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Health

Life Lessons To Learn From The 2020 CrossFit Games Athletes

Wisdom from the superhumans themselves

From the 18th-25th of September, The Olympics of the CrossFit world took place, albeit in an unusual, Covid-19 restricted fashion.

This year, the top five male and female athletes competed at the CrossFit ranch in Aromas, California instead of the larger group of athletes who normally compete in an arena.

The Games took place over a weekend and was live-streamed on the CrossFit YouTube channel, for the world’s eyes to watch the events unfold. I spent more hours than I would like to calculate, watching the superhumans put their hard work to the test and compete for the title of World’s Fittest Man and Woman.

Here are Life Lessons that you can learn from the CrossFit Games Athletes of 2020:

1. Give everything you do 100% effort even if you don’t have to

The athletes began the competition by giving each event a 100% effort. As the games progressed, some athletes didn’t need to really give it as much force, such as Mat Fraser. He had already secured first place and could have easily tapered his efforts. Regardless of this, he gave each event the same amount of grit and determination.

This can teach us that just because you don’t have to give your all in tasks, doesn’t mean that you should. You don’t know how much you can do until you push yourself to your limits, so why stop early? Find out what you’re capable of.

2. Support your competitors

The respect and support that the competitors give each other are truly admirable. From what we can see, they ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on each other’s social media posts, socialize outside of training and cheer each other on at the finishing line of events. Not all athletes conduct themselves like this and it is so refreshing to see. It should remind us that supporting others who are doing similar things to us is beneficial for us and for them. There is enough space for everyone.

3. Challenges? No problem

Some athletes faced adversity this year, such as Katrin Davíðsdóttir injured her lower back and had to take time out of training before the Games. Despite this, she placed second overall and won the ‘Spirit of the Games’ award for her positivity. Katrin is truly superhuman and an extremely talented athlete, but still, it goes to show that setbacks don’t have to limit us, in Katrin’s case they inspired her to strive for more.

4. Adapt your plans

Something that we’ve all had to do in 2020, is get used to adapting plans. The CrossFit athletes did this with finesse, adapting their training to competing from their home gyms for the first round of the competition. They had to adapt during the Ranch Trail Run event, where there was a false ending. The athletes sprinted to ‘the finish line’ to find that it wasn’t the real finish line. They quickly adapted to this and started jogging back up the mountain to run their second lap of the course.

Life will throw us curveballs, and we can give in, or adapt and move with it.

5. Just because you’re new or inexperienced, it doesn’t mean that you can’t excel

Justin Medeiros proved to us that just because you’re new or inexperienced at something, it doesn’t mean that you can’t excel. This year was Justin Medeiros’ first CrossFit Games, and he placed third overall. Experience, confidence and strategy benefit the athletes massively, so for Justin to do so well with little experience and lots of expectation from spectators was impressive. It was Haley Adams second CrossFit Games as an individual, and she also performed well and was described as “the future of the games” by the commentators.

6. HWPO “Hard Work Pays Off”

Mat Fraser’s iconic slogan, ‘HWPO’. And it did. Mat and Tia-Clair Toomey yet again placed first at the CrossFit Games. They proved why they are unbeatable and often described as ‘the GOATs’. The other top-five male and female athletes also showed that Hard Work Pays Off, with many achieving PBs throughout the Games and excelling in disciplines. The athletes put in unfathomable hours training and make many sacrifices to get where they are, which begs the question, what work can you put in to get to where you want to be? Are you up to the challenge?

Categories
Health

10 Easy Tips to Overcome Gymtimidation

Use these tips to avoid feelings of intimidation in the gym, for good

It’s easy to feel intimidated and incapable in the wild jungle that is the gym. Whether it’s the machines and equipment that gets you down or the people that surround you, ‘gymtimidation’ can stop you from progressing in the gym. More importantly, it can affect your happiness there.

Here are 10 tips that have helped me to overcome Gymtimidation once and for all.

1. Affirmations

A few months ago, I initiated a gym membership at a gym that I had never been in. Before my first session, I decided to write affirmations to help with my lack of confidence. I voiced the affirmations out loud before going to remind myself that I am able, even if I didn’t believe it. Confidence is the belief in oneself, so why not practice believing in yourself?

Prompts: I am strong

I deserve to be in the gym

I am capable of using the equipment

If I do not understand how to use something, I will be able to at some point

2. Have a Plan

It doesn’t have to be the plan that you stick with forever but write a plan. You can buy a tailored plan from a personal trainer or find information and plans online, which is what I do.

You may have to adapt your plans if people are using the machines or equipment that you would like to use, so prepare alternatives that you can do instead to work for the same muscle group.

