The Middle East's first school-based CrossFit gym, CrossFit BSK, is officially responsible for turning one of their own primary school teachers into one of the fittest teachers in the world.
Joanne McGurk, a teacher at the British School of Kuwait, has just returned from Madrid after putting in a stunning performance in one of the most brutal fitness competitions on the planet; the CrossFit Meridian Regionals.
For those who are unaware, CrossFit is 'the sport of fitness', and involves athletes completing workouts in a competitive environment against other athletes. The workouts aim to test every aspect of fitness and include Olympic lifting and gymnastic movements along with more traditional cardiovascular movements such as running, cycling and rowing.
CrossFit has grown significantly in recent years, especially within the Middle East region and it is now easily accessible to everyone. However, the British School of Kuwait are the first school within the Middle East and one of only a handful in the world to have their own affiliated gym with specialized coaches who teach CrossFit within the Physical Education curriculum as well as running afternoon classes for staff and local residents.
Purely by chance, Joanne, who had never tried CrossFit before, joined the only school in the region to have a CrossFit gym on campus. After dipping her toe in the water in September 2014, she quickly caught the 'CrossFit bug'. With a background in swimming and gymnastics, she swiftly improved her cardiovascular fitness, got to grips with the complex movements, and began competing. Having podiumed at a number of local events, she then set her sights in qualifying for 'Regionals'.
Earning a spot at regionals is a monumental task, with only the top 20 athletes from the Africa and Middle East region qualifying. The top 20 are determined from a series of workouts known as ‘The Open’, where all athletes complete the same standardized workouts and their scores are ranked in order of who completed them the fastest, lasted the longest or lifted the most weight. After five intense weeks of 'The Open', Joanne, who trains from 5am - 7am before school, and 3pm - 5pm after school, finished 11th out of 4000, a truly incredible achievement for a full-time teacher, with most other regional competitors being full-time athletes with few work commitments aside from coaching. Based on the CrossFit leaderboard, which can be filtered by occupation, Joanne is currently the fittest school teacher in Kuwait, Africa and the Middle East as a region and the 11th fittest teacher worldwide. More than 165,000 athletes enter the CrossFit open each year and to finish in such a high position is testament to Joanne’s hard work and commitment but also to her employers, The British School of Kuwait, for offering her the opportunity to train at such a high level as well as allowing time off to compete in such a prestigious event. Training both before and after her teaching day is an incredible opportunity that is available to few others in the teaching profession.
Following her heroics in the open, Joanne knew regionals was going to be an incredible challenge so went into the event with the attitude that she was there to do her best, enjoy herself and most importantly, learn from others around her. When asked about her time at regionals, Joanne described it as ‘a dream come true and she wished she could go back to day one and do it all over again’. She competed in 6 events over the course of the weekend, which was watched by a local crowd of over 5000 and streamed live to hundreds of thousands of CrossFit fans worldwide. Joanne was delighted to represent her school gym, ‘CrossFit BSK’, and proudly wore her branded sports kit during the workouts and had photos taken with the school flag on the arena floor. In every workout she exceeded expectations and outperformed her previous best times in all events. Fueled by the local crowd and the thought of her friends and family watching online she went on to finish in 16th position out of 40, taking a 13th place finish in her best event, which involved walking on your hands over a mini obstacle course! She was competing against some of the best athletes in the world so was astounded to have finished in such a respectable position.
Whilst understanding the personal sacrifices made to get to this event, Joanne also owes a great deal to the coaches at ‘CrossFit BSK’ and the management team at ‘The British School of Kuwait’ for supporting her on this journey. She now looks forward to getting back to training and working on the weaknesses that were identified throughout the event and is excited about what she can achieve next year.