Get to know the Raw, Real, Honest Alex Parker: The Wittiest Woman in CrossFit
By: Emily Beers
While many elite CrossFit athletes use Instagram as a place to flaunt their massive PR lifts, and their beautiful booties, 2015 CrossFit Games athlete Alex Parker, takes a different approach.
“I can’t stand it when people post things like, ‘50 percent off’ Progenex.’ I’m not posting that!” said Parker, who just graduated from law school earlier this year.
She added: “If you take the time to word things properly, it can have a pretty good effect. And I think people appreciate it when someone puts some thought into their posts.”
When you scroll through Parker’s feed, you will find just that: Unique posts with a tremendous amount of thought, wit and often self-deprecating humour—not just in her pictures, but in her text.
Although she is undeniably naturally gorgeous—with skin that turns golden brown the moment the sun peaks through the clouds—Parker doesn’t use social media to flaunt this. Her beauty still comes through naturally, however; many of her posts show her in more compromising ways. And unlike those who use social media as a PR board, Parker posts videos of elements she struggles with.
“I don’t have a 200 lb. snatch, so I have to find other ways to entertain people,” she said.
Parker admitted that she gets help crafting her memorably-worded posts: Her mother. The two of them often chat back and forth before putting out a new post, she explained.
“Sometimes it feels like that’s what it would be like working for Saturday Night Live—sitting around and coming up with funny skit ideas together,” she said.
Also like Saturday Night Live, social media allows Parker to be a bit of an actress. She admits those who know her know a different woman than the one she presents on Instagram.
“People who know me well call it my alter ego,” said Parker of her social media personality. In reality, the 26-year-old is more serious, quiet and introverted.
One thing she is serious about—both in real life and on social media—is her training. Which is why she has chosen to defer her articling to become a practicing lawyer to be a full-time athlete this season.
The recent West Regional competition in Portland—where she admittedly felt disappointed with her weekend—solidified her decision to keep pursuing her CrossFit dream.
“Last year (2015), I went to regionals and I had in my head there was no chance I was going to qualify to the Games, and then I ended up making it. So this year, I went in with the same attitude as last year: Have fun, try your best. I thought it was the same attitude as last year, but it wasn’t,” said Parker, who was 11th this year.
“I realized I wanted to go back to the Games a lot more than I thought I did, and I didn’t realize that until I got to regionals…I think I had put more expectations on myself than I was aware of.”
Moving forward from this year’s disappointment, the former endurance runner’s focus for 2017 is to gain strength.
She has complete confidence in her coach Michael FitzGerald of Optimum Performance Training in Calgary to help get her there. She has been training with FitzGerald for two years.
“Before that, I used to just do stuff I found online and I would skip all the lifting. Then that year at Regionals (2014) there was a max. snatch event and I only snatched 125 lb.,” she said. “Then I thought, ‘I should probably work on my strength a bit more.’”
She admits working on strength doesn’t come as naturally to her as endurance training.
“When I first started working with Michael, I was secretly still running 30 miles a week,” said Parker, whose best marathon time is an impressive 3 hours and 26 minutes. “I was still getting up in the morning five days a week to run 6 miles a day. And I didn’t tell him about all the running I was doing.”
“And my squat wasn’t going up. Then one day, he asked me, “Are you by chance running?’”
That was two years ago; Parker has simmered down from her daily 6-mile runs and is completely committed to FitzGerald’s training plan for her, which right now includes 2 two-hour training sessions per day 5 days a week, as well as one swim day and one active rest yoga day.
Being a full-time athlete means she often spends up to five hours a day in the gym five days a week, and it also means she has more time for things like quality food prep and recovery.
“And I actually go to physio now,” said Parker, who also coaches a few hours a week at Reebok CrossFit Ramsay in Calgary.
On top of the physical improvements she is after this year, Parker knows the mental piece is going to be equally as important. When you’re a full-time athlete with all your eggs in the CrossFit basket, it’s important to avoid putting too much pressure on yourself, she said.
And it will also be important for Parker to continue being who she is on social media, and not let others affect her journey.
“I’m not going to lie, I get feelings of defeat sometimes when I see things on social media,” she said.
For example, she remembers seeing Melissa Doss of the Central Region—a woman who is of a similar level to Parker—snatch 200 lb. on social media.
“And I’ll think, ‘How on earth am I going to compete with that? Or Brittany Brown! I can’t clean and jerk 250 lb. or whatever she can do,” Parker said.
“But I try to keep reminding myself that most people don’t post what they’re bad at. Social media is like one giant highlight real. So I try to use it as motivation. And I think you can use it as motivation if you look at it the right way.”
Truth is, social media scores only tell half the story. Its show off skills like an impressive one-rep max or handstand walking prowess. But social media doesn’t show how good someone’s engine is, how well someone recovers, or how mentally tough they are in competition.
“There’s so much more to a CrossFit competition than how much you can lift one time,” Parker said. It’s just that heavy lifting, or fancy gymnastics moves, are more glamorous to watch than a video of someone running effortless, she added.
“I’m not going to post my one mile run on social media. What are others’ run mile times?” she asked rhetorically.
Social media distractions aside, Parker is determined to stick to her plan, her journey, and give everything she has to being a full-time CrossFit athlete this year.
“My law career can start at any time. But I don’t think there’s any point in giving up something that I’m super passionate about right now. Because I don’t think I could come back to CrossFit if I took two years off,” she said.
“And even if I don’t quality to the Games again, I won’t be like, ‘That was a waste of time.’ Because I enjoy this so much. It’s going to be a really fun year.”