Athlete of the Month: Bridget Mackay


Athlete of the Month: Bridget Mackay

I must advise that I’m feeling emotional while writing this post, and will implement curse words appropriately. I understand that in essence they are not appropriate, but what I will say is that I am going to give you my thoughts uncensored. The basis of asking Bridget to be the athlete of the month was specifically attributed to her work ethic, and a performance during the an open workout that brought tears to my eyes. What I didn’t know was that I didn’t know. I hope this helps bring balance to your workouts and expectations as it has to mine.

“I feel like a totally different person than I was eight months ago. It hasn’t been just diet, just training  or working on movements. It has been a combination of all these, and the singular determination to see what I am capable of. It has been hard work, but fun work.” -Bridget

Emotions can be uncontrollable, but one of the most significant abilities of us humans is our ability to control them. I hope that sounded confusing. It is an example of a dichotomy, and this word is becoming more and more apparent in life recently.

One of the easiest sentences to say is an absolute. It can be a negatively structured sentence: “CrossFit is too hard”, “I can’t do that”, “Burpees are fucking terrible”. Conversely, a positively structured sentence can be just as much of a cop out: “This workout is easy”, “I need to lift more”,”I am really good at double unders”.

When we experience something, it is natural to immediately react. It’s obvious that something needs to be done, but unless it is threatening to us or someone around us it is more appropriate to take a breath. For example, when we see a workout, it’s easy to judge it based on our own biases and experiences. “I can do that unbroken, and I will need to pace this, and I probably should try that a couple times to see how it feels because I don’t know if I can do it in the workout, and…”. Sound familiar?

Enough rambling. Let’s get to the point. Which is actually at the end of this story, but I have a feeling you can deduce what it is without even scrolling down.

It wasn’t even about the open.

Bridget started CrossFit in 2006, which is three years before I had even heard of the word. She watched the then mostly unknown videos of the original CrossFit gym members in Santa Cruz demonstrating workouts. That’s where she saw an inspirational video of a women named Annie Sakamoto. To this day, Bridget’s favorite workout is “Annie”. Over a decade later, she signed up for the 2017 CrossFit Games Open.

Before she signed up for the Open she signed up for something else. Something that wasn’t really even offered at the gym. “I learned through life that the only way I’m going to get better is by having my own coach, so I called Barb on June 11th. I thought for sure she would turn me down. Instead, we met in July and started by writing down my goals, voices in my head, stats, etc.”- B

Here’s a brief log that was written down on that first session:

  • Feel and be fit.
  • Avoid diabetes.
  • Get comfortable with lifting (Front Squat/Thrusters)
  • Feel comfortable in my body.
  • Lifestyle change.
  • Remove the expectations of my body image.

*Side note. As I was penning this down I paused after she had finished. I kept my eyes and pen at the paper, and waited for the specifics to arise such as weights, reps, or times. Then I awkwardly looked up, and saw her smiling as if she knew what I was waiting for.

“I let go of everything else, and just saw what I could do”- B

I had to ask, even if it was obvious, “So you had no tangible goals set when you started”? The answer, also obvious, was of course not. “I just wanted to feel better”- B. Which led down a different thread of conversation that completely balanced my perception of the subject. I perceived that Bridget had gone to my mom to get personal training which would improve her numbers. After a decade of experience it seems only fair to support that decision. Additionally, my mom was raving specifically about the incredible progress she was making in her lifts. What I had forgotten was that you can improve your health, stats, and basically almost everything if you just show up and work hard!

So here is my account of what was in my opinion, one of the most impressive athletic performances I have seen.

17.4 – Amrap in 20 Minutes: 50ft DB Walking Lunge, 16 T2B, 8 DB Power Clean, etc.

