When I pulled up to Black Widow Academy, (now known as Arachnid CrossFit) I had no idea what to expect. When I got out of my car, the first thing I heard was loud music and the sounds of weights clanging. I opened the door to literally a brand new world. A dozen or so people doing an array of exercises. Unfamiliar to me in any kind of gym is people randomly yelling out words of encouragement. Brief celebrations as this person or that person accomplish another goal. Men and women of all ages stepping out of their comfort zone carrying weights over their head from one side of the room to the other. Women and men standing on their heads while their body is up against the wall. From there, they are doing push-ups. From what I can gather, there is no age limit in this gym. The gym is in immaculate condition. . I can promise you one thing for certain, you will not find anything out of its place in this gym. Not a single person is standing around. As the class is winding down, people are putting things away as if its their own, at home gym. While doing so, there are words of positive reinforcement swarming the gym like a pack of angry wolves. In the middle of it all, is the Black Widow herself, Marciea Allen.
So who is Marciea Allen? You may know her as the MMA fighter. But, did you know that she also is a college graduate with a bachelors degree? You may also know her as a Crossfit trainer. Did you know that she worked for a company that traveled her to 49 states and 7 different countries? (Alaska is the only state she hasn’t visited. It’s on her bucket list) You may also know her for her famous boot camps that she organized here in town. You may think you know Marciea but I’m guessing you really don’t. If you did, you would know how amazing she really is. You would know that she is so much more than just a fighter, or a trainer. You would know that the misconceptions that you may or may not have heard about her are most likely false. You would also know that although her profession requires her to be tough, raw, and fierce, it has also taught her patience, compassion, and well, from my perspective, she’s kind of a softy! The traits of patience, compassion, and being soft-hearted have helped escalate her to one of the most sot after trainers in the area. I recently sat down with her, one on one for an extended period of time. I left that meeting having a better idea who Marciea is as a person as opposed to a fighter or trainer. This woman wears far too many hats to describe her as just a fighter or trainer.
I’ve never written about one specific person before, least not for Sam Says.I’ve spent time with a highschool basketball team that changed my life. I also spent a night with Watertown’s finest which enlighten me on the seedy underbelly that I call home. I’ve rarely spent time in a gym or with a person that has Marciea’s credentials. Why Marciea? Simple; I drive by her gym when I go to work every morning and its packed. When I drive hope at night, it’s packed. When I drive by on Saturdays, there are several cars in the parking lot. Leaving for lunch, I’ve noticed people running down the street away from her gym. I thought “Run like hell people! Get out while you still can!!!” But a few short minutes later, I always saw them running back. Why are they running back? What is it about this person and that gym that drives people to exercise like that over and over? I wanted to know more about the person and her everyday activities. So after months of chasing her down, borderline stalking her, she finally agreed to meet with me. When I first came up with the idea for working with Marciea, I was a little nervous as I had never met her and I had no idea what, or how this would take place. The only thing I knew about her is that she’s a fighter and a business owner. What am I hoping to accomplish writing this? Well, I hope the one thing that comes out of this is to put to rest the misconceptions about a fellow citizen of our little community. I hope to give you an insight of a person that is well-educated, well-traveled, and one that wears many hats. A person that has lived a remarkable life already and is the ripe old age of 33. I also hope that some of her determination, guts, and will-power will rub off on me. I hope to be able to take all that she’s taught me, in just the few encounters that we’ve had, and be able to use that in my everyday life.
Marciea is a young woman who is in incredible shape. She stands at roughly 5’8” tall and fights at about 135 pounds. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m not even close to the shape that my friend Marciea is. I’m overweight, I don’t exercise, I enjoy a cigarette from time to time, and I certainly wouldn’t last 5 seconds in the cage with her. The point I’m trying to make is that I’m not a part of her gym, nor do I work for her. The only affiliation I have with her is this “article” that I’m writing. I was gravitated to her for some reason though. Upon meeting her, I would soon understand why. She has a huge personality with an unbelievable character. Her schedule makes me tired just thinking about it, let alone actually doing it. A modern warrior is the best way to describe her. She is more than a warrior however. Maybe a better way to describe her is a modern-day Super-Woman. From 5am classes to 8pm classes, she offers it all. Before we get to know our modern-day Super-Woman, lets take a little closer look to how she got to where she is.
Born and raised in Illinois, on the outskirts of Chicago, Marciea was raised by both her parents and grew up with her 2 younger sisters. Her parents, high school sweethearts, gave her the intelligence and toughness she has today. Marciea didn’t grow up with aspirations to be a business owner or fighter. Rather she grew up wanting to be a professional basketball player. She would wake up, go to school, go to practice, come home and eat, do homework, and practice some more. Upon completion of high school she thought it would be a good idea and venture off into the unknown. She started her post high school education by attending college in South Dakota. Why the Rushmore State? Why not!?!?! So after 2 years at both institutes that our fine city has to offer, she graduated and ended up at a national organization roughly 44 minutes down the road from us. For the next 5 years, she’d travel the country, no the world, for her profession. She has 2 different degrees in IT and is incredibly educated. Put her in front of a computer and she can do far more than get you to some website, which is about the extent of my abilities. So how does a highly successful and educated woman decide it’s a good idea to purposely get punched in the face?
After 5 years of being on the road for roughly 300 days a year, Marciea was laid off due to cutbacks. Taking some time off to figure things out, she was invited to watch a fight in Aberdeen, SD. She was invited by a fighters girlfriend, now wife. As she is sitting in the front row, turns out she is enamored by what she is seeing. An athlete all her life, something drew her to the cage. After her friend fights, she started asking questions. Like everything else she’s done, she would be incredibly successful at fighting. At 28 years old, she stepped into a gym to learn to fight for the 1st time. Imagine walking into an abandon warehouse. The smell of sweat and nothingness fills the room. To your left, you’ll see two mats. You know the kind, the ones that we all rolled around in elementary school. The not-so-soft blue ones. They are what is considered the “cage”. To the right, a punching bag. From there, with the help of several people, she would eventually be the #5 ranked amateur fighter in the world! She would spend her days fighting against grown men who would help her become the fighter she is today. At roughly 5’8” tall and 135 pounds, she would enter the cage against grown men weighing upwards of 225 pounds. This gives you an idea of the commitment level and fortitude Marciea has. She had put her mind to something and she was going to do everything in her power to make that dream into a reality; even if it meant training and sparring with people almost twice her weight.
For the next 6 months to a year, she would train incredibly hard. Her and a few guys would take to the cage routinely fine tuning their skills. Marciea immersed herself in her training. Like everything before, she strived to be the best. She didn’t find other woman to train with, she found 200+ pound grown men to train with. Not 200+ pound grown men like myself, rather 200+ pound grown men that are in shape and know how to fight. Here’s a petite little thing getting into a cage with huge men and not only knowingly getting punched, thrown, and toughened up, but welcoming it! That may sound completely asinine to you and I, but for her, its Tuesday. It’s a way of life. It’s a portion of her income. Now many people have had aspirations of being a pro fighter. One day lacing up their gloves and shaking hands with Dana White, president of the UFC. How many people get to actually do it? I know of one, Marciea Allen. From an abandoned warehouse in little Watertown, SD to a packed venue in Las Vegas, NV, Marciea Allen would chase her dreams to the height of her profession.
Determination can not be taught. I feel like you have it or you don’t. I’m here to tell you that The Black Widow has it. A TON OF IT!!! Not just happy with winning her fights, she trains to be the best in the country. How does one get noticed in our little Camelot we call Watertown, SD? Simple; fly out to Las Vegas and compete with 150 other woman for a reality TV show with the winner getting a UFC contract!! So imagine standing in a gym with 150 other fighters striving for the same dream you have. UFC president Dana White is well within eyesight and other highly respected members of the UFC community have all eyes on you. Not knowing what is coming next and virtually not knowing a soul there. First thing you do, get in the cage and wrestle or jiu-jitsu an oppent you have no idea who she is. Most fights, Marciea has several weeks or several months to prepare for. Time to study and strategize your opponent. This fight? A few seconds. You have 60 seconds to impress the people who hold your dream in their hands. 60 seconds for the rest of your life if you will. Marciea does enough to impress the powers that be and advances to the next round. Round 2 is stand up techniques or boxing. While others had their own personal trainers with them, Marciea was not privy to this information and does not have her familiar trainer with her. The trainer holding the gloves yells out combinations and she has to hit those combos. While other girls have the familiarity of their trainer and most likely a routine they’ve memorized, Marciea has to rely on her talent and skills. She does enough to make it through that round and now she is in the final phases. She’s outlasted well over 100 woman to get to the final selection of cuts. The interview process is next. After all, this is a realty TV show and personalities bring in high ratings.
Marciea walks into what I can best describe as a board room. A table with 8 people on one side and 8 on the other with Marciea at the head of the table. They start firing off questions to her about everything from her personal life to her fighting. Talk about intimidating! Just imagine that picture. Try putting yourself at that seat and ask yourself how you would react knowing that one wrong answer can make or break your dream. Like most things she does, she exits that room with a smile on her face and has left a great impression. She has now done everything she can do and so it’s time to wait. 6-8 weeks later she gets a phone call from her manager with the news. Imagine waiting 6-8 weeks for the phone to ring with information that can be life changing! When the phone finally rings, the news on the other end is not expected. Due to unforseen circumstances she didn’t make the final cut. Although casting sheets were leaked out with her name on it, she didn’t get a chance to compete. After all that training, all that time, she came up just short. Marciea doesn’t just give up on her dream there though. She does what any good fighter would do, dusts herself off, straps on her gloves, and fights harder! She landed herself in the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas, NV. A nationally televised fight. The first two rounds are dominated by the Black Widow. She’s fighting someone who has 20 pounds on her and wants to take the fight to the ground. Marciea, knowing this, keeps the fight on her feet and absolutely owns the first 2 rounds. Strike after strike, causing damage and things are going masterfully. With just a minute or so left in the 3rd and final round, our valiant fighter makes a mistake. She gets caught trying to defend herself as her opponent is taking her to the ground. The ref stops the fight (justifiably so in Marciea’s own words) and just like that, the fight is over. That was in June of 2014. Although that was her last fight, it certainly won’t be her last fight. There is no doubt in mind that I’ll be watching her fight in the UFC sometime soon. Afterall, she’s only been fighting for 5 years and she’s only 33 years old. Imagine how good she will be in another year!
For those of us blessed to live in the same community as her, we also know she is a business owner. From her legendary boot camps to her most recent expansion into crossfit. The transition from fighter to trainer seems like a seemless one. Marciea has been in amazing physical shape her entire life. In fact, it was her physique that got her into crossfit to begin with. Out with a few friends at a water park, she’s beckoned over by a few strangers. They compliment her on her amazing shape and ask her what she does for a living. At this time, she was a personal trainer. They invite her over to a gym for a workout. Not knowing what she has gotten herself into, she is staring down roughly 50 people in a 6,000 square foot gym. Quite the change from the 2 blue mats and a punching bag! Of course she’s in her element and it doesn’t take her long to figure out what is going on. Just like that, a business owner and Crossfit trainer are born!! One problem though; she’s got clients in both Sioux Falls and Watertown. The two cities are separated by 100 miles. Knowing that she has commitments to all her clients, she gets up at 4am to be ready for her 5am class. From there, she trains other people or trains herself untill roughly 9:30 pm! That’s a 17.5 hour day. From what I can gather, she is putting other people’s wants, needs, and dreams in front of her own. Although on her resume it reads, fighter, trainer, business owner, it should read selfless, giving, caring, and highly motivated!
