A lifelong athlete, Danielle Sidell dabbled in several fitness arenas before she found her calling in a CrossFit box. After competing in cross country and track and field for four years in college, the now 25-year-old Ohio resident joined the National Guard and focused on bodybuilding, regularly competing in the "figure" and "physique" categories at local shows. But when her boss suggested she try a CrossFit class with him, she laughed. Little did she know it would pave the way for her upcoming role in what could be the country's next big sport: the National Pro Grid League.
The NPGL (formerly the National Pro Fitness League) has been described as CrossFit but with a spectator-sport angle: Matches will be televised (the first ones will be streamed online), and will pit co-ed teams of athletes against each other as they race to complete workout sets that include activities like rope climbs, pull-ups, and barbell snatches, to name a few.
As Sidell prepares for the NPGL's inaugural season in August, she told Shape.com about how she got involved in the league in the first place, what fitness means to her, and why she can't wait to be famous.
Shape: Was your first CrossFit class love at first WOD?
Danielle Sidell (DS): My supervisor at work was really into CrossFit, but I thought that anyone who did more than 10 to 15 reps of any exercise was just crazy. He kept bugging me, though, and I really wanted to get on his good side, so I finally went—and I totally drank the KoolAid. My first workout was seven minutes of burpees, and I was hooked. I'd really missed the competitive setting and the group support I had as a college athlete, and with bodybuilding I only got that once a month when I went to shows. With CrossFit, I got that in every class.
Shape: How did CrossFit lead to a spot on an NPGL roster?
DS: In college I was a runner, and was always concerned about keeping my weight down. Since then I've gained 40 pounds—on any given day I'm between 168 and 175 pounds—and I'm 10 times stronger, more confident, and in better shape now than I was then. Once I started entering and winning CrossFit competitions, I was approached by the league organizers about joining one of their inaugural teams. I love that the competitions will be co-ed. A really fit male is generally stronger and faster than a really fit female, so training with guys always pushes me to be better.
Shape: How has your daily training regimen changed?
DS: I've recently been given the amazing opportunity to quit my full-time job, thanks to paid sponsorships and soon the salaries we'll get through the NPGL. Before that, I would spend 50 to 55 hours a week at my job, train roughly two and a half hours every day after work, then rush home to walk my dogs, shower, and go to bed. It was really frustrating because if I had a bad lift, I had no time to regain my composure or try again to do better. Now that I'm training full time, I can really take my time and focus on my performance rather than on the clock.
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Shape: What's your ultimate goal for the NPGL?
DS: For the Rhinos to win the whole thing, of course! That's obviously every team member's goal, but also we really want this to take off and be comparable to any other pro league sport. I want it to be as fun and exciting as Sunday Night Football, and I want people to get just that excited to watch NPGL on TV. I want little kids to buy Danielle Sidell jerseys!
Shape: And what's next for you personally?
DS: My fiance and I are opening our own CrossFit box, hopefully within the next month or two. I am also competing in an Olympic Weightlifting competition this coming August, where I hope to quality for the American Open Championships. In the meantime, I'm working on improving my weaknesses, making sure I put myself upside down and on my hands (for handstand walks and pushups) at every training session. I hate doing these because I'm not good at them, but it's important to work at the things you're not good at. I don't want to have weaknesses—I want to be an athlete my team can really depend on and trust to pull through in any situation.
On August 19, the New York Rhinos compete against the Los Angeles Reign at Madison Square Garden. Go to ticketmaster.com/nyrhinos and enter "GRID10" to get access to pre-sale tickets and receive $10 off middle tier prices.