Athlete Profile: Shannon Debus-Horn

Tell us about yourself.


I’m originally from a small town in Southwest Florida. I got into gymnastics as a really young kid and competed until I was in high school. Then, dealing with burnout and some injuries and a general need to pour my competitive drive into something, I swam and did 1m springboard diving for my high school swim team.


I came to Virginia for law school at William & Mary, and after graduating lived in Atlanta and Miami for work. When I got the opportunity to transfer to a job in DC (I work as a lawyer for the federal government) I couldn’t say yes fast enough. I now live with my husband and our cat, Elwood, in Falls Church, and I hope we are done with long‑distance moves for a while. Outside of the gym, I love to cook and bake.


What interested you in functional fitness?


Starting when I was in law school, and for a few years afterwards, I tried running, random gym machines, group fitness classes, hours on the elliptical, and pretty much anything else you’d find in a conventional Planet Fitness-type place. Nothing had any staying power for me. I wasn’t happy with how I looked and felt and knew I needed to find some form of physical activity that wasn’t a huge chore.


In early 2013 I had a couple friends who were just starting to dip their toes into the functional fitness world and they made it seem like something I could do. I was in a very high-anxiety phase of my life at that time and really appreciated that my hour-long class was usually so mentally consuming that I couldn’t think about anything other than trying not to die. Once I started getting a basic handle on the movements I wanted to keep learning more and felt like it was something I could eventually be good at, so I kept coming back. I love functional fitness because there are so many ways to continually improve: you can go faster, lift heavier, try a more difficult progression, or even just have better quality movements.


How long have you been at Adaptation/FC Athletics?


I’ve been at FC Athletics since I moved to Falls Church in August 2019. I had dropped in to the gym when I was house-hunting in the area in July and didn’t even try anywhere else out. It felt like home right from the beginning.


What improvements have you seen?


I’ve gotten better at pacing workouts. My go‑to strategy has long been “fly and die,” which isn’t great for any workout longer than five minutes. I now make at least an attempt at coming up with a plan for metcons, and telling myself to go slower or take short forced rest periods. Also, for the 14’ish months before I came to FCA, I was doing only 1-2 metcons a week and was mostly doing weightlifting and powerlifting training. While I had hoped to at least maintain the strength gains I made during that training period, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I’ve been able to add a few pounds to most of my lifts despite drifting away from pure strength training.


What’s your favorite workout or movements?


Pretty much anything that has a short time domain and a heavy barbell; bonus if there is a technical gymnastics element like T2B or bar muscle-ups. In terms of Girls, Grace and Jackie are two of my all-time favorites.


What are your least favorite workout or movements?


I hate running. I blame this largely on the fact that as a native Floridian, running was always a miserable, soul-crushing experience since I do not handle heat well. So I avoided running WODs for years but have tried to do a lot less of that since we’ve moved here. I still groan internally every time a workout like Nancy shows up.


And I’m not mad about using the assault bikes less due to the pandemic.


What are your goals?


That is a good question as I sit here in the smoldering wreckage of the dumpster fire that was 2020. I struggled setting goals coming into this past year as I transitioned back to functional fitness full time, and then the pandemic came and any goals I may have had were gone and I was just happy to get moving a few times a week.


For the long term, I do functional fitness mainly for longevity reasons: I want to be able to run and jump and be strong for my whole life, and keep the ability to do stupid human tricks for as long as I can. In the shorter term, I’d like to add back some structured mobility work to my routine. And in the however-long-it-takes term, I’m still chasing a 300lb back squat.


What advice can you give to new people?


We do so many different movements, it’s going to take you time to learn how to do them on even a basic level. Some things will come naturally to you and some won’t, and there’s so much variety in our workouts that there’s no guarantee you’ll get the opportunity to practice your weaker movements, let alone improve them. Pick one skill at a time, devote 5 or 10 or 15 minutes however many times a week you can to it, and train progressions or even just repetitions to get the muscle memory down.


And if you’re lost or confused, please say something to your coaches. They’re there to help you, not judge you. In my experience, coaches do what they do because they genuinely enjoy helping people.


Which coach plays the best music?


I enjoy almost all types of music (although I have very strong opinions about the propriety of country music in the gym), and I think Jordan plays the best variety. But I will love Kaitlin forever for introducing me to Big Booty Mixes.

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