Over the years, I've had the opportunity to coach over 100 athletes that list "Performance" as their number one goal. The reality tho is that its HARD to maintain that focus 24/7/365. Sometimes people stray down the road of "GIMME ABS, BITCH" or they want to just relax for a few weeks and not focus on diet, training, etc, to take a vacation and just act like a "normal human being." This is why its SO HARD to qualify for the CrossFit Games. The sheer focus that most people need to apply is just beyond comprehension.
This a post about recognizing hard work, and celebrating ALL the M2 clients that dedicate their lives to this sport. I could just as easily written about Chyna Cho, opening her own gym and still finding time to train her ass off, Mia Akerlund for pouring her heart out all weekend after suffering a devastating injury 3 days before Regionals, or Alex Parker for being a full time lawyer and still finishing top 10 in the best Region in the world. EACH athlete has their story of sacrifice and hard work, and each one deserves to be recognized.
I chose to write this post about Meredith Root for a few special reasons though. First, Meredith is incredibly coachable. She listens and adapts her effort better than anyone I've worked with. Secondly, I know for a fact that she thinks she's not that great or gifted (she's so wrong), and therefore is borderline obsessed with doing everything she can to be better. Finally, even though she applied her incredible focus on making it to the Games, she came up just short of her goal. It's easy to find perspective when all your dreams come true. It's another thing entirely when you fall just short. On top of that comes some loyalty... We've been working together for over a year now. Meredith trusted me when I was really still new in the Crossfit scene and my reputation was still developing. That counts for something in my book.
For all these reasons, I wanted to share Meredith's story. Thank you Meredith.
I met Meredith Root in 2017 at the Atlantic Regional the day after she had to withdraw from the competition due to a fairly serious bicep injury. How did I meet her you ask? I slid right into those DMs 😏
Haley Adams had a rough event 2 where everything just seemed to go against her on a set of ring dips. She took it pretty harshly, as 16 year olds tend to do. Meredith, having literally just finished her event as well, went out of her way to pull her aside, to talk to her about how to learn from the experience, to explain that this was an opportunity to grow. I was floored...
The next day, Meredith had to withdraw, and it was her turn to deal with the emotions. You could see how hard she worked, to see how BAD she wanted to show people what she could do, and how devastating it was to have that opportunity taken from her. I literally NEVER send strangers messages but sensing her character, I wanted to try and lift her spirits just a little bit. I'm so glad I did.
Meredith and I started working together as coach/athlete about a month after Regionals. From day 1, she was focused on performance and doing anything she could to improve her chances of going to the Games one day. As with most athletes, she was under-eating and doing a few other things that needed to be dialed in as well. I told her she was going to have to eat more, and after going off and doing some research on her own (freaking scientists...) she did just that. We talked about the importance of having individualized programming, and she went out and did that too, finding an amazing coach in Mike Fitzgerald.
It's honestly hard for me to tell you what difference our work together made because 1) Meredith gave nearly zero shits about body composition, only performance, so the update pictures were few and FAR between and 2) She doesn't brag much, so I didn't hear about PRs unless I asked.
To get a sense of what working together was like, I asked Meredith to describe what differences having a "nutrition" coach made. Here are her words:
"I was always a clean eater, but never really paid attention to particular quantities. I consumed three big meals a day and was eating too much protein and too much fat. I had read books and articles, I knew the science around performance eating and yet I was reluctant to apply those principles to myself.
I thought what I was doing was "good enough." Those are the two most dangerous words in the English language. "Good Enough" is not what gets you on top of podiums. "Good Enough" does not get you to the CrossFit Games. We are in an age where fractional increases in performance make a huge difference. After talking with Mike and seeing what a giant impact he had on Kenzie at Regionals in 2017, I decided I was done with "Good Enough." I decided it was time to work with the best to become the best that I could be. Why put all this effort into training and leave something like nutrition on the table?
Having someone not only set my numbers but also hold me accountable was huge. I was afraid of carbs, but I knew what was coming if I didn't hit my numbers, so I hit my numbers. And then I started to notice my performance improve. I felt better, I slept better, I looked better. The conversation shifted from accountability to validation. Yes, we are doing the right things, how can we do more? What else can we improve on?
There were little things that made a big difference. Rinsing my rice before cooking it. White rice contains trace amounts of arsenic. Arsenic blocks testosterone production. You said, "If you're eating 3-4 cups of rice per day, you better be rinsing your f***ing rice before you cook it!" 😬😬😬
I had never had anyone tell me to chew my food before, nor had I even thought about it. When I did think about it, I realized quickly that I was in a bad habit of swallowing a lot of may food whole as I rushed to eat it. I started chewing my food more. It takes me twice as long to eat a meal now, but have much fewer digestive issues and I *think* it's made me a bit leaner."
