Congratulations to Steph Brewer on earning Great Bay CrossFit’s ‘Member of the Month’ honor for April, 2015! One thing that we should say about Steph right off the bat is this: we could probably have named her “Member of the Month” for any month since October, 2012, and it would have been deserved. When a person does all the right things all the time, an unfortunate consequence is that this becomes the norm and becomes expected to an extent. This has definitely been the case for Steph. She was one of the very first clients to join GBCF after our doors opened in September, 2012. Every day since, she has been as great a member of the GBCF community as we’ve got.
When Steph joined Great Bay CrossFit way back then she had been serious about distance running for some time. She had run several marathons, and has run a few more since, but was ready for a change of pace. She quickly took to CrossFit and the strength training side of things. Within months Steph had mastered many of the CrossFit skills and was pushing her 5 a.m. counterparts to keep up. After having been at it for a few months, Steph tried her hand at another marathon, but this time with minimal running prep. The fact that the race ended up being a positive experience for her despite minimal running beforehand is obviously a testament to her discipline, commitment and open-mindedness. We often now use Steph and her experience as an illustration of how/why strength training can be of benefit to endurance athletes.
Fast forward another several months to late summer, 2014, and Steph had just given birth to her and Jamie’s daughter, Avery. Steph had worked extremely hard throughout her pregnancy and was 100% focused on doing everything she could to make sure things went as smoothly as possible for her and Avery. Within a few months, Steph was right back to her old, competitive self and was doing nearly everything she had before her pregnancy. During the Fall-Back Fitter Transformation Contest last September/October, Steph dropped nearly 4% body fat. This summer, she’s running the New York Marathon. And, as far as we call tell, she is nowhere near satisfied or impressed with any of it!
Now, writing a mini-bio or a summary of Steph’s experiences at GBCF is no way to pay her the recognition that she deserves, and that’s not what we’re trying to do here. But we wanted to set the stage and try to provide some sort of picture of who Steph is, for those of you who don’t know her well. Hopefully it’s clear from the description above that Steph is one of the most focused people we’ve been around. She has very high expectations for herself, and has done everything advised of her with total commitment to the pursuit of her goals and attempts to live up to her own expectations. It is truly admirable, but what is even more impressive is how she’s done that all while being one of the most kind and supportive members of our entire community. In fact, all of the 5 a.m. regulars who we’ve named “Member of the Month” before Steph largely owe at least some thanks to her (as well as to Alison, who herself deserves much more than a brief shout-out here) for creating such an encouraging and fun environment. People like Steph make it very easy for those around her to show up at the gym at 4:50 in the morning, excited to get after their workout and start their day.
And with that, we’d like to Congratulate Steph on earning GBCF’s Member of the Month award for March, 2015. Steph, you’ve earned this award many times over. Thank you for your commitment, your support, your efforts, and for bringing so much positivity to the GBCF community.
Enjoy the Q&A!
Q: Congrats, Steph! We are going to keep with tradition here and ask you the same question initially that we have asked everybody: how did you feel to be named Member of the Month in February?
A: So incredibly grateful! The MOM email left me very emotional and teary as well! There are so many members at GBCF deserving of the MOM, so it was an honor to be chosen!
Q: You were pretty big into distance running, at least relative to most of your peers at GBCF. You’ve run several marathons, and are running the NYC marathon coming up this year. How does your training and prep for a race now compare to what you were doing before CrossFit?
A: I do a lot less running! I have become so much of a stronger runner and have come to realize that it’s quality over quantity. When I ran Chicago in 2012, my training was all running. Boston in 2013 had a bit of both running and strength training, but I never really cut back on the miles so I think I ended up a little over trained. This year for NYC, I plan to continue doing CrossFit 3-4 times a week, but much less distance runs. Short and intense will be what I am going for which works out so much better for the family!
Q: So do you feel like the high-intensity / strength-training stuff has been helpful for your running? What sort of differences do you notice? You’ve given us some interesting feedback about this before, but a lot of time has passed since then. And, by all means, be honest here! One thing we know for sure is that there are a lot of people out there involved in endurance training who could benefit from your open-mindedness, experimentation and insight regarding other forms of training.
A: Completely helpful! Like I said before, I am so much stronger from my head all the way to my ankles, which helps with injury prevention. Also when you run time and time again it puts a lot of wear and tear on specific joints and muscles. Ever since I incorporated CrossFit into my training, I have less of the aches and pains that come from the monotony of running. Lastly, I must thank CrossFit for mental toughness. The WODs we do help me push through those god awful last few miles.
Q: This is a pretty loaded question, but we what are your favorite things about training at GBCF? Do you have a favorite movement, style of workout, etc? What do you like most about the CrossFit style, and what do you enjoy about GBCF specifically?
A: Well, I’m a big fan of feeling miserable during a workout, because in return I think those are the ones that usually make you feel the best afterward…like “man I can’t believe I just did that”…and it’s even better when you can do it in the company of friends. Anytime you get a yelp from Trish mid WOD, you know it’s a good workout! I do love a good chipper! But, with that being said, I do enjoy attempting to lift heavy things and I think that because of the variability, that’s why I love CrossFit so much. Oh and I do have to mention that I am SUPER excited that the side walk and back driveway are clear! This means running WODs, sled push/pulls and sandbags!!! Woohoo!!!
