x

Get Stronger in 3 minutes (or less)

World records, results, training, nutrition, breaking news, and more. Join the BarBend Newsletter for everything you need to get stronger. Join the BarBend Newsletter for workouts, diets, breaking news and more.
BarBend Newsletter

Steph Chung: Community, CrossFit, and Competition Goals (Podcast)

Today we’re talking to Steph Chung, an elite CrossFit athlete who’s also on the executive committee of the Professional Fitness Athlete’s Association. After a lengthy gymnastics career in the US, Steph discovered CrossFit, which quickly became her primary social outlet while living abroad in the Middle East. It’s where she found friends, developed her athleticism, and even where she first met with her now-husband. Now back in the United States, Steph lives and trains in Massachusetts. She joined us virtually to talk about training, what many elite CrossFitters want to see next for the sport, and much, much more.

Watch our interview:

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Tao talks to Steph Chung about:

  • Steph’s current training goals, and what the calendar holds (2:19)
  • How COVID-19 impacted Steph’s competition schedule (5:10)
  • Competition frequency for top CrossFit athletes (7:00)
  • Her competition background and discovering CrossFit (11:01)
  • The best sports to build a foundation for high-level CrossFit (16:50)
  • CrossFit couples and being a competitive person (21:48)
  • Steph’s involvement in the Professional Fitness Athletes’ Association (27:00)
  • Can we standardize movements and safety protocols at competition? (31:00)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

Steph ChungSteph Chung

It was because I was young, I was relatively alone in the Middle East. I didn’t really know anyone. I didn’t have friends or family, so the gym was my family. The longer I was at the gym, the more people [laughs] I happened to see.

 

You overlap with classes, and then the next class leaves, and then the next class comes in. That for me was where I got my sense of community.

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. This podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today I’m talking to Steph Chung, an elite CrossFit, athlete who’s also on the executive committee of the Professional Fitness Athletes’ Association. After a lengthy gymnastics career in the US, Steph discovered CrossFit which quickly became her primary social outlet while living abroad in the Middle East.

 

It’s where she found friends, developed her athleticism, and even where she first met her now-husband.

 

Now back in the United States, Steph lives and trains in Massachusetts. She joined us virtually to talk about training, what many elite CrossFitters want to see next for the sport, and much, much more.

 

Also, I want to take a second to say we’re incredibly thankful that you listened to this podcast. If you haven’t already, be sure to leave a rating and review of the BarBend Podcast in your app of choice.

 

I’d also recommend subscribing to the BarBend newsletter to stay up to date on all things strength. Just go to barbend.com/newsletter to start becoming the smartest person in your gym today. Now, let’s get to it.

 

Steph, thanks so much for joining us today. I’ve actually never had the pleasure of speaking with you before. I’ve been a fan for a while, so this is pretty cool. I got to ask, because the season has — for all strength sports, CrossFit, weightlifting, powerlifting, you name it — it’s up in the air. Next year’s seasons in a lot of these sports are a little bit up in the air.

 

People aren’t necessarily sure what they’re training for. What are you training for right now? [laughs] What does your calendar look like for the remainder of the year?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Well, I think that’s the big question on everybody’s mind. Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be chatting with you. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that planning has to be short term, and you have to be flexible.

 

I’m a huge planner, as well. That’s one of my big things. I love to plan way in advance. 2020 has beaten that out of me, whether I was willing or not.

 

Training is going well. Quarantine gave me a good opportunity to work on my running, which I really, really, really needed. We’re back in the gym now in Boston. We’ve opened. Things seem to be going pretty well.

 

Of course, things could change next week, we’ll see. I’m enjoying it for now. The season as far as CrossFit goes, it looks like the only thing on the horizon is the CrossFit games. I didn’t qualify this year through the open. I won’t be going to that. It looks like I have an extended offseason going forward until the next Sanctionals come up.

David TaoDavid Tao

There has been some talking, and we’re recording this, and we don’t know for sure. Dave Castro talks about it on a live stream about potentially changing the CrossFit open dates back to February, which could impact the rest of qualification season and impact whether or not people who needs to compete at Sanctionals to qualify for next year’s games.

