Amanda Allen: Skinny or Strong? The Right Balance?

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This morning I accidentally trained on empty – no food in the tank for four hours – this never happens in my world! It wasn’t pretty, wasn’t enjoyable. I did not dominate anything – not even a single Burpee!

Running on empty is a guaranteed recipe for poor performance, poor recovery, frustration, demotivation, no fun, no strength, breakdown and confusion! Today I felt weak and unfit – physically and mentally – it was horrid! The experience got me thinking about how common this scenario is and what leanness and body shape mean.

I see this running-on-empty situation often with clients and many (predominantly) female athletes – at every level. People falling into the trap of not consuming enough fuel in a determined effort to be ever leaner – as if leanness is the holy grail. Unfortunately the outcome of this pattern tends to be a vicious cycle of under-performance, under-recovery, lack of energy, lack of strength, injury, frustration, sugar cravings followed by binging, dwindling enthusiasm, guilt and shame followed by a renewed determination to do better, be more strict, toughen up – with no weight ever lost – and invariably the cycle repeating itself with increasing momentum and fury!

I think I’ve wanted to be leaner most of my life, but never has it been at the expense of my performance, energy and wellbeing! Maybe its because I love food so much. I am a fan of calories, of petrol in the tank! I’d prefer an extra kilo or two on my body and perform like a wild woman than a daily existence of lack of strength, energy, performance and enthusiasm!

So how did this morning’s experience even happen I asked myself as I scoffed down a huge post-workout bowl of organic rice-puffs and almond milk followed by a protein shake (Professional Whey WPI & Dextrose) – neither of which even registered in my stomach! Hungry!

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Around 5-6am I usually eat 3 pieces of bacon & a whole avocado, plus I have an organic black coffee with a heaped tablespoon of coconut oil – that’s my breakfast! I train my clients from 6-9 then train myself 9-11! This morning I was out of bacon (gasp!!!) and only ate half my avocado! Weird!

At around 7-8am I usually have a large and generous slice of my homemade Raw Cake! That always sees me through the toughest workout, until I eat again immediately after. This morning was a disaster – I forgot to pack my raw cake! I didn’t actually realise my mistake until I’d begun my workout after an extended warm up. When I asked my body to perform at intensity the damage become apparent! The clock was running so I suffered on – ugly and weak!

I am disciplined and prepared 99.9% of the time! I work really hard at staying on top of everything in my day that will assist and support my recovery and performance! What a lesson the 0.1% was today! It is a very powerful reminder of the critical importance of calories, calories, calories for performance, performance, performance! I don’t want to go there again, lesson learned!

I see a lot of elite women who compete at the CrossFit Games who are much leaner than me. They seem to carry it well, performing year after year, remaining injury free and finishing in the top few percent in the world! I’m one of those top women, but at 70-71kgs.

If you look at my body shape and composition compared to Sam Briggs – I look almost fat! I could waste a whole lot of energy trying to get leaner, trying to achieve at 10kg weight loss to be like Sam, in the hope that it would increase my overall performance – but I don’t think I’d be able to lift much, or train hard repetitively or perform at my current level or better! I’d be hungry, grumpy, tried, frustrated as hell and I would definitely have no sense of humour! I’m not Sam, I’m me.

Camille Leblanc Bazinet and Sam Briggs during 13.5 in the Open

Camille Leblanc Bazinet & Sam Briggs during 13.5 in the Open

Look at Annie T, Camille-L-B, Lindsey Smith, Sam Briggs, Elisabeth Akinwake and me! All top 50 CrossFit games athletes – totally different body shapes! Camille could never look like Sam, Annie T could never look like Lindsey! I’m never going to look like Elisabeth.

It’s easy to look around and want what other people have instead of what you have – to covet anything but what you are – particularly at Regionals and Games time when the best of the best are on display!

There’s only one Mona Lisa, there’s only one me, there’s only one you. My commitment to myself is to be the best me that I can be – body, mind, spirit. To craft my own masterpiece from the raw materials I have been given.

My priorities are clear – wellbeing, energy and performance. These priorities guide my every choice and decision. If I’m healthy, fit, strong and well fuelled my body will come into an appropriate balance – which includes body composition. I trust it.

Here’s a useful checklist to guide you about the balance in your life, give yourself a ranking out of 10 on each: (10=couldn’t be better, 1=couldn’t be worse)

    1. Quality of nutrition
    2. Quantity of nutrition (calories/day)
    3. Energy levels
    4. Quality of thoughts
    5. Rest & Recovery
    6. Muscle Soreness
    7. Injury proneness
    8. Consistent improvements in performance
    9. High levels of Motivation
    10. Enjoyment of training
    11. Quality & quantity of hydration
    12. How good you feel upon waking

If you ranked lower than 6-7 on any points above its probably time to look a little closer at strategies for achieving balance in the various areas of your life!

It is worth it! Life, training, performance is so much more than super low body fat and calorie restriction!

Amanda Allen

Amanda Allen

42-year-old Amanda is an Aussie CrossFit sen-bloody-sation! Finishing 19th in the world at the 2011 CrossFit Games, she is also a former State & National Triathlete, cyclist & canoeist. She is a health & peak performance nut, while also a bacon & raw cake lover! She has qualifications as a Level 1 CrossFit Coach, Level 2 Check Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach.