CrossFit Games Qualifier Jolaine Undershute: No Time to Celebrate
Once all the scores were tallied after the CrossFit Games Age Group Online Qualifier on March 16, Jolaine Undershute found herself in unofficially in third place overall in the women’s 45-49-year-old division.
But she had no idea.
The next morning, she was still in the dark about having qualified to her seventh CrossFit Games.
In fact, Undershute, 48, hadn’t looked at the leaderboard all weekend. She was too busy fielding text messages and calls from anxious members, asking her to hold or cancel their memberships because of the growing coronavirus pandemic.
- “I just started receiving so many messages of fear and panic. This person was canceling, that person wanted a refund, this person wanted a credit. My phone kept going off like that all day,” said the single mother of a 9-year-old boy, who owns CrossFit Invermere in British Columbia, a town of just 2,900.”
- “I don’t even know how many students dropped off in those 48 hours (the day after the AGOQ ended),” she said. She estimates she received calls or messages from close to half her 100 members, as a big part of her membership base are small business owners and people who had just been laid off.”
Undershute added: “It felt like everything I have worked so hard for that I started in 2009 was going down the drain. Like I am on the Titanic and I’m a captain going down with the ship—just this overwhelming sense of failure and that it’s all coming crashing down on me.”
About her Games qualification: While some members reached out for holds and cancellations, others began asking Undershute if she had looked at the leaderboard yet.
- “I kept saying no, and then a few of my students and one of my coaches were like, ‘You should really look.’ I had no idea,” she said
Undershute admits, when she discovered she had placed third and unofficially punched her ticket to Madison, she felt a wave of positive energy.
- “It did give me this big sense of accomplishment and made me smile. It was a nice thing to happen,” said Undershute, who’s expectations were low heading into the qualifier.
After last summer’s CrossFit Games, where she placed third overall, Undershute contemplated retiring. She stopped training hard and loosened up her diet.
- “I had a pretty good December. I ate so many Toffifees and Christmas treats,” she said with a laugh.
Then one day in late December, she hopped on the bar and couldn’t do a bar muscle-up.
- “I was like, ‘What is going on?’ I was so pissed off,” she said. She hadn’t weighed herself in a while, and when she did she discovered she had gained 15 pounds.
Enough was enough: Undershute decided to dial in her diet again and increase her training intensity. She still wasn’t sure whether she was going to compete in the AGOQ, but she signed up for a local competition with a male partner, which gave her the motivation she needed.
Her fitness came back fast and furious, and her results in the AGOQ over the years speak for themselves: Seven CrossFit Games qualifications.
After the 2020 AGOQ ended, and as her members started dropping off quickly, Undershute took a week off training.
- “Then with all the stress, I let loose and got into some wine on Saturday and suffered horribly on Sunday,” she said.
After that, it was time to stop letting the stress get to her and come up with an action plan, she explained.
Back to Basics: She returned to regular training on Monday, cleaned up her “carb overload” from the week before, and began focusing on servicing the members she had retained and reaching out to those who wanted to hold or cancel. It has been the best thing for her mental health, she explained.
- “I was like, ‘OK, let’s come up with an action plan here. It was time to start doing what I can do to give people options before any more drop off,” she said.
Undershute put together care packages so members could come into the gym and pick up a barbell and bumper plates, or a pair of DBs, a KB, a resistance band or an ergometer.
- “And I dusted off my YouTube account,” she laughed and began filming and posting live videos for her members.
She even started having a little fun. She pulled out her former bodybuilding training programs and began putting out little challenges to her members, like how to use things around their home they wouldn’t ordinarily use for a workout.
- “Someone even (shared a video) of them lifting up their couch and doing leg press with the couch,” she said.
Though she still feels like it’s an uphill battle, she is continuing to grind each day, to be productive and to constantly push to find new solutions.
- “I’m not where I want to be, but when I look at everything I’ve done in a day — I’m going from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and sometimes even until midnight — just answering emails and messages, providing programs, modifying existing programs, going to the gym for equipment pick-ups, and trying to take care of my little guy,” she said.
Undershute added: “I have been adapting quickly to the best of my ability and getting in touch with people to let them know what’s available, and hoping by the end of spring break, they’ll come back.”
While she’s feeling more positive and doing all she can to find solutions, she’s the first to admit she’s pissed off. Really pissed off.
- “Cannabis sales are (higher than ever) and liquor stores are still open and they’re cashing in. The shelves are empty. So it’s hard not to feel like, ‘You’re in the liquor store buying God knows how much liquor, but you’re canceling your gym membership?” she said.
Undershute’s message to others: “With all this uncertainty, all we have is our health and fitness. We need to keep plugging away. I want to set a good example and be a role model for my members and friends. It’s all I can do.”