How cats, sleeping, mutton and chocolate will all help you hit the CrossFit Open better.

Be a cat. Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat.

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Curiosity is the most powerful training tool I have ever held. I didn’t realise this until I lost it.

The only reason I set written goals – was because the coaches insisted on it. I didn’t take them seriously or drive towards them with anything resembling unrelenting vigour. It was an exercise in going through the motions to please someone else.

What led me to achieve those goals, may be slightly attributed to having written them down. I seriously don’t think it was though. I was taking the piss when I wrote down “Go to Regionals.” (Regionals was also much easier to fluke your way into back then.) The one thing that consistently got me not just at the gym, but engaged in what I was doing there, was curiosity.

Interestingly, one of the indicators to predict successful academic outcomes, and also employability is plain old curiosity. “Curiosity is basically a hunger for exploration” What it boils down to is when we find something we are curious about, we are more inclined to ‘do the homework’ required to learn more about it. Curiosity, I believe is the driver for intrinsic motivation. That also adds weight to the old wives tale “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” meaning, some people (and animals) have zero curiosity about the same things their coaches and teachers feel they should invest time and effort into learning. Don’t take it personally. Engagement in any deep learning requires the learners curiosity to be piqued. Find ways to make that happen and the horse will likely drink your water.

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With regard to CrossFit; My curiosity grew insatiable (before it disappeared completely for about two years). I used to wonder daily about what was possible. Back when pulling my chin over a bar seemed an insurmountable task – having a sense of wonder helped me to make consistent progress.

Like many interests we pursue in life, as we open one doorway, we generally find another five to explore. My curiosity with training and CrossFit was hinged on uncovering all the secrets along the way.  I evolved alongside my experiences and progress.. “How fast can I go?”… “How much can I lift?” …  “How many rounds can I squeeze into that time frame?”…. evolved into “Is it possible to..” questions. We would hang around the gym after the class jamming, playing, exploring for far too long in the early days.

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The moral of the story here is that the fun got lost when I found myself setting expectations of what I ‘should’ be on myself; Expectations are a curiosity killer. Which in turn took me further from caring about doing epic things.

The kicker, is I see this in other people often. People who are definitely capable of achieving that goal they have their heart set on. It’s just that they have given the goal too much of the wrong kind of power. If you lack curiosity and your not engaged in training or executing in competition you have to ask why the hell you’re even doing it. My best, I ever have been – I felt excited to get up early in the morning and leave work to train before and during nearly every training session. When I’m competing, curiosity and engagement looks like not adding in tactical breaks to pull up my knee sleeves, chalk my hands, or adjust my grips. I’m in a total state of flow – completely engrossed in the task. Beyond what we had programmed on the board, I’d be just as excited to see who would be there to play with. ‘The unknown’ wasn’t something to be feared – unknown didn’t equal falling short, or being incompetent of reaching my own impossible standards. This ‘unknown’ was more like not knowing what you’re getting for Christmas, but you wanted a bike and it’s shaped like a bike, sounds like a bike and is probably a bike… every day.

Sleep more, pay attention to what you’re dreaming.

This is a short one. There’s not much you can do to control what you dream about.

As a general rule of thumb, I only dream about things I care about.

When I’m really into something or curious about if its possible to do something, the decision has already been made to pursue it. From here my brain will build the path to make it happen, I feel that’s why I dream about those things. Example; I really badly wanted to get a muscle up. So much so, that I dreamt of myself flying up through the rings with effortless grace and weightlessness. I had ‘the muscle up dream’ every.damn.night for a month before I got my first one. During the day, I would be diligent about getting the progression homework completed. During the night, my sub-conscious mind would put it all together and consolidate the learning to help me along. The dreams made me crazy – in my dreams I already had them. In my dreams being the operative words there. Now I know better, as to why that happens. A study out of the Harvard Medical School, found that test subjects who dream about a challenging task performed it better than those who didn’t have such dreams.

Boom, dream more folks.

