Kristine Best: First-Time CrossFit Games Competitor Talks Breaking Through and Training for the Unknown

The CrossFit Games rookie is facing a very different type of competition in 2020.

Kristine Best’s quest to qualify for the CrossFit Games started in 2014 when she placed 21st at the North East Regional competition.

Every year since then, she has contended, but has never quite broken through. Her best finish was in 2017 at the East Regional competition when she placed sixth overall, missing out on a trip to the Games by just one position.

This year, with a new coach—OPEX Big Dawg Coach Sam Smith—Best finally punched her ticket to the big show when she placed 19th overall in the worldwide CrossFit Open competition.

Finally, Best had done it. She was off to Madison, Wisconsin to compete with the best in the world.

“Just to be in the same league as athletes like Tia-Clair (Toomey) and Kari Pearce, that was a big accomplishment for me,” she said of her biggest accomplishment in the sport.

Though Best credits Smith as being a “game changer” in helping her achieve her goal, Smith said it came down to Best’s dedication.

“She has always had a clear vision of her goal—qualifying to the CrossFit Games—and has taken the necessary sacrifices in her lifestyle, nutrition, mindset, and training to put her in a position multiple times, and now to achieve that goal,” Smith said, adding that he has seen big improvements in his pupil in recent months when it comes to movement efficiency, strength endurance and being more confident in her abilities.

Then COVID-19 happened, and everything changed.

The current plan is for the CrossFit Games to take place as an online competition on September 18 to 20, from which the top five men and top five women will advance to an in-person finals in California at some point in the future.

“They told us it will be a two or three-day competition, so we don’t really know many details yet. We have a call with all the athletes and with CrossFit on Friday, so they’re going to tell us more details then,” she said.

Best admits it has been a bit “heartbreaking” to have finally qualified only to have a worldwide pandemic rear its head and put her dream as she envisioned it in jeopardy.

“I went and watched the Games in Madison in 2019, and I was like, “Damn, I need to be out there. I can be out there. And so making it this year was amazing. But yeah, for the Games to become basically an online qualifier is a little heartbreaking,” she said.

Best added: “But I’ll have the people there surrounding me who were there supporting me through each Open workout, so I’m happy to share the experience with them.”

Best took the time during her busy three times a day training schedule to answer some questions for us as she was cooling down on a bike post-workout.

How have you been preparing for the online Games?

Kristine Best: For the last three weekends, my coach has been programming basically competition simulations. So each day on the weekend, I have three events. Then on Tuesday and Wednesdays I have lifting sessions and skill work and some longer workouts, but the weekends have been the big ones helping me prepare to be able to perform for three days of brutalness.

Being able to handle three days of competition is something I have needed to work on. That was always a problem for me at Regionals. I would get through Friday and Saturday, but then on Sunday, I wouldn’t say I would shit the bed, but it was more that my body just wouldn’t be able to withstand three days of competition. I would just kind of be done. I would have given it my all, but I needed to be better at handling volume over three days.

What is your goal? Are you hoping to be in the top five and make the finals?

Yeah, of course. I mean, I know it’s going to be tough, but I actually do well with Open-style workouts. I’m not counting anything out. I have been putting in a lot of work and in the Open and at Wodapalooza I had some top five finishes, and, you know, anyone can have a day or a weekend, so it could be me. If the workouts play in my favor, anything is possible. But I’m just going to do my best and see where I land.

What are your strengths as an athlete?

I like quicker lighter workouts, and I’m a pretty good rower, weirdly, because I’m short. But I do like getting into a dark place on the rower. I feel like I can get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And I also like heavy lifting combined with gymnastics, like squat cleans and muscle-ups, and I’m a big fan of burpees. I know, I’m one of the weirdest people in the world that way.

What are you hoping you don’t see in the online Games?

I have been working a lot on my heavy lifting, but heavy snatches have always been a tough movement for me compared to the other athletes. So a one rep max snatch wouldn’t be ideal for me, but in the heat of the moment I’m a gamer so I think I can pull something out.

Are you a full-time athlete?

I’m actually a full-time special education teacher. Our district did something similar to Zoom (at the end of last year), but we go back in-person next week. Of course, there will be a ton of restrictions with face masks and stuff, and I’m nervous we’re going to end up virtual again as soon as someone gets sick, but I go back to full-time work (in September).

Were you able to train as normal through COVID in the spring?

Yeah, I continued to train at a gym that I was sort of secretly able to go to. At the time, I was planning on competing in the Aromas (California), so at that point my coach was programming stuff for me like I would see there, like two-hour bike rides and then an hour run, but then everything changed again and it got pushed back eight weeks and here we are.

What is your training schedule like?

I train three times a day right now. My coach spreads it out so it’s not like I’m killing myself, but to a normal person that might sound kind of crazy. I do conditioning in the morning and then lift at noon and then have another session in the late afternoon. When I’m teaching, though, I can’t do three times a day so then I rest on Mondays and Thursdays, and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays I sometimes do a session at 5 a.m. and then work from 8 a.m. until 2:30 or 3 p.m. and then head back to the gym. And on the weekends I have my heavier sessions.

How are you coping with the pandemic affecting your season?

Well, this is affecting everyone right now. There are bigger problems in the world right now than going to the CrossFit Games, but yeah, for a lot of these girls it’s their full-time job and you work an entire year for this one show kind of thing and then it gets canceled. So I’m sure we’re all bummed, but CrossFit is trying to make something work, so I have to applaud them for trying to make it happen no matter what.

Featured image: @kbest_22 on Instagram, photo by @76baltazar and @richardveytsman