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Crossfit Ulladulla

In sleepy town Ulladulla where everyone seems to know everyone, Crossfit Ulladulla opened it's doors to it's first customer in May this year. Owned by Richard Neradil who has 20 years experiencein the martial arts industry, Crossfit Ulladulla is a new project. Part of a 700sqm purpose built fitness centre to house both Mix Martial Arts (which includes Kick Boxing, Brazilian Jujitsu and Muay Thai), Kettlebell Training and Crossfit. With new state of art equipment and a space that would make most Box owner's envious, Crossfit Ulladulla's lucky head coach and manager is Gemma O'Brien. Get to know Gemma and hear what she plans to do with her new playground in this Q&A interview.

Box Name: Crossfit Ulladulla (Part of Southern Fitness and Martial Arts Centre brand)
 End May 2013
 Australia, NSW Ulladulla (3 Hours South of Sydney)

What’s it like to be the head coach of a Crossfit Gym?

Honestly, its like a dream come true. For years I have been wanting to run my own box, and now I have been lucky enough to get the chance to do it and see it grow from the ground up. A very rewarding feeling.

The culture of every box is unique. It’s rare you are given the chance to be involved in building this from the beginning. How do you plan to build this community? And what do you want Crossfit Ulladulla to be known for.

That's so true!! Its very rare to get an opportunity like this, and I feel lucky every day for it!! Building the community – its really something that builds itself. CrossFit draws in amazing people - people who want to better themselves in one way or another – whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally – whatever your goal, CrossFit has this incredible way of being able to make that happen, with a bit of work along the way of course. The area that we are located being Ulladulla, its already such a tightly knit community – everyone knows everyone, or at least knows someone who knows them or have heard of them. So its been really easy for everyone to get to know and interact with each other and support each other. If anything, it has been me who, as a total newbie to the area and the crazy red headed chick who no one really knew, has had to adjust and earn people’s trust as a coach and as a person in the area...I haven't done too badly though ☺

Are you involved in other aspects of running the box or only coaching? How did the opportunity come by?

Yes, I am basically the main person in the gym. The way I came into being the manager? Well, its a bit of a funny story. I was offered to the job over a year ago. Basically, I am friends with the owners of CrossFit Jervis Bay, Matt and Jodi Triffett. We were talking one day, and they asked if I knew of anyone in the area (Ulladulla) who might be keen to run a gym, as their own, without all the extra financial burden that a new box owner would incur – basically manage it, but have all the free reign to do programming and run the gym the way they wanted. Matt mentioned that his best mate, Richard Neradil, was looking to open up a new gym, with martial arts down one end and a dedicated CrossFit box in the other. The original person I had recommended unfortunately wasn't in a position to take up the offer – so then she ended up referring Richard back to me, and as a result I was offered the role. So one year later, here I am. Relocated to the beautiful South Coast and living the dream ☺

I noticed you seem to know every cat and dog in the Crossfit community. How and why is that?

Hahaha sorry – that honestly made me laugh out loud!! Well yes, I do know a few of the people in the CrossFit community. This is mainly because I have been heavily involved with this community for over 6 years now. My very first Crossfit WOD i did back in 2007, and my very first comp followed not too long after. I guess being a part of so many competitions, whether I was competing or not (often I would just go to watch and support) as well as being involved with judging and helping with the organisation of a lot of them meant I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of people within the community. But lets not also forget Facebook – a lot of my connections I made online over Facebook, and then at various competitions I was able to meet them in the flesh. Say what you will about social media, but there’s no denying that it is a huge part of our everyday lives, and honestly I can say that it is also major factor as to how I have been able to know so many people within the community – both here in Australia and overseas.

How many Crossfit Affiliates have you worked for?

I have been lucky enough to coach at a number of different Affiliates – including CrossFit Wollongong, CrossFit North Queensland, CrossFit Geo, CrossFit Crash, Box HQ, CrossFit Chatswood, and now am running CrossFit Ulladulla.

How did you get into Crossfit? And what (if any) was your sports background prior to Crossfit?