 

If the open were to move to February, do you think that you would try and qualify? Would your goal be to try and qualify for the games out of the open? Do you still have your sights set on the Sanctional season for next year?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

We talk about this as competitive athletes. The open is what kicks off our season. I am looking forward to the open. I think especially this year. It makes sense to have it in February and March, particularly with the games being pushed and everything going on with COVID right now.

 

I know gyms in some places, like New York where you are, aren’t even open. Having it potentially in October seems like a push.

 

If I’m able to travel to Sanctionals, if they’re able to host events, I would love to be there. I love to compete person at those events.

 

I do think it’s nice to qualify out of the open. It gives you more time to prep for the games, but also it’s a great way to start your season. You can use Sanctionals as practice and focus on what you need to get better for the rest of the season.

David TaoDavid Tao

Now, with this current season, the 2020 season, some Sanctionals did occur. They obviously happened pre-COVID. In fact, there were a couple of Sanctionals that seem to be taking place while COVID was hitting. There were questions on, should we cancel the competition? Should we hold them? A lot was up in the air.

 

With being the great planner you are, did you have events on the calendar that you didn’t get to compete in this year?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

When shut down happened globally, I was preparing for Iceland. I was a little bit fortunate this year because a lot of the competitions that I wanted to compete at, that were high in my list, happened early in the season pre-COVID.

 

I competed in three competitions in something like four months. I got a lot of competition in on the early side, which was fortunate because I like to compete. I didn’t miss out on a lot of it because of COVID. Iceland was a plan. I was in the middle of prepping and ramping up for that.

 

I had planned to go to some through the summer as well. They hadn’t solidified yet. Everything happened so quickly. Once we were a couple of weeks in, it was evident that almost nothing was going to be able to continue. That all got placed on next year.

David TaoDavid Tao

I’m curious about the frequency of competition, and the strain that puts on your body and your training as an athlete. Even five years ago, the CrossFit games calendar was a lot more spread out. There was the Open, there was Regionals, there was the Games. There might be some independent competitions within there.

 

You have your Wodapaloozas, the Granite Games, things like that. These days, it seems like games athletes have the opportunity to compete a lot more frequently, whether they’re trying to qualify for the games specifically or not. You said you’re someone who likes to compete a lot.

 

Is there a tipping point where your performance starts to be hindered because you’re competing too much? You’re ramping up, and then recovering from these competitions in quick succession?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Oh, absolutely. To be honest, I haven’t had the opportunity to compete back-to-back like that before. I did bite off a little bit more than I could chew in the beginning of the season. I competed in the end of November at Filthy 150. I went to Mayhem in January. Two weeks later, I was at Strength in Depth.

 

I had a competition, Atlas Games that was planned for a month after Strength in Depth. I had to pull out of that one because I was too tired. For me at least, there’s definitely a point at which competing was too much. That was something I learned. It’s different for every athlete.

 

Some athletes can compete more than others. Others like the sparse competition. That’s one of the great things about the Sanctional system, is that you can choose.

 

If you don’t need as much downtime and you want to compete as much as you can, then you have the opportunity to do that, versus the person who wants to compete at one Sanctional and make it count can also do that.

David TaoDavid Tao

You’re talking about that two-week turnaround between those two events. What for you is a more reasonable turnaround? If you want to compete in two events, what is the quickest back-to-back that you think you could reasonably do that and feel like you were operating at nearly full capacity?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Maybe four weeks. I don’t know for sure. You certainly couldn’t do one every four weeks for four months in a row. I had a decent little break between Filthy 150 and Mayhem. Had I had another week or two in between Mayhem and Strength in Depth, that would have been doable. The two-week turnaround wasn’t quite enough.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk a little bit about recovery. You’re not brand new to the CrossFit space, but at the same time…I would say, from my perspective, and I could be wrong here. You’re still relatively young in this sport compared to a lot of the other folks in the sport. I hear people use the term, which I hate, but they use it all the time, training age.