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Maybe she’s born with it, or maybe it’s Maybelline

Well informed people with much more experience than me, who have read and written screeds on the topic of achieving excellence have shared some common themed thoughts.  Factors influencing performance in the 1% include: Grit, resilience, drive, grinding, work and accepting pain. These are common essential ingredients from which champions are forged.

I believe that some people are raised that way, knowing how to work hard. “The Mutton Factor”. Doing something less than their all out at the time – is just not an option.  Other people have to read books about it, learn ways to try and transfer from other dimensions of their experience or develop those tendencies from scratch to overcome the self-limiting default setting they showed up in life with. “The Maybelline Factor”.

Maybelline athletes hurt my soul. A good training session is not looking broken-assed and dragging your way backward and blindfolded until its complete. Don’t train like that. I literally leave the gym when I feel that around me. It seeps into my own training wairua and sucks all the enjoyment from my session.

If you’re not seriously curious and excited to find out things like; how deep your tank is, or how far you can push. If common behaviour is to complain or sandbag your training, but, you also believe that doing tonnes of personalized programming will get you to the top; You’re dreaming (not the good dreaming). It doesn’t have to be like that. You may have your purpose outlined and made the decision, but your path is going to feel like walking on broken glass if you can’t find that curiosity to push the limit of what is possible.

It’s unrealistic to say that every training session is going to be sunshine and rainbows. But I do think that some people love to explore near every crevasse of what’s possible on good and not so good days. This intrinsic motivator helps them to reach those dark places where the wild things live, and thrive there.

How to combat being a Maybelline athlete; Give your training some purpose. Figure out a couple of things that you find super interesting and find all the ways and means to approach it until you’ve turned the puzzle over enough times for the door to unlock and you find yourself in a whole new dimension of training that you never knew existed. On a daily basis – in your training sessions – find ways to make everything a game in your head. I find games are fun, very distracting from pain, and they motivate me.

Tell Steve to take a break, have a Kit Kat.

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Finally, let’s talk about self-limiters. Everyone has them. That’s the voice in our head or more like our gut that tugs on our sense of reason and lets us know if something is way off. We need self-limiters. They assess the threat. Their like the nerdy, slightly overweight, button down shirt and a pair of khaki’s wearing, clipboard carrying – health and safety officer of your life. I call mine Steve. Steve’s job is making sure I’m scared when I need to be.  Steve’s sole purpose is to raise alarms when required and significantly influence whether I choose one of three things: 1. Pull my sleeves up and get stuck into it. 2. Run away. Or 3. Choke.

I went through a crazy training patch where I really learned what pain was. Steve showed up most days screaming at me. But eventually he went quiet, after he realised that once we are in the depth of pain, it really doesn’t get any worse. It just stays like that. Until you stop anyway. The contrast from moments after the work ends isn’t dissimilar to the immediate temperature contrast felt when you walk into the Super Liquor Chiller. Except this is a chiller full of pain and you grabbed the most expensive box of 24 types of cramp with lactic acid build-up and unrelenting discomfort which no measure of writhing and wriggling will ease.

Curiosity to play the game out is the key that keeps the health and safety Steve distracted for me. If you know how to work, and work hard – then wondering what is possible helps quell the 2nd and 3rd options from eventuating. These options are a seriously bad times, especially when you’re competing or trying to do something special. We can’t let Health and Safety Steve hold us back from expressing true potential. But he does need to be bribed well in order to turn a blind eye.

Especially during the Open Season.


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Zombie, Put the Screen Down


We’re living in the Past

We romanticize about being an active nation, full of people who are ‘go-getters’; Physically capable, rugged, can-do people. We’re not this. The Rise of the Device has changed the landscape for the next generation growing up in NZ today. The screen has captured the attention of not only the children of the future, but also their parents. Our dependency on social media has come at the cost of our physical literacy.


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The ANTI-SOCIAL Network –  Prince Ea

The Reality

The reality is that almost a third of secondary school students aren’t meeting the national guidelines for physical activity. 11 percent of our young people are obese and a further 22 percent are overweight. We have the fourth highest Childhood Obesity rates in the OECD. Shame.

