CrossFit champion, Khan Porter, has created this workout for Fitness First members to showcase a classic CrossFit WOD (Workout of the Day). We also spoke to him about the mental strength associated with being a winner.
It’s one he would do, which means most casual gymgoers wouldn’t come close to getting through it. Thankfully he’s scaled down a couple of the exercises to make the workout more achievable. But he’s at pains to point out that there’s actually no such thing as a “CrossFit workout”.
CrossFit training is really a strength and conditioning program that gets you ready for CrossFit competitions. This is a workout you can do in any gym, you don’t need the tractor tyres or a gritty CrossFit Box. Khan easily performed this workout at our Bond Street club in Sydney’s CBD. If you’ve ever wondered what CrossFit was about, his workout will give you a good introduction to the sport.
1 Warm up conditioning
SUPERSET 5 Burpee Box Jumps + 10 Dumbbell Snatches
1 superset every minute for 10 minutes.
Burpee box jumps From standing, lower your body to the ground. Explosively push back up into standing and jump forward onto a box. Jump back down. Perform 5.
Dumbbell snatches Stand with your legs hip-width apart, a dumbbell between them. With one arm reach down and grab the dumbbell. Quickly snatch the barbell from the ground to over your head in one motion. Swap hands as you lower the weight to the ground. Perform 10.
MEMBERS VERSION Perform a superset of 5 burpees and 6 dumbbell snatches every minute for 10 sets.
Clean and Jerk
1 rep every 1.30 minutes for 10 sets.
Start with 70% of your max and increase the weight each round. Stand in front of a bar with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Grip the bar just outside of your legs and pull it in close to your shins. Lower your hips and explosively lift the bar to rest on the front of your shoulders in a squat position before standing. Take a second breath and bend your knees slightly, using your whole body’s momentum to push the bar up over your head. Lower to your shoulders before lowering to the ground.
MEMBERS VERSION Every 1:30 x 10 sets, 3 rest deadlifts @50% max.
SUPERSET Front Squats and Back Extension on GHD
4 x 8 front squats, 10 back extensions on GHD machine.
Front squats With feet slightly wider than hip width apart, unrack the barbell on the front of your shoulders. Take a breath in and perform a deep squat, pushing your knees out and lowering your hips back and down. Without pausing, squeeze your glutes to return to standing.
Back extension on GHD Position yourself on the GHD (glute ham developer) with the cushion at the top of your thighs, not on your hips. Hang down over the cushion. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to lift your upper body horizontal with your legs — do not overextend your back or raise your upper body too high. Lower back down with control and repeat.
MEMBERS VERSION Perform a superset of 8 front squats and 10 hamstring curls
for 3 sets.
SUPERSET Double-unders, Airdyne and Muscle Ups
1 superset every 3 minutes for 8 sets.
Double unders Skip on the spot, jumping high enough to spin the rope underneath you twice per jump. Use only your wrists to spin the rope. Perform 50.
Airdyne On an Airdyne perform 30 calories for guys, 20 calories for girls.
Muscle ups Set the rings so you have to jump to reach them. Hanging from the rings, use your arms to pull your body up and over the rings. Quickly lower and repeat. Perform 5.
MEMBERS VERSION Perform a superset of 75 single skips, 15cal Airdyne cycle on 20 resistance and 5 pull ups every 3 minutes for 8 sets.
CrossFit and its highs and lows is life magnified 100 times. So it’s not surprising that one of the world’s top’s CrossFit athletes, Khan Porter, has a strategy for dealing with life’s highs and lows, one you need if you are going to be a true, long-term winner at anything.
As a child, Khan had difficulty with attention and concentrating, so his parents made sure they kept him busy with sports that saw him getting home too exhausted to cause havoc. He went to Gosford High, a selective school, but believing that he wouldn’t be one of the brightest kids, turned to sport instead, where he excelled.
