Why does a perennial Regionals athlete keep competing year after year with Chelsea Nicholas...

By: Emily Beers

At the risk of sounding insulting, there are many CrossFit athletes like West region athlete Chelsea Nicholas.

By that, I mean, this woman is a consistent a middle-of-the-pack Regionals athlete, which leads people ask, ‘What motivates someone like Nicholas?’

Truth is, people have even asked me why perennial middle-of-the-pack CrossFit Games athletes keep going, as if to suggest it's only worth it to compete if you can get to the podium... 

Someone asked me just the other day why Lucas Parker bothers continuing since he never breaks into the top 10 at the Games. And someone else wondered aloud why Camille Leblanc-Bazinet doesn’t just retire, since her last two Games appearances weren’t as good as her 2014 showing.

While I never have adequate answers when people ask me my opinions on other athletes—as each person is driven by their own thoughts and feelings—I do ask them to consider this: 

An athlete like 28-year-old Nicholas—with a 240 lb. clean, close to a 200 lb. snatch and effortless-looking gymnastics abilities—could have easily won the CrossFit Games from 2007 until probably 2012. Nobody would have asked why she would have chosen to compete back then. 

It also means that in today’s era of insane fitness, an incredible talent like Nicholas doesn’t get the attention she would have had she come around even 5 years ago.

 Nicholas (left) and fellow West regional athlete  Jenna Gracey

Nicholas (left) and fellow West regional athlete Jenna Gracey

To take the guess work out of it, I asked Nicholas what keeps her going each year:

“Honestly, why does anybody do anything?” she asked rhetorically.

“I train and compete because I genuinely enjoy it. For me, CrossFit, and competing, are very personal; I’m not seeking approval from anyone or trying to impress people. I do it for myself.”

“The choice to keep competing every year just seems obvious and feels natural to me,” she added.

With each competition, she learns something new about herself, she explained. During the recent Cascade Classic online qualifier, Nicholas learned that she could thruster 185 lb. for 5 reps., a weight that would have crushed the 1-rep thruster at every single Regional competition in 2011. Check here if you don't believe me.

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Regionals is no exception; it's always a learning experience full of highs and lows. 

“A high for me was finishing the final event (thrusters and legless rope climbs). I was never able to finish it in practice and I always thought of legless rope climbs as a weakness of mine. In that moment, I was able to prove myself wrong and legless rope climbs will no longer be a movement I am scared of in competition,” she explained.

“A low would be the snatch ladder, where a couple no-reps pushed me out of the time cap unimaginably early. I PR’ed my snatch at 190 lb. a couple weeks prior and had really high hopes for that event. What a great lesson in letting go and moving forward,” she added.

So Nicholas will keep going after it in competition for as long as it feels right, she said. Although, at the same time, she isn't letting CrossFit completely take over her life in the process. One way she avoids this is by putting her trust in her coach and her program.

“I am 100 percent committed to my coach. I don’t ask why. I don’t get emotional. This mindset and approach to training has proven very effective for me,” she said.  

And she continues to work a full-time career as a structural engineer with Boeing in Seattle.

“Having a career on top of training adds balance to my life,” she said. “Days are long but training is my reward and precious time is never wasted.” 

At least part of the reason her precious time is never wasted is because of her ultimate goal that’s always a little bit on her mind: 

“Competing at the CrossFit Games is absolutely my goal and I’m not afraid to say that aloud. I can’t say how close I am exactly, but I know I am getting closer every year,” said Nicholas, who 21st at the West Regional competition in 2015 and 19th in 2016. 

“It’s on my mind every single day and just thinking about it gives me an adrenaline rush. Right now in my life nothing else makes me feel that way so why should I stop chasing it?”