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We chat to #strongwoman, mother, wife and fitness enthusiast Sheena de Figueiredo

Sheena de Figueiredo is a working mother and a dedicated wife, yet she still finds time to prioritise her CrossFit training.

She shares how she balances work, family and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Sheena at a glance

  • Age: 31
  • Lives: Fourways, Gauteng
  • Trains at: Northcliff CrossFit (NCC)
  • Profession: Qualified Attorney, social media executive, entrepreneur
  • Social Media
  • IG: @fitnessfig
  • FB: Sheena De Figueiredo
Life

When did you start training? 

I started training about 8 years ago, after my first daughter was born. I decided to go to gym to “kill time” while I was waiting for traffic to die down and it quickly turned into a habit and then a passion.

Would you say that your training has changed since starting a family?

After my twins were born (5 years ago), my sister invited me to try a CrossFit class on a Saturday at Northcliff Crossfit. I was instantly obsessed and I have been doing CrossFit at NCC with my coach Mary Jamieson ever since.

My training has not necessarily changed since starting a family. Practically speaking, I train with my husband at 8am after we’ve dropped the kids at school. On the weekends they will sometimes join us when we go to a Saturday class and will play with the other kids who are also at the box with their parents who are training.

From a physical perspective, recovering from the emergency C-Section after having my twins was quite challenging. I suffered from a back injury as well as an umbilical hernia that required surgery. But coach Mary was absolutely incredible and ensured that my programming was exactly what I needed to regain my strength and confidence in a safe and responsible way.

I am happy to say that I am now stronger than ever – I even placed 3rd in a very tough CrossFit competition with Mary and another teammate last year!

How do you balance leading a healthy lifestyle with work, family and friends?

It is sometimes extremely challenging to maintain a balance. However, my husband and I have been extremely active and healthy since before our children were born, so our children are used to it and it is now engrained in them, too.

The one thing that has always stuck with me is that you don’t “find” time to live this kind of lifestyle, you “make” the time. A one-hour workout is only 4% of your day and everyone can find that time if they are really dedicated to leading an active and healthy lifestyle. It is so important to make the time for the things that are important to you.

I think that it also makes finding balance easier if you surround yourself with likeminded people who also lead a healthy lifestyle and who understand and support your way of life and your journey. It is extremely difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle if you deal with people or are exposed to situations where it is discouraged or not fully supported.

What tips and tricks have you found work when trying to find that balance?

  • Diarise, diarise, diarise! Especially if you work in a high-stress and demanding environment where colleagues or clients are not respectful of your personal time.
  • Schedule your training in your calendar (put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” if you have to).
  • Plan meals ahead of time to reduce stress around your nutrition while working.
  • Do not make excuses to skip training – force yourself to go, even if you don’t feel like it (unless your body genuinely needs a rest day, which you can usually tell).
  • Get enough sleep! Everything seems like the end of the world when you are sleep deprived, and a lack of sleep only serves to worsen stress.
  • ASK FOR HELP. I know that us “Wonder Women” really struggle to delegate tasks or ask for help, but it is so important in maintaining balance – you cannot be everything to everyone.
  • You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure that you make time for yourself, whether that be journalling, listening to a podcast, having a glass of wine, or taking an evening off to binge-watch series and paint your nails.

Do you get your children involved in your training?

I never force them to get involved if they are not interested as I always want it to be something that they choose to do. My son is not too keen and would rather build Lego with dad or swim, but my daughters will often join me when I train at home. My youngest is incredibly strong and fit for her age and gives me a serious run for my money when we do burpees, lunges or air squats!

Training

What do you do when your motivation is low?

It depends. If my motivation is low because my body is genuinely tired, then I will take a rest day or two to recharge. I generally find that I am super keen to get back to training after that.

If my motivation is low because I am in a funk or having a bad day, I will say to myself, “just get your workout clothes on and then see how you feel”. I guarantee you that if you can get that far, you will absolutely get in your car and go train.

I think it is also important to remind yourself why you chose this lifestyle in the first place. Is it to lose weight? To get stronger? To be able to live a longer life to watch your kids grow up? To fit into that bikini you’ve had for years and never worn? Whatever your reason is, you need to consistently remind yourself of it to motivate you and honour your commitment to yourself.

