July Athlete of the Month: Janelle Barth
We're back, with another addition to your favorite series: Athlete of the Month! Janelle has been quietly and consistently improving since she walked through the roll-up gate at CFSBK two years ago. Her calm approach to the bar and her willingness to push her limits have had her knocking on the AOM door for a while now. Plus, jello shots. Read on for more about another standout SBKer!
Fox: Hey Janelle, congrats on being an Athlete of the Month! Starting from the beginning, when did you first start CrossFit?
Janelle: I started at CFSBK in January of 2012. I had already been doing some CrossFit WODs with a trainer I was working with at the time who was a CrossFit enthusiast. She also introduced me to barbell training and I was into it but had a few nagging injuries. Mike and Noah (Janelle’s hubby and brother-in-law, respectively) had just finished a Foundations cycle with you and Jess and urged me to give it a try. I was looking to learn to perform the movements properly and possibly join South Brooklyn so I scheduled a PT session to test out of Foundations. Honestly I was intimidated and thought it was a real possibility that I wouldn’t pass the test out and have an excuse to not join. But as fate would have it, I passed. I started with a 2x/week and quickly moved to 5x/week.
Fox: As I recall, I had the pleasure of doing your test out session. It’s great that your previous trainer introduced you not only to the conditioning aspect of CrossFit, but also to the barbell lifts. You’ve been training pretty consistently since you started with us. What is it about CrossFit that strikes a chord with you?
Janelle: At first it was the attention to detail and the coaching. I liked CrossFit but wanted to move well and not be injured. The gym quickly became my community though, and that’s a large part of why I keep coming back. Previous to SBK, I’d been involved in a bunch of sports leagues while I lived in Pittsburgh, PA that provided a social outlet and I was missing that. I’m the type of person who can be nervous as the “new girl” but at CFSBK I felt at home right away. It felt like I’d found my people. I slowly started enjoying some of the social events and making friends, making jello shots helped with the latter. Now almost three years later I have strong friendships through the gym. Just chatting on the mat is a nice part of this place. There’s always a coach's set of eyes on you, paying attention and motivating you. I also like the tangible aspect of fitness in CrossFit. Strength cycle really taught me the value of journaling so I can tell you that my first squat exposure in Strength was at 95 pounds, and after my third time through the program, I hit a 200 pound PR at a total. Strength cycle is a great way to experience a different part of the SBK while still being a part of the community. I see myself bouncing back to it in the future.
Fox: Doubling your squat in a few months is amazing! I remember, as do many of us I’m sure, the first year you and Mike brought those jello shots. You guys won a lot of people over that night. You mentioned sports leagues, what did you play?
Janelle: Those jello shots are so tedious but totally worth it! More like what didn’t I play. I was on teams for flag football, volleyball, kickball, softball, you name it. Not to brag but, I was pretty good. Teams would poach me as a ringer. I was kind of a big deal (laughs). I did that stuff as much for the sport and fitness as I did for the social aspect. I don’t play anything anymore since CrossFit fills that role, but I have recently joined a Jack Rabbit running group in the city. After a few strength cycles I wanted to get back to a more diverse level of fitness so I’m doing a few group classes a week in addition to the running group. I’ll be doing my first race in three years this fall.
Fox: I really like the idea of you fielding offers from competing dodgeball teams! Tell us a little about you outside of the gym. Where are you from, and what do you do outside of the gym?
Janelle: I grew up in Wheatley Heights, Long Island and had a seemingly idyllic childhood. My sister and I are first-generation American children of a Trinidadian dad and a Croatian mom. Our parents went out of their way to provide us a cookie-cutter life but I still always seemed to feel out of place. I really didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere until I went away to camp. I spent my first summer at Incarnation Camp in Connecticut when I was 12 and then every summer after until I eventually wound up working as a counselor there. That place was and still is so special to me. It’s where I met Mike and where we actually had our wedding. Our first “date” was a Scrabble game at camp, and he’ll tell you he let me win. Funny thing though is he still hasn’t beat me! As far as what else I do there’s actually a lot at the moment. Since I’m between jobs, I’m using the time to improve my skillset. I’ve worked as an operations manager in a few fields but truly enjoy early childhood development and education. My passion is improving the lives of kids. I like to bake and knit for fun, and Mike and I love to explore the world both abroad and locally. On our to-do list for this summer is to walk across every bridge in New York City. It’s a great way to see a new neighborhood and experience the food and art it has to offer. Further from home I’d have to say that my favorite trips so far have been a cruise we took to the Panama Canal, which really can’t be described it was so amazing, and our honeymoon in Hawaii. The Big Island was the best. We went from the rainforest to the mountains in the same day. The constellations we saw on that mountain will stay with me forever.
Fox: That trip sounds amazing! As does the idea of getting to new parts of the city and walking the bridges. Great stuff, Janelle. I have my last stock question for you. What should we look for in a future Athlete of the Month?
Janelle: Someone who is coachable and willing to get outside their comfort zone. I remember gulping when I saw the number 170 on the board for my squats in Strength Cycle. I was nervous but I trusted Jeremy so I did it. That’s a good place for people to go sometimes. That and someone who takes care of the space and equipment. Put your dumbbells and plates back where they came from, people!
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