Kaleena Ladeairous: CrossFit Athlete/CrossFit Games Competitor, Head Coach at CrossFit Armed
Kaleena Ladeairous just moved from Greenwich, CT to Miami, FL to take on the role of Head Coach at CrossFit Armed. Just two weeks prior to her move, Kaleena competed in the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games with her team, CrossFit Milford, where they finished in an impressive second place.
Though this was Kaleena’s first podium finish, she is an extremely experienced athlete and coach. She is a five-time individual CrossFit Regional competitor (2011-2015) and 2013 CrossFit Games individual competitor (19th place). Her certifications include: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), CrossFit Level 1 and 2, CrossFit Mobility, Strongman, Endurance and Gymnastics.
I sat down with Kaleena one morning at CrossFit Armed after a WOD to talk about her recent success, her move to Miami, and her plans for the future. It was a great opportunity to get to know my new coach and to find out what it takes to compete at the most elite level of CrossFit as a team and as an individual. We also talked about more than just her own training including how she plans to develop herself as coach in a new state at a new gym. But first… let’s talk about the Games!
Fashletics: Kaleena, what are the main differences between training/competing as an individual vs. as a team?
Kaleena: It’s way harder to compete as an individual. But if you mess up, you only mess up for yourself. When you’re on a team, you may be only doing 50% of the work, but you don’t want to let the other people down. You know there are six other people that have worked just as hard to be there as you have. So, I think the accountability of being on a team makes the stress just so much greater.
I have done most of my training alone for the past five years, which doesn’t bother me. I’m good at getting in my own head and just getting the work done. But, training with a team is a lot more fun. There’s just that camaraderie - we train together, and we go out to dinner together - we bonded spending hours and hours together.
F: How much of that team camaraderie do you attribute to your success at the games?
K: 100%. There were definitely teams that were stronger than us, had better gymnastics than us.
We came in second place because we were able to communicate as a team. There were no egos on my team, and that was huge.
I think it’s hard to find six people that really want to succeed for the person next to them as much as they want to succeed for themselves. Nobody was like “this is about me”. We were all in it for each other.
F: What are some highlights from the CrossFit Games?
K: We were in first place! We were like, “Is this happening? How did we get here?” And then we just rolled with it. And, ya know, I’m fine with getting second to Rich Froning.
Before the Games, I thought, “we’re going to do well.” Sometimes I think the team competition comes down to the female athletes. I knew we had three solid female athletes. My goal was top five. Boys were thinking top 10. Girls were thinking top 20. There were solid teams there.
F: Were there any low points during the competition?
K: It was a great week. The swim was really hard, and our judge was tough on us and we got a lot of “no reps”. That kind of threw us for a loop. We definitely got dealt a hard hand for that one. We were a little nervous after that event; it hurt us.
F: How did you recover from that event?
K: We played to our strengths. Anything that had running and that was longer, I knew we were going to crush, and we did. We are a fit team. We may not be the strongest or have the best gymnastics, but when you’re fit and you have heart, then you have the ability to push when other people stop.
F: When you’re in the middle of a WOD getting all those “no reps”, how do you recover from that? How do you keep it from breaking you mentally?
K: We had a game plan before going in. Whenever we got two or three “no reps”, we would stop, look at each other, shake it out, figure out what we needed to do and get to work. We thought of all the worst-case scenarios before going out on the field, so we had a plan.
Being a seasoned athlete definitely helps. You don’t freak out. Everyone on the team is mature. We planned everything out and it just all came together. There was nothing we couldn’t do.
F: Let’s talk about your move to Florida. You are now the Head Coach at CrossFit Armed and on a mission to make it back to the Games as an individual.
K: I’ve been trying to get back to the CrossFit Games individually for two years now. I’ve just kind of missed it. I’ve been there as a team. I’ve fought for a podium spot. I think I’d be less nervous as an individual this time around. There’s nothing that could come up that I haven’t experienced. I had experienced the games, but I had never fought for a podium spot before this year.
F: Is this Region (South East) harder than your former Region (North East)?
K: It’s all relative. It depends on the workouts. In every region, the top 10 girls are really difficult. It just depends on whether or not the workouts fall in your favor.
F: So what type of workout would be in your favor?
K: Longer workouts, barbells, less strict gymnastics, less one-rep maxes. I’ve rounded out as an athlete in the last couple of years, so nothing really scares me anymore.
My strengths are any event over 20 minutes. I love it, I want it. I‘ll do it all day. The strict gymnastics or “circus acts”, those things are a little harder for a longer body, but being tall also has its benefits.
I like the unknown and unknowable events because that’s what CrossFit was based on. We can’t plan everything, just like in real life you can’t predict and you have to figure out a way around it.
Its crazy how fit and strong athletes have become in the last five years. Weights that would have been one rep maxes are now in workouts for 30-50 reps. It’s incredible that the sport has developed at that pace.
F: How did you keep up with that pace as a competitor?
K: I have a really good coach (Jason Leydon) and I owned my own gym, which helped. I’ve always been an athlete. The drive, the passion, doing the work – it’s a job. On top of working as a trainer, it’s a full-time job.
F: What is your athletic background?
K: Running. I’ve always exercised. I’ve always been good at sports, but I’ve never excelled in any particular sport. So it was funny when I found CrossFit, the sport of exercise, I thought, “wow, it’s everything I love to do and I can compete at it!”
F: Was it hard to leave Greenwich for Miami?
