Michelle Kwak Is Breaking Barriers As An Asian Female In The Military And In CrossFit
Michelle Kwak is used to being different.
Among her friends, she stands out thanks to her muscular build. In her family, her parents like to remind her that she doesn’t fit the mold of a “typical” Korean woman. In the military and at CrossFit competitions, she’s usually the sole Korean present.
But that doesn’t bother Kwak. She grew up knowing that she wanted to join the military. Kwak’s father was in the Korean army, and he raised her with much of the same principles he learned during the time he served. So when she was 19 years old and told him she wanted to enlist, he was both proud and supportive.
But when it comes to her affinity for lifting weights, her father — and her mother — have had a harder time understanding their daughter.
Kwak tried CrossFit for the first time shortly after graduating high school, when a trainer from her gym suggested she take advantage of a Groupon for the workout. She walked into the gym only to walk right back out after seeing the kinds of lifts the other females in the gym were doing. But the friend she had enlisted as a workout buddy marched her right back into the gym.
Fast forward seven years, and Kwak has achieved goals she never dreamed she would. Last May, she competed in the CrossFit Games East Regional. She’s gone from hitting a 55-pound snatch to PRing at 212 pounds. And that’s what Kwak loves about CrossFit. She says it keeps her humble because there’s always something to work on and improve.
Kwak’s training has also helped her in her role as an 88M Motor Transport Operator in the Army National Guard. It’s earned her the nickname “CrossFit,” and it’s the reason why soldiers and sergeants come to her with questions about how to train and how to fuel grueling workouts.
Kwak says it can be difficult to get the proper nutrition when she’s at drills. Food comes in the form of MREs, or “meal ready to eat,” which, according to Kwak, end up making her feel sluggish. She sees a noticeable difference when she’s back home and eating Kettlebell Kitchen or meals she preps on her own.
Real food gives her the energy she needs to continue breaking barriers, smashing PRs, and sticking to the goals she sets out for herself. At the end of the day, Kwak isn’t concerned with anyone else’s expectations but her own.