If we could sum up Emma McQuaid’s fitness background in one word, it would be non-traditional. Unlike many elite CrossFitters who come from a history of collegiate level sports, gymnastics, or weightlifting background, Emma McQuaid breaks the mold with her experience as a international level competitive quad racer since the of six, or as she puts it, “as long as I can remember.”
Emma's progress in the CrossFit world has been short and sweet. After less than two years in the sport, and 8 months out for a blown ACL, she has made a name for herself and is gaining recognition quickly. Less than a year back into full training, Emma went from a 7th place finish at The Athlete Games in Manchester in January of 2015, to a 36th finish worldwide in the 2015 CrossFit Games Open.
So how does a quad racing, down to earth chick from Ireland go from virtually unknown to the sixth fittest woman in Europe in one year? We interviewed Emma to see how she has taken her nontraditional racing background and applied it to the sport of fitness. Here are her tips on how to be a boss.
1. You only have yourself to blame when it doesn't go your way
"CrossFit is exactly the same as the racing, if you don't train and you don't put the effort in, you're not going to see the results."
If Emma's insanely fast recovery from an ACL and MCL tear isn't enough to show her self-motivation and determination, we can just look at her competition results from the last year and see that she takes ownership of her abilities, and puts in the work to turn her weaknesses into strengths. In TAG 2015, Emma placed 47th in the muscle up WOD as, "one of the heavier athletes," opening her eyes (with a little help from her coach) to the faults in her own training and nutrition. She put a stop to eating take-away 2 or three nights a week and taking weekends off to ride her quad and dropped 5kg. She knew she had to make the change if she wanted to reach her goals. That attention to detail and self-discipline paid off, because she placed 22nd in the Europe region on the gymnastics-heavy 15.3, going 3-2-2 on the muscle ups every round.
2. Mindset is everything
"I've just always had that winning mindset, and I don't think it's ever gonna change."
From a young age, Emma put pressure on herself to be successful. She remembers as a young quad racer putting more pressure on herself to win than her parents ever did. She's taken that love for winning to new levels in her CrossFit career, feeling like's she's constantly, "playing catch-up" with the ladies who have been at it for years, feeling like she has to work twice as hard just to hold her own. But Emma simply refuses to let her lack of experience keep her from hanging with the big dogs. Instead she uses it as motivation, working on her weaker skills like double unders and muscle ups almost every day. She went from an ass-kicking at TAG in January to kicking ass in the Open this March. She started taking Blonyx in February after TAG, and the gains she's seen in both her gymnastics and lifts are significant. As someone who finds it hard to stay away from the gym, supplementing her diet with HMB allows her body to train at a higher volume and stay undamaged. She also noted that this is the first Creatine supplement that doesn't upset her stomach. When I asked Emma how she pushes through those days she just doesn't want to be at the gym, she honestly answered she doesn't know what that feels like. She genuinely loves putting in the work each and every day because she understands the correlation between those actions and the results they produce. A true athlete.
3. A great coach is absolutely necessary
"My coach wouldn't be just your average coach."
As a newcomer to the sport, Emma needs someone like Neil Laverty from CrossFit 8020 to lead her to success. He holds her accountable for her training (not that she needs it) and knows exactly how hard to push to get results. He made her get on the scale and took her body fat after her performance in the muscle up WOD at The Athlete Games and had a heart to heart about what it meant to live like an athlete. She respects his opinion on every detail of her training, and he knows her so well he can even predict her PR weights and when she's going to hit them. Especially for someone without a traditional fitness background, Emma needs the in-depth skill work and programming of a superb coach, and she's found the one that's perfect for her.
There was recently an article floating around about what it takes to get to the CrossFit Games. That rookies don't stand a chance, and we won't see anyone at the Games that we didn't see coming for years. Emma gives all of us dreamers out there without a national title in a traditional sport hope that we really can make it on effort alone.