Athlete Interview Series: Rory Zambard

I have had the pleasure of knowing Rory ever since we were young teenagers. We used to swim on the South Sound Titan swim team together, and she regularly came to our house for our annual 4th of July party. Now, Rory is all grown and routinely mops the floor with her competition. She is poised to compete at the Crossfit Games again this year, and if it will be anything like her performance last year, we will be in for a great show. Rory was nice enough to take the time to answer some questions for us, check them out below:

1. What were some sports you played in your earlier years, before finding Crossfit?

How do you think they helped become the Crossfitter you are today? I used to swim when I was younger, until the age of 12. But my real sport of choice was softball. I played through high school but chose not to continue once I got to college, deciding to focus more on academics and CrossFit. I was surprised by how helpful swimming turned out to be in the 2013 CrossFit Games. Though I didn’t swim competitively, just having a basic capacity and comfort in the water allowed me to take 3rd in the pool event– my best placing at the Games. My softball skills have yet to be directly tested, but there’s definitely something to be said about the benefit of growing up as an athlete. Having experience with sports through my childhood has helped me to further develop a strong athletic mindset.

2. Some say that the top Crossfitters don’t really use with the traditional “Crossfit” style of training at the top level, specifically following the WOD on Crossfit’s website. Can you give us a little example of the type of lifting you do in training, in addition to your metcons?

I would disagree that elite CrossFitters do not follow traditional CrossFit programming. We may do more volume than what is found on, but the heart of our training is the same. We do constantly varied, functional movements, executed at high intensity. Our sport is CrossFit, and to excel at our sport following that methodology is essential. With that being said my program entails more than one workout a day, typically with a few components to each training session. I’ll work a strength component, a gymnastics focus, and some metabolic conditioning everyday. The type of movement in each category varies. I may work Olympic lifting, power lifting, or something strongman oriented. I’ll spend time developing high skill gymnastics, strict gymnastics movements, or kipping. And the metabolic conditioning varies as well, in loading, movement, and duration most commonly. The name of the game in effective programming is to know and develop your weaknesses and target as many different stimuli as possible to create broad general and inclusive fitness! Though elite CrossFit athletes may not be specifically following .com, they are for sure utilizing the same principles!

3. What do you think are your biggest strengths in the grueling events of a Crossfit competition? What are your weaknesses?

I would say that my biggest strength is my consistency. I may not win every workout but I can consistently place near the top. More specifically, I’m best with barbell cycling or moving odd objects. I love to see high rep barbell movements in a workout, or something like stone loading or yoke carrying! I do not, however, love to see high volume gymnastics movements. I have a difficult time with handstand pushups and chest to bar pullups.

4. Everyone has a different ritual leading up to a competition, and some have very specific rituals the night before a competition. Do you have any special rituals you follow as a competition nears?

I’m not a huge believer in superstitions or rituals leading in to competition. But, I do hold one tradition. Before every competition I get my nails painted bright pink. Don’t ask me why, but it seems to help me play better!

5. People like to eat different things to fuel their workouts and keep energy levels up during competition. How do you keep yourself fueled? What are some of your go-to foods?

During competition I have a really difficult time eating! I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years playing with my game day nutrition to see what works best. Unfortunately relatively bland foods are what seem to do the trick. Fruit (namely melons and grapes), chicken, sweet potatoes and avocados are what I live off of during competition days. I’ll also include post workout protein shakes mixed with coconut water, something to refuel my body immediately post workout. At night post competition I’ll eat a normal meal– steak and some starchy veggies for extra carbohydrates.

6. How do you see the sport of Crossfit progressing in the next few years? I like to think of Crossfit as a gateway drug to the variety of strength sports we have today, do you think Crossfit has helped get more individuals into other strength sports? How do they complement each other?

CrossFit as a sport is growing exponentially every year! More athletes participating means a larger pool from which to draw the fittest people on earth. I can imagine that as the sport progresses we will see the standard of fitness increase. The bar will be set higher and more will be demanded from the athletes as the community begins to discover what our human potential for fitness truly is. We’ll run further, lift heavier, and move faster. CrossFit has undoubtedly helped bridge the gap between normal gym goers and the strength and conditioning world, and draw more individuals in to other strength sports. Olympic lifting, power lifting, and strongman work are all things CrossFit gyms expose their clients to, allowing them to pursue those sports more specifically. Those strength sports are often what make CrossFit so much fun– it’s the chance to do something different, lift an odd object, move something heavy, or learn the technique for the world’s fastest lifts. So it’s no surprise that CrossFit has helped to bring awareness to those other communities. It’s pretty awesome to see how many subject matter experts CrossFit uses as resources and the benefit both communities bring to one another.

7. How do you deal with the pain factor during competitions? I watched you at Regionals a few years ago, when you severely tore your hand. Your hand tear didn’t stop you, so what goes through your brain, to shut out the pain?

Dealing with pain during a competition is an inevitability. It’s something that’s going to happen– the only thing to do is accept it and continue to push through it. The most elite CrossFitters have some extreme capacity in strength and endurance, speed and agility and a lot of other areas, but what truly makes them elite is their capacity to push through pain. How willing are you to hurt? I spend so much time in workouts really uncomfortable, and I think the more time you spend there the easier it is to push through it. When a workout really hurts, I tell myself “I can” (however cheesy that may seem), I push harder against the wall, and try to go to “that place”. As far as hand tears and other injuries go, they’re tough to get used to but unfortunately a part of the game. A torn hand isn’t worth throwing a year’s worth of training out of the window. It’s not comfortable but I do my best to shut out the pain and continue to put my hands back on the bar. Oh, and if you tear your hands don’t look at it. It’s always worse if you look at it!

8. What advice do you have for folks who want to become more competitive Crossfitters?

The best advice I can give to people to want to compete with Crossfit is to master the basics and do less better. Don’t underestimate the results you can achieve from pouring your whole heart and everything you have in to one workout a day. Intensity truly is what gives us results. More work doesn’t always mean more fitness.

Five things you may not know about me:

1. I used to love comic books. I’m a DC fan and Superman will always have my heart. 2. I hate scary movies. I’ve only seen one, the Grudge, and it was a huge mistake. Now every time a scary preview comes on in the theater I close my eyes and cover my ears. 3. If I’m not at the gym I’m probably at home reading. I’ll read just about anything, though I’m partial to historical fiction. 4. I LOVE coffee. If you ever want to make my day better bring me a cup of coffee. Or a cookie. Or both! 5. I have a massive crush on Jimmy Fallon. The Tonight Show is one of the only television shows I regularly watch. He can sing, dance, he’s funny– what’s not to love?

Follow her social media outlets here: Instagram: @rzambard Twitter: @rzambard Facebook page: Rory Zambard Rory’s bio: “I started CrossFit in 2005 with my mom to help my softball performance. I continue to play softball through high school. When I decided not to play college ball CrossFit began to take a much larger role in my life. I swam until I was 12, played softball until I was 18 and I’ve been CrossFitting for nearly 9 years now. When I got to college I started coaching CrossFit and pursuing it as a sport. Now I’ve been coaching for 5 years and have worked for CF HQ on the Level 1 Seminar Staff for 2 years. I placed 11th in the NW CrossFit Regionals in 2010, 9th in 2011, 1st in 2013, 3rd in 2014 and 14th at the Reebok CrossFit Games in 2013.”

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