Play.Sport Backgrounder

Today it’s as if presenting an image of ‘being physically activity’ to the world is fashionable. In fact, ‘the image’ is prioritized over actually demonstrating any form of physical activity. Heaven forbid one should sweat in that activewear. We’re more interested in putting today’s Nike outfit on our Snapstory then insta that #fitspo #selfie that took 25 takes to get just right.

The digital world has provided a platform for multiple realities to exist with ease. Social media in particular gives us the ability to construct any range of identities we can conceive – including identities which suggest we are more physically active than we really are.


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Prioritizing the importance of play and physical activity is becoming less important to my generation of digital natives raising children today. In fact our kids are the first generation ever to have a life expectancy shorter than us, their parents. 5 years shorter in fact.

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5 Extra Years

My Physical Literacy

Interestingly, despite the overall decline of physical activity – we New Zealanders have taken to the US based Strength and Conditioning program known as CrossFit like a duck to water. Currently, there are 117 independently owned and operated CrossFit Affiliates in New Zealand, we have one of the largest participation rates in the program per capita in the world. (At this point – it’s probably feasible to assume that everyone reading this knows of CrossFit or you know someone whose into ‘the CrossFit’. Actually, If you are reading this – then it is even more likely that’s you.) Regardless of the increase in participation in programs like CrossFit and CrossFit Kids – we, unfortunately –  are not the sum of the population.

I have been around people who take ownership for their health and well-being long enough to see how much of a positive impact prioritizing physical activity can have not only on their personal wellbeing, but the flow on effect it has for people around them. They are a pebble dropped in a pond. I do sometimes ponder if the appeal of CrossFit is limited to a particular sect of the community; people who are too competitive to play social sports but still thrive in the social environment provided by being part of a community of competitive practice.

My interest in being a part of the solution – instead of just harping on about the problem – has brought me to my current role working for the University of Auckland on the Sport NZ project. The aim is to foster an environment where we all enjoy lifelong participation in physical activity. For this to happen, we need to improve our physical literacy.

Physical Literacy is a holistic approach to developing a love for being physically active across all ages and stages of life and it involves much more than the physical ability to express yourself with competence. It incorporates the social dimensions of participation and enjoyment along with the mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions. For example: socially speaking, a huge barrier to participation in physical activity is having a lack of support from people around you and you are more likely to engage and enjoy being physically active if you participate in a group or with friends.

For me personally, I know that CrossFit has allowed me to express a love of being physically active across a time frame of 5 years so far. My physical activity levels are higher than they have ever been (post secondary school). CrossFit appeals to me because I am social, I enjoy the company of like-minded individuals past the physical element of  trying to compassionately kill each other in a workout. The people I have met and formed relationships with as a result of being involved in the “Sport of Fitness” have become bastions in supporting my social and mental/emotional well-being. This is a part of physical literacy.

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Being a part of the 1% of the population who compete at the Regional level of the ‘CrossFit Games’ means that having other athletes around who are on the same wavelength is important. Apart from the obvious benefits of having other athletes for training purposes and finding intensity in my daily training sessions – we have the same season calendar; Not drinking every weekend, rarely hitting the town and fitting in training around whatever other social events you have on can leave you pretty isolated. Especially isolating  if you don’t have people around you who are understanding and considerate of the sacrifices you make.

As I’ve moved through the experiential model of figuring out what works for me it’s no surprise that I have come to the conclusion that at least 60% of the reason I enjoy CrossFit is the social benefit I get from being involved.

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Sometimes I liken humans to zombies in an episode of The Walking Dead. The last concert I went to I looked around and thought about how all of us had come together to experience the same thing in a single cell environment. Some of us shared the day on our Snapstory with all our followers who weren’t there in an attempt to make them feel FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). As I glazed over the crowd of enthused festivalites I mused on how we can have a shared experience and not say a single word to another human for the entirety of the show. Crazy. Crazy Zombies.

That basically is how I feel about group fitness classes that have no element of Whanaungatanga. No connection. Single cells in a group. Operating in unison.

