Interview with Kyle Spears

Kyle Spears grabbed the attention of many this fall when he won the Men’s Rx division at the 2013 Granite Games in St. Cloud.

A truly stellar athlete, he is a coach at Timberwolf CrossFit in St. Paul, Minnesota and currently studying Exercise Science at the University of St.

Thomas. In our interview, Kyle discusses some of his experiences competing and shares his outlook on training:

MMG: Kyle, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us at Man Meets Goat. To help our readers get to know you better, let’s start at the beginning. You are clearly an elite athlete today, but were you always an athlete growing up?

KYLE: I always played sports growing up – baseball, basketball, and football for a little bit. In high school, I mostly played baseball and basketball on intramural leagues. I was pretty big into “fitness” and I have always been fascinated by athletics and movement.

This, along with a desire to join the Marine Corps, lead me to run Cross Country my senior year. I lettered but was nothing special.

I was doing it mostly to get in shape for the Marine Corps. I continued lifting throughout my senior year, typical gym routine – chest and back, bi’s and tri’s, and running about 20 miles per week.

MMG: So after high school you entered the Marine Corps, which is obviously very physically demanding. How did you get into CrossFit? And how did you go from being a student to now a coach at Timberwolf CrossFit?

KYLE: I was first introduced to CrossFit inside the Reconnaissance community in the Marine Corps.

I sucked at it, and therefore I hated it. It wasn’t until after I got done with a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) that a couple of my buddies in my platoon really got hooked on CrossFit, which lead me to getting hooked on CrossFit as well.

Eventually I ended up at 2nd Force Recon in North Carolina, and helped a platoon train for a while there, this lead to a lot of down time.

With encouragement from Robert Gerdes over at CrossFit South Metro, I was able to get my Level 1 Certification in July of 2011.

This was about six months into my CrossFitting career and I pretty much had no idea what I was doing coaching.

I came home for Christmas leave and shadowed for two weeks with Rob at South Metro and learned a ton.

I went back to North Carlolina with a much better idea of what I was doing, but still went to Rob with any questions I had.

Four months later, when I got out of the Marine Corps, I coached at CrossFit Mendota for a while and got a ton of experience there, but eventually I needed to pursue my athletic goals and that brought me over to CrossFit Timberwolf to train more with Tony, John, Jake, Megan Kelly, Andrea, and Shanyn.

Tony also offered me a job coaching, which I am very happy to have since I enjoy it so much.

MMG: So what was your first CrossFit competition? Tell us about that experience.

KYLE: I think my first CrossFit competition was an online competition in October of 2011. It was through the Optimum Performance Training (OPT) website.

There were four workouts to be done on top of every hour, so I think it ended up being a three-hour ordeal. The first workout was 5-4-3-2-1 clean and jerks at 205 pounds and muscle ups.

There was a 10 minute time cap and I finished with seven seconds to spare, ha-ha. 205 was really heavy for me, and I think the most muscle ups I had ever done in a workout was like ten at the time, but somehow I finished in 9:53 though!

The second workout was a 10 minute AMRAP with a 2,000 meter row buy-in then double-unders with the remaining time.

I got like 6:46 on the row and I think that placed me like fourth overall in that portion of the workout. And I got, I think, like 150-something double-unders, which was middle of the pack.

The next one I had to drive to a different gym for to use a 70 pound kettle-bell, ha ha. It was 21-15-9 of kettlebell snatches (right and left arm) and burpees.

I got five-something on this one and that was one of the top scores by far. I think I was in the top ten for that one.

The last one was a toes-to-bar and wall-ball combo. It was also an AMRAP, but I can’t remember the rep scheme.

I think I finished middle of the pack on this one too. I ended up 23rd out of 80-something, so not bad for eight months of CrossFit and my first competition!

I learned a lot from it and saw big areas where I needed to make gains.

MMG: What was one of those “big areas” that you realized you needed to work on after the competition was over?

My main area of focus needed to be in the strength portion of my training. In January [2012], I decided to follow the OPT blog full time, but in May, after the [CrossFit] Open, I didn’t feel like I was seeing big enough gains in my strength.

