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. 

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

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!

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