In six days’ time Anna Tunnicliffe will compete in her third CrossFit Games in a quest to be crowned the fittest athlete in the world. For her, it’s about more than just competing; it’s about constantly improving herself. Drive and passion are what keep her coming back. After using cross training in her preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in which she won sailing gold in the Laser Radial class, Anna began to dedicate more time to her box and focus her energy towards being the fittest female athlete in the world. We recently met up with Anna to find out how she’s fared since injury wrecked her 2014 Games and the journey she’s made to get back to peak physical fitness.
Recovery: Using setbacks to fuel the fire
Last year at the Games you were injured in the Triple Threes event, but still managed to complete the weekend’s competitions and placed 22nd overall. What was going to through your mind when the injury occurred?
When it initially happened I was more in shock than anything else. I was afraid of what I had done and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to continue with the competition.
Did not competing in the 2015 CrossFit Games ever cross your mind?
Not really. As a competitor you use setbacks as fuel for the fire. My training obviously got behind because I was out for about four months, but Brad (coach) and I made a plan that would hopefully get us back to the Games – and it did.
Did it affect your competition schedule and plans? Did it also affect your training?
The injury set us back about four months. I tried to let it heal on its own for about a month and when it still hadn’t got any better I decided to go to the doctor to see what exactly what had happened. It turned out to be worse than what we thought, so for the next two-and-a-half months I was in a boot. I wasn’t allowed to jump, run or anything until December.
Training: Rest days aren’t that often
How is your training different this year as opposed to last year at this time before the CrossFit Games?
Training this year has been a bit different, just in the sense that instead of playing catch-up and skipping over parts of the training because we were behind, we have just stuck to the plan. It’s a different feeling than the past two years, but I feel stronger this year than any other years, so we will see what happens.
All in all, including PT, recovery workouts and skills/strength training, how many hours a week would you say you dedicate to your training routine?
A lot! Probably about 5-6 hours a day at least 7 days a week. Rest days aren’t that often, we just see how the body is feeling and go from there.
Discipline: Making a plan and sticking to it
What keeps you motivated to compete and succeed at the highest level the sport has to offer?
I don’t like being defeated. That’s not saying that I’m grumpy if I’m not number one, although it can happen, but it’s more the challenge of everything that we do. I want to conquer it all and that drive keeps me going. Plus the CF community is so great and supportive that it’s just so much fun competing.
Where did you learn your self-discipline?
I would say I learned it early on from being forced to play an instrument (I played the cello through college.) Having to balance time to practice that, do sports, do homework, and in college have a job too… that all makes you learn a lot about yourself and how to layout your priorities.
Would you attribute your Gold medal in sailing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to this?
You are very dedicated to your Paleo diet. What sort of advantages do you think this gives you?
I just really enjoy the way I feel on it and how much energy it gives me. I know that I’m always putting clean food in my body, and I really enjoy cooking and baking so that’s always a plus too.
So few people in the world can say they have competed in the Olympics, let alone taken home a gold medal. What unique set of traits propelled you to this elite level of competition? Do you believe the carryover of these traits will make you a contender at the CrossFit Games?
I think it comes down to the training and the time you put into it. I knew what I wanted to do, laid out a plan to do it and stuck to it. I knew there would be hard times and also times when I had to do something that I didn’t want to, but it was only going to make me better than yesterday, so I had to do it. And for sure, it carries over into performance training. There are WODs you really don’t want to do but you have to. Only that way can you prove it to yourself and continue to learn at the same time.
Check out Anna’s top tips for improving your workouts.