Balancing Parenting, Business and Being a Kick-Ass Competitor: Lauren Brooks
Will power is that thing inside us that if cultivated and harnessed allows us to affect the world around us. It’s at its best when its used by a person engaging something about which they are passionate.
Enter Lauren Brooks (5′ 7″, 150 lb): Mom, business-woman, competitor, coach, Crossfitter, high-performance athlete.
What attracted you to CrossFit?
After I had my son, I was kind of like a gym rat. I was one of those girls that would go to work, go to the gym, go to the work, go to the gym, and I would run at night. I was very committed to my fitness, I just wasn’t knowledgeable, and I didn’t know how to get knowledgeable. It was important to me to be healthy and fit and feel good about myself, but I didn’t really know how to do it.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to be eating. So for a while, I was kind of like “the world’s version of fit.” But when it came right down to it, for my size, I should have been capable of so much more.
My father is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, and he worked with the University of Florida. When I was pregnant with my daughter, my second child, he said, “Hey they’re doing this CrossFit thing with the team, I really want you to check it out.” I was like, “Hell, yeah, but I’ve got to have this baby first.” I had her and waited 6-8 weeks, like the doctor told me and I joined a gym here, in Fort Meyers. I would bring her, and I would have to leave, ON THE DOT, when my daughter’s father would get home. That was how I kind of got introduced to it.
You’ve been doing CrossFit for about two years, and now you own your own gym. What was the decision to go into business like?
I was attending this gym, and I guess you could say I had a less-than-awesome experience. The owner was NOT friendly. He was NOT polite. He was very knowledgeable but he was not COACHING me. I knew, in my head, “This is something I could do.” I was like, “Enough of this.” I’m not going to pay somebody 150-bucks a month and they won’t even say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to me when I walk through the door.
I started going to just a local gym, out by where we live that had a daycare. That was easier with the baby. They didn’t have the right equipment, but I was determined. I remember when I could only do three pull-ups at time. I remember I wrote all my goals, just the first thing that came to mind: “I want to dead lift 265. I want to be able to do 20 pull-ups without stopping.” I had all these goals and I wrote them all down. Maybe a month or two later I remember just being blown away by the fact that I had crossed off all of them. At the time when wrote that stuff down, it seemed so farfetched. I think that was probably a really big turning point for me.
I love this. It makes me feel good about myself. It empowers me. I’m accomplishing.
I had just quit my job that was like 80 hours a week, after I had my daughter. I couldn’t be a good mom, with two kids, and not be home, ever. It was a toss up. Either I do it or go back to work and put my kids in daycare. So I chose to stay home.
There are not CrossFit boxes in the city of Cape Coral. I happened to meet a guy that owned a CrossFit in California. I told him, “I really want to open a box. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.” you see some CrossFit boxes that are just amazing — They’re like a million dollars. My box isn’t like that. My box is me, myself and I. I do the cleaning. I purchased most of the equipment.
So my friend, out in California owns and runs a big successful gym there. He said, “You know what? Let’s do it. Why not? Get on Craigslist. Find stuff that people are getting rid of. Little amounts here and there.” He said, “Clear out your garage. We’re going to start having people come to your house.” I was like, “Okay!” So I took basically the only money that I had, in savings, and I found the first certification that I could. It was in Atlanta. I loaded up my kids and I drove there and got certified.
You started out in your garage?
I started out in my garage. I had two boxes, two balls, a barbell with a few separate weights, a couple of dumbbells. We had nothing! We would have weekends where we’d have 15-20 people come out. At that time, I was trying to build up a clientele, I was charging minimal. But we actually started in the garage, until we found a facility.
Flash-forward to today. You own Crossfit Salvation in Cape Coral, FL. You’re in a 2200 square foot facility. What’s your membership like now?
Good. But CrossFit is like, you can come in on your first day, and be like, “Oh, running and pushups, that was easy.” Go home and tell all your friends and family, “CrossFit isn’t hard.” You come back the next day, and you look at the board, and you have a 315 pound dead lift you’re supposed to do 25 times. It’s that kind of sport. You have days where you’re like, Okay. Whatever, I’ve got this.” And the next day, you’re just blind-sighted by something, some type of gymnastic skill, or an extremely heavy lift.
