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Observant CrossFit Coach Saves Athlete’s Life

Morning Chalk Up

February 9   |   POWERED BY


Good morning and welcome to the Morning Chalk Up.

In today’s edition:

  • CrossFit coach encourages ailing athlete to seek third medical opinion, results in life-saving open-heart surgery
  • Get to know Spain’s fittest woman, Elena Carratala Sanahuja
  • Seven questions heading into the 2024 CrossFit Open
  • And, Rebecka Vitesson’s Workout of the Week
QUOTE OF THE DAY + Send us a Quote

“He saved my life, without a doubt.” - Ella Combs, 64, referring to her coach and box owner at Sweat Factory CrossFit, Clint Lowery

  How an Observant CrossFit Coach Saved Ella Combs’ Life  

How an Observant CrossFit Coach Saved Ella Combs’ Life

After failing to find a reason behind the chest pain that had been plaguing her for 18 months, Ella Combs’ doctor told her she would simply have to learn to tolerate the pain.

  • “I was taking anti-inflammatories and antibiotics for four or five months and nothing improved the pain. It would come and go when I was working out and stop when I wasn’t working out,” said Combs, now 64 years old, who started CrossFit at the age of 58 at Sweat Factory CrossFit in Clermont, FL.

After several months, her doctor “threw her hands in the air and told me I was just going to have to live with the pain,” she added.

Combs obliged and carried on living her life despite the chest pain that caused her to rest a lot more during workouts than she used to.

Then one day, Sweat Factory CrossFit owner Clint Lowery saw Combs struggling and stopped her to ask what was going on.

  • “I told him what the doctors told me and he looked at me and said, ‘No, that’s not good enough. You need to go back and you need to keep going back until you get an answer,’” Combs said of Lowery’s advice.

She didn’t know it at the time, but those words saved her life.

What happened next: There was something about the way Lowery spoke to her—with concern but with care—that told Combs to listen to him.

  • “Before that, I never realized there was another answer out there, that maybe the diagnosis wasn’t correct,” she said.

Needless to say, Combs took her coach’s words to heart, went back for a third opinion and was sent for X-rays, as doctors believed she had a fractured sternum. She did not. After that came a CT scan and finally an answer: Combs had a tear in her artery that would require immediate surgery.

So in November 2019, Combs underwent open heart surgery–surgery that saved her life.

  • “The cardiologist told me that if I had kept going, I would have had an episode at some point and I wouldn’t have survived,” she said.

The surgery was a success, and four months later Combs was cleared to return to Sweat Factory CrossFit and was surprised by the support she immediately received.

On her first day back, her plan was just to walk a mile, “but then a bunch of people from the box showed up to walk the mile with me,” Combs said.

Today, Combs is back to training four days a week, and the gym has become a family affair, as her husband, his sister, and her 80-year-old stepmother are all members of the gym, as well.

The big picture: Combs is convinced she’s still here today all because her coach “cared enough to find out what was going on with me.”

  • “He saved my life, without a doubt,” she said. “Without CrossFit and the support from the people there, I’m not sure not sure I would have recovered from all this…They have given me so much encouragement and support. Without them I don’t know if I would have had the mental fortitude to keep going.”

And although Combs is now dealing with another health issue—kidney stones and a damaged kidney—in most ways she’s way more fit at 64 than she was when she first walked through the doors at 58 and couldn’t do a sit-up.

  • “Now it’s almost my favorite thing to do,” she said. “And I just know I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Clint (Lowery) and the other people at the gym…They have become my second family.”
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🏀 🏋️ Detroit Pistons x Core City CrossFit Kids: Core City CrossFit Kids and the Detroit Pistons are teaming up for a fundraiser on Saturday, February 24 and here’s how you can help:

  1. Buy tickets!! Bring your family and friends and come watch the game with them.
  2. If you can’t come to the game, purchase tickets for the kids to bring their family members and friends.
  3. Share this IG post to help spread the word.

Your ticket package includes a game ticket (vs. Orlando Magic), post-game shot on the court, and a donation to the Core City CrossFit Kids.

New TWL Ambassador: The WOD Life announced yesterday that Australia’s Jake Douglas was their newest brand ambassador. Congrats Jake and TWL!

