Claire Willis - Athlete of the Month May '19
An open letter by Coach Josh,
A member of our awesome community for last 12 months, Claire has made a mark but the good kind :) She has trained in over 200 sessions (that is f**king impressive) and settling into the 6:30 am class, using the WODs as a means of improving her strength and making everyone jealous with her impressive gymnastic skills.
She is hitting all kinds of personal records with a notable elusive first muscle up! and has done so without EGO and consideration for her fellow athletes. Watching her compete in her first CrossFit Open was such an example, with Claire being intelligent in her training and choosing to scale workouts in order to continue to be able to turn up for her next training session.
I am really happy to recognise her as our AOM! She exudes a welcoming smile, a bright personality and is always eager to learn and take the teachings of her coaches on board. The crew are constantly impressed by Claires positive vibes, dedication and hard work and in the mere year she has been with us.
Keep it up Legend, thank you for being apart of our community.
More importantly thank you for imparting in the greater community the the importance of health and fitness.
HOW OLD ARE YOU?
WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION?
I’m a postdoctoral research fellow and clinical exercise physiologist – essentially a scientist that experiments with exercise as medicine. I work mostly with children with cerebral palsy and other neurodisabilities, developing and testing new paediatric rehabilitation models, and creating a bit of a paradigm shift in the process! I’m very passionate about knowledge translation (making sure our science gets implemented into practice), and I do some lecturing to support our next generation of allied health professionals in paediatrics. At the moment I am leading a big clinical trial in Melbourne that is supporting young people with disabilities to exercise at their local gym, but am also working on projects investigating heart function during exercise in children born very premature, and evaluating neurorehab services in rural and remote areas. The very best part of my job is being able to work with such awesome kids and their families, and I am very privileged to be able to share in the joy of their movement experiences and achievements. I absolutely love what I do.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
When I was 21, I booked a one-way ticket out of Australia and traveled solo for the best part of 2-3 years. I was very shy and introverted (I still am, but manage social situations somewhat better than those days), and this experience genuinely transformed me as a person. I didn’t really have a plan, which was sometimes silly but mostly great because it meant I had to continually think on my feet, embrace spontaneity, and adapt to whatever situation that landed me in! I lived and worked in some amazing places in the world, from rehab centres in the mountains in Norway, to onboard cruise ships sailing the Caribbean, to remote village hospitals in Nepal. It was an extraordinary experience filled with exceptional people that changed me for the better!
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE AT CROSSFIT COLLINGWOOD?
I met Tommy first! I so vividly remember this, he took me through my initial health/exercise interview before my academy started with James. When Tommy asked “What are you looking for in your exercise experience”, I answered without hesitation and said, “a community”. His eyes grew wide and his face lit up like a kid at Christmas as he replied, “that’s what we are!!!”. Just in case such authentic, raw passion for the Ox Box hadn’t been enough to convince me (it was), he was also well versed on effective sales strategies for females in their late twenties, casually adding in that there was a crossfit doggo called Murph (who ran up on cue). Signed, sealed, delivered, I was on board.
HOW DID YOU FIND THE OX BOX?
My partner Dylan (once a crossfitter) had been encouraging me to try crossfit for years, and after moving to Melbourne I was looking for a fitness pursuit that would also help me make friends! After a failed attempt at a popular circuit-based workout gym (I made zero friends), I googled ‘CrossFit near me’, and after evaluating the available options, Dyl specifically recommended this one. I ignored his advice, had a terrible experience elsewhere, decided to take Dyl’s advice, and never looked back!