K: I owned a gym in New York until January and then sold it. I've worked with Jason Leydon of CrossFit Milford for 5 years. I was going to open a gym in the Connecticut/New York area but things just didn’t work out. Everything that could go wrong just kept going wrong. I had said that I always wanted to end up in Florida and then the opportunity to be the Head Coach at CrossFit Armed presented itself so I thought, maybe there’s a reason. As of right now, I’ve never been happier.
F: What are your career goals as a coach and athlete?
K: As an athlete, I want to make it back to the Games as an individual. As a coach, I really want to develop myself as a programmer and really learn and expand my programming skills for competitive athletes, regular CrossFit Athletes, people with specific goals. I want to be known as more than an athlete, I want to be known as a coach. As I’m getting older, that’s becoming more important to me.
F: You strike me as the kind of person that really cares just as much about your own success as you do about the success of others.
K: I like having a home base. I love knowing everyone’s name; I love knowing everyone’s one-rep max. I take a lot of pride in my athletes. I want to see them develop.
F: Where does your motivation come from?
K: I can’t tell you guys to do it if I’m not going to do it. I’m not looking for everyone in the gym to be an elite CrossFit athlete. Whatever your goals are, if it’s just whatever is on the white board today, I want to make sure you are putting 100% into it. And if I don’t do that myself, how can I expect other athletes to respect me?
F: If you could interview any athlete, who would it be and why?
K: Probably Ronda Rousey. She’s just such a badass. She’s bringing a new light to a sport that was sort of underground. It’s an amazing sport – probably one of the hardest sports on the planet and she’s bringing it the credibility that it deserves.
CrossFit has always treated men and women equally, same cash prize. You don’t see that in any other sport. WNBA – you can’t make a living off of being a female basketball player. They might make $30,000 per year whereas male athletes have million-dollar contracts. It’s insane. In CrossFit, we have the same cash prize and the same sponsorship opportunities.
F: If you could ask Rhonda anything, what would it be?
K: I’d ask her if she wants to workout with me.
F: What does your training schedule look like?
K: I train Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 10am. Thursday is active recovery – usually a swim, bike, or run. Sunday is an off day, but sometimes I’ll go for a run. I do one training block. Now that we’re in the “off season”, a training block is usually 90 minutes. On the highest end, a training block will be up to three hours. Usually 90 minutes of warming up and then lifting, 30 minutes of gymnastics, and then a WOD or 2. I never go over three hours.
F: Tell me about your nutrition.
K: I hired a nutritionist before regionals and started following a meal plan. I eat throughout the day, make sure not to skip meals, keep sugar intake low, and drink lots of water. I eat a lot of carbs. I have oatmeal bread or rice every time I eat, moderate protein intake, and a low fat intake. It works for me, but everyone is different.
I have different meal plans depending on the day: Training Day, Active Recovery Day, and Rest Day. The plan has to fit into your lifestyle. Your schedule is different on different days.
Training Day Nutrition:
- Daily Protein: 152 grams
- Daily Carbs: 317 grams
- Daily Fat: 81 grams
- Total Calories: 2578
Rest Day Nutrition:
- Daily Protein: 94 grams
- Daily Carbs: 189 grams
- Daily Fat: 75 grams
- Total Calories: 1807
My problem has always been that I’ll get strong during off-season, gain some weight, and as soon as volume picks up again, I start dropping weight. Then I get nervous, lose too much weight, can’t recover properly, lose all my strength, and then I get hurt. Every year I was getting hurt right before regionals or at the Games.
So the goal this year was to keep the strength knowing the weight was going to come off. The biggest thing was eating during workouts because I can get lean really fast, which is fine for gymnastics but not for a one-rep max. This nutrition plan has also been better for recovery. I wasn’t achy, I wasn’t’ in pain, my joints felt better.
F: Do you take any supplements?
K: I take the NurtiForce vitamin pack in the morning and their BCAA’s. I take Accelerade during my workout, which has 4:1 carb to protein ratio. Salts are also really important for Florida because it’s so hot.
I’ve never had a problem with carbs. Everyone is different. You really need to know your body. If you’re going to excel in this sport, you need to have body awareness. If you’re trying to take the sport to the next level, you need to figure out what works for you. For example, I hate ice baths, but I do really well with acupuncture. You need to have all of those things dialed in.
F: So how does someone less experienced start dialing in his or her nutrition?
K: You have to asses what you are doing currently and determine what your goals are. It’s really not rocket science; people make it harder than it has to be. The hard part is changing your habits, but once you do, it’s easy to keep them. It’s a lot of trial and error.
As our Fashlete of the Month, Kaleena is receiving a customized piece of jewelry with the word of her choice. Kaleena’s word is Passion, and she has plenty of it. I’ve seen Kaleena in action both as an athlete and as a coach. My first impression? Intimidated. She’s ripped and she’s down to business. She demands the best from everyone in her class. But because she is such a good coach, this feeling of intimidation soon transforms to inspiration. She’s not trying to intimidate anyone, she’s not trying to prove what a badass she is, and just like the members of her CrossFit team, she genuinely cares what each person on the floor is going through.
Everyone has a different definition of success. Kaleena is able to hone in on the individual needs of her clients and fellow athletes. This is what makes her both an exceptional athlete and coach. There’s no doubt in my mind we will see Kaleena competing as an individual again. There’s also no doubt in my mind that every person that trains with her is guaranteed to achieve whatever his or her version of success may be.
Follow Kaleena on Instagram: @justkaleena