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Beyond the Whiteboard: How Julie Foucher Became Julie Foucher

My brother, Jonathan Kinnick, and the team over at Beyond the Whiteboard recently published an amazing write up and analysis on BTWB athlete and 3rd place finisher at the 2014 CrossFit Games, Julie Foucher. It is a fantastic insight into her CrossFit journey and everything it takes to become one of the fittest in the world.


 

How Julie Foucher Became Julie Foucher

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Since 2009 Julie Foucher has recorded her entire CrossFit journey on Beyond the Whiteboard. Over the years she has posted over 4,000 results, set over 400 personal records and become one of the fittest people in the world. What makes Julie a special case is that she has achieved these goals all while attending medical school. The obvious first question is how did she make time for everything? “I think the best advice is a quote from Oprah: ‘You can have it all, just not all at once.’ Depending on what life throws at you, sometimes the balance may tip more in favor of one area of your life and other areas may suffer. I think it’s important to be aware of this and know that you will bring things back to equilibrium in time.”

I think the best advice is a quote from Oprah: “You can have it all, just not all at once.” -Julie

The Big 3

From what we have gathered, Julie’s CrossFit growth is a due to a combination of three things. First, she had a solid foundation growing up as gymnast. Second, she has a great coach in Doug Chapman. Finally, and, most importantly, she has a consistent worth ethic that is both admirable and astounding.

The Beginning

JulieF-PVC

When we say she had a gymnastics “foundation”, we don’t mean to imply that she showed up at the door as an elite crossfitter. When Julie started CrossFit, she wasn’t amazing by any means. In her own words, “As I progressed through my first month of one-on-one sessions and later joined group classes, it was clear that I had a long way to go. With seemingly nothing to lose, I committed to training for competition with a small group of HyperFit USA members in early September 2009. With hardly any previous weightlifting experience and a recent training regimen consisting of only long, slow endurance exercise, my strength was seriously lacking.”[TRAINING FOR THE CROSSFIT GAMES]

Her first Fitness Level was a 60, which is pretty good, but definitely not even Regional Level. She was very fortunate to go to HyperFit and be coached by Doug Chapman. Doug, as many other top athletes can attest, is a great coach with well over a decade of coaching experience. He is methodical, programming his WODs a year in advance for his athletes. His methodology focuses on consistent and frequent exposure to varied skill sets. He does not separate his aspiring Games athletes from his base program. Dough believes that at its core, CrossFit is a general physical preparedness program, broadening and deepening the human capability to do work in many testable areas. This has been a major factor in Julie’s fitness journey. Julie has improved a lot since starting CrossFit back in 2009. Check out this table and see how “2009” Julie compares with “2014” Julie:

WORKOUT 2009 2014 IMPROVEMENT
Fran 4:58 2:13 -2:45
Grace 5:18 1:25 -3:53
Diane 28:37 (2010, strict) 2:16 (kipping) -26:21
Angie 20:30 12:47 -7:43
Nancy 15:00 10:56 -4:04
Karen 12:26 6:16 -6:10
DT 18:20 4:29 -13:51
Nate 10.3 Rounds (2011) 19 Rounds +8.7 Rounds
2K Row 8:52 7:50 -1:02
Deadlift 185 lbs 310 lbs +125 lbs
Back Squat 165 lbs 257.5 lbs +92.5 lbs
Snatch 85 lbs 172.5 lbs +87.5 lbs
Clean & Jerk 100 lbs 210 lbs +110 lbs
From Good To Elite

We asked Julie when she first realized that she had a chance to be a “Games level” competitor, “The first year I started doing CrossFit I would surprise myself at each local competition I entered and ended up placing well at Sectionals. I thought I might have a chance to qualify for the Games but was still surprised when I placed 2nd at Regionals, and I had absolutely no expectations going into the Games so I was thrilled with a 5th place finish in 2010.”

Knowing that she has used Beyond the Whiteboard from the beginning, we asked her if it played a role in helping her be successful, “Absolutely. I started using BTWB just a month or two after I started CrossFit and I have logged nearly every workout I’ve completed over the past 5 years. It has helped me tremendously to monitor my progress over the years and to set new goals. Every time a benchmark workout comes up, I go straight to BTWB to see how I did last time and what notes I made about my strategy. For example, when the 2012 Games finals came up with Elizabeth, Isabel, and Fran, I checked BTWB to see how I had strategized those workouts last time I did them. My coach Doug Chapman uses BTWB for the whole gym and his Games training program so I can log in every day to see what my workouts are. I use the app as I am working through my training and I get a lot of satisfaction from entering each workout result and checking it off the list. I can also compare my times with other people on the program which helps to keep me on track as well.”