I had heard about this blog that was a strength bias blog called The Outlaw Way. I followed that to till the end of 2012 season.

I had seen some good strength gains off the blog, but I felt that other areas had suffered greatly, like my gymnastics abilities and my conditioning a little bit.

I decided to get my own coach after this, and found Max El-Hag, who has been solely working on my weaknesses.

I feel very strongly that he is going to help me achieve my goals of going to Regionals this next year!

MMG: This past fall you won the Men’s Rx division at the Granite Games in St. Cloud. Having witnessed it first-hand, we can attest that it was a really rigorous three-day event. What was your experience like? How did it compare to past competitions?

KYLE: It was a lot of fun! You are always stressed going into events, but it is always fun getting to work out with other people! I like to think of myself as a performer when I go out to do workouts in front of people.

Singers can sing, I can exercise fast, ha-ha, so it’s always nice to have people watching me. I perform better with a crowd.

This was definitely the biggest event I had been to. I have done a few small one day events, but nothing of this size!

It was nice to be able to have three days of working out versus six workouts packed into one day.

MMG: What do you attribute to your success this time around?

I always aim to be top three at any event, but I think the biggest part of my success this year was my Coach Max El-Hag.

He was able to give me a good de-load week prior to the event, and has been programming for me since June and has really started to develop me into a much more well-rounded athlete.

MMG: Can you provide an overview of your training? How often are you working out? What does a typical training day look like?

KYLE: I work out five days a week. Doubles on Saturday and Sunday, rest days on Monday and Thursday.

Lately I have been working a lot on muscular endurance especially in my posterior chain, and my gymnastics movements. Being 6’1”, 215 pounds with orangutan arms makes handstand pushups difficult.

I have also been working on my aerobic power – so a lot of interval work at set percentages on the row machine, and running.

Also some interval work with specific movements that tax my posterior chain. It’s starting to get closer to Open season, so my coach Max has started to work in more workouts for time and AMRAP’s, to get me prepped for that also.

With school, I kind of have to juggle my schedule everyday depending on how much homework I have, so usually I work out in the afternoons around 1pm, but sometimes it’s in the evening closer to 5pm.

MMG: That’s a very intense schedule. Do you doing anything outside of the gym to complement your training? Do you follow a particular diet or have any daily habits you try to keep?

KYLE: I don’t do much outside of the gym, I enjoy going out to eat with people, a movie every once in a while. I really just like to stay active, so if it’s a sport then I’m down to play. I don’t follow a diet.

I pretty much eat whatever I want. With that being said I try not to eat pizza and candy…everyday, ha-ha.

MMG: Clearly you are a busy guy with school, coaching and your own training. How do you find balance?

KYLE: Last year it was really hard to find balance and I think I ended up over trained and under rested for the Open last year. So I don’t think last year’s was a good reflection of where I truly stand as an athlete.

This year I have a lot less hours working at Timberwolf and I’ve tried to use this to my advantage to recover better from my workouts and stay on top of my school work.

MMG: As someone who has been training heavily for the last few years and become a truly fierce competitor, what is your best piece of advice to others looking to compete?

KYLE: Have fun. I know a lot of the time I get stressed about what others are doing and what other athletes are getting on workouts, but that just lead to me getting stressed and workouts no longer becoming fun and becoming more of a job.

Stay positive and take the gains as they come. Every athlete in CrossFit works hard; it’s the mental piece that really separates the Elite from the Advanced.

MMG: Finally, since it is the name of our site, what is your “goat”?

KYLE: Coming into this Open season, I’m really trying to keep a positive mind set and not let the little things get to me.

I know I have the ability to achieve my goals, I just have to trust myself and my coaches’ programming, and not worry about what others are doing.

Other than that, my pulling ability SUCKS but I’m working on that with Max’s programming.

Interview with Kirk DeWindt

While Kirk DeWindt might be most recognizable from his time in front of the camera, he is more often seen helping people behind the scenes achieve their health and wellness goals.

He is an on-air personality on The CW23 Twin Cities and a personal trainer operating out of Lions Gym in Robbinsdale, Minnesota.

