GWP Fitness File: Caroline Cantamessa

by · July 26, 2012

Home Box: Reebok CrossFit Brussels
Hometown: Charleroi, Belgium
Age: 30
Occupation: Children’s Physical Therapist
Years CrossFitting: 9 months
Least Favorite CrossFit movement(s): Wall balls, Toes to bar

The Global WOD Project is an exploration of CrossFit athletes and the CrossFit lifestyle all over the world: how they live, eat, train, and experience CrossFit.

Occasionally, as an extension of the project, the GWP will profile select female athletes to examine the intersection of women’s athletics, CrossFit, and the regional sport culture.

Belgian-born Caroline Cantamessa is the second Global WOD Project Fitness File athlete.

Growing up, Cantamessa exhausted every sport available. Her father, a gifted athlete, expected his kids to follow suit and Cantamessa complied, attempting horseback riding, karate, dancing, in-line hockey, basketball and volleyball before settling into a traditional “fitness” routine.
Caroline Cantamessa deadlift
One day, a friend at her gym mentioned CrossFit, saying little more than a cryptic, “Just try it. You’ll like it.” Cantamessa’s first WOD? Turkish get-ups. “The next day,” she grimaced, “I woke up and couldn’t even make it down the stairs, I was so sore. I suffered for three days.”

But Cantamessa had found one sport that stuck, driving one hour each way, three to four times a week, to get to Reebok CrossFit Brussels. Of the commute, she says, “I don’t mind because it’s quality training with a quality community,” adding with a smile, “some people don’t understand, some people think I’m crazy, but I don’t care.”

Despite the ratio of men to women at Reebok CrossFit Brussels (roughly 75:25), Cantamessa says, “We might not have a lot of women, but the ones we have are really good ones. We support each other. The competition is not with ‘the girl next to you’ but with yourself.”

“In traditional gyms,” Cantamessa begins, “it’s all about watching others and trying to measure up. In our CrossFit gym, we all train together. I don’t care if the girl next to me beats me, we’re in it together.”

Pauline, Caroline and Joanna

Pauline, Caroline and Joanna

A confidence radiates from Cantamessa as she explains some of the other ways CrossFit has changed her life, “I put up a picture of myself on facebook lifting a barbell, and I got so many comments, people chiming in to say I’m weird. I’m not trying to be Miss Fitness. It’s just different… here in Belgium, it’s normal for men to lift weights, but not women.”

But Cantamessa is undaunted, “I love being able to lift more and more over time, to measure my progress. I just hit a deadlift PR, I deadlifted 80kg—I lifted my father!”

CrossFit has spilled over into Cantamessa’s eating habits as well. She eased into Paleo eating by first starting with the Zone diet and measuring her portions. Now, two months into strict Paleo (and since eliminating gluten and other irritants from her diet) she’s not only lost weight and gained muscle but, “completely solved my intestinal problems.”

“In many ways,” she says, “I’ve become more aware of my body. I now understand how bad food can affect me and my performance.”
Carolina overhead squat
Recently, Cantamessa acquired the ability to complete one strict pull-up and one strict ring-dip, the two components necessary for the dreaded muscle-up (a pull-up into a ring-dip, performed on gymnastic rings). She’s already outlined her 2013 goal, “I want to do a muscle-up!”

Cantamessa is enthusiastic about the benefits of CrossFit, “The CrossFit word for me is ‘respect.’ Respect for myself, respect for my body, respect for what others can do. I’m doing exercises I never thought I could do, and because of that I’m much more confident.”

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