Some experts say athletic ability is greatly due to genetics. The Speallers must have really good genetics, because they were made to CrossFit. You may have heard of the “Legend”, six-time Games competitor, Chris Spealler, but did you know that both his mom, Jill Spealler, and sister, Julie Spealler Weldon, also compete?
The Spealler trio is a powerhouse in the CrossFit arena.
Chris, 34, is planning to give it his all in what may be his 7th year in a row at the Games, with his eyes set on a podium finish.
Julie, 36, a CrossFit Regionals competitor in 2011 and 2012, is aiming high to compete with team CrossFit Park City at the SouthWest Regionals and earn a ticket to the Games.
And Jill, 65, is hoping to return to Carson for her 3rd year in a row in the Masters Division, where she claimed 6th place in 2011, and 12th place in 2012.
There is no doubt that CrossFit is in their blood.
The secret to their success?
It’s one motto that keeps the Speallers going through intense training, challenging WODs and attaining the goals they set.
“If there is one thing I believe, and one thing I taught my kids, it’s to never give up,” Jill Spealler says.
“My mom really is the one who taught me to never give up and that’s what keeps me going out there even when I feel like I am not doing as great. I remember when I was about 13 or 14 wanting to quit wrestling and soccer, but she made me stick it out—at least for that year. Turns out wrestling ended up being my main sport, and from then on it was kind of just expected and ingrained in both me and my sister to stick it out,” Chris says.
Chris’ older sister, Julie Spealler Weldon agrees, “Never quitting is huge for all of us—in our sports growing up, in our commitments, and now in CrossFit,” she says.
Chris was the first of the trio to discover CrossFit back in 2006 when he bumped into an old friend who was a Marine at the time.
“Like most, he told me about it, I forgot, then did some googling to find the website. I did Cindy and haven’t stopped since,” Chris says.
Not long after, Chris began training his own clients “CrossFit style” at a local field house in Park City, Utah just for fun.
Who were some of his first clients, you might wonder? Well, mom and dad, of course.
A breast cancer survivor of 14 years, Jill had been looking for the “perfect fitness program” to keep her healthy and in shape. She also needed to feed her love for competition, having been a competitive athlete in field hockey, lacrosse, swimming and skiing in her younger years. “We would meet in the corner of the field house and do whatever workouts Chris would write on a tiny white board. Two years later, he opened up a place and the rest is history. I’ve been doing it ever since,” she says.
Julie was a bit more skeptical. A former collegiate runner and field-hockey player, Julie thought CrossFit was weak in comparison to running 7-miles a day. “I finally decided to give CrossFit a try when Chris opened his own gym. My husband, Clay, would always come home talking about some crazy WOD, and I remember walking in there, thinking I was fit because I ran all the time. Well, needless to say, I got my bum kicked doing overhead squats with a PVC pipe and pull-ups! I don’t enjoy being beat and have been going ever since,” she says.
Seven years later, now the whole family bonds over CrossFit. They all say at family gatherings it is not long before CrossFit enters the conversation. “CrossFit tends to stay in the background for the beginning of the evening but it’s just a matter of time before my mom or sister asks what I’m programming for the workout tomorrow. The second the door is cracked open, it’s pretty much over. It’s also pretty cool to see us take our passion for sports and athletics and all apply it on a daily basis with CrossFit,” Chris says.
On the competition side of things, Jill says things can get pretty heated when they are trying to stay in the zone, particularly during the Games season.
“We try to cheer one another on if we are not competing at the same time. Like at the Games last year, I would go watch Chris’ events right after I finished one of my WODs, but I also respect both Chris and Julie’s need to focus, and they do the same for me,” Jill says.
“We are all there for each other. It’s just the way it goes. No matter how Chris, my mom, or I finish, the thing is, we love and support each other no matter what. CrossFit or not,” Julie says.
Chris says he would kill for both his mom and his big sister. While he doesn’t get to spend as much time with them as he would like nowadays, between training, traveling for Level I certification seminars and being a ‘family man’ with his own wife and two kids, he says both have been some of his biggest cheerleaders in his life.
“For instance, I’ll never forget when I was wrestling in college I had some rough years where politics played a huge role in me not wrestling, and Julie was there for me through all of that. She gave me a typed note the first time I got to go out on the mat after all that crap and it helped to motivate me to not care what others think, prove people wrong, and in a way enjoy being the underdog. I kept it in my wallet through my senior year in college,” he says, adding, “I don’t care about being an underdog. I like it. Count me out, I dare you.”
At 5’5’’ and 151lbs, Chris acknowledges he has been considered an underdog most of his life, but he loves to prove he has a huge amount of fight. He says, this year in particular: “I want to get on that podium again. I know that I am an athlete that has to fight to be there and programming can have a fair bit to do with how I do. I’m more well-rounded and more fit than I have ever been.”
Chris also jokes that since selling out to CrossFit, both his mom and sister take the sport a little more seriously than he does. “They were the skeptics in such a huge way when I first started. Now I think they are more addicted than me,” he laughs. “It’s been great for them. I’ve seen my mom and sister gain so much confidence since starting CrossFit. Both have made tremendous gains in strength, and they are light years ahead of where they started when it comes to lifting. I think for any woman that can be pretty empowering.”
As for coaching his mom and sister, Chris says he takes more of a backseat, glad to help them if they come to him with questions, but he does not overtly program or coach them in any special way.
“I’m a pretty reserved coach with my family. I’m not sure why but it’s usually just a “good job” at the end of the workout. I think a lot of it is that I work out on my own and don’t have others cheering me on daily which is fine, so I don’t make a big deal out of it when my family is in the Open. They know I love and care about them so I find myself investing in others who may be new at the gym or more intimidated by things and may need my encouragement.
The main thing Chris does do?
“Chris always tells us to have fun, and I think for once, this year, I am trying to do just that,” Julie says.
Fun and passion are the main reasons the Spealler trio continues to compete year after year.
When asked what it’s like having a hardcore, passionate, competitive athlete as a mom right alongside them, Chris and Julie say they don’t even think twice about it. “It’s funny because I don’t see it has ‘hardcore’. I hope that when I’m 65 years old that I can just have fun with it. It’s really pretty normal to be honest. My mom has always been active and spent time working out, running, swimming, and more. So it really isn’t outside the norm for me,” Chris says.
“Some ask and say, ‘You all are just so genetically gifted.’ Yes, we are athletic. And I actually think I may be more competitive in nature than Chris, but really what is so important, more than anything, is just never quitting,” she says, summing up the theme of the Speallers’ athletic success.