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CanWest Games a test of functional fitness

Amanda Smith wants her two-year-old daughter to know she can do anything she sets out to do.
Amanda Smith
Amanda Smith works out with her two-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, as she prepares for this weekend's CanWest Games functional fitness competition at Coquitlam's Percy Perry Stadium.

Amanda Smith wants her two-year-old daughter to know she can do anything she sets out to do. That’s why she brings Brooklyn along to their thrice-daily workouts at the Rocky Point CrossFit and often hoists her on her shoulders to provide extra weight resistance during rigorous reps of squats and burpees.

This weekend, little Brooklyn will have a front row seat at Percy Perry Stadium in Coquitlam when she watches her mom compete at the third CanWest Games.

The event is the second-largest functional fitness competition in North America. More than 900 athletes from as far away as Texas and Newfoundland will hoist heavy weights, haul themselves over walls and do walking handstands to determine who is the fittest of them all.

Morgan Ruby, one of the organizers of the competition, said functional fitness doesn’t allow its athletes to specialize; they all have to be strong, agile and fast.

“You train all day to not have a wheelhouse,” she said.

For Smith, 30, the multi-disciplinary nature of the sport where a workout can consist of 30 different tasks in 30 minutes fills a void left when she stopped playing competitive fastpitch and her own training at a gym got boring.

“I was going to the gym and I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

A friend recommended Smith get a personal trainer who introduced her to functional fitness, which is also known as CrossFit.

The fast-paced nature of workouts meant Smith could push herself for an hour in the gym in the morning and then get on with her day. And the immediate benefits she felt to her strength, stamina and agility served her well in her career in law enforcement.

Smith started competing to measure herself against other functional fitness fanatics. She got good enough to qualify for a regional championship. Then she got pregnant.

Smtih stayed away from the gym for 15 months to focus on motherhood. But the itch to compete was still there.

Getting back into the gym with a toddler in tow was no easy task, Smith said. Childbirth and breast feeding had changed her body and her schedule revolved around Brooklyn’s needs.

“It’s all about routine,” Smith said.

Relying on lists and post-it notes to ensure no chore or errand was undone, Smith made time for her workouts, often incorporating Brooklyn into them. Her strength and agility improved. She consulted a nutritionist to ensure she was eating the right foods to fuel her exercise regime that eventually increased to two or three hours of the day, six days a week.

The effort paid off when Smith improved her ranking from 529th among women in the Canada West region last year to 18th this year.

Heading into this weekend’s competition, Smith said she wants to “take it to another level.”

She’s been working out three times a day. She starts with strength exercises like lifting, swinging heavy kettle balls and doing pull-ups. Then she shifts her attention to endurance and cardio fitness by doing handstand push-ups, muscle-ups and dips on the rings, skipping rope and riding the “assault bike” that works her arms while she spins the pedals.

Usually Brooklyn is nearby, charming other athletes, playing with the staff.

“I want her to see there are no limitations,” Smith said.

And that’s kind of the goal of functional fitness, said Brian Carter, another CanWest Games’ organizer.

To prove they’re the fittest, competitors at the event will have to complete a series of challenges in the weightlifting “garden,” on the track, and on the main stage that consists of a 70-foot long rig with pull-up bars and rings for 12 competitors at a time. The tests are measured by weight, time, and to the eyes of judges or a combination.

Carter said the competitors are split fairly evenly between men and women.

• Competition at the CanWest Games begins at 4 p.m. Friday and continues all day Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Finals are scheduled to begin at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday. For more information go to