The 4Ever Fitness team is really pleased to be able to interview Francesca and provide our readers with some valuable input for her! so here’s a little bit on Francesca first.
I am a 40 yr old mother first and foremost, however I live and breathe CrossFit and CrossFit Worcestershire. I started training when i was just 13yr’s old and lied about my age to take part in an exercise class at a local leisure centre. I left school with absolutely no qualifications as I was not interested in academia in any shape or form. After the usual gym background, teaching ETM and personal training etc etc I started competing in half marathons and triathalon’s. I completely fell out of love with training by the age of 33 and decided to go back to University as a mature student. I continued to teach and work full time while continuing with my degree. I then graduated as a sports therapist, started my own business, quickly stumbling upon CrossFit 3 years ago and since then i have never once looked back. I have never felt so happy, challenged and excited about learning, training and coaching. CrossFit is constantly varied and this is the way i love to live my life as a whole.
Q1) Can you tell the 4Ever Fitness readers a little more about CrossFit please?
CrossFit is an intense exercise program including dynamic exercises like plyometric jumps, and Olympic lifts while using non-traditional weightlifting equipment such as kettlbells, sand-bags, gymnastic rings and skipping. CrossFit is structured in such a way that the person is required to do a certain number of repetitions (reps) in a workout within a specific time. Those CrossFitter’s taking part in group training will actually compete against each other to see how fast they can complete the workout of the day (WOD). Due to the intensity of the exercises in a CrossFit WOD, there are many benefits for every person be it beginner or athlete. However if the exercises are not done with good form and coaching they could potentially risk injury. Before beginning a CrossFit program always complete a foundation course in CrossFit and the fundamental movements. this will help you to learn how to perform the movements required for the WOD’s . Firstly the necessary joint mobility (especially at the ankles, hips and shoulders) as well as joint stability (particularly in the core region) are taught alongside the 9 foundation movements. This is so the individual can learn how to effectively perform, squat, pushing, pulling and rotating movements. The explosive and plyometric exercises in a CrossFit WOD require rapid lengthening and shortening of muscles so the individual must take the time to develop the necessary flexibility and movement skills first.
Many of the benefits of CrossFit are due to it’s intensity and power based movements. These movements are essential in increasing the metabolism, while simultaneously improving aerobic fitness and promoting the anabolic hormones such as testosterone, which is responsible for muscular growth and could have an anti-aging effect. CrossFit is an excellent workout program for all, young and old and is a great way for the experienced exerciser or athlete to add much-needed intensity and diversity to their program.
Q2) What is it like competing in CrossFit games? and can you tell us about your success over the last few years?
I have competed in the online qualifier’s for regionals in Copenhagen and it’s good fun, great for team spirit, but pretty tough. Each week for 5 weeks a WOD is released, which increasingly get’s tougher week on week. You have a week to complete each WOD to the best of your abilities, and these attempts must be judged by a coach at an affiliate box or if not recorded and submitted online. Those scores are added to everyone else’s in your region e.g. europe, and at the end of the 5 weeks the top so many athlete’s are invited to regionals. If the athlete’s make it through regional’s the next stage will be world games in the USA. A box which is what we call the (gym) can also enter team’s so if all the member’s of the box do well it is also possible to enter a team into this truly amazing competition.
Q3) What success have you seen with your health and fitness levels by doing CrossFit?
The success I have achieved is due to the massive improvement in my fitness level’s and after the age of 40 these usually and (i use that term loosely) start to reduce, however, I have made massive improvements. I could only clean and jerk 40 kg last year and now I can clean 60kg and jerk 57.5kg. I am happy with that, as, that is body weight and more. Aesthetically, however my whole body shape has changed. I am a lot leaner and I feel fitter and stronger than ever, I couldn’t even do a handstand against a wall when I started, now I can do handstand push-up’s. I have recently achieved a muscle up, which for me took over a year, but, you definitely can teach an old dog new trick’s if they are willing to learn and want it enough.