What I like about CrossFit is that the community element is a culture of practice ingrained in the rubber mats. There is no avoiding it. There are some bloody interesting people in a class of CrossFit enthusiasts. I definitely would not be able to scale the country or travel the Tasman without the authentic connections I have made with other people who are involved in CrossFit. I would argue this is the case for many types of physical activities, maybe even the group fitness kind – pumping and spinning away each day. In saying that, I played Netball for 20 years and social get togethers were always a bit hit and miss to organise and participate in. They usually came second to whatever was happening on the Rugby Calendar of home and away games. Our social events were always more successful when lined up with theirs – it was rural Wellsford though; Not really a thriving metropolis. The point I guess is that being physically active will allow you to make connections with people. Even the unlikely.

I remember just after I had started training in CrossFit there was one girl who was so staunch. She’d come from a kickboxing gym and she was tough – she had the shit kicked out of her in her last fight and decided to give CrossFit a jam with her hubby; an attempt to avoid more broken ribs. I didn’t think she liked me much. She took her time sussing me out from a distance before inevitably – we ended up great friends. Since then we’ve been halfway around the world, USA, Australia, NZ, we even have a soundtrack and she’s one of the first ones I want on my team in a  friendly competition. CrossFit removes the ability to form unsubstantiated assumptions about people working out across the room from you. Getting to know the people around you is great for removing stereotypical ideologies you may not know you carry about other people. CrossFit attracts all ages and demographics so it’s fantastic for challenging preconceived ideas and opinions. You can’t be Physically Literate in isolation. I don’t want to be a zombie. Physical activity will help you relate to others better.

Put the Screen Down

This brings me to the solution. I’ve never cared much for the specifics of how people choose to be physically active. As long as you personally find something FUN and worth pursuing, then that’s fine by me. I appreciate that things which appeal to me (like CrossFit) will not appeal to all, and even inside the activity I enjoy – the gym I choose to train at may not have the culture of practice which appeals to others. There is more than one way to skin a cat. There are 116 other CrossFit gyms to choose from.

One thing I am certain of – parents are the most influential role model for kids. Parents create “normal” for kids. If active parents are “normal” active kids are the result. I had lunch with a friend last week, we spoke of how she felt guilty that her kids were in the CrossFit gym for hours while she got her training done. She felt selfish.

I asked her if her kids are into and fitness stuff – She told me her 3 year old son said to her husband “Dad, I want to be strong…! Like MUM!” I would love to see more parents involved in their own physical activity, lead by example. Why do your kids always want your iPhone? Because you’re on it. They want to be like you. Put your screen down.

Let’s get back to simpler times, when we knew the neighbours by name, played kicks in the street – because it was fun and better than watching Hogan’s Hero’s reruns. Put the screen down. Just live in the moment for a minute and enjoy it for yourself instead of needing to ‘share’ it with an online audience – isolating yourself from the other people who took the time to experience that moment with you. Enjoy being physically active and up your physical literacy, so when you end up in a patch of no reception surrounded by zombies you can cope with interacting with other humans face to face. Even better – your improved physical literacy might even help you thrive. Mind you – I’ve always been a big fan of survival of the Fittest.

Apologies to my Old Mate.

I didn’t even know if I liked you to start with.

I was selfish with my time from the outset. You were something on the side. A little inconvenient to be perfectly honest.

Initially, there was definitely no way I would have ever considered changing my weekend plans to suit you, or even include you for that matter. How times changed.

I was selfish … from the outset

Finding out what was brewing underneath the surface with you kept me on my toes, you were a puzzle that kept evolving, right when I thought I had you solved you’d intrigue me all over again. Always one step ahead of me. Spending time with you was awesome, you made me feel good.

Somewhere in the rush of blood to my head, you became the first thing I saw in the morning, the last thing I saw to end my day. I thought about you constantly. Completely absorbed in you. I would plan my day, my weekend, when, where and who I travelled with – around you – and, of course, if you could come too. You made me happy, you supported me and made me feel important and confident in my own skin. I hated going anywhere without you, and eventually those who wouldn’t include you in plans were cleaved from my social stratosphere. It never occurred to me to be anything other than natural development of a normal relationship which I valued. To me, one thing had just led to another.

