Ten Minutes With Two of Australia's Best CrossFit Athletes

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4-degree June mornings in Melbourne can prove difficult in the depths on Winter, so a 6.30am outdoor CrossFit session really tests your resolve. Nevertheless, we ventured out to Footscray last Friday to tackle Reebok's 'Delta Gym' and train with two of Australia's greatest CrossFit athletes: Rob Forte and Tia-Clair Toomey. Rob, a local Melburnian and former motocross racer who has placed as high as 12th at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games, and Tia, a member of Australia's Rio 2016 Olympics Games team (competing in the women's 58kg weightlifting) and twice crowned the 2nd fittest woman on the planet at the 2015 and 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games, put us through our paces as the sun rose over the converted rooftop gym. Afterwards, we sat down with both athletes over breakfast to talk training, their beginnings and how the CrossFit philosophy ties into their lives.



Rob Forte

Crossfit-102

Tell me a little bit about your background?
So before CrossFit I used to race motocross, and most of my training involved going for longer runs, swimming, a little bit of weights training but probably more your bodybuilding style of training. I had a couple of mates from school that played high-level footy and a number of them were drafted into the AFL, so I was doing similar programs to them which were mainly upper body-focused. After I stopped motocross racing I still kept fit doing bootcamps etc. and continued weights training at home before coming across CrossFit in 2009, and I really enjoyed it straight away, really enjoyed the push. I was also doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu at the same time and that was really the reason I started CrossFit, to help benefit my BJJ training but it turned out I was a lot better at CrossFit than I was at BJJ (laughs). I was enjoying my training so much I entered my first comp three months after starting, and I knew almost straight away it was something I wanted to keep doing.

Motocross racing is known as one of the most physically demanding sports on the planet. How does that tie into your CrossFit training and do you feel that it gives you any edge?
Coming from a motocross background I learnt from as young as 15 or 16 how much mental toughness can help you, how important the mental game is. I worked with a lot of elite level guys in the motocross world and did coaching schools with them and they spoke a lot about visualisation and having confidence in yourself and I experienced that as a kid back then. Stuff like entering a race and being able to keep up with someone that would normally always beat you, then from that day forward growing into being the person that can keep up (with them) and even beat that opponent consistently. I feel the lessons that taught me and the mental edge that gave me has always been an advantage for me in CrossFit, but that's not to say people in CrossFit haven't caught up.

We're now two months away from the 2017 CrossFit Games. Does the yearlong training grind wear you down at all and make them still seem like they're far away?
Early days I'd say yes but I enjoy the day to day training, I love the grind. Normally all of us ramp it up and increase the volume and number of sessions we're doing daily, but I find I definitely can't do that year round as I'd feel burnt out by this time of year so I sort of go in phases depending on what's coming up. Right now I'm increasing my load and using phases means I'm actually looking forward to the extra training rather than dreading it, helping prepare my body for the brutal five days that we've got ahead of us (at the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games).

What does Reebok's support mean for CrossFit as a sport and a philosophy?
It's very significant, and the perfect example is events like today because they're actually part of the community and they care. They get Tia and I out into both the CrossFit and general community, allowing us to reach out to more people which is awesome because it spreads the broader message of fitness. They're not solely focused on selling product, and their grassroots focus with athletes and locals gyms proves that, so I think they're a massive part of CrossFit.



Tia-Clair Toomey

Crossfit-242

You're a little bit of a CrossFit prodigy. Can you run me through your background?
I was a track athlete and competed in track throughout school. Shortly after school I started CrossFit to actually help my track fitness and improve my speed and once I started CrossFit training, I developed far more of a love for it than anything else I'd done, I really found my niche. I love being in the community where everyone's so supportive, whereas on the track you're kind of running around by yourself at times and it's a very different feel. Then I found weightlifting through CrossFit which led to me trying to train for the Olympics, so it's created quite a life for me and I'm loving riding the wave.

You competed in Rio last year in the women's 58kg. How does an Olympic Games compare with competing at a CrossFit Games?
They're both quite different. At a CrossFit Games, quite a lot of people know me now after a couple of years there and there's also probably more of an opportunity to podium. The atmosphere is quite surreal, there's really no words to describe how awesome it is to be out on that tennis stadium, under the lights and really close to everyone cheering you on. But then when it comes to weightlifting, its a totally different sport where everyone's really quiet while you're lifting and then as soon as you've completed the lift, the crowd roars and they're quite in your face because you're on stage and surrounded. They're both amazing experiences and something I'll forever hold close to my heart but both very different and hard to compare.

You came 2nd on debut as a rookie in 2015 and backed it up last year with 2nd again. Are you pumped for August and is 2017 the year to go one better?
Yes, hopefully. 2016 was kind of a year to reassure myself that coming second (on debut in 2015) was no fluke and so for 2017 the eyes are definitely on the prize for at least a podium again, and hopefully it's on that top step.

What does Reebok's support mean for CrossFit as a sport and a philosophy?
Reebok has a huge influence, and my life as a CrossFit athlete shows just how big that influence is. For me it's not just the apparel and footwear etc. they provide me. They're the company that's allowing me to live my dreams and without the support and guidance from Reebok, like Rob said earlier how they love to incorporate us into everything they do in the CrossFit community, I'm not sure where I'd be. They've supported me from the very beginning, I remember it was my very first year at the CrossFit Games in 2015 and getting to the games I had no money, but Reebok supported me 100% to get me there. They don't just think about building their own brand, they're as much about helping athletes on their journey and making it easier for us to focus on our training and being better athletes. I'll be forever grateful for Reebok being behind me.

We'd like to thank Reebok for putting the event on and for supplying us with some of their latest training gear, including their new Nano 7 training shoe. Head over to their website for more.