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.
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
1 Tbsp oats
1/3 scoop chocolate whey protein
mix in a mug and microwave for 1 minute. Top with some honey.
Breakfast/Post workout (7am ish)
Protein Oats and Banana/Apple
1/2 cup raw oats
2/3 scoop whey protein
mixed seeds and chia seeds
1/2 cup almond milk
Cook oats on the stove in about 1 1/2 cups of water (I just keep adding until I get the consistency I want).
Mix the egg in when oats starts to boil
Add whey powder once oats has cooked-off of stove
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
1 grilled chicken breast
1/2 boiled beetroot
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Grill chicken. I spice it with turmeric and some lemon and herb chicken spice.
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 cup kale
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup mixed frozen berries
1/2 cup water
Blend all ingredients together
Chicken ‘noodle’ salad
1 grilled chicken breast
1 zucchini spiralized
1 carrot spiralized
1/2 boiled beetroot
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Food Works salad dressing (natural)
1 small sweet potato diced
Place diced sweet potato in the microwave for 2 minutes until cooked.
Stir fry the zucchini, carrot, tomato, sweet potato and balsamic vinegar until vegetables are just cooked
assemble ingredients in a bowl and top with salad dressing
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
1 can tuna
1 boiled egg
salad greens (lettuce and cucumber)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
*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
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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 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.
Too hot for clothes
Shirts get in the way
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!
I have been doing Crossfit for a little over a year now. Prior to that, I was a personal trainer and die-hard bicep curler. I thought I was fit. I thought I was strong. I even thought I was pretty muscular. Boy was I wrong! I have always been sporty and I can’t recall a time in my life when I have been inactive. I played first team netball in school and made it quite far in athletics (sprinting and javelin), but I never had the discipline or the passion to pursue any of those sports further.
Then along came Crossfit. I fell head over heels for this sport of fitness and all I wanted to do was get better… at EVERYTHING! Now, when you have never been a gymnast or a weightlifter it’s pretty hard to get good at everything in a short amount of time. It didn’t take me too long to catch on to the gymnastics side of things. I was able to do the simple moves such as kipping pull ups and handstand push ups within a couple of months. But as for the weightlifting, that took A LOT of time and dedication. Only now, a year or so later, can I say I have seen some real improvement in my strength.
Developing an engine is another vital component to Crossfit. It is what allows you to push through those WODs at a steady pace without hitting a wall. I can definitely say that my engine has increased, although I still need to work on maintaining those longer duration WODs, especially when it comes to cardiovascular exercises like rowing and running… oh and that damn assault bike!
When I started crossfit I was pretty puny. I think I weighed around 54kg, and I am now sitting at my heaviest I have ever been of 58-60kg (I don’t really ever get on the scale so I’m guestimating here)! But I know that it is purely muscle mass. I love seeing my muscles grow and feeling my strength just continue to increase. It makes me feel so confident and powerful, like I can do anything I set my mind to.
So how do you improve? How do you get better at all these different components? There are SO many exercises and domains of fitness that you need to improve, how do you go about targeting them ALL?? The following advice comes from my own experience in Crossfit and my progress through the last year.
1. First of all, you need to set some goals. What is it that you really want to achieve? Perfect your double unders? Get a muscle up? PB your deadlift or 2.5km row time? Whatever it is, write it down. Even if you have 10 goals! Start working on each of them one by one. Go into class early and practice. If it is a gymnastic goal you are aiming for (Pullups, muscle ups, double unders, handstands, etc.) you NEED to keep practicing. These movements require all the practice in the world to perfect, and once you get it, DON’T STOP! Weightlifting comes down to pure increases in strength. If you aren’t adding weight onto your bar incrementally, you are not going to get any stronger. If you aren’t RXing WODs, start trying to push yourself closer to those weights until you are able to do the recommended weight. Just ensure that when your weights start increasing, your form does not start decreasing. Whatever you do, do not sacrifice form and technique for heavier weights. You will end up hurting yourself and that technique is actually what allows you to lift that extra 5kgs!
Trust me, I made that mistake early on in my Crossfit career. I got ahead of myself and thought I was stronger then I actually was and kept injuring my lower back. Injuries are horrible and prevent you from being able to workout, but they also teach you some valuable lessons about SMART training. Once my back felt better, I started from the bottom again and worked my way up with the weights. Today my body feels amazing! No niggles or pains (only muscular from DOMs- delayed onset muscle soreness- which is normal) and I am currently sitting with a 120kg deadlift, 85kg back squat and 65kg clean and jerk. But not to worry, these numbers will keep increasing, but slowly. No need to rush the process… enjoy the journey.
2. Nutrition is an EXTREMELY important component of your training. If you aren’t supplying your body with the right kind of food or enough food for the volume of training you’re doing, you are unlikely to see results. If you are someone who ‘forgets’ to eat (I really don’t understand how you do that, I forget NOT to eat), then you NEED to change that habit. If you have no fuel in the tank, how do you expect your body to work and recover? If you are someone who enjoys their junk food and take outs, I suggest you quit that nasty habit. Not only are you giving your body the WRONG fuel source, but you are starving your body of vital nutrients for normal daily functioning. Sugar, bread, processed foods… quit that shit! Opt for good quality protein (chicken, fish, lean beef), fresh fruits and vegetable and (if you have to) good quality grains such as oats and quinoa. STOP EATING MAN MADE FOOD!