 

They talk about, it doesn’t matter how old you are. It matters how much stress you’ve put on your body as you progress in the sport, as you spend more time training in the sport. Do you find an impact on how quickly you can recover, and the kind of techniques you’re using to prioritize your recovery?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Definitely. My recovery techniques have evolved with my training. There’re so many recovery techniques out there. It is so individual that you have to figure out what works best for you. I’ve definitely done a lot to figure out what I can get the most bang for my back. It varies though.

 

I like having a lot of tools in my arsenal at different points of training. When I’m peaking for a competition versus off season, those are different demands on your body. Having a lot of different tools to pull from is really important.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk a little bit about your general athletic background. It’s something that a lot of our listeners might not know. When did you get into CrossFit? I’m always curious about the timeline it takes to go from finding CrossFit to reaching that elite level? What was your athletic background pre-CrossFit?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Sure. I started CrossFit in 2013. I was a gymnast all of my young life and in through college. I started competing when I was maybe five. I was tiny. That’s all I ever wanted to do. I started competing then. I had an injury along the way, so I took a little bit of my high school years off.

 

When I went to college, I decided to do club gymnastics. It was still fun for me. I still wanted to be involved in gymnastics, but my body wasn’t ready to take the varsity pounding. To be honest, my skills weren’t up to that competition level. I did collegiate club gymnastics.

 

Just before my senior year, I was at that crossroads of looking ahead to the future saying like, “You know, there’s no future in gymnastics for me. I’m going to be too old and it’s too hard on my body.” I tried CrossFit. I loved it.

 

When I graduated, I continued training at the recreational class level until I met my now-husband at a gym in the Middle East. He convinced me that it’s fun to train a little bit more. You can come to class and that’s fun, but he was noticing that I was hanging around for hours afterward, just socializing with people because I wanted to be with my friends.

 

He said, “If you train just a little bit more, you’ll actually make use of the time that you’re at the gym.”

 

That’s how I started training, actually training for CrossFit rather than just being a class athlete.

David TaoDavid Tao

You’re one of those people who kind of hangs out in the back after class, doing a lengthy cool down, gossiping, chatting, talking about the workout. It was…

Steph ChungSteph Chung

That was totally me. Yes.

David TaoDavid Tao

We need a nickname for those people. That’s at every gym. It’s not just at CrossFit gyms. I first saw it at CrossFit gyms because CrossFit has such a social component. That’s where people meet their friends. They want to spend a lot of time there, but it’s the same in powerlifting gyms, weightlifting gyms.

 

There are those people who you always wonder like, “Are they about to take class? Are they about to train? Have they been here for two hours since the most recent class?” You build that friend group around that.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Absolutely. Myself? I fall into the group of ever-stretchers. Just could stretch for hours. Sitting around, not particularly doing anything but stretching and enjoying people’s company. That was definitely me.

 

It was because I was young. I was relatively alone in the Middle East. I didn’t really know anyone. I didn’t have friends or family, so the gym was my family. The longer I was at the gym, the more people [laughs] I happened to see.

 

You overlap with classes, and then the next class leaves, and then the next class comes in. That for me was where I got my sense of community.

David TaoDavid Tao

Now when did you move back to the United States along this timeline?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Early 2019, right in the middle of the last Open that fell in February/March.

David TaoDavid Tao

You were still living in the Middle East when you qualified for your first Games, correct?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Yes. Sorry, you asked about how long it took. I started in 2013. It took, from then, three years for me to make my first Regionals in 2016. It took three years at Regionals. In 2018, I qualified for the CrossFit Games.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there a breakthrough moment you had in training leading up to that year’s Regionals where you knew, you were like, “Hey, this is the year I’m qualifying”? Was it more of a gradual process, steady improvement year to year?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

It definitely wasn’t all linear upwards. I had a pretty good rookie year at Regionals by my standards. Going into 2017, I held myself to high standards. I think my mindset was wrong. I looked at it in terms of like, “Oh, I need to perform this way, I need to finish in the top 10 to be successful rather than finding the joy in the process.”

