Beyond the Athlete: Karen Polensky

Posted: March 10, 2014 in Beyond the Athlete

karen podium

1. Where did you grow up?

I’m a West Coast girl. Born on Kauai. Spent several years in California, part of it on to a cattle ranch in the mountains near Paso Robles (kid heaven!), and finally ended up north of Seattle in the 8th grade.

2. What is your athletic background?

I was always outside as a kid, riding bikes and horses, building forts, exploring. I played high school sports but never focused on one discipline enough to see how far I could take it. Since college I’ve continued the jack-of-all-trades approach: cycling, running, swimming, water and snow skiing, windsurfing. Almost forgot…I played intramural inner-tube water polo in college!

3. How did you get started with CrossFit?

I can blame it all on Kara Shiffer! She posted something about this crazy gym on FB. Showed up for my intro class and was hooked.

4. How long have you been at CrossFit 717?

Just hit my 3 year anniversary.

5. What are your favorite exercises/WODs?

Snatches, toes to bar, handstand push-ups – because I’ve worked hard to get them. And I do love a long chipper.

6. What exercises/WODs do you dislike?

Front squats and deadlifts!

karen press

7. What are you goals with regards to CrossFit and what accomplishments/PRs are you most proud of?  

Continue to increase my Oly PRs, score a 300+ FGB, and give a Games slot my best shot within the next couple years. Not sure if it’s an accomplishment but I’m happy to have made it this far without any major injuries.

8. In your perfect world, what would you be doing in 10 years?

I’ll be running a summer camp for adults with diabetes (supported by the millions that Sean will give me later in this interview) with full immersion in the Paleo/Primal lifestyle.  This will leave plenty of time for CrossFit training with an annual trip to Carson as a 60+ masters, tending the garden and spending time with family. And I’ll head for my second home in Austin, TX once the snow started flying.

9. Where did you go to high school/college?

High school: Burlington, WA

Undergrad: Washington State University

Masters: California University of Pennsylvania

10. What is your current occupation?

Diabetes educator/nutritionist for Summit Endocrinology in Chambersburg

11. If you could eat dinner with 3 people past or present, who would you choose?

* My dad, who passed away in ’92, because I still have so many questions for him and am finally old enough to understand him a little better.

* My high school biology teacher because I didn’t make it back before he passed away to tell him how profoundly he influenced my career path.

* Daniel Craig – see #12 below. If he’s busy then Leonardo da Vinci because he had his fingers in so many fields of interest and was brilliant at them all.

Furthermore, what would you order for dinner? 

Thai curry with shrimp and Bonefish Grill’s coconut pie for dessert. No it’s not Paleo but it’s amazing!

12. Who is your celebrity crush?

Daniel Craig. Can’t wait for the next 007 movie!

karen rings

13.  What is your favorite movie?

Princess Bride. Witty dialogue, great characters and a ton of classic lines. An “inconceivably” awesome flick!

14.  What is your favorite thing about CrossFit 717? 

Our community. Life would sure be boring without it! Close second would be the coaching and programming.  I drive past several Boxes to get to 717 and it’s worth every mile.

15.  If you could have any car, what would you choose?

I’m pretty happy with my VW diesel which gets me where I need to go without breaking down, but it would be fun to have a bare-bones Jeep to play with.

16. Tell us something interesting about yourself that we would be surprised to know.

I was extremely shy as a kid to the point where teachers would comment about it on my report card.

17. What kind of shampoo do you use?

This question always cracks me up! I’m currently using Suave Rosemary and Mint Naturals. Inexpensive, smells good and doesn’t dry my hair out.

18. Have you ever been out of the country?

If so, where and what was your favorite place? We lived in Germany for 10 years so I made it to most of the Western European countries. Also the Canary Islands, Mexico and Canada. Favorite city: Venice. Favorite place/event: I rode the Maratona dles Dolomites, a 100km ride with 8000 other crazy people over several mountain passes in the Dolomites. It was an amazing day.

karen kettle

19. What were your best and worst subjects in school?

Best: Science and math   Worst: Biochemistry in college (loved the concepts but memorizing all of those structures and pathways sucked!)

20. What would you say is your worst personality trait?  

As a perfectionist “in recovery” I still procrastinate way too often. If you put it off you delay the possibility of screwing it up.

21. If you won $100 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? 

See #8 above.  And I’d put a good chunk toward finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes. What is the first frivolous thing you would buy? I’d buy that bare-bones Jeep.

22. You are banished to a deserted island for a month and can only bring one person (fictional or real) and one album with you.  Who do you bring and what album do you choose (keep in mind I said album, not song)?

Sorry Daniel Craig, I’d have to bring my friend Harriet. We met in the Army back in the ‘80s and she’s been one of my closest friends ever since. She lives in New Hampshire so we rarely see each other and never have enough time to solve all of the world’s problems. Here’s our chance!  Bonus: Harriet sings and plays guitar.  Album: Alchemy: Dire Straits Live.

23. Who do you consider your role model or inspiration?

My daughter, Shannon, is an incredible inspiration for me. She developed Type 1 diabetes at the age of 14 months and has not let it hold her back for a second.  Now she’s tackling a full college course load, rehearsals for musical theater productions, and part-time work all while keeping her diabetes in control far from home. My challenges pale in comparison.

24. What do you feel is the most important invention in the past 100 years?  

This one is very personal. The first insulin injection was given in 1922. Prior to that, kids with Type 1 diabetes slowly starved to death so the discovery of how to extract and purify insulin for human use was a pretty big deal.

karen snatch

25. What are your favorite sports teams (you can list all teams for all sports you are a fan of)?

I don’t really follow pro team sports, although I was a big 49ers fan as a kid. I root for Penn State track and field, whichever cycling team Jens Voigt is riding for, and Team USA for anything international.

26. What are your hobbies and interests outside of the box?

During the week I don’t have much time to do anything besides commute, work and WOD. Boring! On days off I like digging in the dirt, cooking, enjoying a great cup of coffee with friends, reading, catching Shannon in her latest production, and diving down the rabbit hole on various physiology and nutrition topics (usually with Sean leading the way).



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