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CrossFit’s Next Superstar In Waiting (Kristine Best)

In this episode of the BarBend Podcast, we’re talking to CrossFit Games athlete, Kristine Best. While fans may know her as an elite CrossFit athlete, most of the people she works with every day know her as something else: a teacher. 

Unlike other Games-level athletes — who build lives around training full time — Kristine is a full time special education teacher. This means balancing training with a highly-demanding day job, and because of that the sacrifices she makes are bit unlike what most other high level athletes shoulder at the top of their game. 

We talk about how the demands of both teaching and training help motivate her to keep pushing and much more. 

We want to take a second to give a special shoutout to our episode sponsor, Transparent Labs. If you want clean, clearly labeled supplements with ingredients backed by science, Transparent Labs has you covered. (Seriously, no hidden ingredients, no proprietary blends, and nothing artificial.) That includes their uber-popular BULK pre-workout, with ingredients we love to see for focus and energy PLUS vitamin D3, boron, and zinc. All the good stuff, absolutely no fillers. Use code “BARBEND” at checkout for an extra 10% off your order.

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Thomas Tao talks to Kristine Best about:

  • Her experience competing in Stage 1 of the CrossFit Games (2:00)
  • The handstand hold event (5:15)
  • The 1000-meter row event (9:45)
  • How she felt the day and weeks after Stage 1 (14:25)
  • The fatigue of competition and how to recover (17:00)
  • Balancing an intense full-time teaching job with elite-level training (19:35)
  • When your colleagues don’t know your an elite level athlete (23:45)

Learn more about our sponsor Transparent Labs and get 10% off your order with code “BARBEND.” (We may receive commissions on items purchased through links on this page.)

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Transcription

Kristine BestKristine Best

…that weekend. Those workouts you put in such a crazy intensity that you might not put in during your simulation weekends and when you’re preparing.

 

You go hard and you’re intense about it, but when it’s game time, it’s a different intensity, and you push your body to a different level that your body’s shocked. That’s why you’re so sore after a competition because the intensity level is through the roof, but you recover.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao, and this podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today, I’m talking to CrossFit Games athlete, Kristine Best. Kristine isn’t your typical games level athlete, where most top competitors build lives around training full-time. In addition to honing in her world-class fitness, Kristine is also a full-time special education teacher.

 

Her insane schedule means balancing training with the demanding day job. Because of that, the sacrifices she makes are a bit unlike what most high-level athletes shoulder while training at the top of their game. We chat about that balancing act and much, much more.

 

We want to take a second to give a special shoutout to our episode sponsor, Transparent Labs. If you want clean, clearly labeled supplements with ingredients backed by science, Transparent Labs has you covered. Seriously, no hidden ingredients, no proprietary blends, and nothing artificial.

 

That includes their uber-popular, bulk pre-workout, with ingredients we love to see for focus and energy plus vitamin D3, boron, and zinc. All the good stuff, absolutely no fillers. Use code BARBEND at checkout for an extra 10 percent off.

 

Kristine, thank you so much for joining us today. We’re recording this not even two weeks after stage one of the 2020 CrossFit Games, which was a weird format, it was virtual, you have to do seven events across two days. Tell us what that was like? What was your support system for that competition?

Kristine BestKristine Best

The greatest part about this format was that I was able to have a ton of people that might not have been able to come watch me, be there, and support me. I always gives them most of the credit because without them I wouldn’t be where I am today, and for them to be able to watch me grow throughout the years, and then finally achieve my goal and compete amongst the best it was great for them to be there and it just made it that much better.

 

It was a weird experience a bit, but at the same time, I felt very at home, and very comfortable, and I had everyone watching me and supporting me. That was the best thing ever saw. I was pretty happy with my support that I had.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s fantastic. I have to ask and it’s this something covering the games was different than it has been because we were finding the scores as they came in and sometimes the scores weren’t correct and there were leaderboard changes and stuff was wrong on the CrossFit’s leaderboard.

 

It was complex for everyone involved. What was it competing and not knowing the times over the results that your competition had? Just having to go at the workouts without that info?

Kristine BestKristine Best

That was one of the most challenging parts because even in the open you get an idea of what certain people got and everything like that or even at a competition you know what people times to beat, and everything like that. You are pretty much going at it and you’re like, “I’m going to do the best I can do and hopefully I did well.”