At Griffith University he enrolled in a communications degree but left in the final year with a journalism major when offered fulltime work by a travel company, accommodation.com. It was while working as a writer that he began training at a CrossFit gym.
When his department was suddenly closed a few months later, Khan had nothing else to do, so he started training full-time. He discovered he was very, very good at CrossFit-style training, quickly earning high rankings in Australian CrossFit competitions.
What makes a winner?
So, what’s the essence of what makes Khan a winner, one relevant to any area of life? To Khan, being a winner is all about knowing how to handle the times when you’re not winning. He explains that in life you don’t always come out on top. It’s how you survive during those periods that determines your happiness and long-term success.
At the beginning of his CrossFit career, Khan had it pretty easy, relatively speaking. He won several local CrossFit competitions after he started in 2013, and in 2015 he placed first in Asia Pacific, which immediately earmarked him as one of the world’s very top CrossFitters.
But he struggled with anxiety and episodic depression after becoming the champion. As one of the best, constant winning was now expected of him, and Khan himself had come to define himself by his successes. When he didn’t win, the result was massive anxiety.
Khan told Fitness First magazine, “Once I’d had the success of making the CrossFit Games, it actually wreaked havoc on my mind. This passion for CrossFit that was an outlet, and was in a lot of respects therapeutic, suddenly became a stress in and of itself.
“I went through this really rough mental period. Where CrossFit had been this outlet, a really positive thing, it had now turned into a negative thing in my own head.”
The anxiety was coming from the simple fact that he’d defined the source of his happiness as being a CrossFit star: “for me to be the best, for me to win or for me to make the CrossFit Games again.”
“Being someone with a mind like mine, you know, prone to depressive episodes and bad anxiety and depression, the only possible result was to win. In 2015 I won the Asia Pacific, but my goals as an athlete were driven in a terribly negative way. That success was driven at the cost of a lot of other aspects of my life. I realised later that success is enjoyed very short term, and the cost of success meant that I was, in a lot of aspects, not very happy.”
It was after the 2015 CrossFit Games that Khan took stock and decided he needed to change his approach to break out of his mental prison. He took time off to travel and have some fun. He went back to uni to start a degree in psychology, not just to take the focus away from training but also for something to fall back on at the end of his CrossFit career.
His happiness no longer came from the all-encompassing drive to win, but from simple things like enjoying good food, going to the movies and having a craft beer with his mates on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
“There’s now so many things that bring me joy outside of the success in my sport, and I honestly think the last six months of my training have probably been the best six months of my life — both in and out of the gym,” he says.
“I can say without hesitation that I am the fittest, strongest and in the best shape CrossFit-wise I’ve ever been, and it’s funny how that syncs up with everything else being in balance.”
Enjoy the process
Khan says the secret to success is to enjoy the steps it takes to get there. He enjoys training for CrossFit because, well, it has many processes you need to follow.
“As a competitive CrossFit athlete you have to follow a very structured strength and conditioning style program to improve in all the different disciplines involved in the sport,” he says.
“You have to be good at learning movements and spending the time to master them, you have to be good at all the gymnastics movements, you have to be mobile, flexible, you have to be fit at everything — running, rowing, swimming, cycling, all of those things.
“You have to be able to Olympic weightlift, but you need to be decent at powerlifting too. Every single possible training modality is tested at the CrossFit Games, or if not in competition, at least in the process of making it to the games.”
Know why you’re doing it
So it’s not all about focusing on winning, but embracing and enjoying the processes involved, he says. But what happens when the process gets hard, when the training is killing you, motivation wanes and life beckons? How do you stay on track?
This is where self-awareness is critical, Khan says. The way you survive when it gets tough is by going back to why you’re doing it all in the first place.
“To succeed takes tremendous self-awareness. Be aware and observant of who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing to make it through all the roadblocks.”
Khan’s own CrossFit gym is Play Movement Co at 5/44 O’Dea Avenue, Waterloo. You can also find his YouTube channel at youtube.com/khanporter