It has helped me tremendously to monitor my progress over the years and to set new goals. Every time a benchmark workout comes up, I go straight to BTWB to see how I did last time and what notes I made about my strategy. For example, when the 2012 Games finals came up with Elizabeth, Isabel, and Fran, I checked BTWB to see how I had strategized those workouts last time I did them. -Julie Foucher

A good way to see Julie’s progress in a nutshell is through the lens of her “Fran” history. She has completed Fran a total of 21 times in her CrossFit career, which is pretty impressive (and masochistic). The first time Julie attempted Fran, she did it as Rx’d in 4:58. This was after she had been crossfitting for about 6 months. Keep in mind that it takes years for most women to complete a sub-5 Fran as Rx’d. It took her an additional 13 months to get her first sub-3 Fran. During that period she did Fran 10 times. On December 13th, 2010, she completed Fran in 2:52, which is an incredible milestone especially for a female athlete. 7 months later, on July 18th, 2011, she got her first sub-2:30 Fran, at 2:29. Just last month, almost 3 years later, she set a lifetime PR with a time of 2:13 (video).

JuliesFranHistory

Nutrition

Keeping an eye on nutrition is essential for any top athlete. Although many athletes make a point of downplaying how strict their habits are, nutrition is an area where any athlete can look for an edge. When we asked Julie about her consistency in lifestyle choices, she responded, “This year I have been much more consistent with these things. I have really prioritized my goal of training for the CrossFit Games and with that comes prioritizing sleep, nutrition, and recovery.”

But her diet was not always incredibly strict. “Since I started CrossFit I’ve always eaten pretty ‘clean,’ but in January 2012 I went to a much more strict Paleo-like diet. I removed all grains, dairy, legumes, and added sugars from my diet and rarely eat anything processed. I still eat a lot of dark chocolate and occasionally wine, and of course I do have cheat meals from time to time.” So, how often does she cheat? “For most of the year I might have a cheat meal every 1 or 2 weeks. Usually it’s nothing too crazy but I might have some bread or dessert. As the CrossFit Games season gets closer I don’t have have full-blown cheat meals but I might have frozen yogurt on occasion.”

Rest and Recovery

When you train at the level Julie does, you have to keep an eye on overtraining. We asked Julie how she approaches rest and recovery, “Rarely do I take full Rest Days. I think the last time I took a day completely off was the first day of the Open when I had a stomach virus and spent the entire day in bed. Most recovery days include 30-60 minutes of either running, rowing, or swimming and some mobility work.”

As she’s evolved as an athlete, Julie has also evolved in her approach to recovery, “This year I’ve been much more attentive to my recovery. For the past several months I’ve been seeing my massage therapist and chiropractor about once per week. I do a lot of rolling with a lacrosse ball on my own. I also use the NormaTec and MarcPro. I like taking Epsom salt baths when I can as well.” If you’re anything like us, you might wonder how her body can handle all the volume that she subjects herself to. We asked her if her body had a hard time handling her training volume and she had this to say, “Surprisingly no – its amazing to see how the body can adapt as I’ve built up my training volume over the past 5 years. If anything the training volume is more difficult mentally and emotionally than physically.”

Working on Weaknesses

In CrossFit, we all have weaknesses we need to overcome. Elite athletes are no exception to this rule. We asked Julie about the biggest area of weakness that she’s had to overcome over the years,“One of the biggest ways I’ve grown over the past few years is mentally, in having the confidence to believe in my physical capabilities. I think this is the first year I can say that deep down I really truly believe I’m capable of winning the CrossFit Games. I think that belief is crucial to being able to execute.”

What about weaknesses that she’s currently working on? “There are always things to work on! I continue to work on my mental preparation, max lifts, and rowing along with everything else.”

Consistency

Julie is consistent. Scary consistent. She has logged a total of 4,171 workouts on Beyond the Whiteboard since mid-2009. This is an average of 834 workouts per year. Since she averages 260 workout days per year, this means she averages 3.2 workouts per day that she trains. Julie normally trains hard 5 days a week, with the other 2 days (Mondays and Thursdays) being lower intensity recovery days. She will normally do some type of Run, Row, or Swim on those days.

Since 2011, she has consistently averaged around 5 training days a week. In 2014 she has done something every single day, utilizing overachieving oxymorons like “active recovery”. Her active recovery will be something like running or rowing an easy 5k. We asked her what keeps her consistent, “Having a coach like Doug who is consistent about my programming keeps me consistent. I know I have to get all the work done so I find a way to make it happen. Whether it is in November or June, being consistent with the programming year-round pays off when it matters most in July.” Julie giving due credit to Doug and HyperFit (CrossFit Ann Arbor) is a recurring theme in her answers. You won’t hear her say that she was just good at something, or was born with some ability that other people weren’t. She views her growth as a combination of hard work, great coaching and consistency.

