I get asked a lot "What's the secret?" Or "How many sessions do I need to do to make regionals, or the games?" People are always looking for an easy way out, or a formula of some kind when it comes to success - be it nutrition, training, aesthetics, performance or career.
The “big secret” for training and making the games is simply: train hard, train smart, train a lot and when you think you are finished you aren't even halfway yet! This is the backbone of success, but there are also a few other small things that have come into play with my making the games.
1. My Background
I started CrossFit in February 2011 at CrossFit Effects (CFX) Sydney Australia. I was coached and mentored by one of the best in CrossFit: Mick Shaw, who is also CrossFit’s Pacific Regionals director. His attention to detail is unparalleled, and came from his passion for the sport. As he had me educating his clients, you can guarantee he made sure I moved well. 3 weeks after starting with Mick, I competed in 11.1 - I had no idea what I was doing and didn't know how to double under yet. As a result, I placed 1300 - ish in the open that year.
Then, in 2012 I placed 47th, which earnt me the right to compete at the regionals to later take out 9th place.
Improving 1200+ spots in 12 months is quite a jump, and I know some people wonder how that was possible. To most, it may have seemed like I was in my 2nd season of CrossFit - but I believe what it came down to was that I was actually in my 15th season of competitive sports. Let me explain...
My parents encouraged all my brothers and sisters (3 sisters and 2 brothers) to play sports. I played soccer from age 5 through to 8 and started little athletics when I was 9. I learnt to sprint, jump, throw, catch and kick. You name it, I wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it WELL! Naturally I didn't enjoy losing. Maybe it was having a healthy competition with my brother, who is 11 months older?
I was taken by athletics, and I wanted to go to the Olympics for every event under the sun! High jump was my favourite. I also loved shot put and the 100m sprint. Little did I know these skills would come in really handy later in life.
From athletics I moved onto Rugby League. I adapted quickly. I used the speed I'd picked up from athletics and turned it into an almost unfair advantage in little leagues. As I got older I set goals just like I did when I was 10 years old and wanted to go to the Olympics, but this time I wanted to play in the NRL (National Rugby League). Being in a competitive environment, I met other people who wanted to excel in the sport, and noticed they were catching up with my speed and general ability/skills. I was determined to bridge the gap again, so what was I to do? Train!
It was really from that point that I realised the positive effect that general training could have on my performance, so from the age of 14 I began weight training. I attended the gym 3 - 4 times a week and ran most nights. I rode my bike to my after school job just to add in some bonus points. I was looking to better my performance at every opportunity.
Over time I started lifting heavier weights and getting faster in my running. All because I wanted to make representative Rugby teams. By the time I was 16 I had about a 100kg bench press, 130kg back squat and 150kg deadlift. By the age of 20 I was pressing 140kg, squatting 170 and deadlifting 220. On the other hand I also had a PB in the 3km of 9.45.
I know my attitude towards training has helped me immensely. When most people hear 3km time trial, they think "fuck that!", whereas in my mind all I thought was "fuck yes". I enjoyed it so much that I'd run a 3km time trial every other week along the esplanade at Seaford because I so badly wanted to improve. The need to always be the best was what got me going! It was never a matter of "oh man I've got to run". I wanted to, and I did. Never any excuses. I vividly remember asking a few mates to run with me, only to be met with "Nah it's going to be raining". Well, I ran that night and it was one the best runs I ever did! Pouring rain, thunder, lighting and a shit tonne of energy to burn. (At this point I would like to add that I am not ALWAYS mega pumped for every session because that's far from the truth, but what I am saying is that deep down you’ve got to love it).
During a rugby preseason in 2011 I found CrossFit, and my intention with it was to improve my rugby! My doubles were non existent, my strict pull sets of 15 were non-comparable to most, and my overhead squat... don't get me started! It took time but I was consistent, competitive and still had that love for training! I learnt the basics, mastered double unders in 4 weeks post 11.1 and went from a 20kg overhead squat to a 100kg over squat in very little time.
The reason I excelled in such a short space of time, was because I was converting my pre existing fitness into CrossFit Fitness. In general, a lot of this has over lapped, as we know CrossFit is constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity. I had basically been doing this from the age of 5.
The Split Jerk came very easy for me. Early 2011 (and only a few weeks into CrossFit) the class program was: 1RM split Jerk in 12min. I asked Mick what a really good number was for this lift. He replied that "the top guys would be at 120kg or more” and added “that's what I lift”. Well, little did he realise, but by telling me he lifted that, he inadvertently challenged me to a little competition. I accepted, and worked up to and hit 120kg on my first ever Split Jerk 1rm attempt. I put it down to sprinting a lot as a kid, squatting from an early age and always working my midline.
I did this for 12 months. Adapted, learnt new skills, increased training volume and got better at CrossFit!
Since I made regionals in 2012, it unexpectedly lit a fire inside me to go to the games! I couldn’t shake it - it seemed like the ultimate test, and I needed to be there.
I started training more and more. I moved home to Adelaide to open my own gym to not only spread the love of fitness, but to also allow myself to do what I enjoyed: train and see how good I could get. I soon found Raw Strength and Conditioning who, in my opinion, is the absolute best in the biz. His workouts are fun, different and brutal! What I realised was that the programming I had been following previously was about half the volume that I needed to be doing. This came as a huge shock to me but I lapped up every extra session I did. I knew that this was what I needed to unlock greater potential.
Since then, we have built and built and built… and finally after 5 years I made the games in 2016. It was a long time coming, and included a lot of hard work and consistency. I also realised that with the hard work comes hard recovery! The competition is constantly growing and it's a full time thing if you want to make the games - and it needs to be a full time job in your mind too! Yes we train 3-6 hours per day and do all the recovery, but mentally, you are also always thinking about it.
One of the most important things is you MUST enjoy the process. Think about the reasons you started training in the first place. For me I just loved being strong, fast and I loved seeing my body and mind get better and better. I had a little tick that made me want to push myself to see how great I could be overall. It's like a project, and it made want to train, which I loved doing and still do. The workouts are hard and gruelling, but ultimately they are FUN! At the end I always think ‘man that was good!’ and to add to all of this is I loved to win!
I guess what I am trying to say is there’s no secret. No magic pill or no regime to follow that gets you from A to B. It comes down to your mental state - how much do you love what you do? How badly do you want it? Why do you want this? If you can start to answer these questions it may become clearer to you.
Along with your mental state of mind, these are just as important:
Eat real food
Train really hard and train a lot
Recover even harder
Enjoy the process
Find a great coach
Find a great gym with like minded buddies
a background in sport is ideal if you want to make the games these days!