he was destined to follow his father’s tracks.

“That kind of scared me,” Moody said. “I’m looking at my two little ones—I have a 2- and 5-year-old—and I’m 200 lb. and would get winded just playing with them.”

So Moody, now 37, began a quest to improve his health. He lost 40 lb. exercising on his own, but it was CrossFit that pushed him to fitness levels he's never achieved.

Only nine months after first visiting CrossFit Blaine in Minnesota, Moody completed the CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Course and now coaches and trains there regularly. He’s looking forward to competing in his first Open.

“I may not be able to lift the most weight; I may not be able to do all the skills that are necessary, but I’m going to give it my all,” he said. “Anyone who knows me knows that when the clock is ticking to 15 seconds left, I may have nothing left in the tank, but I’m going to find it.”

Moody’s enthusiastic attitude toward competing in the Open mirrors the welcome he received during his first workouts at CrossFit Blaine. From day one, he knew he had found a special community where people were more concerned about motivating each other than how much weight you lifted.

Moody said he still remembers his first class and everyone cheering him on as he finished.

As he prepares to take on the Open, Moody said his competitive spirit is fueling his desire to measure himself against other athletes. Regardless of his final times or scores, his family is the real winner.

“The biggest thing is, I now have the energy to be with my family,” he said. “They’re my biggest motivation.”

For most athletes, the Open is really just a competition against yourself.

Mike Suhadolnik is a 70-year-old CrossFit coach who is ready to take on the Open.

“In all honesty I can’t even compete with these 60-year-old guys who can do chest-to-bar pull-ups and things like that,” Suhadolnik said. “But each week (of the Open), I lay it on the line.

“The Open serves as a test against myself,” he added.

Suhadolnik mostly trains the aging population at his daughter’s gym, CrossFit Instinct in Springfield, Ill.

“I’m really trying to make a difference,” he said. “I’d like to train doctors and nurses. My whole objective is to give them an idea of what it’s like to (do) CrossFit so they can better serve us—the older generation.”

He said one of his main motives for competing is to inspire people. He wants to help elderly adults get active, reduce the medication they take and help them be less of a burden for their spouses.

“I work with many, many obese individuals,” he said. “I want to help them lean out to get their statistics (such as hypertension and cholesterol) in order.”

Though he’s eager for the Open, Suhadolnik admitted it’s increasingly difficult to truly compete, even with those in the oldest age division.

 Still, he gives 100 percent during each workout. And for his recovery: “My focus is on clean eating and hydration, and when necessary, taking a short nap.”

That’s a recipe many might agree with, regardless of age.

The Open is a great way to measure your progress year to year.

For 17-year-old-twins, Nick and Connor Holt, a year makes a huge difference.

They recently went to their usual 6 a.m. class at CrossFit SoMO in West Plains, Mo., and completed the workout Grace. The boys completed the 30 clean and jerks using 105 lb. A year ago, that was their one-rep max for an overhead lift.

Now, their max jerk is 145 lb. and their back squat has gone from 75 lb. to a 215 lb. max.

“It will be a different story if the same movements and weights occur this year,” said their coach and former North Central Regional athlete, Rodney Hamby. “They have practiced and are quite accomplished at the Olympic lifts. They are not afraid to try new things.”

The Holt twins are excited to see what else they can accomplish in their second Open. That curiosity and the support from their fellow athletes are the driving force behind these high school seniors.

“They are really supportive,” Connor said of the CrossFit SoMo community. “They won’t let you give up.”

Initially, both boys didn’t even want to try CrossFit, but they attended their first class with their mother and their opinion quickly changed.

“It is worth it,” Connor said. “I have more self-esteem. I now know that I can do more than I think I can.”

Their mother, Sonia Holt, said she feels the boys are “better prepared for life by participating in CrossFit.”

She has also signed up for the 2014 Open and is eager to see her sons continue to mature with CrossFit.

“They have always been reserved and hesitant in unfamiliar situations and I have seen them grow into confident young men who aren’t afraid of life,” she said. “They are more confident, they move different, they are less likely to give up when they face a problem at school or with homework, and they ask for help instead of quitting.”