Q: Yes it does – if only everybody else shared your enthusiasm J Steph, over the past few years we’ve noticed a few things about you: you are obviously a very driven and motivated person. You are very reliable when it comes to showing up at GBCF, and you have worked extremely hard since day 1 with us. You seem to have very high expectations for yourself and not easily be satisfied. Now we’d like to know what drives all of that, what motivates you and keeps you so focused?
A: I have always been a goal setter. I feel like that keeps me on track. That is why I am a huge fan of the goals board. Write it down, see it, make it happen. And always make it realistic. There are so many times I’ve set goals that have actually set me up for failure. There are lots people that keep me motivated as well. After having to row next to Alison at a 5 am class you might suddenly have a ton of “build a stronger back” goals.
Q: Yep, we’d have to agree with that! Changing gears a bit – we can remember talking with you shortly after you gave birth to Avery. At that time you were already frustrated with how much strength you had lost and how long you felt it was going to take you to get back to where you were before your pregnancy. How do you feel about all of that now that that is several months in the rearview mirror? Do you feel like you were able to bounce back relatively quickly?
A: Once I was given the green light to return to activity (which may have been way too early), I expected things to be back to normal very quickly…meaning weeks. Now that I look back that was awfully silly of me. I had a lot of joint pain especially in my hips and knees. Running felt awful and was far from effortless. But I kept on and as the baby weight started coming off and as the months went by things changed quickly. I felt like suddenly one day I just “bounced” back. It certainly wasn’t easy and was very frustrating at times because I expected it to happen instantly. But in retrospect, it really wasn’t that long of a transition…I just can’t even imagine what recovery would have been like if I had not stayed fit throughout!
Q: To follow up on that last question – there are lots of young professionals and growing families in our community at GBCF. It’s probably safe to assume that there will be more little ones entering the picture in the next few years. Do you have any words of wisdom for women out there as far as how to stay fit, happy and healthy during pregnancy and ease the transition/recovery after the fact?
A: Don’t stop moving! I did CrossFit from week 1 to week 41 (Avery took her time making an appearance) and after all was said and done, I can’t believe how much of an impact my fitness had on everything from sleep to pain to the delivery. I slept solid every single night of the 41 weeks. I never had any back pain. I did gain a lot of weight but lets just blame that on the heavy lifting and eating for two I was doing (not specifically the Cape Cod chips and lagos ice cream). Total push time: 20 minutes…that was quite the AMRAP. I’m pretty proud of that. Lastly, the coaches at GBCF were always checking in to make sure I was feeling well and staying safe. Eric always had a plan for me, or he would casually come by and say, “maybe we shouldn’t do that today” or “let’s try this”.
Q: Great stuff, Steph. Now, one final question. We (the coaches) kind of always joke about how each CrossFit session has a life of it’s own and a unique personality. Your regular session (5 a.m.) is very supportive, cheery and encouraging. We have watched things grow and evolve, and we know that a lot of that personality is attributable to you for having been a part of things for so long. The question is this: do you notice or feel the impact you have on those around you? And in the likely event that you will be too modest to answer that, we’ll flip the question around – who/what is it that has motivated or impacted you most over these last few years?
A: Ohhh man…that’s a tough one…maybe I should leave that to the 5 am to answer. But…on the flip side of course I’ll throw that back to the 5 am crew because those guys are my true motivation. When the alarm goes off at 4:20 am, I know that the rest of them are up as well getting ready for a good workout. And if it’s tough to get out of bed I always think about Trish…who rarely misses a class and when she does we actually get worried. I’ve enjoyed this past CF open at 5 am with Rich and Scott. It was so fun to watch them do things they’ve never done before and get PR after PR. I rely on KellyAnn to push my endurance, especially during a WOD with running in it. Jamie is just a perfect example of persistence and hard work. When I first started CrossFit she was very limited in what she could do because of her back…now she continues to amaze us day after day. Jon is just an animal and if ever I can slightly keep up with him I feel good about myself. And it’s also been great to have the newer crossfitters in our class like Becky, AJ and Allie…they always keep me on my toes because I think we get competitive without saying a word…it’s usually in the eyes. LAST BUT NOT LEAST, I think I speak for every single girl that steps foot into Great Bay CrossFit when I say that Alison is my number one motivation. She is so humble that I bet she doesn’t even realize the impact she makes on all of us and of course, she would be the first to give you her shirt off her back if you needed it. Since my endurance has always been my strength I look to her to improve my lifts. She has a way of moving weight that looks so effortless and just makes you say wow. It’s always a good day when you can lift close to what Alison is lifting!
Ok, I’m going to end this with a lovely dovey shout out to my husband Jamie, because I think he deserves a ton of the credit. Without him, I certainly would not be where I am today. When I was pregnant, everyone said, “Your life will change forever, get ready to not be able to do as much as you used too”. Well, we’ve certainly proved those people wrong. It’s all about communication. We plan our week ahead of time just so we know who is going to what class and when. On days that I go to class at 5 am, he will do all wake-ups with the baby so I can make it to class and still get some decent sleep. He never asks any questions and has been my number one fan and supporter through even my craziest of ideas. And of course he is my motivation as well since we are secretly very competitive with each other : )
THANK YOU STEPH!