by TJ MURPHY
In the CrossFit world, the dominant voices when it comes to specialist coaches tend to be men with personalities so old-school and brazen they somehow remind you of a mud-grizzled F-350 pickup truck. This especially applies to the weightlifting and powerlifting arenas, where heavy-duty names like Louie Simmons, Mike Burgener and Greg Everett resonate through the din.
And then after you get to know this emerging star—a woman in a field that’s been dominated by men—and watch the speed and power of her lifting and the multiple dimensions and deep-draw of her coaching, it hits you: she’s one of those Mini Coopers super-charged up toward race-car power and speed.
“I thought she was just this skinny girl,” recalls Carl Paoli, creator of GymnasticsWOD and a fellow coach at SFCF. “But she came to my first seminar ever and I saw her box squat 285 pounds.” On another occasion Paoli witnessed the skinny girl blast through a met-con. “It was two front squats at 250 pounds, followed by box jumps, about five or six rounds worth.” Later, others at the gym would notice the spare figure of Fu back-squatting 330-pounds. “I realized, ‘She’s just a beast with these raw lifts,’” says Paoli.
But what really impressed Paoli and SFCF owners, Kelly and Juliet Starrett, is not just Fu’s surprising strength, but her coaching prowess, a skill that has Fu’s schedule completely jammed year after year.
“One of the reasons Diane is so successful as a coach is that she’s extremely organized,” says Juliet Starrett, who first recruited Fu to become a part of the SFCF staff. “So many coaches and personal trainers fail to approach the profession with the sort of precision Diane gives to the work. And she’s there up to 12 hours a day. She’s extremely detail-oriented as well as being one of the hardest working coaches we’ve ever seen.”
Although it was last month that SFCF moved from the so-called “Parking Lot of Dreams” to their new indoor facility in a historic building in the Presidio, for years Fu had been a fixture at the outdoor gym, up to 12 hours a day, coaching clients one-on-one, teaching general CrossFit classes and coaching the Olympic Lifting group that is now known as Fu Barbell. In the colder months of San Francisco, which tends to be most months on the calendar, Fu could be seen wearing a puffy goose-down coat, so bountiful as to disguise the fact of her physical sleekness. What was equally common for regulars at the gym was the image of Fu’s workouts, where her disposition—friendly, smiling, calm and patient with her athletes—transformed, and a Bruce Lee brand of intent would come over her face as she performed Olympic-lifting moves with lightning-strike speed.
But that wasn’t always the way it was. Before migrating into CrossFit, Fu worked in corporate for the fitness-center chain Bally’s, where in 2006 she had hired a new personal trainer that would later discover SFCF early on and later introduced it to his boss. Fu’s employee was Adrian Bozeman—who is now the head official at the CrossFit Games and a master teacher within the CrossFit certifications. Bozeman became a coach at SFCF, and Fu eventually joined up.
With a laugh, Fu recalls a time when Bozeman was coaching her on Olympic lifts.