Mind of a Coach: Road to Recovery


The Press: How did you get into Crossfit?

Heather Lenfestey: A running buddy and long time friend of mine in North Carolina was into it and she told me, “this shit is crazy, you’ll love it.” I looked into gyms near me and found New Species, which happened to be off a street along one of my running routes. I ran by one early morning and saw a bunch of people throwing heavy shit around. Kettle bells and whatnot. Despite being an adventurous activity pursuer, it intimidated the hell out of me, and it took me a solid year before I grew the balls to shoot Josh an email and set up a first workout.

Murph was one of the first WODs I did. I can’t remember if it was actually the first or second – there might have been one before it. It was hot as hell, took me 56 minutes to finish (I did green banded pull-ups), and I loved every second of it.

TP: How did you eventually make the transition to coaching?

HM: I was actually already working towards a personal training certification when I started Crossfit. After a few months, Josh asked me if I’d be interested in coaching, somewhere down the road. So eventually I started taking clients and subbing in for classes. At one point Marnie asked if I wanted her slots, and I said “sure.”

So I bounced between that and working a day job in advertising, to the point where that got really old and Josh offered to bring me on. For me it meant a pay cut and that was going suck for a while, but I’d be able to grow and Josh knew this was what I wanted to do long-term. I said “sure”.

TP: So that’s a jump you don’t see a lot of people make.

HM: It was pretty terrifying.

TP: Yeah, you see a lot of Box owners and/or coached who’ve worked through a physical training career, but making the jump from full-time in a completely different field is pretty unique. What went into that decision? What was the moment you knew this was the right decision?

HM: I was always kind of interested in getting into something in the fitness world and it was something I was willing to go back to school for if need be. So I started to look into it, but I never really went anywhere with it. Over the years I’d ignore it, come back to it, ignore it, and come back to it again. Finally, after being involved at NS for a bit, it just clicked and I said “fuck it”.

So my husband and I talked about it and whether it was something we could do without living out of our cars. We waited a little bit. Then a little bit more. And then pulled the trigger. So after bouncing back and forth on this idea for the better part of 8 years, I finally got the balls to just do it.

TP: And since you’ve done it?

HM: No regrets. It’s hard. It’s different. But I’m still learning and it’s getting easier.

TP: Are there things you hadn’t thought about or anticipated before you got into it?

HM: The lack of formal structure is very different from my former (office) job. But I’m finding bits and pieces of structure. My personality is fairly chaotic with just enough OCD, so I’m slowly figuring out how to make that work without a set schedule and being responsible for a lot of random, little things besides just coaching. It comes with the territory of working for a small, growing business. It’s taking me some time to perfect scheduling my own time between clients, classes, and back-end gym business, but it’s totally worth it.

TP: On a different side of things, as an athlete, I know you’ve dealt with a lot of physical limitations and ailments. What exactly have you had to work through?

HM: I came into crossfit with a lot of pre-existing injuries: two bad shoulders from competitive swimming, two garbage ankles from mountain biking, and a bum knee from running. All of which got exacerbated in my early crossfit days due to lack of knowledge of my limitations, and lack of dedication to mobility work.

TP: So over the course of 3 years in crossfit, how do you mentally deal with that? I think it’s an issue a lot of our members deal with. How do you mentally keep yourself going on the road to recovery when you’re surrounded by high caliber athletes and complex heavy movement standards?

HM: My major issue right now is my right knee, which I’m getting surgery on this week – wiping out my entire 2015 race season, which sucks. But there are a LOT of things I could improve on while I’m recovering. So instead of being pissy about what I can’t do right now, I’m shifting my focus to upper body work, which is where I am fairly weak. My strict press is terrifying, and I can’t handstand walk to save my life. Bench press and core work will be my buddies for the next several weeks as well. One of the best things about crossfit is there is an almost endless list of movements you have the opportunity to perfect.

So there are always goals – an injury just forces you to be creative with what you can, and choose to, do.