We, the Solace coaching staff, are very excited to award our first Member of the Month of the new year to Donna Kichukova. Donna is an exemplary member of the community. You can find her smiling through the toughest of workouts, whether it be Crossfit, Body, Yoga or Gymnastics. She is consistent, dedicated, and constantly looking for ways to improve.
Donna began her time at Solace just 9 months ago with Body and Sculpt classes, but quickly caught the Crossfit bug. Since then, Donna hasn’t stopped working to achieve her goals. She is constantly asking questions, seeking advice from the coaches and sticks around after class to complete the extra credit and work on her skills.
We want to thank Donna for being such an important member in our community! So what are you waiting for?! Keep reading to learn more about our January Member of the Month!
Want to become part of the Solace family? Click HERE to sign up for a free introductory CrossFit class this week.
Member of the Month
Name: Donna Kichukova
Hometown: Sofia, the heart of the Bulgarian split squat (no, I did not invent it).
Age: Stopped counting after 30 (hope I haven’t reached 31 yet 🙂
Occupation: I spent a number of years in the financial services sector before transitioning to my current role as the director of business planning for a small private brands clothing manufacturer, an industry I am more passionate about.
How long have you been doing CrossFit and how did you get into it?
The start of my new job coincided with the start of my Crossfit journey- both began about 9 months ago. I was looking for a place to get lunch around my new office and walked past Solace. It piqued my interest and later that day I went back for more information. I found out that Solace was not only a Crossfit gym, but also offered yoga, sculpt, gymnastics and conditioning classes. Since I had never done Crossfit before (and frankly wasn’t looking to try it), I decided to start with the sculpt and body classes. I enjoyed those and kept coming back for more. A few weeks later, I enrolled in the Crossfit trial class and took the foundations course. These classes showed me that Crossfit is so much more than what I had heard – it wasn’t only weightlifting, CrossFit was also about stamina, speed, power, and skill. I knew I had found the perfect combination.
What were your thoughts after your first CF workout?
I love a good challenge so Crossfit immediately clicked for me. I realized there are areas I am decent at, there are areas I needed to work harder at, and there are areas I need to scale down and make a long term plan to work on until I get to where I need to be. But that’s also what kept me going back every day. I saw the long term perspective; I was getting stronger, I felt the progress every week and I was willing to invest the time and put in the hard work to get there.
What were your goals when joining CrossFit?
I wanted to build strength and improve my athletic performance. I had spent the last few years mainly focused in martial arts, bootcamps, and running. 5 marathons and about 20 half marathons later, I needed a new challenge. Although I have always tried to incorporate strength exercises and balance my training by including different workouts, I needed a better structure and was looking for new ways to challenge my body to get better.
What has kept you at Solace for so long?
For me, the most important element of a training program is good form. Hence the most valuable asset in a workout is the coach, and I am beyond impressed with the expertise of the Solace coaches since day 1 (honestly, I still wonder how they’ve managed to put together such an outstandingly talented crew!!). They are always there to provide guidance, answer any questions and make sure everyone is completing the exercises properly. This goes a long way, especially when you are new to Crossfit and need a lot of help from the start. Second is the community. I feel that everyone comes in with the same mission, to get better every day, and this keeps me motivated. The community support is tremendous and keeps you going back, it starts to feel like a family. Lastly, I enjoy the variety of classes that Solace offers. Incorporating yoga, sculpt, body and gymnastics allows for a well-balanced workout week. The variety in the class programming always keeps it challenging and reminds you there is so much to keep working on.
You’ve improved tremendously since starting with us. Talk to us about that and what got and kept you motivated.
Before I started Crossfit, I had never lifted more than 15 lbs dumbbells so I still surprise myself with some of the weight we carry in the workouts. For me, it was very important to learn the correct form first, then gradually increase the weight and speed. I am still working on many skills, but I am patient with this journey and I’m extremely grateful to all the coaches who constantly provide me with feedback on how to improve. And my motivation is all around me – I have the entire Solace community to look up to.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey? Biggest obstacles?
