March 13, 2012
Going for the Podium: Chyna Cho

Article by Leah Lutz

At the close of the 2011 Northern California Regional, there was no doubt about Chyna Cho’s outstanding athleticism and heart. This was shown when she killed “Amanda,” a workout that proved to be too much for many other Regional competitors.

The top three from Northern California would go on to compete at the highest level. Cho finished in 3rd place. But it was a tie for 3rd, and she lost the scoring tiebreaker. 

In Cho, we saw incredible athleticism, inspiring dedication, and heartbreak. Today, Cho’s goal is clear. She plans to finish this year’s Regional competition on the podium. If ever there was an athlete preparing for the many challenges of a CrossFit competition, especially the ultimate CrossFit competition, it is Cho. She knows the reality of training for the unknown and unknowable, so she doesn’t purport to have every possible competition scenario figured out. Instead she has identified the training areas that she does control, and she works to excel in each. 

Her plan of attack is methodical and impressive. Under the careful and experienced eye of John Welbourn, Cho is going into the 2012 Games season stronger, faster, leaner and mentally much more prepared for whatever might come her way. Last year, Welbourn got her strong. This year he is getting her conditioned. Her workouts are much longer than last year’s. This year the goal is the classic CrossFit Holy Grail—work capacity.

Under the guidance of her coach, she has spent time maintaining the strength she built up, while systematically building up her work capacity. Cho readily admits the 100s workout of the 2011 Regional was the worst workout she has ever done. “When it’s all said and done, I wasn’t ready for a 20-plus minute workout. I thought I was, but I wasn’t ready for that volume. You have to train to be in the uncomfortable place sometimes.” 

She admits she was too soft, too safe. She knows now she had to focus on increasing her work capacity in every way – in the length of workouts, in her muscular endurance, and in her ability to rep out high volumes of lifts.

To this end, Cho works hard to know herself well. Both her training and her record keeping are meticulous. Many CrossFitters keep a journal. It’s a CrossFit thing. Cho doesn’t just keep a journal, she writes a book. Her daily workout entries are about five pages on average, with notes on her warm up, stretches, the breakdown of sets in the workout, and how she felt during each step of her training.

Coming from her competitive swimming background where her splits and strokes per lap were of such great importance, it is instinctive for her to note and remember how she broke down the reps of each movement, how long each movement or round took her, and how that compares to other workouts she has done or will do. In the past, this type of data might have kept Cho in the safe zone, doing what she already knows she is capable of.

Now all of this is used to push her beyond what she first thinks she can or wants to do. As she reminds herself now, “It burns, but you’re not hurt. You can just push through.” 

The 2011, Regionals were understandably tough for Cho. She has been chipping away at her weakness for the past year, she is ready to push herself out of her comfort zone, beyond what her analysis and experience has shown her she can do. Resting on her careful training, Cho is ready to just let go and not stop until she wins.