If you had been to search a collection of stock photos for the words females and workout, you’d finish up staring at a lot of willowy young moms standing in tree pose and skinny aerobics instructors brandishing pastel-colored dumbbells. Earlier this year, even though, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s nonprofit LeanIn.Org foundation teamed with Getty Photos to produce a collection of pictures that portray females in a much more empowering light. The athletes it depicts have actual, visible muscle tissues, which they can be observed placing to use in images with such descriptions as “Woman pressing barbell overhead in CrossFit gym,” “Woman climbing rope in CrossFit gym,” and “Smiling group of friends working out in CrossFit gym.”
CrossFit—the higher-intensity exercise that, based on whom you ask, will either turn you into a superhuman or leave you in pieces—has clearly reached a tipping point as much more and much more females embrace its credo that, as a single officially branded T-shirt puts it, “strength is beautiful.” But stock photos are a single issue. The face—and body—of that emerging paradigm belongs to Annie Thorisdottir, a 24-year-old Iceland native and two-time CrossFit Games champion who, following becoming sidelined by an injury final year, is returning to competitors to attempt and reclaim her title as the fittest lady on Earth.
That final name translates as “Thor’s daughter,” and a single appear at her as she goes via her paces in front of a crowd of buff hipsters in a Brooklyn fitness center final spring tends to make the connection to the hammer-wielding Norse god clear: the extended, strawberry-blonde hair the ice-blue, almond-shaped eyes and the complexion glowing with rude overall health, not to mention broad shoulders, potent thighs, and take-no-prisoners abs. It is a physique constructed by (and for) hoisting barbells, flipping tractor tires, hauling sandbags, operating, rowing, and, yes, swinging hammers.
Thorisdottir is presently dominating, with relentless efficiency, in a ten-minute contest of presses, dead lifts, and box jumps, against the American Lindsey Valenzuela (who will go on to finish second at the 2013 Games). “CrossFit is about living a healthy life and finding new ways to challenge myself,” Thorisdottir says, dressed for battle in a white tank major, tiny red shorts, and striped knee socks. “How can I push myself to find out what my body’s capable of? Where can it take me?”
So far, it is helped make her (along with the 3-time men’s champion Wealthy Froning, a former firefighter from Tennessee) CrossFit’s initial true star, winning her endorsements from such brands as Reebok. The business has sent her about the planet as an ambassador, added “Annie” sneakers and T-shirts to its line of apparel, and introduced her to a wider audience in a Television spot that shows her going head-to-head in the fitness center with former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson.
The CrossFit recipe was initial cooked up in the mid-nineties in a smaller fitness center in Santa Cruz, California, exactly where an iconoclastic individual trainer named Greg Glassman tortured his consumers with medieval workouts that combined weightlifting, gymnastics, and calisthenics. From the commence, Glassman’s classes had been equally divided amongst males and women—a ratio that is held as CrossFit has exploded from a cultish regimen with a handful of affiliate gyms (identified as boxes) to a international phenomenon with much more than 9,000 boxes worldwide. Along the way, it is evolved into a competitive sport with an annual gladiatorial contest, the CrossFit Games, which presents $275,000 to its champions along with these fittest-on-the-planet titles.
Even though Thorisdottir now lives and trains in Reykjavík, she spent the initial six years of her life in Vík í Mýrdal, a tiny coastal village two-and-a-half-hours southeast of the capital, and she discovered how to navigate the planet on its Viking-like terrain. She continues to be drawn to the outdoors (when it is warm, she runs in the Esjan mountain variety, which broods more than Reykjavík from across the bay), especially to spots exactly where nature is at its most intense—Vík í Mýrdal’s wave-lashed black-sand beach, the breathtaking Gullfoss (Golden Falls). When the ice-capped volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in the spring of 2010, she and her loved ones produced a pilgrimage. “It’s insane how much power is in this earth, and you feel so close to it here,” she says. “It flows through you.”
When I go to Thorisdottir in Reykjavík just prior to Christmas, she invites me to her parents’ home for a dinner celebration that consists of her two older brothers and their wives and children. The decor is Scandinavian modern day meets ski lodge, replete with a rack of reindeer antlers mounted on the wall—a trophy from a single of her father’s hunting expeditions. It is a strapping, wholesome-hunting clan, and I’m not shocked to discover that the whole assembled throng is devoted to CrossFit.
By her family’s account, Thorisdottir showed indicators of becoming a all-natural athlete when she was nonetheless in diapers, scudding across the floor on her backside alternatively of crawling. (“It was faster,” she explains.) Quickly she was swinging from tabletops, climbing kitchen cabinets, and beating her brothers and cousins in pull-up competitions arranged by her grandfather, after getting a prize of the Icelandic equivalent of $27—a dollar for every single pull-up. “If there was a challenge, especially one with a reward, I had to win it,” Thorisdottir says.
Currently she spends most of her time at the fitness center she co-owns, CrossFit Reykjavík, whose airplane hangar–size education floor is stocked with the tools of her trade—barbells, kettlebells, gymnastics rings, plyometric boxes, medicine balls, rowing ergometers. She trains for 90 minutes to two hours twice a day, 5 or six days a week, devoting morning sessions to metabolic conditioning and afternoons to strength, with a lot of mobility perform and Instagram posts in amongst. (She also coaches 3 or 4 CrossFit classes a day.) Thorisdottir fuels all this activity with a Paleo-ish eating plan heavy on meat, chicken, fish, and vegetables (but absolutely free of rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, and sugar), along with a lot of non-Paleo dairy (she requires the calories). She drinks alcohol only two or 3 occasions a year but treats herself to a cheat evening of ice cream and chocolate cake each Saturday.