3. Set small, attainable goals

I believe that setting small, attainable goals works, as each time you succeed in meeting your small goal, you will feel successful. The knock-on effect is that it then encourages you to strive for more. If you have a goal of running a 5k, set yourself a goal of running for 5 minutes, and the following week, add another 5 minutes. Slowly over time, it will add up, there’s no need for an “all or nothing” mindset, slow and steady wins the race.

4. Watch videos on form, equipment and machines

I have used YouTube as a tool to understand how to do certain exercises and use machines and equipment in the gym. You can search for ‘how to do a pistol squat’ for example and practice at home. You could even prop your phone on a table and film yourself doing the exercise and compare it with the tutorials.

5. Music

The perfect soundtrack to a workout can change your attitude completely. I like to change what genres I listen to on different days or for different activities. You can find playlists titled ‘music for running’, ‘music for boxing’ and ‘music for lifting’ on apps like Spotify.

6. Dress for success

Organise what you are going to wear the night before or at least mentally plan it. Wear something that is comfortable and that you feel good in. You will feel hold yourself higher and walk taller.

7. Incorporate a motivating warm-up

It’s important to warm up, and I like to spend the first 10–15 minutes of my workout to prepare for the exercises ahead. I like to walk on the treadmill and use the time to listen to motivational words or a song that excites me.

8. Watch inspiring videos prior to going

I like to watch CrossFit Games videos before going to the gym. Observing these exceptional and hard-working athletes inspires me and makes my upcoming workout seem like a walk in the park in comparison.

9. Speak to yourself as you would speak to a friend

Perspective is everything. When you’re struggling to resolve an issue in the gym, think about how you would help a friend the problem. Would you knock them down as you would to yourself? No. You would speak to them with kindness, support and with encouragement. As Marie Forleo says, “everything is figureoutable”.

10. Remember that everyone who enters the gym is on their own path, so don’t compare yourself!

You will share a space with a variety of people in the gym. Some will be training for a bodybuilding competition and some will be training to improve their mental health. Some will be there to help with their athletic performance or to lose weight or even to just get out of the house. Each person has different goals, so why compare yourself and your workout to someone who isn’t you?

Categories
Food

Heist Chocolate: ‘Saturday Morning Cereal Milk’

I often buy chocolate, but not this kind of chocolate. It arrived, regally. In a thick brown paper envelope with a branded stamp, the face of a cartoon boy. I have since learnt that his name is ‘Bashful Tompkins’, the kooky mascot of the Cardiff based, Heist Chocolate. Within the envelope, is another brown paper package. It is sewn at the top with white cotton, like a perfectly crafted Italian handbag. In the chunky yet elegant parcel, lies the chocolate. The design itself is a spectacle. It reminds me of the adorable animations used at drive-in movie intermissions in the 1950s. It’s achingly cool. Is this what the inside of a hipster’s brain looks like? Maybe. In tow with the packaging, was a postcard with a handwritten thank-you note. A warm and welcome interaction during lockdown.

The chocolate bar dances joyfully in front of the sun and a spillage of milk. The flavour is called, “Saturday Morning Cereal Milk”. You may have heard of the flavour, cereal milk before. It gained cult status when chef Christina Tosi showcased it at Milk Bar and Momofuku in New York in 2008. More than just iconic, the flavour is a nostalgic reminder for many. For me, it’s waiting for the milk in my bowl to infuse with wheat and sugar to devour before running for the school bus.

Heist Chocolate was started by Mikey Lewis in 2016. He notes on the Heist website that it actually started when he was 7 years old and sent to the doctors for a chocolate addiction. Addiction aside, this is the kind of guy I want to buy chocolate from. Based in Wales, independent and clearly passionate. Since Nom Nom Chocolate seized trading, I have longed for an independent Welsh chocolate maker to buy from that experiments with interesting flavours. It looks like, Heist might just be it.

The experience of receiving Heist Chocolate alone is special, the packaging itself is a gift, the chocolate, a bonus. When you head beyond the beautiful tan paper packaging, carefully opening the stitches of cotton, is a golden wrapper. It makes me feel like the Welsh Charlie Bucket.

I read online that the chocolate is best enjoyed one square at a time. Before I read that, I absolutely did not consume it in that fashion. However, when I return to eat it, one square at a time, I prefer it. It allows me to focus on the complexity of the flavours. As the chocolate melts, sea salt pirouettes on the surface of my tongue. Is this what it tastes like to have will power or is the chocolate just that interesting?

