Katherine Valles and Mikia Manley – College Edition Pt.1

1. Tell us a little about yourself?

Katherine-   I’m 20 years old and from Hanover but will be moving to my apartment in Brookline soon. I am going into my junior year at Boston University where I study Human Physiology, which is the pre-med major at BU. My end goal is to become a trauma surgeon so I have a long road ahead of me! I am an EMT, a Wilderness First Responder and currently work in one of the Intensive Care Units at Mass General Hospital. I have three brothers, all of whom are sick of hearing me talk about CrossFit! I also have three cats that have no choice but to listen to me talk about it! I am extremely passionate about travel and have travelled to 25 countries and 38 states! I am also a foodie and love going out to dinner so no, I do not eat paleo! Oh, and I know every single line of the movie Mean Girls.

Mikia-  Hi! My name’s Mikia, and I’m a 22-year-old from Hull, MA. I just graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Human Evolutionary Biology and a minor in Psychology. And next up, I’m heading to the University of Chicago for a Master’s in Public Policy with a focus on education policy (which is my real passion, despite my misleading undergraduate major). For the past four years, when I wasn’t doing school work, I was running a student bar at Harvard, which was definitely the best campus job around. And, I spent the last 6 months working for a state representative at the Massachusetts State House on universal pre-school legislation. That’s me, in a nutshell.

2. Tell us your CrossFit story (where were you before RCFBC and where are you now?)

Katherine-  I did gymnastics as a child but quit because my arms were “too muscly” and I thought I looked weird. Yes, I’m kicking myself right now! I grew up as a competitive Figure Skater but in high school switched my efforts to Field Hockey. High school was extremely challenging for me socially and left me so drained going into college. I was at the lowest point of my life and needed to make a change so I packed up and moved to Boulder, Colorado. This is when I found CrossFit and saw my life change for the better every single day. I became a part of an uplifting and supportive community of Boulderites and CrossFitters. All of a sudden I was strong physically, and then I was strong mentally, and I realized I can do anything! As proud as I am of my physical strength, I am even more proud of my mental toughness. I can truly say that finding CrossFit was, hands down, the best thing that ever happened to me. I am now more confident and full of life than ever. CrossFit gave me my life back and I am eternally grateful to every single person who has supported me along the way!

Mikia-  I joined RCFBC because my mom (Alisa) is obsessed. We talk on the phone every day when I’m not home, and every day she would tell me what the WOD was, how much weight she used, her time, whether or not she PR’d, etc. And every time I came home she’d try to get me to go to a class with her, but I wouldn’t. Honestly, it sounded really hard and I was always really impressed by the things she was telling me she was doing, and I really didn’t think I’d be able to do any of that (despite the fact that I’m just a 26 year younger version of my mother and should theoretically be able to do what she can do). During my senior year of college I decided I wanted to get serious about my physical health, and tried eating better and getting more exercise at school, but things were really difficult with a busy schedule and eating in incredibly unhealthy dining halls. So, I decided to take a chance and told my mom that I was going to give CrossFit (and Paleo) a try when I got home for the summer. She was super excited, although I think she was surprised when I stuck with it past on-ramp. But it’s been great, I’ve been really proud of myself and things I’ve done and how much I’ve pushed myself and stuck with it, and I’m really excited to find a new box (that will never be able to compare to RCFBC) when I move out to Chicago!

3. What does being part of RCFBC community mean to you?

Katherine-  I am so sad to be leaving RCFBC. When I was moving back from Boulder I was just looking for a good summer box to go to before the school year started. I was not expecting to create such strong bonds with all of the members of RCFBC or to think of this place like a second home. My first experience at RCFBC was at the Murph event. I didn’t know a single person there but you couldn’t have guessed that by looking around. Rachel Saran and Nate Froio were there with me the entire 55:19 it took me to finish, even taping my hands midway and running the last mile with me! Nate is going to be an amazing coach one day and can talk some serious strength into you! In my conversations with members before and after class, it makes me so happy to hear of everyone’s accomplishments and I know they are happy to hear of mine. This group of people are indeed likeminded but extremely diverse as well. Being a part of the RCFBC community means that no matter where I end up, I have people to support and I have people who will support me! Thank you to all of the truly amazing members and coaches at RCFBC for making my summer the best one yet!