It’s just a very, very difficult sport. Some people are just not made for it. When summer hits it gets extremely hot here. Our box is like 112 degrees in the summer. Your balls have to be pretty big, to come in there and it’s blood, sweat and tears for the hour that you’re there.
What habits do you have, that you believe help you succeed?
Well, I’m normal. I mean, I’m human. I have very horrible days. I’m a girl. I have my complete blowout days, where my diet just goes to shit and I have no discipline. I think the key is how do you rebound from your mistakes? We all make mistakes, but how do you react to your own poor choices? Yesterday was a perfect example. I went to the gym and I had a horrible morning. I could hardly do my pull-ups. 185 felt like 1,000 pounds. I was almost in tears. I came home and laid down and it bothered me obviously. I just kind of attitude-checked myself and said “I’m going to go back to the gym. I’m going to attack what I have to do, because that’s who I am. I don’t give up.“
Can you take us through a typical day of eating, what do you eat, on an average day?
Yeah. Sure. I wake up in the morning. I eat as soon as I wake up. I’ll eat three egg whites, one egg. I try to pair it with some fruit or raw vegetable. One of my favorite morning meals that’s easy is half a bag of spinach, in the blender. I like to use a vegan protein powder, and I’ll put some frozen fruit in there and unsweetened almond milk. That’s like a 300 calorie meal. I get my green vegetables. I get my protein.
Then probably two hours later – I never want to be hungry, because I feel like when you get hungry, you always make bad eating choices – I’ll eat some sort of meat, chicken, turkey. I usually do like 12 asparagus.
I come home and try to rest. Then I will probably eat something similar to my second meal. So that’s my third meal. I’ll try to mix it up a little bit; a piece of chicken, and some vegetables.
I usually try to get in one more meal, while I’m at the gym from 4-8, the same type of thing. I try to stay away from protein bars and stuff like that, because it’s really difficult to find good quality protein bars. I always have to pack my food. I’ll pack a sweet potato. I just eat it cold, right after I do the second part of my workout. Then when I get home, I’ll have my last meal, which is usually If I’m craving sugar, I’ll let myself have some fruit. That’s how I keep myself from going straight out crazy and eating.
What’s on your goal list, in terms of athletic achievement?
I was three months into CrossFit, I was loving it and we decided we were going to go watch the Regionals. I remember the first event for the girls was a clean and jerk ladder. It started at 125 lb., and it ended at 185 lb. At the time, I think I could probably clean and jerk, 115. I said to myself, “Shit! I couldn’t even do the first weight!” I looked at the girls that did the clean and jerk to 185, and I was just like, “Wow!” At that moment, they were Jesus Christ to me. That is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I want to be that girl with those enormous veins and those huge legs.
Last year, I competed in Sectionals. I was one year into CrossFit, which was kind of a baby in this sport, because there’s just so many skills. And I placed 16th in my region, which I felt like was really good. I was ecstatic with that.
I went to the doctor before Sectionals started and he pointed at something on my stomach area and he said, “That has to come off.” I was like, “What are you talking about, my boobs?” And he said, “No. That spot has to come off.” It was very small, but it was a really dark freckle. He biopsied it and called to say “You tested positive for melanoma cells.”
My grandmother died of breast cancer and my aunt, ironically enough, that same month, had some melanoma removed from her back. The doctor explained to me, melanoma is mostly hereditary.
It was really hard for me because I didn’t get to go to Regionals. It was really disappointing. There was no way I was going to be able to do it. I had to take like six weeks off.
When I went into CrossFit, I was like, “You know what? I’m going to be badass. I’m going to go to the Nationals.” Out of the thousands and tens of thousands of people that do CrossFit in the United States, there are only a handful of men and women that go.
I would say that my ultimate goal is to place at Regionals and go the games.
What advice do you have for women who might be interested in CrossFit, what would you say to them?
I tell them all, “Look. When I started CrossFit, I could not do a man pushup or a man pull-up. I used a band and I did pushups off my knees. Now, I can do 30 pull-ups without stopping.” I said, “So I don’t care how old you are, how young you are, how heavy you are, you really have to come in here every day, and think about that person that you want to be and stop focusing on the person that you are right now.”
Visit Lauren online at www.CrossFitSalvation.com and on IG: @cflbrooks