Member of the Month – August 2015

Member of the Month

August 2015 – Steph McGuirk


How long have you been training for the CrossFit Games?

I’ve been training Crossfit for 5 years. I started training for the games 2 years ago. I wanted to compete in the 2014 games, but missed it. July, 2015 was my first rookie year as a CrossFit Games Competitor.

What is your background as an athlete?

I competed in track and field hockey in high school. Trained as a Group Power, Ride and Kick Group Fitness Instructor and a certified Personal Trainer after college. Trained and competed in the Boston Marathon 2008 and the Pan Mass Challenge in 2012.

How did you get into CrossFit?

I started taking classes at Global from Patrick Lyden and Nicholas Normandin. It wasn’t called CrossFit then. Patrick moved to a new location around 2010, and slowly changed his training model to the CrossFit Model. I just stayed with them and started my official training at CrossFit EXP on Airport Road. Now I train at CrossFit 978 in Leominster. I also have a  Coach at CrossFit Back Bay in Boston.

Why did you want to compete at the games?

I went to the games 2013 and was completely inspired and awe struck and wanted to compete as a masters athlete. In 2014 I attempted, but there were way too many life events in the way. I hit rock bottom and decided to hire a coach and train as a professional athlete, hoping to make it to the 2015 Games.

What are your strengths as an athlete? 

Definitely in the fact that I’m physically strong. I’m good at anything that is moderate to heavy weight and have good muscular endurance.  Anything that is heavy for most people is a little more ‘moderate’ for me, which is nice. And with all of my other types of training I did before, I can last a bit longer through the more intense workouts.
Also, I’m mentally strong and just stay in my game, which could be a strength or a weakness sometimes.  When I compete, I just get out there and get in my own zone and push myself to what I know I can do. I just get out there and do my thing and am very consistent. I know how to pace myself so I don’t have to stop. Some people say I should know my competition and what everyone else is doing, but that doesn’t work for me. Everyone is different, and I just know if I focus on what I can do, it works. If I focus on my competition, it messes me up.

What are your 1-2 of your weaknesses?

Definitely in the bodyweight gymnastics movements. I started training some gymnastics moves at age 37 and didn’t have a lot of gymnastics moves under my belt. The last time I did gymnastics was when I was 8. I’m also not a skinny athlete, so some of those moves are a challenge.
Olympic lifts technique is coming along, but haven’t mastered the Olympic moves yet either.

Give me a quick synapse of your experience at The CrossFit Games.

The commitment and dedication and support of my family and friends back home were simply outstanding. I am absolutely overwhelmed at how much support I have received from my family, my friends, my coaches,  The Dolphin Studio members, as well as members of 978 and EXP. I couldn’t believe our Dolphin Studio members would donate over $250 to help me out with the financials at the Games. I was so generously touched and yet overwhelmed with emotions. At 978, they threw a surprise party for me where they were all wearing shirts they made for me that said “McGuirk” on the back and 978 on the front. They also gave me money they made from people purchasing the shirts. I was on a cloud even before leaving for the Games.
At the Games, the people in the organization were outstanding. All of the trainers, medical staff, coaches, judges and people who set up and broke down the equipment were all Volunteers. The volunteers were all so willing to help and to make you feel at ease. Every single one of them treated you like a champion. I can’t compare this experience to any other event I’ve ever competed in.
  For the first time in my life, while AT the CrossFit Games, I couldn’t wait to come home and start training for next year. I just wanted more, more and more of this amazing opportunity.  I’ve never had that experience before. While I was there, I just kept thinking “Oh my God! I’m a part of this?”

What was one of your favorite highlights of the Games?