In our recent interview, Kirk discusses his passion for running and explains his “quality over quantity” approach to training.

MMG: Kirk, thanks for sitting down with us at Man Meets Goat. For those unfamiliar with your story, could you start by telling us a bit about how you got into running?

KIRK: I grew up tagging along with my old man on my bike while he would go for his evening runs after work. I remember feeling like his little buddy and looking up to him as he trucked along.

It didn’t take much more than that to solidify that I wanted to do just like he did – run. My first real crack at running was a cross country meet my freshman year of high school.

I quit soccer after our first game because I didn’t start (ego problems).

The next day I showed up at cross country practice and they took me in with open arms. Two days later I had my first 5k cross country meet and competed on the J.V. squad.

I won by two and 1/2 minutes and my time would have placed me second in the Varsity race. From that point on I knew I was onto something.

MMG: So you stuck with the running and ended up competing at the college-level and were an All-American in track. What was that experience like? How did it shape your outlook on health and wellness?

KIRK: From a young age I realized working hard was accompanied by the satisfaction of accomplishment – I learned that from watching my dad run when I was a youngster.

I can tell you with 100% certainty that few experiences compare to achieving your goals after years of day in and day out diligence.

My first time being an All-American was my freshman year of college. I was seeded 17th (out of 18) going into nationals in the 1500, not expected to place or even make finals.

Lo and behold I was the last qualifier into finals and out kicked a senior in the last five meters for the last All-American spot.

I had never been in such an exhausted state of elation in my entire life. My future was sealed at that point – hard work, sacrifice, and diligence pays off.

Going out of your way to put health and performance first is a small price to pay when the reward has the potential to be so great.

MMG: Years later, you continue to compete in local races and took first and second place in quite a few this past fall. How does the experience of competing at the collegiate level compare to competing now? Do you approach it in the same way?

KIRK: Competing at the collegiate level has shaped my current racing in two ways. First, it’s put money in my bank.

Years of running is like slowly putting money in the bank. It’s there to take out when you need it.

Years and years of running has filled my bank account quite nicely, and that physical engine it has created is always there when I need it.

Of course I need to methodically train, but not as hard as I used to as my body is reaping the rewards of the hard work I’ve done over years of training.

Second, I train and race smarter. I know I can run half the miles I ran in college and still compete almost as well.

How? By training with the “quality over quantity” philosophy. Less miles, more intense. It yields practically the same result while allowing me to have a significantly better life/workout balance.

Competing as a post-collegiate athlete is fun. The pride and drive is still there without the pressure of performance really.

Competing now has become more fun than it ever has been. And, now that I’m 30, it’s nice to go out and run toe to toe with the young pups still competing in the NCAA.

Don’t ever lose your pride and drive – they will keep you moving forward and progressing.

MMG: Can you provide an overview of your training? What are you doing in addition to running?

KIRK: I workout seven days a week, maybe taking one day off a month or so. Here is a typical week of workouts for me:

  • Monday, I lift heavy in the morning – chest, triceps and core – and then rest in the afternoon;
  • Tuesday, I run a steady 6-8 miles in the morning and then lift heavy – back and biceps – in the afternoon;
  • Wednesday, I do an interval workout – 2-3 mile warm-up, 4 or so miles of intervals anywhere between 400m repeats to 2 mile repeats, and 2-3 mile cool-down – and then rest in the afternoon;
  • Thursday, I lift heavy in the morning – shoulders and core – and in the afternoon do an easy shake-out run of 3-4 miles;
  • Fiday, I run a steady 6-8 miles in the morning and rest in the afternoon;
  • Saturday, I do a long run of 10-12 miles in the morning and rest in afternoon;
  • And Sunday, I do an easy 4-8 miles in the morning.

All together in a week, I run 30-40 miles and lift heavy three to four times.

MMG: With your own training and training your clients, you seem to live inside the gym. But what do you do outside the gym in relation to your training? Do you follow a particular diet?

KIRK: When it comes to working out and diet I go by the “Rome wasn’t built in a day” philosophy, which means consistency TRUMPS short term ambition.