It’s not easy, none of it is easy and I am still learning and getting better with many of the lifts and skills, but perhaps the biggest challenge for me was finding my comfort level with it, breaking my own limits and believing I can be better – I can add a few more pounds to that bar and I can do a few more reps before the time is up.
What changes have you made to your daily life, diet & workout routine that have been the most successful for you?
With my endurance background I was used to being in training for a few hours a day, but I realized that with Crossfit it pays off to have a better balance so you allow your body to recover and keep making progress; I’ve had to re-evaluate my training schedule accordingly and be more conscious of my body. There are days that I will push harder and there are days that I will scale back. I have been through injuries before so for me health is the #1 priority.
How has Solace positively affected you in your personal and professional life?
I feel I am stronger, I am learning and constantly growing, and I have met amazing people who inspire me every day.
What keeps you motivated?
I like challenges! When I am not good at something, I am willing to work very hard to get there. I think that if you are only doing what you are really good at, you will just be good at that one thing and that’s ok. But I like versatility – learning new skills, growing and getting good at things you never even thought you could do. And the friendships you build along the way are there to stay.
What advice would you give someone looking to start CF?
I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with one of the coaches while we were doing deadlifts. I was using very light weight. The coach pointed it out and said that I could easily handle lifting my bodyweight. I thought that was crazy. But I put my mind to it, and most importantly tried, and I was able to deadlift my bodyweight for the first time in my life during that class. My point is – there is nothing impossible if you put your heart and your mind into it, and you work really hard for it. Start slow, keep challenging yourself, leave your ego in the subway, fall in love with the progress, give it your best effort, and become the best you can be.
Proudest CF moment?
I get happy every time I learn a new skill or increase the weight on a lift. Even little things like learning double-unders a few months ago, kettlebell snatches (without bruising my wrists) and adding extra pounds on the barbell show me that I am making progress. It’s little steps every day but they add up.
Favorite WOD/ least favorite WOD: I like the longer and more diverse workouts because they are more challenging, and you get to work on different skills. I don’t think I have a least favorite WOD. I always try to get something out of every wod.
Favorite lift/ least favorite lift: Favorite lift is the power clean. My least favorite lift is the split jerk because I feel off balance. But that just means I still have a lot of work to do here!
Something no one at the gym knows about you:
I did ballet and dance in school, so I guess that explains why everyone says my lifts are too graceful.
When you’re not at Solace, where are we most likely to find you?
Any place where there are food and friends. I like to eat and enjoy spending time with my friends.
Pre and post workout meal of choice? A protein bar, most recently the RX Bar.
Goals for the New Year (both fitness and not fitness related):
I’ve always wanted to do an IronMan (just once) and travel more, so maybe the Hawaii IronMan would be a good combination of both worlds.
CrossFit Goals for the New Year? Handstands! I’m terrified of letting go of the wall so I’m hoping to conquer that fear in the new year.
Rapid Fire Questions
If you had a theme song, what would it be? – “Hey Brother” by Avicii
What is your spirit animal? – Horse
Last picture you took on your phone – Holiday celebration at work
Last book you read – The rise and fall of intelligence
Favorite reality show – American Ninja Warrior
Last concert you went to – Central Park SummerStage
Favorite pizza topping – Pepperoni
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? – World peace
One thing you couldn’t live without – Friends & family
Describe yourself in 3 emojis 🏃♀️🏋️♀️💃
Last song stuck in your head – All the way up (guess we play it too often during training 😄)
Most important item in your gym bag – Healthy snacks
First album/CD/cassette you ever bought? – Bon Jovi
Favorite hidden gem spot/restaurant in NYC – HuKitchen
Favorite healthy snack – Acai bowl
Go to karaoke song – “If today was your last day” by Nickelback
Hidden talent – My poker face! You’d never know how f’ing hard that workout was by looking at me!