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The Simplicity of Courage

Posted by: Emily Beers

I’m proud beyond belief to be able to call myself a CrossFit Games athlete, and more motivated than ever to continue to improve.

But I’m not a courageous athlete.

It’s not that I didn’t have to overcome my fears, but the truth is competing is second nature to me. It would actually be more difficult for me to stop competing than it is to continue doing something I’ve done my entire life.

It would take far more courage for me to stand up and sing and dance in front of a crowd, which—trust me—nobody wants to see, than it took to qualify to the CrossFit Games. And the chances of me singing, even happy birthday, as a solo are less than tiny.

That being said, I did witness courage this summer. In a big way. In two of my longest standing clients: Jennine Stockall and Mike Fransblow. 

Jennine’s CrossFit life has gone from struggling to do one single pull-up in a thick green and red band to being able to rock out 15 kipping pull-ups  She’s gone from being scared to lift 100 lb. to lifting 240 lb. for a double at Nutts Cup. She used to look fearful every time she showed up to a workout. She barely spoke to anyone during her first two years at the gym. But she persevered to the point that she’s now an integral part of our community. 

Now, Jennine makes people laugh. She inspires those around her. New girls point to Jennine and say, “Whoa, she’s strong.” And on top of this, this summer she conquered a huge fear—her fear of competition. Now that’s courage.

 I still remember her third day with me, three years ago. I was trying to teach her wall ball shots. In order to measure her depth, I placed a ball for her to squat to and threw a 45 lb. plate underneath it, so she was barely squatting to parallel. That was a safe level for her at the time. I demonstrated a few wall ball shots and asked her to give it a try.


She stood there blankly for a moment, hesitated, and then looked at me. 

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Go ahead. Try one.”

“But…,” she began in her meek little voice. And then stopped again.

I waited out the awkward silence, hoping she’d speak again.

“But I’m scared if I squat down to the ball I won’t be able to get back up,” she said.

Similarly, the first time I trained Mike, he spent the rest of the day home from work, sick, puking his brains out. I wasn’t sure he’d come back for a second workout, let alone stick around for four years and counting, becoming one of our top male athletes along the way.

One thing both of these athletes have struggled with (in my opinion) is confidence, something CrossFit has helped both of them attain.

“CrossFit has given me more confidence with what I can do in life. I always wanted to try rock climbing in my 20s, but I didn’t think based on my body type that I’d be able to,” Jennine said. Now, she climbs all the time and doesn’t lack confidence when she does. 

But rock climbing is one thing. Competing in a CrossFit throwdown is another beast entirely. Last summer, Jennine finally admitted she might want to...maybe...possibly...try competing.

One day, she called me over and I swear she could hardly speak. She stood there for a bit silently and then finally whispered in my ear so nobody else would hear: “Do you think it’s realistic for me to try to compete at Nutts Cup next year?” she asked. She was so unsure of herself, she wasn’t even sure she was worthy of this goal.

So it goes without saying that watching her rock a 4:02 Grace at Nutts Cup, holding her own against top athletes, was the highlight of my Nutts Cup. She, of course, shrugged it off, unaware of what an inspiration she was.

The same is true of Mike. Like Jennine, he’s also constantly underestimating his abilities, and gets more nervous than most. 

“While I wasn’t quite pooping my pants, I will say I was very nervous,” Mike said. “This was my first (competition) where the athletes were at a very high calibre across the board, and my first that included member outside of the CFV box.”

Both Mike and Jennine’s biggest fear was letting their teammates down. Mike, who had gone an entire month without booze or dessert before the Cup, said the thought of competing had been overwhelming him, weighing him down “for months.” Meanwhile, for Jennine the hardest part of Nutts was was simply agreeing to actually compete. 

Because of the stress, getting through the day was a serious weight off Mike’s shoulders—in a good way.

“I felt relief more than anything, and some sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t an easy day. My hands were more ripped than I’ve ever seen, and the insides of my thighs got shredded to shit on the rope climbs,” Mike said. “Relief punctuated with pain…”

For Jennine, the day was a pleasant surprise. “The competition helped me realize I could push myself harder. That you don’t actually know your limits until you’re put in that situation,” she said.

She added: “You have perceived limits of yourself and sometimes they’re wrong.”

She couldn't be more true about perceived limits: When Mike arrived, he never thought he'd have the ability to do a muscle-up, let alone compete in a competition. Jennine never believed she was physically capable of a pull-up and she thought the most she'd ever be able to deadlift was 100 pounds.

Getting over these perceived limits is a serious accomplishment. Requires serious courage. And as a coach, nothing is more rewarding than witnessing this kind of courage play out in front of you.

Thank you Jennine and Mike!




Posted by Emily Beers on

Emily Beers, hailing from Vancouver, crosses bridges by being not only a CrossFit athlete, but also a journalist. She has been a regular contributor to the CrossFit Journal since 2011. She qualified and competed at her first CrossFit Games as an individual athlete in 2014.

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