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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.

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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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Thank You…

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Thank you to everyone who supported me and encouraged me this past year. It was definitely a rebuilding year and I completely surpassed where I planned to be come the Open and Regionals. I cannot thank my wife, Giermaine Kinnick, and boys enough for their unconditional love on my good and bad days. Especially my bad ones. I cannot thank my brothers, sisters, and mom enough for putting up with me and always having my back no matter what. I cannot thank my little brother, Jonathan Kinnick, enough for keeping me focused and making me the athlete I am today. I cannot thank my training partner, Nick Robles, enough for busting his BUTT all year and putting up with me being grumpy at times. I cannot thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ enough for what He did for me on the cross. This was not at all part of my plan but it was part of my Lords plan and I trust Him completely.
I am still at a loss for words about the outcome this past weekend but I wanted to make sure I thanked everyone. To everyone who sent me emails, text messages, FB messages, words of encouragement, prayer, and support I wish I could possibly repay you for that. To everyone at CrossFit Kinnick, I love you all! Thank you for celebrating with me and crying with me. You mean the world to me. To my team, what can I say that I have not already said? Things just didn’t go our way, but we battled and fought hard to get back. Apparently the Lord had other plans for us this year. CrossFit has never been about the Games for me. It has always been about becoming the best I can possibly be and then some. To be healthier and stronger for my family. To be an example for my wife, my boys, my family, and all of the members at my gym as well as everyone I come in contact with. This is the platform that the Lord has blessed me with to do His work and I will do it to the best of my ability. To say that I am crushed would be an understatement. But I will not be broken. Nor will I slow down. Nor will I stop. I have only just begun. I will continue to do what I have done for the past 7 years. This is what I love. This is what I do. If there is one thing I am good at it is being persistent. Day in and day out I will continue to work as hard and smart as I can. The road to The CrossFit Games never stopped and neither have I. I have high hopes for this year and expect big things. This old man is just getting started! The butter will continue to be spread! #kinnickbutternation

CrossFit Kinnick is Sending Two Teams to Regionals!

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At CrossFit Kinnick we pride ourselves in helping people see themselves as athletes and pushing them to chase after their potential. Over the years I have seen so many of our athletes progress and I think our gym is pretty unique in that our best competitors were far from top level when they came through our doors. Next to none of them have any real athletic background as far as college sports or prior experience in strength and conditioning. Many were even overweight and deconditioned (including myself when I started CrossFit). For those without that prior training, every bit of fitness they have was all achieved through CrossFit. Constantly varied, functional movements, at high intensity. The difference maker at our box is that we don’t write anyone off as not having the ability to achieve great things with their fitness and we get really fired up to help everyday people become fitter than they ever thought possible. Anyone can become a competitor for CrossFit Kinnick with commitment and dedication.

This year we were able to qualify two teams for the 2014 CrossFit Games SoCal Regional and it is a great accomplishment for us to not just qualify a team with our strongest athletes who train heavily for competition, but to qualify another team was truly a representation of the abilities that all of our CrossFit Kinnick athletes have. Team Kinnick Butter (only represented by our top 4 men and women, check the roster here) finished tied for 2nd in a stacked SoCal region and 8th worldwide. Team Kinnick was made up of our other 89 athletes participating in the Open and they were able to qualify in 30th place in SoCal, earning an invite to regionals as well! I am so proud of the CrossFit Kinnick community and of the 4 men and 4 women that we are sending to represent Team Kinnick at the Socal Regional:

Andrew Perry

Jason Kinnick

Chris Hapner

Brian Ciaglia

Sariah Veirs

Claudia Morel

Natalie Hendricks

I-Esha Scott

The SoCal Regional is coming quick and we are all hard at work getting ready to spread more BUTTER than ever! Stay tuned!

 

Why I am Going Team

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Since announcing that I am going to compete with Team Kinnick Butter this year at the 2014 SoCal Regionals I have received a lot questions, most of which look like this: “Jeremy, why are you going team? You just had your best performance ever in the Open. What happened?”

First, I want to clarify a few things. I do not see it as taking a step back or going with “Plan B.”  No, I am not hurt. I do not think I am too old.  I do not think I am not good enough. I do not see my region as too tough to win. In fact, I will go into Regionals as the best I have ever been.  

With that being true, the decision was tough because of my history competing as an individual and the goals I have for myself as a CrossFit athlete. In a recent blog I wrote about my year last year and the let down and so on (read the full blog here). I have bounced back from that, but with all the changes I have made this year I found that what it came down to is its just not all about me. I completely changed my focus this year to a bigger emphasis on others rather than just myself. What made the decision for me was the opportunity I have to lead my team to the Games. I would get to compete along side my wife and friends and I feel like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity where we have a close and amazingly strong group of athletes all focused on one thing: winning the Games.  How freaking cool is it to be able to lead your wife and compete alongside her at the FREAKING CROSSFIT GAMES! Just the thought of it makes me wanna do a back tuck :-).  To be able to give the whole team and my wife this gift would be the most fulfilling thing I could possibly think of doing and it will be huge for our entire community at CrossFit Kinnick.

