Lauren 'Brooks' Ring
By the time this interview comes out, Lauren Brooks will have read her vows and entered a new chapter in her life as the official new Mrs. Lauren Ring. Lauren has remained open about her relationships past, present, and future throughout her fitness journey as well as her business ventures and departure from competitive exercise.
Lauren’s fitness journey first began in high school where the weight room represented more of a joke than an actual destination pre or post soccer or track practice. Lauren didn’t have her first introduction to a barbell until 2010.
“I had a child when I was very young, so I didn’t get the opportunity to play a college sport. Everyone would always ask me where I went to school and I would respond ‘the school of real life’. I had my son and then I had my daughter just a few years later. “
Lauren’s father mentioned it casually in conversation one day telling her CrossFit® was something he thought she might like. She went online and searched YouTube to get an idea of what it was and a video of someone doing Fran popped up.
“For some reason it was something I felt like I needed to do after I had the baby [her second child], so I waited until she was about 6 weeks old and that’s when I started.”
Lauren was terrible when she began. She hadn’t been working out for her entire pregnancy and getting back into it then was just about seeing what she was capable of.
“That first breakthrough where you work towards something, figure it out, and then do it- it’s like this high. It gave me this sense of, this who I really am and what I can accomplish.”
I think that feeling is what keeps so many of us pursuing the sport of fitness. For Lauren, it also hit her at a perfect time. She was leaving a bad relationship and looking for something to help her feel more empowered. Lauren went from 0-60 in a very short amount of time and opened a gym less than a year later.
“I was working a corporate job with a three-year-old and a newborn and I just couldn’t go back to it. It was long hours and lots of travel. I saved every penny I had and quit my job to open a gym because I was so in love with it”
At the time of this interview, Wodapalooza 2019 had just wrapped up its first year as a sanctioned event. (Lauren had participated in her first competitive CrossFit® event here in Miami). When Lauren first got into the sport she gravitated towards what she enjoyed most: Olympic Weightlifting. Focusing a lot of her time and energy on that naturally left less time for gymnastics conditioning. With that, she felt less agile and mobile, and more prone to injury.
“In 2012 I experienced a few really nasty back injuries, which tore a bunch of interspinal ligaments and created a bulging disc. I had some really crazy effects where my legs didn’t work for 20 minutes at a time- so that really scared me.”
This left Lauren sidelined from weightlifting for over 8 months, but ultimately the effects of these injuries kept her chronically suffering for the rest of her competitive career.
In 2015 Lauren was injured again, this time right before the open.
“I was in yoga doing a position called the standing boat and I heard a snap like a bra strap. I felt my leg get really hot almost immediately. I found out later I hard torn an adductor muscle.”
Although the injury was really painful, there was absolutely nothing Lauren could do except, give it time to heal.
“That year I joked around saying I did the open on one leg. It was terrible. I was desperately hoping I wouldn’t need to take the year off because I had such a good year. It was a really emotional battle. In the end, I chose to keep competing and I think I ended up doing more damage.”
Lauren feels many people in the sport can echo these emotions. They love it so much that they keep going despite lingering injuries.
“At regionals in 2015 I was in so much pain. I had just done a rope climb workout, with what felt like 300 rope climbs, and I ended up with a DNF. I came off the rope with so much back pain. The judge was standing there asking me what was wrong and I told him I was done. It wasn’t worth it to me. I wasn’t going to finish well.”
Lauren decided from that moment she needed to put her body and her health first. That was her last competition.
“What I needed to do to be a competitor didn’t align with my goals anymore. I was at a point where running a business and being a mom were the areas of my life that were more important to me. My kids were important to me.”
During that time Lauren had done two years of Grid League and was gone all of the time. It was hard for her not to take these opportunities because that was how she was making a living and taking her kids on vacation. At the same time, seeing them upset every time she left gutted her.
“I really wanted to begin focusing on creating a legacy for my kids and not just fame in the moment. I just didn’t see much future in competing anymore.”
Lauren was the kind of girl who couldn’t sit still long enough to do yoga or even stretch. As she stepped away from the sport she was almost forced to take time to reflect, take care of her body, and focus on growing her business.
“During those years there was a lot of confusion, what should I do? Do I want to pursue a career in coaching because I’m really passionate about helping other people? Or do I want to continue to rehab and compete at age 29, when I have two kids that really need me at baseball practice? “
Lauren says she felt like she was ‘just floating’ a lot of the time. Her relationships with sponsors and brands changed once she became less viable as an athlete and I wanted to know how that made her feel.
A “really bold” question on my part, in Lauren’s words.
“To be honest, I made so many good friends in the sport. For my wedding I have six bridesmaids and five of them are women I met during that time. I place a lot of value on the people it brought into my life…”
“In terms of sponsorships people really want to be your friend when you’re well known, doing well, and you’re on every brands’ cover. When you have an injury or issue that removes you from continuing to do those things and be that person, there will be some people that continue to check on you. But to be honest, I never heard from 90% of them ever again.”
