The event runs Aug. 2-5 in Madison, Wis.
Cici Fougere’s daily routine in 2011 consisted mainly of taking naps and watching television.
She lived in South Hamilton, Mass., at the time. After raising two daughters, Brooke and Madison Fougere, she found herself in a bad place.
The former gymnast was riddled with anxiety and suffering from hypoglycemia. She ate poorly and would often not leave her house all day.
“I had a hard time getting through the day,” Fougere said.
Then a friend, Kathleen Tully, suggested Fougere try CrossFit. It was fun, Tully told her, and combined lots of exercises, so she would never get bored. Fougere’s gymnast background would help, too.
Ready to get out of her funk, Fougere agreed to a two-week trial at CrossFit Wicked.
She never looked back.
Seven years later and after moving to Lakewood Ranch, the 51-year-old Fougere is one of the top CrossFit athletes in the world, finishing 10th in the CrossFit Open’s Women’s 50-54 division, and seventh in the CrossFit Regionals. The top-20 finishers in the regional event advance to the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., running Aug. 1-5.
For the past two years, Fougere, a physical education teacher at The Out-of-Door Academy, has trained at the Lakewood Ranch-based CrossFit 941 under coach Justin Devine. Fougere’s husband, Curt Fougere, also trains at the gym. The 5-foot-3 Fougere weighs 130 pounds, according to her CrossFit Games profile, and her key benchmark stats include a 200-pound back squat and a 265-pound deadlift.
CrossFit's answer to the Olympics, the Games will bring athletes from across the globe together to compete in fitness events. What those events will be is anyone’s guess — the Games’ organizer, Dave Castro, doesn’t release the list of exercises until the Games begin. It forces athletes to be ready for anything, Fougere said with a smile.
Variety suits her well. She didn’t qualify in the top-10 in any individual event, but she’s more well-rounded than her competition, having no “weak spots,” she said. The more the events change, the better, she said. Her workouts, designed by Devine, mirror this. On July 25, Fougere focused on pull-ups and snatches, but she also trains in swimming, gymnastics rings and running, among other things.
It will be Fougere’s first Games appearance, an accomplishment made more impressive by its odds. There were 6,000 participants who began the qualifying run. Only 20 advance to the Games.
Fougere still finds the sport difficult, but when she first started, she found it nearly unbearable.
"I thought I was going to die." Fougere said. "But I said, 'I'm doing this.' The person next to me is doing it, and so is this person over here, so I can, too, and I'll do it better.
"I still think to myself, 'Why do I like this torture?' Why is it so wonderful?'"
She doesn't have an answer.
As a result of the sport's learning curve, Fougere didn’t plan on competing in CrossFit competitions. It was purely to get in shape, she said. She did the Open for fun in 2012, just to experience it. When she finished 135th in 2013, with only two years of experience, she thought it could turn into something more. She put all her energy into CrossFit after that, and the strategy worked.
Devine said Fougere is the first Games participant he’s coached, and he doesn’t want another one — unless they are like her.
“She has the right attributes,” Devine said. “She trusts her coach. She seeks to understand why we do what we do. She’s hungry. She’s willing to put in the time. It’s hard to put into words, honestly.”
Fougere consistently uses the word "we" in place of "I" in conversation. She wants to emphasize the communal aspect of CrossFit 941, she said. It's the most supportive group of people Fougere has been around, she said, and everyone who works at the gym and attends classes with her is "part of the picture," meaning they contributed to her success.
When Fougere competes in the games, the rest of the gym will be watching together on TV. If Fougere succeeds, CrossFit 941 succeeds, she said.
Devine and Fougere joke during training sessions, teasing each other like decades-old friends despite the relative newness of their coach-student relationship. When Fougere, speaking of her instant willingness to increase her workout's intensity, said Devine probably thought she was crazy, Devine responded, "I still think you're crazy."
Fougere shrugged and laughed. She's one of the most fit people in the world. If crazy got her to this point, crazy is what will help her to a top finish at the CrossFit Games.