Becky Conzelman, a 41-year-old mother of two, may not meet the demographics of a typical athlete, but her 42 pull-up max and high weight-lifting numbers tell a different story. This CrossFit star has not yet neared the end of her competition days.
In preparation for the 2013 CrossFit Games, Conzelman praises God every day of competition and holds tightly to the truth that the Lord says, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6, NIV).
“Last year I placed 14th at the Games,” Conzelman said. “And who knows what I’ll do this year, but it’s only by His Spirit that I’ll be able to do what I can do.”
CrossFit, according to crossfit.com, has three definitions:
- a fitness regimen developed by Coach Greg Glassman over several decades
- that which optimizes fitness (constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity)
- the community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together
For Coach Glassman, the equation is simple: constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity plus a communal environment equals health (CVFM @ HI + Communal Environment = Health).
As a company and sport, CrossFit has redefined fitness and spread throughout the world. Between websites with extensive free content, workouts and training and support for becoming fit, more than 5,500 affiliated gyms and 35,000 accredited CrossFit Level 1 trainers have arose in the last decade alone.
What started as a blog in May 2003 with the Workout of the Day (WOD) spurred a revolution in the fitness industry. CrossFit created “the Sport of Fitness,” known as the CrossFit Games, where each year the winners are crowned the Fittest Man and Woman on Earth.
The 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games will take place at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., from July 22-28, and Conzelman will have an opportunity to compete for God’s glory against the world’s most physically fit athletes.
Distributing God’s Word to CrossFit Competitors
The community-focused mindset of CrossFit gives believers like Conzelman the perfect avenue of influence. Conzelman knows that the Lord has given her CrossFit to add joy to her personal life, but she also sees a need to reach out and share the Gospel with this rapidly growing community.
“There are a lot of top [CrossFit] athletes that love the Lord and talk about the Lord in interviews,” Conzelman said. “We need to come together and unify, and we could really make a bigger impact in the CrossFit community.”
In Conzelman’s own life as an athlete in high school, the Lord spoke to her through the testimonies of athletes in the FCA New Testament Bible. Inspired by her past, she knew the testimonies of CrossFit athletes combined in one book and paired with Scripture would not only unify the believers but also reach out to the greater CrossFit community of competitors.
Conzelman contacted all the Christian athletes she knew within CrossFit and asked them to contribute. In order to have a few months to put the testimonies together with the New Testament before this year’s CrossFit Games, she needed to collect each written testimony from across the nation by February 11.
“The hope is to mass distribute thousands of Bibles at the CrossFit Games and also make them available to churches, CrossFit gyms and other organizations to use as a resource,” Conzelman said. “It could be someone’s first introduction to the gospel and our hope is that through their relationships at their gym, they will be invited by a friend to attend the local church where growth and discipleship will begin.”
Conzelman said she could also see the CrossFit New Testament used as a resource for Bible studies at affiliates because it will also include devotional topics with questions.
“I’m super excited,” Conzelman said. “I see a real revival coming with many lives changed for Jesus.”
Keeping Focus Through FCA
A born competitor, Conzelman swam and played soccer throughout her childhood. In 1996, Conzelman and her newlywed husband, who serves in the Navy, moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where she started competing in triathlons and then cycling races. Soon after, God placed a desire in her heart to train for the Olympic cycling team. After relocating again to Annapolis, Md., to train in 1999, the Lord provided an opportunity for Conzelman to get involved with the local FCA Huddle. She later served as the Area Director for FCA in Allentown, Pa., where she trained and raced at the Lehigh Valley Velodrome.
“Cycling long miles causes you to be by yourself a lot,” Conzelman said. “I was pursuing a dream of the Olympics. FCA helped me keep my focus.”
Conzelman knew that she only had to focus her eyes on Jesus, and He would direct her path on and off the bike. After just missing her opportunity to compete at the 2004 Olympics, Conzelman was devastated, but because her focus and mission was for the Lord first and competition second, she trusted that the Lord had a perfect plan for her life.
“I was so blessed by working with the kids and seeing them know Jesus,” Conzelman said. “[Leading a Huddle] was a great
reminder that it’s not just about the bike. There’s a lot more to this life than just sports.”
Reigniting A Competitive Spirit
Conzelman’s competitive career temporarily ended in 2005 when she stopped competing in cycling, and she and her husband submitted to where God was calling them, which was three different locations in four years, from Allentown, Pa., to New Orleans and to Alexandria, Va., in 2009. Two kids later and shortly after their most recent move, Conzelman was approached during a kettlebell workout at Gold’s Gym by a trainer who thought she would enjoy CrossFit and pointed her to a nearby gym.
The gym she was referred to was Outlaw CrossFit, owned by Rudy Nielsen, who quickly told Conzelamn she had found her new sport.
Conzelman said that because she had experienced the hard work and commitment of competition, she hesitated at the idea to train for CrossFit competitions.
“When I said I didn’t know about competing again, [Nielsen] said, ‘You know, Becky, you have a gift,’” Conzelman said. “That influenced my decision to compete. Sixteen months later, I was in my first CrossFit Games.”
In the past four years of CrossFit training, Conzelman said balancing her faith, family and competition has been challenging. Not only is Conzelman training almost every day, but her rehab, treatment and spending time in recovery takes up one-third of that time, too.
“I teach classes three times a week at CrossFit and between spending time with my kids and training, it’s a busy day,” Conzelman said. “I try to start it with prayer, getting in the Word and taking extra days off if need be.”
Conzelman said that because of her priority and security in the Lord, she can trust His leading on when to train and when to rest.
“I know I’ve matured in my faith because when I didn’t make the Olympic team, I was crushed,” Conzelman said. “With CrossFit, I have learned to give it up to the Lord. He knows my desires. I would love to make the CrossFit games and compete at the highest level possible, but at the end of the day, I’m OK. I can take an extra day of rest without freaking out. My identity is more in Him, and this is a gift He has given me, and I can do the best I can with what the Lord has given me.”
No matter Conzelman’s age, God has given her a desire to compete and blesses her through providing a way for her to participate in the CrossFit Games.
“I believe I was born to compete,” Conzelman said. “That’s what’s so fun for me about CrossFit. At 41 years old and a mother of two, I would have never thought that the Lord would give me something to do that I love so much again, and He did.”
God tells us that He will meet the desires of our heart when we delight in Him (Psalm 37:3-4). Jesus is our ultimate desire, but God chooses to bless us in this life with gifts of fulfilling even our smaller desires. By embracing our talents and using them to the fullest, like Conzelman has done with her surpassing physical fitness, we exchange our earthy joy for Heavenly Glory.
“The Lord is giving me CrossFit to add joy to my life,” Conzelman said. “But my ultimate joy is Jesus. That’s what motivates me to give my best in a workout.”