Be kind to yourself

The Crossfit Open is a time during the year where athletes can test their fitness, strength, skills and mental toughness. Many athletes sign up with the aim to make it to Regionals, others do it for the pure sense of community and because they love doing Crossfit. This year, I signed up for the Open because I wanted to see where my skills and abilities featured against the rest of the Crossfit world. I know I am nowhere near the best, but I am the best that I have ever been.

When 17.1 was released, all I saw was a shit tonne of dumbbell snatches and many burpee box jump overs in between, which happen to be quite a mental goat for me. After watching Samantha Briggs crush it in 10:14, I figured I could do it in under 15:00. Saturday abruptly arrived and it was time to face the burpees… and 150 dumbbell snatches. I started off feeling great and set a good pace. But, once I hit the set of 40, my back and hamstrings started screaming and it took everything I had to keep going.

Those last 50 snatches were painful and difficult and I slowed down A LOT! I took way too many breaks to try shake out my back and legs and ended up with a disappointing time of 18:20.

For the last couple of days I have been looking at the leader board as well as all the social media posts with everyone’s times and I just could not help comparing my score to theirs and kept telling myself how poorly I performed. I then attempted to redo the workout, but gave up in the round of 30 snatches. My back just was not having it.

Upon reflection, I have been way too hard on myself and have realised that ONE workout does not define how good of an athlete you are. I kept telling myself that I’m just not good enough because my score is so average. This is ridiculous negative self-talk that is not going to benefit me in anyway. I did the best that I could given the situation and there are four more workouts coming up where I can redeem myself.

I was punishing myself mentally and emotionally for not doing as well as expected. Don’t do that! Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and that is the reason we do things like the Open, so we can identify the areas we need to work on. Clearly I need to get stronger and increase my back endurance! Probably work on my dumbbell snatch technique too! But that’s OK! One of the reasons I do this sport is because you can never truly be done getting better. There is always something to work on.

So, morale of the story: Don’t be hard on yourself. Give everything 100%. If you didn’t do as well as expected, recognise where you went on, tell yourself it is OK, and move on. Failing is part of the journey to success. No one ever came out on top without failing first.

WOD (13/02/17)


I spent most of my weekend in bed as I had a pretty upset stomach (sad face) but it forced me to have two full rest days. So when Monday came rolling around my body was feeling pretty fresh but unfortunately my stomach was still quite upset. Nevertheless, I did the work and finished my training sesh! 

1. Front squat 5 min EMOM

3 @ 60%

3 @ 65%

3 @ 70%

2 @ 75%

2 @ 75%

– rest 1 min-

10 min E2MOM

2 @ 80%

1 @ 85%

1 @ 85-90%

1 @ 90% 

1 @ 90%

2. 12 min E2MOM clean and jerk @ 60-70%

3. 6 RFT

500m row

10 box over burpees

-1 min rest between rounds

>23:13 

The weight lifting did not feel great today but I blame that on the stomach bug. The cardio was alright, it’s just not my fave type of workout ūüėĚ 

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.

 

 

Why do we do Benchmarks?


In Crossfit, we like to measure our progress through various benchmarks, 1 rep maxes and general ability to do certain skills. But why is it important for us to do this? And how does it make us better athletes? 

Well the obvious reason as to why we do benchmark WODs such as “The Girls” and “Hero WODs” is to reveal our strengths and weakness and determine our progress as an athlete. We can then see if we need to improve our lifting, gymnastics or metabolic conditioning and even determine if we are lacking in any of the domains of fitness (strength, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, flexibility, endurance, accuracy or stamina. From there, we can then set specific and attainable goals. 

Benchmark WODs such as Fran, Nancy, Helen and Karen are used to test work capacity. 1 rep max power lifts such as backsquats test pure strength and 1 rep max Olympic lifts such as the Snatch and Clean test strength, power, flexibility and agility.

It is important to make a record of your different benchmark scores in order to keep track of your progress and achieve your goals. 

So, don’t shy away from testing your athletic potential. When you see a benchmark WOD or 1RM on the whiteboard, give it your best so that you know where your capabilities lie. 

Change- the one thing you can count on


In a world filled with uncertainties, change is the one thing that you can be sure of. Even those of us who play it safe will experience some sort of change… whether it is aging, new relationships or a new house. New experiences stem from change and that’s how we learn, grow and accumulate wisdom, knowledge and experience. 

Personally, I am not a stranger to change. I spent most of my childhood living in different countries and experiencing new cultures, schools, climates, etc. So I have grown accustomed to adapting to new situations. I love this quality about myself because it actually makes me want to create new experience and push myself to be better. 

A fitness journey, much like moving to a new town, has a multitude of phases in which an individual experiences different feelings and emotions which dictate their response and persuit of the changes that they face. There are good and bad phases. Sometimes you take a step back, and other times you take five steps forward. But the key to success is to keep going until you get the result or feeling that you want. 

The problem is that most people get disheartened when the changes they experience are not what they expected. Or if their goals don’t follow the timeline that they wanted. Majority of these people then give up and go straight back to square one… or their home town (in the case of moving). 

