What does it take to become a better Crossfit Athlete?

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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.

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Struggling to snatch 25kg…. weighing around 55kg
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55 x 70kg deadlifts… weighing 58kg

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!

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The Crossfit Games Open 

  
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! 

 

bar muscle ups during 16.3
 
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.

  

crossfit grahamstown
 
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! 

International pancake day

I just found out it was international pancake day and obviously I’m obsessed with pancakes so had to make some! These little babies are the perfect preform out with a healthy combination of protein and carbs. 

  
Ingredients:

1/4 cup chocolate future life

1/3 cup oats

1 egg

1 egg white 

Method:

Combine all ingredients until mixture is a batter consistency. If it seems too runny, add more oats. Cook on a medium heat pan. 

Top with yogurt, honey and fruit

Protein muffins

  

Even though I’ve stopped eating whey protein, I made these muffins for my mom. I had a little nibbles and boy are they delicious! 

Ingredients

3 eggs

2 1/2 scoops chocolate why protein

1/2 cup oats

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

1 1/2 ripe bananas 

Method:

1. Blend the eggs and bananas together

2. Add the dry ingredients and mix together

3. Place batter into a muffin tin and bake at 180•c for 15-20 minutes until fully cooked 

Monday madness

  
I woke up this morning with sore shoulders from last weeks assault and tired legs from Suicide Saturday but walked into the box with the intent to crush the WOD. And I did! I am amazed at home much stronger I have gotten over the last two months!! It has translated into all aspects of my training. Today I felt particularly good as I was able to string together a bunch of chest to bar pull ups! 

It just goes to show how important it is to slowly progress and just keep at it!

  
Today’s workout was great!

Strength:

4-3-2-1 back squats @ 80% of max (65%) 

1-2-3-4 parter band run

WOD: 12 min AMRAP (1 min per exercise – 3 rounds

1. Calorie row

2. Bradford press (30/20kg)

3. Chest to bar pull ups

4. Hand release push ups

–> 176 reps

Whey too much! 

  
Two weeks ago I decided I needed to take a whey protein supplement to get some gains. So I bought a tub, fully aware of the fact that it didn’t sit well with me previously. But I figured my body has changed and will now respond well to it.

Boy was I wrong! After two weeks I have put on about 3kgs of bloat and my stomach is super unhappy. The whey protein I bought had tolerate in it which is meant to help for people who are lactose intolerant (such as me). Nope, it didn’t! 

I kept looking at myself in the mirror and wondering where all my muscles had gone. Instead of leaning out, I started looking puffy and like I had a layer of fat covering everything. This was despite the fact that I was training twice a day and eating a clean diet. Unfortunately that diet consisted of the whey which was a major problem!

So, I thought I would test this theory and went off of the whey two days ago. It made a remarkable difference! I recon I lost 1kg over night and my muscles reappeared! My stomach is starting to settle back to normal and I’m feeling a lot less bloated. 

 

left: 1 day before stopping whey. right: 1 day after stoppig whey
 
Just goes to show how much rubbish they put into supplements and how certain bodies just cannot tolerate it. 

So, I am now back onto whole foods to get my protein requirements… A lot of eggs and chicken! Which is perfect for me. 

Has anyone else had similar experiences when taking a supplement?

WOD: 11/01/16

 Edit   
I woke up this morning with very sore hamstrings and super tender biceps and lats! My upper body strength is definitely my week point but it is improving rapidly and I’m super excited about it! 

Strength: 8-5-5-3-3 deadlifts for accumulative weight

–> 70-85-90-100-100= 2036kg

WOD: 

Min 1-7 AMRAP 6 strict pull ups, 6 strict press (50/30kg)

Min 7-14 AMRAP 12 kipping pull ups, 12 push press

–> 176 reps

I then proceeded to do a HIIT class at 12:30 which further destroyed my arms but as always, pushed me to my limit. I get more scared for HIIT then I do Crossfit 😂

1. 8 min EMOM (45/15)

Odd: assault bike cals

Even: explosive push ups (50/20kg plate)

–> 96 reps

2. 8 min AMRAP

1 no handle sled push (10 reps) 

1 leg less rope climb (10 reps)

10 cal row

–> 130 reps