Two-Brain Radio: Life During and After Competition With Lindsey Valenzuela

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Sean: 00:05 – Hi everybody. Welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On this episode I talk with four-time CrossFit Games athlete Lindsey Valenzuela. But first, if you’re enjoying this show, I would really encourage you to subscribe to Two-Brain Radio because every week we bring you the best from the fitness and the business worlds. On Mondays, Mateo Lopez fires up the marketing machine and explains how real entrepreneurs are generating huge ROI on ads. And then on Wednesdays, of course, I bring you great stories from the most interesting people in the fitness world, and on Thursdays, Greg Strauch and Chris Cooper bring you the best of business, a host of experts who can help you level up as an entrepreneur. So if you haven’t, please subscribe to Two-Brain Radio so you don’t miss a show, and we would love to hear what you think in a review. Lindsey Valenzuela finished second overall at the CrossFit Games in 2013 and is a member of that group of athletes who trained in Southern California about 10 years ago, known as the Valley girls. She also owns CrossFit Autumo in Moorpark, California. While she was competing, she was one of the most powerful athletes in the women’s field. We talk about some of the highlights from her career at CrossFit Games, how becoming a mother affected her life in and out of the gym and what it’s like to have a husband who’s a law enforcement officer. Thanks for listening.

Sean: 01:24 – Lindsey Valenzuela, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it. How are you doing?

Lindsey: 01:30 – I’m doing well. No problem. How are you doing?

Sean: 01:32 – I’m doing great. Let’s start where you found CrossFit. How did you get involved in this?

Lindsey: 01:40 – Yeah, so, I started CrossFit in, I would say 2009. I was just coming off my volleyball season at my university and I was Olympic lifting with my then-coach and I saw people doing CrossFit, asked if I could do it, he said no. And I said, OK, well I’m starting it. So my first workout was Filthy 50. Terrible workout to do for your first, I don’t recommend that at all. And then I was kinda sold from just the competitive and camaraderie side of it, I was sold from that point on.

Sean: 02:17 – You mentioned that you loved the competitive aspect of it, but what was it that really kept you coming back day after day, after day after day?

Lindsey: 02:27 – You know, so I wasn’t great at everything when I first started. Actually my husband, I had to talk him into coming and try and CrossFit and he was able to get all the gymnastics movements and more complicated stuff before me. So, the aspect of having something new to learn every day and it continuously challenging me, it was, you know, just the part that really sold me. I was never not having to learn something. I was always having to challenge myself physically and mentally. So, that was the part that really sold me.

Sean: 03:02 – When did you figure out that you were actually really good at it?

Lindsey: 03:06 – I think kind of right away I knew I could lift more than a lot of the girls at that time, just by, you know, being self-taught a lot of the movements, watching videos like, oh well that’s not, I mean I can do that or maybe a little bit more weight and then, you know, just kind of, you know, getting into it, like I said, self-taught and watching the videos and everything online and I kinda had an advantage in terms of the Olympic lifting side of things cause I had been doing it for volleyball for so long. So, yeah, I dunno, I just, I kinda knew I had an advantage in that sense.

Sean: 03:49 – And you were part of that, SoCal group of women who were really responsible I think, or played a big role in helping CrossFit sort of break out of its shell and get on the map. What was it like training with a group of athletes that you had down there like 10 years ago?

Lindsey: 04:10 – Yeah, so I was the last girl, like Valley girl, I guess, to come on board and the youngest. So I had learned about them just, you know, just I guess through the chain of the community and word of mouth and then, you know, saw videos and I kind of knew just from being a team athlete my whole life that I needed to get a little bit more push in the gym. So that’s when I joined Valley CrossFit. And then there was Katie and Becca and Chris and a bunch of other girls too, that I could potentially, you know, do extra training with or do classes with and have that extra push. Right. So, I feel like from them I got more of, OK, this is like the speed that I need to be at and this is what I need to be able to do to be at the Games with them or be able to compete alongside of them. So that was a good learning curve for me.

Sean: 05:14 – The names you mentioned, they are all incredible competitors. What did you learn from just being around them?