In the fitness world there should never be an end goal because there is always something more that you can achieve. You can always eat cleaner, conquer a new skill, take up a different sport or lift heavier weight. That’s the beauty of the human body… there are never ending capabilities. The trick is to never give up. 

Don’t let change scare you. It’s a natural progression of life and without it you will be stagnant. Whether it be in your professional career, in your relationships or in your fitness journey… keep moving forward and striving to be better. 

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.

Don’t Hit the WALL!

Have you ever looked at a workout and thought “chilled, I’ve got this one!” Then, five minutes into it you hit a wall. You’re dripping with sweat, you’re out of breath and your muscles seem to have lost all their ability to perform. Yup, I’ve been there. It’s not fun. But WHY does this happen?? How is it possible to feel insanely good in one workout and then completely and utterly useless in another?

Well, besides the fact that there are obviously certain elements to a workout that may favour or disadvantage you. Say, you are GREAT at heavy weight lifting, but when it comes to those sub 7 minute metcons you feel like you’re dying and your body is working against you. That’s just telling you to WORK ON YOUR WEAKNESSES! However, if it is a workout that you think you could crush, but for some unknown reason, it crushes you.. well that is likely to be a failure on pacing accordingly.

For me, one workout always comes to mind when I got my pacing strategy completely wrong. It was at a Crossfit team competition and I was honestly so excited for this workout because it had all my favourite exercises in it. We had to do 14 reps of deficit handstand push ups into 7 reps of overhead squats and the second part was maximum reps of muscle ups. I started the handstand push ups at full speed, made it to 8 and suddenly I could not push myself up anymore. I struggled through the last 6 reps, literally doing them one at a time. When I got to the overhead squats, I struggled to even get the bar above my head, let alone squat! Anyway, I eventually finished those two exercises and then it was my turn to do muscle ups. Well, this part was just embarrassing. After several attempts I managed to get a total of ONE muscle up, much to my dismay. I will admit, I shed a couple of disappointment tears after that one. But, this is a typical example of not pacing correctly. I went out way too hard on the handstand push ups which completely destroyed my muscle endurance for the rest of the workout.

So what is a pacing strategy and why do athletes use it? Athletes use pacing strategies during competitions and workouts in order to maximise performance and prevent failure of any physiological systems such as the heart and muscles. Therefore the athlete is self-regulated by an appropriate distribution of workload and energy in order to prevent early fatigue or significant deceleration late in the event (or early, like me!). A pacing strategy is a conscious and  unconscious system that uses knowledge of the end point of an event as well as memory of prior events to determine the best pace for a specific workout. The subconscious brain uses the predicted duration of an activity in order to determine the appropriate pace that can be maintained without hitting that horrendous wall we talk about. When the workout begins, physiological feedback is used to monitor the pacing strategy which tells us if we need to slow down (to preserve our physiology) or if we can speed up.

So, lets take Crossfit as an example. The workouts are constantly varied right? So how do we know how to set a good pace? If you have been doing Crossfit for a while, then you will know what it feels like to do a longer workout such as Cindy (20 min AMRAP of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups and 15 squats) compared to a shorter workout like Fran (21-15-9 thrusters and pull ups). You will also know what a more strength based workout will feel like in comparison to a metabolic conditioning workout. So using these past experiences as well as your current fitness and skill levels, you should be able to determine how fast you want to move throughout your workout. There are four types of pacing strategies most commonly used:

  1. All out pacing strategy: this strategy is generally used for very short workouts that last between 10-30 seconds and utilise the Phosphagen energy system such as a 100m sprint or Tabata intervals (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off). Sometimes, due to excitement and adrenaline, this strategy is used at the beginning of a workout that lasts longer than 30 seconds which ultimately leads to that very hard brick wall we all hate. So try save this pace for those sprint events!
  2. Slow start pacing strategy: this strategy is used by more conservative people or those who aren’t quite sure what kind of pace is required by the workout. Basically, the person starts the workout at a slow pace and usually maintains the pace, or sometimes increases it. This pacing strategy is often seen in individuals who are new to a specific sports. This is fine for the first and MAYBE second workout… BUT the individual soon needs to be able to adjust their pace in order to complete the workout at the desired intensity.
  3. Even pacing strategy: this strategy is used for shorter and middle time/distance workouts. The individual maintains the same pace throughout the workout but is still working at the desired intensity. This pace is ideal for workouts that are about 20 minutes or longer as they use the glycolytic energy system and therefore the athlete will be able to reach the end of the workout.
  4. Variable pacing strategy: this strategy is used for long distance/time workouts. The individual will receive feedback from their physiological responses (heart rate, breathing frequency, body temperature, etc) which given them an indication of if they should speed up or slow down throughout the workout. Generally, athletes using this strategy will start at a faster pace, then slow down, and speed up towards the end of the workout.

So, next time you you walk into the gym and look at that white board, or decide to do a triathlon (whatever floats your boat), think about what you are about to do and the best way to go about doing it in order to really get the best out of your workout. Because damn, hitting that wall is painful and occasionally embarrassing and tear jerking…