 

There were a lot of surprises, I would say. The first two events I did really well, and I was shocked to be honest with you. I was like, “What? I came in fourth?” I shocked myself, but it gave me a little bit of confidence going into the rest of the weekend. Even the last day, I thought I did better in some workouts, and it turned out I didn’t. It’s a learning experience.

 

I say to myself if I had Thea or Catherine running next to me during the Nancy workout I was like I definitely could have run faster. I try to think of that but it’s not the same as if they were right there, so definitely challenging and you just have to give it your all and stay within yourself and do the best you can do and just hope that the scores turn out the way you want them to.

 

That was definitely a learning experience and everyone was at a disadvantage. It was very interesting for sure.

David TaoDavid Tao

There are two workouts I want to talk about specifically because they’re workouts we generally often don’t see contestants in CrossFit competitions because they were single modality events. The first was the handstand hold.

 

How do you approach that event and you were in a little box, a four-by-four box for those who maybe weren’t familiar with the event. You’re in a four-by-four box and you just have to hold a handstand for as long as possible. Did you have a time you were aiming for?

Kristine BestKristine Best

No idea, [laughs] to be honest with you. I feel like going into that event I was like, “Whatever happens, happens.” I’m not great at this, but I’m good at handstand walking. I would say that’s one of my strengths. I was like, “All right, I’m going to try to keep moving the whole time.” I was…

 

[crosstalk]

David TaoDavid Tao

Within this little box.

Kristine BestKristine Best

Right in the box. You only did a few attempts in that 20 minutes because your shoulders got pretty smoked after holding it for, I was getting about 40 to 50 seconds each time. I got 54 seconds, which for me, during it I was like, “That’s a PR,” and everyone was cheering. We made the best out of it, but it was a very interesting event and I just did my best, honestly.

 

I didn’t have an expectation. I wanted a minute. Once I started getting going, I was like, “I really want to get a minute.” Once I found how to do it I was smoked. At that point, it was too far gone. I think if I tried now again I definitely could get a minute. There’s going to be a lot of practicing that in the future. I really need to improve my shoulder strength anyway.

 

That showed in the strict handstand push-ups. That’s always been a weakness for me. I did well for me in that workout, but compared to everyone else I’m not at their level with that yet. It’s a weakness I’ve been working on and I need to continue to work on. I’m going to learn that split-leg thing that all the girls were doing. Next time I’ll be longer for sure.

David TaoDavid Tao

When I saw them doing that it reminded me of if you watch tightrope walkers. They have this pole that they balance with, and the first videos I saw coming in were. I think I saw [inaudible 7:47] videos where her legs were in a splits, front and back. I was like, “Oh, my God. That’s brilliant.” It’s the same thing. You can move your feet a little bit and you just balance.

Kristine BestKristine Best

That’s why she won that. That’s so impressive just to hold for. She did 2 minutes and 54 seconds. She held it two minutes longer than me. Very impressive performance by her. That was the way to go. You saw more girls that were successful with that were doing that same thing.

 

That’s something that needs to be worked on but it was the unknown and I thought it was a great event honestly because it was a good test.

David TaoDavid Tao

We’ll get back to that in just a moment. But first, another quick word from our sponsor, Transparent Labs.

 

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One thing I love about the CrossFit Games, because you don’t know the events well ahead of time. You have to train for everything because you don’t know what Dave Castro is going to throw at you.

 

One of the things I like about it is when you see an athlete crack the code on a workout and figure out a new movement and they finish 30 percent better than everyone else or something like that. They’re the one person to figure out the tweak. It’s always super fascinating to me. That was the equivalent in this year’s workout. You have to split your legs in the handstand.

Kristine BestKristine Best

For sure. He throws different choice at you. He had to do that. I applaud him for making things a little crazy. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Here’s the other workout I want to talk about. This is one that I can relate to, having done this myself on numerous occasions. That’s the 1,000 meter row.

 

For people who don’t spend a lot of time on a rowing machine, which I haven’t in recent memory, the 2,000 meter row is the one that everyone thinks about as like, “Oh, that’s a really tough test, and you have to really push yourself and you just collapse afterward.”

 

I think in a lot of ways, the 1,000 is actually even worse because you have to go hard for the entire time. Talk us through your approach on that workout. How hard did you push yourself on that workout that’s just over that three-minute range?

Kristine BestKristine Best

Weirdly, rowing, I’m pretty good at for my height.

David TaoDavid Tao

You’re pretty good at everything. You’re a CrossFit Games athlete. I should just clarify here.

