March 1, 2013
Thinking Outside the Box: Holmberg and Andali
By Jamie Pepper

"I learned to drop the ego. If something hurt, I stopped. In general if something just didn't feel right, I found something else that (did)."

In 2012, two favorite competitors in Canada East suffered injuries that limited their performance. Britney Holmberg, from CrossFit Altitude, injured her L6 vertebrae and the attached lumbar ligaments. Kristine Andali subluxated a rib while performing a 120-lb. one-arm farmer's carry.

Quitting was never a consideration for either. Rehabilitation, then, was required for both.

Graham O'Hagan, co-owner and head coach of CrossFit We Are Fitness (WAF) in Sarnia, oversaw Andali's recovery.

"For the first 10 days, Kristine couldn't do anything, so she just used a Frequency Specific Micro-current (FSM) four times per week on her traps and neck, and had ART done twice times a week on her traps,” he says.

Using the FSM within hours of the injury also sped her recovery, he says.

"We had to scale back on everything,” O’Hagan explains. “She was finding it difficult to take a deep breath without pain. She was able to start adding some lower body work and partial-range movements on day 10, but it was a full month until she was comfortable enough to add in overhead pressing and light snatch work. On that 10th day, we laid out a rehab plan for her. We didn't want her to just come back from injury; we wanted to solve what we believed to be the root of the problem, as well."

Holmberg's approach was more exclusive.

"I simply avoided movements that hurt,” she says. "I didn't do lighter deadlifts; I avoided them. I learned to swim, I biked, I isolated my upper body and focused on movements that kept my spine neutral. I began my rehab with midline stabilization exercises and learned to love the prowler. With a little knowledge and open mindedness, it is amazing how much you can still do with an injury."

After each athlete re-established some basic movements, they performed modified workouts. Holmberg again took a straightforward approach.

"Since kipping was out of the question, I practiced everything strict. I learned to drop the ego during WODs,” she says. “If something hurt, I stopped. In general if something just didn’t feel right I found something else that (did). Scaling and modifying workouts doesn’t make you any less of an athlete; it makes you a smart one. I learned that the hard way."

O'Hagan delivered an in-depth program for Andali that included some creative movements. Standing banded neutral-grip rowing, decline bench dual kettlebell presses, and partial-range deadlifts from the thigh were used, among others.

"Over the course of the 30 days … the first two weeks were spent on those movements,” he says. “By the last two weeks, she was horizontal rowing, doing push-ups and running, along with some sled work. We also setup the drive pads on the prowler so her chest was fully supported and she was able to increase the weight on it by the third week."

Both athletes used the resources available on

"Kristine found MobilityWOD's barbell shoulder smash and band external/internal stretch superset very helpful, along with a lacrosse ball in her traps, and Illiopsoas, and rectus femoris ELDOA stretches,” O’Hagan says.

Holmberg credits most of her recovery to mobility.

"Honestly, I would like to first thank (Kelly Starrett) at MobilityWOD for my full recovery,” she says. “Mobility is so important … and I am so grateful to that man and his posts. I have also always had advice from my friend and CrossFit Altitude’s resident RMT, Joseph Wilson, who has watched me compete for two-and-a-half years, and since he competes, as well, understands the movements and where things could go wrong."

Both Andali and Holmberg are now ready to compete.

"As things progressed day-to-day, we were able to add intensity where we could, but maximized range of motion first without feeling any difference or instability in the injured area,” O’Hagan explains. “After the 30 days (were) up, we were right back to full movement patterns on everything.”

Holmberg adds: "Truthfully, I never ramped down. I just thought outside the box and finally got to use my Honours Bachelor of Physical and Health Education. I have a supportive box owner in Jen Morris with no pressure to compete if I am not feeling healthy. I listen to my body and pick and choose my battles as they come because no check, tub of protein or medal is worth my passion for training."