Well like i said it was over 6 years ago – when there were only a few Affiliates around Australia (I think only 4 or 5 in NSW at that time). I was training at Fitness First in Park St in the City, doing bodybuilding and getting ready for a comp (that I never ended up going in) and I met a trainer (Bass Halabi – owner of SPS Gear and CrossFit Brookvale) who noticed that I was lifting some pretty heavy weight (for a girl anyways). We became good friends, and somewhere down the line I had decided to do my PT course and become a certified Personal Trainer. I approached him and asked him to put me through a session, just to see what kind of training style he had, and maybe try and learn a thing or two. He asked me if I wanted him to train me like his other clients, or if I wanted him to train me, for me. I said to train me as if I was one of his clients. And so he did...he put me through my first CrossFit session. Needless to say it put me on my ass, and I was hooked. I ended up doing 2 PT sessions a week with him and threw myself into the CrossFit world (back then, there was only a select few videos of Annie Sakamoto and Eva Twardokens doing WODs, and the original video of Annie and Greg Amundson completing Fran – if you search really hard, you’ll find it). I subscribed to the journal, and went to as many competitions as I could. The very first competition I entered; CrossFit Never Quit’s 1st Open Day, I met a woman who was opening a box in Wollongong (Deanne Ashford). We got along so well from the very beginning, and said as a joke if she ever needed a trainer to let me know. Well she did, and I ended up moving to Wollongong, completing my Level 1 Trainer Certificate, and the rest is history. In terms of being sporty before finding this crazy CrossFit world – i honestly can't say i was what you would call a sporty kid. I definitely played school team sports, like Softball, Cricket and Hockey for example, and did a lot of swimming when I was younger, but my focus was always on the academic side of things and also music (yes, there’s more to me than most people know!!). I found the gym life around the age of 18 when I was at uni, and got into bodybuilding around the same time too, but I wouldn’t say I was necessarily sporty – i HATED running when I was younger, and felt very uncomfortable being upside down or trying to pull my own body weight...oh how times have changed!!

What are the advantages and disadvantages (if any) by being a female coach? Do you think guys feel intimidated?

Being a female coach definitely brings another element to coaching. I think in terms of first impressions, for me personally, most people see me and know that I’m not exactly a push over. Being tall and of course the red hair – I stand out, and may in fact intimidate some people (I have been told from time to time that it does happen). As a female coach though, I think we are naturally wired to have more patience and empathy, not saying that men are tough and hard and don’t care – not by any means – but woman naturally are the nurturers, at least from an evolutionary perspective, so our patience level and our ability to empathise is generally more than men. Now, this isn’t the same case for absolutely everyone obviously, but for me personally thats what I’ve found. Every coach has their strengths and weaknesses, whether your male or female, and I think thats what makes coaching so fun, and even more so for the clients to get a different perspective.

What’s it like moving to Ulladulla?

UIladulla is a beautiful part of the world. Its a small town, but yet still has a lot going on. I have only been here for a few months, but from what I’ve heard when summer hits, thats when the true Ulladulla culture shows – lots of beach going, water skiing wake boarding and sunshine – can’t wait!! Honestly, coming down here to this little piece of paradise, to do what I love everyday and still be involved with the community – I couldn’t ask for a better life!

Is the clientele in Ulladulla much different to the inner city gyms?

To be honest – not really. Outside the box, people are looking at what we are doing and saying that the cost is too high – when in comparison we’re at least around 40% cheaper than what you will pay in Sydney – but the cost is all relative to the location as well. But the clientele are just as eager and for lack of a better word, addicted, already!! I have clients coming 5-6 times a week and the results that they have shown in just a few months are amazing. I’m constantly amazed at what people are capable of, particularly when I see these people crushing more and more weaknesses everyday. So no, I wouldn’t say the clientele are really different – the community is already very strong and continues to grow, and just like in other boxes, when a new person comes into the box, they are welcomed with open arms and accepted completely.

Many Crossfitters are Paleo? Are you yourself Paleo? What’s your advice in regards to diet.

I think diet is a very personal thing to be honest. I’ve done it all – Zone, Zone/Paleo, full Paleo, low carb Paleo, Intermittent Fasting etc. Its all about what you find works for your body. I found when I was very strict Paleo and low carb (basically high fat high protein) I had great body composition results, but my strength and my body physically hit a wall. I didn’t have the energy to get through my workouts, and everything stalled and I hit a giant wall. It wasn’t until I added some more carbs back in, and also included rice in my diet, that my strength and speed of my WODs went through the roof. I always ate for my body to look a certain way – but in the last 6-12 months my attitude changed completely and I purely eat to perform. So I follow a 90% Paleo diet, with rice and supplements around my workouts and more carbs than I’ve ever eaten before. I’m lactose and gluten intolerant so Paleo works well for me. Like I said though – its a person thing, and everyone need to find what works for them.

A little bird told me that Amanda Allen, winner of this year’s Masters 40-44 is your coach, is that true? How does that work and how has she helped you?

Yes, I’m extremely lucky to be working with Amanda – she’s an amazing coach who really cares about her clients and is very thorough with her programming. I've been working with her since the end of the Opens 2012. I remember finishing the competition and was so irritated by my performance, that I felt like I needed a bit of extra help to fine tune those weaknesses. I saw her advertising her online coaching program on Facebook one day and I got in touch with her – I was so inspired by her as an athlete as we all are, and knew that she would be able to get me where I wanted to go with my training. She sends me weekly programs, which I update as I do them and send back to her to review and make any changes or to work on other areas that need attention. Like I said, she’s very thorough, and covers everything from strength, endurance, gymnastics skills, technique and volume training within the week of programming. The volume of training is high, but I enjoy it, and the results that I have got from working with her – not only physically but mentally and emotionally have been incredible, and everyday I continue to get better and grow – which is exactly what this sport is all about.

