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Meet the Trainer: Megan May

Written on April 29, 2013 at 11:59 am , by

What’s on Megan’s fitness bucket list? Competing on a team at the CrossFit Regionals. (Photo courtesy of Ted Williams)

The second we entered Reebok CrossFit’s 5th Avenue box with trainer Megan May a few months back, we knew we were in for a sweaty, no-joke treat. Thanks to Megan’s can-do attitude and flawless technique demos (she made everything look so easy!), we pushed ourselves beyond our limits—box jumps, ring apparatuses and all. Megan thrives as a WOD motivator with an infectious fitness passion, alongside a background in gymnastics and professional bodybuilding. In our March Express, the 2009 World Natural Bodybuilding Federation’s “Ms. Fit Body” designed a routine full of dumbbell swings, Turkish get-ups and power deck squats to test even the biggest CrossFit critic. We approved! Read on to learn more about Megan, “bulkiness” misconceptions and why she believes strength is sexy.

Most of us are NYC transplants, how did you make your way to the Big Apple?
I was coaching for Mike and Nate, who own Reebok CrossFit 5th Ave, at their two locations in Miami, Reebok CrossFit Miami Beach and IMT CrossFit. When plans for the gym in NYC started to form, they asked if I would relocate. My first answer was “absolutely not.” My husband and I had just recently moved to South Beach from Atlanta and purchased a condo on the bay. I had no intention of leaving paradise. When I decided to ask them more about the relocation, they told me about the big plans for the flagship CrossFit box, and they were teaming up with Reebok to open on 5th Ave in New York. This was an unbelievable opportunity that I didn’t want to miss. Besides, I told myself that if I hated it, I could always move back.

How did get involved with CrossFit?
I first heard about CrossFit about four years ago from one of my best friends that had just left the Air Force and was training to become an Air Marshall. He told me about these crazy workouts called CrossFit they were using for training. I was a personal trainer and a figure competitor at the time, so I was always looking for new ways to spice up workouts. There was no CrossFit close, so I went to the CrossFit.com main page and pulled exercises and WODs to use in my training and bootcamps. It went right along with the type of training I was already doing and putting my clients through. It wasn’t until I moved to Miami to become the head trainer at the Gold’s Gym in South Beach, that CrossFit popped back into my life. Six months after moving there, what is currently Reebok CrossFit Miami Beach, opened across the street from my where we lived. My husband and I joined and were instantly hooked! Within six months I had earned my CrossFit Level 1 coaching certificate and was working out and training solely as a CrossFit coach and athlete.

What else do you do for working out besides CF?

I just started doing yoga, as a way to supplement my CrossFit training. It helps a lot with mobility, which is often overlooked. CrossFit hits every muscle group and energy system so I look just as good as I did when I was a figure competitions. 

We all know why CF is great—but what’s your most persuasive reason for getting newbies involved?
It is so much FUN! I think CrossFit is one of the most fun ways to workout. When you participate in the group workout, you never have to work out by yourself. This helps push you and keeps you motivated to get through incredibly challenging exercises that might seem otherwise impossible. The community that has built up around CrossFit is truly amazing.

The number one thing those who have taken your class would agree on/say?
It’s a kick a** workout!

What’s your favorite WOD?
Lumberjack 20 :
20 Deadlifts 185/275
400M Run
20 KB Swings 53/70
400M Run
20 Overhead Squats 75/115
400M Run 20 Burpees
400M Run
20 CTB Pullups
400M Run 2
0 Box Jumps 20/24″
400M Run
20 DB Squat Cleans 20/30 400M Run

This WOD doesn’t miss any muscle group. This also happens to be the first CrossFit WOD I ever did, so I have fond memories have how crushed I felt after doing it. I immediately thought CrossFit was for the hardcore.

Best way to incorporate CF into your workout schedule (if you don’t want to do only CF)?

I would say try CrossFit in the group setting and you will be hooked! You can always come in on off days of your daily routine to get supplemental strength sessions in. I promise the programming is going to push you beyond the intensity that you’re used to and you won’t have to try to squeeze CrossFit into your workout. It will become the workout you choose. Trust me when I say you won’t be able to get enough!