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That being said you are probably still thinking, “Hey thats cool Jeremy, but what about next year?”  Well, I am glad you asked.  My brother Jonathan (my co-coach along with me) and I have discussed this often and it has been in the back of my mind for most of the past eight months. This year my eyes are on winning Regionals and the Games with Team Kinnick Butter.  We want to show the world what the #kinnickbutter is all about.  Beyond that, we have already set our sights on my preparation to win Regionals in 2015 and claim a spot on the Podium at the Games as an individual.  Lofty goals?  Yes, and I am ok with that.  We have learned a lot about me this past year and figured out how to get me to be at my best. I was able put up my best ever performance during the Open despite the final three weeks being thrown off with a back injury and stomach flu.  All in all, I basically missed three weeks of training during the Open and still placed 42nd in the World.  I have so much left to accomplish.  The gains that I have made this past year have blown my mind and I am very excited to see myself improve through Regionals, the Games, and into next year.  My bro and I talk about it all that time.  How I still suck at CrossFit.  We see all of my holes.  But something we have seen this year is that those holes are being filled in.  Its going to be a great year!  The year of the BUTTER!

2014 Open Recap

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The 2014 CrossFit Games Open was one to remember for myself and my top athletes. I had my best ever finish in the Open and not just for my region (6th place in Socal), but worldwide I finished 42nd! In the past I have always seen the Open as just a stepping stone to regionals and focused more on preparing for the next stage rather than truly challenging myself with the Open workouts. I realized that I was using that as an excuse to not go all out or see what I was capable of and going into this years Open I decided to attack every workout with everything I had.

I wanted to start strong and 14.1 was solid for me; 397 reps earned me 13th place in SoCal. Then 14.2’s combination of chest to bar pull-ups and overhead squats brought my best performance in the Open ever; 346 reps was 10th best in the world (2nd in SoCal)! I could not have been more fired up. Then heading into 14.3 things got a little off track. Prior to the workout even being announced I hurt my back/hamstring and was having trouble even bending over. I took some extra rest days and managed to recover enough to get through 14.3’s high volume deadlifts. I played the workout safe until I got to the 315# deadlifts where I finished with 24 reps at the weight (154 reps overall, 30th in SoCal). At full strength that workout is a fantastic one for me but I was happy with my score considering my injury and lack of training leading into it. Going into the fourth week of the Open I was again taking it easy to heal up my back, so I went into 14.4 having only worked out the prior Saturday for 14.3. I was able to pull off a solid performance and get 31 calories into round 2 (231 reps overall, 17th in SoCal). Heading into the final week of the Open my back was feeling much better. Then I was lucky enough to come down with a stomach bug and once again I was forced to rest all the way up to performing 14.5 on Saturday. Despite the setbacks I am really happy that I went into this year with a different mindset and I pushed to my limits for those scores.

We also knew that this year would be a great one for CrossFit Kinnick and our athletes did not disappoint…Team Kinnick Butter brought the heat and we had 5 additional athletes land in the top 40 in Socal:

  • Nick Robles – 35th place, SoCal Individual Men
  • Elyse Persico – 9th place, SoCal Individual Women
  • Melody Sanchez – 25th place, SoCal Individual Women
  • Christine Navarro – 27th place, SoCal Individual Women
  • Giermaine Kinnick – 36th place, SoCal Individual Women

My training partner, Nick Robles, qualified for the first time as an individual in the SoCal region. This was huge for him after taking a month off of training this past fall due to an injury. He has been hard at work alongside me making his comeback and it was great to see him crush it and go hard!

The ladies of Kinnick Butter absolutely crushed it with all four of them qualifying individually. They put out some truly impressive performances and seeing them come into their own this year was amazing. Elyse Persico put up the 9th best score in the WORLD on 14.2 (334 reps) and is a force to be reckoned with. Melody Sanchez had two Open finishes in the top 10 for SoCal (6th on 14.2 and 4th on 14.4). Christine Navarro was extremely consistent all the way across the board and it has been great seeing her become so well rounded. My wife, Giermaine Kinnick has made such incredible progress in a year and I am so proud to see her achieve the things she has. Not only did she improve her overall placing by 63 spots from last year to this one, she got her first ever muscle ups in a CrossFit competition during 14.4. This has been something she has worked for all year and I love seeing her drive and determination pay off. I cannot wait to see her crush it on the team at regionals!

The butter doesn’t stop spreading there though…CrossFit Kinnick is looking to field two teams this year at the SoCal Regional and Team Kinnick has a chance to qualify after the leaderboard reshuffles when the top 48 decide whether to compete as an individual or on their team! What a year! The fun has just begun…stay tuned because the #kinnickbutternation is ready to do big things this year!