Fittest Teen, Devyn Kim, Talks Balancing Life As A Student, Restaurant Worker and Professional Athlete
"But now as a full-time college student, full time professional athlete, and working at a restaurant at nights to make ends meet, I have never had so much love for my sport."
Photographer for Team CrossFit Invictus, Tiffany Ammerman, sits down with 2017 Fittest Teen and 5 times Games Athlete, Devyn Kim, for some one-on-one on how she does it all. Many athletes, like Kim, are starting the sport of CrossFit at a young age and eventually find themselves having to balance full time schooling with full time training. Kim, a member of the formidable CrossFit Invictus, talks how to balance life with a full plate.
Ammerman: A lot of CrossFitters these days are starting the sport younger and younger. When you first started CrossFit as a kid, did you think it would became as big a part of your life as it has become now at 20?
Kim: I started CrossFit in 2011 when I was only eight years old. Never in a million years did I ever think that CrossFit would have become such a huge part of my life and my being in every aspect. I have always dreamt of becoming a professional athlete and then to eventually work with athletes in sports medicine as a career. I remember seeing athletes like Annie Thorisdoitter, Kristen Clever & Julie Foucher at the Games and I wanted to be just like them. Julie had always been my inspiration because she was able to balance her CrossFit career and Medical School at the same time. I have been blessed to compete at the CrossFit Games 5 times!
Ammerman: In 2017, what did your training look like to become Fittest Teen? What advice do you have for up and coming teenagers who are trying to balance life as a teenager while also pursuing life as a professional athlete?
Kim: In 2017, as an honor’s high school student, it was difficult to balance school and training let alone maintaining the love and passion for the sport. A good piece of advice that I would give to other teenage athletes would be to hold on tightly to the love that you have for your sport no matter what sport you play. Having to balance all these pieces in your life can be stressful and seem impossible at times. Not to mention just being a teenager is hard enough, but if you love what you do it will be worth every minute of it. I try to remember and live by this even today. I remember my last year of high school, I started to dread going to training because I was so worried about everything else going on in my life. I never felt that I could give 100% in my training, even though I am sure that I was. However, now as a full-time college student, full time professional athlete, and working at a restaurant at nights, I have never had so much love and dedication for my sport. I think a big part of it has been just maturing and learning better tactics on balancing life. In addition, also having a loving community that you can lean on makes those hard, stressful days so much easier to deal with. I will not lie to you, there are plenty of days where I feel like I cannot do everything and get overwhelmed. I just take a deep breath and “show up.” My best advice is to just “show up no matter what. The rest will just fall into place.”
Ammerman: At the Games this past year, you were one of the few elite athletes who were still in university. You also had to finish up a project! Did you find it challenging to focus on both tasks?
Kim: This year at the Games I was finishing up a summer sociology class that I decided to take over summer. CrossFit Games obviously took priority during that week but knowing that I still had school work and a final exam that needed to be done was definitely weighing on me. My plan was to get ahead on my school work before heading to Madison, but with the increased training for Games and leaving out of state early, getting ahead did not pan out. However, I did finish it at Games and definitely learned my lesson on that one.
Ammerman: Many of the professional athletes that you're competing alongside are no longer in college and don't typically work a traditional job. How do you balance training and competing with working and studying?
Kim: As you can see, trying to balance all these pieces in my life definitely is not a walk in the park; some days I just want to scream and cry. However, I have learned to just take a step back and look at what I want my life to look like in 5-10 years. I love training and competing and would never stop trying to be the best athlete and person that I can be. I also keep in the forefront the career that I want once I am done competing. I love what I do inside and out of training so that definitely keeps me motivated. My major is kinesiology and I have aspirations of working with all types of athletes someday. I believe that my time being an elite athlete will give me a better perspective when I someday become a sports medicine physical therapist. I am currently also working at Texas Roadhouse as a server to be able to pay my bills. If I was not working there, I would use that extra time to recover more, study more and continue to become a better athlete and ambassador of the sport. Until that day happens, I will just keep on working. I have such big goals for myself within training and in life, so as stressful as it all can be, I just try to remember that I am fortunate and that I GET to do these things. It is never a burden and that I am truly blessed to have these opportunities.
Ammerman: You're considered to be a formidable, professional athlete and pretty recognizable in the CrossFit world. However, because our sport is still pretty young, it's understandable that we might still be pretty niche. Do the people that you work with know what you do and what do they think?
Kim: At school and my job, most people know that I am a “professional CrossFit athlete.” However, most do not truly understand what that exactly looks like or what the daily commitment entails. I do have a couple of people at work who do CrossFit recreationally, so they sort of understand it. However for the masses most people just think that I am a bodybuilder. I sometimes like it when people do not know so that I can just be a “normal” college kid.
Ammerman: It's takes a lot of time and effort to remain focused and on track when it's competition season. What are your tips for how to stay fueled during busy training and school days?
Kim: I have a great team behind me that are constantly there supporting me in whatever I need. My biggest help and support during my never-ending busy training and school schedule is being able to have access to fast, healthy meals from Paleo Power Meals. I also constantly have snacks in my car. If you know me, you know that I basically live out of my car during the day running to and from work, school and training. Joking aside, PPM always makes sure that I have meals ready on the go at any time. One of the biggest secrets I learned this past year is to not neglect my eating schedule. If I miss a meal or hydration due to work, it affects my training the next day.
Ammerman: What are you getting your degree in and do you hope to integrate it into your athletic career?
Kim: I am currently working towards my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Kinesiology. I want to work in sport’s performance and injury rehabilitation and that is something that will integrate well into my athletic career. Whether my career is working with CrossFit athletes or other sports teams, I would absolutely love to work with and help all driven athletes in any way that I can.
Ammerman: We love to see you training and competing with your Invictus teammates! What do they do to support you when your calendar starts to fill up with school and work commitments?
Kim: My teammates and coaches are extremely supportive when it comes to my school and work commitments. They understand that I have a lot of other responsibilities going on besides training. They help move training schedules around and the coaches hold me accountable. They know my commitment and trust that I put in the work even when they are not around. Whenever I do have to shorten or switch around a training session due to those obligations, they are on my side no matter what. My girl, Brittany, even brings me food to work when I forget sometimes. That is a teammate!
Ammerman: And finally, because life is about balance, what do you love to do to chill out after a long day of training?
Kim: If I have the time to chill out after a training session, you will ALWAYS find me in bed with a big plate of food!! I am a girl who does not get much sleep but I will sleep all day if you let me. Because life is always about balance, so sometimes you just have to go for some ice cream or froyo!