Few individuals progress from gym rat to professional athlete. Even fewer rise to the top of their discipline.
Anna Maria Island’s own Leah Purvis went from working out at Fit Crew Bradenton in regular group training sessions to one of the best CrossFit athletes in the world. This achievement did not come easy. Purvis’s hard work, dedication and sacrifices over the past several years resulted in a formal invitation to participate in the 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games Online Qualifier.
CrossFit, known as a functional exercise program for everyday people, as well as a highly competitive international sport, was created by Greg Glassman in Santa Cruz, Calif., and trademarked in 2000. With thousands of affiliate gyms around the world, the sport has caught fire and has become a passion for so many athletes like Purvis.
Although not a CrossFit affiliate, Fit Crew Bradenton is the home of one of the sport’s top-ranked athletes with Purvis. The combination of a tough mental and physical athlete and an outstanding coach – Andrew Terman, co-founder of Fit Crew – as well as support from her family and friends, has elevated Purvis to the top of her game.
In a recent Instagram post, Terman says about Purvis, “It’s easy to think of time as a hassle or a threat – with time, things change. With time, the journey takes longer. At the gym, success isn’t built overnight, so time is our greatest gift and opportunity. From top 1,500 to top 750 to top 100 in 3 years in the masters’ division … [Leah’s] journey has taken time, dedication and grit.”
Purvis has always been a high achiever, personally and professionally. As a managing director at Greystone & Co., Inc., scheduling her daily training around her full-time job makes her accomplishments all the more impressive. Many top-ranked CrossFit athletes have the luxury of making the training their only focus. Purvis, with much personal sacrifice, fine-tuned the balancing act between work, the gym and life with her husband, Don.
“I have fallen in love with the process. There is just so much more to it than people realize, and it is work,” says L. Purvis of the sport, training and conditioning.
Her progress in the gym over the past three years comes as no surprise to her coach or her husband.
“Leah was looking for an athletic outlet for a long time,” Don Purvis says. “Once she found it, I wasn’t surprised she went all in.”
Both Terman and Don Purvis knew a serious CrossFit athlete was born at the Fit Nation Thunderdome competition a few years ago. Competing in the Rx Division (lifting the prescribed weights and performing each movement as written with no modifications), along with one of the top CrossFit Games athletes, Talayna Fortunato, and several high-ranking younger regional athletes, sparked the fire that made Purvis the athlete she is today.
Don Purvis recalls her saying in the car on the way home from the Thunderdome competition, “I’m going to start training twice a day!”
“That was when I knew it was about to get serious,” he said.
As with most high-level athletes, Purvis can be her harshest critic. As an intelligent athlete, Terman says sometimes she overthinks and over analyzes things.
Known as someone who may hate to lose more than she loves to win, this is the drive that pushes Purvis.
“I believe she also fears regret,” her husband says. “She doesn’t want to reach a point in her life down the road and regret not having fully committed to obtaining her goal.”
Typically in high-level sports, an athlete can only compete at the top of his/her game for a limited number of years. Now in the Master Division, currently with six age divisions, Purvis is determined to do the best she can with the time she has left.
The sport of CrossFit is extremely physically challenging and taxing. Inevitably Purvis’s goals will change, but the competitive spirit will not.
“She will have goals with any fitness she tackles post-completion,” Terman says. “She will always compete in some manner. That’s just who she is.”
“I think she will always enjoy the sport, even if she isn’t competing at an elite level,” Don Purvis says. “One of the greatest things about CrossFit is the ability to compete with yourself on a daily basis.”
Being the best at everything she does is the trademark of Purvis, whether it is in the CrossFit arena, at work or acting in the annual murder mystery play fundraiser at The Center. She does not do anything halfway.
As an elite athlete, Purvis’ sacrifices have come in the form of “… [missing out on] ‘having fun’ with friends and family,” her husband notes. “Understanding the time she invests at the gym, in the pool or ocean and on the road is something she cannot get back is even more reason she wants to be successful in competition.”
It is this drive that also leads Terman and Purvis to be on the cutting edge of training, nutrition and post-workout recovery – building and maintaining the total top-level athlete. Purvis utilizes weekly massages, periodic chiropractic adjustments, and cryotherapy with CryoXL as just a few of her training must-dos.