There were two that standout the most. Although the whole event in itself was one giant highlight. The first highlight was just before the first event. The way they countdown the event, is by starting off announcing “30 second warning”. Then 20 seconds later they say “10 Seconds”, then “Stand-By”.  After that, you wait for what feels like an eternity until the air horn goes off, then you run down the field to the GHD Bar. There I was standing on the field with 19 other ‘fittest women in the universe” and I hear “30 seconds. Moments later, 10 seconds. Then on the ‘Stand-By’, I had an overwhelming feeling. My feet were on the white start line of the 2015 CrossFit Games and I was ready to cry with overwhelming emotion. I was on the field of the CrossFit Games and I was thinking “Oh my God. My dream has come true. Right now!!! My dream is coming true right now.” It was like I wanted to cry and say “Holy God, it’s my first event and I’ve done it. I made my dream come true”. My sister said she felt the same way sitting in the stands at the beginning of the first WOD (we call them WODs or Workout Of the Day). She and my dad know just how many ups and downs I’ve had over the last year to make it to this event.
The 2nd favorite part was on WOD 6 where I came in 4th place. My sisters and friends were right in front of me at the end of the event. We started off with an 80-calorie row on the rowing machine, then moved to 40 reps of taking a 105lb bar and pressing it from your shoulders to over your head. After that, we used the same bar and did 80 Deadlifts, where you start standing, holding the 105lb bar, bend at the hips and bring the weight to touch the field, then back to full hip extension. 80reps is a lot of reps. After we finish the Deadlifts, we run to the end zone/finish line, which is about 100 feet away from where the spectators sit and cheer.
I had to do 40 reps of Shoulders to Overhead shoulder press with a 105lb bar. Then I had to do 80 deadliest with the same weight. When I got to the Deadlifts, I got through a lot of them without putting the bar down. Then my hamstrings were on FIRE, so I put the bar down. As I tried to regain my focus, I heard Jenn’s voice in my head saying ‘Breathe’. I took a deep breath, picked that damn bar up, and focused on using my core the right way, like Jenn always tells us, squeezing my butt and using my inner thighs, then hammered out the last 15 reps. I could hear my sister and friends screaming and cheering wildly for me and I ran as fast as I could to the finish line. Literally collapsed just past the finish in utter exhaustion and complete joy.

What did you do to celebrate when the event was over?

Mike bought me a fancy bottle of champagne and a beautiful big bouquet of flowers.
Friends bought me a gift certificate to a huge candy store in CA that we had visited earlier that week.
My sister made everyone say one thing about me. Brian (coach at 978) said “I can’t tell you how proud of you I am. I live through you and your work ethics. I always look forward to seeing you at the gym. You inspire us all”. Others said “You have been my idol since I came to 978. You are a beast and I am so proud of you. You’re friggin awesome. I love you to death. I knew you could do it. I believed in you when you didn’t. I am so proud of you.” Then my sister said “Thanks to you all for taking care of Steph at 978. I didn’t realize how involved all of this is. This is like the Olympics of CrossFit! The shirts you made for Steph were such a wonderful surprise! My Dad and I had no idea you guys were doing all of this. I am so proud of my sister now and always. Now I can just say she is 7th best athlete in the World! Couldn’t have done it without you all.”
When I came home to Leominster, my best friend and family decorated my house with pictures from me at the Games and balloons. Whenever I saw the amount of support, I was truly humbled and impressed. I’m usually the kind of person that likes to fly under the radar. So this much attention was hard to get used to. Very overwhelming!


How would you describe your nutrition plan?

I used to be Paleo, but with the help of a CrossFit specific coach, went to high carbs, moderate protein and healthy fats meal plan. I ate 5 small meals a day. Carbs were basically sweet potatoes, brown rice and fruit.

As far as reaching your goals go, how important do you feel your nutrition plays a part in your overall goal?

I think for me at this point, nutrition is probably the ONE thing I want to mainly focus on! For me it’s huge! For me being older and trying to balance lean muscle mass and trying to perform and recover, nutrition is huge. It’s hard, especially for women over 40. You just can’t put anything in your mouth before it going to your butt and legs. I started really focusing on my nutrition in May and saw great results. You’re simply more efficient when your leaner and have better strength to weight ratios. The problem is, you can’t think of it as a diet.  You can’t diet. It’s gotta be a way of life.


How do you think Pilates and Yoga helped you achieve your goal?

Well, #1, I wouldn’t have been able to get through any of the workouts mobility wise without both. All of CrossFit involves having a strong core. If you don’t have a strong core, you fatigue. During the Games, I kept hearing Jenn in my head saying “tighten my core”. Even during the deadliest when my hamstrings were on fire, I thought about Jenn reminding me to  “tighten my butt. Breathe. Use my inner thighs” and I got 15 more reps just focusing on using the right technique.
Taking Yoga with Deb has also helped me learn how to focus and breathe. I used to be a shallow breather. I was never aware of how to take full breaths. Deb’s Yoga classes also helped me to find new ways to focus. That is key for any athlete at any level.
Because I always take at least 1 Pilates and 1 Yoga class each week, I never have back issues, which is a common injury in the CrossFit world. I think I’m lucky not to have had back injuries due to my spinal mobility. My thoracic mobility is fabulous, and that only helps me complete my lifts more efficiently. I think Cross Training with Yoga and Pilates helps me be a better CrossFit Athlete. I can’t wait to hang upside down when we get the Aerial Yoga classes up and running.

