April Jorgenson’s blue hair, tattoos, nose ring and precise muscle definition almost defy her graciousness and beauty.
Although grace and beauty are innate to Jorgenson, the Stansbury Park resident has fought to be a cross fitter, weightlifter and competitor in Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge on CMT in recent weeks. In all three athletic endeavors, she has excelled. But at one time, life derailed her strong desire to be an athlete.
When she was 9 years old, Jorgensen shattered her ankle and her athletic dreams seemed out of reach. After many surgeries, the ankle just never came back together right, she said.
Born an adrenaline junkie, Jorgenson challenged herself to do anything her older brothers did. But her ankle prevented her from achieving in any sports.
Then, while playing church basketball, Jorgenson blew out both ACLs. Her ankle bowed out again and one leg was shorter than the other. While squatting to weight-lift, everything angled the wrong way, she said.
Jorgenson married at 22, had three children in less than six years, and felt physically and emotionally exhausted. Doctors diagnosed her as bipolar, and she considered suicide. Jorgenson and her husband divorced.
However, in her late 20s, Jorgenson found a new mindset. Instead of complaining about her ankle, she decided to be thankful for her ankle’s support. She wanted to be healthy, and found a way for her body to tell her how to heal using massage, float tanks and meditation.
“When your body is healthy, your mind is healthy,” she said.
Eventually, Jorgenson found CrossFit training, which incorporates elements of sports and exercise for a well-rounded training. This became her boot camp. Jorgenson always wanted to be a GI Jane and loved the idea of boot camp.
“I always had that desire … and most people go, ‘I don’t want to do any of that,’” Jorgenson said.
Self-regimens have never worked for her, but she knew with CrossFit, all she had to do was show up and the trainer would put her on a regimen.
With CrossFit, Jorgenson found a passion, but no way to get paid for it. So she set her sights on social media to get sponsorships, developed an Instagram profile, and posted videos and photos of her workouts and competitions. Sponsorships came.
Jorgenson’s Instagram played a big part in her being cast on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge. Her friend suggested the show. Then her sister saw it, too, and said, “You know, those girls don’t even look that tough.”
In July 2017, Jorgenson applied. Broken Skull called for a Skype interview. Then the show reviewed her social media, including Instagram, and created a video from it for the producers.
Jorgensen found out she was on the show five days before filming. But unbeknownst to her, she had a 10-year-old seat belt violation — and warrants disqualify contestants. Yet, after getting straight with “the law,” she said she found herself on the Broken Skull Ranch near Burbank, California in August.
Broken Skull personnel picked up the contestants at the airport and instituted a no talking rule, Jorgenson said. She had never seen the show before, except for a couple of YouTube clips, and had no clue what to expect.
Jorgenson found the other contestants’ physiques intimidating. Later, she discovered many of them were “incredibly decorated” athletes. She saw herself as a stay-at-home mom who did CrossFit. She was the oldest contestant at 35.
The show transported the contestants to the doctor’s office for seven hours of physicals. During this time, talking was prohibited.
“I can’t put on a stank face,” Jorgenson said. “I’m a nice girl, so I got in trouble a few times for talking to the other girls.”
Early the next morning, the contestants were shuttled to the set for filming. The introduction was filmed first, which was designed to display the contestants as Amazons with swagger, Jorgenson said.
Then Steve Austin, an ex-pro-wrestler, drove up to talk more swagger than the biggest swagger, she said.
“A lot of what Steve does is ad lib on the spot,” Jorgenson said. “He was super cool.”
Broken Skull is not filmed in the order in which it appears on TV, Jorgenson said, which “messed” with her adrenaline being turned on and off. Contestants had to stand on marks in the dirt, then retreat and return for entrances. Next came pose shots, then “trash talk” interviews. Lastly, the “challenges” were filmed.
The show’s format features two contestants facing off with one another in “challenges” — carrying weights, hurdling obstacles, wrestling for a goal, etc., Jorgenson said.
A contestant must win two elimination challenges, then face off with the last remaining contestant. There are eight contestants, with a one-loss elimination. Jorgenson’s first challenge involved her being tied to another contestant, and to ring a bell at opposite ends of a sand pit.
“That took so much energy out of me that when I rang that bell, I dropped on the ground,” she said. “I knew the other girl was going to get up and I was still laying there going, ‘I can’t get up.’”
Her legs felt like Jell-O, but she knew she would have to walk over to meet with Austin after winning. She said she told herself, “You cannot fall right now. These girls are going to think you’re weak.”
Lunch and set up for the next round of filming gave Jorgenson a break. The second challenge took nothing out of her — she won — and she made it to the final challenge.
The next day was cloudless, and by the third obstacle in the challenge, the temperature was 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Jorgenson felt physically and emotionally exhausted. The crew kept the contestants under a canopy and continually urged them to drink water.
Jorgenson faced the youngest contestant in the final challenge. They had to wrestle one another out of a sand pit. This time, Jorgenson lost.
She said Austin asked her about her strategy, to which she replied, “I was like … ‘You think I have a strategy. I don’t know how to wrestle.’”
After Jorgenson made her exit from the set, she said the crew told her, “‘Hey, that was the best pit we’ve ever seen. We want you to come back … You can be on our All Stars’ episode.’”
That All Stars’ episode was filmed one week after Jorgenson’s first Broken Skull episode, so she had no opportunity to improve on her performance. Jorgenson again made it to the final elimination, which was another wrestling match — and another loss.
“Wrestling is fun, but it’s difficult pushing your body weight against someone else’s because their weight is coming back at you, unlike gym weights,” Jorgenson explained.
Jorgenson’s children think she is cool, especially since her appearance on the show. When her son hugs her, he often squeezes her bicep and says she is so strong. Jorgenson said her mother claims the role of her greatest supporter, but her brothers warn her about getting too big.
Although Jorgenson didn’t win, she feels the knowledge she gained was her prize. Her first Broken Skull episode was aired on Nov. 14 and the second on Dec. 12.
Her two Broken Skull runner-up finishes schooled Jorgenson about not giving up and pushing through her fear. In the end, her weak ankle, a divorce and a bipolar diagnosis, became an impetus for Jorgenson to find herself and to be successful at pursuing her athletic dream.
To view Jorgenson’s journey, follow her at @aprilcrossfitcoach on Instagram.