The chocolate isn’t as pale as your average white chocolate. It is saturated in yellow, a pint of milk with a mountain of custard powder in it, ready to be stirred. It is thick, thicker than most chocolate bars I have eaten. Perhaps that’s because it’s hand made and is stone ground. Whatever the reason, I like it. It feels chunky, thick like my iPhone 8+. You can see why it is packaged in such a large envelope now. It’s as if the envelope is a protective phone case and the chocolate bar is the smartphone. It doesn’t taste like plastic as do many other white chocolate bars, thankfully. I am surprised to find that there are no cornflake pieces in the chocolate, but the taste is present. Towards the end of consumption, a malty taste appears. It’s the kind of wheat like taste that I search for, to work out whether a food has wheat in it or not for my mother who is coeliac.  

This chocolate is unlike any I have consumed before. I like that it’s handcrafted, chunky, not at all rough around the edges but clearly not made by a machine. I think if it was to resemble true cereal milk, it would be lighter in colour, and perhaps have notes of marshmallow or a sour taste to it, to taste more conventionally ‘milky’. But then again, to to summarize or describe that flavour, would depend on the kind of milk that you enjoy using. The flavour is distinctive, and something that I would prefer to savour than eat in a large quantity to appreciate as much as possible.

Heist Chocolate is continuously selling out online, and rightly so. They are stocked across the UK, and from what I’ve seen on Instagram, are indeed a hipster’s delight. It’s great to see a Cardiff based chocolatier having a great deal of success and I hope it long continues. I will certainly keep the envelope that the chocolate comes in, I sort of want to keep sunglasses in it, it’s that kind of chunky. As for the chocolate, I look forward to seeing and tasting what they do next!

Categories
Food

An ode to the humble pickled red onion

Ok this isn’t an ode exactly, but there is something poetic about the way the tart yet the nectarous flavour of pickled red onions hits your mouth. Aesthetically on a plate of food they look impressive, fancy almost. An onion lounging in a sweaty bath, marinating its tough pores in sugar and salt until aged enough for consumption. Not quite so glamorous now, but it was never meant to be. For thousands of years, we have pickled vegetables out of necessity, for preservation.

In recent years, there has been a fermented foods renaissance. Perhaps it’s the sudden urge to improve our gut health, as if our guts have never existed before this decade. Perhaps it’s Instagram food culture, and how the purple acidic rings sit so perfectly on a plate of food, craving our attention. Whatever it is, fermented food is having its moment, and right now, I am putting them in everything and on everything that I can… but not ice cream. That’s too far.

Not only do they elevate the look of a plate but pack a punch in flavour. They have style and substance, and let’s face it – the second is paramount when eating. Acidic but sweet and tangy, it pairs fantastically with savoury food. A regular component in Mexican cooking, pickled red onions work so well with the herbs and spices traditionally used in the cuisine. It’s cousin, the quintessentially British cupboard essential – white pickled onion is a flavour that I am familiar with. Be it in jarringly acidic Monster Munch crisps that remind you that you have a cut on your finger, or with leftover meat at Christmas.

It’s no secret that vinegar can transform our food. The sharpness dances in your mouth, adding a layer of flavour that you will crave to experience again after trying. The first time I tried pickled red onions was at a Las Iguanas restaurant in Cardiff. The chain was my introduction to Mexican cuisine, along with those El Paso meal kits that are always on offer at Asda. Not exactly authentic, but it opened my eyes to a different cuisine than what I was used to, and encouraged me to explore the cuisine further.

Did you know?

The first pickles on record were cucumbers, and they were first pickled in the Tigris Valley in India. The word itself comes from the Dutch pekel or northern German pókel, meaning “salt” or “brine”. The more you know for your Zoom pub quiz, eh?

The unorthodox recipe I use to pickle red onions includes:

  1. Allocating a mason jar
  2. Slicing two red onions into rings
  3. Pouring equal parts distilled vinegar and warm water over to generously coat the onions. *For some magical reason beyond my knowledge, I find that adding specifically warm water helps to speed up the fermentation process.
  4. I add a generous amount of caster sugar and salt to taste and let the onions enjoy their sweaty bath for as long as it takes them to relax into a lovely pink tone and the water is fuschia.

*You can modify your pickled red onions with adding spices such as hot peppers and mustard seeds to your jar.

I have enjoyed pairing them with meat – in burgers or on pork belly where the pickled red onions seem to cut through the fat beautifully. It’s great on brunch food, where it marries well with an avocado drenched in lime and egg on flatbread. It’s of course great on Mexican food, such as the chilli bowl below. The food combinations that you can create with pickled red onions are limitless. They’re full in flavour, beneficial for your health, aesthetically pleasing and cheap to make – what are you waiting for? Your love affair with red pickled onions awaits.