Hundreds of thousands of people compete each year in what CrossFitters know as the World Wide Open. The CrossFit open is the first in a series of events that eventually determine who will be crowned the Fittest Person on Earth at the CrossFit Games. To say that Krista and I were OVER. THE. MOON. to interview Elisabeth Akinwale the first weekend of the CrossFit Open might be the understatement of the century. Not only is Akinwale a 5 times CrossFit Games Athlete, 2 time North Central Region champion, and 3 time American Open Weightlifting Championship Competitor, but she’s also a mother who manages to balance raising her son while simultaneously using her platform to empower and encourage other women with an authenticity that we all know and LOVE about her.
SFM: As a 5 time returning CrossFit Games athlete, what motivates you to continue to compete? You have already MORE than proven your place among the elite. How do you continue to keep going after it year after year AND how have your goals or motivation changed throughout your journey?
Akinwale: The question of motivation is an interesting one. Competing is a very natural thing for me. I started competing in sports when I was in elementary school. Training is also a very natural thing for me. As people so often say about fitness, it’s a lifestyle. So whether I compete or not, I’m going to be training, just like I was for many years before I had found CrossFit, The CrossFit Games, Olympic style weightlifting, or GRID. I’ve never felt that I had something to prove to anyone other than myself. However, I will say, training with The Games in mind does alter exactly what I do for training—in many ways enhancing it, and in some ways limiting it. Every year I complete I learn more about myself, about training, and through the process I see ways in which I can improve as a competitor and a person. There are preparation ideas and methods I want to experiment with, and the only way to assess them is to implement them and see what happens! My goals and motivation have evolved over the years. I started out training and competing purely for the enjoyment of it. For a couple of years I became more obsessed with the outcome—it was unfortunate because that approach was not fun and I wasn’t fully present in what I was doing, always looking forward to where I was going to place. I feel fortunate to be in a position to still participate because I’ve been able to get back to the intrinsic motivation that I started with. The motivation is to test myself and face challenges that are really opportunities to keep growing.
SFM: In a world filled with photoshop and air bushed photos, I LOVE how you’ve used your Instagram page and other social media platforms to take a stand and represent women with REAL bodies who are doing their very best to not only juggle a family and work life, but also push their physical capabilities in the gym. What message are you hoping to send to our superficial society?
Akinwale: Social media is such a double-edged sword, often representing both the best and worst of what’s out there. I like to approach social media as a vehicle to make genuine connections, share truth as I see, it and convey authenticity. I believe we can draw strength from one another and be reinforced in our own personal mission by looking at someone else and saying, “if she can do it, so can I,” or, “I never thought of that before, but it interests me.” However, that doesn’t happen in a meaningful way when we look at something false. There are lots of people who are seeking substance, even though the superficial, sensational stuff gets more attention from mainstream sources. Sometimes we are faced with giving up ‘likes,’ ‘followers,’ and income in exchange for talking about real topics and being true to our real selves. I’m not sure that I’m trying to send a message to society as a whole, but the people who need to hear my message will gravitate toward it.
SFM: I’m a mother of two small children (5 and 3) with another one on the way and I am just as “addicted” as the next person when it comes to CrossFIt. Towards the beginning of my CrossFit “obsession” I remember thinking, “If only I could spend one more hour training…”
Last year, I read one of your blog posts from ElisabethAkinwale.com that has continued to resonate with me throughout my personal CrossFitjourney…
“You have an entire lifetime to continue to pursue the fittest version of yourself, but your babies are only little for a short time. There’s never a day when I think to myself, ‘Man, I wish I had gotten a six pack faster after myson was born.”
What other words of wisdom do you have for mothers trying to find a healthy balance? How do you continually stay as grounded as you do in the most competitive of environments?
Akinwale: I’ve accepted that there are never enough hours in the day! Also, as hard as it is to admit it, you can’t do it all. At least you can’t do it all at the same time and do it well. I guess that could sound pessimistic to some, but I think it’s empowering. You are human, you have needs, your children have needs and you have a variety of demands in your life. So first off, you are not a martyr or a robot, and it’s always ok to make time for yourself and your training. In fact, caring for yourself is also a gift to your family.
At times it’s contrary, but I’ve found that being both planful and flexible is key. Get organized and prepared, anticipate that things may not go as planned, and be ready to adjust in the moment. This is very similar to what is required when performing in competition. I consider it a major attribute to be able to call an audible and execute effectively.
SFM: You have mastered quite the balancing act! You’re not only a competitive athlete, but a coach, and a mom. The number one question our readers want to know is How do you balance it all? What do you enjoy doing the most and how does each role effect the other?
Akinwale: It’s very rare that I look at anything as mastered. As soon as you feel that way, mostly likely a humbling experience is on its way. That’s one of the first things I learned when I became a parent. Just as you develop a rhythm and routine with your child, the child enters another developmental phase and you start over again, establishing a new rhythm.
Maybe it’s fair to say I’ve embraced a lifestyle that requires consistent adjustments. I find myself reviewing each training session, day, week, or training cycle, and from an affirmative perspective looking at what I can do to improve moving forward. With that mind set things continue to improve bit by bit over time. The same is true with balancing motherhood, training, my personal and professional life. There are times when I look at things and say, “this just isn’t working,” and I make adjustments to how I allocate my time and attention.
We can’t thank Elisabeth Akinwale enough for taking time out of her rigorous training schedule and busy mom life to answer a few of our questions! You can follow Akinwale’s journey on her Instagram Page.
Elisabeth, we wish you the very best of luck this open season and we will be rooting for you every step of the way!
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