Do you plan to compete again? 

Oh yeah. I’m already starting to train again. Right now I’m taking it slow, cause I’m still tired, but am looking into hiring another coach to help me improve my Olympic lifts and get me stronger for next year.

Do you have any idea of what you’ll change?

1. First, I need to focus from the get go on nutrition. I always thought I was eating right, but now I know better.

2. I’m going to reach out to a strength coach to see if he’ll take me on as a client to help me improve my Olympic lifts
3. I’m need work with Coach Justin on the gymnastics moves and start mastering those moves.
4. I’m looking for sponsors to help me compete again next year. Although I love everything about this experience, I also realize that financially, it gets quite expensive. I have a great team to support me, I need to find sponsors to allow me to continue competing. In order to train at this level, I need regular body maintenance with chiropractic, massage, nutritionist, training gear,  3 separate coaches, Pilates and Yoga. It can be a little overwhelming trying to pay for it all.

What 3 words or piece of advice would you give to someone who has a goal. when they don’t see instant results, how do they keep going? 

Steph, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing you for a long time, but a lot of people might be thinking you’re just a extremely talented and gifted athlete who set a goal and then reached it without any struggles. I know that is not the case. You set a goal roughly 11 months ago to compete as a Masters Athlete. I’ve seen you fight through fatigue, injuries, life stress, work stress and physical stress to actually make this happen. I know it hasn’t been easy, but is there any advice you can give to someone who has set a goal but might not be seeing the success they expected? Knowing what you’ve learned from your training for the games, what would you say to inspire someone to keep going like you did?
I think the biggest thing is to know that it’s never going to be what you think! You may plan it out on paper or on the dream board. But the journey isn’t going to be what you thought. There may be days where you don’t want to train or you want your ice cream. There will be days where you don’t want to get out of bed to get to the gym. There will be days where work stress suggests you blow off your after work workout. There will be times where part of you feels so stressed and tired that you just want to go home and get in your PJs.
Somehow deep down inside you have to be focused. You have to work hard to keep your dream alive. You have to have the part of you that wants your dream to talk louder than the part of you that wants to bail on a workout. But if you want it, whatever your goal is, you have to let other things get out of the way. You have to let go of some things that are trying to get in your way. If you know what your dream is, you are going to find a way to succeed. We’re all strong enough and have that inner strength. We jus thane to dig for it sometimes.
Bottom line, people don’t like to work on what they are bad at. They like do things they are already good at, cause that by definition, is staying in their comfort zone. But when you get out of your comfort zone and practice the things you are not great at yet, your whole life shifts for the better. You have to have the mental capability to focus on your strengths and stand outside of your comfort zone and do things that you’re not good at. It’s not easy. But when you focus and put your other shit and excuses behind you, it’s completely worth it in the long run.
Each time you ‘fail’, make it a learning experience. Every success is a learning experience as well. I am so happy that I competed and placed 7th at the 2015 Games, but I know I have a lot more work to do in order to compete again in 2016. Although I’m proud of my success, I also know I have more potential and will improve my skills through this next year. Is it going to be easy? No. But I know it’s going to be worth it.
The biggest thing is don’t let go and lose your dream. There are a lot of people out there that have lost their dreams. There’s a lot of people who have gotten stuck. Just keep moving. Your journey to getting that dream is going to get clouded and it’s not going to go the way you think or plan it to go. I used to wake up and say “Oh my God, I do NOT want to train today”. I used to have a bad day at work and say “I need a break”. Now I try remind myself I’m not the only one who has a full life and life stress. When I get to the gym or Pilates or Yoga, I am surrounded with people and it makes me feel better.  You never feel alone when you get to a class. And when I’m feeling lazy, I gotta remind myself that I’m healthy and lucky to be ABLE to train today. I learned a lot from watching my mom when she was sick. Near the end, there were days where she literally couldn’t get out of bed on her own. So now when I’m feeling lazy, I just say “Steph, you’re healthy and you need to be grateful for that.” There are plenty of unfortunate people not able to get out of bed. I now just say to myself, “Stop being lazy and get your ass outta bed and get to class”. I never regret the decision. Get up and go do what you can because you can! Don’t lose the dream. No matter what life throws at you. You can do it!