WOD – 130110
1000m Row/800m Run
Workout Specific Warm-up:
5 X 3 Clean Pulls from the box, up to 255 lbs (175 lbs)
HSPU warm-up after each set
*HSPU modification is 2:1 pushups
“I surprise a lot of people. I love showing them what I can do.”
She Kept Showing Up
A story by Community.CrossFit.com
When Leon Chang talks about 39-year-old Irene Mejia, the first thing he mentions is her attitude.
Mejia “simply will not stop moving,” Chang, coach and co-owner of CrossFit Elysium in San Diego, says. “She is especially in her element when it comes to barbell movements. I’ve never seen someone who can hang on to the bar as long or who can do as many unbroken reps as she can. Her pain tolerance and no-quit attitude is simply unbelievable.”
The next thing Chang mentions about Mejia is her mission to visit as many CrossFit affiliates as she can: 72 so far.
“Our north wall of the gym is 20 feet tall and about 30 feet long, and it is devoted to shirts we’ve gotten from other boxes,” he says. “We have completely filled that wall and are starting to fill the rafters, and if I had to guess, about two-thirds of the shirts we have up there have come to us from Irene.”
It takes Chang a while before he gets to the other thing that’s noteworthy about Mejia: When she started CrossFit two years ago, she weighed 415 pounds. Today she weighs 268 pounds.
“More Heart than Anyone” Irene made quite an impression within her first few weeks at Elysium, Chang says.
“Physically, she was certainly the most obese person either Paul (Estrada, co-owner of Elysium) or I had ever worked with,” he explains. “She had to scale almost everything. You name it, she either couldn’t do it or we had to modify to a great degree. For example, she couldn’t run in the beginning because that was too stressful on her knees and ankles. She couldn’t do burpees, sit-ups or push-ups because once on the ground, she could not physically rise without assistance. Obviously pull-ups and more advanced bodyweight movements were out of the question. Luckily, we found a way to scale everything.”
Mejia started CrossFit in June 2010. She had lost 40 lb. on her own, but was getting bored with her treadmill routine at home. After reading the testimonials on CrossFit Elysium’s website, she decided to give it a try.
“Before I went in, I decided if (the trainer) was a douchebag, I wasn’t going to sign up,” Mejia says.
Estrada passed the test and Mejia got started.
“Irene’s attitude completely over-shadowed any impression her physical state left,” Chang says. “From Day 1, she showed she was willing to leave everything on the gym mats and do everything we asked of her. She never once complained or felt embarrassed that we had her scale every movement. Instead, she sucked it up and kept showing up. Almost immediately, Irene showed that she has more heart than anyone else in the gym. Any time we had a WOD programmed with max-effort reps, she would win.”
After Mejia had been doing CrossFit for about three months, she traveled to Las Vegas for vacation. She wanted to continue working out while she was away.
“I didn’t realize there were any (CrossFit gyms) in Vegas,” Mejia says. “(Estrada) sent the coach (of the affiliate in Vegas) an email, letting them know I was coming. I was really nervous, but I just loved it.”
Mejia says that’s when she realized there were CrossFit affiliates all over and she decided she would drop in on as many as she could.
“I really like going to different affiliates and getting to know people,” she adds. “Most of the coaches are welcoming and introduce me to everyone.”
As Mejia lost more and more weight and became stronger, she says she enjoyed challenging the preconceptions of coaches in other affiliates.
“The coaches would see me and thought I had limitations,” Mejia explains.
Coaches from other boxes often suggested she lower the weight on the bar, but Mejia persisted, because she knew of what she’s capable.
“I surprise a lot of people,” she says. “I love showing them what I can do.”
Often, Chang says, he hears from trainers at the boxes Mejia visits.
“Most comment on Irene’s enthusiasm and attitude. Some have also mentioned that Irene has great fundamentals and (range of motion), which almost pleases me more. Despite her weight and the fact that she still has a long way to go, Irene displays solid mechanics that we as coaches are proud to have her represent at other boxes,” he says.
“Every once in a while, we receive an email or letter from someone who joined a CrossFit box in another part of the country because of Irene.”
Fierce Competitor Mejia has entered every single competition CrossFit Elysium has hosted, as well as a number of local competitions. Chang remembers one competition in particular that included an ascending ladder of hang squat cleans.
“She made her way from station to station and each lift got progressively harder,” he recounts. “The entire competition had started to focus on her, including her fellow competitors. Each station she cleared resulted in progressively louder cheers. Finally, she reached the 125 lb. barbell. This represented a 10-lb. PR for her over her full squat clean. She deadlifted the bar to the hang position, took a breath and went for it. The entire gym held its breath. She pulled under the bar successfully but you could see it was all she had. The barbell pinned her in the bottom of the front squat and then the place just went crazy. Slowly but surely, Irene stood up (with) the weight with a huge scream, and the entire gym erupted. Irene got louder cheers than anyone else that day with that lift. I saw people crying for her, and the look of happiness on her face is something I’ll remember forever. That moment is in my top-five proudest coaching moments of all time.”
Chang will tell you Mejia is CrossFit Elysium’s most influential member. More than the top competitors or firebreathers, it is Mejia who inspires members.
“She removes any excuse someone else may have,” Chang says. “Irene shows every day that if she can do it, anyone can.”