How many times a week do you train?

In a typical week, I will do Crossfit every weekday morning from 8am to 9am. Twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) I will do a second session in the afternoon, which usually consists of either strength work (squats, deadlifts, bench presses), skill work (gymnastics such as handstand drills or ring work) or cardio (rowing, assault bike or ski erg or a combination).

I then do triathlon training on the weekends such as a 15km/20km run or a 45km cycle. I am also trying to get back into swim training at least once per week now that lockdown restrictions have eased.

Do you change your approach to training from time to time?

I definitely do. I think that it is important to keep things interesting so that you stay motivated and intrigued by your training.

At CrossFit we sometimes do strength cycles, which are more focused on building strength in your basic movements such as squats and deadlifts. Other times we focus on gymnastics, where we do more skill work such as pull ups, handstand push ups, ring muscle ups and kipping movements. Other times we will focus on endurance work and do longer workouts to build fitness… It all depends on what the coaches have planned and programmed but it always keeps it interesting for us and it is always challenging.

What style of training do you love right now?

I am still and will always adore CrossFit. I am really enjoying the longer workouts that we have been doing with an emphasis on barbell cycling under fatigue. I am a very happy girl if I have a heavy barbell to throw around during a workout!

I am also loving my triathlon training as it builds mental fortitude as much as physical stamina. I especially love driving out to the Cradle on a Saturday morning to go and run or ride. The Cradle is just absolutely buzzing with active people on the weekends and it is such an awesome and motivating atmosphere to run or cycle in.

Nutrition

How do you eat on a daily basis?

My nutrition is definitely one area I could work on to improve the frequency of my meals as I sometimes get busy and will completely skip lunch (oops). However, I think this is a reality when it comes to working moms who are trying to wear many hats.

I have a shake for breakfast almost every morning, which consists of gluten-free oats, honey, a banana, peanut butter, dates, protein powder and milk or water. I sometimes make omelettes for me and my husband as he also works from home, but most days I stick to a shake because it is quick, easy, nutritious and filling.

For lunch I will usually have a tuna salad, a poke bowl or smashed avocado on toast. Please don’t get me wrong though, there are many days when “lunch” is a protein shake and a banana shoved in my face as I am running out the door.

I do, however, make sure that I drink at least 3 litres of water per day and I only have 2 cups of tea a day. I do not drink any fruit juice, energy drinks or soft drinks, and I haven’t for years.

Dinner will usually be a protein, a complex carbohydrate and two veggies. I make all of my own food so that I know exactly what is in it and how it has been prepared. My other “go-to” dinner meals are chicken and cashew nut stir fry, spaghetti and meatballs, beef or fish tacos, lemon chicken noodle soup and burgers.

Weekends are usually more chilled – I appreciate a glass of red wine or champagne (or two) and won’t skip dessert. However, I know that I train hard enough during the week that I can allow myself to indulge when I would like to.

How do you encourage your children to eat healthily?

Children will always emulate the behaviour they are exposed to. My husband and I have always had a very healthy relationship with food and have always respected the way that food and water nourish and fuel our bodies and our children have learnt from that.

If you were to ask all 3 of them what their favourite drink is, they would all say “water” because they have grown to love it as much as we do. We will never deny them a treat if they ask, but more often than not, at least one of them will complain afterwards that they feel “yucky” or their head is sore.

We then educate them on why this is and hope that the next time they will make a more informed choice. As parents you can only guide and educate your children and hope that they will want to follow in your footsteps.

What do you eat as a family treat?

We can quite easily scoff an entire box of Krispy Kreme donuts in one sitting…

Any last words for mothers out there trying to find balance between leading a healthy lifestyle and being a good mom?

Leading a healthy lifestyle will make you the best and happiest version of yourself and that is all that your kids need in order to thrive.

Author: Logan Leigh Rix

Logan blends her passion and profession by working as a digital and social media marketer and content creator in the fitness, health and wellness industry. She’s also a former Face of Fitness finalist and Fitness Magazine featured athlete.

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