JulieF-WPW

 

Below is a typical training week for Julie, about a month out from the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games:

Julie-week

It’s important to note that Julie built up this type of capacity over time and anyone who is starting CrossFit should also take the time to build up their work capacity.

Fitness Level Improvements

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Julie just took 3rd place at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games, after taking the 2013 season off from competition to focus on medical school. In 2012, she finished in 2nd place. Over the years she has been a model of consistency and hard work.

Start tracking your Fitness Journey on beyond the whiteboard now. Free 30 Day Trial.

Her first Fitness Level was a 60, and it took her a little over a year to increase that to a 94 (July 2010). At the 2010 Reebok CrossFit Games that year, she finished in 5th place. At the 2011 Games she finished in 5th as well.

Julie currently has a Fitness Level of 96, which is one of the highest on BTWB. Here is a summary of how her 8 individual Fitness Level categories have improved over time, and how long the improvements took:

FL CATEGORY STARTING LEVEL ELITE LEVEL HOW LONG?
Olympic Lifts 70 95 7 months
Power Lifts 75 95 22 months
Speed 70 94 5.5 months
Endurance 80 95 3.5 years
Bodyweight 91 97 10 months
Light 80 95 8.5 months
Heavy N/A 97 7 months
Long N/A 99 12 months
Training Volume

Being a veteran athlete in CrossFit, we asked Julie how her training differs now compared to her first few years of CrossFit, “Over the 5 years I have been doing CrossFit with Doug our training has evolved. Each year we learn and adapt for the next season. He has adapted a lot of his programming to better prepare athletes for the demands of the Games and it is now a very systematic process. We’ve also added volume each year so I think this year is more volume I’ve ever done to prepare for the Games in the past.” We were also curious about how her training changed during the year she took off from competing in 2013 to focus on medical school, “I did a lot more lifting during my ‘year off.’ I would work out 4-5 days per week for 1-2 hours focused on gross lifts and Olympic lifting.”

A lot can be learned about an athlete’s progress by looking at their volume of weights and reps of movements over time. Below we will look at a few important movements to get an idea about how her volume has changed year by year. It’s important to note that Julie’s overall volume has steadily increased over the years, giving her body time to adapt to the increased workload. It would not be smart to try to emulate Julie’s 2014 volume numbers without gradually building up over multiple years.

Weightlifting Movements

MOVEMENT TOTAL WEIGHT TOTAL REPS AVG. WEIGHT 1RM
Deadlift 1,909,824 lbs 12,415 reps 154 lbs 310 lbs
Snatch 673,298 lbs 7,748 reps 87 lbs 173 lbs

As we can see in the graphs below, her Deadlift volume has been gradually decreasing since 2011. On the other hand, her Snatch volume has been steadily increasing.

 

Julie-DL-History Julie-Snatch-History

 

Gymnastics Movements

MOVEMENT TOTAL REPS WORKOUT RESULT DATE
Pull-ups 19,013 Max in 3 min. 54  2/2010
Muscle-ups 2,894 30 MUs 4:29  4/2012
Handstand Push-ups 5,240 Diane 2:16  6/2014

Julie’s Pull-up volume peaked in 2011, and has seen a pretty sharp decline since then. Her pull-up volume was over 25% less in 2014 compared to 2011. But this same trend did not hold for Muscle-ups and Handstand Push-ups. We can see huge increases in the volume of these two movements over the same time period. Comparing 2014 to 2011, she did over 2x more Muscle-ups and over 4x more Handstand Push-ups. Even from 2013 to 2014 we see a huge increase. And this is even more remarkable given the fact that 2014 is only counting reps through July.

JulieF-Pull-up-History JulieF-MU-History

JulieF-HSPU-history

Monostructural Movements

MOVEMENT TOTAL DISTANCE WORKOUT RESULT DATE
Run 736,000m 1 Mile Run 6:05 5/2014
Row 865,000m 500m Row 1:44 6/2013

Julie’s Running volume per year has been pretty consistent since 2011. By contrast, her rowing volume has increased at incredible pace, almost doubling each year since 2011.