Crossfit is such a mental sport. How do you motivate clients and make them believe they can?

It is very mental – but thats a big part of why I love it. I try to keep my clients focused on what they do and not others. Sure, its great to come into the gym and look at the board and see what everyone else has been doing, what times, weights etc and set yourself a playful little goal to try and match or beat it – but if you base your life and training on the sole purpose of beating everyone else, then its a very empty and unfulfilling. This sport is all about growth – mentally, physically and emotionally.

In CrossFit most people are doing things that they never thought possible – the satisfaction of personal growth and being the best that YOU can be is how people succeed. Its not about beating someone else or winning all the time. Those who focus on winning and dominating others, always let their ego get in the way and end up disappointed. Those who focus on being the best that they can be on a daily basis – well they remain humble, work hard, and normally do achieve their goals. If your times and weights improve and you get better with your movements and technique – then thats all you need to worry about. Everyone is on their own journey.

If I were to open your gym bag today what would I find? What items can’t you live without?

My gym bag is full of CrossFit gear – obviously!! Strength wraps, Jaw Grips (courtesy of Wodnut), Oly shoes, knee sleeves, hockey ball, bike tire (for flossing), protein shaker and supplement, spare t-shirt and tights/shorts, towel, long socks, double under rope and food. Honestly, on a daily basis I will probably use all of those items, so I'm going to say all of them!!

When you first started Crossfit what did you find most challenging?

My background was strength training/bodybuilding, so coming into the world of CrossFit I found the gymnastics and bodyweight movements the toughest. The lifting and strength was all good fun, though the technique for Olympic Lifting took some time to get used to, but I loved the detail and process of lifting, so it was never really a challenge. Oh, and running!! I’ve hated running for as long as I can remember, but Amanda has made sure that I made friends with it by making me do a lot of endurance work.

Who’s your favourite Crossfitter?

Out of the girls – I have always like Lindsey Valenzuela and Sam Briggs. Funny as they were the two that got podium finishes this year at the Games. In the beginning though, my favourite girls were Miranda Oldroyd and Eva Twardokens (back in the original workout videos on YouTube). As for the boys, I like Jason Khalipa – he’s just a big kid, but has such a generous and huge heart!! Looks wise, have to say Kenneth Leverich!! ☺

What book/s are you currently reading? Or the last book you have read.

I honestly haven’t read much in the way of books lately – no time!! But the last book I bought was the Whole9’s book ‘It Starts with Food’. Haven’t finished it though, but enjoying it so far. The book I most recently finished though was a book by Michael A. Singer called ‘The Untethered Soul’. Amazing book, it was recommended to me by Greg Amundson after I did the CrossFit Goal Setting Course, at a time when I was going through some pretty intense personal changes, and I highly recommend it.

To people who want to start Crossfit however feel it’s much too expensive, what would you say?

Oh wow – I get that comment almost daily as messages or comments on Facebook!! Money and the cost of training - its an ongoing concern for people when it comes to fitness and getting started. At the end of the day though – it all come down to how much you want it. The results that people get from CrossFit range from not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. It has the potential to change lives, and we see this on a daily basis. When you look at any figure – it seems expensive, and to be honest, money is always the first objection on anyone’s mind when they hear about something new. Yet when you break it down – it’s really not that expensive. For my box, we charge $15 a class – that’s the equivalent of buying lunch out for the day, or a really cheap dinner. If you go to CrossFit, its not like your everyday fitness classes where you have an instructor up the front of the class doing the same thing as you, and you just have to follow them. You are taught real and proper technique, step by step, only going at an intensity and level that you can handle. You are coached by a qualified and experienced CrossFit coach in a small group PT type of environment, in a fully decked out CrossFit gym with all the equipment you need, and encouraged and inspired to work to get the most out of your training. Normal PT costs approx $60-100 per session, depending where you are – you are getting the same level of service and attention for a ¼ or less of the price at CrossFit!! Having sessions that are constantly varied and predetermined by the coach in the gym means that you will never get bored of your workout – there’s always something new to work on – some weakness to master. With the added element of the clock, this brings a level of competition and intensity to your training, which is rare in a gym environment, and partly the reason why so many get bored of traditional gyms and never end up going – wasting their money on gym memberships in the long run. Finally, the community aspect – you don't get the same level of community in any other type of fitness other than team sports. CrossFit brings a type of camaraderie and community in the gym – people support, help and encourage you on a daily basis to do and be more, and many times you make lifelong friends out of it. And you can't put a price on that.


So the next time you are passing by Ulladulla be sure to drop in for a visit. Experience the new start of art box that would make any city crossfitter envious and meet a passionate coach who's been involved in Crossfit since it's inception. Crossfit Ulladulla | Wodnut


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