Lindsey: 05:22 – I had to really learn, I think the biggest thing that I learned that it’s not a team sport. So I came from a team sport and I had to really learn as much as we all push each other and we want to see each other be successful, it’s for sure an individual sport. So, nobody’s going to help you finish the workout. I don’t know if that makes sense. I think that was the biggest thing that I learned that although it’s like, you know, a very big community that when you’re on the competition floor, it’s up to you. So I, that was a huge thing and something important that I really had to learn and that was a huge learning curve for me. Cause like I said, I came from a team sport where, you know, you help each other be successful and it’s not that we didn’t, it was once you get on the floor it’s you, and we’re competing against each other.

Sean: 06:16 – You mentioned the Valley girls, and for people who’ve been around CrossFit for a long time, they know exactly who you’re talking about. What was the sense among that group about what you were doing at that time?

Lindsey: 06:30 – I don’t think we ever thought about it as, OK, we’re going to do this monumental movement. I think it was more of, OK, this is something that we all individually and collectively love to do and that we’re good at. And that we were all super competitive. So we just kept working hard and we knew that individually and collectively, we had to work hard in order to get to where we wanted to go. And that was, you know, to the CrossFit Games, that was the ultimate goal at the time. So, I think that was really what was in mind and then it just kind of started people were like noticing that we were all together kind of thing. It just kind of, I guess fell into place.

Sean: 07:18 – When did making it to the CrossFit Games become your focus and training?

Lindsey: 07:27 – So 2011, I was focusing on, you know, getting to Nationals for USAW weightlifting. And then I was also focusing on CrossFit. Which I did both in 2011 and 2011 with my rookie year at the Games. And then I also got second in my weight class at the Nationals. But I really had to make a decision after that season cause my husband at the time was, or my husband was starting the Academy at the time for law enforcement. So, in 2012, before that season, I really decided that there was more opportunity for me in CrossFit. So I decided just to focus 100% on CrossFit.

Sean: 08:11 – There’s a, and I think it’s in 2011, but there’s a famous video of you and I think you’re sitting in an ice tub or something and you find out you’ve qualified and—

Lindsey: 08:18 – Yeah, that was 2012.

Sean: 08:20 – OK. 2012. Right. So you—there’s that fire that you exhibited when you find out, what was that moment like for you?

Lindsey: 08:32 – You know, I think that was really just a sense of relief and you know, I had come back for my rookie season, I put all my, I guess heart in one hat and I was like, OK, I’m dedicating myself to CrossFit. It was kind of a big leap of faith. And for me that was well, I did it. And I had started working solely with Dusty Hyland and really focusing on myself, you know, as an athlete and understanding that it was an individual sport. So for me that was more of like I did all the right things and everything that I was doing and sacrifices that I did were worth it. So that was a huge moment for me of like, OK, you know, I really believe in myself and what I’m doing right now because I never gave up and what I did was what I was supposed to be doing.

Sean: 09:31 – Mentally, how did you have to kind of change the way that you approach competition now that you were no longer in a team sport, but now, like you said earlier, it was all about you when you’re out there on the floor.

Lindsey: 09:43 – Yeah. So I mean, the big thing is, you know, I really thought, you know, in CrossFit the one thing that drew me was, is community. Right? And you walk into the gym and everybody knows you and if they don’t see you for a while they’ll text you before the owner of the gym gets a hold of you. You know what I mean? But I really had to change my mind frame with a sense of this is 100% an individual sport. And as much as everyone who you train with wants to see you do well, they’re not going to help you pick up the bar or finish a muscle-up or, you know, finish a row, that’s up to you. So it’s really on you to make sure that you execute everything correctly in competition and in training and make sure that you’re successful, because the way I look at it, if someone’s clapping for you or cheering you on and they finish the workout, it’s because they finished the workout before you and you’re still having to finish it. You know what I mean? So I had to really take away from it that this was no longer I’m helping someone finish a workout or win a game or win, and vice versa. It was up to me to win.

Sean: 11:07 – Going into 2013 you were about to have your best ever performance at the CrossFit Games and make it onto the podium when you finished second. Overall, how did you feel going into that weekend in Carson?