Women are intimidated by getting “bulky”—how do you prevent this from happening once you pick up the sport?
This is probably the most common misconception I hear from women. It is very frustrating. First of all, women are generally not genetically designed to get “bulky” like men. If you keep your eating on point, then you will stay lean while developing beautiful, strong muscle from working out with heavier weights. Secondly, who on Earth perpetuated the idea that a woman with a bit of muscle isn’t sexy? I’m not talking about huge bodybuilder women. I agree that a woman who looks as big as a man may not be very sexy. We don’t make those here. I’m talking about a woman who is as strong and powerful on the outside as she is on the inside. A strong woman is confident and very sexy. Numerous studies have proven that men aren’t attracted to waif thin, weakling women. That’s not sexy, nor is there anything sexy in appearing like a weakling. I get women coming up to me all the time saying, “I love your arms” or “I wish I had your legs.” I have been lifting really heavy for a very long time and I am still very feminine. Don’t be scared…be strong, that’s beautiful.

Fave workout songs?
I usually use Pandora and base it on my mood or workout. If I’m lifting heavy, I like hard music like Rage Against the Machine, DMX or Tool. For steady skill work, my favorite station lately is “East Coast Hip Hop.” During fast WODs, I like high energy dance music.

Dream (fit) vacation?
I’ve always wanted to learn to surf. We tried in Miami, but the waves weren’t quite up to the challenge. I would love to go to some place beautiful like El Salvador, Costa Rica or Hawaii to surf.

You love CF—so what’s your workout hell (the workout you most hate!)?
Murph is one of the most grueling WODs I’ve done. The movements aren’t that challenging, but having so many reps of each is what makes it so difficult. 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats, but to top that off you start and finish with a mile run! It is a hero WOD dedicated to one of our brave fallen soldiers so you just have to remind yourself during it that the pain you’re experiencing is nothing compared to what he had to endure.

What are the 3 best strengtheners that every woman should do every day?
Squats, deadlifts and push-ups. These are essential to not only looking great, but to leading a long, healthy life. These are movements that work multiple muscle groups and help strengthen the entire body. Squats and deadlifts should be done with a load (weight), so resting a day in between to give the muscles time to recovery would be better than doing them every day.

When you’re not in the box, where can we find you (other hobbies?)?
I’m a big foodie. I love find exciting new foods to try. I work out hard during the week so that I can have guilt-free enjoyment. Also, I like to find time to lock myself in my kitchen and test out new recipes and make Paleo treats for myself and my friends.

What’s the trick for getting in a workout on the days you don’t have the motivation?
Jump into a class or grab a buddy to workout with. It’s much more fun than by yourself.

Is there a workout trend that you want to try that you haven’t yet?
Parkour looks like a ton of fun and can be done without any equipment.

What’s the fitness trend you’d like to see go away?
If it works for you keep doing it. People need to find the fitness discipline that works for them and keeps them motivated and moving. Everyone has their own thing that works with their lifestyle and goals. I am obviously biased in the fact that I believe everyone can find this with CrossFit. Although I’ve not met anyone yet that has said so, it might not work out for you. Gasp!

What’s the number one mistake you see most women making during a fitness class?
Not lifting heavy enough is hands-down the most common mistake I see. Women underestimate their true ability. If you want a strong, sexy, toned body, you have to lift weights that challenges you and stimulates your muscles.

What’s your pre-workout and post-workout snack?
Pre-workout: I try to schedule my workout 90 minutes to two hours after one of my meals. If it doesn’t work out that way, I’ll have some fruit and BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids) about 30 minutes before. Post-workout: Coconut water with a scoop of protein mixed in.

What are the must-haves in your gym bag?
Olympic lifting shoes, jump rope for double unders, CrossFit lifting gloves, sweat towel, iPad for videoing lifts and recording workouts.

What’s your motivational mantra? “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” Fred Devito

Celeb you’d most like to whip into shape:
I would like to train any celebrity that has yet to try CrossFit. I love introducing people to this workout regimen. CrossFit changes lives and if any celeb up for challenge I would love to get involved.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Maybe, with a couple of extra additions to the family by that time and doing exactly what I love to do, still coaching and managing CrossFit boxes.