Kristine BestKristine Best

Rowing, I’m pretty sure. You have to put a lot of power into it. I’ve been keeping up on the rowing. My coach has been on me with that. When that workout came out, to be honest with you, I was like, “I want to win that workout.” That was my mentality going into it. I knew that I could.

 

Then once again, when all the scores came out, I was like, “What?” Anyway, that’s a workout that’s painful. You need to go to a dark place, and stay there, and know that it’s three minutes and 20 seconds of your life, and then you’re done. I had a strategy on there. I wanted to start off pulling pretty hard, and then settle into a 144 pace.

 

I was like, “That’ll get me to nearest 330, which could be really good.” At the end, I was splitting it into 250s. That was my goal. The first 250 pretty much get it going, and then settle in, and then literally black out. That was what I was thinking. I was pulling way harder than I anticipated.

 

I pretty much held a 141 the whole entire time. Maybe at the end, I could have pulled a little harder. If you look at the leaderboard, I came in 12th in that, but six people above me were one second difference. Then me from the person who I think she got 315 or something like that, it’s like seven seconds.

 

It was literally seconds. I gave it all that I could. I was happy with it. I thought I would place higher, to be honest with you. Some of these girls did the same thing as me. We all empty the tank on that one. I liked that one. It was quick, but it was definitely painful, for sure. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

The field was pretty stacked. Every CrossFit Games athlete at this point is a pretty superlative rower. It’s gotten to the point where CrossFit Games athletes will often stack up against professional rowers on those shorter duration rows.

 

In fact, Sam Briggs held a world record for a period of time on the 1,000 meter row for her age and weight category. She didn’t even win this workout.

Kristine BestKristine Best

I know. It’s crazy. I heard that before I went. I forgot what I even got, like 321 or some 22 or something like that, which is insane. When I finished — I think I beat her by one second — I was super happy because I had nothing to compare it to. I was like, “You know what? That’s great.” [laughs] The field of women is super impressive.

 

When I was at Water Palooza earlier this year, we had to do a pace boat. It was pretty much 12 minutes of rowing, and the pace boat’s trying to catch you. I did pretty well in that. You saw some of the same people that did beat me in that, beat me in the 1K row. These girls are incredible. It was a good test.

David TaoDavid Tao

Don’t sell yourself too short here. You’re pretty fit as well, I’m sure if I were to ask them.

Kristine BestKristine Best

I got to give myself a little more credit. I was very proud of how I performed at the games, for sure.

David TaoDavid Tao

How did you feel the day or the week after stage? You had seven workouts across two days. Again, for those who weren’t following along closely, a lot of people outside of the powerlifting or outside of the CrossFit community who listen to this could be powerlifters, weightlifters, you name it. You had seven events across two days.

 

You were not one of the five who will go on and compete in Aromas and in the finals, but you were one of the 30 who completed these workouts. How did you feel the day after and the week after? Some people get right back to training. Some people will take a week off. I would probably not get out of bed the next day if I were you.

Kristine BestKristine Best

The next day was weird. The next day was very weird. I was like, “I could eat whatever I want today. I could do whatever I want.” I was mopey. I came off such a high. Then I was like, “What now?” I talked with my coach briefly. He said I’m going to take two weeks off, which I was like, “Two weeks. You’re kidding, right?” [laughs]

 

You know what? My body needs it because of all the training. I beat the crap out of my body, so my body needs the rest. I’ve been listening to him, but I’m going to start moving around. It’s been a week and a half now. I’m going to start moving around maybe tomorrow. I’m not going to start training training until next week.

 

My body was pretty trashed. My legs were not well and my abs from all those GHDs, not well. The abs took the longest, took me a few days to not be sore. After like two or three days, I was OK because I had built up a lot of volume with my coach to prepare for a weekend like that.

 

At the same time, that weekend, those workouts, you put in such a crazy intensity that you might not put in during your simulation weekends and when you’re preparing. You go hard. You’re intense about it, but when it’s game time, it’s a different intensity. You push your body to a different level that your body’s shocked.

 

That’s why you’re so sore after a competition, because the intensity level is just through the roof, but you recover.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s not just the physical fatigue. It’s the mental fatigue of that training volume leading up to that event. Correct me if I’m wrong here. I don’t coach CrossFit Games athletes so I probably am wrong, but I feel like the two weeks is something I’ve heard before coaches tell their athletes to take two weeks off.

 

The first week is to let your body recover. The second week is to let your mind recover.