 

JulieF-Running-History2 JulieF-Rowing-History

Conclusion: Advice for Aspiring Competitors

We asked Julie what advice she would give to an athlete trying to qualify for Regionals next year,“Find a coach or a program you trust, and then commit yourself fully to it for a year. Too many people start to question their program or jump from program to program choosing what they think they need to do. You don’t know the effects of a program unless you do it fully for an extended period of time. After a year you can re-evaluate and decide where to go next. Also, find workout partners who are reliable and who you will have fun in the gym with – the people you surround yourself with make all the difference.” That seems like sound advice to us.

Start tracking your Fitness Journey on beyond the whiteboard now!

 

 

 

 

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How do you stack up on 14.4?

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Beyond the Whiteboard has been accumulating some legit data throughout the 2014 Open and they put together this awesome graphic for 14.4! Check out the average scores for men and women along with the numbers that top level athletes are reaching. Overall it is no small task to reach the muscle ups in this workout and only the best of the best are completing all 20 to move on to round 2. Where does your score put you? This was a fantastic workout for me and my score of 231 (1 full round + 31 calories on the rower) is looking strong on the leaderboard. Loved every minute of this workout!

Beyond the Whiteboard Analyze: Light

Next up in my series on Beyond the Whiteboard‘s Fitness Level feature is the LIGHT category. Again, the site has been a huge tool in my CrossFit training since it was created by my little brother Jonathan Kinnick and his crew in 2009. It allows me to log and follow all of my results and numbers so I can really focus and dial in my programming. The Fitness Level is the next step in visualizing fitness and being able to clearly see weaknesses or strengths.

If you missed the first blog in the series, check it out HERE to get a better understanding of the feature and how simple it makes programming and training.

LIGHT

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The light category factors in Metcon workouts that use some weighted element and are typically under 20 minutes. A lot of the most iconic and classic CrossFit workouts contribute to this and the category shows how well rounded you are in those benchmarks tests. Light workouts include many of the girl workouts: Fran, Helen, Grace, and Elizabeth along with other popular workouts in BTWB that have similar characteristics. I have always seen it as really important to test and retest the girl WODs because they are such excellent CrossFit programming and because they are simply amazing indicators of fitness. My abilities across all aspects of fitness have improved right alongside my times on benchmark workouts and that is definitely not a coincidence. The WODs are tried and true and because there are so many results for them in BTWB, your score for each inputs a very accurate data point into the Fitness Level. For example, Fran has over 60,000 posts on BTWB. That means that your score (down to the second) gives you a very clear picture of where you stack up in the CrossFit community for that workout. Many of the CrossFit Games Open workouts also factor into this category because they are similarly programmed, lighter weights mixed with bodyweight movements that deliver a serious dose of intensity. 

Because the Fitness Level pulls in results from 2009 and on, my history here shows that I have always kept these kinds of workouts as a big part of my training and I have performed well on them. My current times and scores puts me at a 97 in the category based off workouts that I have done in the past 6 months. My numbers have stayed in the high 80s and into the 90s almost constantly in that time period. However, I have been doing CrossFit for close to 7 years so there is a little more to my growth here. Here are some of my oldest scores for a few LIGHT benchmarks along with my all time best performances:

Fran

Dec, 2008-  17:22 Rx’d / Oct, 2013-  2:17 Rx’d

Helen

Dec, 2008-  10:33 Rx’d / Jan 2011-  7:30 Rx’d

Grace

Sep, 2008-  3:41 Rx’d / Oct, 2013- 1:22 Rx’d

Diane

Jan, 2008- 7:51 (185# Deadlift) / May 2012, 3:14 Rx’d

I love looking back at these benchmarks and seeing how far I have come! Having started CrossFit completely out of shape and overweight, the PRs I have accumulated over the years represent a lot to me and I will continue to revisit the classics in my training because they are amazing tests and always challenging.

Do yourself a favor and start using Beyond the Whiteboard right away, it is so crucial to see how far we have come in CrossFit, having a record of those accomplishments and top performances means a lot. For me the LIGHT category definitely reflects that. Being able to see this in the Fitness Level takes it to new heights. Stay tuned for more looks into this feature and my numbers!

Beyond the Whiteboard Analyze: Speed

Next up in my series on Beyond the Whiteboard‘s Fitness Level feature is the SPEED category. Again, the site has been a huge tool in my CrossFit training since it was created by my little brother Jonathan Kinnick and his crew in 2009. It allows me to log and follow all of my results and numbers so I can really focus and dial in my programming. The Fitness Level is the next step in visualizing fitness and being able to clearly see weaknesses or strengths.

If you missed the last blog, check it out HERE to get a better understanding of the feature and how simple it makes programming and training.

