Fighting Fires with Fitness

When Katie Sondag walked into her first CrossFit class, she had no idea she would one day rank among the best competitors in the world. In April 2022 the OKC firefighter took second place in the CrossFit Occupational Games, outperforming other women firefighters from across the globe.

Stronger Every Day

Katie went to that first class at the invitation of one of her firefighting mentors. Because CrossFit combines several forms of fitness, Katie found that it gave her the strength to excel at her physically demanding job, and offered her a chance to train for events. She also loved the competitive aspect of the class.

Many CrossFit competitors are full-time athletes or trainers, but people serving in professions like firefighting and law enforcement have to schedule their training around irregular work schedules. The Occupational Games were established to give these heroes a chance to shine. Out of a starting field of thousands, Katie was one of only 40 to advance to the finals in her division.

She also participates in team CrossFit events. Unlike many other teams, everyone on her four-member team is a parent with a full-time career. “I love the camaraderie,” she says. “I’ve got great coaches and a great team–a lot of people pushing each other every day. I love training almost as much as competition.”

Finding a Calling

A native of Oregon, Katie explored several sports while she was growing up. Despite being four inches below the usual height requirement, she rowed for four years on a scholarship at Oklahoma City University, where she earned a degree in kinesiology. But she wasn’t sure what she wanted her career focus to be.

When her college roommate suggested they attend an EMT course, Katie was all in. That course included a ride-along with a firefighter. “I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do,” says Katie. “I applied the next day.” Since joining the department, she has also become a state and nationally certified paramedic, continuing her family’s proud tradition of serving in healthcare.

Leading the Way

It was an adjustment coming from health-conscious Eugene, Oregon to Oklahoma, but Katie is encouraged by how much more fitness-focused the OKC area has become. She herself has been a part of that change, encouraging other firefighters to work out with her at every station where she has served.

Not all of us can become world-class athletes, but Katie believes anyone can achieve better fitness. “Just start!” she says. “It can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you walk into a gym, no matter what size and shape you are, they’ll find a way to work with you.”

She strives to model a healthy lifestyle for her two-year-old son. They go on outdoor adventures every day, and he loves to “work out” with the family. He even has his own set of kid-friendly dumbbells. “I want him to know he can do anything,” she says.

Katie’s hopes for the future include rocking the team competition and improving her own fitness level. She intends to keep pushing her limits, becoming her best self for her family, her team, and herself. And she’ll be back at the Occupational Games in 2023, with a new goal. “Next year I plan to win it,” she says.

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