Meghan Parks: From Marion to Madison for the CrossFit Games
It’s 6:04 a.m. on a misty Tuesday morning in June at Seaside CrossFit in Wareham, and Marion’s Meghan Parks is already halfway through her workout.
She’s about to start a 24-minute act of attrition: Deadlifts, a 400-meter run, kettlebell swings, followed by a stint on the rowing machine. Rinse and repeat until the time is up.
She, and a group of several other early-rising fitness fanatics, are off. Through the first rotation of exercises, Parks, who works in Tabor Academy’s athletics department, is ahead of most of the group. Before long, it’s hard to tell who she’s lapped and who’s on the same set as her.
Parks is headed to the 2021 CrossFit Games in Madison, WI from July 27 to 29, where the world’s best 20 CrossFit athletes in each age group will compete. Parks ranks No. 17 in the 50-54 division.
“On a typical day, she’s the first one here,” Seaside Trainer Ricardo Torres said.
CrossFit -- a program of high-intensity interval training combining cardio fitness, gymnastics and weightlifting -- is used by people of all ages to get fit, stay fit, lose weight or train for another sport. But, with the CrossFit Games, CrossFit is also a sport on its own, with the best of the best invited to compete in Madison.
Torres, sporting an American flag-themed “MP12” T-shirt (Parks’ initials and her No. 12 world rank during the first stage of the competition that got her to the Games), leads the 5:30 a.m. class that Parks takes almost every day. Sometimes, he catches her going for a run before class even starts.
On the days when Parks isn’t at Seaside, she’s dropping in for workouts at other gyms on the South Coast.
“She’s been extremely consistent over the years,” Torres said.
A lifelong athlete, Parks started CrossFit in 2001 when a friend of hers began taking classes out of Seaside owners Jennifer and Matthew Christopher’s Marion garage.
“I like the competitive aspects of it,” she said. “Even though a lot of the time you’re competing against yourself.”
Soon though, she’ll get to compete head-to-head with the rest of the top 20 athletes in her age group, hailing from Russia, Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, and elsewhere in the United States.
Making the CrossFit Games, Parks said, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It’s still surreal,” she said. “It’s honestly surreal.”
To make it to the competition, Parks had to get through two levels of remote competition, performing defined workouts for time, reps or heaviest weight while being carefully watched by a trained judge. Finishing 12th in the first round -- well within the top 10% of the 4,500 women competing in her division -- got Parks to the second round. For that, she received another set of workouts to be performed and meticulously filmed, so they could be judged and verified by CrossFit officials.
Parks said making sure the videos were in proper order “was the most stressful part, honestly.”
Parks got word that she’ll be competing in Madison after a weekend of climbing ropes, jumping on boxes, doing handstand pushups and “double unders” (jump roping in which the rope goes under the feet twice with every jump) -- plus much more, not to mention all that filming.
She said she and the other competitors have no idea what workouts will be thrown at them during the competition.
Swimming, mountain biking, strength and conditioning exercises of all weight and contortion -- Parks has to be ready for it all.
“They kind of just like to throw all sorts of crazy things at you,” she said.
With the games approaching, Parks is working on the areas of fitness she has a harder time with -- which she said are usually the more balance-focused and “technical” exercises. She said the best way to get a high score is to be consistent across workouts, rather than focusing on one specific area of fitness.
“I hope I do a good job of it,” Parks said. “But it’s hard.”
Where Parks shines, though, is cardio. Between runs before early morning workouts and nighttime cardio sessions most days, she has it down.
But what sets her apart, Torres said, is her dedication to “the little things.”
Parks, however, attributes much of her success to her family and community around her -- they do all have shirts bearing her initials, after all.
Parks said her family has been “great and very understanding” of her dedication to CrossFit -- fitting for a family as athletic as hers.
Parks’ son Nick, an avid baseball player, is starting eighth grade in the fall. His older brother Sam, a Tabor graduate who played hockey, soccer and baseball, is headed to Bryant University in the fall, where he’ll continue to play baseball. Parks’ daughter Cate, a junior at Tabor, was on the 4x100-meter relay team that broke a 26-year-old record at the academy. And Parks’ husband Arthur is an associate athletic director for media relations at Providence College.
On top of the support she receives from her family of athletes, Parks said her training group helps keep her accountable.
“And honestly, that’s a huge motivator,” she said.
For Parks, the community atmosphere is the best part about CrossFit. She said it permeates just about every CrossFit gym.
“No matter where you go, everybody’s just nice and inclusive.”
One thing is for sure, the community at Seaside will be cheering Parks clad in “MP12” T-shirts.