Back in 2015, when Katrin Davidsdottir won her first Games gold, it was hard to imagine she could become any stronger.
Fast-forward to this year’s Games, though, and there was Davidsdottir, somehow looking and sounding even fitter. And she performed like it.
At what was billed as the “toughest” CrossFit Games in history, Iceland’s newest CrossFit queen once again out-pushed, out-pulled, out-ran, and basically out-worked one of the most competitive fields in history to win the 2016 CrossFit Games.
Her reign continues.
But Davidsdottir isn’t just merely content to train like a superhuman force of nature. She’s brilliant on SnapChat, for one thing. She’s also an inspiration to countless everyday gym-goers, and, with her trademark megawatt smile, an iconic face of a booming fitness phenomenon.
In the days after her dominant win at the 2016 CrossFit Games, with cheers seemingly still echoing through the StubHub Center in Carson, California, we caught up with the newly (re-)crowned Fittest Woman on Earth to talk about how she is already looking ahead to the 2017 Games, why she’s no longer afraid of carbs, and which Marvel movie superhero she’d play if she had the chance.
Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for concision and clarity.
Men’s Fitness: Congratulations on the huge win.
Katrin Davidsdottir: Thanks!
How do you feel?
It still seems kind of unreal. It still seems crazy that it’s actually over. I was going to be happy with the weekend regardless of the outcome, but the win is such a big bonus. But I was so happy with the training leading up to it, and the whole week at the Games.
Does the yearlong training grind make the Games seem very far away?
No, it never really seems far away. It really doesn’t. Last year, right after the Games, I sat down with my coach, Ben Bergeron, and we drafted a schedule. Invitationals start in December, February is the CrossFit Open, March is Open announcements, and April is CrossFit Regionals training. So after the Games, it basically feels like we’re right at Regionals, and we only have six weeks from Regionals to train for the Games. So time truly flies.
What kind of training did you do this year that was maybe a little different or surprising or challenging compared to the training that you had done last year?
This year was way more structured. I moved to Boston to train with Ben at New England full-time, so that was a huge differentiator. I took August off from intense training—I’d go to the gym, whatever—but come September, Ben and I worked so hard at really improving my weaknesses at the beginning of the year. We focused on general fitness early. As the Games approached, it was more about peaking my performance, taking everything I excel at.
It’s hard to imagine you having too many physical weaknesses—you were the fittest woman on earth in 2015. So what did you really want to focus on?
I really wanted to focus on my upper-body pulling. That has always been a huge weakness of mine and I did not make it to the Games in 2014 because of rope climbs. I’ve been working hard on them, and I just did them last year, but I still felt that after last year’s Games that it was something that I could be working on. So I really wanted to work on all upper-body pulling—muscle-ups, rope climbs, and pull-ups— and then general strength, so squats and deadlifts. That really came a far way.
But my worst event this year was the strength events—the squat clean and the deadlift. That’s definitely something we need to be working very hard on, but my upper-body pulling definitely came a long way.
This year, I honestly felt like I was confident in whatever would show up. I wasn’t nervous. I felt ready. I felt like I could tackle anything that would be thrown our way.
Did you feel that way last year, or were you still a little nervous?
I don’t think I knew how good I was last year. I think that it’s my first full year that I was training with Ben. We really trained so hard. I really fell in love with the process and I loved the journey. Knowing that I’d done such long training, I was just confident in my own ability. Of course, I still had weaknesses—more than now, I’d say. But I really think that my confidence in myself really kept my mental game strong and that’s the reason I won last year.
I think my mental game was really strong this year, and I was able to stay focused on what was right in front of me. This year, especially, I was fitter, I was stronger, and I was better than ever.
What kind of work do you do in terms of mobility and nutrition?
I work with my nutritionist on my macros. I weigh and measure my food and I know exactly how much protein, carbs, and fat to eat. That’s something new that I did this year.
I think I was always very afraid of carbs. I was sure that I’d gain weight if I ate carbs. But, of course, that’s what my body uses. That’s why it’s fuel. I need carbs. So I’m eating more than ever, but in different proportions, and just really dialing that in.
I warm up very, very well. Every day, I take about two hours from when I get to the gym until I’m working out. I roll, I stretch, I do a general warm-up.
What’s it like training with Cole Sager? Obviously CrossFit is a community-focused endeavor, but I imagine it can be a little lonely at the top.