Chances are you’ve heard of crossfit. However, if you are like me, you have no idea what crossfit is and how it can help you. I asked several questions of Marciea and below is the best way I can think of to tell you what crossfit is. For starters, it’s a way of life. Its one common goal of a collective group of people wanting to get in better physical shape. Marciea has developed a program based on her many years of being an athlete, and trainer to help exceed any expectations you may have. She offers a program that develops a full body workout that combines everything from cardio, weight lifting, gymnastics, core training, all the way to preparing your body for the unexpected. It’s a high intensity workout that varies from trainer to trainer. The good news is, you will unlikely do the same workout twice in one week so it’s ever changing and evolving. On top of that, most workouts are generally only 45 minutes to an hour-long. A healthier, more fit you can be done before you go to work. You can go during your lunch break. Too busy in the morning with the kids? Not enough time after work? No problem! The Black Widow offers a wide variety of classes to meet any scheduling need. This gets back to her putting everyone else’s wants in needs in front of her own.
So there is a brief background on a very prominent figure in our community. She’s not mean. She’s not intimidating. She’s not going to beat you up in her class. She’s not going to get in your face and scream at you.(Unless your slacking off and you need a good screaming to!) She won’t let you slack off either. That’s whay separates her from other local trainers. She’s not there for just a paycheck! How do I know these things? I have spent time in her gym observing her. I spent plenty of time talking to her clients. Her clients all had the same thing to say about Marciea. She’s a leader and a motivator. 99% of the people I talked to about her all said above everything else, she’s their friend. I guess it’s that old adage that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover or you can’t believe everything you hear. Rumors are rumors and in this small town, they seem to spread like wild-fire. I can’t speak on behalf of everyone, but from my perspective, she’s impressive. In fact, she has about an 85% retention percentage with her clients. Currently she is training roughly 127 people. That means that after the commitment of their contract is done, 108 will come back. That’s pretty impressive! For those that aren’t returning, she is reaching out asking why. She wants to make time for each individual client and give them the help they need to a happier, healthier life. Who knows; maybe I’ll find my out of shape self in there a few times and see if I can’t be the after picture!
Labled as scary, mean, intimidating, and other not so nice adjectives, Marciea takes to her day flashing that smile. Going about her routine of helping others achieve the personal success they so desperately desire. That doesn’t seem so scary, mean, or intimidating to me. Sure, occasionally she likes to step into an octogon and punch other people in the face, but that doesn’t mean shes’ going to deliver one of those knock out shots to you! For the tens of people who may or may not read this, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The Black Widow isn’t so scary. She’s just an average girl who moved to SD, got 2 college degrees, traveled the country, then the world, saw a fight and liked it, opened her own business, and occasionally likes to punch people in the face. How is that so different from you and I?
The name Black Widow was originally thought up by Marciea and a training partner of hers. Actually, that training partner was the very same fighter she watched fight and gave her the want to fight on her own. The term Black Widow is as follows: “Black widow spiders are arachnids that are known for the females’ unique appearance and tendency to eat their mates. They are considered the most venomous spiders in North America;” I think this is fairly accurate of our friend Marciea. The black widow’s bite also feels like a pinprick according to those that have been bitten. Pain begins within a few minutes and spreads rapidly to other parts of the body. According to Dr.’s, the effects of a bite can include nausea, profuse sweating, severe pain in the abdomen and back, muscle aches, and may cause difficulty in breathing. Furthermore, the pain may last 8 to 12 hours and other symptoms may last for several days after. While you may feel all of the above in a workout with Marciea, the only remedy is to come back for some more. Come back for some more muscle aches and sweating and over time, those muscle aches will turn into a toner, healthier you. You see, Marciea’s bite is not lethal at all. So whether you are training in her gym or fighting in her octagon, you may feel that pain running rapidly throughout your body. The only difference is, one you will not like, and the other? Well, the other will give you the gratification of a healthier, happier you that we all long for. Who better to give you that than the Black Widow herself?!.
By Sam Mooney