She’s one of the sport’s best known and most admired athletes. Moving from Boulder, CO to California to immerse herself in CrossFit, Andrea Ager has accomplished that and much more. Having competed at the Games in 2011 as part of Team Brick CrossFit, she’s now committed to competing Individual in 2014.
Ager was well on her way to the Games this year, finishing 7th overall in the worldwide Open. Unfortunately her dream to compete on CrossFit’s highest stage was cut short when she made the tough decision to withdraw from the SoCal Regionals after controversy over a judge’s misstatement during the overhead squat event. Though a difficult decision at the time, it was a small stumbling block that hasn’t changed much else for AgerBomb, as she’s referred to by her legion of fans.
Known for her tirelessly long training sessions, the girl who loves to compete has vowed to put herself through an intense off-season competition schedule to keep her mind focused on her ultimate goal. In our interview, Andrea shares her genuine love for the sport and how coaching and her faith have shaped what it means to be an elite athlete in this sport.
From what we know, you’ve always loved working out. Is it true that at age 14 you told your dad you were going to work out every day for a year straight?
AA: (laughs) Yes, that’s very true. I’ve just always loved training and working out. It’s a pretty funny story. I’m Catholic and one night we were talking about what we were giving up for Lent. I thought, ‘Why give up something?’ So I told my dad that I was going to work out every day for a year straight because working out is good for you and fun. (laughs) Talk about the mind of a 14-year-old! During that time, I learned a lot about training. I trained my brother. We’d go to the basement and use my dad’s random gym equipment for an hour every day. I’d make him do random things like 100 bicep curls with a 5lb weight. Weird stuff like that. We thought, ‘Yeah, we’re working out!’ That motivated me to join my high school swim team and to play volleyball. I also ran track all four years of high school and college. I was always involved in sports and it just never stopped.
In college, you focused on track and field. Tell us about your experience.
AA: I did. I ran cross country in college. We had three seasons year-round, so we never took breaks. I got my scholarship for the 400m hurdles…that was my favorite thing on Earth! I also ran the 800m and the 4x400m relay. There were times that I did the triple jump and the 200m. That heptathlete feeling is what reminds me of CrossFit.
So how did you make the transition to CrossFit?
AA: I started CrossFit after college when I felt all washed up and needed something else. Right around the time I thought I was going to be a ‘has been’. I studied Exercise Science and in one of my classes someone did a report on CrossFit. As they were presenting, I had so many questions. After class, I followed them into the hallway and asked ‘How do I go there? Where is it?’ I didn’t even care what it required; I just wanted to start it. I didn’t even know how to CrossFit and I wanted to start coaching. As a coach now, I see how unrealistic that was, but I just wanted to learn everything there was to learn about it. I was like a sponge. I remember spending five hours a day in the gym, all while maintaining a full time job. I dove right in when I started.
Given your background, you’re qualified to answer this, who do you consider the fittest athlete a heptathlete or a CrossFitter?
AA: This is a biased opinion, but I would say the CrossFitter is more well-rounded. I would say though that as a CrossFit athlete you’re always saving yourself, because you know you have another training session, another WOD in competition. A heptathlete has to be more explosive and more focused, maybe… It’s a very difficult question to answer, especially because a CrossFitter lifts heavier, but I’d say that a heptathlete has to push it 100% more often.
Do you incorporate your running background into your current CrossFit training?
AA: Actually, I don’t. I wish I ran more. A lot of girls think I must do a lot of cardio because I’m smaller and lean, but I just do CrossFit. I don’t even run outside of WODs, but I do like to run as a warm-up. During the Open workouts, I ran a mile and a half before the workouts, because it would get me jazzed and really excited to start, but it’s not something I do all the time. I do really like and am pretty good at box jumps, plyometrics, pistols, any of those low weight high skill movements end up being easier for me.
Your life is CrossFit as a coach and as a competitor. How do you make the switch?
AA: It’s really interesting. Some of my clients are new to CrossFit and some even new to fitness so I find myself really focusing on fundamentals. I’ve also been interning with the Level 1 Certification Program all year. It’s helped me a lot in my personal training. About half of my clients are competitors or want to be competitors and a lot of them competed with me at Regionals. This year, when I didn’t compete on the second and third day, I got to watch them. It was really special because that’s not something I always get the opportunity to do. There’s so much you learn every day but in competition, your eyes are wide open to a lot of different things you never thought about before.
You train at different times of the day. How does that help your training?
AA: I think you have to be ready to train when you’re tired or when you want to go to bed. I think that makes you ready for competition. My favorite time to train is in the middle of the day or super late at night. In the middle of the day, a lot of my friends get together to train. Training with partners and mixing it up is fun. I’ll even travel to train with friends. I also like to train late at night. Something that makes me a little different is that I eat a lot before I work out which isn’t realistic for many athletes at competitions. Usually at competition you don’t want to eat because of your nerves, but I have to eat. So there’ll be nights when I train after eating ¾lb of brisket. People don’t know how I do it, but I do.
Do you train even when you don’t want to?
AA: All the time, especially at night. There are times I jump into workouts at 11:30pm. Even if you’re beaten mentally, you might end up with a crappy workout, but chances are you’ll never regret it. That’s what you have to look forward to, never regretting you got the workout in.