Lauren lost touch with sponsors, brand people, and ‘friends’ she had met along the way. Her feelings weren’t necessarily hurt, she was realistic about the fact that she was never going to make a living on being sponsored by recovery drinks. For her, that time was better spent building a long-lasting career.
“Everyone loves when you’re a Games athlete. Then when you’re at home chillin’ as a mom they are more like, ‘oh she couldn’t make the cut’.”
I asked Lauren if she felt the superficiality of it all once she took a few steps back and had a different perspective.
“I saw it in the thick of it. I do really well with people and interaction, and I see people for who they are almost immediately. I didn’t like being in the spotlight if I’m being honest. I actually went to events where people would come up to me and tell me how much they loved me, and in the next breath ask if I had kids. There is no way in the world you know me if you don’t know that.”
Lauren always felt extremely grateful and appreciative that someone would see her in that light, but there was always a part of it that made her feel uncomfortable.
I was curious if her kids had any feelings when it came to her involvement and exposure in the sport.
“You need to remember, I began this journey with a newborn in a car seat and a three-year-old. My daughter was still in a Pack n’ Play when I opened the gym. I couldn’t afford daycare so my kids were just at the gym all the time.”
As Lauren advanced in her fitness she had struggles with her kids, especially with things like Christmas break and summers. ‘Oh, we have to go to the gym again?!’ Types of conversations on a pretty consistent basis.
“In my mind I was thinking, yes mommy has to go to the gym, especially with running two businesses. I was trying to squeeze in some accessory work and my kids were hating my guts for it. That part was really tough. The years I traveled a lot were really, really hard.”
Now, Lauren’s kids are more thankful. They recognize so many good things that came out of those more difficult times. Stepping away from the gym allowed some room for appreciation, even her daughter sometimes jumps into workouts now.
“She tears it up. She can do butterfly pull-ups and clean and jerk and she learned that all from watching me. I never formally taught her anything. They get into it now but back then it was tough.”
Lauren is ecstatic that her kids have taken to the sport. It is amazing for the development of a human. Psychologically, mentally, physically.
“If my daughter really got into it, I would attempt to try and manage her and the way she goes about it. I know so much more now.”
As a bigger athlete in the sport, Lauren maintained a constant struggle when it came to her interaction with food. She spent her life feeling more developed than her peers. There was never a time where she felt tiny and feminine.
“I was the girl who would rip it out of the ground if you needed me to. I almost had this viking spirit as a child. As I got older my dad and I would have these strength contests and that just became part of who I was. We were all just a bunch of crazy little brutes.”
Lauren’s whole family was very athletic. The type of athletic where a typical Saturday night would be trying to see which family member could push the couch across the living room the fastest.
“When I got into CrossFit® I almost felt at home. I was 170 pounds when I started and pretty much stayed right around there the entire time I was competitive.”
Over the years Lauren battled overeating. She took on a nutrition coach to keep her lean so she could perform better.
“If I could manage my weight, I could crush it. If I couldn’t I was completely incapacitated.”
Lauren’s nutrition coach taught her about timing, high quality food, and to eat without overdoing it. Being an ‘eater’ and having a history with food, a macro approach to dieting would always be lethal. She could not have one or two Oreos if they ‘fit her macros’. She would eat the whole sleeve. Therefore, taking an approach of eating whole, unprocessed food, was a good place to begin in order to help her achieve her goals.
Lauren confirms that she did have some binge eating tendencies when she was competing.
“When I’m dieting and staying very strict, I’m having just enough food to either maintain or lose. I feel like I’m walking on the edge of a cliff. I can hold on, and hold on, and hold on and I’m doing great until I just lose it. This happened to me for years. I would eat really, really well. I would eat clean, lose weight, get really lean, and then I would just lose my mind.”
Lauren identified a pattern and she needed to find a better way. She began Whole 30, which gave her the best results by far because of the dramatic change in the quality of the food she was eating.
As time went on Lauren’s relationship to not only food, but also CrossFit® began to change.
“My relationship with the sport took me down several different roads [deep sigh]. It started to change drastically when I wasn’t competing anymore and got hurt in 2015. It was scary. I knew I had to make a decision. I just felt like I couldn’t let go, just like so many other girls I talk to in the sport.”
Lauren viewed competition as part of her identity. She didn’t think about taking care of herself or consider how the future might look for her if she continued down this road.
“Those fighting till death tendencies are a part of us all who are really good at the sport. That’s the mentality you need to have to survive and do well, to train when no one is watching or telling you how good you are. Most of us who are good are alone in the gym training after everyone else has left.”
Some competitive athletes who are really lucky will have some people hang around to encourage them, but many workout for long periods of time with no one else there. Lauren got to the point where she felt like she wasn’t enjoying herself or improving anymore.
