How Training at CrossFit Fringe Helped India’s Fittest Woman Hannah Kathrein Gain Confidence
Hannah Kathrein walks a few blocks down a busy Missouri road to CrossFit Fringe four times a day, to and from her morning and afternoon sessions. At the box, where the 26-year-old has been for only eight weeks and will only be for another two (at least for the foreseeable future), she’s gained an entirely new perspective on training, strong women, and the CrossFit community.
Kathrein started CrossFit just before COVID-19 broke out in early 2020 at CrossFit 7 Seas in Mumbai, India. It had taken her lots of time and persistence to even get to a gym in the first place, having struggled with anxiety and a lack of confidence in the past.
She admits that she was the type to be worried about getting “too bulky,” like all of the other girls in India, she says. Once she joined CrossFit, though, that all changed.
- “I don’t care anymore. I just want to do what my body lets me do,” Kathrein said.
When lockdown protocols started lifting, Kathrein joined a group of guys from the gym (including the Fittest Man in India at the time) for daily parking garage workouts. She fell in love with the workouts, the competition, and the newness. She did her first Open and landed a third-place finish in her country. For two years, she continued with this routine until she contacted coach Ian Day, who at the time lived in Colorado, United States, but eventually led Kathrein to Missouri.
- “I wanted something for myself,” Kathrein said on why she reached out to Day for personal programming and coaching help. “I realized that I have a lot of weaknesses that weren’t being looked at or worked on.”
Kathrein and her mother, who was motivated to come to the United States in order to continue her studies, traveled to Missouri in the fall of this year with a ten-week stay scheduled. Kathrein says that her mother has been integral to her success as an athlete, from packing meals and driving during the Open to unending support for her athletic endeavors not common in India.
- “In India, parents don’t support sports as much because there’s no income there,” Kathrein said. “But my parents have always let me do what I really liked, and also knew that I needed a push because I was so scared and timid.”
Now that she’s immersed in the culture at Fringe, a bustling fitness community full of athletes Kathrein’s age, she realizes how different the experience really is.
- “I’ve never really trained with many other women, so coming here and having so many girls – I feel like more girls than guys – was so nice,” Kathrein said. “Even though you’re competitors, you’re friends and happy for each other when they succeed or get better, which is something I haven’t seen a lot.”
With less than two weeks left until Kathrein returns home, she is motivated to bring the community of Fringe with her. She knows that bringing more women to gyms and helping them feel comfortable being strong and trying hard will be slow progress, but she is determined.
- “Do whatever you want to do without having to think so much and making it a big thing in your head,” Kathrein said as advice to women back home who are timid to go to the gym. She also recognizes that as a strong woman herself, she might be intimidating to others. “Don’t be scared.”
Of course, Kathrein is going back home with renewed ambitions for her own career as well. Spending so much time with Day has helped her find a new level of confidence in herself and she knows her growth isn’t done yet. While she’s still a bit hesitant when it comes to stating any concrete goals, she knows that the Asian Semifinals could be in her future.
- “I know that I need to work harder. That I’ve been training too easy and that there’s another gear there that I didn’t know was needed,” Kathrein said on what she’s learned from her time in the States. “There’s a lot of confidence, a lot of fire, a lot of wanting to do more.”
While she’s trying to avoid counting down the days until she departs for her return trip, Kathrein knows she’ll be back in Missouri. She’s not sure when yet, but for now, she knows her name will be on the Open leaderboard in a few months, fighting for a Semifinals spot and defending her title of Fittest Woman in India.