Women’s Only: Jolie Gentry

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  • What is your motivation for making another run at the Games?
  • How are you approaching your training now?
  • What should coaches know about working with female clients?
We sat down recently with Jolie Gentry, the female winner of the inaugural CrossFit Games in 2007. A former CrossFit HQ seminar trainer and coach at CrossFit One World, Jolie has her eye on returning to the CrossFit Games in 2013 after taking time off to become a mom.

In this first part of our interview, Jolie talks about what it is like returning to training with a renewed focus and what it takes to get the most out of female athletes.

You won the inaugural CrossFit Games and placed very highly in the next couple before taking a break to have a baby.  Now you have a family and a demanding job as a police detective – what is your motivation for coming back now?

Jolie: My biggest motivation is that I want to continue to do something athletically while I still can, and especially so that my daughter can witness it in the stands. I want her to see Mommy lifting weights and doing all these crazy sporting events because I want her to know that she can achieve great things as well.

I get a little emotional just talking about it – it means that much to me to be a great role model for her.
How are you approaching your training now, given how the Rx weight demands have changed so much (along with the CrossFit Games format!) since you won?
How things change…

The Rx’d weights when I last competed (in 2009) were significantly less than what they did at the Regionals this past year.

Jolie: You’ve seen me in person, so you know I am not very big! I have to put a special emphasis on strength training because of my size.

The good thing is that with the Games a year away, I have a lot of time to focus on baseline strength. The Rx’d weights when I last competed (in 2009) were significantly less than what they did at the Regionals this past year.

I just qualified for the American Open Championship in December, so I have an Oly lifting focus for the time being.

Do you have a coach or do you program your own training?
Women tend to overlook the mental or emotional aspect and how it impacts their training.
Jolie: My coach who programs all my training is Aimee Anaya Everett from Catalyst Athletics.  I met her in 2009 at a CrossFit seminar and I was just blown away – never in my life had I seen someone lift like that, man or woman; she was so explosive and powerful!  I asked her if she could help me with my (very basic) Oly lifts, and she wound up coaching me for the 2009 Games season.

Eventually she asked me to move to Catalyst to work with her as a student, especially in the Oly lifts.  This was a new experience for me and one I really enjoyed – at the time, I was also a trainer at CF One World — and sometimes when you are a trainer, you forget how helpful it is to have someone else watch you for a change.  Plus, Aimee and I needed each other in the gym – there weren’t many ladies training at Catalyst at that time!

In general, what are the 2-3 most common weaknesses/problem areas you see with female CrossFit athletes, whether competitive or not (e.g., CF newcomers)?

Jolie: Women tend to overlook the mental or emotional aspect and how it impacts their training.  It is really important for coaches and athletes to recognize that women are simply more emotional than men and are often dealing with many conflicting emotions (relationships, work stress, children, whatever) that they bring to the gym.

Tip for coaches: 

If you see your athlete has other things running through her head, modify the workout accordingly to ensure it is a positive session.

So much of it is tied up in your neurology, and it is important for you to identify what is going on in your head.  For example, if you are on the platform and having a crappy day missing snatches on a weight you normally make with ease, it might not be because you aren’t strong enough or because you missed one training day last week. Sometimes you just have to accept it and move on.  A good coach will recognize this and adjust that day’s workout accordingly.

Elaborate on that and approach it from the coach’s perspective: What do coaches need to know about female athletes in order to help them improve?

Jolie: If you see your athlete is having a tough time mentally or emotionally like we discussed, the coach should simplify the movements and not program something too technically demanding for that day.  For example, leave out the full snatches that day and use a dumbbell instead, or work on light weight technique drills emphasizing parts of the overall movement.  Try and switch things up and make it “easier” for your athlete if you see they have other things running through their head to ensure it is a positive session for them.

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