Jolene quirke

Jolene Quirke prepares for the 2019 CrossFit Games at her business, SEO CrossFit, in Athens. Photo by Cole Behrens.

It’s 6 a.m. and the sun hasn’t risen yet but Jolene Quirke has already been up for hours.

Starting at 4 a.m., Quirke prepares to take on the long day of instructing classes at her Athens business, SEO CrossFit, and training for herself.

Quirke counts down the few days she has left in Athens as she prepares herself physically, and mentally, for the 2019 CrossFit Games that start today (Aug. 1) and run through the weekend in Madison, Wisconsin.

More than 340,000 athletes from 164 countries competed in the preliminary CrossFit Open in February and March, but only 616 men and women (across several age brackets) qualified for this week’s Crossfit Games.

CrossFit is a proprietary, competitive exercise programs based on the principles of high-intensity and variable workouts, meaning you move from exercise to exercise. Many of the exercises focus on leveraging body weight, such as pushups, pull-ups, and jumping rope.

Quirke likely won’t leave the CrossFit gym until 9 that evening; much of her time is booked for her business clients, but she sets aside hours of her “break” time each day in furious preparation for the internationally acclaimed CrossFit Games.

“It’s a lifestyle,” Quirke noted.

She was ranked the 10th best CrossFit athlete in the world after qualifying at the preliminaries in February. Her division alone had around 27,000 competitors, all vying for a spot at the CrossFit Games this week.

However, a month before she competed in the preliminary competition, she endured a personal tragedy. In January of this year, Quirke suffered a miscarriage.

“I don’t think enough women talk about (suffering a miscarriage), to be honest,” Quirke said. “I think it happens to so many; it’s such a great percentage.”

She described her miscarriage as severe, and is thankful modern medicine was able to help her. She said she is also grateful for the two children she already has, ages 2 and 4.

“I think mentally, I was content because I don’t think it was really supposed to be, and I have two boys, and if I didn’t have two kids, it would be a lot harder,” Quirke said. “I was not expecting to get to this point but it’s kind of funny how everything has gotten to this point and fallen into place.”

Despite this, Quirke still went out in February and cleared the competitive hurdles necessary to qualify for the world games.

 

AS A MOTHER, QUIRKE TOES a fine balance between her many responsibilities. However, she hopes to impart an ideal of work ethic on her kids and encourage them to succeed.

“It’s been a hard balance, mentally, as a mother and business owner, and you don’t ever want to put your training before that, but I’m trying to be the best that I can be at this point so it’s been a bit of a struggle to balance everything,” Quirke said. “I hope my kids see what hard work can do.”

She said that her experience in Crossfit is likely much different from most of those she will be competing against. Many of the other athletes are professionals, whereas Quirke is a business owner and a mother first.

“A lot of these athletes that go to the games, they’re sponsored, they don’t have this job; they’re not mothers, they’re star athletes, and that’s their job,” Quirke said. “I’m in a very different position. I’m very nervous that way, but I want to embrace the opportunity and just enjoy it.”

Born in San Diego, Quirke, 35, attended school in Las Vegas, but later moved to Cincinnati. She then studied exercise physiology at Ohio University and later became a massage therapist.

At age 3, she began gymnastics. Her mother was a coach and referee of gymnastics for some 35 years. She said gymnastics provided the athletic foundation for her CrossFit career.

“That’s kind of my foundation for why I like this sport and my character of who I am,” Quirke said.

At age 16, she injured her back and could no longer do gymnastics. A friend recommended CrossFit as a way to help her back problems, and she has been in love with the sport ever since.

“I fell in love with it, I really truly believed the methodology and what it was about,” Quirke said. “Slowly but surely, I opened up my own place.”

Quirke opened up her first CrossFit gym eight years ago on Columbus Road in Athens, but has since then upgraded to a larger facility at 762 W. Union St.

Despite Quirke’s self-professed lack of business skills, CrossFit SEO’s 6 a.m. class got 20 people up at the crack of dawn and in her door. 

“I’m not always thinking about the dollar; I’m thinking about the service more,” she said.

The CrossFit program places much emphasis on group workouts and friendly competition. Qurike said this mentality inspires participants to push themselves past what they thought they could do.

“If we’re doing this side by side, we’re going to push ourselves better, and that’s why this stuff works,” Quirke said. “I don’t think I realized what that community or big group can do, versus being alone. I think I’ve seen that over the years, the great effect that has psychologically.” 

 

QUIRKE SAID SHE HAS BEEN grateful for all the support she has gotten as she prepares for the world championship from those who attend her gym. She said they have helped her raise money for her travel and food expenses.

“That was a blessing; I feel a lot of support,” she said.

Quirke said she’s also representing her community.

“I also want to represent Athens, that’s just so cool,” Quirke said. “It’s not so much about me; I’m excited to represent this place and what we are.”

Ultimately, CrossFit is for Quirke a way to improve herself while helping others.

“What CrossFit means to me is that we become physically better each and every day,” Quirke said. “But I think there is a lot of mentality to it. You can go in, and you don’t even have to do an hour, but giving yourself a little bit of time is going to make you a better person all around.”

She left Sunday for Wisconsin. Check-ins were scheduled for Wednesday, July 31, and the masters competition begins this Friday, Aug. 2, continuing into Sunday, Aug 4. 

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