To Top

Interview: Michelle Crawford – Preparing for the Open

Michelle Crawford

Michelle Crawford at the 2013 Mid Atlantic Regional

In 2013, Michelle Crawford made her first appearance at the CrossFit Games after a third place finish in the Mid Atlantic Regional. The 36 year-old, who narrowly missed out on qualifying the year before, impressed many in Carson, California, finishing 33rd overall, and winning the Zig Zag Sprint Event.

In 2014, Crawford has her eyes set on yet another Regional appearance, with the hope of competing at the Games for the second year in a row.

We caught up with the four-time All-American field hockey player as she prepares for yet another CrossFit Games Open.

In the following Q & A, Crawford gives us her thoughts on the changes to this year’s season, talks about her diet and training in the lead up to the Open, chats about some of her sponsorships, and tells us who she thinks will win the 2014 CrossFit Games.

Firstly Michelle, the Open is now just a few days away, how are you feeling about this year’s season?

I’m feeling good going into the Open. Although the day after Christmas, I almost lost a finger in a front squatting incident. After crushing my hand, I suffered 12 stitches and a horrible Frankenstein looking finger. This meant no pull-ups, muscle-ups or handstand push-ups; anything that I love for 4- 5 weeks.

But now I’m good to take on everything that comes up in the Open.

What are your thoughts on the rule changes this year? Video taping workouts, and stricter drug testing etc. Are you happy with these changes and how will they affect you?

I’m really happy about the rule changes. As CrossFit grows and develops as a legitimate sport, it has to be treated like other professional sports. There is a lot of money on the line, so I’m all for drug testing.

Growing up in the Olympic system, I’ve been drug tested all the time. If there is someone else using performance enhancing drugs, I would definitely like that to stop. Whilst I’m naïve in believing that this is necessarily the case, I would like to ensure that there is a fair playing field.

Now as a box owner [of Rising CrossFit Ballantyne], the video taping of workouts is going to result in a lot more work to do. We have many Athletes and Masters who are aiming to finish inside the Top 60.

But [CrossFit HQ] have to make that call, as the sport grows it is important that it retains integrity. The other option is to go back to a sectional competition, but online is the most inclusive. I’m just hoping that we don’t video on an iPhone and lose all of the footage!

Michelle Crawford

Do you think there are any drug cheats competing in CrossFit?

I have no first hand knowledge. Everyone I have met at the CrossFit Games, it seems like seems like [performance enhancing drugs are] the last thing they would do. Every athlete is focused on clean living and clean eating.

While I do think that I’m being naive, I have no first hand knowledge. I would like to remain naïve, but I am not so sure. When sponsorships and legitimate money is on the line, people are often willing to push the envelope. But as I have no first hand knowledge, I am going to say “no”.

Can you tell us a bit about how your diet and training has changed with the Open just around the corner?

I actually always get nervous when I’m asked about diet! I’m not traditionally good with my diet. I don’t eat paleo, I have a nut allergy, I have a fish allergy and I can’t actually eat a lot of vegetables!

However in the past year, with the help of Custom Fit Meals and modPaleo, I am eating a lot better. But I am not a very “diet” person. I will eat well for a day or two, and then I will fall off the wagon. I am in the “do as I say, not as I do” group in the diet department. So I’m going to go with, ‘do what works for you and not stress about it too much’!

Training wise, it’s good. We opened our box [Rising CrossFit Ballantyne] in October 2013, which was eating up a lot of my time. Some days, often 2-3 days a week I will just jump into a regular class. I will go hard, with both the strength portion and the met-con portion. But other days, I do get two hours to train. I try and train six to seven days a week, as I don’t have the same volume as other athletes. But I cannot take many days off, as I just don’t have the hours each day.

Now, we know you were a field hockey player before CrossFit, and almost made the Olympics, why did you decide to quit the sport?

I was playing hockey through college and Team USA for a few years. I successfully made the Olympic Team in the USA and I went to England in 2000 for a qualifier. Unfortunately we lost to China and the USA Team couldn’t go to the Olympics.

At the time, I was engaged and I ended up getting married that summer. My husband played NFL Football for a few years, receiving a contract to play in Charlotte and we ended up moving to North Carolina.

