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)
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.
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!
There are so many things in life that a person sets out to achieve, but usually they set their sights on things that they think are attainable rather than what they truly want to aim for. This is not a breeding ground for success.
I have always set my sights high for what I want to achieve in life, such as owning my own island (far fetched to some but I believe I will own one). I have found that these goals have pushed me to try harder in other aspects of my life.
Starting Crossfit has proved that things i previously thought to be impossible, are in fact possible! I never thought I would be able to do a muscle up, handstand push up, kipping pull ups or even rope climbs let alone lifting the weights I’m able to do now. And the beauty of it is that I’m only going to get better and accomplish even more!
These accomplishments have translated into every day life and have made me want to push even harder to achieve my career goals as well as my relationship goals.
Morale of the story: Anything is possible if you set your mind to it, but you have to start with the small things so you can train your brain to believe in the bigger things!