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Jessa Lemoine, RKC, Iron Maiden, CrossFit Competitor, Interview

Jessa Lemoine and CrossFit Team

Dragon Door: How did first you start training with kettlebells?

Jessa Lemoine: Through CrossFit. I've been CrossFitting and competing at an elite level for six years. And there have always been kettlebells in CrossFit workouts and in the sport of CrossFit.

Dragon Door: How would you describe competing at an elite level in CrossFit?

Jessa Lemoine: The season starts in late February and runs through July. The qualification process, the CrossFit Open, is five weeks long and starts in late February. CrossFit headquarters releases one workout each week. Anyone in the world can participate in the CrossFit Open if they sign up with headquarters and submit a video of their workout each week. At the end of the five weeks, CrossFit Headquarters will announce the top twenty women, top twenty men, and the top twenty teams in each region. There are 17 regions in the world, and those in the top of their regions qualify for the next phase, regionals.

Regional competitions are three days—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—and are held at a venue in the region. Boston is in the East Region, which includes the Northeast United State and Eastern Canada. Our regional competition was held in Albany, NY. The top five women, top five men, and top five teams will qualify to go to the CrossFit Games which are held in California and last for a week. In 2012 I qualified for the CrossFit Games and placed as the 20th fittest woman in the world. Since then, every other year I have competed at a regional level and have just missed getting to the Games, but it’s a process.

This year I competed on a team instead of as an individual and we made it to the CrossFit Games this year. Each team is three women and three men. All six of us worked together closely to make it all the way through to the CrossFit Games this past July.

It's really cool because CrossFit is a tight knit community. That's also one of the reasons I like RKC. The RKC community is really supportive and encouraging—which reminded me of CrossFit.
Jessa and Team At CrossFit Games Beach Run

Dragon Door: How did you decide to go for your RKC?

Jessa Lemoine: One of my coworkers is RKC Team Leader Angelo Gala. We both coach at the same CrossFit gym, and he was also helped lead the RKC we had a few weekends ago. He told me about it and I decided to try it and see what it was all about. The training I regularly do prepared me very well for the RKC. One of the things I love about CrossFit is the technical side of things. In order to be an efficient CrossFit athlete, you need to have really good technique. We have gymnastics movements, Olympic weightlifting with the barbell, and kettlebell movements along with many others. It's really worth our time to study the individual techniques. That’s one reason I wanted to do the RKC Certification. I knew it would help me become an even better athlete. When I know the ins and outs of everything, I can get super technical about all the kettlebell movements.

Dragon Door: What was your favorite technical detail you learned at the RKC?

Jessa Lemoine: There's so many... I really love RKC Hardstyle training. I think it's the safest way, and it gets you the strongest. I really like how in every single movement you create as much tension as possible and use your whole body—every muscle. I think that's huge. It keeps you safe and gets you strong.

The Turkish get-up has so many steps, and while I had done it before, it was really neat to see it performed so proficiently—and remember how I used to do it. Now I know how to create tension in every single step, and that has helped me a lot.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the weekend was the leadership of the instructors and the assistants helping out—all five of them were just amazing and the willing to share their knowledge. Even if you had a question that they could not immediately answer, they would figure it out together. I loved that, and it was one thing that drew me to the RKC community. I hope to do that with my CrossFit teammates as well.

Dragon Door: And at the RKC you also completed the Iron Maiden Challenge! What advice do you have for someone who may be considering taking the Iron Maiden or Beast Tamer Challenge?

Jessa Lemoine: It’s pretty simple advice but, you must train those three lifts. Ideally, you need to have a strong pull, and training strict pull-ups, weighted pull-ups, and even horizontal pulling like ring rows—any type of upper body pulling will help build that strength. The same is true for the press. The pistol is about getting the lower body strong, stable, and mobile. There’s a lot that goes into the pistol, so understand the different pieces and patiently train for it. It also depends on how far you are from the goals, and understanding the amount of time it will take to reach them. As one of my coworkers says all the time, "You are consistency way from your goals."

Dragon Door: What's your favorite kettlebell movement?

Jessa Lemoine: For now, the kettlebell snatch—it’ll change if you ask me in a month! I like that it's very technical, and because my background before CrossFit was gymnastics, I’m a very technical athlete. I like digging into the nit and grit of the technique and then apply it. That's how it is with the kettlebell snatch and when you get it right, it’s awesome!

