Its the little things in life…

I moved to Hong Kong almost four weeks ago. It was a huge decision on my part… moving to a completely new continent, on my own, and being surrounded by an entirely different culture while trying to settle into a new job. Of course I knew what I was getting myself into, but I wanted a new experience and to get out of my comfort zone. Luckily, that is exactly what I got!

Moving from South Africa, which is known for its wildlife and vast open green spaces, to Hong Kong which is possibly one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, was most certainly outside of my comfort zone. During my first week I was so busy trying to adjust to my new work schedule, sorting out all my admin and meeting about a million new people that I barely had time to think about what had just happened. When the second week rolled in, I was suddenly stricken with the dreaded homesickness bug.

All I can say is thank goodness for wonderful people, new challenges and technology. Firstly, there are a LARGE amount of expats in HK who have gone through exactly the same feelings as me and were very helpful and willing to take me out and about (you know who you are you kind souls). Secondly, FaceTime, Whatsapp, Facebook, Intagram, you name it… as much as we complain about the world of social media, it truly is amazing for communication! Being able to contact everyone in SA really helped me get through the sad times. And thirdly, setting myself little goals for work, competing and travelling helped me put everything into perspective. The little things getting me through life at the moment:

  • Last week I was fortunate enough to take part in the Asian Championships qualifiers. This is a three part competition purely for countries in Asia that is much like the Crossfit Games. The online qualifiers comprises of four workouts that need to be done within a week. From there, the top 25 women in each region compete at Sectionals which is held in each region within Asia. From there, the top three women compete at the final to be crowned Fittest in Asia. After a lot of sweat and almost tears, I managed to place 15th in our region which means I move on to sectionals- Happy Emma! (goal 1 = Achieved)
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The ladies of Typhoon who qualified for Sectionals

 

  • The next competition coming up is of course, The Crossfit Open! This is a five week series of one workout a week and is the first stage to getting into the Crossfit Games. Now, I’m no where near qualifying for Regionals, but I am keen to see where I place in Asia (goal 2 = work in progress).
  • Travel is one of the reasons I decided to move abroad, so I have just booked flights to meet up with my parents and a special someone in Thailand in April… yet another occasion to look forward to! Sun, fun, cocktails and chill time… what more could a girl ask for? (goal 3=booked!)
  • With regards to coaching, I am making a full blown effort to learn as much as I can from the other coaches I work with who have so much variety of knowledge… from Power Lifting and Olympic lifting to mobility… I am learning something new every single day that I am very excited to bring to my coaching as well as my own performance (goal 4= underway)

I think that it is extremely important to have small goals and experiences to work towards. Without them, we seem to flounder and our motivation and drive starts to decrease; at least that is what happens with me. If you are struggling to motivate yourself at work, in the gym or in life in general, set yourself small goals and see how things start to change.

 

 

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A full day of eating… NOM!

Alrighty, here it is! a Full day of eating. So I usually eat more or less the same meals everyday because it’s easier that way and to be honest I love my food. Obviously I do go out to eat occasionally, sometimes having naughty treats… but that’s life! I just try to eat food that is going to nourish and fuel my body so that it can perform optimally. It is still a work in progress and I do tend to crave sweet rather than savoury foods. Working on that self control!

Pre-workout (5am ish)

Protein mug muffin and black coffee (i always forget to take a picture of my mug muffin because it is soooooo early! This is not a great pic… I promise it tastes better than it looks)

*I drink USN BCAAs intra-workout for recovery and performance

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp oats
  • 1/3 scoop chocolate whey protein
  • 1 egg

Method:

mix in a mug and microwave for 1 minute. Top with some honey.

Breakfast/Post workout (7am ish)

Protein Oats and Banana/Apple

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*Moringa capsules

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup raw oats
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 scoop whey protein
  • mixed seeds and chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 apple/banana

Method:

  1. Cook oats on the stove in about 1 1/2 cups of water (I just keep adding until I get the consistency I want).
  2. Mix the egg in when oats starts to boil
  3. Add whey powder once oats has cooked-off of stove
  4. Top with apple or banana

*Due to the summer heat I have been making over night oats so that its nice and cold. All you do is cook exactly the same then put it in the fridge and add the almond milk when you want to eat it.

Snack (10am ish)

My snacks change according what I feel like eating. Sometimes I want sweet, other times I want savoury. So here is one of each…

Grilled Chicken Salad

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Ingredients:

  • 1 grilled chicken breast
  • 1/2 boiled beetroot
  • carrot
  • coriander
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method:

Grill chicken. I spice it with turmeric and some lemon and herb chicken spice.

