Not Just a Relationship, But a Partnership

An Interview with Meredith Root and Alex Parker

By: Jaime Filer 

“I thought that anything left you flat on your back looking up to the sky asking, what the f*** happened to me, deserves a female name.”

— CrossFit founder, Greg Glassman

We all know women are powerful – Especially Crossfit women. Therefore it’s only fitting that two fiercely independent, strong, determined, ambitious women find each other, and pair up – in and out of the box. Even though their cross-border/country relationship started out unassumingly and quietly over Instagram, it’s grown its own powerful voice.

2018 was a big year for both Meredith Root and Alex Parker. They came blazing out of the West at Regionals (Meredith in 5th and Alex in 7th), thanks to an incredible coach whom they share. Interestingly enough, both of them have placed 30th as individual women in the Crossfit Games (Meredith in 2018 and Alex in 2015). With so many similarities in and out of the gym (they have listed Clean & Jerks within 5lbs of each other), it seems almost natural that these two personality types would attract. But what makes them solid is most important: Despite their respective successes and competing goals in the sport of Crossfit, both of them put their relationship on a pedestal.

For such young athletes, they’re both wise beyond their years. But you can judge that for yourself …

Jaime Filer: How fired up are both of you for the 2019 season?

Alex: I always love training, and the fact that there’s an opportunity to set hard goals like Regionals or the Games in the future. Now that the Games are over, there’s a fresh season, and it’s definitely motivating.

Meredith: The thought of 2019 makes me kind of tired * laughs * It’s going to be back to the drawing board, I think, as far as planning the next season. I’m sure training will be a little different, but I’m happy to take some time off before the next phase.

Jaime: What is it like to live together, have the same coach, train together; do essentially the same things every single day?

Alex: I’ve had my coach for 4 years, and Meredith became one of his clients about a year ago. It was all fine and dandy until she actually moved here; then I got possessive of him and my relationship with him, and the fact that we were competing against each other made me insecure. I eventually came around to it, and realized it was so beneficial to have the same coach. Besides Games training and Regionals prep, we only do maybe 1 or 2 workouts a week together because it just gets too intense when we go against each other, and we’re only at the gym maybe three times a week together.

My work was really demanding for a while, and all the training was getting in the way of the time we got to spend together. I’ve eased off that job quite a bit, so we can spend so much more time together, and train with her mom. It was harder when she first moved here, and I was working until 8 or 9pm.

Meredith: The transition from North Carolina to Edmonton, Alberta wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It was a really big move; that was a lot because I’ve never lived outside of NC. I also moved right at the beginning of winter, which is intense here! The move was challenging and difficult, and I had to settle into a new gym community too. I had to integrate myself into a new gym, which is so draining for me (because I’m normally really introverted). Once we got settled and moved, it was Open prep straight away, which was stressful because they’d made changes to our region (cutting the qualifying number from 20 down to 5).

Jaime: It’s interesting, Alex, that you bring up the jealousy/possessive aspect of training/being coached. At the Games, you posted a lot about how proud you were of Meredith and how incredible she is; but it was also tempered with a feeling of, “I wish I was up there”, “I wish I made it”. Meredith, did any of this take away from how you felt that week? Was it hard to train together or just be together leading up to the games knowing only one of you made it?

Meredith: I understand the feeling, as I’ve felt it before also. It’s really difficult to explain: You’re happy for this person because you love them, but also they’re doing what you love to do, and they’re getting experience that you wish you had. I get the envy and jealousy part. I experienced it last year when she was on the demo team. I have a twin sister who qualified for the Games on a team, and watched Alex do the demos, so I was experiencing all these feelings. I was sad and jealous, and it wasn’t until Wodapalooza this year when I competed and Alex had those feelings that I understood why. It’s been a conversation over the last six months that we talk about and struggle with.

Knowing that there’s the possibility of those feelings means that you have to be able to manage those feelings. Our relationship is on a pedestal for me. I want to go to the Games and enjoy that experience as much as possible, but also want to make sure that we’re okay at the end of it.

Jaime: How, where, when did you guys meet?

Alex: Back in 2016, we were both spectating at the Games, and Meredith came up to me at the vendor village and said, “I think your Instagram is awesome. I just wanted to tell you, and introduce myself.” I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Then I noticed that she was competing in the ‘Fittest Fan’ comp on the tennis stadium floor in a head-to-head competition. I watched her, and saw she won! We were following each other on Instagram for about a year and a half (she was married at the time to a man), and before 2017 Wodapalooza, she asked me if I was going, so we just start chatting again from there. We hung out a lot that weekend, and did long distance after that for about a year.

Meredith: That got expensive! One of us had to move, and I was doing remote coaching, so it was easier for me to go anywhere. She had to be here to complete her articling for her law career, so it was a no-brainer.

Jaime: When did each of you come out to your families, and subsequently, social media? Was there any hesitation?