Now that Lauren has mostly put CrossFit® in the rearview and has shifted her focus to her coaching business, I wondered how she felt she could reach people? Most of the clients she interacts with are not professional athletes - they are people seeking advice to better their lives.
“Being able to relate to people isn’t about being who they are, it’s about being who you are. I tell people the truth and I listen to what they have to say. What I do is more lifestyle coaching. I talk to people about how they feel about themselves and where their relationship is at with them.”
Lauren says more than anything it’s about being honest and listening to what people have to say. You offer a piece of yourself that they can identify with.
Was becoming a wellness coach a natural course away from competitive exercise?
“The chain of events began with me getting a divorce. I wasn’t in love with owning a gym anymore and I felt like I was beating my head against the wall. Something else was out there for me because this wasn’t it. “
Lauren had the opportunity to sell her gym. Once she did, she felt like she moved into a mindset where she operated on intuition. Lauren felt like she was doing a disservice to her members at the gym. While she genuinely wanted to help people, it was no longer through the medium of owning an affiliate.
“When I owned a gym, I felt like I was giving people a piece of myself every single day for eight years. I had people come up to me and ask me about the same issues they had when they started. It was like they weren’t listening. Consequently, I felt like I wasn’t being effective anymore. I wanted to be effective again - so I sold the gym.”
Lauren wanted to make an impact. She wanted to reach people beyond the sport of fitness. So she asked herself ‘what can I do, what am I good at?’ Lauren has always been moved to help people.
“It doesn’t mean I have all the answers or that I have lived a perfect life. It just means I’m really good at identifying with other people and getting people to move in a direction that will work for them, their mindset, and their habits.”
Lauren built a wellness program that is12 weeks long. It is customized to slowly integrate a new eating schedule, mindset, and life habits.
“It was a totally natural direction to move in, but it took a lot of soul searching to get there.”
The sport of CrossFit® gave Lauren the ultimate platform but the rest of the leg work was up to her. Her focus: growing an audience she could have the most impact on.
“The people I’m attracting are so different. People always want to lose weight and feel better, but that’s not who is reaching out to me. For instance: maybe you’re a mother and you’ve gone through a really yucky divorce. I’ve been open about what I’ve gone through and because of that, people that have been hurting and dealing with similar situations have gravitated to me.”
Lauren gets a lot of women who just want to be okay with who they are. The world and how we interact with it influences us so much. Women especially are bombarded with messages teaching us that we need to be something we are not, in order to be okay and accepted.
“There is such creativity in being who you are and being original. There are so many women who come to me and say, ‘it seems like you know who you are, I want to be who I am.’ They want to understand how to be comfortable with what they have right now and not want something different.”
How do these women find Lauren? Mostly through her social media following.
“To be completely honest I only went to the games one time, and I went to regionals four times, I was organic and I was myself through all of that. I was funny when I felt like being funny, I was crazy with my kids when I felt like it -so most of the people I attracted were people who liked me for who I truly was. “
When Lauren quit competing she lost a lot of followers. Those followers have since been replaced with people from different worlds, the platform was CrossFit ® but in the end, it was really just about Lauren being herself.
How is her message with wellness coaching different?
“I was so sick of seeing people promote diets about losing this much weight, do this cut, look how lean I am. I was tired of seeing quick fix diets even though they are laid out not to be a quick fix. People will lose a ton of weight from those things, maybe, but then you speak to them six months later and they are right back to where they started.”
Lauren asks for a commitment from her clients so she can change their lives with solutions that will stick, forever.
She also hopes to be a role model and beacon for other women leaving the sport.
“I run into a lot of girls in their late 20s who are looking to leave competition, but they don’t really know how to do that. I think there is a lot of value when you’re looking at someone who has already done it and use the tools that have helped them.“
What many of Lauren’s followers don’t know because of her bubbly personality and her vivacious drive for life is that she battled depression for many years.
“I don’t believe in medication to fix emotional turmoil. I felt like I had to dig myself out of that hole with my nails bloodied and I did it.”
This was a huge point of struggle when Lauren stopped competing. There are still so many expectations with women leaving the competition world.
“When I drop into another gym people are like ‘oh my gosh you’re going to lift so much and do so good’, but I’m mostly just scaling everything now.”
Competitors that are used to being treated a certain way need to essentially relearn how to live. Their entire day from start to finish will look different when they leave this arena. That is a hard adjustment. They feel completely out of place, much like Lauren did when she first left.
“Looking at the last two years you would think ‘poor thing’ she has been through so much, but for me, there was such happiness and joy in the change of what was going on around me.”
Life these days for Lauren looks a lot different than it used to. She moved, got married, sold her business, and is now a full -time boss babe and entrepreneur.
“I grew up watching my parents work really hard. For me, I wanted the flexibility of being self-employed and that meant building multiple streams of income. I don’t want to do massive numbers and make millions of dollars. I want to help one person change at a time.”
Lauren Brooks Ring
By: Genevieve Gyulavary