Interview: CrossFit Games Masters Athlete Shellie Edington
I had the great pleasure of chatting with CrossFit Games Masters athlete Shellie Edington earlier today. She began her CrossFit journey in 2010 at age 46, not being able to do a push-up. Three short years later, she was at The Games. She has since been to the last five CrossFit Games Masters competitions, going from placing 19th in 2013 to winning it all in 2016 in the Masters Women 50-54 Division. This past year, she earned a 2nd place finish. She is also the founder and operator of Tumblin4Kids in Columbus, Ohio. Last, but certainly not least, she is married to Chris Edington and mother of three daughters.
Talk to me about starting your CrossFit journey and how you went from completely suffering that first time to ‘OK, I want to do this again.’
I actually didn’t want to go back. Nothing like it had made me feel that way. I was never afraid to work out. But this was different. It pissed me off really. And I said to myself, ‘You’re f’ing going back.’ I made myself go back and that was pivotal. There are two pieces to who you are, especially as a woman. First, what society has molded you to be – to look a certain way, a wife, a mother, supportive, all those typical things. And the second thing is what was there when you were born; the beast. That’s what spoke up. I was sick of being told I was too old to do certain things. I wanted to see what my body could do.
How did the hormonal changes affect your training and what adjustments, if any did you make?
Mine really hit after the 2014 Games. I was 49 and placed third, was going to be 50 that October. I went to a Power Monkey Fitness camp and I had the worst cycle I ever had in my life. When I got back home, I went to my doctor and we did some blood work. He’s actually an endocrinologist which is great. Turns out my estrogen and progesterone levels were really low. So he put me on 200 mg of progesterone which worked out really well. But that was after the 2015 Games, so it was about a year later. Before that, I had this sense of loss of well-being, a loss of confidence. Then the hot flashes hit and I didn’t know what was going on. I had a huge anxiety thing hit at the Games in 2015 and I attribute it to that for the most part. There were multiple factors, but just the well-being you loose when you don’t have your progesterone. So going on the progesterone helped but I still was getting hot flashes. That really affected my sleep which went on throughout 2015 and 2016. Then in September of 2017, I got on Prempro, which is the combination of progesterone and estrogen and stopped taking the progesterone. I was a little concerned about taking estrogen and the breast cancer risk, but I was literally getting no sleep. Now, I have no hot flashes and it’s made such a huge difference.
How were able to balance all of this with preparing for the Games?
You know, we’re all going through it. We’re just all at different stages, different levels of it. Some women treat it, some choose not to. I just didn’t like the person I was without the treatments. If you’re active, eat right, hydrate and don’t eat a bunch of garbage, you’re gonna be OK.
It’s January, which is the crunch time with your training, however, I know there has been an injury (knee). How has it affected your training and any decisions needing to be made?
I’m not going to be focusing on the Open now with the knee injury. The reason I started CrossFit was to feel better, move better and have a higher quality of life. However, if I continue to train the way I was training, I will lose my knee; I won’t be able to walk on it properly, I won’t be able to pick up my grandchildren…it will negatively impact my life. So the first goal is to get the knee better and we decided to do stem cell injections and PRP. That will happen in a couple of weeks. The good thing is my coach is helping me get what I want and achieve what I want. And the only thing I ever really wanted was to go to the Games and win. I’ve made the podium three times, been to the Games five times. It’s been an amazing experience. I may try to go back when I’m 55. I have qualified to go to the Masters Weightlifting Championship in Barcelona in August and might just power clean and power snatch and see what I can do in that capacity. I will also continue to take the platform I have been given to help and inspire others to become the very best version of themselves. Specifically help masters athletes believe in themselves, try CrossFit, and understand it’s just exercise. You can be bad ass at 50, you can look great!
Speaking of the Open, what advice do you have for balancing being competitive with having fun?
The Open is a different animal. It goes on for five weeks and it is mentally draining. You’re all excited about the workout coming out on Thursday, you stay up, you watch it, then you try to go to sleep. But you can’t because your brain is constantly running through it telling you all the things you can’t do. It got to the point to where I didn’t watch the announcements. And I did better. I’d also always do them again on Monday, sometimes having better results. But Monday is more of a mental training exercise. You know at a certain point in that workout, you better pour it on for that ten minutes or it will be a complete waste of time. I stopped having fun in 2013 when I was training for the Games. But I was building my body, learning, understanding the fact it was literally no pain no gain and it being a true statement. As a gymnast, it wasn’t like that. It was more technical, more skill and difficulty. So the training pushed me to different mental levels. The bottom line is don’t start to lose your shit during the Open. Do some subconscious training. There’s a book out there called Sports Psychology for Dummies written by my sports psychologist, Dr. Todd Kays. It’s an amazing book on how to develop your subconscious. Even breathing. Take 3-5 deep belly breaths before the 10 seconds goes off. I do that every time, even at the Games. Relaxing as much as possible because your heart rate is about to go through the roof. To make it fun, just don’t care about it. It is what it is. You’re going to go out there and do you best. However, if you have been training, preparing yourself mentally and physically, and feel like you can make the qualifiers, then being kind of hard on yourself is not a bad thing. When I didn’t make it in 2012, I missed it by 10 burpees. I was really upset. But you can’t let it get into your subconscious. Your subconscious will go where you tell it to go. I walked away from my sports psychologist with:
- You are stronger than you know
- Get on it
Very simple and quick things. It’s very liberating and empowering.
As it relates to recovery, I believe you have said if there were three things, it would be a good coach, a good chiropractor, and a good massage therapist, right?
Yep, that’s it. Go to a massage therapist once a month. It makes a difference in your recovery, your longevity, etc. The same with chiropractors. You cannot afford not do it. I’ve taken care of my body and been able to do CrossFit hot and heavy for 7 years. Now I have what is a very typical knee injury (osteoarthritis) most people my age get just from regular life. A great coach, because that is your programming. If you have an idiot doing your programming, you’re going to get hurt. If you have somebody that’s not watching you, not caring about your fitness, don’t work out with them. Have a good olympic weightlifting coach because the great thing about olympic weightlifting is it transfers to everything CrossFit. It’s not a waste of your time.
Any last thoughts?
I hope this helps your athletes and encourages them. Just show up, you’re not done yet, keep trying whatever it takes, and modify as needed. Just because you modify, it doesn’t mean it’s easier. We do in CrossFit, all these different sports what some people spend their entire lives trying to do – olympic weightlifting lifting, running, swimming, gymnastics, rowing, cycling…and then they they throw in cyclocross! You don’t have to be good at everything in CrossFit, just be consistent.