Kristine BestKristine Best

It was crazy too because right after the games, I had a day off because it was Sunday the next day. Then Monday, I went right back to work and had a full week of work, which was good. I just focused on work all week. I didn’t have to go to the gym right after.

 

He made me do this protein deload. It’s a three-day cleanse. It’s for the mind and body. You take in a ton of protein, and your body’s breaking it down and everything. It’s a rest from that, and a break from the protein. It’s pretty much vegetables. I’m on my last day today, and I’m so happy. [laughs]

 

It’s been a real long three days. I’m so dramatic, but I couldn’t have caffeine either. Usually, I have coffee, and I had a bit of a withdrawal the first day, so that wasn’t really fun. It’s good to cleanse the mind and the body, and I stayed disciplined with it.

 

Tomorrow, I’m getting a really nice coffee. I’m very excited about that. You need to give yourself time to break away from finesses. It’s great, but it’s not everything. It’s just a nice therapy part of my life. That’s how I look at it, but I’m getting back in the gym this weekend to do something, to move around, jump in a class or two.

David TaoDavid Tao

You are going to be an absolute animal after having two weeks of rest…

Kristine BestKristine Best

Yeah, I’m going to kill it. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

…after doing a coffee detox, after going through the caffeine withdrawal, which I definitely understand. I have to do that to myself every few months. I’m like, “Wow.” All of this, you’re going to be back to eating protein. You’re going to be on the caffeine. You’re going to be well-rested. You’re going to be an animal. You’re first…

 

[crosstalk]

Kristine BestKristine Best

No one’s going to know who hit them. They’re going to be like, “Who’s this girl?” [laughs] I’m already feeling excited to get back to talking about it.

 

That’s good stuff.

David TaoDavid Tao

One thing I want to focus on what you mentioned. 8, 9, 10 years ago, definitely, CrossFit Games athletes, they weren’t just full-time CrossFit Games athletes. A decade ago, that wasn’t a thing. There wasn’t enough money in the sport. People were working other jobs, and they were training to put a CrossFit Games.

 

Around five years ago, we started to see a transition to where people started to become full-time athletes, whether they would start doing some coaching or online coaching, or they have more of a sponsor-supported lifestyle.

 

These days, it is more of a rarity to have a CrossFit Games athlete who has a full-time demanding job that is completely away from the gym, and you very much have that. You’re a full-time special education teacher. My question for you, and this might not be an easy answer, I’m sure it’s not an easy answer. How do you balance the two? What is a normal day like, I guess I should ask.

Kristine BestKristine Best

A normal day, I wake up, some it depends on the day. Usually, I needed a thing with my coach that I’m going to do two double sessions on the weekends to save with my stress. On the weekends, I have more time, so I saved my double sessions for then.

 

During the week, I’ll wake up and I go to work from 8:00 to about 3:30. Then right after work, whether it’s to stay after for a little bit or not, I’ll stay after and then I’ll go right to the gym. Then I’m pretty much at the gym from, say, 4:00 to 7:00, 8:00, until I’m done.

 

I know it sounds like you’re at the gym for three hours. I have to get there, I have to warm up, I have to stretch, I have to take little breaks in-between the pieces that I have. Make sure I’m eating something too in-between. It’s pretty much work, gym. Then pretty much I go home, I eat dinner, and then I tend to do it again, and again. [laughs]

 

It’s a good balance. I’m busy all day, and I have high energy. It’s good, I enjoy being at work. I really love teaching. I also coach too on the side on my rest days, I’ll coach at the gym. I really love doing that too because coaching is like a form of teaching. I really love helping everyone out. I just feel like it’s very rewarding.

 

I’m used to it, I’ve been doing it for as long as I’ve been doing CrossFit. It’s become very normal to me. I don’t have a ton of time, I would say, for certain things. There’s sacrifices you have to make and especially with training. Training for the Games, I was doing three sessions a day. That was during the quarantine.

 

During the quarantine, I would be online for teaching. I would fit in my training, I would do three sessions a day leading up to the Games. Now, I’m back to just one session after work. It’s a longer session though, for sure. My coach makes it so that I’m not in the gym for too long doing a million things. He wants to make sure that I’m not super stressed out at the gym because he knows how stressful my day can be.

 

Just everything needs to be really dialed-in though with me. I need to sleep, I need to make sure I’m eating correctly, hydrating, and everything like that, because the day is long. It’s definitely been a work-in-progress. I’m starting to master it, and get better at it, but still work in progress, for sure.

David TaoDavid Tao

What do your colleagues at school like? Are they supportive, are they just asking why are you doing this to yourself? I’m curious as to what their reaction is.