 

I had a not so good 2017 Regionals. The next time I competed was at Wodapalooza in January. That also didn’t go as well as I wanted it to.

 

That was my breakthrough mental moment, was realizing…I wasn’t very happy after either of those competitions. I was questioning, “Do I even want to do this anymore? Do I like competing full time? Is this fun for me?”

 

The answer was yes because I love competing. I wasn’t enjoying my training because I was putting so much pressure on myself on the outcome. The mental turnaround for me was like, “OK, I need to focus just on the process and really get back to loving the training.”

 

What drives me to the competition floor is my training.

David TaoDavid Tao

What are some of your biggest strengths as a CrossFit athlete would you say? Workouts where you see those programs and you’re like, “This is me. This is Steph’s event.”

Steph ChungSteph Chung

I really like Chippers as a group of workouts. The longer grinds, longer rep schemes in general. I tend to like those. Movements, I like gymnastic movements. They come a little bit more naturally to me. Handstands, bar muscle ups, toes to bar, that kind of thing.

 

It took a while to get good at some of the other things. I came in relative on the higher end of the skill level in gymnastics, but I came in at a super low level of weightlifting and monostructural.

 

Definitely I’d classify myself as a better all-around CrossFitter. I’m not particularly excellent in any one area, but I try to be a pretty good all-around competitor.

David TaoDavid Tao

Speaking of the gymnastics background, I’ve had this debate with a number of people. It’s got to be the best sport to have a background in when you’re getting into CrossFit, right? Is there a better one? Am I missing something here?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

It’s interesting. I’ve just had this conversation with multiple people. I think the quarantine — people have had time to contemplate this…

David TaoDavid Tao

There are only like three things that people can talk about during quarantine and fitness, and this is clearly one of them.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

This is like, “Were you born into it or not?” I think gymnastics is definitely a great foundation for CrossFit. It gives you the obvious kind of skills and body awareness. I think that’s an important thing.

 

For me, I think the most important thing I got from gymnastics was the mentality, the mindset of training. Being OK, being in the gym for a) a long time and b) doing things that are seemingly boring that will then make you better at something interesting later.

 

Is gymnastics the best thing to come into CrossFit with? I think it’s very specialized. You end up being really good at some things, but I think it would be more beneficial to be an all-around athlete. Whether you have to do different sports to get that as well, or you can be a gymnast who is naturally born with these athletic abilities.

 

Like I mentioned, I started at the bottom end of weightlifting. I was barely back squatting 75 pounds when I came into CrossFit. I couldn’t run. I still, to this day, am working on my running. That all is because I never touched a barbell when I was younger. It took a long time to build up those skills.

 

We really never ran in gymnastics either, for distance. Sprinting was fine.

 

I think it gives you a really, really good foundation, probably better than some sports. The conversation I was having the other day with someone was like, “If you wanted your kid to be a CrossFit Games champion, would you put them into gymnastics?”

 

I said, “Yes, but probably not.” That wouldn’t be the only thing that they did. You’d have to do something else to get the other skills that gymnastics misses.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’d be such a busy kid because they’d be in gymnastic classes a few days a week. They’d have weightlifting training. They’d have their GPP, the general physical preparation, obviously. They’d be on the track team. What else am I missing here? They have to be in the swim team as well.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Yeah. They have to do a lot of things. You can as a parent…I’m not a parent, I can only speculate. As a parent, you can probably curate your kid to be as much as good at everything as you want them to be.

 

If they don’t like what they’re doing in terms of fitness, then they’re never going to stick with it. They’re probably going to resist every effort to do what you want them to.

 

My little brother, my youngest brother, is actually athletically gifted in almost every way, but he ended up a gymnast at Iowa.

 

He has a great background in gymnastics. He played a lot of different sports growing up as well. He played football and baseball. My parents are really smart to let him do that because he wasn’t all in gymnastics like I was.