I have played around with my diet quite a bit over the years to find out what works best for me. I tried a high carbohydrate diet which is great for high intensity workouts as it stores fast releasing energy, but when it comes to those long gruelling workouts, I ran out of fuel. I then tried the high fat diet, but that just made me feel sluggish and I put on a bit of weight. I am now on a diet which makes me feel really energetic and strong. It is very high in protein, moderate in fat and low in carbohydrates. I find that the protein really helps my muscles regenerate faster and the moderate amount of fat fuels me for endurance. I only eat carbohydrates pre and post workout as it gives me the energy I need for the high intensity aspects of my workouts and then helps replenish my glycogen stores in my muscles after my workout. A day of eating for me usually looks like this:
Pre workout (morning): Protein mug muffin (egg, oats, protein powder microwaved in a mug)
Post workout breakfast: ½ cup dry oats (cooked) with one egg, ½ scoop whey protein and half a banana
Snack: 2 egg omelette
Lunch and pre workout: Chicken and vegetable stir fry
Post workout: Protein shake with half banana
Dinner: Chicken/lean mince and veg stir fry
Its pretty boring I know, but I like routine so I pretty much just eat the same thing every day. That way I know if my diet is working for me and if I need to tweak anything. I get my fat mainly from coconut oil and eggs as all the other alternatives (avo, bacon, nuts, etc) are rather expensive and my little student budget can’t quite keep up with that.
3. Consistency! We are nothing without consistency. If you decide one week that you are going to do anything to get that damn muscle up, then the following week your motivation dwindles and you take a couple of days off, you’re going to go nowhere slowly. If you let your frustrations get the better of you, that will drive you to quit. Have patience with what you want to achieve. You know what they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I have been working on my muscle ups (ring and bar) for months now and I STILL have a chicken wing. But you know what? I got my first strict ring muscle up yesterday (even though I chicken winged up), but it still counts as progress! Celebrate every little step forward that you take. Every bit counts and you should be proud of that. If you feel like the programming in your box is not supporting your goals, chat to the coaches and I’m sure they can give you alternatives that will supplement your objectives.
There is so much more that goes into achieving what you think is the impossible, but these are the first steps. Start working on your goals, nutrition and consistency and the rest will follow. Another thing that helps is research. Google and YouTube are my best friends when it comes to bettering myself. There are millions of resources out there that show you step by step guides on achieving any exercise. The internet is your oyster!
Now go out there and tick off those goals. Get stronger. Get leaner. Get better!
For those of you who are die-hard Crossfit fans, you will know exactly what the Crossfit Open is. But those who have no clue what I’m talking about, the Open is the first stage of the Crossfit Games. It is a global, 5 week competition of fitness that consists of one workout per week. Each workout is released weekly and athletes have 4 days to do the workout and log their scores. The workout can be done as many times as one wants as long as a qualified judge with you to ensure that each rep performed is to standard. The top ten of each region then moves on to compete in the regionals, where only a few from each region will qualify to compete in the Crossfit Games (the Super Bowl of Crossfit)
We are currently in week 3 of the Open, and so far the workouts have proved to be a true test of fitness. 16.1 brought us immense glute pain with 20 minutes of nonstop lunging, burpees and chest to bar pull ups. 16.2 was a true test of strength and speed with a combination of increasing weights squat cleans, toes to bar and double unders. We are now amidst 16.3 which is seriously testing our grip strength with a super quick AMRAP of power snatches and bar muscle ups. So far I have really enjoyed each workout and have done better than I expected to do. At the moment I’m sitting at 69th in South Africa in the RX women’s division which I did not expect at all!
I have learnt so much from the open so far with regards to my training and mental stamina. It truly highlights your strengths and weaknesses and forces you to push yourself past breaking point. I have realized what I need to work on for the next Crossfit open as I am determined to make it to Regionals in the next 3 years.
The most amazing thing about the open is how it brings communities together and allows people from all levels of fitness to put themselves to the test. Each workout has a scaled option which anyone can do. As a coach, I love watching each athlete push themselves to their limit and fall even more inlove with the sport of fitness.
If you are competing in the Crossfit open, I would love to know about your experience so far. As for 16.4…there are bound to be wall balls coming up! Bring it on Dave Castro!
I’ve had my fair share of negative thoughts and they still do cross my mind every once in a while. Last year I went through one of the hardest times of my life when my boyfriend of five years broke up with me. My life as I know it did a comple 180 and I was pretty harsh on myself for quite a while. It didn’t help that I was, and still sometimes do, struggling with my skin… So negative self talk became quite a problem for me. This translated into every part of my life… My varsity work, friendships, workouts and my perception of myself. For a couple of weeks I was a mess and did not see myself in a good light at all.
After reading multiple articles, watching many YouTube videos and of course a lot of encouragement from my family (especially mom) and friends, I finally started seeing the bright side of life. It clicked that I had to change my mindset of myself and my capabilities. I needed to stop bringing myself down and concentrate on the good aspects of my life and myself instead of constantly picking on everything that I thought was bad.
Slowly but surely I began replacing my negative thoughts with positive ones… And you know what? Everything started to get better. My training began to improve- I was getting stronger without having to torture myself. I started feeling more energetic and happier. Good people started coming into my life and I began making new friends.
I truly do believe in the power of your mind. You can do absolutely anything you set your mind to, but you have to be positive and stop doubting yourself. Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself these things everyday and I promise it will change your life
“I am beautiful”
“I am strong and capable”
“I am happy”
“I am energetic and positive”
Be the best version of yourself. Yes, you will have bad days. Embrace them. Don’t pretend, feel the pain and sadness but then let it go and find that happiness again. Life is a wonderful journey no matter what path you’re on.