July 2, 2012
Usine CrossFit Ottawa: Focused on the Future
By Kate Rose

"We kept the focus on Regionals, as we felt pretty confident in our ability to qualify."


The fittest team in Canada East, Usine CrossFit Ottawa, is starting to feel a bit of pressure. Despite the anxiety that comes along with the anticipation of the Games, focus and hard work are helping the team maintain balance, while continuing to have fun along the way.

Usine CrossFit started in January 2010. It houses a diverse membership of 98 athletes. Christopher Kalec, of L’Usine CrossFit in Montreal, introduced CrossFit to his brother David Kalec to CrossFit. Later, David Kalec, a former competitive diver, founded Usine CrossFit Ottawa after moving to Ottawa for a job.

Team Usine CrossFit Ottawa is comprised of athletes boasting various skills. Reza Mashkoori, team captain, has been CrossFitting for one year, while working at the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.

Paul Tremblay has a background in hockey, bodybuilding and accounting. He completed the Level 1 Seminar in January of this year. The third male member of the team, Kyle Torrance, is the team’s Olympic lifter.

The women of Usine CrossFit Ottawa, Jamie Collins, Mylene Arsenault and Nathalie Connors, bring numerous attributes to the team, as well.

Collins is a major force on the team. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in sports psychology, and finds time to balance both training and education. Mylene is a rookie to the sport … but one hell of a rookie. She's also a mother of two. Another mom, Nathalie Connors, contributes an enormous amount of strength to the team. Her busy schedule requires the balance of training, working and being an awesome mom. The balance “is a WOD on its own,” Mashkoori says.

Coach Andy Stewart leads the team. Stewart is also the coach for the Carleton Ravens, a varsity basketball team that won the past five national championships. The team values his input and dedication. He often sacrifices his own training to make sure the team is receiving enough attention. The success of the Ottawa team suggests his sacrifices have paid off.

This is the first year the team has competed together. “Last year, we weren’t ready,” Mashkoori says. “I wanted to enter a team that would do really well. This was the first year I felt we had good enough athletes to put together a solid team.”

Usine Crossfit Ottawa wanted to excel.

Despite it being a fairly young affiliate, when Ottawa started to plan for this year’s competitive season, it did so by focusing squarely on the Regional competition. “We knew before the Open that we were going to submit a team, and as a result, we tried not to focus too heavily on the Open. We kept the focus on Regionals, as we felt pretty confident in our ability to qualify,” Mashkoori says.

They started to address weaknesses and determine strengths in November, setting out a training plan leading up to Regionals. While they weren’t focusing specifically on the Open, it was a chance for the community to show its support. All box members were encouraged to participate. Games-style workouts started to appear on the white board, and the community started to pull together. “We lacked some equipment at our gym, and Physics CrossFit, CrossFit O-town and CrossFit Closer were glad to have us over to train,” Mashkoori says.

The team trains together as often as possible. “We also strongly believe that a team is made up of more than what happens at the gym,” he says. “We hang out together almost every weekend and socialize outside of the gym as we feel its importance to our team’s development.”

While the success of the team is paramount, Usine CrossFit Ottawa acknowledges individual successes are often what push the team ahead. “A big part of our success came down to Jamie Collins and Mylene Arsenault coming through with clutch performances in Event 6,” Mashkoori says. “Many say it was Mylene’s final muscle-up on Event 6 that got us to the Games.”

The team’s performance at Regionals was a bit of a surprise for Usine, even with the captain’s competitive drive and planning. “We did really well and we are all proud of our accomplishments, especially since a majority of the team was made of up individuals who have been CrossFitting at an affiliate no longer than six months,” Mashkoori says.

Of course, there is always room to improve, he says. “There were minor mistakes that cost us and made for an extremely suspenseful finish.”

Regionals helped this novice team learn more about performance under pressure, something they will need for Carson. “In some cases, what we thought were strengths played out to be weaknesses and vice versa,” he says. “It really came down to mental strength and support.”

This new knowledge is helping the team’s training in the lead up to the Games. “We’ve been focusing on individual weaknesses. Other than that, we’re trying not to shift our programming too much,” Mashkoori explains. “We all feel a lot of pressure to perform, but at the same time, we want to peak at the Games and not over train before.”

The team is mindful of each individual member.

They also remind each other everyday why they do what they do. “Although there is a lot of pressure, we are just trying to have fun. Don’t get me wrong, we want to show up in Carson and put Canada East on the map, but we don’t want to lose ourselves in that process,” Mashkoori says. “CrossFit is fun, but when you start taking it too seriously, it’s not very enjoyable.”