Dragon Door: Was gymnastics your first introduction to athletics and fitness?

Jessa Lemoine: When I was three, my parents enrolled me in gymnastics because I was bouncing off the walls all the time! They wanted me to use that energy in a good way, so I did gymnastics from age three until I was about sixteen. Then I picked up track and field and did that all through high school. I focused on short sprints, hurdles and jumps. I pole vaulted in college. I studied in the kinesiology department for health and physical education. I thought that my last year of college would be the last time I could be an athlete since I wasn’t going to be a professional pole vaulter. I think many college athletes graduate then wonder what they’re supposed to do.

I was already a personal trainer and the personal training director at a local gym, and one of the trainers had been in college with me. One member of our personal training team had a CrossFit certification and told me all about it. We started doing workouts together and I started to feel like an athlete again.

Dragon Door: Are you coaching full time?

Jessa Lemoine: Yes, I’m coaching and training full time. I love coaching CrossFit because there's so many different things to coach—gymnastics, barbell, kettlebell—there’s just so many aspects of it.
Jessa Lemoine Barbell

Dragon Door: Someone like yourself is very invigorated by that amount of variety, I can imagine others might be overwhelmed. How do you make sure to keep up with all the skills?

Jessa Lemoine: That is so true. As an athlete, I love the variety and how it’s always an adventure. As a coach, I started a fundamentals program for our gym and new CrossFitters to build their confidence and help them learn to move the right way. We work on building basic strength, and bringing up their general fitness level and conditioning.

Dragon Door: Do you mostly train groups?

Jessa Lemoine: We run our gym with small classes capped at 12 people. I coach 24 of these classes a week, and also have a few one-on-one clients.

Dragon Door: In general, how are you training for the CrossFit season, and what else are you working on?

Jessa Lemoine:
I am working on so many things, but am always trying to get stronger. Even though I tend to be a little bit above average strength, I know if I stop trying to get stronger that will quickly fall down because everyone else is also trying to get stronger. The same is true for my gymnastics skills, they are definitely above average, but I am always looking to improve them. I need to be able to do the high skills and to perform them at high volume. My biggest weakness as a CrossFit athlete is my aerobic capacity—my "engine" so to speak. I work on that multiple times a day just with aerobic cardio sessions.
Jessa Lemoine Rope Climb CrossFit Games

I just finished up sixty minutes on the Assault Bike at a very light conversational pace. On another hour session, every 5 minutes I did one Turkish get-up on each arm and then 50 single unders with the jump rope.

Dragon Door: How are you and your athletes working on strength too?

Jessa Lemoine: We have 600 members at CrossFit Back Bay and all of them want to get better at everything. It’s hard to get better at everything since you need time to work on everything. Most of our members have full time jobs and don’t have much extra time. So, I help them prioritize and tell them to think about their number one goal right this very second. And their goals will change as they achieve or don’t achieve them. For about three months they’ll focus on that one goal with one of the programs at our gym. We have the fundamentals program, a strength program with weightlifting and powerlifting movements, an endurance program, and a gymnastics program.

After those three months, we sit down and reassess. Many times people have met their goals and become so empowered that they want to continue to keep getting stronger. Others will meet their goal, but decide to back off a little and maintain what they just worked for while increasing their fitness level. In that case they usually will spend more time in the regular CrossFit classes.

Dragon Door: How do you balance your own training with the CrossFit competitions?

Jessa Lemoine: Different times of the season call for different types of training. The first five weeks of the CrossFit Open are very aerobic. Even though we don’t know what the workouts are until they’re released from headquarters, we know from years of studying the trends, that the first five weeks of the CrossFit open will likely be aerobic. But once the opens are over, the focus will be towards skill and strength training. Because of my career accommodates it, I make sure I have the time to train everything. I don’t necessarily have to prioritize because I am able to do everything, since I am already here at the gym.
Jessa Lemoine Handstand Kettlebells

Dragon Door: What’s next for you with the RKC and the Dragon Door community?

Jessa Lemoine: Well one of my newest goals is to do the RKC-II. And this next goal is a really big one, but I believe that saying goals out loud helps hold me accountable—I would like to complete the Iron Maiden Challenge with a 32kg kettlebell!

Jessa LemoineJessa Lemoine, RKC Trains at Reebok CrossFit Back Bay in Boston, MA. She can be contacted at follow her on Instagram @jessaklemoine