Thorisdottir’s favourite education companion is her boyfriend, Frederik Aegidius, a 26-year-old biotechnology and small business student from Denmark who also occurs to be Europe’s major-ranked male CrossFit athlete. (They won their respective divisions at the Dubai Fitness Championship final fall, cementing their standing as CrossFit’s 1st Couple.) When I ask Aegidius how they met, he tells me that a female buddy of his—as a joke—told him she’d identified the excellent girl for him and then showed him a image of Thorisdottir performing a dead lift at the 2009 Games.
Thorisdottir covers her eyes. “I was pulling on the bar, and it made me look like I had this insane six-pack,” she says. “And Frederik looked at it and said, ‘I don’t know. . . .’ ”
I point out that it in all probability didn’t assistance that the face a single tends to make although hoisting a barbell loaded with a handful of hundred pounds is not a single you’d place forward on, say, a dating profile.
“Annie never makes a face,” Aegidius says.
She also seldom wears something but exercise garments. Thorisdottir swears she loves dressing up—and says that she’s come to discover what’s flattering to her physique (sleeveless dresses that are clingy and low-reduce) and what’s not (shirts as well brief to cover her midriff). And the Reebok Nanos on her feet notwithstanding, she’s got a issue for a distinctive type of higher-functionality shoe. “As a treat for winning the 2012 Games, I bought myself two pairs of heels—one Valentino and one Prada,” she says.
As a kid, Thorisdottir practiced gymnastics and produced the national group prior to quitting at age fifteen for the reason that, as she puts it, “I knew that I would never be the best in the world.” She took up ballet, studying at the Icelandic Ballet College till a single day in class when she caught a glimpse of her broad shoulders in the mirror and realized, she says, “this wasn’t the body of a ballerina.” Subsequent she attempted pole vaulting and became the national champion for two years operating, with an eye on the 2012 Olympics. In the finish, even though, she decided “it was too much of one thing, over and over.”
At a boot camp–style workout class, she caught the eye of her instructor, Evert Víglundsson, a former soccer player and ballroom dancer who saw a thing in her instantly. “The efficiency of her movement was just amazing—nothing wasted, no struggle,” he recalls. Víglundsson, who had not too long ago found CrossFit, encouraged her to enter the upcoming CrossFit regionals, exactly where, he says, “she absolutely crushed it,” winning herself a spot at the 2009 Games in Aromas, California.
Thorisdottir, who would quickly come to be identified on the circuit as the indomitable “Iceland Annie,” worked her way up to winning initial spot in the 2011 Games, and did it once again in 2012. But a handful of months later she severely injured herself lifting weights. She had just set a individual record of practically 285 pounds for her back squat and, as she puts it, “got greedy,” moving on to dead lifts with no an sufficient warm-up. “I could feel something moving in my back, and right away I knew that this was bad,” she says. When she collapsed to the floor and couldn’t move her legs, she began to panic. The discomfort was so intense that it took paramedics much more than an hour to get her into an ambulance. An MRI revealed that she had a bulging disc in her back, and she spent the subsequent week in bed on painkillers, crying.
Inside six weeks, even though, she began rehab and returned to the fitness center two months following that, she was competing in the CrossFit Open. But then she reinjured her back, this time causing nerve harm that rendered her left leg numb for months, forcing her to sit out the Games. Although recovering, Thorisdottir identified a pair of physical therapists in London who taught her a series of workouts created to assistance nerves perform much more freely. Beneath the supervision of her coaches, she gradually returned to lifting light weights, focusing on suitable type and incorporating workouts to strengthen the attachment of her core muscle tissues to her spine. By the time I see her perform out in Reykjavík, she is executing heavy snatches and thrusters with a nicely-oiled precision, energy, and grace that she tends to make appear effortless. Now, with tiny much more than 3 months till the July Games in Carson, California, Thorisdottir can clean-and-jerk 210 pounds and is back to heavy dead lifts. “My legs are getting stronger really fast,” she says.
“She doesn’t relax,” says Carl Paoli, Thorisdottir’s present gymnastics guru. “She thrives under pressure. When you take her to the edge where she’s about to break, she will turn around, look at you, and say, ‘Watch me do this.’ And she gets it done.”
If Thorisdottir manages to get it completed at this summer’s Games, it will imply a different massive payday, along with bragging rights as the initial 3-time women’s champ. The renewed exposure will also give her the leverage to expand her roster of sponsorships beyond the realm of protein powders, knee braces, and CrossFit gear. That is not what’s driving her, even though. Hunting back on the initial days following her injury, she remembers how vulnerable and helpless she felt, scared that she may possibly by no means stroll, a great deal much less compete, once again. “Of course I want to win the Games, but I want to do it to show people that if there’s something you want, no matter what happens, you can find a way to do it—if there’s an obstacle in your way, you have to figure out how to get over it.”
She also desires to inspire females, in particular young girls, to concentrate much more on what their bodies can do than on how they appear. “I’m not preaching that everyone should try to become a CrossFit champion,” she says. “But I want to show them that training can give them more confidence—and that being strong is beautiful.”
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