Erin 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.
The 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.
The 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.