If you are into fitness – and even if you’re not – chances are you’ve heard of CrossFit. Started in 2000 by former-gymnast, Greg Glassman, “The Sport of Fitness” has taken the exercise world by storm. By incorporating cardio, bodyweight movements, and weightlifting in a timed environment, CrossFit has positioned itself as quite possibly the ultimate fitness routine. Since its inception, the sport has ballooned, attracting big-name sponsorships as well as an ardently passionate community.
In a few short days, that zealous following will turn its eyes to the Reebok CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin. Thousands of people from around the globe will descend upon Wisconsin’s capitol city for a week-long celebration of fitness, and to bear witness to some of the best athletes on Earth.
Among those athletes competing is 55-year-old April Watkins. A Bend resident, Watkins is one of only 10 women that qualified for the 2019 CrossFit Games in her age group. Beating out 3,504 other women, she is currently ranked third in the world for her 55-59-year-old age group. Impressed? You should be.
According to Watkins’ official CrossFit Games profile, she’s always been intensely competitive. Growing up in a large family of “poor losers”, Watkins took part in her high school’s volleyball and basketball teams. After trying two free CrossFit workouts in 2012, she was hooked with the sport. Since being introduced to CrossFit, Watkins has participated in the Games three times: twice on a team, and most recently as an individual in 2016. And while that trip in 2016 didn’t end in a podium win for Watkins, she says this year’s competitions have given her more confidence.
“When I first made it in 2016, they were taking the top 20 women in my age group. This year, when they announced they’d only be taking the top 10, I was nervous,” Watkins said.
But a first place finish in the United States’ CrossFit Open earlier this year dispelled those nerves; and now Watkins says she is looking forward to competing in Madison.
“I’m looking forward to being more relaxed. When I made it in 2016, I was intimidated,” Watkins said.
Make no mistake; becoming a top 10 competitor in a worldwide fitness competition is no simple accomplishment. Watkins says she now works out two hours a day, six days a week. In fact, when I called Watkins to ask her a few questions, she was on her way to the gym in Bend–CrossFit Type 44.
Tyler Honzel, manager of Commercial Sales with BendBroadband Business, is also a member of Watkins’ gym, and can attest that Watkins’ success is no accident.
“I have worked out with and around April for the past couple of years. Her discipline and dedication are inspiring! Having seen what she does to train, I am not surprised in the least by her success,” Honzel said.
Standing at 5 feet 3 inches and 132 pounds, Watkins is able to perform 29 pull-ups, squat almost double her bodyweight, and run a 25 minute 5K–things that most people half her age would struggle with. Watkins says she feels her strongest exercises are deadlifts, anything involving bodyweight, and jump roping.
Quite possibly the most impressive results of her involvement in the CrossFit community have come outside the gym. According to Watkins, she’s learned more about herself physically and mentally, made friends, and even overcome an eating disorder since becoming involved with CrossFit.
Come Aug. 4, if April Watkins has her way, she may very well be taking the podium as one of the “Fittest Women on Earth.” And no matter the outcome, one thing is for certain: she’ll certainly put central Oregon on the map.
If you are interested in following April Watkins’ journey, she says she will be streaming her events live on her Facebook page. Competition will begin Aug. 1, and finish Aug. 4.
Editor’s note: April finished 5th in her age group (Women 55-59) at the Reebok CrossFit Games 2019. Here are the results.
By Joe Pueschner, TDS Communication Intern, and a senior at the University of Wisconsin Madison who loves to cook, hit the gym, and listen to podcasts.