It’s my favorite time of year when we’re training for the Games. Cole came down and it was me, Cole, and Ben. Cole is one of the best guys you’ll find out there. He wants to do so well. He leads by example. His mental game is so strong. If you ever feel something’s going wrong or not having the best time, he is sure to turn that around for you. We really are a great team. I would not be surprised to see him on the podium next year.
There are moments throughout the Games when people who are essentially competing against each other seem to be very encouraging to each other. What’s your relationship like with the other CrossFitters, and specifically with the other Icelandic athletes?
Annie [Thorisdottir, the 2011 and 2012 champion] and I come from the same gym. I started CrossFit because I saw her on TV winning the Games. I always looked up to her and it’s very cool that we became training partners. She’s one of my best friends. When both of us are in Iceland, we train together all the time. We really want the best for each other and we really want each other to succeed and become the best versions of ourselves.
Sara [Sigmundsdottir, third-place finisher in 2015 and 2016] lives a little bit away, but we of course spend so much time together when we do the Open. We feel like a part of … I guess like a little group. We’re the “Dottirs.” We’re proud of that. The rising tide floats all boats. We see each other and push each other a lot.
The girls at the Games see each other throughout the year. This year, Brooke Wells, Brooke Ence, and Jen Smith came down to Boston and trained with me. It’s really cool. Through this we all have made life-long friends. The Games results take care of themselves, but great memories last forever.
Just pondering about what Dave Castro means by 'hardest Games EVERRRR' 🤔💭 What are your guys' guesses?! 😜 – #Repost @crossfitphotojournal ・・・ Monday, 7:15 PM. 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games Champ @katrintanja listens as @thedavecastro addresses the individual athletes. After acknowledging the contribution many of the veteran athletes in the room have made to the history of the Games, his words take a sobering turn. "This year's completion is going to push you to limits you have never pushed yourself to before. This will be the most difficult CrossFit Games, mentally and physically, we have ever done. You guys won't even understand what I'm talking about until Sunday. There are going to be times when you are really scared. You are going to question what we are doing, and why you are here. If that happens, please approach me or our staff and we will gladly pull you out of the competition." I ask Katrina how she feels about Dave's warning afterwards. She tells me she loves it. "I want it to be hotter, longer, and more challenging. I train all year for the worst conditions. The harder the workout, the more I have an advantage." #CrossFit #CrossFitGames #sonya6000 #reebok #crossfitphotojournal
Now that you’ve won two games in a row, you’re essentially on the same level as Annie in terms of the history of the sport. It’s obviously still early, but do you think of yourself as a sports star? Like a LeBron James, or someone of that level of excellence?
I think that’s the level of excellence that I strive for. I strive for perfection. I strive to be excellent. I strive to excel at anything that I do. I take care of every single percent that I can take care of. I do that. I make sure I sleep enough. I make sure I eat perfect. I make sure I warm up well. I make sure that I lift well. I make sure that I give everything that I have to every workout. That’s what I want. I want to be the best at this.
But no, I don’t look at myself that way. In all honesty, I don’t even like thinking of myself as that. I would never do that. Because thinking of yourself like that, I feel like you could become content. I want to constantly become solidly better than how I woke up.
I know I’ll never [reach] perfection. I can hit excellence. If you strive for perfection, then somewhere along the way, you’ll hit the best version of yourself.
Is that your mantra as you’re training?
No, but I always ask myself if what I did was the best that I could do. I constantly ask myself, ‘Am I going as hard as I possibly can go in this workout?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then great. If it’s ‘no,’ then go harder.
That’s how it feels at the Games, too. No regrets. Go as hard as you can go, and know that whatever you did was the best that you could do—regardless of your placement, regardless of if anyone else beat you. If someone else goes faster, then good for them. As long as it was my fastest.
You spoke about the strength of your psychological game. Everyone who comes into the Games is fit, but it seems the psychological component takes a toll.
Everyone that makes the games is fit. We’re all strong. I think the differentiator between podium and not is the mental game. It’s a long week. It’s five days of competing. It’s 15 events. Can you block out the noise, the media? Can you recover? It’s how you recover, how you sleep, how you eat. All of it.
What’s next for this year? The same process?
Yeah. I think right now I’m just taking some time off. I’ll see some family, go back to Boston and Iceland. And then we’ll start over again. Keep taking it one day at a time and make sure that we make each day our masterpiece. I want to go to bed knowing that I did whatever I could that day. If I did that at night and I enjoyed that day then that’s success.
One last question. If you could be in a superhero movie, or a comic book movie, or any movie that you wanted to be in, what would you be? The new Thor is a woman…
[Gasps] For real?
I want to be her! [Laughs]