From struggle to success with Crossfit
IT IS a scene played out in thousands of locations worldwide.
Loud rock music plays from a stereo - punctuated by the sound of heavily-laden barbells crashing to the floor.
Sweat-coated bodies move with purpose while others appear motionless save for the rhythmic rise and fall of their chest searching for breath.
Suddenly a loud voice yells "time" and all movement stops, there is now a silence broken only by the slap of a high five or friendly words of genuine congratulations and praise. Small pools of sweat form on the floor.
It is a scene Amanda Allen knows all too well. Every day, Boxes (that's CrossFit for gym) play host to this scene, it's a WOD (Workout of Day).
It is a scene the two-time CrossFit Games Masters (40-44 years) Champion loves.
Daily, the Adelaide native plays out this scene during her five-hour training block from 7am, adding weight to her bar in search of strength or increasing the difficulty of complex manoeuvres as she seeks to master gymnastic skills such as the handstand push-up or the muscle up.
At 44, Amanda has a level of strength, skill, focus and physical stature that is the envy of athletes half her age.
But it hasn't always been that way; there have been dark days, there has been struggle.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Amanda was an elite level cyclist and triathlete, in 2011 she was chasing World Championship and Olympic qualification in the sport of canoeing.
But her periods of high success were often divided by times of immense lows.
"It was all or nothing for me back then," Amanda said.
"I was battling depression, alcohol, health and obesity issues.
"Life was a constant struggle, a real emotional battle."
But 2011 marked the beginning of a new era for Amanda. It was the year Amanda found CrossFit.
"To be honest, I wasn't really interested in it at the start," she said.
"I heard about it through a friend and took it up to increase my strength while I decided what I wanted to do after other athletes were selected ahead of me for the team Australian selectors were looking at for the World Championships and Olympic Games (in canoeing)."
Six months later, Amanda finished third at the Australian CrossFit Regionals before finishing 19th at the World CrossFit Games later that year.
That performance marked the beginning of an almost meteoric rise for the determined athlete, which included narrowly missing out on World CrossFit Games (Opens) qualification twice, while also claiming gold in the Masters in 2013 and 2014.
But despite being ranked among Australian CrossFit's elite, she remains humble.
"It's an absolute privilege to be seen as a role model for mental and physical well-being," she said.
"I am truly humbled by the people who look up to and are inspired by me.
"Life is hard and everyone struggles, but I believe that struggle defines and shapes us as human beings. That struggle provides us with the opportunity to change for the better."
But for some, the hole may be too deep, the struggle too heavy a burden to bear, which is why Amanda drew on her journey of empowerment through CrossFit to create e-fitness program Fit as F**k, a program she hoped would help people change their lives.
"It's an intense program covering everything from training, to nutrition, mental health and recovery, but I believe it gives everyone the tools to make the best version of themselves possible - the power to change themselves.
"I like to have as much control of my life as possible; I believe when you add up all the one percenters it makes a huge difference, but it's important you still find balance and passion. I believe FAF helps give people find their own degree of control and the chance to focus on what drives them, to focus on their passion.
"I think it is important that we are driven and inspired by our passions. When we are driven by our passions, whatever they may be, the sense of achievement and reward is more heightened. Surround yourself with the things you need to succeed and cast away the rest."
But is CrossFit for everyone? Is the sweat, the aching muscles and the WODs that leave you gasping for breath really worth it?
Is the fitness phenomenon that is often negatively referred to as a cult truly that beneficial?
To answer that question Amanda turns to her 68-year-old mother who took up CrossFit a week or so ago.
"It's the most excited I've seen her in her adult life," Amanda said.
"She loves the community, she loves the support, the challenge and the fact she is taking control of her life again. Yes, it's hard but it's adaptable to meet the fitness levels of everyone and extremely rewarding.
"To anyone thinking about CrossFit I say 'do it', take a chance.
"It might not be for you - or it could just be the best decision you ever made."