 

If they had forced that on him, he probably would have ended up quitting, but because he had the all-around sports background, he made the decision to stick with gymnastics for himself. Sorry, that was a roundabout story.

David TaoDavid Tao

No, it’s a great…I actually have a follow-up question. If he’s on the gymnastics team at Iowa, is that the D1 Gymnastics?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

It is.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s a great gymnastics program. After his gymnastics career is over, whenever that is, are you going to try and get him into CrossFit? That’s my question.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Yeah. Rob, my husband, and I have already tried to plant the seeds. Addison is very strong-willed. If he doesn’t want to do it, it’s just not happening.

 

We’ve been very careful on how we’ve approached it. I think he’d be a really great CrossFitter. He’s skilled. He’s really athletic in a lot of different ways.

 

I think it just depends on how bored he gets after gymnastics, coming from a D1 program, it’s pretty rigorous. It’s definitely more rigorous than the gymnastics programs that I was in.

 

There’s some level of burnout after graduation, but he’s fairly competitive like I am. I think he’ll be yearning for that, like, drive again.

David TaoDavid Tao

You’re going to serve it up on a silver platter, you’d be like, “Hey, if you want it.” Also, “My coaching is only this much per month.” I’m kidding.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

We would make an exception for him, but he’s…no, I mean, he definitely knows. Whenever he wants to come into CrossFit, even if he doesn’t want to compete, Rob and I will help him in…and all that. It really for him is just figuring out what he wants to do after gymnastics because for so long that’s been all he can do.

David TaoDavid Tao

All right. I have another family question. How do I change it a little bit? I want to ask about being part of a CrossFit couple…You met your husband at the gym. You’re a very competitive person. I don’t know your husband. Is that ever like a point of tension in the relationship getting competitive about your fitness, getting competitive on workouts?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

OK, it’s funny that you asked that because I just posted something the other day. We don’t get competitive with each other. He was my coach for a while. He doesn’t coach me so much on the day-to-day anymore because he has a lot of other stuff going on.

 

He still knows me very well as an athlete, obviously. We program together for the online, an online coaching business that we run. He’ll program some workouts and just ask me, “Hey, how long would…how long would this take you? Is my timing kind of right on it?”

 

We did one the other day — he did one — before he started, he said, “How long would this workout take you?” It was three rounds, 20 box spacing, burpee box jump-overs, and [inaudible 22:50] , and I said, “Six minutes.” I did the quick math in my head. I was like, “Oh, six minutes.” He’s like, “Yeah, OK.”

 

He went away. In the middle of the workout, he came back to me, he’s like, “No way. What do you go six minutes on this?” He came to me afterwards and said, “I don’t…there’s no way that you can do it in six minutes. I don’t even think you’ll finish the three rounds the time it took me to get to.”

 

I was like, “You know what? Game on.” I came in the next day and that’s the first thing that I did. I did the workout.

 

We are very competitive but not necessarily with each other. He’s very much CrossFittest for fitness and longevity for him. He used to compete. He was on a team that went to the Asia Regionals back in 2014, back in the old system.

 

A long time ago, he started focusing on coaching as his whole thing. He put aside the competitive aspect and started coaching. He knows exactly how to push the competitive button in me. That’s for sure. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

I’ve got to ask. Who was right? How long did it take you to do the workout? Come on.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Neither of us was right. I did it in 6:21.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s pretty close.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

It’s pretty close and he was standing there laughing. He was doing his training because he obviously wanted to see what happened. I was on track to be sub six actually, and then my toes to bar just disappeared. I have no idea. [laughs]

 

The last round, I think you can hear in the video, I went for my first set. I did like five and he goes, “Uh-oh,” because usually my first set is 10, much bigger than that.

 

They just were gone. Part of it is we have to wear masks in Boston here, and it’s that feeling like you can’t breathe. Anyways, he was right. I didn’t do it in six minutes, but I also didn’t do it in eight to nine.

