June Athlete of the Month: Micheline Gaulin
By Chris Fox
It’s June, and the warmer weather chimes in with celebrating one of our chillest gals as Athlete of the Month. Micheline (Mich) has been doing CrossFit since 2009, first with a personal trainer and then in classes at CFSBK about a year later. It’s taken a while but she’s been on a tear as of late! Enjoy reading a bit about this 8am gal who recently completed her first full “Murph.”
Fox: Hey Mich, congrats on being AOM! I of course I know a bit of this stuff about you but let’s hear it as if I didn’t. What led you to first start CrossFit?
MG: (Laughs) It’s pretty funny now. I was working out at NYSC in Park Slope and had been through a few knucklehead personal trainers. After the last one left and I had some sessions left I decided that I wanted to pick my own trainer so I didn’t get another dummy. I knew which trainer I wanted to work with but didn’t know his name. A day later I got a message from one of the trainers and I was furious. When he called again I very sternly let him know that I was not interested in training with him, thank you very much. Long story short is that I eventually realized that it was you, and that you were the trainer I wanted to work with. I felt silly for a minute but here we are now. Anyway, when you left NYSC to move on to CrossFit and asked me to go with you I was totally in. In fact I was flattered.
Fox: Yeah, you were pretty rude to me on the phone! (Laughs) Glad we figured it all out. Why did you want to work with “that trainer” and what appealed to you about CrossFit South Brooklyn?
MG: When I saw you training clients at NYSC I could tell that they were really working out. It seemed like fun but was serious at the same time. I wanted to work hard and see results, not waste my time and money. When I first entered the Lyceum in the fall of 2009, I was sold. I thought it was so cool that there were no lights, it was a really sparse place to train with these huge gothic windows providing the only lighting. Only later did I learn that there were no lights because the landlord hadn’t paid the electric bill! About a year later when I left the restaurant I had been working at for a long time in order to open one of my own, I had to stop doing private training for financial reasons. That’s when I started classes. It was intimidating at first, for a while actually, but I believed you when you said you’d come to my apartment and drag me to class if I didn’t show up.
Fox: Yeah, I truthfully didn’t think you’d show up. I’m so glad you did and am so proud of how much you’ve grown both in the gym and outside of it. What was it like to start taking classes after working only with a trainer?
MG: Like I said, it was intimidating. I didn’t know any of the verbiage, I didn’t know any of the people, I was insecure about my abilities (or lack thereof), and I really didn’t know how to monitor my training. It took me about a year but I made a decision to start taking my journaling seriously and do this right. I wanted to get better, not just pass the time. At the restaurant I’m the only CrossFitter and they all think I’m sort of nuts. When I developed a few friendships from the gym I became a bit competitive since I had people to compare my notes with. Susan P., Lauren S., Christina, and I would nerd out about numbers and a friendly competitiveness was born. The first event I attended was a gym potluck. Susan, Lauren, and I all agreed that we could only come if the others did. Well, the question of the day was “Are you coming to the potluck?” and once Susan said yes then Lauren and I had to also.
Fox: It’s been really great to see how the social side of CFSBK has developed for you. It really does become a reason to make it into the gym and to try just a bit harder. Fitting that as a restaurant lifer, your first gym event was a potluck. Tell us about your restaurant.
MG: Left Bank is located in the West Village of Manhattan and we’re going on our fourth year now. The space itself seats 55, plus seven at the bar. The food is as natural and organic as we can procure, and all our meats are humanely-raised and locally sourced. Laurence, my business partner and Left Bank’s amazing chef, prepares simple food influenced by France, Italy, and Germany. We aim to be a place where anyone will feel comfortable—locals and visitors alike.
Fox: I can attest to how amazing the food is. You guys allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. I always describe Left Bank as a place where a first date, a marriage proposal, or simply a few drinks and food with friends after work can coexist perfectly. I’m so proud that you’re a successful restaurateur! Tell me about how you balance out such a demanding career with training.
MG: CrossFit actually played a huge part in keeping me sane when we weren’t sure if the business would be a success. Opening a business is scary. It carries a lot of pressure. The constant fear of failure is there. It felt like if the business failed then people would see me as a failure. There’s also the fact that you don’t really have a schedule. It’s seven days a week, 18 hours a day, whatever is needed. I’d get home from the restaurant at 1am and be at the 7am class. (Thanks for the addition of an 8am class, by the way!) I just kept coming and wanting to make progress.
I come from a less-than-healthy family and it’s important to me to control my own health. When opening the restaurant and dealing also with some family issues, CrossFit became a constant in a world of insecure. Not that you’re ever in the clear, but now that we’re doing well and things are running smoother I can relax a bit. I take care of the money stuff, billing and receiving, and work the door, develop relationships. A huge part of the business is simply developing relationships and caring about people. I used to take care of the wine but gave that up. Nowadays I just want to enjoy good food and good wine with good people.
Fox: I recall you looking pretty bleary-eyed at some 7am classes. It must be nice to relax just a bit now. Tell us about where you’re from. How’d you wind up in NYC? What do you do besides work and CrossFit?
MG: I grew up in Toronto, one of four daughters. I’ve always been in the restaurant business and was doing pretty well in Toronto and actually bought a home there. I’d planned on staying but in 2002 I visited the guy I was dating who was in New York on a work visa. I no longer feel the same about the guy but am still in love with this city. I first rented then sold the house in Toronto and moved to 10th Street in Brooklyn that year. Outside of CrossFit and work I don’t do much. I like to travel but have nothing planned right now. I did do Paris solo for my 40th birthday, which was very memorable. Other great trips were Japan, Barcelona, and San Sebastian. My current favorite hobby is reading the paper in Prospect Park with Spanky.
Fox: Spanks! The new addition has been fun to watch, too. Tell us about your little old man.
MG: He’s a senior dog and was adopted at The Humane Society of New York. I was looking to adopt and had seen a few dogs. I almost adopted a dog from Sean Casey but then they told me he hated men. A friend advised me to adopt a pet with no issues as it was my first. I visited HSNY and when they brought out Spanky, my first thought was that he was so ugly. He looked old, and tired. Of course as soon as they placed him in my lap all that changed. He’s the best and I’ve never been happier.
Fox: He really is a funny little dog. Plus, Team Spanky kicked ass at “Murph” this year! You finally own kipping pull-ups! What else are you working on goal-wise at the gym? What are your goals?
MG: Oh my god—I’m so happy to have kipping pull-ups. Double-unders aren’t scary anymore either. I’m working on developing my capacity in the Olympic lifts, specifically the clean and jerk. Christina is at 105. I’m at 98 and I’d like to catch her. I love deadlifts since I feel so strong doing them. I hate burpees. Hate them.
Fox: Speaking of getting strong, you’ve trained for two powerlifting meets now—Tough Titsday and Iron Maidens. Can you tell us about those experiences?
MG: They were super fun and everyone should do it. It’s crazy and scary and nerve-racking, but once you get to the gym and realize everyone is just as nervous as you it becomes a great experience. I really enjoyed training and competing and pushing my lifts into new places. Each meet has had PRs for me.
Fox: Last question. What do you think we should look for in a future AOM?
MG: I guess I’d say someone who is a good rack-mate. Someone who is focused and pushes themselves regardless of the relative amount of weight, who cares about what they’re doing. And this is harder to put in to words, but someone who reinvents themselves through the gym. I know that I’ve gone through that process.
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