Lindsey: 11:20 – I had a really successful season, and I think people started noticing me, just from outside competitions and winning a lot of them and, you know, putting up videos on social media. So I felt a little bit of pressure. But I really just wanted to do well and I really felt like I could at least make top five that year. But when I got second, I think I went into that workout fourth, third or fourth. So I wasn’t really expecting to get second. I said, OK, well maybe I’ll finish third if I do this based on, you know, the point spread at the time. But I was really just focusing on finishing those workouts, the Cinco I and II, because my hands were so messed up going into that workout. I was just like, I just gotta finish it, this is the last two workouts and then we’re done for the week. But yeah, that was, I mean I had a feeling I could get on the podium, but I really was just shooting for the top five.

Sean: 12:26 – Yeah. Other than that, those final two events, which I think were still two of the toughest that have ever been programmed at the CrossFit Games, what stands out to you about those four days in Carson?

Lindsey: 12:37 – You know, I just felt like all the programming really flowed. Like everything was being tested. I didn’t feel like just my—like after 2015, my arms were just annihilated. Like I couldn’t move my elbows for about a month and a half after, but I felt after the 2013, the thing that really stood out to me was I felt like everything had been tested; endurance, strength, gymnastics, you know, everything, I mean there’s a lot of modalities to talk about in CrossFit but I just really felt like man, I had everything tested. So for me in terms of the athletic side of things, I felt like everything had been tested and mentally, too, you know, we had some pretty long events that were mentally, you know, we had the half marathon and then we had the burden run. And then we had shorter workouts, too, as well. Like Cinco I was more on the shorter side of programming. I felt like everything really flowed. I don’t know if that makes sense.

Sean: 13:51 – No, it does for sure. One thing that always stood out to me, and I mentioned this before, is when you were competing as you always had, you were always very fiery, very emotional. Where did that come from?

Lindsey: 14:02 – I’ve always been like super competitive. So for me, when I’m competing, well before I had my son, it was always, you know, I always had, you know, some self-doubt from people saying things or feeling like people were doubting me. So for me it was always a sense of proving myself wrong and then proving other people wrong second. So for me, when I was able to do something and surpass my own expectations, that’s really where the fire came from. It was just, I don’t know how to explain it unless you’ve experienced it, when you’ve accomplished a feat that you didn’t think you could do or maybe you could do, it’s just a very internal feeling and that’s just where all the fire came from.

Sean: 14:49 – You got to witness firsthand the Games go from this kind of a small gathering to the huge international affair that was on national television. When did you realize that you know, OK, this thing is actually getting pretty big?

Lindsey: 15:02 – I would say really, honestly in 2013 is when I noticed it was starting to get big. I think 2012 was the first time that people, you know, were really coming from all over the world. And then I think it was on ESPN for the first time in 2012, I don’t think it maybe 2011, it was maybe, I don’t know.

Sean: 15:25 – It wasn’t live, it was afterwards though. But 2013 I think we were live.

Lindsey: 15:30 – Yeah. So I want to say in 2013 is really when I started noticing the production value behind things. Just because you can, if you don’t know anything about production, you don’t need to know. You can notice that there’s more cameras and more people and you know, more trucks and more TV trucks. So you start noticing things like that. Right. So that’s really, I took a lot of media classes in college and, and high school. So I was like, man, there’s a lot of things going on here.

Lindsey: 15:59 – I mean, I started being able to notice it, but yeah, I would really say 2013 is when I really started noticing the value behind things was really put being put forward.

Sean: 16:12 – What did that do to you as an athlete with all that going on around you and the stands are packed and you’re out there on the floor trying to put forth your best effort?

Lindsey: 16:22 – It didn’t really affect me at all. I mean, honestly, when you’re out there, really the only thing you notice is what you have to accomplish. You know what I mean? You noticed that people out in the stands and stuff, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. It didn’t, it never really made me nervous, to be honest with you.

Sean: 16:42 – We’ll be back with more from Lindsey Valenzuela after this. Gym owners. We know you’re working hard, but what if you aren’t working smart? Over the years, the team at Two-Brain Business has seen too many driven, dedicated entrepreneurs get frustrated on their own. Some problems can be solved in minutes with the help of an expert. Your clients seek out your expert advice when they have a fitness problem. So who do you seek out when you have a business problem? If you’re struggling with something, Two-Brain will help you for free. No sales, no pressure, just free help on everything from hiring and firing to budgeting and marketing. Head to TwoBrainbusiness.com and book a free call with a certified mentor today. Two-Brain Business. We make gyms profitable.