Alex: I’ve pretty much known that I was gay for my whole life. I was dating guys throughout university and a little bit after because I was scared of what people would think. I started dating a girl in law school and kept it a complete secret from everyone. After we broke up, I dated someone who was a three-hour drive away. My parents started asking questions about why I was gone all the time, so I told my mom, and she kind of spread the word. She knew, but was waiting for me to tell her.

I wasn’t as out on social media until I started dating Meredith because I didn’t just want to post about being gay, I wanted to post about someone particular, and Meredith was that someone. I’ve not experienced any negative feedback about it from friends, family, or even strangers. I don’t even think twice about posting about her; I don’t think in terms of gay or not. She’s just my significant other.

Meredith: It was really a double whammy. I said to my family, “I’m going to be getting a divorce, and here’s why… “ That was an interesting time. They’re pretty progressive, and some had known for a bit. It was just a relief for them to know when they suspected something was up. I’m from the south, middle of the Bible Belt, so I wasn’t openly discriminated against, but it’s not really something you talk about. You have to come out softly – you don’t tell everybody. I feel much better about it since moving here, because it’s much more progressive.

Jaime: Did being such big names in Crossfit ever influence your decision (positively or negatively) to come out to social media?

Alex: It took me a while to be comfortable with posting sincere, “This is a special person to me …” type of posts until it was a for-sure thing with Meredith. Having more followers made me think about it a little more, but didn’t prevent me from posting. I think it just made me more aware.

Meredith: My following is still pretty new, and it came after (or as a result of) dating Alex. You always want to be careful with how you put yourself out there on social media. I’m not the type of person to plaster a relationship all over Instagram, whether it’s gay or straight, until I’m sure. And I think it’s like that for a lot of couples. I was never too hesitant about posting about our relationship.

Jaime: Do you, or how do you, think coming out on social media helps the sport, the LGBT community, and even other athletes?

Meredith: I think there are different levels or degrees to which you are an advocate of the LGBT community. I don’t put rainbow flags or anything all over my posts by any means, but Alex made a really good post a couple of months ago when the whole Russell Berger thing came out. That got tons of responses, and we both just received a lot of positive messages about it. I think if you put out thoughtful content, people will be more receptive to it, rather than just plastering stuff all over the place. I think we represent ourselves honestly. I don’t think I need to have a loud voice; I just want to have a voice. I don’t do anything that’s super active, but I have people message me that say it’s awesome to see a gay female athlete. There are so many athletes who are gay but don’t post about it, or date anybody openly. I don’t feel a responsibility to post about it, but if I want to post about us one day, then I will, and if I want to put a rainbow flag on it, I will.

Alex: I get a lot of messages from younger people with questions about our stories and how we came out. We get messages from people who are struggling or have struggled with coming out, and they’re appreciative of the fact that there are people who are out there and open to show that it’s okay. I definitely don’t feel a responsibility to be an advocate for the community, but if the opportunity presents itself, I’ll say something. I won’t do anything that isn’t sincere. It has to be something that is representative of exactly how I feel.

I was so unsure for a long time about coming out online, but I noticed Cassidy Lance was so open about it. I love it. If Cassidy is training with her wife, then she posts about her wife. If it’s Valentine’s Day, then she’ll throw something up about her, and I remember thinking, “That’s really cool. I hope one day I will have that.”

Jaime: What do you think about Greg Glassman’s announcement about the inclusion of Transgender athletes at the 2019 Games?

Meredith: Oh! I hadn’t heard that yet! It’s funny because someone messaged Alex and I the other day asking us how transgender athletes should be included and what we thought. It’s something that’s come up a couple of times in different sports, and it’s always a tricky scenario. So to hear that Crossft was being proactive is great. That puts Crossfit on a new level as far as addressing it. How it works out, we’ll see, but the fact that they’re willing to try it is awesome.

Alex: I hadn’t heard that either, but I’m excited. Truthfully, I don’t know enough about it to talk about the details of how it works. I am not ignorant to the issue, but I don’t know enough about the logistics. I do think it’s great that Crossfit is taking a step forward, because this is an issue that will become more and more popular.

Jamie: If you had one message or piece of advice to give athletes who may be nervous or scared to come out, what would it be?

Meredith: I would tell them that whatever fears they have about coming out, or being open about being gay, put them away. I think that people that are meant to be in your life will be in your life regardless. So if you’re worried about someone not accepting you for being who you are, or loving who you love, then they’re not mean to be in your life anyways. You only want people in your life who will accept you and love you no matter what.

Alex: I think if you’re scared, then it means you’ve obviously thought about doing it and what people might think. For me, I started with people I could trust; not even close friends necessarily, but someone who you know won’t judge you. You’ll feel a weight lifted off your shoulders just from being able to be open with one person. You’ll get more and more comfortable telling people. If you’re afraid of what certain people will think, then those people aren’t right for you. Be who you are, and let the chips fall where they may.