Mikia-  One of my biggest barriers when thinking about doing CrossFit was the thought of working out with other people. Until RCFBC I was one of those people that tried to go to the gym when no one else was there, never talked to anyone, and just put my headphones on and did my thing. But I realized through RCFBC that having a community of people to work out with is amazing. It means having people to cheer you on throughout the WOD and give you a high-five and a “Good Job!” when everything’s done. It means having people hold you accountable and ask you where you were when you miss a WOD. And it means having people to inspire you through their own hardwork, accomplishments, and PRs. I think the community is something that makes me look forward to going to the box (especially when the WODs seem impossible, but you know everyone else will be there suffering through with you).

4. What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Katherine- In 2009 I set a goal to get on the “Girls Board” at my local gym. To do that you have to bench press 100#, dead lift 150# and back squat 150#. It took me until February of this year to accomplish that goal: 5 years! Running was always challenging for me so I am also really proud of my 6:54 mile! I also am really proud of recently competing as an Rx athlete at the Battle of the South Shore Boxes! When I started CrossFit in January I failed my back squat at 125#, could only deadlift 135#, couldn’t string 2 banded pull-ups together, struggled to do 5 perfect pushups and couldn’t do 1 double under. As of benchmark week this year I got a successful back squat at 195#, deadlift at 185#, could do 22 pull ups without a band, 30 perfect pushups and 101 double unders in a minute!! The list goes on, every day feels like a PR at RCFBC!!!

Mikia-  I think I’m most proud of getting a double-under (although not consecutively yet), but I was also super excited when I first got a banded pull-up and when we did our 1RM deadlift. Benchmark week has been great though because I’ve been really proud of my results for every 1RM and WOD we’ve done so far.

5. What are your challenges and goals going forward?

Katherine-  HANDSTANDS! Handstands are definitely my biggest challenge right now. I absolutely hate being upside down and get too scared to kick up on the wall. I know that I have the strength and that its 100% mental but I have yet to get over it! Thrusters and wall balls are also challenges for me. I have a few goals going forward that are about to become real since I am writing them down: muscle up, bar muscle up and a 210# back squat (2x bodyweight). We’ll see! The last goal took me 5 years to accomplish so hopefully I can get one of these a little quicker!

Mikia-  Goal #1 is to be able to squat without using a box, I hate that box. After that the list of goals and challenges is endless, but that’s one of things I love about CrossFit! There’s always something you want to work on and get better at. I would say the other things I’m really trying to work on right now are being able to do consecutive double unders and scaling down the bands for my pull-ups. I also try to challenge myself to do the things I hate, which mostly means making myself run more and trying to build up endurance, but I think I’m going to start working on burpees and wall balls soon, because they’re the worst and take me forever to do.

6. How has CrossFit change the way you feel about fitness? After college do you see yourself competing at the elite level? 

Katherine-  Not only has CrossFit changed the way I feel about fitness but it has also changed the way I feel about my life and myself. I used to think that I was fit because I played Field Hockey although I did not work out at all when the season was over. I felt too awkward to go to the Y or any other place where I knew there would be judging-eyes. What I have found out about CrossFit along the way is that if you make it a habit, it truly does forge elite fitness. That being said, CrossFit also forges unbreakable communities, a strong sense of self-worth and respect, and appreciation for all walks of life. To me, fitness is no longer just physical but it is also mental. I have seen my life and many other people’s lives transform because of CrossFit and I am excited to see where it takes me in life! I am still planning to compete in various competitions while in school because I love the atmosphere of a CrossFit competition! After college it would be great to someday make it to Regionals but who knows what will happen!

Mikia-  CrossFit has definitely made me more excited about fitness. I’ve realized that working out can be more enjoyable than hanging out on an elliptical and using some weight machines. It’s pushed me to set goals for my fitness that I never would have dreamed of just 6 months ago. And, it’s proved to me that fitness isn’t just about what you do at the gym/box, it’s a lifestyle. It’s working out hard, pushing yourself to failure, doing mobility, eating right, and as a result improving how you function in all aspects of life on a day to day basis. As far as competing, if I could be Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet my life would be complete, but I have a feeling that’s a pipe dream. For now I’m just taking it one day at a time and competing against my fat, lazy self that wants to lay on the couch all day and eat pizza, which, trust me, is a very big challenge.

CrossFit has helped Katherine and Mikia realize they want more out of life. Their stories are very empowering to read and the sky is the limit for these two.  Good luck with college and come back to visit SOON! We are going to miss you both!

Next week’s member monday will feature two more college gems 🙂 Stay tuned. 

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