Interview with CrossFit Coach Jen Grabham

This month on ZenBarbell, I interview Jen Grabham, one of the owners of West End Crossfit. I met Jen for the first time in the Short Pump Lululemon Store when we were both ambassadors for that store at the same time. While not its not the CrossFit gym where I coach, I often stop by West End CrossFit for a workout or just to chat about coaching/CrossFit stuff. Jen and Tim have always made me feel completely welcome at their gym.  I love that they are so open to sharing, growing the greater CrossFit community and helping everyone get better.

Jen prepping for a lift
Jen prepping for a lift

I wanted to interview Jen as she exemplifies many of the values that Zen Barbell is all about. She is one hell of a coach (caring, thoughtful, creative, motivating and I consistently learn when I am around her) and she is a bad ass. This woman lifts heavy weights very well. (Can’t you tell by how big and bulky she is?! ha!)

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself Jen.

Hahaha, not too much to tell.  I’m a wife, mother of 2, and an individual who is passionate about helping other people realize their potential.

2. How did you come across CrossFit? What did you connect with about it enough that you wanted to have your own box? Did you grow up being athletic? 
I first learned about CrossFit roughly 5 years ago through a friend who was a Navy EOD specialist.  I was a personal trainer at the time at a local YMCA.  The day I decided to visit to find out what our friend was so excited about, the WOD was 30 muscle ups for time.  I immediately dismissed CrossFit based solely off of this one workout.  I had no idea there were scaling and modification options.  Tim finally convinced me to try a benchmark wod about a month later.  “Cindy” was my first go at CrossFit.  I was a gym rat.  I spent no less than an hour and a half in the gym on any given day.  I just knew there was no way this 20 minute WOD would challenge me.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Seven minutes in I was ready to cry Uncle!  I was immediately hooked. Initially,  I really connected with the competitiveness of CrossFit.  I was a Division I athlete and CrossFit was the closest I had come to that “rush” since graduating college.  As far as finally coming to a decision to open up our own box?  My ultimate goal in life has always been to help other people.  I never knew in what capacity until I became a personal trainer.  CrossFit just seemed like a natural fit.  It produced tangible, measurable results and was concerned with a TOTAL approach towards a healthy lifestyle.  I did grow up being athletic.  Volleyball became my passion once I got to high school.

3. How often do you encounter the argument that women shouldn’t lift heavy? Why do you think this is so prevalent? Do you think it is starting to change?  
I, along with our other coaches, encounter this argument with nearly every woman who walks through our doors who is a newcomer to CrossFit.  I do believe media plays a huge role in women not wanting to lift heavy for fear of “bulking up.”  We are flooded with images of women in magazines and in TV commercials who are thin with little to no muscle tone.  The “cute” clothes are made for those with no ass, no thighs, no shoulders and no lats.  Ask any woman who lifts how much of a nightmare it is to shop for a great fitting pair of jeans.  🙂  Traditionally, the skinny body type is praised and desired and the muscular body type is criticized.  I do think this is slowly starting to change and I think CrossFit has played a monumental role in this change!  Quite honestly, all body types deserve to be praised.  All bodies are not created equally!  The healthy, beautiful, strong body has MANY different shapes and sizes and deserves to be celebrated never criticized.

4. What are the big differences, if any, do you notice in training women vs training men?

Honestly, it’s a pretty level playing field. We have women who are JUST as competitive and driven to lift more weight and better themselves as their male counterparts. I think it’s more individualized differences among members not male/female differences.

5. How important is mind set in training? In life in general? What has helped you most in your life in learning about mindset (books, people, movies, etc)?

I think this is where a lot of people miss the mark. Mindset in training is CRUCIAL. We’ve all had the experience of looking at a WOD and low and behold ALL of our goats are listed. The success of that WOD is dependent on how an individual mentally approaches it. They can defeat themselves from the beginning with “I can’t” or “I suck” or look at it as opportunity to challenge themselves and step outside that comfort zone. Experience has taught me most about mindset in life and of course CrossFit. I’ve been both. I’ve been negative and positive. The positive is much more difficult but elicits the MOST return! Negativity also sucks the life out of those around you. Who wants to be a life suck?? I highly recommend Words by Lisbeth. She has a knack for telling it like it is and I think her blog resonates with people through all walks of life.

6. What advice would you give to some one who might be interested in trying CrossFit but is too nervous or feels like they need to get into better shape first? Take a leap of faith and just try it. Scout your local boxes. All have their own unique vibe. Find what fits your personality and needs. Those with concerns about having to “get into shape” first? The intro sessionshould leave these individuals feeling like they could have done a little more. Everyone knows CrossFit can kick your ass. There’s plenty of time for that! But how many amazing success stories might you miss out on if you design an intro session that leaves the previously sedentary individual defeated before they’ve even begun? Find a box where the coach is willing to put in the time and effort to scale and modify wod’s to accommodate your current fitness level. This is imperative to success!

Jen coaching athlete
Jen coaching one of her athletes in competition

Any other parting words or thoughts?

I feel very fortunate to be a part of so many different journeys and to have a staff who values every single member’s progress.



Jen coaches at and co-owns West End CrossFit which is located at 3641 Cox Road SUITE Henrico, VA 23233.  You can also find WECF on Facebook!



If you want to learn more about loving who you are and getting peace with your body but aren’t sure how to do that, let Zen Barbell help you! Check out the 30 Days to Stop Hating Your Body program here.