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!