Athlete Charlotte Merle-Smith qualified for the Adaptive Division at this years Wodapalooza in Miami, Florida. Read on for accounts from both Charlotte and her coach, Iron Legion Head Coach Alex Ford.

1. In one word how would you describe your experience at the Wodapalooza 2020?
CMS: AWESOME! (in all caps haha)
AF: Immersive


2. What are you goals as a coach/athlete?
CMS: My goals as an athlete are similar to those that I have as a person. I want to have fun, feel good, and look good. I have had such a positive experience since becoming a member of the Iron Legion pack, and it makes me feel good to spread my love of fitness. As a competitive athlete, I want to win. I qualified for Wodapalooza 2020 in sixth place and I finished in fourth, which is a win but it is not good enough. I want to be first.
AF: My goals as a coach are to provide my athlete and members at the gym with the tools necessary for them to accomplish their fitness goals. My current goals with Charlotte are directed at balancing her pressing strength. Charlotte is able to press significantly more load and manage more volume on one side versus the other.


3. What did Charlotte’s training look like to prepare for Wodapalooza 2020?
CMS: I participated in a class WOD four times a week and tried to get into the pool twice a week. I was able to improve on how much weight I could move around but, in hindsight, my endurance could have been improved.
AF: Charlotte and I did not have a specific competition training regimen. Our training together consists of class WODs posted for the gym, modified to train the movements she will encounter in competitions.


4. Describe Charlotte’s Qualifier experience?
CMS: The qualifiers consisted of six workouts. I was all over the board with my finishes, from third to sixth and in the end, I qualified in 5th position. I have competed in the Wheelwod Games (adaptive Open) twice and this was harder. There were new standards that kicked my butt!
AF: Charlotte completed the WZA qualifiers with relative ease. She was able to maintain a qualifying spot throughout each week of the competition. We would run through the exercises in an EMOM format just to practice and be familiar with the movements. Then on her next day in we would run through the WOD. Each workout required verification of movement standards on video and introduction of the athlete. This part usually took the most time.


5. What is something that Charlotte struggles with during training? How does to compensate or train to get better?
CMS: I feel that I struggle the most with consistent attendance. I have chronic neuropathy which sometimes keeps me up at night, and makes it very tough to get up some mornings. When I am not able to get to the gym in the morning, I get frustrated with myself. When Wodapalooza was not in the foreseeable future and I would have a bad night, I would text Alex and just say I wasn’t going to make it. But, as the competition got closer, I had to bite the bullet and go in. Of course, I was not able to be as strong or put as much energy behind workouts after being unable to sleep because of pain. Rather than compensating, I had to adapt.
Alex takes his job as a CrossFit coach far outside the walls of Iron Legion. He really makes an effort to help his athletes set themselves up for success. He helped me look at my life and made suggestions for improvements and helped to shed light on areas that I hadn’t even considered to be a factor. It is tough to compensate for a lack of energy but when I am driving to the gym after a bad night, outloud, I tell myself to suck it up and put a smile on my face because I am the only one who can choose how I am going to face the day.
AF: One area of Charlotte’s training that has proven to be a limiter during competition was her pressing strength. Push-Ups and single arm pressing overhead have been her weakest points. For a long time our focus has been on improving Charlottes pulling. This was not intentionally to improve competition performance but to develop more balanced shoulder musculature. Charlotte has had a lot less shoulder issues and our focus now is going to shift over to much more pressing development.


6. Describe the facility and location of the Wodapalooza 2020? What was a distinguishing feature of the event?
CMS: Wodapalooza seemed to take over the Miami waterfront. I had never been to Miami but it really felt like the competition grounds took over a huge part of the downtown waterfront.The whole competition area was blocked off by a screen-covered chain link fence, and inside the perimeter fencing, there were a bunch of separate competition stages. A distinguishing feature of Wodapalooza was the music. There is always loud, upbeat music associated with CrossFit workouts but, even if one was unable to see inside the fence, the music and announcer could be heard out a couple blocks into the city. It really made a statement in the city.
AF: Wodapalooza was an incredible competition! It was all outdoors at Bayfront Park and enclosed about 50-60 acres of property dedicated to the event. There were 4 large stages where the athletes competed and each was surrounded by bleachers for spectators. The distinguishing feature of the event was the amount of athletes and spectators there. It was a great production


7. Describe Charlotte’s experience at the Wodapalooza 2020?

CMS: A positive tone was set from the very beginning of my Wodapalooza experience. Because I had never been to Miami, I had to go off the map to book a hotel and I picked a good one! It was an easy walk to the waterfront, which helped to set the tone for a successful day. Then, I did really well in the first workout, which left me with a total high. Not everything went my way but was my fault. I can only fault myself for slacking in my preparations, which meant that I was not as physically prepared as I should have been.

AF: From my perspective, Charlotte had an incredible experience during WZA. One that came with it’s share of hardships. Charlotte started off performing really well and was able to finish her first day in 3rd place. As the competition went on she lost more points and the gap back to a podium spot was too far to overcome. Despite falling on the leaderboard, Charlotte maintained such a positive attitude through the weekend. She fought and put her full genuine effort into each and every workout. Never was there a time where her effort was not fully invested in gathering reps.

8. What were some ‘positives’ for Charlotte at Wodapalooza 2020 and what were some ‘negatives’?
CMS: A huge positive was the inclusiveness. There is definitely a universal language of fitness. The Wodapalooza slogan of bringing together thousands of people to “celebrate fitness, community, and life” was palpable. As an adaptive athlete, I do not look for an easier way to do things, I may just need to find a different way to do something, and I feel like the Wodapalooza community understood that. There was no pity, only support. The inclusive mentality really pumped me up and encouraged me to perform like the athlete I am capable of being. It is hard to think of any negatives outside of my own performance. I always want to do better.
AF: A major positive experienced on the very first workout was Charlotte showcasing her hard work the last few months in crushing a bench press rope climb workout. Last year rope climbs were a movement that not only proved to be challenging but also caused charlotte a lot of hesitation because of the fear of falling and injuring herself. Since then we have consistently worked her capacity on a rope and it paid off in WOD 1. Watching from the outside Charlotte had very little to feel negative about. I think the thing that got her the most was the obvious overcompensation of the right arm during pressing movements and an inability to complete certain reps because her pressing strength is so asymmetrical.


9. Overall, how do you feel coming back to home after the event?
CMS: I feel great!
AF: I am fired up and ready to train!


10. What are Charlotte’s training plans going into the next season?
CMS: Alex and I have not talked about future plans but I have tried to maintain my four classes a week attendance.
AF: As mentioned before, we plan to work on building pressing strength and keeping Charlotte in the pool all year round instead of just before the competition.


11. What is the next event on the horizon?
CMS: Currently, I have no future competition plans.
AF: Our next competition goal is for Wodapalooza 2021!