Smoothie Bowl

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1/2 cup mixed frozen berries
  • ice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • seeds

Method:

  1. Blend all ingredients together

 

Lunch (12-1pm)

Chicken ‘noodle’ salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 grilled chicken breast
  • 1 zucchini spiralized
  • 1 carrot spiralized
  • 1/4 avo
  • 1/2 boiled beetroot
  • 1/2 tomato
  • coriander
  • olives
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Food Works salad dressing (natural)
  • 1 small sweet potato diced

Method:

  1. Place diced sweet potato in the microwave for 2 minutes until cooked.
  2. Stir fry the zucchini, carrot, tomato, sweet potato and balsamic vinegar until vegetables are just cooked
  3. assemble ingredients in a bowl and top with salad dressing

Snack (3-4pm)/preworkout

This is generally another mug muffin because it is pretty much the only thing I can eat before working out that does not upset my stomach. So I will have one of those and an apple If I’m going to workout.

Otherwise, I will have a boiled egg and an apple or something small.

Dinner (6-7pm) / Post workout

Dinner is ALWAYS some kind of protein and vegetables… Sometimes I will have a carb if I’m feeling extra hungry that day.

Tuna and egg salad

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 boiled egg
  • 1/4 avo
  • salad greens (lettuce and cucumber)
  • olives
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • carrots

Dessert

*I take USN ZMA before bed for increased recovery, decreased fatigue and better sleep

I almost ALWAYS have dessert… because I get soooo hungry! These are my options:

  • 1/2 cup full cream yogurt mixed with some chocolate whey
  • Hot Cocoa made with 1 tbsp cocoa powder and 1 tsp honey in hot water
  • Mug muffin
  • Fruit

So there you have it! A typical day of eating for me.It really is still a work in progress and I am still trying to figure out the best way to go for myself with regards to macronutrient ratios. High fat diets just don’t do it for me so I tend to lean towards a high carbohydrate diet. But what works for me, may not work for you. As long as you are eating whole natural foods, keep experimenting until you figure out your optimal way of eating.

Breakfast Omlette

For those of you who are like me and LOVE sweet breakfasts, this one is to die for! its the perfect balance of protein and carbs and amazing as a post workout meal.

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 egg white

1/4 cup oats

1 tbsp cocoa

1 banana

1 tsp honey

Method:

  1. whisk the eggs, oats and cocoa together and add a splash of water. Pour the mixture into a hot pan and cook until almost fully cooked
  2. place the chopped banana on one side of the omlette and flip the other side to close it up.
  3. cook until the inside is fully cooked
  4. top with a drizzle of honey.

Strong is Beautiful

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For the first time ever the other day, a family member saw me for the first time in a couple of months and the first thing she said to me was, “wow Emma, you have gotten BIG!” She poked and prodded my shoulders and could not believe the size of me. To be honest, initially I felt a little offended and self conscious because I have never experienced that kind of… honesty? before. So I said to her, “Not big, just strong”. Her reply was “No, BIG!” I then ended the conversation and just walked away.

I know many women in the fitness industry, and especially Crossfit, experience this type of criticism and I applaud those ladies who manage to just brush it off and walk away with confidence. But, I can also see how it can negatively impact your own sense of self and make you question whether your physique is “normal” for a woman or even attractive.

After this encounter, I thought about it a lot and about how it made me feel about myself. I have always been confident in my own body and proud of the way I look as I have worked hard for my muscles and physique. But of course, like most people, I have my insecurities. After giving this situation a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that I am actually happy that she called me “big”. I figured that in her opinion, my physique is abnormal for a woman as she works in a very feminine industry and her own body shape resembles that of a classic woman- curvaceous and soft- so obviously my hard and muscular body was foreign to her. I am also working damn hard to build more muscle, especially in my upper body, so actually what she had to say was a compliment!

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Photo on the left was taken in 2010, photo on the right was taken December 2016

It fascinates me how many different ideals there are for the way women look. Men generally just have one ideal body type- lean and muscular. women on the other hand can be ‘curvy’, ‘skinny, ‘toned’ or ‘muscular’ and in all instances there are going to be negative and positive comments. But, what is apparent is the growing acceptance of muscular and fit looking women. Who said that girls can’t have muscles and be strong? Long gone are the days when women had to rely on men for everything. Physical fitness not only brings outer strength but also inner and mental strength which drive women to have to motivation and passion needed to succeed in a male dominated world.

So ladies, f#$k what the haters say… being strong is sexy. So embrace those muscles and walk around with confidence.

Building a strong base


Starting any kind of sport can be both exciting and frustrating. The same goes for Crossfit. Many people come into a box just wanting to get fit, loose weight or essentially move. Majority of those people change their goals to wanting to be more proficient in the skills and move away from asthetics. The problem comes in when those people realize how long those skills and strength takes to develop. 