I have seen other people also achieve amazing things. Including one of our first members ever who came to us off the back of doing hoola hooping classes at a local leisure centre, which is in itself a great skill so I’m not knocking it. However, she went on at the age of 50 plus to take part in last years Master’s European competition for CrossFit held in Cardiff and came second in her category after only taking part in CrossFit for a year. She also is a full time mum and care worker. We have many story’s like that one including people CrossFitting to lose weight or to improve their health or confidence. What i like is that the room can be a mix of athlete’s and beginner’s, mature ladies and gent’s, young and old, however everyone is working in a similar way the only difference might be that the exercise, weight or time may be reduced called scaling.
Q5) Explain a typical day in your diet?
I try to eat healthy Monday to Friday this is called eating clean, I eat nut’s berries and egg’s for breakfast, protein recovery shake and chicken post WOD. Then some vegetables and chicken for evening meal. On a Weekend I have cheat day or two and eat dirty which is where I pretty much have my treats. I hardly ever drink alcohol purely because it makes me feel bad and I don’t truly like the taste that much. I do like the odd glass occasionally though don’t get me wrong and the odd pear cider is scrummy on a hot day.
Q6) Whats a WOD and which is your favourite?
A WOD is a workout of the day abbreviated to WOD. The whole wod will be posted online on our website or on the main HQ site in America and everyone will partake in that workout. Some WOD’s are benchmark workout’s named after females. I would obviously say my favourite is FRAN however that would be a lie as she is one of the most prolific, but one of the nastiest, and consists of 21-15-9 repititions of two exercises, a thruster (front squat into over head press) and a pull-up. The weight on the barbell is usually RX, which means is is prescribed to be executed at a specific weight for men and for women. However, you can scale the weight down if necessary to a lighter olympic bar and exchange the pull-up’s for a variation on the exercise, e.g. jumping pull-up’s or possibly ring row’s. CrossFitter’s may frequently ask each other what their Fran time is! Other workout’s include, Annie, Dianne, Karen all of which are very tough workout’s. Hero Wod’s are also workout’s written in honour of CrossFitter’s that have lost their life in the field or doing something that was courageous, e.g. like the teacher who saved children in the shooting in the USA school recently. We WOD together to remember these individual’s, with specific dates and times linked to the individual which are used to create the number of rep’s, rounds or volume of work executed. This is the CrossFit community’s way of paying respect and in remembering those people. My favourite WOD is probably Helen, as it’s gassy (aerobic) and not too heavy, but I also like Annie, which is double under skip’s and sit-ups 50-40-30-20-10 for time.
If someone wanted to try CrossFit for the first time I would say go for it. It will change your life, get you in the best shape of it and make you a whole new group of friends who are the nicest bunch of people you will possibly ever run into. Look for the closest box to you and most of them run foundation classes, usually giving the first session free !! CrossFit Worcestershire run foundation classes every night of the week at 7 p.m. the first session is free. It’s not just a fantastic sport and fitness tool, it’s a lifestyle change and an investment in your long term health and wellness.
Q8) What benefits would athletes gains from doing CrossFit or should they stick to their own training plan?
CrossFit has many part’s to it so the skill and strength transfer into other sports is obvious. Rugby players use CrossFit in the training regime, and we now are starting to see boxer’s, martial artist’s and football players utilising the training style too. Any athlete will see improvement’s from taking part in CrossFit in some way shape or form. Even down to the mobility WOD’s which are designed to improve stability, flexibility and posture.
I am not a big reader as cannot really sit still long enough, but the book I do have is the paleo cook book which is great for those wanting to cleanse the system and start the road to complete health inside and out. It’s got healthy recipe’s and they are designed to re-educate the reader about nutrition, sweet potato brownies are the way forward.
Q10) Finally what would be your top 4 tips for anyone wanting to make improvements to their health & wellbeing?
My top 4 tip’s are:
- Train to high intensity 4-5 day’s a week, with constantly varied movements.
- Eat healthy and clean ommitting white bread, pasta and rice, and substituting it for sweet potato and brown rice.
- Try to reduce the alcohol content and do not drink on a school night.
- Enjoy what you do, never ever do anything that you don’t ultimately like doing as this is never going to be sustainable. Love what you do and then you never ever feel it’s an effort.
One last word, please try new thing’s as this is the only thing holding you back from achieving success.
The team at 4Ever Fitness would just like to thank Francesca for such an in-depth q&a and for sharing some of her remarkable achievements.