I was supposed to start law school, but being an international hockey player did not fit with my lifestyle. I retired as the youngest player on the team. I went to Law School, practiced Law for a few years and then I had both of my kids.

The Crew at Rising CrossFit Ballantyne

The Crew at Rising CrossFit Ballantyne

So how did you find CrossFit and how long have you been involved in the sport for?

When I had my second child, I was introduced to CrossFit. I loved having a sport again. While I admit that I don’t love absolutely every minute of a heavy snatch workout, I just love the competitive element of [CrossFit]. It was a no brainer. I started doing CrossFit and I didn’t even realise there were Regionals or even The CrossFit Games.

I participated in the Open that year, and I think I was completely clueless. But I was able to do well because the majority of movements were basic body weight movements. I showed up at the [Mid Atlantic] Regional and my eyes were opened. People had coaches, Olympic Weightlifting Shoes and there I was in my Nike running shoes.

But I went home from first Regionals competition and I thought, “this was great, I want to do this seriously”. That’s when I started getting serious about it and getting more competitive.

I will be 37 next month. To be able to have a sport [like CrossFit] I can do every day, it’s like a gift. Often you think that when you retire at your highest level of competitive sport, that’s it. But [CrossFit] is a sport that everyone gets to do, it’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened. I love it.

Last year was your first appearance at the CrossFit Games, what was it like as a competitor?

I knew that going into [Mid Atlantic] Regional I had a shot. You come to know the field of athletes well after a few years. The workouts that were released were good for me, with the exception of the 3RM Overhead Squat. My main focus at Regionals was getting to the CrossFit Games.

Going to the CrossFit Games, I had no illusions of making the podium but I was psyched I could make it. As I was training for the Games, I kept telling myself “Go for the experience and do your best”. But like most people who are competitors, I got to the games and I said, “I don’t care about the experience, I want to do well”.

So all of that self-motivating talk from training flies out of the window at the CrossFit Games. I got there and I wanted to beat Samantha Briggs. I would love to go back! I went to the CrossFit Games in 2013 as a rookie with stars in my eyes, telling myself that it was so good to be there, but I would like to go back in 2014 and compete.

You finished in 33rd place, but you did win an event – the ‘Zig Zag Sprint’. That must have been pretty satisfying?

It really was. I’ve been good at running, as every sport I have ever played it has been my asset. So when I won, I was psyched for sure!

Michelle Crawford at the 2013 CrossFit Games (Image courtesy of CrossFit's Facebook page)

Michelle Crawford at the 2013 CrossFit Games (Image courtesy of CrossFit’s Facebook page)

Now a lot happens behind the scenes at competitions, who were your favourite athletes to hang out with in-between events, and which athletes weren’t so nice to hang out with?

I would love to give you some juicy gossip, but everyone was really nice. When you get 45 very competitive, type-A females, you would think that there would be more drama. But everybody, including the CrossFit Games Veterans, were so welcoming,

Both Sam Briggs and Lindsey Valenzuela who have a lot of money on the line and true contenders, they were great. I thought that they would be stand-off-ish and wouldn’t have time for little old me, but it was so good to experience.

On the first day, on the bus [to Event 1] Lindsey [Valenzuela] got in the microphone and said to all of the competitors to introduce themselves and say something weird about themselves. This was a very nice feeling.

At first it was weird for me, coming from a background of competitive team sports. You never ride on a bus with the person you are going to compete against in the next 30 minutes, so it was a weird dynamic. But it was really cool, it was different. As a very cut-throat, competitive person myself, I had to calm down as everyone was super friendly!

Are you sponsored at the moment?

I have some local sponsors, including a clothing company called {re}vici. They are great. They outfit me and they actually sponsor our box [Rising CrossFit Ballantyne] as well. They fit me out with shorts; tanks, tops all that kind of stuff and also outfit my coaching staff as well.

Also Custom Fit Meals, provide me with food. As much as I want, all week long. Together with modPaleo, which is another food preparation service. There is now no excuse to not eat perfectly. This really helps with eating perfectly, as I have a tonne of meals that I can select from each week.

