April 17, 2012
The Youngin: Karissa Rempel
By Robin Runyan
A 15-year-old qualified for Regionals.
A 15-year-old qualified for Regionals.

"If I wanted to go back and be a gymnast at the same level I was before I quit, I could."

Like many athletes, Karissa Rempel found CrossFit after an injury halted her competitive gymnastics career. After a year of CrossFit, Rempel placed 31st in Canada West after the Open and is competing at Regionals as an individual. 

Karissa Rempel is only 15 years old. And for Rempel, CrossFit is truly a family affair.

Competitive Gymnastics to CrossFit

Rempel started CrossFit after a hamstring injury pulled her out of competitive gymnastics in January 2011. Rempel was a competitive gymnast for six years, nearly making the Canadian national team. She needed to keep training, but was restricted in her movements. Her mother, Nicky, started training at VO2 Max in Grand Prairie, Alberta in September 2010, followed by her father, Dave, in January 2011. Rempel’s father encouraged her to join him at CrossFit so she could continue training while taking time off from gymnastics. Rempel’s first CrossFit workout was 11.6 from the Open.

Rempel continues to keep up with her gymnastics skills and credits CrossFit for helping her keep those skills. She realized how amazing and powerful CrossFit is when she returned to gymnastics practice after taking six months off. “Most gymnasts when they quit can’t go back and do all their tumbling lines or their bar dismounts,” she says. “When I go back to gymnastics once a month I can do all of my skills. If I wanted to go back and be a gymnast at the same level I was before I quit, I could and that is all because of CrossFit.” 

Training for Regionals

Rempel’s coach, Janine Walinski, qualified for Regionals last year. Rempel started the 2012 Open thinking she couldn’t qualify since Walinski was such a strong athlete. But Rempel gained confidence with each workout in the Open, and after three workouts, she expected to qualify. Now both Rempel and Walinski are competing as individuals at the Canada West Regional. “She is very committed and focused on her programming, always wanting to improve on her weaknesses,” Walinski says.

Before the Open, Rempel trained casually once a day four to six times a week. After she committed to training for the Open, she increased these hours into a more consistent schedule. Rempel’s training for Regionals consists of working out 10 to 12 hours a week, compared to the 20-24 hours a week she did for competitive gymnastics. Rempel trains in the evenings during the week and with the team on Saturdays, where they do two workouts 20 minutes apart from each other. 

Walinski thinks Regionals will be a great learning experience for Rempel. She says Rempel is skilled in most lifts and gymnastics movements and excels at short, explosive workouts. Her weaknesses will show in endurance workouts, and that Rempel “tends to fade on the longer WODs, especially if running or rowing is involved.” Waliniski believes Rempel will place in the top 15-20.

Walinski sees a maturity in Rempel, noting she sometimes forgets she’s only 15. “She displays a quiet presence and maturity that is rarely seen even in young adults,” Walinski says. “We train a lot of young teens/adults and to have her is truly a gift for us to work with.”

Rempel looks up to top CrossFitters, including Angie Pye, who she looks forward to meeting at the Canada West Regionals. But she says her biggest influence is her dad, Dave, who is going to Regionals on the team. She says she can talk to him about CrossFit and he’s always pushing her to be better. Rempel and her father attended their Level 1 and Gymnastics Seminars together.


Walinski says the Rempel family is an integral part of CrossFit VO2 Max. “The Rempel family is quite involved as Karissa and her dad are frequently here training and competing with each other, but yet are some of the most humble and encouraging people here,” she says.

“The two younger daughters are also quite involved with our kids programming and you can see how inspired and determined they are to become like their older sister Karissa.”“CrossFit has been a blessing to me and my family,” Rempel says. 

Walinksi feels that way about the Rempel family. “Karissa's family has become so integrated in CrossFit VO2 Max, that it almost is weird here when they leave for vacation or take a rest day. We have amazing people here, but the Rempel family has not only become great clients, but friends as well outside of the box.”

Rempel is excited to compete in Regionals and meet other athletes from her region. “I see myself doing CrossFit for the rest of my life. Everything that CrossFit has done for me and taught me is greater than anything.”