Video by Ashley Mitchell and Jeremy Mitchell.
At Kshanti CrossFit in Virginia, Andrea West is best known as “Babs”—Badass Bitch. She’s a hard-working athlete who has a rare disease called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which raises risks for lung and liver diseases. After she finishes the workout, she cheers on fellow athletes, then she might reach for her inhaler. Once a week, she administers intravenous infusions on herself. She does CrossFit not just to stay healthy but also to stay alive. Her coach and affiliate owner Jessi Jannarone talks about West, who scored 194 reps in CrossFit Games Open Workout 16.1.
CrossFit Journal: Tell me how you met Andrea West.
Jessi Jannarone: She came in for a free intro class. I think it must’ve been almost 4 years ago now. (She) really wanted to take charge of her health. She told me the name of her disease. I had never heard of it before. She told me all this long list of medications that she was on, possible complications, some limited activities, and I found out where (her inhalers) were and kept them close by.
She did the intro class and it crushed her but she was excited about it anyway. She liked the challenge. She liked that she was just part of the group and that everyone was struggling just as much. And I just told her, “Hey, I’ll work with you but we’re gonna go slow because this is gonna be a learning process for both of us. And when we find something that doesn’t work, we’re gonna regroup and do something else. And you have to be patient right along with me. I will take it as slow as we need to.”
CFJ: How would you describe her progress over these past several years?
JJ: She doesn’t get discouraged. She had to have surgery last winter, and she had some really bad complications after that. And she was just so scared. Ya know like, “I’m gonna lose everything I worked for” and all this. And I’m like, “No, no, no, you’re not gonna lose it. It’ll all come back. Get healthy, then get strong.”
CFJ: What effect has she had on you as a coach?
JJ: She gives me hope, honestly. It’s like, OK, anyone who truly wants to feel better and get better can take some ownership of it.
If they really want it, I know that I can help ’em get there. And she’s just that example for everyone in the gym—not just for me but for everyone.
I feel, like, so fortunate that I know her and that she’s my friend, and that my whole gym gets to be lifted up by her motivational speeches. She likes to tell people to “stop being a pussy” every once in a while.
That’s her. That’s her speech
especially before you go for that PR lift. If Babs is around, you’re going to get the don’t-be-a-pussy speech, for sure.
Editor’s note: Questions and answers edited for space and clarity.