While the goal wasn't to get leaner or look better in the mirror... shocker, it happened. The lesson again, if you chase performance and take care of your nutrition and sleep, the body tends to respond favorably.
The first opportunity we had to test how things were working was down at Wodapalooza, where Meredith was going head to head with 30 or so other elite CrossFit women.
Day 1 was a damn good start. Meredith can run pretty well and ended up with a 5th and a 3rd place finish on the first/second events which were merged together. That night was what we'd consider a "wheel-house workout" with 3 rounds for time of: 9 muscle ups, 12 power snatches and 15 cals on the assault bike. She went unbroken on the muscle ups in both rounds 1 and 2, putting serious space between herself and 2nd place. I was standing right in front of her watching her dissect the workout. Coming out of the rings on round 3, she was all alone, minutes ahead of the competition. As she sat down on the bike, she looked at me and gave me this look of "Where the F is everyone?" Very casually she coasted to a ~30 second victory ahead of the field. She described it to me as the highlight of her CrossFit career to that point, and the smile on her face proved it was true. It was a proud moment for me as her friend.
The very next morning, Meredith experienced what can only be described as the stomach plague, and after trying everything, she was forced to withdraw. A second major competition ending before she wanted it to... it was hard to watch, but you just try and be there for a person. I think this is the value of having a coach that really cares about you. You can lean on them when life punches you in the face, you can be emotional and know that they've got your back. Miami was just one of those moments.
Life Coaching 401
I've talked about this before, but the macros and the supplements are the easy part of being a nutrition coach. LONG-term nutrition coaching is more about balancing emotions and keeping athletes focused. Asking them to find things they're proud of in themselves, getting them to confide in you when they're stressed. If I can get an athlete to open up and vent about the stress of work, or family, or a relationship, then maybe they sleep better that night, do a better job with food choices the next day and have a 10% better training session. Over a year, this adds up and makes a difference. Here's Meredith again to give you an idea from the other side of this relationship.
"We all know, M2 is not just a nutrition company. More importantly almost, it's a lifestyle company. Nutrition is too emotional to exist without this component. We are not cells in a bioreactor, you cannot simply pump in glucose and amino acids and get the response you desire. This year was huge for me. I moved my whole life across the continent right at the beginning of winter. I went from sub-tropical North Carolina to the then frozen tundra that was Calgary, Alberta. But it wasn't just my physical location that changed, it was my training environment, my living environment, my access to food, and my relationships."
Coming back to the idea of doing things the right way, Meredith always opened up when I asked her to and evolved to pro-actively telling me about her stress. She understood that bottling shit up wasn't healthy for her as a competitor, never mind just as a person. It's not my job to fix any of that, but it is my job to listen. Of course, over time we became more friends than coach/client, or as Meredith describes it, "The waters have become very muddy in a good way. Add coach, athlete, mentor, mentee, boss, employee, and friend into a big pot, stir together, and you get our relationship. It's pretty cool."
So after just about a full year of working together, there I am at the West Regional with 6 individual female athletes. Thanks to the lovely CrossFit Gods, I went from having 3 athletes in one Region and 3 in another to having them all shoved together into one Super Region. Want to talk about stress? Take 5 spots for the Games and put 6 highly competitive females that you're all "responsible" for in one location... Oh, and add another 10 former Games athletes for good measure. Thanks Castro...
If you want to see what happened in each event, watch the Regionals replay. All that matters is at the end of it, Meredith ended up in 6th place, missing out on a Games spot by a painfully close margin, and in a way that was hard to stomach. Watching her sit in the dirt and cry into the shoulder of Alex Parker (complex situation, read here and here) was heart-breaking. It suuuuuucks to see someone come SO CLOSE and miss. You're helpless to do anything other than try to be there for them when they want you, and to stay out of the way when they want to be alone.
I saw Meredith a week later in West Palm Beach at the Atlantic Regional for her twin sister's competition. While still hurt, she had gained an amazing amount of perspective in an amazingly short period of time.
"And then at the end of it all, there we all were together at the California Regionals. What a weekend! I found you in the crowd during every event. You were a human safety blanket in the midst of the chaos. You were my Guru all year and I was glad to have you there!
Even though I fell a little short of making the Games, I made huge improvements on both the physical and mental side of my game. Sometimes I forget that it's barely been a year since we started working together. Most of my biggest improvements didn't even start until August or September. I now believe I have the best programming available (OPT) and the best nutritionist in the industry. Who knows where we go from here, but it's hard to believe it's anywhere but up."
A few days after that weekend, we were texting back and forth and she told me, "I would rather people remember me as a good person than a good competitor."
Meredith Root, you will NEVER have to choose between those two.