The 2020 Reebok CrossFit Games begin Friday morning, pitting 30 men and 30 women against each other in a brand-new virtual format for the first stage. For Tia-Clair Toomey, this is only one of the steps in her journey toward a fourth consecutive gold medal. She is the only female competitor to win the CrossFit Games three times, and she could extend her historic streak with a fourth.
Speaking exclusively with PopCulture.com, Toomey detailed her training for the first-ever virtual CrossFit Games. The upcoming weekend won't be an entirely new experience, however, considering that the Australia native recently took part in the virtual Rogue Invitational. She secured the win in mid-June, which does provide some confidence heading into the weekend's events. However, Toomey doesn't want to head into the CrossFit Games thinking that she is going to easily defeat everyone else.
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"I think that you can never walk into a competition feeling too confident," Toomey told PopCulture. "I think that it's very important to just understand the job that you need to do. Because obviously anything can happen regardless of what you're doing, where you're doing it and everything that's somewhat out of your control. But yeah, the fact that this is going to be my second competition, that's online essentially, and that means something. ... I couldn't be more excited actually. It's going to be very, very cool. And I think that this year is definitely a year that we'll never forget."
The CrossFit Games traditionally take place much earlier in the summer, first in Carson, California, and later in Madison, Wisconsin. For example, the 2019 Games ran from Aug. 1 to Aug. 4. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced CrossFit HQ to continue pushing the events back while simultaneously making major adjustments to account for regulations surrounding mass gatherings. These delays forced Toomey and her coach to constantly reset and adjust their training schedule.
"It's been a very frustrating season for the athletes, chopping and changing so much and having so much uncertainty," Toomey explained. "I know I am so grateful and I think I can speak for a lot of the athletes when I say that we're just so thankful that we do get to showcase off our hard work this year. Whereas some athletes, all their competitions were canceled.
"You do reset a little bit. I mean, I don't really know how [husband and coach] Shane [Orr] did it," Toomey continued. "He's constantly having to think about it and making sure that he programs accordingly because he doesn't want Mat [Fraser] and I to burn out. So it's so important when he is programming it and thinking about what we need to do to stay fit and healthy and strong. I know we had to kind of go back in a lot of our strength cycles and repeat two weeks of the strength cycles three different times."
Now that Games week has arrived, Toomey has tapered just a little. She isn't doing long and grueling workouts with the actual competition on the horizon. Instead, her focus is on proper hydration, getting nutrients in her body and recovery. Although she did clarify that she doesn't want to be too rested. Toomey said that the first workout, Friendly Fran, will be "gnarly" and that taking too many days off could result in her getting "punched in the face" by her heart rate.
Simply preparing for the competition and following Orr's training schedule isn't enough to win the CrossFit Games at a historic rate. Toomey also has to find ways to motivate her self during sessions where she feels "off" or when facing extremely difficult workouts. She uses those closest to her as motivation, but she also draws inspiration from relative strangers.
"There's so many things that I try and think about and tap into, and I've got the support from such wonderful friends and family," Toomey said. "Obviously my husband, who's our coach, it's just so special to have that. And I know that those people have sacrificed so much in order for me to be able to do what I love doing so much. Not just that, you've also got the likes of my sponsors and the people that have wanted to be a part of my journey and helped me along the way.0comments
"People think that just a 'like' on an Instagram post is just a 'like,' but it's really not. It's those people that follow me and that have, shared, or just being a part of my journey, whether I knew it or not, cheering me on wearing my apparel, wearing anything that was related to me. It's just so fulfilling to see whenever I do see it. And it's so motivating to see that. ... I never thought that this was going to be my life when I very first started. It's so humbling to see that. And I've been doing this for six years or whatever, but I still have to pinch myself and be like, 'wow, that's crazy.'"
Following the online stage on Friday and Saturday, the final five men and women will prepare for their trips to Dave Castro's family's ranch in Northern California, where the Games originally took place in 2007. This in-person event will run from Oct. 19 to 25 and will air courtesy of CBS. All of the athletes will partner with an experienced judge from the CrossFit Seminar Staff.