MV Shook – Committed to Accomplishing Dreams
Written by Samie Acevedo
Without hesitation and voice full of humble confidence, she said, “I want to win the CrossFit Games.” Many have made this statement after watching the CrossFit Games, still, not many have the experience and the patience to turn this wishful statement into reality. Among those souls who wish to compete at the Games, if anyone is going to make it happen, it is MV.
Talking to MV, you can’t help but grin. She speaks with the confidence and humility of a professional athlete. When you talk to her, you immediately realize you are in the presence of a wise soul—someone whose past has taught her lessons that she has so willingly learned from. The good, the bad, she finds the lessons and the beauty in both and uses that to elevate her life for the better. A skill that so few possesses and a skill that will take her far in whatever direction she chooses. She encapsulates what it means to be at Invictus. She is the master of her fate and the captain of her soul because she CHOOSES to be. She chooses to learn from her past and take actionable steps to learn from those lessons.
Unless you are an early riser, you might not know MV. Her schedule means early gym early sessions for her. She’ll be in a corner, silently putting in the work. But putting her head down and working hard is in MV’s blood. Where did she learn to be gritty and a hard worker? Ice skating. Not exactly what you think of when you think of someone getting down and dirty? You couldn’t be more wrong. MV was introduced to ice skating when she was five years old. Did she know that what started out as playing out on the iced-over pond would eventually lead her to multiple figure skating national championships and a professional career as a performer for Disney On Ice? Maybe not, but that youthful love of skating has stayed with her years later and has carried her through some of the hardest moments in life, as well as the most joyful.
There aren’t many skaters that come out of Kentucky, where MV is from. She grew up skating for fun, but as time went on and her love of competitive skating grew. She knew that she wanted to be a serious skater. As she became more competitive and with the youthful boldness of a 12-year-old, she made a life-changing decision, “I want to be a national champion.” Thus began her journey and after watching other skaters compete at nationals and placing fifth place for four consecutive years, MV asked herself one question, “How badly do you want it?”
She wanted it bad.
Her and her family sacrificed a lot, commuting her from Kentucky to Michigan to train. After working with a few coaches, she finally found the coach that would help her make her dreams come true, Russian figure skating coach Marina Zoueva. Training with Mariana was MV’s first taste of what it was to be a professional athlete and she was immersed in an all-inclusive athletic environment. While her family always made it clear that education was MV’s priority, MV ate, breathed, and slept figure skating. She even lived with a family relative in Ann Arbor to prioritize training. Not to mention, at the time, she was a senior in high school trying to figure out what college to go to.That is also where she was introduced to what would be her future career. The figure skaters had a strength and conditioning coach named Sean, and after working with Sean, MV again made a statement, “I want to be like Sean.” Seeing Sean be so passionate about helping other people inspired MV to do the same one day.
Training with her coach, Marina Zoueva, changed her life. The intensity and demand of training would have deterred others, but not MV. Her tenacity and her commitment to her dream drove her to break many physical and mental barriers. And above it all, MV loved the grind. In 2015, MV was gearing up for another Figure Skating Nationals and this was it. This was her opportunity to finally podium and to finally fulfill her 12-year-old statement, “I want to be a national champion.” In what seemed like the figure skating version of Rocky Balboa, MV gave the performance of her life. When asking her what she remembered from that moment, she smiled and said she remembered how much fun she had. She knew it wasn’t perfect (a statement all perfectionist athletes make) but she loved hearing the roar of the crowd; she loved the smell of the ice rink. She was that five-year-old at the pond. She loved every moment that got her to that national championship floor. It wasn’t a glorious journey; she pushed her body, mind, and soul further than she ever thought she could…but it was worth it.
Finally, she had done it. A fairy tale ending.
After placing 2nd at Nationals and deciding to apply to the University of Michigan to study movement science, one of MV’s friends threw out the idea that she should audition for Disney on Ice. MV thought, “Why not?” She auditioned, and two months later, to her surprise and one week before committing to a school, she was accepted. At 19 years old, MV deferred her first year at Michigan and was off to go tour with Disney all over the United States and Canada. She quickly learned how difficult showbiz was. Training for performances was almost more intense than training for nationals. She and the 30 other cast crew would train from 7:00 am until 7:00 at night. MV remembers when she was first starting out, she struggled to adjust to this rigorous training and take care of herself. She remembered she didn’t buy enough food to eat, and she was eating handfuls of M&M trail mix in her hotel room because she was so hungry. Sounds like a typical college diet.
