Joey Kimdon knows how chaotic and unpredictable the CrossFit Games can be. So rather than worry about being perfect in every facet of the sport, she approaches each day with the goal of improving what she views as her weaknesses.
This summer, that mentality paid off in a huge way.
Kimdon, a Corvallis resident, captured the Masters title for her age group at the 2019 CrossFit Games — an annual competition that awards its champions the title of "fittest person on Earth."
Competing in the women’s age 40-44 group, Kimdon won four of the eight events throughout the three-day competition that took place Aug. 1-4 in Madison, Wisconsin.
“I was hoping it would happen,” Kimdon said. “But you really never know. Especially in CrossFit, you never know what you’re gonna be thrown, or if you’re going to get injured, or what the other competitors are doing. It’s really never a given. So I was very, very excited that it actually did happen.”
The CrossFit Games, which began in 2007 and have been aired on ESPN since 2011, test athletes in a series of workouts involving high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, plyometrics and other exercises. This year’s games featured everything from a 6,000 meter run with a weighted backpack, to an overhead squat two-rep max lift.
Kimdon finished third in 2018 in the same age group, and second in the 35-39 group in 2017. While she made plenty of physical improvements in preparation over the past calendar year, she says the mental aspect — and the experience of having gone through the games before — helped her break through to the top of the podium.
“Just being able to go out there and not let anything faze you,” Kimdon said. “You run your race. You’re willing to change your plan if you need to. Don’t worry if it’s hurting some — expect it to hurt, but you’re not going to die. Keep going.”
With a background in competitive gymnastics, as well as distance running, Kimdon has always owned more of an advantage in cardio and conditioning events. She competed in gymnastics in high school and ran track at Division III Harvey Mudd College in Southern California, where she double-majored in engineering in mathematics.
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After her competitive track days ended, she ran marathons and ultramarathons, but a knee surgery eventually forced her to give up the excessive amount of miles. The desire for a new competitive outlet led her to CrossFit Train, a popular Corvallis box, in 2013. By 2014, she was competing in regional competitions.
“I was looking for something else and Crossfit was a good fit because they really work on mobility and different kinds of movements,” Kimdon said. “So you’re not always doing the same things. You’re less likely to get injured.”
Kimdon admits that it took time to get adjusted to the Olympic lifting portion of the sport; the combination of strength and technique required a different skill set than her past endeavors. But she is thrilled with the progress she has made, and at this summer's games, she thrived in the lifting events.
Kimdon registered a best two-rep max overhead squat weight of 195 pounds — good for third in the competition — on the final day of the games to help cushion her lead.
“I’m pretty good at deadlift and back squat,” Kimdon said. “I’m less good at heavy snatches … for the last few years I’ve really been trying to dial in the technique for that. It’s the kind of lift where you can have the strength to get it over your head, but if you’re not in the exact right position, it’s gonna come back down.”
Thanks to a flexible schedule — Kimdon said her husband, David, works while she homeschools their two children — she typically trains five days a week and sometimes squeezes multiple workouts into a day.
Even with the 2019 title secured, Kimdon doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. She plans to compete at next year’s CrossFit Games and would like to travel for another high-level competition during the next calendar year.
“I just want to encourage people to stay fit and don’t give up just because you get a little bit older,” Kimdon said. “Keep working out and have fun with your friends.”