Crossfit Open challenges athletes around the world

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While tens of thousands of people grunt and grip their way through the CrossFit Open, a handful of Cochrane athletes are also supporting each other like family – both figuratively and literally – as they power through their own punishing workouts.

“She makes me really proud, ” said Nicole McCue as she watched her 56-year-old mother, Karen, squat with a 55-pound barbell over her head. “She’s my mom – I want to be like her. ”

McCue is competing in the Masters division of the Open: a worldwide five-week, five-workout challenge billed as the first step toward the crowning of the sport’s “Fittest on Earth. ”

In this first stage, nearly 400,000 CrossFitters receive the same workout on Thursdays and must complete and log their results by the following Monday. Each athlete is ranked globally and the top qualifiers move on to regionals. Eventually, just 40 men, women, and teams, 80 teenagers, and 240 masters will compete at this summer’s 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games in Wisconsin.

Last Saturday – during Week 3 of the Open – the global workout involved frenzied sets of chin-ups and snatches and the gym was filled with a couple dozen competitive CrossFitters, including Karen.

Nicole cheered on her mom, along with dad, Glenn, Karen’s husband, both of whom are also CrossFit athletes.

Karen rumbled through 12 minutes of her routine before a triumphant push and a small primal scream finished the workout.

“I’m exhausted, ” said Karen, a huge smile on her face. “My legs are like Jell-O. ”

Karen had never lifted weights before entering the “box ” – the colloquial term for a CrossFit gym. Now, she and her husband work out five to six times a week.

“It allows me to walk out this door and go climb a mountain, ” she said. “It feels good to be in shape. ”

After 34 years of marriage, Glenn said the sport has helped bring him and his wife closer together.

“For us, it’s become a couples thing, ” he said. “It just helps the relationship; supporting each other. ”

Crossfit Cochrane’s owners Joe and Carol Cowie are also a couple, and they said having a family atmosphere in the box is exactly what they hoped for when they opened their doors about two years ago.

“We find it an honour to find a place where (athletes) can come as a family, ” Carol said. “That’s what I find really cool. ”

On the other side of the box, athlete Helen Schott stretched as she waited her turn to compete in Week 3 of the Open.

She is currently ranked 73rd in Canada and is the only one of about 50 Cochrane club members pushing to earn a spot at regionals.

She said she loves the community of athletes inside the box who are helping her to do her best.

“It’s just a whole other level of electricity in the building, ” said Schott, adding her own parents even come to urge her on each week as she fights through the physical challenges.

“It’s something that is important to me – my parents are just really supportive. They’re really excited about this, too, ” she said.

“Everybody’s here cheering each other on, ” added Cowie. “It’s the pinnacle of what we’re all about. ”

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Cochrane Eagle