The road to the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games (part 1)

For many aspiring CrossFit athletes, Regionals is as far as they’ll go in the sport. To date many local athletes have tried and failed to make it to the Games – the unquestionable pinnacle of the sport – but few have succeeded… until now that is.

In 2018 South Africa will be represented by not one, but three teams (CrossFit Riviera from the Europe South region was DQ’d after the competition). Cape CrossFit Wolfpack, CrossFit Valley Road, CrossFit PBM Unite went toe to toe with the best from the Meridian Region, which features the fittest athletes from southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The three teams secured a spot in the top four, finishing 1st, 2ndand 4th, respectively, to earn themselves a spot at the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games, which take place at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin in the US from 1-5 August.

In this two-part feature, we share Cape CrossFit Wolfpack athlete Nicole Warburg Mackenzie’s story. She competed with teammates Matthew Bowerman, Christian Oman, Vicky Polydorou and Richard Wollbolt to finish as the best team in the Meridian Region. This is her experience…

In her words…

What a journey it has been over the last year! I’ve personally been through so much. I’ve also learnt a lot, both as an athlete and as a person, because, let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to get to this point.

Following a divorce, a move to Johannesburg from Ballito, meeting my new husband, and subsequently moving down to Cape Town, I ended up in hospital for 4 days with glandular fever and server tonsillitis, with a few other complications.

I was just getting back into CrossFit when I moved to the Cape. I then found myself working at Virgin Active and training at Cape CrossFit. When I started I could hardly lift. I was in tears, crying to my husband Jaimie on a regular basis, because I was so weak and physically exhausted. All he said to me was “make the most of every day”, which is what I focused on. Every day was a new opportunity to better myself.

Back on track

A month or so later things started to click. I joined the ‘WolfPack’ – the group of competitive athletes who train at Cape CrossFit – and within a few months we were ready for the Open.

Cape CrossFit offers an incredible atmosphere to train in. You’re pushed hard because of the calibre of athlete you train with, and, in my opinion, the programming is easily the best in the country.

So, from that perspective, if you’re willing to show up every day and do your best, you’ll improve, which is exactly what I did! Having built a strong foundational strength base, I sailed through the Open competing as an individual. The fact that I had a good support system at home and was able to get sufficient rest and good nutrition meant I performed well.

The road to Regionals

However, I decided that I wanted to rather head to Regionals as part of the team. A team’s success isn’t so much about having the best athletes. Rather, it’s about who operates the best together. I had not competed at his level in a team and I wondered if my competitive nature would get the better of me. I’m really hard on myself, so I was worried this could spill over, but the opposite proved true.

I think one of the biggest challenges faced by CrossFit teams in South Africa is trying to train together as often as they should. We all have jobs and it can be really difficult for us to all get together at the same time. Luckily we managed to find 2-3 consecutive days that we were all able to meet up and train as a team. Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday at midday worked best for us.

As we got to know each other better, the training improved, as did our sessions. We began to realise the best combinations, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and how we all move. It began a circle of positive vibes, which kept turning until our trip to Spain to compete at Regionals.

Check out part 2 of Nicole’s CrossFit journey

Follow Nicole’s journey on Instagram

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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