Jess Racz, Part 1

 

Every day, you spend an hour with your coach. But how much time do you have to get to know them? Our community is built on the foundation of relationships. To support that, each week, your coach will share a part of their story.

 

Hi! My name is Jess Racz and I am a Crossfit Level One Trainer at the X-Project School of Fitness. I am also a certified OPEX Level One CCP Coach and a recent graduate from Shepherd University obtaining a Bachelors of Science in Health Promotion and Exercise Science.

I specialize in athlete sports performance / strength and conditioning as well as mindset development for all ages. I currently train local high school teams and athletes in middle school and high school in addition to the coaching and behind the scenes work I do at the X-Project.

I started Crossfit in February of 2015 after wanting a switch from 13 years of playing basketball. I attended the University of Delaware for my freshman year of college and was looking to find something I could put my goals toward and become competitive with again. I tried the whole going to the gym and making up a workout, running for miles on the treadmill because I didn’t know what else to do. Then I discovered that Delaware had a Crossfit Club Team. I was instantly hooked.

After realizing I wanted to pursue Crossfit as a full time sport, I transferred to Shepherd University after my freshman year, moved back home (boy, did my parents love that), and joined the X-Project. I was at a time in my life where things seemed to be at rock bottom. I was suffering from an eating disorder and major depression and anxiety. Crossfit and the X-Project was the only things that were keeping me going at the time. To say that Michael Gaines and the X-Project saved my life is an understatement. If it weren’t for him and the life lessons he taught me, I wouldn’t be here today and I wouldn’t be the person, the athlete, the coach, the friend, the daughter that I am today and I continue to grow into the future.

I have a written manifesto on how I live my life day to day — who I am today and who I want to become to the future. My manifesto is never permanent. I am constantly redefining, adding, or taking away pieces in order to become the best I am capable of becoming. I use it as a guide for when things get tough or I seem lost in the change around me or I am looking for peace of mind, presence, and clarity. My manifesto includes my goals — personal goals, and adventure goals, professional goals. It includes my values in this order: health, courage, forgiveness, self-expression, love and warmth, happiness and joy, growth, passion, impact, achievement, adventure, peace of mind. It includes who I am — the qualities of me, what makes me unique, what makes me special, what makes me different, who I want to become, and what defines me, and what I am not. My entire existence of my identity is written in this manifesto.

I am unique in the two perspectives I bring to the athlete’s I train:

  1. I am a young athlete with my own aspiring athletic goals
  2. I have experienced a severe back injury (L5-S1 to be specific) and still in recovery for it. I know what it is like to dedicate your time and energy into pursuing a goal, to go through the suffering and cope with the mental barriers that come with being an aspiring athlete. But I also know what it is like to have that luxury taken away and the physical and mental obstacles that come with that.

Injury prevention is my number one goal. The biggest weaknesses I see come from movement faults, lack of stability, body control and strength, and specifically single joints. With this, my other important training specific goals include:

  1. Importance of warming-up: preparing the body to be able to give their near max effort. By warming-up, we are preparing the joints, connective tissue, and nervous system to perform at their best, as well as building their lungs at the same time.
  2. Learning to move well first: Athletes are more worried about how much they can move, rather than how well they can move. This is the easiest way to get injured. It might not happen today, tomorrow, next month, or next year, but if an athlete continues to move poorly, he/she is asking for injury.
  3. Importance of recovery: It isn’t only about the training for me. What are you doing the other 20+ hours a day you’re not training or working on your game. What is your nutrition like? How much sleep are you getting? How are you sitting? How are you standing? What is your posture like? Are you listening to your body? Are you stretching or mobilizing? Are you finding other ways to recover, relax, and rest your body and mind? You can train for hours on end and work extremely hard, but if you don’t sleep, you eat like crap, you don’t stretch or listen to your body, all that hard work is doing is deteriorating your body even more.
  4. Less is more (Intensity over volume): In our “winning is everything” and performance driven culture, the majority of people think more is better — more hours of training, more sprints, more weight on the bar. To be an athlete, you do have to put in a lot more work than the average fit person as well as push your body in order for these adaptations to occur, but if you’re moving crappy, only giving a 50% effort, then are we really getting anything out of it? Are we really getting any better? Will doing this prepare us for game-like situations where we have to give our near max effort for a long period of time? I much rather see an athlete work their ass off for an hour with high intensity, giving the absolute best they are capable of for 60 minutes each day, then for that same athlete to train at a lower intensity for 2 hours a day, but only 3 times a week. Content matters, the sport they are training for matters, but as a general rule for most athletes, this is what I believe.
  5. Building a foundation: The goal is to increase an athlete’s’ “baggage” of movements skills. I want them to accumulate all different types of movements in all different planes and in all various ways. This will set them up for success in their sport as well as when they start to do more advanced movements to develop even more of their speed, strength, and power. But in order for us to do this without injury, building their foundational base as wide as possible is crucial.

How I approach my training and coaching and why I do what I do comes from 3 simple questions:

  1. Who did I want when I was 13?
  2. Who did I need when I was 16?
  3. Who did my parents want to see when I was 9?

I want my athletes to enjoy what they are doing. I want to find way for them to love the process and love the hard work. I want them to make mistakes and double their rate of failure. It is the only way to grow. I want them to bring their energy and enthusiasm and excitement everyday they train, just like how I will bring the same. I want them to have fun, be able laugh at themselves, and smile from their accomplishments and victories along the way. I am their biggest cheerleader, their guide, and their friend for life.

#2 Is of special importance to me. I want to be the coaching I needed when I was 16. I want to be the coach who builds my athletes to be better athletes, but more importantly, better human beings. I want to be the coach that instills my athletes with life lessons and qualities that they can apply for a lifetime, far beyond their athletic careers. I want to teach my athletes how to show their authentic voice, how to share their heart, how to be fearless, how to ignite their fire, how to have faith and belief in who they are and wherever their journey takes them.

In the end, it isn’t about how fast they can run, how high they can jump, how much they can lift. It is about the effort they give and the fight they show, the growth in their own individuality, and their strength to bounce back from any challenge that may come their way — in their sport, but also throughout their entire life.

Follow Jess on her journey on her Instagram page.