10 Questions with Kaitlyn Kassis of CrossFit Invictus X

Kaitlyn Kassis at the 2018 Wodapalooza Fitness Festival.

Kaitlyn Kassis was the athlete on CrossFit Invictus X that you probably did not know. Of course, when you team up with Sam and Jenn Dancer and Holden Rethwill that is likely going to be the case. However, Kassis is not new to the sport.

Kassis has competed as an individual at Regionals twice (2015 and 2017) and also was on CrossFit Davis’ CrossFit Games team in 2016. That team finished 26th.

This year Kassis helped CrossFit Invictus X win the West Regional to qualify for the CrossFit Games. And once in Madison, Kassis and team finished strong and finished on the podium in 2nd place.

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So many thank you’s. —— Competing at the @crossfitgames is a dream come true. Nobody does this alone, and there are so many people that played a part in getting my team and myself here. ❤️ —— First and foremost, thank you to my family who has been there for me through all of my athletic endeavors. You have always believed in me and encouraged me to follow my dreams. My mom, TT, and Meme who came out to Madison to cheer me on— matching outfits and all. To @davidrichman for always supporting my passions and making me feel loved on my best and worst training days. I love you. —— Thank you to the @crossfit community. To the coaches who helped prepare us to compete, my training partners who challenge me daily, and to everyone who has reached out with words of support. Community is what differentiates CrossFit from the rest of the fitness industry. 🏋🏼‍♀️ —— Thank you to everyone— the judges, athlete control, staff and volunteers— that make the @crossfitgames possible. Without you all, absolutely none of this would be a reality. ✨ —— My heart is filled with gratitude for everyone who has lent a hand in this journey. Thank you. —— 📸: @taylorconlonphotography

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We caught up with Kassis to find out about how she got started in CrossFit, what it was like competing on CrossFit Invictus X and what she enjoys to do outside of the gym.

The Barbell Spin: How and when did you start doing CrossFit? Did you play any sports prior to joining a CrossFit gym?

Kaitlyn Kassis: I started doing CrossFit when I was 17 years-old, during the summer before my freshman year of college. I played every sport imaginable as a kid, and then eventually decided to focus primarily on soccer by the time I reached high school. I played on a highly competitive, year-round traveling team and had every intention of playing soccer in college. When it finally came down to deciding what school to go to, I passed up on an athletic scholarship opportunity to go to school closer to my family. To be honest, I was pretty burnt out on soccer at that point. However, it took me about a month of not having an organized sport before I started to go crazy with all of the free time I had. That’s when I found CrossFit. I saw the 2011 CrossFit Games re-playing on TV one day and thought,” Hmm, I think I could do that…”

I googled the nearest CrossFit gym to me, enrolled in an introductory class that next day at CrossFit Folsom Lake, and signed up for a 3-month membership on my mom’s credit card. And the rest is history.

TBBS: In one of your Instagram posts from last year you talk about body-type/image and your struggle with an eating disorder before finding CrossFit. Can you share how CrossFit has changed your perception of body image and created a healthier you?

KK: CrossFit has had a tremendous impact on my life in so many ways– it has allowed me to continue to be a competitive athlete as an adult, I have traveled to some amazing places, and met some of the most important people in my life. However, the biggest impact that CrossFit has had on my life is in the relationship I have with my own body. Throughout my adolescence, I struggled with my body image and didn’t always have a healthy relationship with food. I was always athletic growing up, and I remember around the time I was in middle school, deciding that I hated my legs. I thought that my muscular thighs from playing soccer were too big and wanted nothing more than to be skinny like the models I saw in my Teen Vogue magazines. It makes me so sad to think back to that 13-year-old girl who was obsessed with counting calories and fitting into size 00 jeans. This unhealthy mind- set affected me in someway or another all the way through high school, before I started doing CrossFit.

One of my main motives for starting CrossFit was actually to try and “get skinny,” before I left for college at the end of the summer. It didn’t take long for my goals to start to shift from, “I want to lose — pounds,” to ,” I want to get my first pull-up.” Before I knew it I was less and less concerned with what the number on the tag inside my pants said, and more concerned with chasing a 100# clean and jerk. I was finally able to see food as a source of fuel that I needed if I wanted to accomplish the goals I was setting for myself it the gym. There is so much freedom in valuing your body for what it is capable of doing, rather than what some number on the scale says.