Sean: 17:30 – Your last year at the Games was 2015. Why did you decide that, all right. You know, I’m done now after this.

Lindsey: 17:40 – I didn’t really think I was done competing. I went into that season knowing that we wanted to start a family and to be honest with you, I always wanted to start a family. It was just, there’s never a right time. I should start off with that, but I just in my heart knew that I wanted to have a baby and start a family. And it’s a yearning that a lot of people don’t understand unless they’ve had that in some capacity. So it’s very much I had this feeling in my heart and so did our Arsenio, my husband, and I was ready to 100% focus on that. And I had a lot of people say, well, you’re at the top of your, I guess your career. And I said, yeah, well, I’m done being selfish because when you’re an individual athlete, you have to be very selfish and it takes a lot of time away from your family and other experiences that you want to have as an individual. And I was very much ready for that to come to a close at the time. And then after I had my son, I started taking it up again and getting back into shape and showing myself that I could get back into competitive shape, which I did. And, you know, it’s really cool to have him, you know, even if it’s a local competition that I’ve been asked to do by my clients cause they need someone to fill in, it’s really cool to have him there and have had him there at, at Regionals for two Regionals when they were still around.

Sean: 19:24 – How does now training as a mom compare to training as a competitive athlete?

Lindsey: 19:33 – Yeah, so, right now I’m not really focusing on competing. I’m focusing on my son and my gym and then also trying to have another baby, which is taking a lot longer this time around. But I’m really focusing on just staying healthy. And I’m not in the gym for, you know, two or three hours a session. So, you know, it could be up to four or five hours a day you’re in the gym, right? So I’m really just focusing on staying healthy and healing my body. I have some injuries just from all the years of competing. And just staying healthy and really focusing on my quality of life through, you know, taking classes with my clients, which I’m going to take the class workout here after we get off the phone and just really connecting with CrossFit in a different way. So it’s something—I’m still very competitive with myself when I’m working out, but I’m not having to be in the gym five hours a day and I’m allowing myself to dedicate that time to my son and making sure he is the best person he can be and give him all the opportunities that I had when I was younger.

Sean: 20:51 – You mentioned that you’re competitive with yourself. I know a lot of competitors who step away and they have troubled finding a purpose in training when they’re not training for a competition. How do you switch that side off and then understand that, OK, this is now all about health and that’s OK.

Lindsey: 21:09 – Yeah. So, you know, what was really weird is I didn’t have a hard time switching over to that mentally on the side of the competitive side. Because I didn’t, I think it’s because I went through that as, you know, I was really sick during my pregnancy and I felt what it was like to not be able to work out. You know, I really don’t feel like I had—I don’t have any regrets or had a hard time kind of switching it off. You know, the only hard part has been aesthetically, you know, the byproduct of being in the gym five hours a day is you’re 10% body fat, right, rather than 15% body fat right now. So aesthetically that’s only been the super hard part of, you know, seeing your body change a little bit. And for me, it’s well, I’m giving myself some time to heal, and that’s how I’ve been OK making that switch over aesthetically. But mentally, my purpose is you know, I just really like moving and if I don’t move, I feel off. So the classes allow me to stay in shape, feel good mentally, have an outlet, and connect with my clients and also be a good example for our son and be active.

Sean: 22:31 – How did becoming a parent change your life?

Lindsey: 22:35 – Oh man. Being a parent—I’m trying to think about the most simplest way of what it’s done. It prioritizes your life in the sense of you lay eyes on your child for the first time and you’re just like, man, this is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks. It doesn’t matter what I’ve accomplished up to this point. The only thing that matters is making sure that this little human is the happiest person that they can be and that they have everything physically and emotionally that they could ever need. And without a doubt, you don’t ever regret having to sacrifice something for yourself for that person. And whether that’s been gym time or you know, going out and buying something for yourself. Like you just don’t ever think twice about it because you want to make sure that they have everything that they could ever need.

