The balance beam Emily Bridgers currently walks is different than any she encountered during her years in gymnastics.
This one sits between her role as Coach and CrossFit athlete.
Since she discovered CrossFit in 2010, Bridgers has tried increasingly difficult moves on this beam, from competing and placing sixth in the 2014 Games to opening CrossFit Terminus with her fiancé.
“My first few years of CrossFit I feel like that was one of the issues, not finding enough balance between training and coaching and sleep,” she said. Bridgers would coach in the morning and again at night, training in between that. Now, she blocks off three hours every day for training in the gym, and once that’s over, it’s all about coaching.
Competing in CrossFit has taught Bridgers a lot about herself as well, lessons she has been able to translate into coaching. Adaptation has been a big one.
Having done gymnastics since she was three years old, Bridgers explained that there are movements and knowledge that she just knows and took for granted. But, some things did not translate well upon the introduction to CrossFit, a sport based largely on efficiency.
For example, Bridgers swore for the longest time her strict handstand pushups were better than her kipping ones, if only because she had never done a kip. “We didn’t have things like kipping handstand pushups in gymnastics … so it was learning the hard way,” she said.
When the 2012 Regionals rolled around, Bridgers’ first appearance in the event, she came up a few points short of making the Games because of the hang cleans. “I still didn’t use the hook grip,” said Bridgers. “My head Coach had told me a million times to use a hook grip on cleans and I was crushed by the hang cleans that year.”
Although lessons like these were hard to learn, Bridgers has taken and applied them to coaching. “People that come from other fitness backgrounds into the gym and they don’t understand why we’re doing kipping pull-ups — they can easily do regular pull-ups, but I make them do jumping pull-ups to learn the swing and the motion,” she said. “I try to break it down on a level that’s going to get them to understand.”
Plus, Bridgers had to realize not everyone understands the terminology she uses from her gymnastics background. And, while coaching gymnastics meant teaching kids, CrossFit usually means teaching adults. In gymnastics, skills like handstands are learned at a young age, so Bridgers had to adapt to recognizing a new kind of success in CrossFit.
“You’re working with a 40-year-old CrossFitter who just learned how to kick up to handstand for the first time, and it’s a really big deal, and I guess I didn’t really realize that when I first started coaching, but those are the things that get me excited and get the athletes that I’m coaching excited about,” she explained.
Over the years, Bridgers has come to love CrossFit and its community. In the end, she said Coaches need to be there for members and show them they can do more than they ever thought possible.
“Coaches [need to know] how to motivate their athletes,” she said. “Knowing what motivates them so they can push to that place they didn’t think they could.”