Can you tell us about your relationship with {re}vici? How did you meet?

Right after the Mid Atlantic Regional, after qualifying for the Games, a mutual friend introduced me to Scott from {re}ivici. We met a few times and Scott went through their plans, vision and some of their samples. Scott also talked about branching into the functional fitness market and we talked about their presence, sponsoring me personally and also my box being sponsored.

Scott is a great guy and I loved their stuff. They are always asking me opinions on designs, so it is designed and cut for women. Our staff at Rising CrossFit love {re}ivici gear, so they get looked after.

So I’m guessing you get free clothes as part of your sponsorship?

Yeah! They did some cool shorts with our [Rising CrossFit] logo on them. I love those and also their t-shirts. My husband also steals a lot of shirts from me! They are good quality, good to workout in and you can also walk around town in them.

CrossFit Games Competitor Michelle Crawford Wearing {re}vici Gear!

Michelle Crawford With her {re}vici Gear

Do you think you’d be able to survive as a professional athlete without sponsorship?

Thankfully, it’s an awesome help but it isn’t essential. I have the box and thankfully my husband has a good job. I’m an older athlete [aged 37] and more established in my life.

However being a professional CrossFit Games athlete and 22 would be tough. But being out of school, having worked longer, I am more established. While it would still be possible to be a professional athlete without sponsorship, it definitely helps!

What are your goals this year? Are you aiming to improve on last year?

I want to get back to the CrossFit Games! The Mid Atlantic Region just got a lot tougher and with the addition of Emily Friedman there will be five returning CrossFit Games athletes vying for three sports. It will be a battle and Mid Atlantic Region is already tough!

As a smaller athlete, I’m continuing to work on my strength. So far all of my numbers have gone up. Together with this, I am also working hard on being calm in all of the workouts. The season is about to start again and I am very excited!

What movements are you hoping for in 14.1?

Thrusters and pull-ups! I love when they have a repeating Fran-Style workout. I also like box jumps, wall balls and muscle-ups.

What movements are you not hoping for in 14.1?

A snatch ladder. A burpees workout, with a movement that increase in weight. But I do know that we will see some form of this in the 2014 Open.

Michelle Crawford and her family

Michelle Crawford and her Family

A lot of big names are returning to the women’s division in 2014, Thorisdottir, Foucher etc., who do you think will win the CrossFit Games this year?

Annie [Thorisdottir] and Julie Foucher will be hard to beat. But [Sam] Briggs and Lindsey Valenuzeula, they really impressed me and did a great job in 2013.

Christy Adkins is my personal favourite. She is from the Mid Atlantic Region and she finished well last year. She has always helped me out, so I would love for her to do well.

With all these girls back and healthy mixing it up, it will be interesting so we will see!

Favourite male CrossFitter?

You can’t go past Rich Froning. He is a devout Christian and a three-time CrossFit Games Champion. I will have to go with him he is going to be hard to beat.

Hottest male CrossFitter?

I’m a happily married woman, I can’t answer that!

Hardest CrossFit workout?

That’s easy for me to answer. At the 2013 CrossFit Games, the “Burden Run” Event. The run was fine. I’ve got a background in running, so I was where I wanted to be. But then, when I got to the pig, I just could not move that thing. It was demoralising for me, I couldn’t figure out how to flip that thing! Seeing all the girls come into the stadium, flip it and pass me it was the worst.

I did make the 100 yards, but I’m not naturally strong like that. The Pig was not like a barbell where you can use technique and use your hips; it was so wide it was a challenge.

And finally, what’s your favourite cheat meal?

I have an Italian Background, so it would definitely be a whole pepperoni Pizza. All to myself!

Written by Andy Lee: Andy is the Co-Founder of Functional Fitness Superstore The WOD Life. Living the dream bringing quality gear to Australian CrossFitters, while travelling the globe meeting athletes and visiting affiliates. Andy is also a Level 1 Trainer, freelancer writer and contributor to the CrossFit Games website.


The Rx Review is an independent fitness website, reporting on the Sport of Fitness, functional fitness news, The CrossFit Games, health and diet related information, and also provides reviews on sports performance products.