For any sport you need to have a general base fitness before you can start moving on to the more skill based movement. Crossfit is the same… Ideally you need to build strength in basic movements such as strict pull ups, push ups and squats before trying to master the more advanced movements such as Kipling pull ups, muscle ups and clean and jerks. 

Skills and strength don’t just build over night. They take months and even years to develop, loads of practice, sweat, tears and possibly a little blood. I see many Crossfit members getting discouraged and frustrated because they are trying to achieve all these goals… But the one common problem I see is that they skip steps in trying to get to their goals. They want to do Kipling pull ups without being able to do a strict pull up and they want to do ring muscle ups before they have tried a ring dip. 

The body needs to adapt and evolve to every movement and motor pattern you start programming into it before it can become efficient in each movement. You can’t skip steps and expect to accomplish your goals.

double unders for the win

For me, I came to Crossfit being able to do strict pull ups, but it took me a couple of months before I could kip, and from there i spent weeks trying to do butterfly pull ups. A year later and I’m able to do a couple of bar muscle ups and I’ve hat recently got my ring muscle ups. 

It is a process. Enjoy the process. Do every step right and you will see changes and progress. There is a never ending amount of skills to develop, so be patient! 

have fun, be patient, enjoy the journey

Lifting heavy as a woman 


As a coach, I often hear women saying that they don’t want to lift heavier weights because they don’t want to look ‘bulky’. Honestly, I made this comment countless times when I first started Crossfit. I was content to snatch 25kg and press 30kg… Until I realized that going heavier not only felt amazing, but it did amazing things to my body. 

Let me tell you, I have been trying to gain muscle mass for months and it is bloody difficult! I am now able to snatch 52.5kg, clean and jerk 70kg and deadlift 120kg… And I STILL struggle to put on mass. 


For most women it is extremely difficult to gain a lot of lean muscle mass. To do so you have to lift extremely heavy and be very disciplined when it comes to diet and lifestyle. I am now starting to see some changes in my body, only because I have been making a concerted effort to gain muscle.

I promise you you’re not going to suddenly wake up with massive biceps and quads from increasing number your weights slightly. Weight lifting is extremely good for the body and has many benefits. Women shouldn’t shy away from being strong. You say you want to be lean?? How do you expect to do that without building muscle? Having a greater percentage of muscle mass also increases the metabolism… Therefore burning more fat stores… 

So seriously ladies… Try putting a little more weight on those barbells and let’s get strong together.

The Naked Athlete

The fitness industry is known for showing off their hard earned bodies in tiny pieces of clothing, and it appears that Crossfit is no different. Men whip off their shirts at any opportunity and women walk around in booty shorts and sports bras. If they are wearing clothes at the start of a workout, they are bound to start stripping down to as little as possible once they get going. I have first-hand experience in this because I do exactly the same thing.

In the bodybuilding industry it is understandable when super tanned, muscle bulging men and women walk onto the stage in tiny bikinis and speedos… they need to show as much of their hard earned work as they can. So why do Crossfitters like to run around in the smallest items of clothing they can find? Well, I’ll tell you why I think they do…

Crossfit is an EXTREMELY sweaty sport when you do it right. It involves very high heart rates, muscles that work extra hard to lift the heaviest weights possible, and multiple fitness domains being tested all at once. This leads to tonnes of sweat and a very high internal temperature. So, it is common sense that you would take your clothes off to cool your body down right? For me, as soon as I start heating up, my shirt comes off. It’s just too uncomfortable to have material rubbing against my body. The same goes for the length of my shorts… long pants retain the heat which is just too bloody uncomfortable.

And now you’re thinking… but all those elite Crossfit athletes have amazing bodies, of course they want to show off those abs of steel and whip their clothes off. Well, that’s sort of true too… they are clearly comfortable and happy with their bodies, which is just another reason for any non-elite crossfitter to get better. Added bonusà HOT BOD! I definitely did not want to take my clothes off when I first started Crossfit, no matter how hot I got. I was way too self-conscious to just run around in my sports bra. But that’s the beauty of the sport… the better you get, the more confident you become and the less you give a damn about what people think!

When I am working out, no matter how many people are around me and who they are, I will most likely take my shirt off (unless it’s the depths of winter- then maybe not!). It’s definitely NOT because I want everyone to see my body, it is simply because I feel more comfortable training like. It is really annoying when your shirt gets caught in the rowing machine, and when you do handstands and your shirt ends up covering your eyes.

So, if you’re ever in a Crossfit box and find yourself staring at half naked athletes wondering why they don’t have shirts on, this is probably the reason. While you’re wondering this, we’re probably asking ourselves how on earth you manage to train with all those clothes on!