July 30, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

CrossFit is an intense exercise regimen utilizing functional movements and varying workouts (called “workout of the day” or “WODs”). Those who have never participated in CrossFit may regard the workouts with a sense of dreaded apprehension, particularly if they have ever happened to catch a few minutes of the annual CrossFit Games on television. Elite athletes scurry from one fitness objective to another, seemingly unfazed by the punishing tasks.

“Don’t be intimidated at all,” advises Stacie Tovar, seven-time CrossFit Games competitor and owner of CrossFit Omaha. “CrossFit isn’t just what you see on TV. Those games are like the NFL of football—only the smallest percentage make it onto TV.”

Tovar says a wide range of people with varying fitness levels attend her workouts at CrossFit Omaha. Her youngest is 12, and her oldest participants are in their 60s. “Everyone’s goals are different, so it’s individualized. Not everyone’s going to have the same workout,” she says.

When someone new comes to her for help, she typically asks about two things: nutrition and sleeping habits. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, if someone’s having problems with fitness, it’s these two things combined,” Tovar says.

Fit people don’t get fit just by working out, she explains. There is so much more to it than that. She credits nutrition for her success as an athlete. “One hundred percent!” she says, adding that the food people eat can predict “how their body recovers, responds, and reacts.”

It was in 2010 that Tovar started paying better attention to what she ate. “I knew I could be better,” she says. Her results were swift. “I felt a tremendous difference after about eight weeks—I had more energy, I felt good, and my mobility improved.”

Nowadays, she doesn’t eat processed food and hardly ever eats sugar. “When you bring stuff like that back into your diet, you feel gross,” says Tovar, who also avoids alcohol because it can promote inflammation.

She rarely goes out to eat because of her self-imposed nutritional guidelines. “I must be the most annoying order ever,” she laughs. “I probably seem super picky because I ask so many questions about the food preparation, and I have to ask for very specific things.” She wants to know how many ounces her meat will be and how, exactly, it was prepared. When she does decide to indulge in a meal out in Omaha, she usually heads to one of three places: Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, Railcar Modern American Kitchen, or Pitch Pizzeria. They have options at all three places that she likes, and they’ll work around her requests.

She still continues to tweak her diet to match her nutritional needs. “I toy with different things,” she says, adding that she gets her blood drawn every six months to monitor her LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. “It’s like a little science project; I’m constantly testing and trying things.”

Tovar admits that diet changes can be difficult for people. “It’s not easy. I wish I could tell them it’s like the ‘magic pills’ on TV, but it’s not. But there are so many perks—you feel great, you look great, you have more focus at work, and you’re more confident. I wish everyone could get a taste of what it feels like, but you have to want it.”   

“The nutrition aspect of getting fit is harder than working out,” Tovar says, urging beginners to realize they are a “work in progress. Start small; if you drink a bunch of Coke throughout the day, drink one less. Take it one day at a time. You are worth it. You’ll feel better and you’ll live the longest life you can.”

“I’m happy to help anyone,” she adds. “They don’t even have to CrossFit.” The people who do attend CrossFit Omaha quickly realize that Tovar practices what she preaches. If her enviable washboard abs aren’t proof enough of her commitment to a fit lifestyle, then her Memorial Day weekend appearance at the regionals for the CrossFit Games certainly served as proof of her dedication.

She says CrossFit Omaha has an atmosphere of encouragement: “There’s always someone willing to go the distance with you. People aren’t alone.” She includes nutritional challenges right alongside physical challenges because she feels nutrition is such an important aspect of a well-rounded lifestyle.

There is a saying in the fitness community: “Six-pack abs are made in the kitchen.” What people put into their bodies is just as important—if not more so—than the workouts they do. Tovar is proof that a combination of good nutrition, ample physical activity, and adequate recovery is the “magic pill” for a fit and healthy life.

Visit stacietovar.com for more information.

This article appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.