I’m always consistent with my workouts, but if I am tired I listen to my body. I rest. I don’t expect my body or fitness to progress overnight, I understand it takes time.

I do the things I know is best for it and sometimes its pushing and sometimes it’s rest.

Also, I’m not perfect with my diet. I eat well of course, but I don’t think a completely rigid diet would do anything for my sanity.

I drink alcohol, I eat fast food, I don’t always eat at proper time intervals, but it’s just that which allows me to not hate my life and continue with my fitness journey.

With my diet, however, I do stay away from wheat and dairy as much as possible as I can tell I feel more sluggish when eating it.

MMG: I am guessing that you are constantly on the move. How do you find balance between your work, personal life and your own training?

KIRK: Great question. I truly believe balance is the most important thing to becoming a well-rounded athlete.

If all I did was train all the time I’d be unhappy and ultimately quit. If all I did was attend happy hours and socialize I’d lose my fitness. So, a balance must be found to maintain my sanity and my fitness. F

or me, it’s scheduling my workout each day as if it’s an appointment that must be attended. From there you can still find free time to see friends, pursue relationships, etc.

As long as you get enough sleep and aren’t wandering through your day like a zombie, there is plenty of time to work, workout, and play each day.

MMG: As a personal trainer with a wide range of clients, what are some of the biggest missteps you see people make in their training?

KIRK: The biggest misstep is people burning out. They hit the ground running and can’t sustain it – ultimately giving up on their fitness path.

Again, the “Rome wasn’t built in a day” philosophy applies here. It truly is possible for people to be ‘too committed’ in the beginning, especially if they aren’t regular exercisers before coming to see me. You’d also be surprised with how many people expect immediate results.

Then, when they don’t see them in the first week they give up. It’s unfortunately common.

Also, I see many clients have the “all in” or “all out” mentality. I usually see it manifest in them being regimented and great on the weekdays with both their fitness and diet, then completely fall off the wagon on the weekend in both regards. That significantly slows progress and can be morally deflating.

Go out, have a few beers and pizzas with your friends, but your butt better be up and working out Saturday morning.

My rule is if I go out and have a night with friends my ONLY option is to run 8 or more miles the next day. Offset the extra calories, sweat it out, and be no worse for the splurge. Works every time.

MMG: As someone who regularly competes throughout the year in races, what is your best piece of advice to others who are training to compete?

KIRK: Recovery is JUST as important as hard days. Yes, you need to work hard as hell a few days a week, but in between those hard efforts should be moderate to easy days to allow your body to recharge for your next hard session.

If you’re a runner, do interval training and a long run each week. The other runs are just fillers to get in mileage and improve/maintain your aerobic base.

If you’re a lifter, lift HARD 3 or so days each week and go easy/light the rest. Your body will thank you and ultimately progress.

MMG: In the world of CrossFit, the term “goat” is used to refer to something that you suck at. What is your “goat” in the gym?

KIRK: Legs. Hands down. Sure they can go for miles (literally) but my raw strength could be better.

As a distance runner I was taught not to lift with my legs as it took away from the productivity of my running.

Now that I’ve been out of college for a while I’m back to working my legs. Slowly, but surely, they are coming around. BUT, they still need work.

Interview with Andrea Nisler

In less than two years, Andrea Nisler has come onto the CrossFit scene in Minnesota with guns blazing and proven she is a fierce competitor, taking no less than second place in the Women’s Rx Division in the 2013 Granite Games.

Hailing from White Bear Lake, she is a graduate of Drake University and currently works as marketing specialist at Nexen Group.

As Andrea prepares to compete in both the Freeze Fest Team Challenge and the Battle in the Bluffs in the month of February, she talks with us about training, sandbag runs and Air Dynes.

MMG: Andrea thanks for taking the time to talk with us at Man Meets Goat. We actually crossed paths at the test run for Freeze Fest last weekend. But before we discuss that, I want to begin our conversation by talking about your relationship with sports growing up. I am guessing you were an athlete as a kid? What sports did you play and how did exercise fit into your life?

