Being the best at something takes a lot of work. Whether you’re an athlete, fire fighter, desk jockey or even the star of a Broadway show, Crossfit can help you be the absolute best at what you do. So in March of this year when the St. Louis Post Dispatch reviewed the upcoming performances of the Broadway show A Chorus Line, they set their sites on Crossfit NYC member Caley Crawford. Their take on her performance? “Crawford was all around the best thing in the show.”
When talking to Caley, she could easily point to her life-long dedication to the arts, her years of experience in theater, or her involvement in various productions of A Chorus Line since high school. But frankly it seems she’s just as excited to talk about Crossfit. When hitting the road with the show throughout 2012 and earlier this year, she was compelled to document her Crossfit experiences along the way. The result was A Chorus WOD, a light-hearted blog about her workouts around the country. She was quick to recruit several of her fellow performers, who joined her for WODs whenever they could find time to hit a local Crossfit box on the road.
When talking about Caley’s performance in the gym, it’s hard to contain coach Heidi’s excitement:
“Caley is in one word, awesome. As a coach, I see a lot of people in class; however, the superstars always rise to the top and that is what I consider Caley Crawford. I don’t use the word superstar to indicate how much weight a person can push or pull; rather, it’s the focus, attention and dedication that someone shows in my class to push themselves to their limits and beyond that gives them ‘STAR’ status. In a class of 20+ athletes, it’s those special few who you can tell are literally listening to every word you are saying, who stand out. They are listening because they genuinely want to be better in CrossFit–and that is Caley. I will take Miss Caley in my class any day–she probably doesn’t even know this, but just her mere presence motivates me each and every time she is in class.”
We checked in with Caley to get to the bottom of her Crossfit obsession, and how it applies to the heavy demands of her performances.
Tell us about your experience playing Cassie in ‘A Chorus Line’ last year.
Playing this role has been a dream of mine since I was in high school. This contract was the hardest thing I have ever done, and probably will ever have to do when it comes to performing. The show, the role, the schedule, the traveling. The words that come to mind when I think about my experience are struggle, success, tears, confidence, sweat, unity, pain, joy. Coming back to the city, having accomplished and completed that contract, was such an amazing feeling. My cast was amazing and we were all really close. I honestly can say I couldn’t have done it without them. I remember thinking when I got the call that I had booked the role, that it was a bit out if my league and I didn’t know if I could do it. I was Crossfitting for about 4 months before I landed ‘A Chorus Line’. I truly believe that the strength and stamina that Crossfit provided me with helped me land the role. Crossfitting has helped me tremendously with my craft. It gives me strength as a dancer and a newfound confidence as I enter the audition room. My body hasn’t changed drastically since I started Crossfit, but the way I feel and how I move is much different.
With the physical demands of Crossfit, were there any WODs you did on the road that put your performance at risk physically?
Actually the choreography in the show did more damage to my body than I think any WOD could’ve done. Imagine doing the same AMRAP everyday for 6 months. ‘A Chorus Line’ is a very dance heavy show, especially my role. I had a 9 minute dance number about half way thought the show. We used the original Michael Bennett horror ahoy which included lots of lunging and back bends for me. I was wodding a few times a week the first few months, whether at a box or in the hotel doing my own WODs. The last two months I developed a few injuries due to the repetition of the movements I was doing everyday & the long travel days. I had a tear in my left quad and my lower back was pretty banged up because of the back bends. I only called out of the show 3 times in the 6 months I toured, all for sickness & loss of voice. I’m pretty tough and can handle pain pretty well. 2 weeks after we opened I actually sprained my ankle in the middle of the show & wrapped it up and kept trucking. I modified the choreography when I needed to so that I could keep performing, but when you lose your voice you’re SOL.
How many days a week were you Crossfitting while you were on tour?
It varied week to week. I went to 8 boxes total, but most of my WODs were done in hotels. Unfortunately, if the boxes weren’t a jogging or cab distance from our hotels then we’d have to WOD on our own. I often looked at the crossfitnyc blog for WODs that I could finagle in a hotel or outside.
I recruited! There were 5 of us that would go, one other than myself was a crossfitter. In fact, a good friend from tour, Bonnie Kelly, just finished elements yesterday! I would also WOD with another cast mate in the hotel gyms when we couldn’t get to a box. I made a list of about 50 movements (burpees, push ups, hspu, sit ups, double unders, etc.) that we could do in a hotel and we would create our own WODs. I traveled with a TRX (which I didn’t use much) and a jump rope.
The road can present some challenges nutrition-wise. Were you able to maintain a discipline like Paelo in cities that aren’t very Paelo-friendly?
Eating paleo on our tour’s schedule was nearly impossible. Some tours have longer sit downs, so grocery shopping is an option. For us, it was a lot of lunch stops at Panera, Super Walmart, Starbucks, etc. Breakfast options were usually limited to what the hotel offered & dinner was limited to what was near the theatre. I was lucky because my role was very physical, so I got my cardio every day just by doing the show. We also had an hour warmup everyday that included push-ups, abs, cardio and stretching.
Body weight movements (push-ups, pull-ups) are pretty difficult for me. I have a lot of muscle on a 5’5″ frame which is great, but it definitely adds weight to these movements. I really enjoy lifting heavy things over my head :). It gives me a sense of power, like I can accomplish the impossible. The Olympic lifts are definitely my favorite. I also find that the form comes fairly easy for me from being a dancer all my life.
Do you have a favorite WOD?
I did 13.2 for the first time this past week and I really enjoyed it.
What are your fitness goals for 2013?
By January 1, 2014, I want to be able to do a muscle-up & 8 strict pull-ups. To help me with these goals, I’m going to be a little more strict with paleo & incorporate more cardio into my training with dance and running to lose the extra weight.
I’ve checked out A Chorus WOD and think it’s a very cool idea. What inspired you to document the Crossfit portion of your experience with a traveling Broadway show?
My blog started originally with just a letter I had written to Crossfit NYC, basically thanking them. Joining Crossfit changed my outlook on quite a bit in my life.
Caley Crawford works out regularly at Crossfit NYC. You can read about her Crossfit escapades on the road on her blog