What’s your training schedule like?
AA: More often than not, I do marathon sessions which are not the ideal for peak performance. I can train for four hours straight. It’s not like I don’t take a break in between, grab a bite or whatever, but once I start I don’t want to stop. If I’m being smart about it, I break it up into two two-hour sessions. I really like training with people. So on the weekends when I have time to get a lot of volume in, I go really hard. On Sundays, I go to church and meet my friends at the gym at 9am and we train until 4pm. If we ever stop to chat, I joke that if we’re going to stay at the box, we might as well work out again. I’m currently making it a point to do more double sessions. I do Olympic lifting three times a week in the morning. I do think it’s important to lift in the morning when you’re fresh.
Is it true that you don’t take rest days?
AA: (laughs) I think I need to explain that… I coach so much, so much, so I’m at the box on my rest days. But I don’t think there’s ever a day where I just stay home and do nothing. I love to be active, so even if I’m at the beach, I never just swim; I like to run around or practice gymnastics. However, I do feel like I take rest days. If you compare a heavy training day to a beach day, I would consider that a rest day.
Your nickname is Ager Bomb. How did it come about?
AA: The nickname came from Project Ager Bomb, an online fundraiser to raise funds to open my own box. Though we didn’t come close to our goal, it was a good post Regionals distraction last year for me to try to be an entrepreneur. We raised $15,000 in a month, which was really cool. We gave all the money back since we didn’t meet our goal. It was a cool experience and the name Ager Bomb stuck. A few friends that already called me that, but now I feel like it should be on my birth certificate, Andrea “Ager Bomb” Ager. (laughs) I think it’s fun and people have fun with it. I still do hope to open my own gym. I’ve been working on it for two years now. I’m currently working with some of my sponsors and I really do think I’ll be opening a gym soon.
I’d be more centered if I was in one place the whole day. I currently work at four gyms and I’m a member of an Oly gym. In Los Angeles everything is 45 minutes apart. I drive at least two hours a day. It would be really good for me to be in my own place and have my own community. I would be so happy if that happened this year.
You have a huge online presence and following. Tell us about it.
AA: I like branding and I like that I have an online presence because I love social media. I like to see what’s going on with other people. I like to post pictures of my workouts and updates. It’s fun. I’ve met a lot of fans and we’ve kept in touch. It sounds so random, but I even get clients through social media. There’s one in particular who I’d met a few times. She actually drove two and a half hours from Bakersfield to train with me. When she made it to Regionals, we got to compete together and I got to watch her. It was then when I saw what can come of out of coaching. It’s not just what comes out of your own training, but it’s the lifecycle of CrossFit that makes me a better athlete.
Looking into 2014, what can we expect from Ms. Ager Bomb?
AA: Everyone is getting stronger and everyone is getting better at their skills. I hope to be a force to be reckoned with. I think I can only get better. I hope to come out just as aggressive and earn my way to the Games the right way. I’m not going to be letting up. I’m going to keep competing as much as I have been. I’ve traveled to Seattle, Phoenix, Miami, Colorado and all the way to London. I’ve competed all over the world this year and I love that. I think that helps me so much. Though the Games is the most coveted special weekend of the year, I think there will be lots of special weekends this year for me. I’ll be looking forward to testing myself in ways other than the Games.
I’ve also gotten to be really good friends with Julie Foucher. We’re both coached by Doug Chapman. She too is on track for 2014. It’s good to be able to connect with someone who didn’t compete in 2013, but is preparing for next year.
What advice you would give an athlete trying to make it to the Games?
AA: Start now. There are competitions every single weekend. Start competing. Get your brain there. Research everything you can get your hands on and go for it.
Though you share a lot with your fans, what’s something our readers might not know about you?
AA: Let’s see…I’m Catholic and I go to church on Sundays and bible study every Wednesday. I spend a lot of time at church actually. I want readers to know that about me, because I think it’s a good way to show people that we’re never alone. I would have never been able to go through the trials I overcame this year, and in general, without Christ. The support from my family and from God is really important because I think people can have that if they want it or are looking for support.
Another fun fact about me is that I’m a Chalk Monster and I use a belt for everything. Sam Briggs once joked that I probably eat breakfast in my belt. (laughs) I do use it for everything.
What’s your diet like? Are you into eating clean?
AA: Yes, I keep a clean diet. I really like to pay attention to where my meat is from. I drink A LOT of milk, but other than that I am pretty Paleo. I weighed 155lbs when I started CrossFit and now I can barely get to 140. I have to eat sweet potatoes and drink milk to keep weight on. Because everyone’s goals are different, diets are different for everyone. I’m careful in sharing my own diet with clients, because there is no right diet. I prefer a lot of meat and vegetables and not that much fruit or sugar. I feel like that’s what has worked best for me.
Do you have a personal motto or philosophy?
AA: Unbroken Designs just made a necklace for me and the back of the necklace says, ‘May faith keep me strong.’ I really feel like that helps me. I don’t think the phrase is for everyone, but if you even changed the faith part to faith in yourself, your goals, perseverance, whatever it is that keeps you in the gym–knowing that you’re better and that you keep coming back because you keep getting better. Without that love for the Game, I don’t think anyone can keep coming back and continuing to do what we do.