Tasia Percevecz has burst onto the CrossFit scene in a big way this year, with impressive finishes at three of the most prestigious fitness competitions of the competitive circuit and being named as one to watch this year in the CrossFit Games Update Show:
5th at the Granite Games. 6th at Wodapalooza. And 3rd at the East Coast Championships (ECC)—beating the likes of Katrin Davidsdottir, Brooke Ence and a whole host of other CrossFit Games athletes. And after the first two weeks of the CrossFit Games Open, she sits in 5th in the North East and a respectable 35th in the world.
Tasia doesn't have a chip on her shoulder about missing out on last year's games... she has a 100# slam ball.
Before CrossFit, though, Percevecz spent much of her life as a gymnast, in a world where smaller is generally considered better and girls often try to eat as little as possible to stay as lean and small as possible.
The former college gymnast at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) said her obsession with being small and thin really took hold in high school.
“I would restrict my calories to less than 1,200 a day. I would eat breakfast and then nothing until dinner. Obviously this was the complete wrong way to lose weight, but I didn’t know any better,” said Percevecz, who finds time between her full-time training to work as a Blonyx sales rep in the North East region.
Her battle continued into her college gymnastics career, where she said she spent many years counting calories, attempting to make herself purge, over exercising, and just generally feeling down because she wasn’t thinner.
“I never felt like I had the right body type for my sport. I developed a negative body image from a young age and it has been a process to reverse (it),” she said.
Stuck in a gymnast’s mindset, CrossFit was never a sport she intended to get into after her college gymnastics career ended.
“I remember talking with my (college gymnastics) teammates about how I would never squat or weight train after college—only run, because that would make me thin,” she said.
Muscle-ups for breakfast.
But something drew her to CrossFit anyway, and she quickly got pretty good at it. Really good at it, actually.
At last year’s East Regional competition, Percevecz placed an impressive 12th overall.
Determined to improve upon her performance from last year, Percevecz knew one of the important changes she needed to make had to do with her diet. So she contacted and started working with Dr Mike Molloy, an immunologist, who moonlights as a nutrition coach for a handful of high level athletes at CrossFit gyms across the NH area .
The first thing Molloy noticed about Percevecz’ diet was she wasn’t eating enough.
“She was operating at 1,700 to 1,800 calories a day, and was putting in 2 to 3 hours of work in the gym every day,” said Molloy, who suggested she should be eating closer to 2,500 calories a day.
When Percevecz heard that number—2,500 calories—the gymnast in her got scared.
“I was terrified to start eating more calories,” Percevecz said.
Molloy added: “Her gymnastics background definitely was a huge thing. She thought she was all of a sudden going to gain a whole bunch of weight. She battled with that.”
But instead of giving into her fears, Percevecz decided to take a leap of faith and trust Molloy. He convinced her to increase her caloric intake slowly—adding 100 calories a day to her diet every two weeks until she eventually reached 2,500.
Today, Percevecz couldn’t he happier that she chose to follow Molloy’s plan.
Her body composition has changed—she has increased her muscle mass—but she hasn’t gained a single pound. And she has more confidence when she trains and competes, and more energy, too.
“And she started hitting PRs like crazy,” Molloy said.
Tasia always PRs when she wears her special PR pants
It’s one thing to hit PRs in the gym, but it’s an entirely different story to put those improvements to the test in a competition. However, for Percevecz, competition is where she has seen her biggest improvements this year since changing her diet.
Her big finishes at competitions like the ECC have helped her build her confidence, she said, and have also helped her learn to have fun when she competes—something she didn’t do at last year’s Regional competition.
“For me, it has been a lot of self-talk. Positive self-talk. Going into Regionals last year, I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I put so much pressure on myself,” she said.
At the Granite Games, Wodapalooza and the ECC, though, Percevecz’ goal was simple: To have fun and enjoy competing. She managed to do this, and her results speak for themselves.
Despite her recent successes in the sport, Percevecz admitted she still struggles mentally sometimes. Namely when it comes to confidence.
“I thought it was possible to podium at the ECC, but I’m still trying to work on that feeling of belonging," she said. And even when she did finish on the podium, she wasn’t hit with the newfound surge of self-belief she expected.
Tasia often writes positive messages on the inside of her straps... they don't last long.
“After coming third at the ECC, I said to my coach (Brandon Petersen, owner of Complete Athletic Performance and CrossFit Free), ‘When do you start feeling like you’re good?’ I always go in feeling like I might come last," she laughed, adding, “But maybe that’s a good way to feel. Maybe you don’t want that overconfidence.”
Heading into this year’s Regional competition—although she wants to qualify to the CrossFit Games very badly—Percevecz knows to maximize her success, she needs to keep the same mentality she had at the off-season competitions.
“Because there are a lot of factors that play into someone making it to the Games. It’s definitely hard work and dedication, but there’s a little bit of, ‘Who knows, it’s anyone’s game,’” she explained.
And even if she doesn’t punch her ticket this year, she knows CrossFit has helped her achieve something even bigger than the CrossFit Games—it has helped her self-worth.
“CrossFit has been such a beautiful thing for me. In so many ways. It has completed reshaped my body image issues,” Percevecz said. “CrossFit has shown me that my body can be strong and graceful at the same time. It has shown me that my big legs and arms, that I used to hate so much, actually come in really handy in a workout.”
“Before CrossFit, I was just eating to survive. Now, I eat to fuel my body and my training…And I have never felt better.”