Help Katarina Fight Leukemia: The Morning Chalk Up’s Julia Papworth has organized a GoFundMe campaign for her friend Maddy Curley, a former CrossFit Games team athlete. Curley’s daughter, Katarina, was diagnosed with a particular form of Leukemia called “B-Cell ALL” and is undergoing heavy chemotherapy.

✍️ 💪Don’t Miss Exclusive Deals: Sign up for the 2024 CrossFit Open to unlock exclusive deals from partners like GORUCK, Momentus, Jocko Go, 2POOD, and more.

Healthy Aging 50+: The Science of Healthy Living Conference: On February 8, the Stanford Center on Longevity at Stanford University will host the Healthy Aging 50+ conference. The conference brings world-class experts together to discuss the latest research in the fields of nutrition, fitness, and mental health, focused on the 50+ age group.

  • Among the featured guests are Kelly and Juliet Starrett from The Ready State.

Teen CrossFit Games: The Teen CrossFit Games officially have a date — or rather, a set of them. They take place from August 29-September 1, 2024 at the Pit Fitness Ranch in Three Rivers, MI.

WHOOP Origins: Ever wondered where the name WHOOP came from? Check out this post from the fitness wearable leader to learn more.

Working with Larger Bodies Seminar and PRVN Fitness: Athena Perez and Scaled Nation will be joining PRVN Fitness at their new headquarters in Nashville, TN to present the “Working with Larger Bodies” seminar. The event will take place on April 21, 2024, beginning at 9 AM. Register now!

ICYMI: Week 3 of The Open Report with Mike Halpin from Known and Knowable provided an update on current 2024 Open registration numbers, as well as a bit of discussion about the return of the Service Open and a comparison of the “time to 100k” from 2024 against years past.

  The Past, Present, and Future of the Fittest Woman in Spain: Elena Carratala Sanahuja  


The Past, Present, and Future of the Fittest Woman in Spain: Elena Carratala Sanahuja

The 2021 and 2023 Spanish CrossFit National Champion, Elena Carratala Sanahuja, may not be a household name in the sport just yet, but if it sounds familiar right now, it’s likely because of what she accomplished in 2022.

In 2022, Sanahuja qualified for the CrossFit Games by snagging the final spot in that year’s Last Chance Qualifier, finishing ahead of Katrin Davidsdottir by four points, taking Davidsdottir out of the Games for the first time since 2012.

By finishing 38th at the Games, Sanahuja earned the highest Games finish for a Spanish female athlete in CrossFit’s history.

Since then, she has been extremely active in the sport, traveling the world and competing in some of the biggest events like the Rogue Invitational, the Dubai Fitness Championship, and Wodapalooza as she tries to improve her skills and qualify for the Games for a second time.

Continue Reading...
  Seven Questions Leading Up to the 2024 CrossFit Open  

Seven Questions Leading Up to the 2024 CrossFit Open

Feelings about the CrossFit Open range from outright dissent to cautiously excited to obsessive. No matter where you fall on the spectrum though, 24.1 will soon be upon us. Here are seven questions on our minds as we proceed toward the 2024 Open.

1. Will this be the biggest year yet? At the time of this article’s publication there are more than 125,000 people registered for the 2024 CrossFit Open.

2. Will we see new movements? We have seen at least one new movement every year (The shoulder-to-overhead in 2013 is debatable as new since we previously saw the push press).

  • There have been an average of 1.8 new movements every year.
  • Last year we saw the introduction of the shuttle run and the combo movement of the burpee pull-up.
  • The years with the most new movements were 2017, 2018, and 2021. Each of these years produced three new movements.
  • The 2017 Open introduced dumbbells, and we saw them annually until last year, which was Adrian Bozman’s first year of programming the Open.

3. Will we see a repeat? The only year that we didn’t see a repeat was 2022, which was Dave Castro’s last year of programming.

  • The longest time span between a workout and its repeat has been nine years (from 14.4 to 23.1).

4. Will there be a max lift? We have seen a pure strength test four times:

  • 15.1a: One rep max clean and jerk.
  • 18.2a: One rep max clean.
  • 21.4: One rep max complex of a deadlift, clean, hang clean, and jerk.
  • 23.2b: One rep max thruster.

When pure strength tests are included in a competition with a limited number of workouts, it can shake up the leaderboard. Regardless, we should all be ready to lift heavy if it shows up again.

5. Does winning the Open predict success at the Games? While the Open isn’t the most important part of the competition season (The reigning fittest woman on earth, Laura Horvath, finished the 2023 Open in 185th place), excelling in it can certainly set you up for success.