One thing just led to another

As we graduated through the ranks towards ‘serious,’ so too did my commitment. We travelled together everywhere. All over NZ, Australia, USA. You took me places I’d never think to go. I experienced things I’d never conceived possible.

I packed up my life and moved to a new country for you, I put my career on hold. That in itself is a notion I never entertained before, for any relationship.

Understandably, the reality of my choice was much harder than I anticipated. I spent a lot of time watching the clock. The hours scraped by as I scraped by. I had pared my life back to the bare essentials I needed. I found it hard to justify why I had given up working, uplifted my roots and relocated. My brother asked if I was having a quarter life crisis. You were no party either. You tested me, pissed me off, and challenged me. You hurt me. Ultimately you changed me; I grew. I learned a hell of a lot about myself because of you.
You taught me how to process pain, all sorts of pain. How to use it, meld it into something positive. I grew

I grew

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Eventually, it dawned on me that I was drowning. I looked at the sum of all my parts and discovered that too much of who I was, was made up of parts of you. Years had passed by in the blink of an eye. My immediate urgency to do something without you was overwhelming. Those feelings confused me, made me feel bad, ungrateful, disloyal.  I know, it sounds like I didn’t know how good I had it. Maybe I was suffering from ‘Grass is Greener’.

Obligation to be somewhere I don’t really want to be has never been a mask I can wear. At the bottom of it all, I just wanted some of my own space back. The infinite universe we lived in had become a very small bubble, and it had well and truly popped.

The infinite universe we lived in had become a very small bubble, and it had well and truly popped.

My blood simmered to a steady boil at what you had taken from me; time that I could have been with my friends who don’t know you. At their weddings, birthdays, the trips I passed up because you couldn’t come. My relationships with those people had fallen by the wayside since you came along. I was too busy or tired or I just didn’t feel like seeing them. So, I put you on ice.

So, I put you on ice

I took off all the time without you. With zero regard for you in fact. People asked about you, I nodded “Yea, it’s going good”
I put my friends first, not worrying at all about when I would see you again.
The feeling of fresh air, was epic. I discovered new loves and restored old ones. All the time apart made it harder to connect when I came back – I paid for it – big time. Things were hard. My solution, avoid you altogether.
Over time, my confidence in us crumbled. Our empire had fallen. I’m sorry for that.

Our empire had fallen

The last 5 weeks, I’ve been stuck with you because mutual friends wanted to do stuff together. I had no interest, I predicted it being a shit time.

It had been ages since I gave you that much of my time. I didn’t like you much any more, you were getting in the way. I didn’t even care what people thought when they saw us in our state of disrepair.

Interestingly, you were really fun. You were the old you. I started to remember all the cool things about you, and us.
It was hard being around you again. It felt awkward, disjointed. As we clenched our teeth and got on with it – familiar old feelings resurfaced – thankfully, without any of the pain. Like seeing an old friend. It was nice! I just got to enjoy you. More importantly, I got to enjoy you and have still have time apart from you.

Since then, I’ve started spending more time with you again and I like it. You are just as consistent as ever. Always there, never asking anything of me other than what I’m willing to give. You expect nothing from me and yet you still provide so much.
To your credit, you are the most stable and consistent relationship I have ever had. You never judge me, you’re patient, I do what I want and you’re always there when I come back.

I know I am better when you are in my life.

I gave up too much to be with you, But you never asked me to. Now I spend enough time with you to enjoy it and enough time away from you to look forward to your return. When we do meet, it’s intense. When I want you, I get to enjoy you and we accomplish some cool stuff. When I’m thinking about what I can learn from you instead of feeling paralysed by self limiting failure, I’m pretty good at you too.

I chose you because you make my life better.

Dear reader,

How is your relationship with training going?
Do you train to live better …. or are you living to train?