Emily Abbott: The Red Flame from the Great White North

Emily Abbott is a Canadian 2 x Crossfit Games Athlete and the 8th fittest woman in the world. 'When I found Crossfit my true, authentic self flourished via the heavy lifting, the skill development and the high of finishing a tough workout.'

Hey Emily Abbott, can you tell us how you got into Crossfit?

I began Crossfit in 2012 after spending a wonderful summer traveling in Europe post-university/ post-Uni basketball. Needless to say I had gained some weight (from amazing food and drink) and wanted to train. So began my Crossfit journey in Crossfit CWE in St.Louis, Missouri. I was immediately addicted and was in the box almost every day for class for roughly 4 months. Then I began to travel again (New Zealand and Indonesia) but was always looking for a Crossfit box.


I did 3/4 of the Open in 2012 in New Zealand- I was SO into it. But I also wanted to travel so that took over. By 2013 I knew I wanted to make it to the Crossfit Games. So in June I moved back to Calgary (my home town) and started coaching at Crossfit Currie Barracks (it was really close to my house). I had also been introduced to Justin Thacker of the Lab Gym (an olympic lifting gym).

‘I knew that if I wanted a shot at making the Games then I would have to be crazy strong. So I got to work.’

I olympic lifted from July-December. Then Eric Barber (Crossfit Currie Barracks Owner) helped me get conditioned for the 2014 Open and Regionals.

From there, at my first Regionals experience, I placed 1st and was flabbergasted that I was going to the Games. Actually, I was terrified! I did not feel my skills were at an elite level but life doesn’t wait for you so I just had to go with it. I have been competing hard ever since my first 2014 Games experience.

How important is a good coach? Would you ever coach yourself?

When I first started out I needed guidance. It was essential for me to have a coach. I am 100% committed to the program and will complete everything. I think that is the key to success.

At the end of the day you have to believe in your programming and be consistent– it’s just Crossfit after all. When I started competitive Crossfit I was instantly following a program and truly believed in it and didn’t ask questions. Now, I am evolving as an athlete, and I know what my strengths and weaknesses are- I have become more educated about the world of competitive Crossfit. I have added in elements that will make me successful on top of my programming.

I have sought out specialty coaches in gymnastics and endurance so that I become a well-rounded athlete. If I do question the program then I talk to my coach! Communication is important for us because we are in a long-distance relationship, haha! And NO I would never coach myself. I don’t really know anything- I just pick things up and put them back down- for time. I do know some athletes who are very successful coaching themselves but they are really smart and on the ball.

Do you have any workout advice for anyone who is travelling but wants to stay fit at the same time?

  • Hydrate- bring your own water bottle on the plane and ask the flight attendants to fill it up.
  • Try your best to be organized by bringing healthy snack options with you.

I fail at this all the time and then end up eating a micro-waved sandwich in my hunger desperation. Not cool. I have learned from traveling with other athletes that they buy good food before we even head to the airport, or cook something up to put in a container. It also is much better to stay with an Air BnB where you have access to a kitchen- it’s a game changer. Then you can cook simple food and don’t have to eat out all the time (I LOVE eating out but it gets old quick). Also research the local Crossfit gym ahead of time and message them for a drop-in. Get it in early so you can have the rest of the day for FUN!

What is your Crossfit goal for 2016?

Get back to the Games and hit top 10!

Favourite exercise?

CLEAN AND JERK!!!!

What advice would you give to someone trying to improve their gymnastic skillset?


Well it is DAMN frustrating. Haha but relentlessly seek improvement. There are days when everything goes to shit in a gymnastics WOD either in training or a competition. Yes, it can be discouraging, but then I get back in the gym and devote more time to gymnastics training.

‘With gymnastics it is baby steps. Seriously.’

There are no 5lb PR’s, just little victories (I remained tight in my handstand!). I also do small skill sessions to keep my technique clean and I video tape myself a ton so I can clearly see what the hell my body is doing through space.

What effects do think Crossfit is having on the issues of female body image within wider society?

Oh man- big question! What I love about living in this day and age is the fact that a woman can be whatever she wants to be. Crossfit has simply created another outlet of expression and is welcoming to all women. The reason why I love Crossfit is because I was always trying to be something else or look like someone else (i.e. skinny and lean). I was miserable in trying to do so.

When I found Crossfit my true, authentic self flourished via the heavy lifting, the skill development and the high of finishing a tough workout. I felt comfortable with my own body type- I was meant to lift heavy things. And it is so cool that women are more concerned about getting their first pull-up rather than dropping lbs. That to me is a huge perspective shift. The female body not only looks amazing (in any form-muscle or non muscle) but can do amazing things! Crossfit provides so much confidence for women- especially those who feel like they cannot conform to the social construct of the female gender. This confidence has opened up a whole new world for me: to not be afraid to ask for things, to be strong in confrontational situations and to share my opinions.

I am proud of my body and I am so damn proud of what I can do. I have worked so hard so if I want to work out in a sports bra and booty shorts then I damn well can. If I want to wear a sweatsuit to work out in then I damn well can!’

What advice would you offer to Crossfit beginners?

  • Be consistent in whatever you do.
  • Crossfit can be overwhelming. Take your time and focus on the little details (good warmup, engaging glutes, core) those are the things you can control!
  • Don’t compare yourself to others- compare yourself to you a year ago. Crossfit is the beginning of your own health journey so take responsibility in your health- it’s not just up to the Crossfit box and the coaches to keep you healthy.

How much do you miss doing farm work in the rain back in Calgary? And how did this kind of work help you with your Crossfit training?


I always used to say that there is no place better (in the summer that is) than on the ranch in Calgary, Alberta. Land of the big sky! I think growing up on a ranch where my parents forced us to work tirelessly built character. My dad would make me lift things that I didn’t think I could lift or drive tractors or round up cattle. I was constantly out of my comfort zone (and would tell my Dad he is crazy) but I think I began to really like being there. That is why Crossfit is such a good fit for me- it’s crazy, uncomfortable and makes you a better person. I miss the Ranch. I make it back there from time to time with my dogs.

Do you have any odd Crossfit rituals when you train?

When I am training by myself I usually play my eclectic mix of music and dance and sing (I love the oldies).

What do you like to do when you aren´t in the Crossfit Box or competing?

I love playing sports. I try to play basketball, volleyball or any sport. It is exhilarating. I read or take my dogs for walks, hang out with friends.

What is your favourite cheat meal?

PIZZAAAAAAAAAAA!

What Superhero power would you like to have?

Is time-travel a super power?

If you were stuck on a desert island and could take only one luxury item, what would it be?

Hmmm, a massage chair- the best one on the market. The one with calf massagers. A book too.

What’s the story behind your tattoos? They look great!

Why thank you!! I love art nouveau especially the work of Alphonse de la Mucha. So the woman on my arm is my calm, ethereal warrior wrapped in a mandala. I then chose to get some mountains and Alberta (my province) wild flowers. Then I got another mandala on my arm because I was obsessed with geometrical tattoos. I will do a little more but then that’s it!!! I promise!

Open Announcement Video credit: Games.CrossFit

All other Images and videos credit: abbott.the.red instagram

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About The Author

Editor-In-Chief at BOXROX. I come from a background of rugby and weightlifting. Growing up in the English Lake District, I spent a great deal of time swimming in its stunning lakes and rivers. In 2015 my brothers and I became the first people to swim the 145km length of the River Eden, from source to mouth, in 9 days. We also swam the Corryvreckan whirlpool, the third largest in the world, and Crossfit is a huge part of my training for these events.

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