The time on the clock showed 17:00, and I was wondering how many more toes 2 bar she still had left in her set. There was no doubt that tension was high, and she was working towards some invisible marker that only my mom also saw. I remembered thinking “Damn, this looks like some serious shit”. So I stood a generous distance away and watched intrigued. The next toe 2 bar was followed with a “15” by mom, and I took another step forward realizing that she could finish the round. The final rep happened and she came down with a exasperated noise(17:30). Shit, she can finish this round. Another step forward, and a few claps with a cheer. She didn’t move for the chalk bucket or look away she just stood there looking at the dumbbells and shaking her hands for a few seconds. She completed her first rep in a power fashion, to be quite honest it was the smallest amount of a dip in her catch, and basically screamed with a face of pure pain(17:50). I thought, “Fuck, she is hurting but I think she can still finish this round”. She then proceeded to touch the ground and bring the 35# DB back up to her shoulder in the exact same movement pattern and the exact same noise. Then again, and again, and again. How she got through those 8 power cleans(18:45) I am not sure, but what followed was something I hope we all get to experience. What had looked like pain, I then realized was a look of profound focus. She wasn’t aware that she was shutting out the entire world, but without a doubt she had done it long before I had realized it. With a resounding cheer on the last power clean, we all expected the DBs to drop. Instead, she held them on her shoulders. With a first step that looked like the dumbbells would come crashing down she paused on the ground. “Make sure to get passed the first line I yelled”. I was in the fight with her by this point, and I totally lost control of my emotions. She stood up, took some breaths and took the second step in similar discomfort as the first. Awesome, she can put it down now and still get the first rep. Fuck that! She took another step and I realized that this was about to go down. She was going to try to get to the other side(19:00s). Like watching someone on a tightrope with nothing attaching them to the rope, she continued the charge. Every step was now a part of all the senses. The weight in her front foot, the noise and sharp inhale through the nose following it, and the visual measurement of every inch in front of her. She stood up past the halfway line. I jumped like an idiot with my brace and crutch, and threw my hand in the air. Shut up Nick, there’s still 30 seconds left. I am not a fan of people yelling in a workout, mostly because I am unsure if they want me too or not. However, by this point I was yelling with her. No doubt remained that she would fail. She turned around, and everyone watching believed she would finishand. When she did she stood tall and took a breath like she had for every rep(19:55). As the DBs settled on the ground the clock signaled the workout was over(20:00).

“I was just focusing on the movement, not the weight or the reps”.-B

Stats before the workout:

  • 35# DB Walking Lunges – 0
  • Toes 2 Bar – 0
  • 35# DB Power Cleans – 0

Words are wind. I had become married to the idea of “measurable and repeatable” trying to get as far away as possible from the subjective approach to fitness. If you look at Birdget’s approach to the workout I hope you can see the balance. There is none.

She didn’t overthink, and she didn’t accept defeat. She just looked at the workout, and focused on what she could control. A talent that is honed through taking a breath when presented with a task.The outcome was incredible, and ranks her right up with Annie Sakamoto as an inspiration.

However, not every workout goes down in such amazing fashion. Working hard is not a full proof way to be successful. Sometimes we’ll win, and sometimes we’ll loose. Sometimes we’ll see what we can do.

Drop the everyday expectations and just work. Create a belief that you can by a relentlessness to see what you can do in any environment and with any task. Along the way we might find the perfect workout on the perfect day. That is the reward.

Can you empathize with this? I hope so. I hope you have found the day to work harder than you thought you could. I also hope that you congratulate the person next to you when you see it happen, and yell if you just can’t help yourself. The open is 5 workouts in 5 weeks, but we have the opportunity to do this throughout the entire year. So I agree with Bridget: “It wasn’t even about the open”.

Sav Up,




P.S. I am sitting on a plane, and am failing at controlling my emotions. Yes, I am crying. I am so thankful that we get to workout together, and for the elegant approach we have at challenging ourselves. Finally, thank you Mom. You are a great trainer.






2 Responses

  1. Bridget

    Barb….couldn’t have done any of it without you, the amazing coaches at this gym and the spirit of the people who workout here. Love you all…

  2. Karen C.

    What a beautiful piece Nick! Yes, Bridget you are an inspiration. I have watched your body transform over these past few months and it’s pretty frickin awesome. Such a supportive environment and staff…thank you to Barbara, Nick and Dustin for great training and patience. Thank you to my fellow 6 am-ers for braving the cold and dark. Thank you Sav-Up!