David TaoDavid Tao

That actually makes it feel a lot better too. Even a [inaudible 24:59] athlete like yourself will occasionally just lose toes to bar. They just disappear and there’s no getting them back. I can’t even count how many times I’ve started off so strong, feeling great, and then on that third set.

 

It’s [inaudible 25:14] big on that movement. I’m like, “Well, I guess I’m doing twos. You know, I’m doing singles at the end. And that’s just how it’s going to be today.” Thank you, by the way, for making this feel much more relatable.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Absolutely. I’m glad I can be relatable. It’s funny because in quarantine, I came back from the gym and I was like, “Everything’s feeling good. Weightlifting is going OK.”

 

Of course, I had to go light for a week or two, but this was the first workout that I’ve really done volume toes to bar, and really was just like, “I have no idea what happened there.” That’s going to be one of the quarantine casualties. I’m going to have to build up my toes to bar [inaudible 25:56] .

David TaoDavid Tao

If it makes you feel any better, I’ve definitely left and I don’t know. They might be worse than when we started.

 

I do want to change direction a little bit because something I know you’ve been involved in is the PFAA, Professional Fitness Athletes’ Association, and I’m curious to see your personal take about what as a high-level athlete you would like to see change in competition moving forward?

 

From your experience, the way athletes are treated, the way competitions are run. You all have obviously started working with a lot of and talking to a lot of event organizers, CrossFit independent organizers, and we cover that on BarBend. I’ll link to it in the show notes here.

 

As an athlete, what are some changes that you would like to see to the experience you have competing throughout the year, and maybe even more importantly future generations of athletes in fitness sports.

 

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Personally, it would be just great if CrossFit could become more of a professional sport. More media coverage, it’s already on the global stage, but more recognizes us for that people see and think like, “CrossFit is on Saturday. Let’s watch that.”

 

That’s my personal goal for the future of CrossFit. Of course, it’ll take a while to get there. It would be really nice if athletes could become professional athletes on their own, rather than needing like most athletes do now, they need to either coach or own an affiliate to earn a living, or have another job. Some professional athletes I know work their nine-to-five, not in the fitness industry.

 

That would be a very cool thing to see the sport evolve into. I am definitely, as a member of the executive board of the PFAA, totally on board with our initial mission to get safety and fairness guidelines out to events.

 

That’s something that has needed to happen for a while. It’s nothing radical. It’s nothing crazy. It’s just providing these guidelines for events so that they know, on the athlete side, what are the expectations, and maybe facilitate the event planning process for them.

David TaoDavid Tao

When it comes to competing at different events, you’ve competed at Regionals, you’ve competed at the Games, and you’ve competed in a number of Sanctionals events. How can that athlete experience differ between event currently?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

 

In terms of the safety and fairness?

David TaoDavid Tao

Well, it could be in terms of safety and fairness. It could be in terms of how you’re treated. Your experience and everything from checking in, to experience on the competition floor. The scheduling of the events indicates about how the events actually take place over the course of a given weekend.

 

There is no consistent framework where every single event is run with the same specifications. There are some best practices that seem to have been generally adopted. Am I right in thinking there’s a good bit of inconsistency between those? As far as what you experienced, not necessarily what we as the viewers see.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Yeah, absolutely. It’s both a good thing because events have their own identity. Like affiliates, an affiliate pays their affiliation fee, they get to do whatever they want with the business. An event organizer for the most part, do whatever they want. Everything could be different.

 

Programming is probably the most obvious one that the viewers see. What events are programmed, what movements are programmed, if it biases one modality over another. The other thing that could vary is media coverage.

 

Whether they do a live stream, or they just keep it to Facebook Live and Instagram updates, how many photographers they have there, what the exposure is like for the athletes, how many sponsoring organizations there are. There’s a lot of ways that competitions vary.

 

Not necessarily to the fault of the organizers at all, but it is very much a unique experience at each one. As an athlete, you try to pick the ones that meet your standards individually.

 

There hasn’t been a lot of unifying voice between athletes saying, “Hey, these are things that we all expect from an event.” When I pick my Sanctionals, I’m picking the ones that generally do a really good job of programming, are well organized, and have athletes’ interests in mind.

