Written by Ashley Dier | Academy of Lions Media Team | Toronto

You need only watch Leann Lapp for a few seconds before you notice one thing, this woman has DRIVE. Insanely talented and sweet, Leann Lapp is a natural athlete, an elite athlete. I was nervous to meet with her, I've seen her train at the Academy and watched her compete in the CrossFit Open*, I've seen how gifted she is and I felt inferior, intimated. However, after a few short moments with her I realized how ridiculous my nervousness was, kind, warm and attentive, Leann is the kind of person who you want to chat with, the kind of woman you can't help but be inspired by.

Naturally athletic since childhood, sports have alway come easily for Leann. She began in gymnastics, what she calls "perfect foundational" sport. A sport building agility, speed, strength and coordination all fundamentals she relies on in CrossFit. In her younger years it was track and soccer, in University, swimming. Post graduation she continued swimming with a local masters club, she was running and practicing yoga. "I figured my competitive sports career was over, and I was going to stay active, which seemed weird because everything had been so goal directed," she said. Adding, "and then I walked by the Academy when it used to be on Dundas, looked in the window and it looked so fun, people were climbing ropes and doing all these things that I had done as a child through gymnastics." That was in 2011, now Leann is one of the top CrossFit athletes in North America.

In the beginning Leann would come to Academy two days a week and purposely skip Tuesday's (lifting days) for fear of getting "too big", but she began to see drastic improvements in her swimming and the balance began to shift. Enjoying CrossFit more and more, she quit swimming and starting training six days a week.     

Her first CrossFit Open was in 2012. Leann noticed that there were workouts that she had the athleticism to do better than she had, that was her "all in" moment and she began to train very seriously after the Open that year. Leann describes CrossFit Open 2012 as being very formative in her CrossFit career. Leann is goal based, her athletic life proof of that, the following year her goal was to try as hard as she could and see what happened. The results of that Open placed her in a position where she could see that Regionals were within grasp, becoming her next goal.  The top 20 athletes from each region (Toronto is Canada East) compete in the Regionals, the top 5 go on to Big Show, the CrossFit Games in Carson, California. Leann has competed in Regionals twice and in just 5 short weeks, it starts it all over again with CrossFit Open 2016 Edition.

"My time swimming varsity was sort of like my "career", I loved swimming but I didn't really like competing, I got really nervous and felt so much pressure. And this (CrossFit) is like round two, it's the bonus round. I'm older and I've worked out the jitters. At the end of the day it's very clear, the point is to just be the best the you can be and do the work. I think I'm a lot more level headed and grounded about it," she said.

Leann is not only incredibly gifted in sports, she is brilliant. She has an undergrad in biology, and a masters in neuroscience (yes, neuroscience)! After working in the research world, Leann shifted her focus and began a clinical psychology program. She is currently interviewing for her PhD, and upon completion will be a clinical physiologist. When I asked how she balances everything Leann laughs and answers, "I don't know." Leann confesses that at times she struggles with having to put hobbies and other passions on pause, but she understands that athletic performance is often time sensitive.

The goals Leann sets for herself have always been clear, "career is one, CrossFit is two." I let the statement linger a moment and address the obvious elephant in the room, "CrossFit is your second goal, and this is how well you do," I say, shocked.

Leann thinks for a moment and answers, "when people talk about potential, that other piece, that motivation, it's a big part of it. Sometimes I wonder if the fact that because I'm focused on this other thing (my career) maybe in a way I have a bit less pressure off of CrossFit, allowing me to do better. Maybe this is the necessary condition, the perfect formula."

A few days later I see Leann training. I'm in the middle of a MetCon and have been whipping myself senseless attempting double unders. We make eye contact, smile and wave at each other, I feel her bubbly personality and think back to our conversation about focus and her goals remembering how her incredible athleticism first intimated me. I stop, shake it out and re-focus thinking about my own goals. The remaining 100 double unders come with ease, and I finish the workout feeling strong and inspired.

*The CrossFit Open is a five-week, five-workout, ultimate fitness competition held in professional and non-professional gyms all around the world. Each week an official work out is posted, those entered complete the workout, upload their score, and earn a ranking relation to your peers in your age division, competition region, province and country. Workouts are released online each Thursday and athletes have until the following Monday to submit their scores. Entry is $20, more than 272,000 athletes from around the globe competed in 2015, ranging in age from 14 to 86 years old. You can complete the workouts at a participating CrossFit affiliate in front of a judge, or film your performance from anywhere you want and submit a link as proof. (Games.crossfit.com)




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