Ep 115 – Becoming a CrossFit Games Athlete: Rookies Fee Saghafi & Erin Vandendriessche

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“I didn’t start CrossFit to be competitive, and I didn’t get into the competitive side until several years later.  And, I would say, I didn’t start getting competitive until 3… 3-4 years ago.  And then I was like, ‘Oh, this is fun,’ I started with local competitions.  I remember seeing Erin at local competitions, and so that was always cool to me and that was always fun, and it wasn’t so much about competing, it was about, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do something that I never thought that I could do.  I always see these- the top-level girls, they have the 10 years of gymnastics, they come from Division 1 swimming, they are- they were- elite track competitors.  And I just didn’t have that background, and I didn’t have those same opportunities, and to be able to prove that I could still get there, over time, was something that I wanted to prove to myself.” – Fee Saghafi

Neither Feeroozeh Saghafi nor Erin Vandendriessche started CrossFit with the intention of becoming competitors, but over the last several years, both women have slowly worked their way from beginners to up-and-coming Games athletes.

Erin Vandendriessche is a former Baldwin Wallace University gymnast and two-time Central Regional athlete, making an appearance on the CTown CrossFit team in 2017, and an individual appearance in 2018.  With the changes to the 2019 Games season, Erin made the surprising decision to opt out of the Open, and instead focused on competing at Sanctionals, most notably the Italian Showdown where she topped the podium and earned her ticket to the 2019 CrossFit Games.  A former nurse and current nutrition coach, Erin trains out of her husband’s affiliate, Root 18 CrossFit in Medina, OH.

Fee Saghafi is a former high school volleyball athlete who started CrossFit as a way to manage her weight and provide direction in the gym while she was in college.  After two appearances at the Central Regional (on team CrossFit Mentality in 2017 and as an individual in 2018) she decided to dial in her training and her mindset and commit to her goal of becoming a Games competitor.  She finished 24th in the 2019 Open, securing her rookie berth to the CrossFit Games.  Fee attended John Carroll University where she earned a degree in Exercise Science and most recently graduated with her Master’s in Business Administration. Fee coaches and trains alongside Scott Panchik at CrossFit Mentality in Mentor, OH.

Through the years of competing alongside each other in local events, Fee and Erin have grown to become friends in addition to fellow competitors.  While they earned their rookie spot at the Games through different avenues, both women have found that embracing a champion mindset has been an integral part of making the leap to becoming one of the best in the world.  I caught up with Fee and Erin at CrossFit Mentality to chat about their evolution as athletes, and what tips, habits, and practices they used to qualify for their first CrossFit Games.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Erin & Fee’s athletic backgrounds
  • How and why they got started doing CrossFit
  • How the three of us got to know each other
  • Erin & Fee’s first Regionals experience, and how that impacted their goals for the future
  • How their training changed as they made the transition from team athlete to individual
  • The importance of dialing in areas outside the gym to improve performance
  • The lessons Fee learned from her individual experience at the 2018 Regionals, and how she changed her training and mindset going into the 2019 season
  • Their reaction to the changes in the qualification process for the 2019 CrossFit Games
  • Erin’s strategy to qualify for the Games, and why she opted out of the Open
  • Erin’s team experience at the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge
  • Their experience at the CrossFit Italian Showdown, and finding comfort in competing alongside a familiar face
  • The biggest mindset shift that Erin & Fee made that helped them to qualify for the Games
  • How Fee draws on Games veteran Scott Panchik’s competition experience to improve her training
  • The biggest changes Fee & Erin made in their training and their mentality to support their goal of making it to the Games
  • What their schedule, training and nutrition look like as the 2019 Games approaches
  • Three things Fee & Erin do on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on their health
  • One thing they struggle to implement that could have a big impact on their health
  • What a healthy life looks like to Fee and to Erin

You can follow Fee and Erin on Instagram.


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Disclaimer: This podcast is meant to share the experiences of various individuals. It does not provide medical advice, and it is not a substitute for advice from your physician or health care professional.

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