Athlete Profile: Elizabeth Wipff
Name: Elizabeth Wipff
Hometown: Mill Valley, CA
Age: I’ll be 40 on Sept 22nd
CrossFitting Since: January 2009
Favorite WOD or Movement
I like anything with overhead squats and KB swings. Any squatting, really. I’m really good at Nancy (Five rounds of: 400 meter run, 15 OH Squats, 95lbs) but I hate running.
Least Favorite WOD or Movement
Fran, thrusters, and anything heavy overhead.
What is your fitness background? What were you doing before CrossFit?
I’ve been practicing yoga my whole life and teaching it for thirteen years. I come from a very active family, so I played soccer as a kid and in high school, but mostly focused on theater and dance. My mom is a CrossFitter.
How did you make the transition from yoga to CrossFit? What led you to CrossFit?
Keith and I have known each other for the past 8-10 years as yoga teachers. I think he took over a yoga class that I taught at Crunch. I remember him sending an email about CrossFit at one point and I was intrigued, but at the time I thought I couldn’t do it because I was a yogi.
Fast forward to late 2008. I was getting into my late 30s. I wanted to challenge myself physically and see how fit I could get. A mutual friend of Keith and mine started talking to me about CrossFit and showing me videos. All of a sudden, everything came together.. I had coffee with Keith and told him about my fears. He Said, “Just get into the gym. Just get stronger.” That was all I needed. I got into the gym, I got stronger, and I never looked back.
I ended up coming to CrossFit right after completing a 10-day silent meditation retreat where we sat for 10 hours a day and meditated. There is something about the intensity of a silent meditation retreat that is very similar to the intensity I experienced when I first started CrossFit.
When did you start coaching? What made you interested in coaching CrossFit after you were already a yoga instructor?
In summer of 2010, I started assisting Keith. It was a very natural transition because I had been a movement teacher for years and could easily relate to CrossFit movements the way I would relate to any movement. I did my certification in fall of 2010 and I’ve been coaching ever since.
How are yoga and CrossFit similar? Different? How do they compliment each other?
I think people have a misconception about what yoga is. Yoga is not stretching – it’s much deeper, wider, and bigger than that. As much as yoga is a physical discipline (and it is a discipline), you need to be completely immersed in it. The roots and purpose of yoga are traditionally spiritual. I believe that the physical practice of yoga has incredible therapeutic benefits for the body. While I say it’s primarily a spiritual discipline, it has some really profound benefits that I don’t think you get from other modalities. Because of the introspective nature of yoga, you are able to work with the body on a very deep level.
CrossFit is more externally focused and that’s not to say it’s just about the body itself. You need to manage your mind in CrossFit. I think I was successful at CrossFit in the beginning because I could manage my mind. Mentally, I wasn’t afraid to do CrossFit. I took things one rep at a time. With meditation, you have to take one breath at a time. … Both yoga and CrossFit are about transformation.
One of the things that’s unique about the way I view yoga (and this is how CrossFit has influenced me as a yogi and a yoga instructor) is that I believe people are meant to move and function at all levels of intensity. One of the things I see in the yoga community is this very stereotypical mellowed out, spaced out yogi. I don’t think human beings were meant to be spaced out. Genetically we have evolved to move at all paces and levels of intensity occasionally. We have to move energetically at all different paces and intensities to be whole human beings.
How has your background affected your teaching style?
I know how to explain movement. I’m comfortable using any means necessary to help people understand. I have a decade of teaching experience coupled with a degree in theater… I can communicate!
What is your favorite part of your job? Any examples?
Watching somebody do something they never thought they could do, watching people amaze themselves.
I worked privately with Katie Beaton, a famous cartoonist and member of our gym for a while. Among the many things she wanted to do was to get a pull up. We worked and worked and worked for months. The day she got a pull up, I wasn’t watching her. I was talking to someone and when I looked over, I realized she had done it. And then she did it again. It was really overwhelming.
For most of us, physical challenges are more than just physical challenges. They represent overcoming obstacles in our lives in its entirety. Physical achievements empower you to make changes in other areas of your life. The confidence that you get from being able to do the things you never thought you’d be able to do manifest in other areas of your life. That’s why all of us coach. We help people in a very unique way – we help them to change their lives for the better.
Any best CFV stories?
I started coming here when the gym was just Keith, Sam, me, Kurt and maybe 2-3 other people. If we had five people in a class, it was considered a “big” class. I’m really proud to have seen the gym through this tremendous growth and to have been asked to be a part of the coaching staff.
I had an awesome experience at the Regionals in 2010. I’d say that was the last time that it was this sort of casual “lets get together and do some workouts” type event. Regionals were held in the parking lot of Albany CrossFit. It was fun because we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were kind of like, ‘hey guys, lets just play CrossFit for the weekend’. I think it’s important for everyone to compete at one point or another. Because of that competitive environment, I pushed myself to do things that I had never done before (even after I had been doing CrossFit for over a year and a half).
I also think some of my best days here are just hanging out with the boys in the back, shooting the shit.
What advice do you have for people just getting started?
I don’t think CrossFit is for everyone. That’s not to say that everyone can’t do CrossFit, but I think you have to have a certain type of mental framework to do it. It doesn’t have anything to do with your age or physical state, it has to do with a willingness to challenge yourself both mentally and physically.
If it’s not fun, then you shouldn’t do it. You should have a sense of adventure and possibility going into any workout. If you’re new, take it slow. Focus on good, solid movements, not putting weight on the bar too quickly. Take a private lesson or two with an expert in an area that you feel deficient – it’s really valuable. Take nutrition, rest, and recovery seriously, especially in the beginning. My first six months of CrossFit, I probably rested as much as I worked out.
I had abdominal surgery on June 26th of this year. I am certain that my strength going into the surgery made the surgery more successful and made the immediate aftermath easier. My overall health before the surgery made my recovery much faster. I hit PR’s the week before I had my surgery and (now) three weeks back to working out, I’m within reach of my PRs. I’m bouncing back.
My goal at 39 and 350-something days… is to continue to get better. I believe I can. I’m turning 40 but I think my best years are ahead of me.
Very inspiring Elizabeth, thanks for loving and living what you do! Appreciate your emphasis on the CrossFit mind / body connection… they really do help and hinder one another. It’s a constant negotiation to overcome hurdles, and SO thrilling when things finally click! And I totally agree with approaching CrossFit as fun and adventurous on top of being disciplined about it… for me it has made the whole world a playground again instead of just a concrete jungle to aimlessly stumble a tired hurting adult ass through, and that has been an invaluable physical and metaphysical perspective shift!
Your best years are for sure to come!!!!!
Hell yeah Elizabeth! Your enthusiasm for teaching and making us stronger is apparent in everything you do. Keep it up!
Great read!!! I really appreciate Elizabeth as a coach and inspiration…she is tough but its a good tough…she pushes you to be better. Thanks for sharing your insights and experiences.
Keep up the good work Elizabeth! When is our next mobility class? We only made it waste height last time!
…both yoga and CrossFit are about transformation. Amen. Thank you for being a great coach and a shining example of what is possible.
So grateful to be a part of this unique ans special community!
Let’s all keep kicking ass.
Happy birthday to a great coach and a good friend!
40 and SPORTY!!!!! 🙂