Kelly Baker has competed at the CrossFit Games on a team. Baker has also almost qualified as an individual back in 2017 where she finished 7th. But unlike many top CrossFit athletes, Baker has a full-time job outside of a CrossFit gym as an elementary school teacher.
Check out our interview with Kelly as we discuss her rise in the sport of CrossFit, how she balances teaching, CrossFit and family, and what music she enjoys listening to in the gym.
The Barbell Spin: You’ve been doing CrossFit for the past 4-5 years and have competed on a team at the 2016 CrossFit Games and have been at regionals as an individual the past two years. What was your athletic background prior to starting CrossFit?
Kelly Baker: Growing up with two brothers I was destined to be competitive. Thankfully I have two awesome parents who exposed to me any and every sport as a kid. In high school I played soccer, basketball, and ran track. I continued my passion for soccer in college. After college, my love for soccer was still there, but most women’s leagues were filled more with people just trying to have fun and it did not mesh well with me still being my competitive self. Thankfully, I found CrossFit, and I was able to dive back into my competitive spirit, and for the first time in my life I was competing with myself which was really really cool.
TBBS: How were you introduced to CrossFit? Do you remember your first workout?
KB: The summer following my last year of college I worked for Penn U Soccer Camps. One of the other girls working the camp, Emma Chapman, had been out of college for two years and just started CrossFit. She asked me if I would go to the camps gym with her that afternoon before the camp’s night session. I still remember it. She had to do a 10 EMOM of three kipping pull-ups. I remember trying to do a pull-up and it was pathetic. A fun fact, Emma placed 7th in her region this year. We still laugh about that day and how far we both have come. I have her to thank for introducing me to the one sport that has changed my life. Just a little proof that everyone starts from the bottom, its just how much time you are willing to invest to get to the next level.
That next year I found a CrossFit gym near me and have been there ever since. My first official workout was a 10 AMRAP of pull-ups, running, and burpees. The owner, and now my coach, said to me after that workout, “I really think you can go far in this sport.” From there, I was all in.
TBBS: In your first season competing you made it the Games on a team. Was there something you learned from competing with the top athletes in the world so early in your competitive CrossFit career?
KB: To say I was thrown in with the wolves is a complete understatement. The one thing I had going for me was that I had an engine, I wanted to learn, and for some reason I was always willing to run my head through a wall in any workout. I think that’s what they would consider “CrossFit Potential”. The six of us becoming a team was actually the perfect storm. We all had different strengths. The one thing that I learned the most from that season was the amount of time, work, and dedication it takes to get to the next level. Making it to Regionals and then the Games, I learned more about myself mentally than physically. I always knew I could push myself pretty hard, I just didn’t really believe I belonged. Having that experience, winning events, setting records– it has fueled me to want to return as an individual. I am so grateful for that year so early in the sport. I also gained five really important people in my life who I now consider family. Another fun fact, I am currently dating one of the guys on the team.
TBBS: You have finished 7th and 13th at the East Regional as an individual the past two years. What will you do differently, if anything, to make that jump into the top 5?
KB: My first year as an individual I went in wanting to have fun. I did the hard part — I made it there. For me, that was the goal, and I already won. It wasn’t until I was there that I actually saw that I belonged. I had a good last workout that year that bumped me to 7th and I was so hungry to get back to training. When I say hungry, I mean I was in the gym that next day. Which is one of the reasons why I feel this past year did not go as well as I hoped. I was burnt out. I never took time off. When we went into regionals this past year I was mentally ready, but I was physically fatigued. This year, we are taking a different approach. I am taking an off season. I go to the gym, set the clock for 90 minutes, and if I am not done my programming and the time is up, I leave.
We laid out my year. The past two years we have been pretty close to all in. I put the time in, for sure, but life this season will be different. I know the commitment it takes, the accessory work, the life style, and I promised myself that I will have no regrets this year. I am investing my life to having my named called on the 3rd day of Regionals.
TBBS: For those that don’t know, you are an elementary school teacher. How do you balance teaching, training and family (especially during the school year)?
KB: My plate is pretty full. I try my best to not spread myself too thin, but at times it’s tough. The one thing that has gotten me this far in our sport is because of the people in my life. My family, friends, and boyfriend just down right understand. During the Open and Regionals training, I tend to be a bit selfish. Thankfully, they all support that. Teaching during the day then heading right to training is exhausting. But CrossFit has always been an outlet to me. The minute it feels like a job, I’ll stop competing. During the off season, I force myself to make more time for family than training, that way when I have to choose training, they get it. Also, it’s really fun having my students follow my journey. I try to be a role model, especially for the girls, that being strong and having muscles isn’t just for boys. I hope they seek health and fitness in a country that is at it’s peak of childhood obesity.
TBBS: Will you be doing any offseason competitions between now and the Open?
KB: This offseason I am actually training for the Atlantic City Marathon that is in October. It has always been on the bucket list and I said, why not? As far as CrossFit goes, I plan on competing at Wodapalooza again this year, which is always a ton of fun.
TBBS: What does your nutrition look like on a normal day?
KB: Like most people in CrossFit, I count my macros daily. I eat pretty much the same thing everyday. Breakfast consists of egg whites with veggies and oatmeal. Lunch is ground turkey with rice and brussels. 2nd lunch 😂 is usually chicken and a veggie or eggs again with sweet potato. Dinner is the one thing I change up depending on how I feel, but usually a big salad. Every night I have a protein smoothie that consists of protein, banana, and peanut butter. Don’t get me wrong, in the off season the occasional pizza and sushi pop up as well. My one treat during marathon training that gets me through my long runs is chocolate milk. It’s pretty much all I think about the last mile.
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What now? 🧐 Well, for the first time I’m actually taking an “off season”. It’s easy to feel motivated and want to jump right back in following an outcome that you didn’t expect but it’s time to get my body back to 100%. The season is long and grueling, so I am making time for some other things. I am tackling a bucket list goal of training for a marathon, working on strength and strict movements, and making more time for family and friends since they have been, understandingly, put on the back burner for the past 6 months (which is why I love them so much). Here’s to the best year yet! 🏃♀️👊🏼💥
TBBS: What is your go-to music while training in the gym? What song do you currently have on repeat?
KB: It depends on what I am doing. During accessory work or gymnastics I will put on reggae. But if I am lifting or metcon, usually the hardest thing on the play list haha. Repeat is some sort of DMX/Rick Ross/Future song. I don’t have a go to right now– but I tend to go more old school rap (think 8th grade dance songs).
TBBS: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not training?
KB: When I am not training I like to spend time with my family sitting on the beach, having bbqs, and drinking beers. They are hands down the greatest people in the world. My boyfriend and I are usually found in coffee shops or just hanging out. To be honest, when I am not training, I like to be doing something physical. I like to feel good — and exercising makes me feel good.
TBBS: How has your life changed since finding CrossFit?
KB: My life is healthier and more fullfilled because of CrossFit. I have found out more about myself these past 4 years than I could have ever imagined. I am so excited to see what more my body can do. Every day I am pushing myself to be the best version of me. I have also met some really amazing people along the way.
Make sure to follow Kelly on Instagram (@kelbakr928) and keep an eye out for her in 2019!