Performing for Disney was a full-time, high-pressure job. While she intended to just be in the background, her director told her to audition for a prominent role. Again, she said, “Why not?” She became the youngest Snow White 3rd understudy. Her first performance was at the United Center in Chicago, and she remembers being excited because she knew Beyonce performed there. While she was excited to perform where Queen B once blessed the people of Chicago, she also remembers being nervous, and prayed she wouldn’t mess up. But as soon as the opening song came on, she heard the roar of the crowd and felt the surge of energy…she knew she would be okay.
MV loved performing and felt the weight of a strong tradition on her shoulders. One thing that has always stuck with her throughout her Disney career was something her castmate asked her, “What is your story that you are trying to tell?” MV says she’s not much of a talker, but she realized that performing is an opportunity to tell a story without words. Some kids would never get the chance to go to DisneyLand, but she and the cast could bring Disney to the kids. After that, she made it a point to enjoy herself and give her very best performance every single time.
After a year of performing with Disney, it was time for MV to go to college. She had promised her parents she would go to college, and, brokenheartedly, MV obliged. MV skated in college and began studying movement science. Like many of us, her college experience wasn’t smooth sailing. In her third year of school, MV had surgery to fix a labral tear in her hip. But tenacious MV rehabbed her injury, finished her skating career, and graduated from college. With her college skating behind her, it was time for MV to make her next move. Right before the pandemic hit, she applied to a strength and conditioning job, packed her belongings, and drove across the country to San Diego. At her new job as a trainer, she met Charissa, who was training at Invictus. MV put off trying out Invictus for a while but eventually, she said, “Why not?” She met with coach Nick for a consultation and immediately knew she had to train at Invictus. It was actually during college that she was first introduced to CrossFit and Invictus. She had watched the Games on YouTube, and her buddy would send her Invictus Gymnastics videos of bar muscle-ups. She knew Invictus produced high-caliber athletes, and they had a reputation of also producing great coaches. Invictus was the place for her.
MV knew she wanted to take things slow to learn good movement habits. Like in figure skating, it’s hard to fix bad techniques if you try to rush training. She started working with coach Aush to ensure she was learning proper techniques. Not only has Aush helped her with her skills and technique, but Aush was also the first person to truly believe in her and her new dream. MV knows that she has to believe in herself, and she does, but having someone else be that external voice of belief is powerful for dreamers.
Now, MV has never been happier. She always felt like there was this untapped potential after skating and performing for Disney, and now training for her goal, she feels fulfilled. MV loves training in CrossFit. She loves the process of it, the struggle, the push. She relates to it like the last minute of a three minute skating routine. That last minute is when you zone in, when you lay it all out and finish strong. That’s what training feels like for MV, always staying checked in for that last minute.
MV loves that along this new journey; she is constantly surprising herself. She loves noticing when she is getting stronger or improving in skill and she loves knowing that every day she is using her body with purpose and intention. What she also appreciates about her new athletic endeavor is that it is the antithesis of skating. In skating, they were told to eat under 1200 calories and learned so many unhealthy habits. Now, she is focused on fueling her body to get stronger, not to look a certain way.
If we can learn anything from MV, it is to have patience, faith, and to take action. Her favorite quote sums up her perspective on life and training, “Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.” It’s easy to see someone’s accolades and achievements, but few understand just how long and how hard the journey is. Few can resiliently withstand the years it can take. MV is accomplished, no doubt. But let us not forget that it has taken years of hard work and sacrifice. She is willing to put in the work, she is willing to sacrifice, and she is willing to be patient. She makes sure she is doing things the right way.
Perhaps her coach Aush puts it best when describing MV:
“She is new to the sport and has a lot to learn; she has been steadily working on learning the skills and gaining a different kind of strength with tenacity and patience. When starting out in CrossFit, she could have rushed skills like Oly lifting, muscle-ups, butterfly pull-ups, but she consciously chooses to prioritize being highly coachable. She chose to hold back even when the excitement of a new skill was right in her face. This patience is a testament to how we need to progress in the gym. No ego, no comparison to others, instead focus on the step we are on, always with the future guiding the path.”
She says she doesn’t like to talk much, but her statements are powerful because she lets her work do the talking.
“I want to be a national champion.”
“ want to perform for Disney.”
“I want to skate for the University of Michigan.”
“I want to win the CF Games.”
She’s two for three so far, so if you want to bet on anyone to accomplish what they say, I would bet on MV.