 

It would be cool if we came together as athletes, which we’re trying to do now, and say that these are just some kind of universal things that would be nice.

David TaoDavid Tao

That way everyone’s quite literally on the same page, instead of each individual athlete having their own checklist. What are some of the specific safety protocols and measures that you personally would like to see as standardized across events?

 

Steph ChungSteph Chung

Simple things that have been good at some events and not so good at others. For example, rope climbs. Having softer mat underneath the rope climb would be great, or at least having the rope be short enough that you’re not at risk of rolling your ankle coming down from one.

 

I’m maybe one of the clumsier athletes when it comes to this, but I have quite a few times had an ankle scare coming down quickly from a rope climb, in practice, and landing on the rope in a bad way, and rolling your ankle. Coming off like, “Is it OK?” That’s the last thing that you want to do in a competition.

 

Put your body at risk because you’re trying to go extra fast to win, and then having to worry as well that that might injure you. Things like mats, crash pads, making sure the ring straps are tested so one isn’t going to come loose in the middle of a set. General things that…

 

I don’t think they’re groundbreaking. I don’t think that it’s going to bankrupt events to implement those measures. It’s one thing that gets overlooked, and it’s something that we can help prevent them from having to think about.

 

It’s one thing we take off their plate. They just run through a list and say, “Oh, we do have rope climbs. Great. I’ll make sure that there’s a mat underneath.”

David TaoDavid Tao

I asked that because as a spectator, we don’t necessarily see these things. We see rope climbs, and we see people shooting up and down the rope, and that’s cool, but for us, we’re not there on the floor. We don’t get the perspective of how high some of these climbs are, and how daunting it can seem, or that risk-reward ratio.

 

Coming down the rope fast, but also at the same time wanting to have a softer, safe landing. The first thing that comes to the spectators mind about that event is maybe, “Oh, cool. This person’s going really fast.” Not necessarily, “Hey, is it a safe environment for landing?”

 

I personally am really interested to hear from the PFAA and you all, as you move forward regarding like, “Hey, here’s what really concerns us on the field of play. Here are the changes we want to see.” It’s very interesting. I appreciate that insider’s perspective on what it’s like to compete.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

That’s how you bring up a good point as well. As a spectator and as an event organizer, you want something to be interesting for you to watch. You’re not necessarily thinking about the other aspects. That’s a great point. Event organizers have a lot to think about, they have to put on a good show.

 

It’s something where it might not come to the mind of someone who’s not doing it a lot. As athletes we’ve competed collectively in hundreds, if not thousands, of Sanctionals. Hopefully our experience and our knowledge can be an asset to event organizers so that we provide something that makes their job a little bit easier.

 

In communicating with them, they all want us to have a good experience. They want athletes to like their event, to enjoy and come back next year. I’m hoping that this can be something positive, and an initiative that we’re working together on.

David TaoDavid Tao

I am curious, have you as an athlete ever received a follow-up survey or a satisfaction survey from an event after you competed in it?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

 

Yes. I definitely have. From some, not others. It’s not universal. Some events do send feedback surveys. That was great.

David TaoDavid Tao

I was curious. As the conversation becomes a little bit more solidified, and maybe a little bit more formalized, that might be something we expect to see more of. I realize it’s nothing I’d ever asked a games athlete before. Well, Steph, thank you so much for joining us.

 

Where’s the best place for people to keep up to date with you, your training, and what’s next in your athletic and coaching career?

Steph ChungSteph Chung

 

I try to consolidate everything to my Instagram account, which is @stephchung2, the number two. I try to keep everything there and everything relevant. I have a Linktree based in my bio.

That also links to the coaching that I’m doing. We’re trying to expand our online coaching a bit now that some people are stuck at home in COVID restrictions. We want to just help as many people as we possibly can.

David TaoDavid Tao

Awesome. Thanks so much.

Steph ChungSteph Chung

 

Thank you very much.

Leave a Comment