SPEED

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The speed category definitely provides a different look into my development as an athlete than my power lifts. I have always had some good capacity when it comes to power lifts but speed was not something that came easily to me as I started out in CrossFit. I have had to work extremely hard and dedicate huge periods in my training to make it a strength. You can see with my numbers some major peaks and drops that correlate to my different times in shorter row and run intervals (100m, 200m, 400m, 800m runs and 100m, 250m, 500m, 1000m rows). The category is an average of my scores across all those distances.

After placing 29th at the 2009 CrossFit Games I went into the next year with a big emphasis on strength training and did not focus much on my speed or endurance. In 2010 I didn’t qualify for the games and I realized that it had become a hole in my fitness that I needed to address. I started incorporating it into my training more and in the following years even worked heavily with CrossFit Endurance founder Brian Mackenzie to build it into a strength. I regularly hit the track and would push myself hard to see gains in my times. Between late 2012 and 2013 there is a big dip in my speed level that were more from a lack of testing the run and row intervals but recently I have definitely picked these up again to systematically work them into my training and improve my speed on the track and the rower. This past weekend I ran a 0:04.6 40 yard dash at the OC Throwdown in an NFL combine style event. This isn’t something I have ever tested since starting CrossFit so it was an awesome surprise. The last time I had run one was in junior college during my baseball days and I ended up with a pulled hamstring.

My current times (some of which are all out efforts, others are part of metcons or at the end of a training session) are:

Run

100m- 0:13.5

200m- 0:28.7

400m- 1:06.5

800m- 2:31

Row

100m- 0:15.7

250m- 0:40.1

500m- 1:34

1000m- 3:23

I am putting an emphasis on building my speed as my training ramps up for the 2014 regionals and I can’t wait to see how that reflects on these numbers and my Fitness Level overall. Exciting times are ahead as I really turn up the heat and build some momentum heading into the 2014 games season!

Do yourself a favor and start using Beyond the Whiteboard right away, it is so crucial to see the progress we work for in CrossFit, especially with things that do not come easy to us. For me the speed category definitely reflects that. Being able to see this in the Fitness Level takes it to new heights. Stay tuned for more looks into this feature and my numbers!

Beyond the Whiteboard Analyze: Power Lifts

Beyond the Whiteboard has been a huge tool in my CrossFit training since it was created by my little brother Jonathan Kinnick and his crew in 2009.  The site itself has grown so much over the years and has become more than just a way to keep track of your “Fran” times and max lifts. The site now has an amazing feature called “Fitness Level” which puts an actual number to where your fitness stacks up against the CrossFit community.

*Your Overall Fitness Level number can range from 0-100.  It is a relative measure of Fitness, meaning it compares your performance to the rest of the community.  A Fitness Level of 77 means you are more Fit than roughly 77% of the community*

Fitness Level includes 8 categories that gauges your overall fitness. The categories include, “…Power Lifts and Olympic Lifts, which are determined by your average levels of those respective lifts.  The Speed category looks at your average levels for Shorter Runs and Rows (100m to 1000m), while the Endurance category looks at Longer Runs and Rows (1000m to 1okm).  There are also four Conditioning/MetCon Categories.   We have divided Benchmark workouts and other popular workouts into four different categories.  The first three include Bodyweight, Light, and Heavy workouts, all 20 minutes and under.  The Long category includes workouts where the average time to completion is greater than 20 minutes.  By combining your levels in these 8 categories, we get a very broad measure of your overall Fitness.”

The feature has made it so simple and easy for me to address my weaknesses and focus my programming. I’m going to do a series of blogs talking about each of these categories and my progress in them throughout my CrossFit journey!

POWER LIFTS

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The power lifts (back squat, bench press, deadlift, shoulder press) have always been great lifts for me and my Fitness Level numbers reflect that well, even my earliest numbers earn me an 85 in the category and from there I invested a serious amount of time building a solid strength base with these lifts. I have fully trained through a number of different powerlifting programs that focus a ton on posterior chain development and creating raw power output that is extremely useful in CrossFit. I’ve explored so many of the accessory lifts to these movements and really enjoyed working towards increasing my max numbers alongside my ability to handle heavier workouts. Overall my numbers have jumped up enough to now bring me to a 98 in the Power Lift category. A recent strength cycle I went through helped me hit:

Back squat: 415# x 5 reps

Bench Press: 280# x 5 reps

Deadlift: 485# x 5 reps

Shoulder Press: 195# x 5 reps

I definitely enjoy training the Power Lifts and they have been a huge part in giving me the strength base that I am now using to further my Olympic Lifts and overall capacity in CrossFit. Do yourself a favor and start using Beyond the Whiteboard right away, it is so crucial to see the progress we work for in CrossFit and the Fitness Level takes it to new heights. Stay tuned for more looks into this feature and my numbers!