Sean: 23:41 – How do you incorporate fitness into how you’re raising him?

Lindsey: 23:48 – He is a very active little boy. He is very much different than me. He’s very much like his father in the sense of he doesn’t jump into things right away. He’s very observant. He’ll watch, like I’ll watch him from his window in his classroom when he doesn’t know I’m there. They have yoga on Thursday. I know. I wish I had yoga when I was a kid, three years old. But he has yoga and he is very observant and he watches and then he’ll participate. So for me, incorporating fitness into being a parent, I’ve really had to learn that everybody learns differently and wants to participate differently. And so he has taught me different approaches in order to get someone to want to be active. And not everyone’s going to jump into it right away. And it’s really been a byproduct of what he’s taught me and he’s continuously being my teacher of the sense of OK, well we’re going to have him participate like in karate, but it’s OK if he doesn’t want to do things right away and it’s OK if he wants to kinda be observant and then participate. And that’s really helped me as a coach.

Sean: 25:09 – Yeah, that’s really interesting. How then do you apply that in a class setting when you are a coach?

Lindsey: 25:16 – Yeah. So I mean, there’s still people that are very on the fence about CrossFit. I think that they see the CrossFit Games and they’re like, oh shit, I can’t do that. That’s really dangerous. Then, even when they come in here and they see a barbell, they’re like, there’s no way I can lift the barbell. It’s really allowed me to even be more creative in terms of modifying and getting people a little bit more excited and less scared about, you know, challenging themselves. So it’s helped me become more creative in the terms of literally and figuratively, taking baby steps in order to get them to participate in class.

Sean: 25:56 – I ask this of a lot of athletes who are elite athletes who become coaches, sometimes when you’re so naturally good at something, it’s hard to then teach people how to do it because it comes so easily to you. How do you communicate effectively with people who come into your gym who might not be the best athletes or even just the best movers?

Lindsey: 26:17 – Yeah. You know, I really incorporate all the different journeys that I’ve been on. You know, I didn’t really get the gymnastics side of things right away. It took me a long time to learn how to do those and then I have my weight-loss journey after I had my son. So I always tell them like, look, if I can learn how to do gymnastics and do CrossFit while trying to lose 75 pounds after having my son, anybody can do it and any fitness level can do it. And it takes everybody a different amount of time to learn things. But as long as you’re willing to accept a little bit of failure here and there and learn from that, you’re going to do well and you’re going to conquer whatever fears you have or whatever obstacles and everybody can participate in CrossFit, no matter what levels or capabilities you’re at.

Sean: 27:10 – You’ve mentioned your husband. What’s it like being married to someone who is in law enforcement?

Lindsey: 27:18 – So it’s very—you have to learn to be very independent and I’ve always been a very independent person. So for me it works well. But at the same time it’s very challenging, because he’s literally absent about three or four days a week, and he works night shifts. So when RC was first born and he had to go back to work, I had to do all the night feedings and the day stuff by myself. So it’s definitely one of those things where you have to learn that, you know, they’re at work, but they would much rather be at home. But you have to understand that you’re gonna have to be a little bit more independent if you’re married to a police officer and if you’re not independent, then you better learn how to be independent. And that, you know, sometimes they are going through things that you will never understand and vice versa. So communication is very important.

Sean: 28:17 – People who have law enforcement officers in their family or are married to them, they get to see a side of those people that not many people get to see. What is the biggest misconception that people have about men and women in law enforcement?

Lindsey: 28:34 – I think the biggest thing is that people forget that they’re people and they’re sensitive and they have feelings. And as much as they might put this tough exterior, I guess look on their face or you know, body actions or things like that, they’re very sensitive. And I feel like many people think that, you know, that law enforcement wants to use some sort of force and that they want to use; they want to take out their guns and they want to tackle people and they want to arrest people. And that’s really not what they wanna do. They want to be able to have conversations with people and help people. And it’s a very selfless job. And unfortunately with those selfless jobs and the type of job that they have, they encounter things that they don’t want to encounter. And I feel like people forget that they have feelings, too. And that the things that they see affect them. And the things that they experience affect them, and they don’t go to work hoping that they have these types of interactions with people. And if they could have simpler interactions and better interactions with people, they would, but they’re going out there dealing with everybody’s problems. So, people need to remember that they’re dealing with other people’s problems and they have their own stuff going on at home, too. So they’re doing their best to balance everything.