ANDREA: Growing up, I dabbled in just about every sport. This continued even into college. In high school, I participated in softball, volleyball, cross country and swimming.

I found great success in all, but just got burned out before going to college.

I could have done any of those sports at some competitive level in college but chose to focus on academics and a social life instead.

That is when I became an official treadmill runner. It was disgusting.

I would run about seven miles a day, be bored to death and ended up with no muscle and constant aches and pains.

MMG: So you cast aside competitive sports in college, but it sounds like you were unhappy ditching them for the treadmill. How did you make the transition into CrossFit?

ANDREA: I was hurting from all the running and repetitive motion, so I decided to hire a personal trainer my senior year of college.

Through that personal training experience I was introduced to the idea of CrossFit. I was so skeptical at first that I pushed the thought of it aside until I graduated.

One day I just drove to a CrossFit gym in Iowa and tried the WOD. It was 100% Olympic lifting, which I had never done, and I left feeling very frustrated.

I don’t like feeling defeated, so I went back a few days later to show myself I was better than that, and I guess I just kept returning.

MMG: It sounds like that competitive streak in you didn’t go away. So how did you find yourself making the jump from CrossFit classes into CrossFit competitions?

ANDREA: At first, the CrossFit classes would make me nervous and I would get that competition anxiety and excitement every time I walked into the gym.

I love that feeling. Then I started getting comfortable with classes after about three months. Then after being a regular at the box, I was craving the nervous/competitive feeling again.

I started CrossFit in August 2012 and competed in my first competition in October, so there was not much time between.

The weeks leading up to that competition were filled with so much anxiety and fear. I had not even mastered all the movements required for the competition.

The day of, I showed up, gave it my all and didn’t regret it at all, ending up in the top ten!

MMG: That’s amazing! So in one year’s time you go from finishing top ten in your first competition to taking second place in the 2013 Granite Games in the Women’s AsRx Division. Tell me about that experience?

ANDREA: The Granite Games was my first true competition. I had never participated in any CrossFit competition lasting more than a few hours.

I did not realize the physical exhaustion and mental toughness required for three whole days of pure CrossFit! I loved it!

I learned so many things from that competition, but the biggest lesson was to try out and test everything that will be in the workouts before the actual event.

Here I would be referring to the dreaded Air Dyne.

I had never hopped on one of those buggers before that event. That was a HUGE mistake. It was nothing like I imagined it would be. That bike was pure hell.

MMG: So with any of these competitions you are doing, what does a typical week of training for you look like?

ANDREA: There really is not a typical week. Some weeks I will feel so energetic and train every day, some of the days twice.

Other weeks I will train just a few days and take it easy. If I had the choice I would love to go hard every week. There is nothing better than the feeling of a good solid week of training!

MMG: You said you’d prefer to train hard every week, but, like many of us, you have a full-time job. How do those two worlds interact?

ANDREA: Some weeks it is my job that gets in the way of training. I might plan to work out in the morning, but accidently sleep in and work until late, not allowing me to get in a workout at all.

My peak performance, I have found, is in the afternoon; but, I could never get off of work every day to train at that time, so I have to try and motivate myself to work out and go hard after a full day at the office.

MMG: With Freeze Fest quickly approaching, how have you been training any differently? Have you focused on any of the exercises or skills that will be involved in the announced workouts?

ANDREA: Other than try the workouts that have been announced, there is really nothing I have done to prepare for Freeze Fest.

My hardest challenge will be to remember what order the sandbag workout goes in!

MMG: You are referring to how during the test run you accidentally ran almost fifty yards extra because you forgot you had to carry the sandbag? While it was only a test run, what do you do in the heat of competition when something like that goes wrong? How do you respond?

ANDREA: That’s a good question. I’m crossing my fingers that it wont happen. However, these competitions are all about fun in the end.

It’s not a life or death issue we are dealing with. I would be annoyed at first at myself for having another blonde moment, but I would end up laughing about it a few minutes later.

MMG: Walk us through what your routine will be the day of the competition. Do you eat anything special? Do you listen to music? How do you mentally prepare to compete that day?

