Four-time World CrossFit Masters Champion Mary Beth Prodromides, 61, has made a career out of pushing boundaries and breaking barriers through discipline, training, and an everlasting drive to unleash her inner champion.
The Quest to Compete
Growing up with three brothers, the spark of competition struck Mary Beth at an early age. Throughout school, she participated in volleyball, basketball, softball, track, but gymnastics soon took her primary focus.
She followed her athletic pursuits into teaching, becoming a personal trainer and physical education instructor, sharing her spark for movement and focus with generations young and old. Her newfound love of weightlifting led her to bodybuilding and through her training of others, Mary Beth was introduced to the world of CrossFit in 2010.
“It was a perfect fit,” she said, reliving her first CrossFit session. Its methodology as a “sport of fitness” was very similar to how Mary Beth trained at a globo gym, and through its varied and challenging workouts, and community atmosphere, she began her championship journey.
The Ultimate Athletic Test
The CrossFit Games is an annual international competition featuring athletes from over 120 countries competing to find the “Fittest Man and the Fittest Woman on Earth” (games.crossfit.com). Because Crossfit challenges all parts of an athlete—strength, endurance, fitness, and poise—the events must reflect this diverse and every-changing measurement of excellence. From running, swimming, pull-ups, kayaking, handstand walking, odd-object carrying, rope climbing, obstacle courses, the list of events is long and “unlike traditional sports such as track and field, gymnastics, weightlifting, or even decathlon,” the list is completely unknown.
Athletes are “tested against a variety of unannounced events, each with different movements, equipment, and time domains.” Competitors must train for every possible scenario, with new ones added each year. The variety of challenges an athlete must face, and the number of qualifying weeks he or she must pass to even reach the Games, makes Mary Beth’s climb to the podium six times a work of unrelenting practice and steadfast discipline.
To compete at the highest level requires every piece of the competitor, from their workout regimen to their nutrition and sleeping habits. When Mary Beth began training for the CrossFit Games, she was taught to “Know her why?” The internal drive that pushes every action must come from a place of knowing yourself and knowing what motivates you. For Mary Beth, the drive was four words: “To be a champion.”
A Champion’s Drive
A little over a year after starting CrossFit, she reached the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games and took home the gold medal in the Masters Women 50-54 Division. “I remember staring at the leaderboard and my name was at the top… I couldn’t believe it,” she said, recounting the day and how important her friends' belief in her was throughout the competition. “The faith of my friends in me and telling me I needed to do this, that was huge for that game.”
She returned to the Games in 2012, earning a second-place finish and, once more, proving that age is what you make it. “I got a 70-pound dumbbell over my head… that was something the younger people weren’t doing and that just built my confidence even more.” She used that confidence to claim her second first-place gold in 2014.
After a severe shoulder injury sidelined her in 2015, Mary Beth battled back from surgery, recovery, and physical therapy. One year later, with the help of new coaches and a new mindset focusing on action rather than results, she earned her third first-place finish in the 2016 Games. After claiming her second silver medal in 2017, she saw gold once more in 2018 and with that win, became the first woman ever to have earned four World CrossFit Master's Championships.
A Life in CrossFit
As a mother of four and a grandmother of nine, Mary Beth has retired from physical education, but is still an avid member of the CrossFit community. “It meets you where you're at,” she said, describing CrossFit’s place throughout her life. Whatever your age or physical level, CrossFit meets you at your level to challenge and grow with you. “It meets me as a 61-year-old lady, who's recovering from shoulder surgery …And it'll grow with you.”
A champion’s journey is measured by practice, sweat, and tears. From her athletic passions growing up to her first CrossFit Games appearance to reaching the medal podium six times, Mary Beth Prodromides demonstrates what it takes to raise the bar.