Kristine BestKristine Best

[laughs] My colleagues know, but I don’t think they really know the extent. Some of them saw the extent of it. I actually did one of the track workout I did at my school’s track. A bunch of them came and watched. Them coming, and watching, and then seeing posted online, they get it a little bit more, but I don’t really talk about it that much at school.

 

I try to keep that separated. I do talk about it. It’s definitely my hobby and what I love to do. When I’m at work, there’s just so much going on that there’s no time to talk about that. They know and they support me, but I don’t think they fully know the extent of what I’m doing. I’m OK with that. They support me, no matter what.

David TaoDavid Tao

They feel like, “You do CrossFit?” One of them is like, “Yes, I do,” but it’s almost weird to be like, “Yeah, I’m actually one of the absolute best in the world at it.” That’s probably a weird bridge to the conversation, like you want to…

Kristine BestKristine Best

Yeah, it’s strange.

David TaoDavid Tao

It’s very interesting to me that you say you don’t talk about it too much because I always thought the first rule of CrossFit was that you had to talk about CrossFit all the time.

Kristine BestKristine Best

Yeah, you would think, right?

 

It’s funny. I’d be the first one to be like, someone’s like, “Oh, I’m trying to eat better, I’m trying to go gym.” I’m like, “Why don’t you try CrossFit?” I was like, “You can’t knock it until you try it.” I always try to say that to everyone, but I always tell everyone it’s not for everyone. It’s definitely an interesting dynamic.

 

The kids don’t even really know, but some of them actually came and watched me at the track which was really awesome. They made the sign, it was very cute. That was really cool. Then going in on Monday, a lot of kids came up to me and they were like, “Great job.” It felt really good and to know that I came in 16th in the world’s, it’s pretty cool accomplishment.

David TaoDavid Tao

No one’s going call you lazy, and none of your kids are going to say you’re half-assing it, that’s for sure.

Kristine BestKristine Best

No, I’m on them. They have no idea. I’m on it.

David TaoDavid Tao

Kristine, where’s the best place for people to keep up to date with you, with the training you’re doing, and I guess gearing up for the 2021 season, we’re already in prep mode for that. Where’s the best place to follow you?

Kristine BestKristine Best

I do have an Instagram. I don’t have a ton of followers, but I’m working on it.

David TaoDavid Tao

Yeah, that will go up. I’ve already seen it go up for you significantly.

Kristine BestKristine Best

 I would say I’m not great at Instagram. I feel I try to be good at it, but I feel with my schedule I really don’t have time. I don’t make a ton of time for it, but I’m trying to be better about it. I would say Instagram is the best place to find me. If you want to follow me it’s kbest_22, that’s my handle, so look it out.

David TaoDavid Tao

The road to six figures starts here.

Kristine BestKristine Best

 I know, I’m trying. Right now I’m at 4K, and I’m killing it, so I’m happy about it. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

We wouldn’t get into it too much here, but what I will say is social media, it can be such a blessing, and such a curse for people in strength athletics. It’s a way to build a following, but at the same time, it’s almost you have to pull double duty as a social media expert. It’s a weird pressure I think people feel, and that athletes feel. You’re not alone in feeling that.

Kristine BestKristine Best

It hasn’t been a big thing for me, because I do have another job and everything, but I’m trying to get some sponsorships from certain companies. Honestly, it kills me that I don’t have a good social media, because honestly, they love that. I don’t blame them.

 

I’m trying to see if I can get some sponsorships and hopefully, another source of income. Just trying to get myself out there more, and show a lot of people that you can have a job, and also compete if you want to. It’s definitely possible. You definitely have to know where to put your time and energy.

David TaoDavid Tao

Definitely possible, but certainly not easy. I have to say, I was excited about this conversation, and have enjoyed getting to know you a little bit better and about how you navigate that. It is something that we can all learn a lot from.

 

If someone can make time to compete at this high of a level with a very demanding job, then you know what? That’s a little bit motivating to someone like me, where I’m like, “Yeah. I can make an hour today.” You know what I mean?

Kristine BestKristine Best

Yeah.

David TaoDavid Tao

 I appreciate you sharing that. That’s something that we can all take a lesson from, even those of us, who like myself, may be past the window for hitting that elite status. [laughs]

Kristine BestKristine Best

You never know. Anything’s possible.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

We’re all trying to get better. Hey, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

Kristine BestKristine Best

Thanks for having me.

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