This may sound bad, but I will probably treat it like any typical day of training. I will try to get at least seven hours of sleep the night before, eat whatever my fridge has to offer that morning, pack a few snacks, some extra clothes and be on my way.

It is not until the clock starts to count down that I get in the zone. I don’t like to think about the workout or anything before because it will just end up stressing me out.

I will cheer everyone else on until it is my turn to go. Once the workout starts my body will do its best and leave it all on the floor.

MMG: Not to get ahead of ourselves, but what’s next after Freeze Fest? Will you be competing in the CrossFit Open? Can you share with us any training goals for 2014?

ANDREA: After Freeze Fest, I have the Battle in the Bluffs a few weeks later, and then the CrossFit Open about a week after that.

The Battle in the Bluffs is an individual competition in Omaha, Nebraska where I will be competing in the elite division.

In 2014, I would love to do better in the open than I did last year. I would also like to get over 200 pounds on my overhead squat, squat clean, and clean and jerk.

MMG: Well absolutely best of luck in all those endeavors. Before you go, we have to ask, what’s your goat?

ANDREA: The Snatch! For whatever reason, I cannot advance in this lift like the others. I am terrified of dropping under the bar.

My goal for 2014 is to improve my snatch form and get up to 150 pounds.

Interview with Laura “Baller” Mahler

Laura “Baller” Mahler is a blocker and jammer for Delta Delta Di, a North Star Roller Girls team in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It is easy to be fooled by her big smile but the truth is that Laura is a fierce competitor out on the track and she will knock you out.

With a background in comedy, break-dancing and skateboarding, we talk about how those skills have helped her career as a roller girl.

In addition, Laura talks about how she prepares mentally and physically to compete in such an intense fast-paced sport.

MMG: Laura, thanks for sitting down with me here at Man Meets Goat. I’ve got to start our conversation right off the bat by learning how you got into roller derby. It’s a very unique sport to play. What’s the story?

LAURA: I used to skateboard around in the summertime. I thought it would be similar…. but it is NOT at all. The stride is very different.

I had a co-worker, Ida Kildher, who played roller derby, so I went to watch her and was hooked!

I signed up for the rec league and was drafted onto the league a few months later.

MMG: I love that name, Ida Kilder, and so many of the others that you and the other North Star Roller Girls have, like Kee Lime Die and Razor Cakes and Beth Defying. Yours is “Baller”. How did that name come about?

LAURA: My last name is Mahler. I was at a party once in college and a freshman approached me and said, “I bet you don’t even know what my name is.”

I did. Then I said, “I bet you don’t even know my name!” and he said, “Sure I do! It’s Laura Baller!” I laughed.

That is not my name, but people have been calling me Baller ever since.

MMG: Well the name works and I can see why it stuck. For those who have never been to a roller derby, it’s hard to articulate really well how charged the atmosphere can be. It is very high energy. How do you prepare for that?

LAURA: The more I go to practice, the more prepared I am for “the big day”. I like to practice with the men’s league right before a bout.

If I can scrimmage with people twice the size of me, I feel ready to bout against women my own size!

I need a real good warm up the day of a bout as well. Otherwise I am very sloppy and spend the whole game in the penalty box.

I really like the high energy atmosphere and would have it no other way. The adrenaline rush is the best part.

MMG: I have seen you and the rest of Delta Delta Di out on the track and it’s pretty amazing how brutal the matches can be. Are you naturally very competitive? Do you have to prepare yourself at all mentally for that type of intensity?

LAURA: I am naturally competitive. I grew up with three brothers and no sisters, so I always wanted to prove myself and fight for validity.

When on the track, my favorite way to prepare for “battle” is to skate with my teammates. I always need the reminder that I am never alone on the track and I have amazing teammates who are all working hard to get that win.

We help keep each other mentally in check.

MMG: Battling it out on the track, knocking elbows and helmets with your competitors while zooming around has to require a strong nerve and toughness. Any advice to others about how to get that mental grit?

LAURA: Once I fully understood “the game” and how it is played and all the various rules that is when I was finally able to dive in and commit myself fully to playing.

