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.

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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.

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…

Cut the CRAP!

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As a Crossfit Coach, fitness fanatic and overall health observer, I cannot tell you how often I hear people talking about what diet they’re on, which ones they have tried and how they have failed over and over again. Let’s face it, weight loss seems to be one of the most reoccurring ‘New Years Resolutions’ known to man! And why? Well, the unfortunate truth is that majority of the human population is heading towards obesity due to a sedentary lifestyle and horrendous food choices (if you can even call most of the garbage on the supermarket shelves ‘food’). Of course people WANT to lose weight, but lack of knowledge and understanding of how the body works prevents them from achieving these goals. What also does not help is the constant exposure to the MANY different diets that claim to give you a banging beach ready body in 6 months or less.This is crap! Firstly, when people go on these diets they do tend to lose weight, BUT due to the restrictive nature of the plan, the weight returns 90% of the time. Secondly, these diets do not teach you to eat a balanced and healthy diet. Most of the time, at least one food group is cut from the plan, whether it be fat or carbohydrates. In my mind this is just bizarre. Our bodies were designed to utilise all three of the main macro-nutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats… so how does it make sense to discard one of them???

I could spend all day writing about this topic, but I am going to try keep it brief. Please note that this post is purely based on my opinion which stems from studying a BSc and spending the last five or so years growing my career in fitness and health as well as test driving a bunch of different diets myself!

Right, here it goes! Dieting is BULLSHIT! The word ‘diet’ is scary right? It makes you think of unflavoured chicken, broccoli, brown rice, a couple of carrot sticks and maybe an egg or two. OR, possibly a diet that consists of ONLY vegetable juice??? Perhaps you’ve tried low carb high fat? OR, high fat low carb?? How about fasting? Did you try counting your calories and weighing your food? I could go on… but you see how all these different options can be overwhelming and confusing?

Ok, enough with the question marks. Here is what I think the key to successful weight loss and lifelong health: Eating a health and balanced variety of foods. Simple. Stick to natural, fresh, unprocessed foods and I promise you, you are on your way to a better life already. STOP buying the junk in the middle of the supermarket (packaged food, processed food, sugar laden food… anything with more than three ingredients, GET RID OF IT!). Oh, and you know that tasty fried chicken you get once or twice a week? BIN IT! Lets stop lying to ourselves and pretending like these foods are OK, they’re not.

Many people struggle with making changes to their lifestyle because they have become accustomed to the habits they have formed. But that’s just it, they are only habits and if you want to make a change towards becoming a healthier version of yourself, you must break the habit. If you’re like millions of the other people out there who actually struggle to decipher which foods are good and bad and what to actually eat, well you’re in luck. There are so many people out there willing to help you (such as myself), but you have to be willing to ask for the help and ready to take on the challenge.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s going to be difficult. Breaking old habits and trying to readjust your taste buds is HARD! I know, I did it! I had a horrendous diet when I was younger, but I got a wake up call and had to teach myself how to eat clean. I am now at a turning point where I’m having to re-learn how to eat to fuel my body as an athlete which is a whole other ball game!

Although it is tough, I can promise you this… It is completely and utterly worth it. Your entire being will change as you start to adjust to a new lifestyle. You will have more energy and confidence. You will feel stronger, have a clearer mind and have an overall greater sense of happiness. In fact, weight loss is only a small side effect of converting to a healthy lifestyle.

So what are you waiting for? Get rid of the CRAP and start eating real food.

P.S. Keep a look out for the next post which will include a general day of eating for me (I eat a TONNE) and healthy meal options for general health and well being.

 

 

 

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.

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!