HIGHLAND PARK â€“ Although Highland Park mom Julie Ackermann spent the summer swimming, biking, and running, these were not recreational activities. The 45-year-old competed and won fourth place in the CrossFit Games held in Madison, Wisconsin, August 3 to 6.
â€śI was ranked No. 2Â in the world going into the CrossFit Games, and finished the open and the qualifier in second place,â€ť said Ackermann. â€śI finished the games in fourth place, so you can say Iâ€™m the fourth fittest woman in my age group (45-49) in the world,â€ť said Ackermann.
The fittest woman on earth is Tia-Clair Toomey from Australia, who won the Individual Women’s competition in the 18-34-year -old age range.
Winners in the masters categories were divided into the following age groups: (35-39), (40-44), (45-49),Â (50-54), (55-59) and 60 plus.Â The CrossFit Games also include Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics, and cardio.
This was Ackermannâ€™s first trip to the games. Sheâ€™s done a lot of local competitions, but described the CrossFit Games as â€śthe Olympics of CrossFit. Itâ€™s the highest achievement that you can do in CrossFit,â€ť she added.
Ackermann explained that the most challenging aspect of the CrossFit Games was the volume of rigorous activities, because it includedÂ nine workouts over four days. â€śItâ€™s just like pushing yourself to the limit for every workout, so itâ€™s not only physically exhausting, but itâ€™s mentally exhausting,â€ť she said.
The first event was more triathlon based. It was a mile and a half run, a 500-meter swim in open water, another mile and a half run, followed by a one rep snatch (an Olympic weight lifting event).
â€śMy best part of CrossFit is that Iâ€™m pretty good at everything, and not amazing at anything,â€ť said Ackermann. â€śAt CrossFit that works.â€ť
Ackermann said she did well at the endurance events, finishing first place in two events: the run-swim-run event and the vest triplet event (athletes wear a tactical vest while weight lifting). She won second place in the obstacle course event.
The woman who won in her age group also won last year, and she hasÂ competed in the games seven times. Ackermann realizes she needs to work that much harder to get one of those top three spots next time.
SheÂ began doing CrossFit training about four years ago. Not only does she train at CrossFit RPE in Deerfield, she coaches there, too.
â€śI was just an athlete and then I got my coaching certification and decided to compete more and to coach more,â€ť she said.
Ackerman said sheâ€™s learned how important it is to eat enough food to support her training. She tries to eat healthy, makes sure to get enough protein, eats carbs, and still treats herself to an occasional donut.
â€śI need about 2,500 calories a day, and Iâ€™m five foot four and 128 pounds,â€ť she added.
Ackermann and her husband, Ron Ackerman, have three children: Clarissa, 16, Nate, 13, and Sam, 9. Nate has started to express interest in CrossFit training, and his mom couldnâ€™t be more thrilled.
Ackermann shared the gym’sÂ philosophy:Â â€śGood coaches make a huge impact on training, but we say we can take an elite athlete and an 85-year-old woman and put them in the same class and give them both the same workout, because weâ€™re going to tailor it for each person.”
Ackermann said it was a two-step qualification process for the CrossFit Games, and as the list was narrowed down, competitors were asked to submit CrossFit videos.
The CrossFit Games are so competitive that the only Chicago-area participants were Ackermann and a man from the South Side of Chicago in the 55 to 59-year-old category.
â€śI had the most fun doing the obstacle course race, and I was neck-in-neck with the girl who ended up winning,â€ť said Ackermann. She also discovered a whole new experience when she received camera and air time for winning the vested triple.
â€śBut the highlight of the CrossFit Games was seeing all of the support from friends and family cheering me on in the stands,â€ť said Ackermann. â€śI was grateful that they made the trip from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin.â€ť