In less than two years, Andrea Nisler has come onto the CrossFit scene in Minnesota with guns blazing and proven she is a fierce competitor, taking no less than second place in the Women’s Rx Division in the 2013 Granite Games. Hailing from White Bear Lake, she is a graduate of Drake University and currently works as marketing specialist at Nexen Group. As Andrea prepares to compete in both the Freeze Fest Team Challenge and the Battle in the Bluffs in the month of February, she talks with us about training, sandbag runs and Air Dynes.
MMG: Andrea thanks for taking the time to talk with us at Man Meets Goat. We actually crossed paths at the test run for Freeze Fest last weekend. But before we discuss that, I want to begin our conversation by talking about your relationship with sports growing up. I am guessing you were an athlete as a kid? What sports did you play and how did exercise fit into your life?
ANDREA: Growing up, I dabbled in just about every sport. This continued even into college. In high school, I participated in softball, volleyball, cross country and swimming. I found great success in all, but just got burned out before going to college. I could have done any of those sports at some competitive level in college but chose to focus on academics and a social life instead. That is when I became an official treadmill runner. It was disgusting. I would run about seven miles a day, be bored to death and ended up with no muscle and constant aches and pains.
MMG: So you cast aside competitive sports in college, but it sounds like you were unhappy ditching them for the treadmill. How did you make the transition into CrossFit?
ANDREA: I was hurting from all the running and repetitive motion, so I decided to hire a personal trainer my senior year of college. Through that personal training experience I was introduced to the idea of CrossFit. I was so skeptical at first that I pushed the thought of it aside until I graduated.
One day I just drove to a CrossFit gym in Iowa and tried the WOD. It was 100% Olympic lifting, which I had never done, and I left feeling very frustrated. I don’t like feeling defeated, so I went back a few days later to show myself I was better than that, and I guess I just kept returning.
MMG: It sounds like that competitive streak in you didn’t go away. So how did you find yourself making the jump from CrossFit classes into CrossFit competitions?
ANDREA: At first, the CrossFit classes would make me nervous and I would get that competition anxiety and excitement every time I walked into the gym. I love that feeling. Then I started getting comfortable with classes after about three months. Then after being a regular at the box, I was craving the nervous/competitive feeling again.
I started CrossFit in August 2012 and competed in my first competition in October, so there was not much time between. The weeks leading up to that competition were filled with so much anxiety and fear. I had not even mastered all the movements required for the competition. The day of, I showed up, gave it my all and didn’t regret it at all, ending up in the top ten!
MMG: That’s amazing! So in one year’s time you go from finishing top ten in your first competition to taking second place in the 2013 Granite Games in the Women’s AsRx Division. Tell me about that experience?
ANDREA: The Granite Games was my first true competition. I had never participated in any CrossFit competition lasting more than a few hours. I did not realize the physical exhaustion and mental toughness required for three whole days of pure CrossFit! I loved it!
I learned so many things from that competition, but the biggest lesson was to try out and test everything that will be in the workouts before the actual event. Here I would be referring to the dreaded Air Dyne. I had never hopped on one of those buggers before that event. That was a HUGE mistake. It was nothing like I imagined it would be. That bike was pure hell.
MMG: So with any of these competitions you are doing, what does a typical week of training for you look like?
ANDREA: There really is not a typical week. Some weeks I will feel so energetic and train every day, some of the days twice. Other weeks I will train just a few days and take it easy. If I had the choice I would love to go hard every week. There is nothing better than the feeling of a good solid week of training!
MMG: You said you’d prefer to train hard every week, but, like many of us, you have a full-time job. How do those two worlds interact?
ANDREA: Some weeks it is my job that gets in the way of training. I might plan to work out in the morning, but accidently sleep in and work until late, not allowing me to get in a workout at all. My peak performance, I have found, is in the afternoon; but, I could never get off of work every day to train at that time, so I have to try and motivate myself to work out and go hard after a full day at the office.
MMG: With Freeze Fest quickly approaching, how have you been training any differently? Have you focused on any of the exercises or skills that will be involved in the announced workouts?
ANDREA: Other than try the workouts that have been announced, there is really nothing I have done to prepare for Freeze Fest. My hardest challenge will be to remember what order the sandbag workout goes in!
MMG: You are referring to how during the test run you accidentally ran almost fifty yards extra because you forgot you had to carry the sandbag? While it was only a test run, what do you do in the heat of competition when something like that goes wrong? How do you respond?
ANDREA: That’s a good question. I’m crossing my fingers that it wont happen. However, these competitions are all about fun in the end. It’s not a life or death issue we are dealing with. I would be annoyed at first at myself for having another blonde moment, but I would end up laughing about it a few minutes later.
This may sound bad, but I will probably treat it like any typical day of training. I will try to get at least seven hours of sleep the night before, eat whatever my fridge has to offer that morning, pack a few snacks, some extra clothes and be on my way. It is not until the clock starts to count down that I get in the zone. I don’t like to think about the workout or anything before because it will just end up stressing me out. I will cheer everyone else on until it is my turn to go. Once the workout starts my body will do its best and leave it all on the floor.
MMG: Not to get ahead of ourselves, but what’s next after Freeze Fest? Will you be competing in the CrossFit Open? Can you share with us any training goals for 2014?
ANDREA: After Freeze Fest, I have the Battle in the Bluffs a few weeks later, and then the CrossFit Open about a week after that. The Battle in the Bluffs is an individual competition in Omaha, Nebraska where I will be competing in the elite division.
In 2014, I would love to do better in the open than I did last year. I would also like to get over 200 pounds on my overhead squat, squat clean, and clean and jerk.
MMG: Well absolutely best of luck in all those endeavors. Before you go, we have to ask, what’s your goat?
ANDREA: The Snatch! For whatever reason, I cannot advance in this lift like the others. I am terrified of dropping under the bar. My goal for 2014 is to improve my snatch form and get up to 150 pounds.