Continue Reading...
  Rebecka Vitesson’s Workout of the Week  

Rebecka Vitesson’s Workout of the Week

Today’s workout is programmed by Swedish athlete and 2023 CrossFit Games Individual rookie (and team veteran), Rebecka Vitesson. The Swede competed on Team Butcher’s Lab at the Games in 2017 and 2018 placing 20th and 21st. She took 25th in her rookie individual campaign. Most recently, Vitesson took 5th in a stacked Indy field and 3rd in the Team division with Team Scandinadian at 2024 TYR WZA.

Rebecka Vitesson

Every 5 minutes for 5 rounds:

21/15 Cal Ski Erg
15 DB Bench Press, 70/50 pounds, 30/22.5kg
9 Chest-to-Bar
3 Wall Walks

Rest with the remaining time

Scaling tips: The bench press should be challenging but not broken into more than 2-3 sets, adjust the weight accordingly. You can adjust the chest-to-bar to pull-ups or ring rows. The wall walks can be adjusted to the scaled Open version where you go halfway up instead.

Advice from Rebecka: “You want to go hard on the ski (but not all out) so that you bump up the heart rate and make the bench press and gymnastics a bit more challenging. Be careful of going to failure on the bench press, break them up earlier than you have to. Keep the chest-to-bar unbroken and wall walks at a steady pace. You want to have at least a minute rest each round, scale if needed!”

To inquire about submitting an upcoming workout of the week, shoot us a note.



Protein FAQs Answered

Check out this post by EC Synkowski, as she answers a few key questions that she is often asked about protein. Themes include how much protein we can absorb, the importance of timing and consistency and protein powder as a "clean" option.




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Elisa Fuliano's Shoulder Warm-Up

Try this activation routine that Fuliano uses to prep her body before a tough workout. Our shoulder muscles are prone to injury, and we put them through the ringer on movements like pull-ups, muscle-ups, handstand pushups and handstand walking.



Allbirds Sustainable Shoes

Check out all the styles Allbirds offers, and find your new favorite pair of casual or dress shoes. Offering all-day comfort, and a committment to sustainability, B-Corp brand Allbirds is the future of footwear.



Slow Clean Pull-Unders

We've shared this one before, but in case you missed it, try this drill to work on an effective pull-under for your clean. This exercise helps you to feel what an effective pull-under should feel like, in a controlled way. Maintain upward pressure on the PVC or the practice barbell and keep ahold of that hook grip.


Celebrating a PR, hosting a fundraiser, this, that, or otherwise? Send us a tip.

2/17 - 2/18: Busto Throwdown (Busto Arsizio, Italy)
2/17: Cupid’s Throwdown (Las Vegas, Nevada)
3/2: The LKW Games (Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina)
3/9: The Valkyrie Fitness Competition (Tampa, FL)
3/16: Upper Hunter Strongest Novice (Muswellbrook, Australia)
3/16: Oceanside CrossFit 1st Annual Shamwod & Shenanigains (Oceanside, Ca)
3/16: Shamwod & Shenanigains (Oceanside, Ca)
3/23 - 3/24: Beach Brawl (Spring) (Pensacola Beach, FL)
3/23: Masters Distinguished Games (Fort Wright, KY)
3/23: CFL Teen Take Over (Lorton, VA)
4/6: Girls Gone Rx Minnesota (Austin, Minnesota)
4/6: Girls Gone Rx Kentucky (Richmond, Kentucky)
4/6: Girls Gone Rx Ohio (Lancaster, Ohio)
4/6: Best Babes Decatur (Decatur, Alabama)
4/6: Best Babes 608 (Janesville, Wisconsin)
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4/6: Best Babes Tampa (Tampa, Florida)
4/6: Best Babes Wyoming (Cheyene, Wyoming)
4/6: War Off I-4 (Deland, FL)
4/6 - 4/7: No Pain No Game (Legnano, Italy)
4/6 - 4/7: Shack Team Edition (Rome, Italy)
4/6: Best Babes South Carolina (Beaufort, SC)
4/6: Best Babes Decatur (Decatur, AL)
4/6 - 4/7: Landifornian Battle (Seignosse, France)
4/6: Two Peas in a Pod: Mixed Gender Partner Comp (Burlington, MA)

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