I think my mental grit comes from wanting to be the best player I can be on the track. I want to play the game the hardest.

MMG: What’s your biggest battle wound from one of your bouts?

LAURA: I scratched my cornea once at an after party from wearing too much glitter…that is embarrassing, but it was SO painful. I wore sunglasses inside for weeks.

MMG: Well besides the glitter and the tattoos, the roller derby has a lot of theatricality to it. There are big personalities and the announcers and judges all add a bit of extra drama to the proceedings. I learned that you have a background in theater and improv. How has that helped you out on the track?

LAURA: Studying theater has made me fearless. That is an important skill to bring to the track. Improv teaches you to be a good teammate and work together with others.

I’d like to think I bring that too. The theater world can be very tough at times, just like roller derby. No matter what, you must stay positive and never give up.

MMG: Is your persona on the track similar to what you are like in real life? Or is any of it a bit of a show for the crowd?

LAURA: I think i am naturally a bit of a “show for the crowd” but I am not at all playing a part or pretending to be someone I am not.

That is the coolest part of derby. I get to be myself. The super fierce version of myself.

MMG: Were you always into sports growing up? Did you play on any teams in high school or college?

LAURA: I dabbled in softball and baseball growing up, but I was mostly a theater geek.

As I got older, I began to focus on physical comedy, which requires a lot of strength and coordination. I also studied break dancing, which requires a lot of muscles!

MMG: What does your training involve? Outside of being comfortable on your skates, do you do anything in terms of lifting or cardio to help with your performance on the track?

LAURA: I train all the time. I go to TwinTown CrossFit about nine times per month. I also skate on a treadmill at a hockey training facility called Acceleration North once per week.

I need to run more to help with my endurance, but I don’t love to run. I would rather go to yoga class, though I always fall asleep during corpse pose.

MMG: Looking back at your experience so far, what has roller derby taught you about yourself or about life?

LAURA: I had no idea how strong I could be if I really put my mind to something. Roller Derby has taught me that hard work and commitment will always pay off.

Life is not about a quick reward. It is about being patient and persistent.

MMG: Finally, as it now has become a bit of a tradition with my athlete interviews, what is your “goat”?

LAURA: I have all the goats. I still have so much to learn. There is always someone stronger, faster and smarter than me that can kick my ass. So I can’t stop won’t stop working hard and playing harder.

Interview with Katie “Danger” Schmitz

Katie “Danger” Schmitz is the kind of CrossFitter you love to meet. She is sweet and charming with a big personality and a total BAMF.

She coaches and trains out of CrossFit Vise in Omaha, Nebraska and is currently finishing up a Master’s degree in Sports and Health Sciences.

In the midst of the CrossFit Open, she talks to us about how to she found CrossFit, how she prepares to compete and why she loves a good Volkswagen.

MMG: Katie, thanks for taking the time to speak with us at Man Meets Goat. This must be a crazy, busy time as we are in the middle of the CrossFit Open. But before we get to that, tell us a bit about yourself. Were you an athlete growing up? Did you play sports as a kid? In high school? College?

SCHMITZ: I was a very active kid growing up. I played almost everything I could, but really remember loving to play soccer and basketball.

I was a tom boy growing up and I loved to play football and throw the football around with my dad. I played basketball and golf in high school, but only played intramural sports in college.

MMG: So you were exercising and playing sports, but how did you get into CrossFit?

SCHMITZ: I found CrossFit while I was attending the University of Nebraska Lincoln and part of the ROTC program in late 2009.

Lincoln did not have an affiliate yet, so we were working out in our basketball gymnasium and only doing bodyweight movements.

First, I followed the CrossFit Endurance (CFE) programming because I was a competitive tri-athlete and found that as a student I couldn’t fit 20+ mile runs and bikes into my training.

CFE really helped change my mind set about training methodology: quality over quantity.

MMG: Was it this different approach to training that really appealed to you in comparison to other sports or exercise programs?

SCHMITZ: Absolutely! I was able to achieve greater levels of fitness by structuring my workouts in a more productive manner.

MMG: When did you start competing in CrossFit? What spurred that decision?