I grew up in country Western Australia, in a goldmining town in the middle of the bush. We were always pretty active as kids, spending hours on our bikes, playing in the local creek, and staking out the bush lookout. My Dad was convinced he was another Steve Irwin (even wore the same khaki get up), so chasing lizards (and being chased by lizards!) formed a decent chunk of my early physical activity experiences. My mum enrolled me in my first gymnastics class when I was 7, as by that point cartwheeling had become my preferred mode of locomotion (especially down supermarket aisles). Down the track, my sister and I were accepted into one of the academies in Perth, which opened up a heap of opportunities for us, and we were incredibly lucky to train under ex-Olympians and alongside very talented gymnasts for many years. After retiring at the old age of 16, I attempted to play every sport my high school offered after having focused my attention on one sport for so long. One of my PE teachers tricked a few of us into attending state trials for volleyball, and that evolved into quite a few years playing and coaching in a sport not normally frequented by those of us challenged in the height department. Completing a sport science degree at uni exposed me to more traditional gym-based training which I really enjoyed and pursued on and off since. Mixed with my love of gymnastics, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to join CrossFit. I love the variation and the infinite pursuit of competence/excellence (be it performance or health) – you can always be better!
Dyl and I spent most of last year setting ourselves up here in Melbourne…now I’m excited for us to spend some quality time enjoying life on the east coast, and doing some exploring (locally and internationally)! That’s Goal 1. Goal 2: Get a dog!
Long-term, to be leading my own research program, and supporting research students to answer the big questions that are important to the kids and families we are doing our research for. My journey so far in this industry has been made possible by some incredible women in science, so building a program underpinned by a positive and supportive culture, a strong mentoring focus, and collaborations with other teams is an important component of that goal.
Crossfit has really helped me find a renewed purpose with my training, and has also helped me develop a lot more resilience around a health condition I manage. More than anything, it has really encouraged me to push the boundaries on what I am capable of day-to-day. My health goals at the moment are about committing to practices that sustain the good patches (and eliminate the bad), so I can do the things I love at optimum capacity. Creating a healthier work/life balance (or harmony!) is currently the focus.
WHATS HAS BEEN A SPECIAL MOMENT IN YOUR CROSSFIT JOURNEY?
I recently experienced my first Open, which was every bit the highlight everyone guaranteed it would be. Seeing so many people smashing glass ceilings with the whole box cheering them on was very special! The Ox Box Games also comes a close second. But I think my favourite part of the journey so far has been as simple as feeling very much a part of the community that Tommy promised me I was coming into!
WHATS YOUR FAVOURITE WOD?
Anything gymnastics. Although I do enjoy the strength/RM days too!
YOU CHECK THE WOD AND THINK “HELL YEH” THE WOD HAS:
At the moment anything squat-related, because my legs need to get a lot stronger. But if we are talking fun, bar muscle ups take the win.
3 SONGS YOU LOVE TO WOD TO?
1. Undercover Martyn – Two Door Cinema Club
2. Opposite of Adults – Chiddy Bang
3. Sunlight – Bag Raiders
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
WOULD YOU GO BACK IN THE PAST OR GO INTO THE FUTURE AND WHY? WHICH TIME PERIOD WOULD YOU GO TO AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
The past – back to the sixties and Beatlemania.
WHEN DO YOU PREFER TO TRAIN?
WOULD YOU RATHER BE A PIRATE OR A NINJA?
Ninja! Working on cruise ships channeled the pirate life, so would be keen to explore the ninja world.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE TREAT FOOD?
Hot cross buns! Actually they are currently a staple in my diet so hardly a cheat food. Has to be hot chips.
WHAT'S THAT INGREDIENT THAT YOU ALWAYS END UP ADDING TO YOUR DISHES?
IF YOU WERE IN THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE WHAT WOULD BE THE OBJECT YOU'D ALWAYS HAVE ON YOU?
Hermione’s bag from the last Harry Potter movie that can fit anything in it but still be feather-light. Must include the tent.
IF YOU WERE AN ACTION FIGURE WHAT WOULD YOUR 2 ACCESSORIES BE?
A trampoline and a cup of tea
IF YOU COULD GO ONE PLACE IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW WHERE WOULD IT BE?
K2, the world’s second tallest mountain in Pakistan
CLAIRE’S TIPS FOR READERS
Health is everything.
Never stop learning.
Explore, dream, discover.