March 23, 2012
The Underdog: Amanda Schwartz
By Jennifer Heathcock

"There are a lot of parallels between getting through a tough workout and life."

Photo by: Matt Block

Photo by: Matt Block

Photo by: Matt Block


What a difference a year makes.

That’s certainly something Amanda Schwartz can attest to; or she could even tell you about the changes in just a few months.

In that time Schwartz has been up early, staying late and hitting the box before 9 a.m. on Saturdays. Anything she can do to fit in a little more training, a workout or make huge gains in strength before running out to her other job as a mother.

“CrossFit comes behind a lot of things in my life,” she says. “Each day is different. Some days I don’t get to work out. It comes behind my family, my husband’s job. My main priority is [my son] Brennan.”

Despite this, Schwartz has her hope set on making it to the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games. Last year, she made it to South Central Regional, but didn’t finish the last workout because her hands were torn, busted and burned. Tape couldn’t fix it.

Fast-forward a few months. She is ranked in the top 10 in the South Central Region, 6th after Week 4 of the Open, and she’s in the top 65 in the world. What changed? She says she’s actually training.

Josh Hill, a fellow coach and athlete at Premier CrossFit in Tyler, Texas, who’s also in hunt for a bid to San Antonio, is training her.

Schwartz says she considers herself more of a casual competitor. “It’s better to be the underdog,” she says.

She doesn’t place herself in the same league as many of the other elite athlets in the South Central Region. She also placed in the top three at the Fittest Games in Austin in January, alongside the women she considers elite.

And she’s not taking any of it for granted.

If you ask her what she really holds close to her heart, it’s not a ranking or a trophy, it’s her boys. “I know what a gift life is because I’ve seen the struggle for it.”

Schwartz and her husband, Eric, tried for several years to have a baby. That took a toll on her mentally, physically and spiritually, until she found out she was pregnant. The joy from their success was short-lived, however. Just a few weeks later she learned her husband had stage 4 Lymphoma. “I don’t remember a lot of my pregnancy because we were so focused on just surviving, getting Eric through aggressive treatment and making sure he would be around to see his son,” she says. “My boys are my miracles.”

Then, about a year ago, her father suffered a debilitating stroke and heart attack. She says he now has trouble doing basic things and lives in constant pain.

In the face of adversity, Schwartz uses this to fuel her wok and guide her through her daily struggles inside and outside of CrossFit. “It’s so similar to life,” she says. “You think about trials or suffering or pain that play a part. It’s so temporary. Through trials and suffering, we grow. Grow as a person, grow spiritually. There are a lot of parallels between getting through a CrossFit workout and life.”

And just like with life, she’s learning about performing every week, and the effect on training. “As much as I try to not let it, I feel like the Open sometimes affects my personal rhythm with training, having a week planned and just getting to work,” she says. “Being that the WOD is unknown sometimes throws that schedule out the window. You could view that as a good or bad thing, but with limited time on my hands I feel like sometimes I'm not as productive.”

But she keeps pushing forward, hoping to inspire busy mothers, wives and daughters like her along the way. “Everyone has their own story, and hardship,” she explains. “I just want to be sure to learn from mine, help others and live in such a way that I don’t take life for granted.”

Now Eric is in his second year of remission, and Brennan is a healthy, happy toddler. 

The struggles she’s endured with her family are always in the back of her mind when things seem to be at their worst after the clock starts ticking. “I think being able to push yourself has a lot to do with personality and drive, but for me it also has a lot to do with faith. I can honor God by the way I perform and the way I conduct myself, and that doesn't have to mean winning,” she says. “I want to be a fierce competitor for Him. I've also had to watch several people close to me suffer physically. As hard as that was and is, it has given me great prospective into my own life, and taught me to enjoy and use the gifts God gave me.”