SCHMITZ: My first competition was a “Girls” competition at CrossFit Lincoln in December 2010. I didn’t really know what I was capable of or what others out there were doing.

I had just learned pistols and I had just learned how to do double unders so I felt like I could at least keep my ground against others.

I was a member of CrossFit Lincoln for almost a year so I was “drafted” to be on a team.

MMG: You have gone from being drafted to a serious competitor over the last few years. What is your mindset when competing? Do you do anything to get amped up? Any rituals before the competition starts?

SCHMITZ: I am easily anxious. In the past year I have developed relationships with people who keep me positive and remind me constantly what I am capable of.

I try to get advice from them before I get my turn on the competition floor and just have fun! If I am doing a lifting/ladder event, I always wear my “power pants”.

I hate taking my shirt off when I work out!

MMG: What does a typical week of training look like?

SCHMITZ: A typical week involves three days on, one day off, two days on, one day off. I don’t do active rest days. I listen to my body and this works for me.

My training sessions are typical – they involve some olympic lifting, strength and then a met-con. I am not going to work on skill until after Regionals and The Games.

MMG: Does sleep or diet or any other daily habits factor into your training?

SCHMITZ: I am far more affected by not eating enough food than not getting enough sleep. Coffee can fix the “awake” factor, but if I am not well fed and I am hungry, I cannot perform.

I usually throw in one day a week where I don’t bother with caring what I eat.

MMG: Did you change your training routine at all in anticipation of this year’s CrossFit Open? Did you revisit any of the WODs from past years?

SCHMITZ: I trust in my training and what my coach programs. I don’t deviate outside of what he wants me to do. I am basically training through The Open and I believe that if I make Regionals we will adjust my training.

I didn’t revisit any past Open WODs – I only want to do these if I have to!

MMG: Very understandable. With that said, what is your favorite WOD, either from the CrossFit Open or just everyday at the gym?

SCHMITZ: Favorite WOD ever is “Volkswagen”- it’s 21-15-9 pull-ups and body weight bench press. It’s my favorite workout because it is two of my favorite movements. I am good at pull ups and for a girl, I am strong at bench press.

MMG: Why is it called the “Volkswagen”?

SCHMITZ: I am not sure, but I have a theory. I think it might be because it combines two movements that are classics … the pull up and the bench press.

Two class feats of strength. And a Volkswagen is a classic car! Just my theory.

MMG: Well that workout sounds absolutely brutal. It also seems to be in keeping with your personality. We have to know, where did your nickname – “Danger” – come from?

SCHMITZ: In ROTC, one of the cadets gave me the nickname as a joke. I started to embrace it and eventually it stuck.

From there, it became all about a personal brand. It has caught on and it’s a lot of fun! It is more than just building a “reputation”; I want the nickname to be a reflection of my character and how I can inspire others.

MMG: We’ve heard that in addition to your training, you tackle a full-time job and school. How do you find a balance in life? Do you ever take a break? What does a rest day look like for you?

SCHMITZ: Although I am busy throughout much of the day, I have a set schedule so it allows me to schedule my workouts.

I have gotten really, really good at fitting in a whole training session, including mobilization, into an hour timeframe!

I always take a week off after a competition. I reset my mind, I reflect on the competition and I decided where I need to take my training.

A typical rest day involves just that: REST. I don’t believe in active recovery. It doesn’t actually allow the body to rest and recover.

MMG: Now that you are becoming a seasoned veteran, what is your best piece of advice for someone looking to compete?

SCHMITZ: Competition is full of highs and lows. You are going to have workouts where you do things you never thought you could do.

You are going to have workouts where you don’t hit the marks you are capable of. You have to adjust, and execute accordingly.

You can’t win everything (not even Rich Froning does!), but you have to give it your best every time and never LET someone beat you.

MMG: Finally, what is your goat?

SCHMITZ: My goats seem to change with progress in other movements/lifts. But if I was going to choose one, I would say that it’s the Snatch.

I am good at it, but due to the complexity, it always has to be fine tuned. Just when I think I’ve got it, my body has a different plan. It’s a constant battle and humbling experience!