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Though I could write a novel on the subject, I'm going to try and keep it short because I think it's an import message to get across. The point of this post isn't one body-type being aesthetically "better" than another- it's a much more significant transformation between the ears. • • When I signed up for CrossFit, I joined because I wanted to get "skinny" before I went off to college. I had struggled with an eating disorder for years through my adolescence. It was an on-going mental battle I was never able to fully shake. • • However, when I started CrossFit and continued to show up for class- I don't know if I even realized it at the time, but- my goals began to shift from how much I wanted to weigh, to how much I wanted to be able to lift. I wanted to be strong enough to get my first pull-up, pistol squat, muscle up, etc. I found myself valuing my body for what I was able to do, rather than what number was on the scale or what size pants I wore. • • From time to time, I have to remind myself that THIS is a big part of my "Why." As a coach, it is empowering to be there as others- especially women- go through this same mental transformation. I love watching people fall in love with being strong. For me, as much as I enjoy the competitive aspect of the sport, THIS is truly why I am passionate about CrossFit. #crossfit

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TBBS: In December you moved to San Diego for a coaching position with CrossFit Invictus. Were you also planning on joining up with Sam, Jenn and Holden to compete as a team at this time?

KK: I was actually not planning on joining up with Sam, Jenn and Holden to compete on a team when I moved to San Diego in December. I honestly didn’t really know any of them or that they were even in San Diego before I made the move. Being the new kid at Invictus, I wasn’t quite sure what my season would have in store, but was open to being on a team if I was asked. With a gym that has as many competitive athletes as Invictus, rosters have to be made before the Open starts so that multiple teams can be fielded for regionals. Once we made it through the Open, it just so happened that the 4 of us meshed really well together. It’s funny, because we all have such different personalities and athletic strengths, but we work seamlessly as a unit. We compliment each other really well as teammates. That kind of chemistry is rare to find in a group of people who just met, especially when you are competing next to teams that have been established for years in this sport.

TBBS: Many might not know, but this was not your first CrossFit Games experience. You were also on CrossFit Davis’ team at the 2016 CrossFit Games. How have you changed as an athlete over the past two years?

KK: Going to the Games with CrossFit Davis in 2016 was a really special experience. I started training at CrossFit Davis when I was a freshman in college in 2012. With programming and coaching from Matt Pedri and several years of striving towards a common goal, we were able to form a fully home-grown team of people who had started at the gym as normal members. Witnessing that progression was by far one of the most rewarding journey’s I have ever been a part of.

I don’t know if I have necessarily changed a whole lot as an athlete over the last 2 years, but I have kept putting in work and continued to set goals for myself along the way. As a result, I am an all-around stronger and better conditioned than I was 2 years ago. This sport requires a lot of perspective to know that what you do in a single day might not change a whole lot, but over the course of time, those single days worth of effort add up and make a cumulative difference in the long-run.

TBBS: It looked like you and your team had a lot of fun during the CrossFit Games. Can you share one of your favorite moments competing on CrossFit Invictus X?

KK: We had so much fun as a team. One of my favorite moments of the season has to be holding hands with Sam between sets during the partner deadlift workout at Regionals.

1) Because that moment was pretty much the epitome of our team. Our team did a lot of hugging and hand holding over the course of the season!
2) It was in that moment that I realized that our team was going to go far.

It was a surreal moment to be standing in the middle of the Regional competition floor, surrounded by thousands of people, taking a moment to hold hands with my teammate before we went on to win that workout. I’ll never forget that.

TBBS: Have you and the rest of CrossFit Invictus X decided on a plan for the 2019 CrossFit Games season? Will you and the team be coming back to compete next year? If not, will you be going individual?

KK: As of now, the plan is definitely to make another run at things in the 2019 season. As incredible as it was to podium at the Games, there’s the competitive side of me that hates getting anything but first.

TBBS: What kind of music do you like to listen to when you’re in the gym?

KK: Gangster rap. They call me DJ 2K.

TBBS: What is your favorite part of coaching at a CrossFit gym?

KK: My favorite part of being a coach is being apart of a community and helping people accomplish goals that at one point they never thought they were capable of doing.

TBBS: What do you enjoy to do outside of the gym when you are not coaching or working out?

KK: I love spending time with my cats, Khloe and Kenny. One of my goals of this next year is to start fostering kittens though my local shelter. Shelters just don’t have the staffing or resources to provide the around the clock care that neonatal kittens require. There are millions of lives that can be saved through fostering, and so many animals that can have a chance at life if we open up our homes for a few short weeks until they are old enough to be adopted.

I also love to going out to breakfast and spending time outside with my boyfriend, David. I also really like shopping. I worked at Lululemon for a little over a year, and may or may not have a problem… Haha!

TBBS: If you had not found CrossFit and become a trainer, what would you be doing instead?

KK: I started coaching CrossFit when I was 18-years old, so I am really not sure! My bachelors degree was in Political Science and International Relations, so maybe something in that realm.

Kaitlyn coaches at CrossFit Invictus. Click here to learn more about the Invictus Athlete Program. And make sure you follow Kaitlyn (@k8lynkassis) on Instagram!