Sean: 30:12 – Yeah. No one ever calls the cops when things are going well.

Lindsey: 30:17 – They forget that they’re dealing with everybody’s problems on a daily basis. So they’re trying their best to deal with their own life and, you know, cops have their own problems at home or you know, they’re missing family things at home and stresses at home and you know, and they’re having to go to work to deal with problems. So they have a very jaded sense of how our, I guess, I don’t know, the world is right now.

Sean: 30:49 – No, for sure. How many random bullets do you find laying around the house?

Lindsey: 30:54 – Oh, none. Arsenio is really good at making sure he, and especially since we have a little one, we have everything, we have about three safes and everything’s locked up.

Sean: 31:07 – Good. I used to find them in the laundry. I would find them in the sink, in the fridge, they were everywhere.

Lindsey: 31:15 – No, luckily our department’s really good at—they got everything very organized.

Sean: 31:17 – That is good. All right, I’m glad. Lindsey, before I let you go, when you look back on your career and the things that you’ve accomplished in CrossFit, first question, what are you most proud of?

Lindsey: 31:38 – I think the most, the biggest thing that I’m proud of is, you know, and after I had my son in 2017 I went through just a C-section and having to lose a lot of weight and learning how to raise a new person, a little person, and balancing owning a gym and balancing being married to a cop. I think that the thing that I’m most proud of is understanding that I can do things that I think that I can’t do and have so many things on my plate and be able to do that and still have people in my corner, and the right ones didn’t care that I was first or last, and when I finished the muscle-up workout that year, which was I think like 25 or 30 muscle-ups in a workout, I can’t remember.

Lindsey: 32:32 – It was some crazy number of muscle-ups. Right. And when I first started training, I couldn’t do a single muscle-up. When I first started getting back to training after I had my son, and when I finished that workout and I just saw the entire crowd standing and cheering for me and like giving me a standing ovation was kind of like, well, they know I’m not going to the Games, but I think they understand how much hard work it took. And for me to accomplish what I did with all the different, I guess, aspects that I had to overcome was probably the best thing that I’ve ever accomplished.

Sean: 33:10 – And then final question, this is kind of along the same lines, is that, how do you want people to remember Lindsey Valenzuela, the CrossFit athlete?

Lindsey: 33:19 – I think the biggest thing that I want people to remember me of is, you know, I think I paved the way for weightlifting in terms of needing and having to lift a lot of weight. But the biggest thing is it never quit. And you know, believe has always been my motto and I have it tattooed on me. And people have shirts of believe on their shirts that are shirts of mine. And I think the biggest thing is I want people to understand that to never quit and sometimes your priorities will change for the better, but to never quit on yourself and to always believe in that you’re capable of so much more than you’re capable of. And sometimes your biggest enemy is going to be that little voice in your head, but you got to keep proving it wrong and to always believe in that you’re capable of more than you think.

Sean: 34:14 – Lindsey, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. It was a blast getting to be able to watch you as a competitor. I always enjoyed seeing you out there on the competition floor and you know, best of luck with the family and hope your husband stays safe and hope your son is doing well.

Lindsey: 34:29 – Thank you so much, Sean. I appreciate it.

Sean: 34:31 – Big thanks to Lindsey Valenzuela for taking the time to talk with me. If you want to follow her on social media, you can find her on Instagram. She is @liftlikelindsey. Chris Cooper almost went bankrupt in 2008. Now he’s running a multimillion-dollar company dedicated to helping entrepreneurs avoid the mistakes that he made. He spent thousands of hours mentoring gym owners one on one, and his new book is packed with advice to help you grow your business and create your Perfect Day. “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief” is an Amazon bestseller. Check out the book reviewers. They’re calling it a must-read and a lighthouse for your business. So if you want to level up, this is the business book that you need. That’s it for this episode. Thanks for listening. Everybody, and we’ll see you next time.

Thanks for listening!

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