“It’s not a hobby to her. It’s another full-time job,” stresses Don Purvis. As a job, Purvis works to make sure everything she does has a purpose that will only positively contribute to her end goals.
Terman, who works with Purvis daily, estimates he spends roughly 25 hours a week training Purvis along with the time it takes to prepare for her training sessions. Purvis is technically the first competitive CrossFit athlete he trained. The success that the Purvis-Terman duo has accomplished has now led to Terman training five athletes that are actively competing in the sport.
At least a couple of times a month, individuals will approach Terman about their personal desire to able to achieve the fitness and athletic level of Purvis. Terman attributes gaining the other CrossFit athletes he now trains in some way to Purvis’s successes.
CrossFit is a family affair. The Purvises talk about training and goals every day. As a former high school coach and inspirational speaker, Don Purvis knows the importance of goal setting.
He says, “I think it is healthy to continuously evaluate your goals and how to achieve them.”
Don Purvis himself trains at Fit Crew Bradenton, which enhances his ability to relate to the training his wife puts herself through every day.
Don Purvis now trains six days a week, including time outside of Fit Crew swimming, and has increased the intensity of his workouts. As a former football player, he says he has not trained this intensely in years and “ … assumed for a long time [his] ‘athletic’ days were over.”
“Leah’s training has been incredibly positive in my life. She’s an inspiration to me for her dedication in total health. I was literally on the verge of being prescribed medication because I was not taking good care of myself. With Leah‘s training, I have tried to emulate her and completely change my eating and training habits,” Don Purvis notes with much love and admiration. “[Her] training has proven to me that age doesn’t have to dictate what our bodies are capable of doing.”
Don and Leah have talked about working together in the future in a CrossFit competition, but his back injuries limit him from completing some of the common CrossFit movements. For fun, the couple has done partner workouts at Fit Crew and they enjoyed pushing each other and competing together. The pair have played flag football on the Island for years and put together a number of winning seasons. The competitive spirit is something they definitely have in common.
Much like her husband, Purvis’s trainer also has personally benefitted from the time he has spent working with her. Terman confesses, “ … it’s just great to be surrounded by someone like her who is so driven, organized and really such a great person. She has definitely made me better as a person, coach and businessman.”
The desire to be the best at anything she does is what has lead to Purvis’s success in CrossFit competitions. Her accolades include finishing in second place in the intermediate division at the Thunderdome in 2016 and a third place overall finish at the Bacon Beatdown in 2018. 2019 has taken it to another level for Purvis placing 67th in the world in the CrossFit Open for the 40- to 44-year-old division.
This year’s biggest accomplishment was qualifying for the Age Group Online Qualifier (AGOQ) where only the top 200 athletes in the world for the division are invited to participate.
What is next on the horizon for Purvis? Her short-term goal in CrossFit is to qualify for the annual Wadapalooza CrossFit Festival in Miami in 2020. This event started in 2012 as a one-day event with only 145 competitors and is now a four-day event with some of the biggest names in the sport in attendance.
Purvis’s advice for anyone interested in possibly competing at the highest level in CrossFit, “ … talk to me or anyone who they know is competing at a high level to really get a full understanding of what all is involved…it is beyond nutrition, sleep, training … ”
There is no doubt that Purvis’s drive, commitment and passion for the sport of CrossFit will result in more outstanding achievements in the future.
“Through the club sodas and limes while others enjoy adult beverages, the missed vacations, the early nights, the failed lifts, the bloodied hands, the missed cuts on qualifiers … it is so much bigger than I ever realized and for which I am so humbled and blessed,” Purvis states, speaking of the sacrifices and challenges involved in her passion and all of the support she has received during the last several years from her husband, trainer, and Fit Crew family.
To Purvis, these individuals have pushed her forward and had her back, with an understanding of what it takes for her to achieve her goals.
The most notable aspect of Purvis the athlete and the person is her genuine and caring personality. Despite being a very accomplished athlete, Purvis is encouraging and kindhearted to everyone who walks through the Fit Crew doors, making her all the more incredible.
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