Tuesday 23 January 2018

CrossFit: Amy's strong Ambition

One Waterford girl found the challenge she was looking for in CrossFit

Crossfit star Amy Laffan at the Crossfit Waterford gym. Photo: El Keegan
Crossfit star Amy Laffan at the Crossfit Waterford gym. Photo: El Keegan
Crossfit star Amy Laffan weightlifting at the Crossfit Waterford gym. Photo: El Keegan

Alison O’Riordan

Be it doing burpees, bear crawls, flipping tyres or swinging kettlebells, Irish CrossFit champion Amy Laffan can do it all. The 26-year-old Waterford woman is also the fittest and strongest woman (for her strength-to-body-weight ratio) in Ireland at what she does.

CrossFit is a general physical preparedness programme which means people train in a multitude of different sports to obtain a broad general fitness. It is essentially a mix of skill, cardio, gymnastics, aerobic exercise, Olympic lifting and weights.

"In CrossFit, we specialise in not being a specialist. My coach has always said to me that 'the more tools we have, the better job we can do'. We take elements from Olympic lifting, power lifting, gymnastics, plyometrics, kettlebells, running, rowing and swimming and combine them in a workout. Every workout and movement can be modified to suit each individual's fitness level so that anyone can take part," says the athlete.

Having competed in running and swimming as a youngster and then giving pole fitness a go, it was CrossFit which really tugged at her heartstrings as she loved the variety of disciplines involved.

"I got into CrossFit in November 2011. I heard about it from a friend who was training at CrossFit Waterford. She said it was the best thing that had ever happened to her and that it completely changed her life."

Shaping up from her former softer physique, Amy now weighs in at 61kg (9st 8lb) with only 8pc body fat. She can deadlift more than twice her body weight.

"My body has changed quite a bit since joining CrossFit. My lean muscle mass has increased and my body fat has dropped. When I started CrossFit, I was 51kg (8st 1lb), and now I'm sitting at a very comfortable 61kg. The heaviest I can lift is my deadlift which is 145kg."

Prior to competition, Amy will be programmed to peak at a certain time, which involves her training six days a week with sometimes two sessions up to three days in the week. However, the majority of her training, which can see her in the gym for up to three hours a day, is done and overseen by her coach Tom Dunphy at CrossFit Waterford, who helps push her to her physical and emotional peak.

"To get competition-ready, I sit down with my coach and we devise a training programme and work out the dates I'm expected to be at my peak-performance level. We work out the days I can double up, then I look through my strengths and weaknesses, what needs to be worked at and also a full mobility schedule."

Last month, Amy took part in the CrossFit European Regionals and was the only athlete from Ireland to qualify, placing a solid 26th overall in Europe out of the top 48 athletes.

"It felt amazing to be the only Irish female individual to ever compete in the regionals. One has to come up against the very best to qualify. I hope I can be a positive role model to all Irish women and show them that it is possible to be fit and strong at the same time."

Through eating six meals a day, some which include pre-workout shakes and recovery drinks, Amy follows the paleo diet – which includes meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

"The competition programming can be quite tough on the body, that's why you would only be doing it once or twice in a year. Taking fish oils, glucosamine, vitamin D coupled with a varied diet can be helpful and enjoyable."

CrossFit has become such a sensation in Ireland in the last few years, especially with Irish girls now embracing it.

"CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting for women in Ireland has increased tenfold in the last year or two. I have competed in one or two CrossFit competitions over the last year and to see the ladies lining out fit and ready to show Ireland what they have worked towards is truly inspiring."

Swapping partying for pumping iron was not an issue for Amy, choosing to turn her back on alcohol for good.

"I was never a big drinker, so I found the transition from very little alcohol to none whatsoever quite easy," she says.

And once Amy's muscles started to develop, she attracted a lot of attention.

"Men and women comment on my physique because of my average size. I think they imagine I wouldn't be able to do what I can. A lot of women compliment me on my tone.

"I feel in fantastic shape. It's amazing to see tone to your body that wouldn't be seen as the norm on a woman in a regular gym. Things like abs, toned arms and good legs are something that I always aimed for but never got in commercial gym programming."

Pushing her body beyond normal limits and following a painful routine day after day is all a positive thing for Amy.

"I believe I do push my body to the limits, but it's usually when you push past this you really see what is or can be achieved."

"The buzz and excitement from competing in CrossFit is unlike any other feeling I have ever felt in my entire life. The excitement of lining up beside other strong females is an amazing experience.

"My next competition will be in March 2014, which is the CrossFit Open. This is a five-week competition which enables me to qualify for the regionals again. For the remainder of this year, I'm going to be working on weaknesses, staying injury free and becoming stronger so I can work towards a better placing next year, preferably in the top 10, as well as setting some Irish records in Olympic lifting."

At her physical best, Amy feels invincible.

"I have never got the feeling when I thought training was too much. It empowers me, I enjoy it, love it and embrace it. The people, the coaches, the programming and variety of CrossFit make it impossible not to want to come back day after day."

This article originally appeared in Fit Magazine

Irish Independent

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