10 Questions with Erin LaVoie: Crossfit Champion and Lumberjill Extraordinaire

erin4Erin LaVoie might be best known as one of the world’s top Lum­ber­jills (female Lum­ber­jacks) but her accom­plish­ments go way beyond that. LaVoie has won many com­pe­ti­tions, includ­ing a Bronze medal in the ESPN Great Out­door Games in 2004. She also holds the Guin­ness Book of World Record for chop­ping the most Christ­mas trees in two minutes.

We talked to LaVoie about her unique career and what she’s doing next.

The Clymb: You are one of the world’s top Lum­ber­jills, which is not only incred­i­bly awe­some but also pret­ty unusu­al. How did you get involved in this and what does it real­ly mean in terms of accomplishments?

Erin LaVoie: I start­ed lum­ber­jack sports when I was going to col­lege for forestry. The school had a team that trained right down the hall­way. I would walk by every­day, then final­ly one day went in. I have always been in sports (in and out of school). So, I thought this could be my new sport. I com­pet­ed at an event in Mis­soula, Mon­tana five days after I had joined the team, and I placed in almost every­thing. Win­ning is fun, so I kept at it. I start­ed going to pro­fes­sion­al events and plac­ing in them as well. Then I was invit­ed to cham­pi­onships and soon after found myself break­ing world records.

The Clymb: What is your sports background?

EL: I have always been active and loved com­pe­ti­tion. I know when I was a baby and ear­ly into grade school I had real­ly bad asth­ma and a heart mur­mur. The docs always said I would­n’t be able to do sports or be very active. My mom always says that my dri­ve has stemmed from being told I can’t. I don’t know that for sure, but I do feel that way when some­body says I can’t do some­thing. So for as long as I can remem­ber I have been in many sports: gym­nas­tics, soft­ball, base­ball (only girl, start­ing pitch­er, then moved to 1st base), vol­ley­ball, soc­cer, track, etc. Any­thing I could be involved in.

The Clymb: Have you always been active or did you dis­cov­er your love of crossfit/being active lat­er on?

EL: This is a fun­ny sto­ry, but I always remem­ber it. I was at a base­ball game as a lit­tle girl (5th grade maybe), and some­body gave me the foul ball. My girl­friend and I were play­ing pass with it out back towards the end of the game. I had missed one of the pass­es and a teenage guy took my ball and ran off with it. I think that was the first time I felt small and help­less. The entire rest of the evening I thought how I was going to start work­ing out and get­ting strong and not be in that posi­tion ever again. I asked for a punch­ing bag the next day and a few oth­er work­out things that I could think of at the time. Ever since, I have been in love with work­ing out and mak­ing my body be the best that it can be both phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly. I love push­ing myself and being ready for anything.

erin1The Clymb: What was your first Cross­Fit com­pe­ti­tion? Look­ing back, is there any­thing that comes to mind such as some­thing you would have done dif­fer­ent­ly or any­thing you’re par­tic­u­lar­ly proud of?

EL: I did a few local com­pe­ti­tions, noth­ing seri­ous. Then I signed up for the open 2012 (30 years) just because. I actu­al­ly made it to region­als. I did­n’t even real­ly try, so that was pret­ty cool. I went to Region­als 2012, and 2013. I trained very hard for 2014, with goals of being in the top 10, but then I got sick, then cracked my ankle—bad luck. Now I just focus most­ly on Lum­ber­jack Sports but still do a few local com­pe­ti­tions every year.

The Clymb: You have won the Iron Jill World Cham­pi­onships three times. Can you tell our read­ers a bit more about the com­pe­ti­tion and what goes into train­ing for one?

EL: The Iron Jill World Cham­pi­onships is an All Around event. Sort of like Cross­Fit in a sense. You have to do five events, but the scores all add up to one. So, if you have a weak event it could real­ly hurt you in the end. The events are: axe throw, under­hand, sin­gle buck, hot saw, and log rolling. You have to be on top of your game in every­thing and real­ly focused—and be able to move your focus from one event to the next. You can’t spend time think­ing about what just hap­pened, or what is next—it is just “what is right now.” It starts with the axe throw—my least favorite event, which can real­ly make or break me depend­ing on how every­body else does. For train­ing, I just train the events indi­vid­u­al­ly in the cor­rect order. I did train under a sprin­kler when I found out one of the com­pe­ti­tions was host­ed in Alas­ka dur­ing their rainy sea­son. And then I for­got my rain jacket.

The Clymb: Can you tell us a bit about par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ESPN Great Out­doors Games? What exact­ly does the com­pe­ti­tion entail? What was it like to win a medal there?

EL: It took two years to get invit­ed to the GOG, so I was very excit­ed when it final­ly hap­pened. For the ladies they have an “endurance race,” which con­sists of 3 events back to back: stock saw, under­hand, sin­gle buck. It’s amaz­ing! I wish they still had it because I know I would dom­i­nate. I com­pet­ed in the events pri­or to start­ing CrossFit—it real­ly would be unfair now I believe. But the bronze medal that I did take home is awe­some, some­thing that has­n’t come down from the wall yet. It was the best podi­um I have stood on to date.

The Clymb: Can you walk us through a nor­mal train­ing week? What is your rou­tine like? Do you train on your own or with a trainer/partner, etc.?

EL: I usu­al­ly work out twice a day. Three days of the week I do Cross­Fit twice, two to three days are CF plus a train­ing ses­sion with my sport, either log rolling or chopping/sawing, and axe throw­ing every day. Some days I love train­ing on my own, oth­ers I only like one or two peo­ple around, and some days I will drop in to a class. Lum­ber­jack sports train­ing, I only like train­ing with oth­er peo­ple who are in the sport. Which is pret­ty rare, as nobody is real­ly close by. I have a friend about an hour away and we try to coor­di­nate once a week dur­ing “Go Time,” or some­times I will fly to meet train­ing friends around the world for a few days.

erin3The Clymb: What would you con­sid­er your major Cross­Fit accomplishments?

EL: Every­body always remem­bers their first mus­cle up! That was big at the time. And hit­ting a 200-lb. Clean and Jerk was fun. But I most­ly love when I notice my accom­plish­ments out­side of the gym because of CF. Like when I pull myself out of the water onto the dock and my friends are still in the water look­ing at me like “how’d you do that?” I love that stuff.

The Clymb: What’s com­ing next? Any com­pe­ti­tions planned?

EL: I just got back from Aus­tralia. I was one of the chop­pers on the Wom­en’s Nation­al Relay Team. We took 2nd. I want 1st. So, I am tak­ing the lead of cap­tain and putting a team togeth­er for the Roy­al Syd­ney show dur­ing East­er week. I only have one more com­pe­ti­tion this year, Penn­syl­va­nia Oct. 9–11. That is a big one. They will have an under­hand elim­i­na­tion there. You chop head to head in brack­ets until there is one man left stand­ing. I need to defend my title in that for sure. Then I take 2 months off, and then back at it again.

The Clymb: Any par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge you’d like to take on?

EL: Stand­ing block is one event I am learn­ing now. It’s where you chop a log in half that is stand­ing up right in a cradle—similar to chop­ping down a tree. I have been chal­lenged to com­pete against the guys at this event at the Syd­ney Roy­al East­er show—Easter week 2016. I would like to make that hap­pen and look good doing it. I also want anoth­er world record next year.