If her 12th place finish the 2011 Australia Regional was not enough to make Linda Thomas known to the community, a top 10 finish worldwide for the first Open workout is. Her score of 135 burpees was good enough for 8th in the world and just eight reps shy of 1st place holder, Kristan Clever. Read on to learn more about this firebreathing Novocastrian.
What should we know about you?
I once crash tackled a home intruder in the middle of the night. My Italian background means I can out-eat most people and I'm a terrible lead-foot driver. But, most of all, I try not to take myself too seriously.
What was your introduction to CrossFit? When was that?
I started CrossFit in January 2010 after learning about it through a friend – Paul Walton, who later opened CrossFit Athletic. I joined CrossFit Sydney and loved the challenge of lifting weights and pushing my body. I think my first CrossFit workout was Fight Gone Bad and I got 313.
"It's about getting the hands dirty and doing the work that needs to be done. Pressure comes from lack of preparation."
Was there a moment when you started to think of CrossFit as your sport?
I'm an “all or nothing” kind of person. My poor husband has to put up with a lot. So from the moment I started CrossFit, I bought into the lifestyle, nutrition, and desire to do well. I didn't know whether I would be good at it until I qualified [10th] for the 2011 Regionals. That was a bit of a shock to me because I hadn't competed in many CrossFit competitions previously. All I thought about were my own expectations, which were, and still are, high.
What was the best coaching cue you ever received?
I moved to Newcastle in October 2011 and commenced training with Darren Coughlan at CrossFit Newcastle. When I got there I started training in an entirely new way. It became all about speed and power. This isn't to say I hadn't tried to go fast before, I just learned to push my limits more and ignore what the brain was saying. We train pretty damn hard.
What is your best moment in CrossFit competition?
So many great moments. It was a huge buzz competing in the top heat at Regionals last year and being part of the camaraderie that existed between the athletes.
When we lined up ready to start the run, we were all commenting on each other's colour combinations in our outfits and having a bit of a laugh – it helped to get rid of a lot of nervous tension. It was then pretty cool to run into the stadium in 1st place during that first workout and take some glory with my mum watching.
Perhaps my best moment, though, was finishing the deadlift/box jump workout, where I proved to myself that I had fully recovered from a back injury six months prior.
Is competition your primary training goal?
Competition is definitely a major training goal. I have always loved competing and I feel it makes me a smarter and well-rounded athlete. It's great that there are so many CrossFit competitions in the region now and I get to compete against some of the top women more often. It's definitely inspirational. In training, there are several strong women at CrossFit Newcastle who keep me honest and it's so great to have them there to push me.
Have you competed at a high level in other sports? How does CrossFit competition compare?
I have a running background and competed at state level for cross country and some middle distance track running for several years. I was also a member of the Hunter Academy of Sport for triathlon and I've done many 10 km races and half marathons (and one marathon), as well.
None of these were as challenging as CrossFit competitions. Monostructural movements like running let you switch off to a certain extent, however, CrossFit events require constant adaptation, strategy, and technique. There is no such thing as being in your comfort zone in a CrossFit competition, unlike a long distance road race.
How does your sporting background help you as a CrossFit Competitor?
I built muscular endurance early; therefore I naturally like workouts with high reps or chippers. I've also done some weight training prior to CrossFit, so had a small strength base. The biggest things I've had to work on are technique and speed. I always find it interesting to watch how people adapt to CrossFit because it's usually pretty dependent on what they have to learn (or unlearn) from previous sporting pursuits.
What do you hope to achieve out of this year’s Games season?
My approach this year is entirely different. I am better at recognizing my weaknesses and working on them. Ultimately, I'll be happy if I can improve on a few technique aspects and speed. In saying that, I'd like to be in a similar position heading into Regionals this year and I'd also love to improve on last year's 12th place.
How do you think this year will compare to previous years?
In terms of format, I expect this year's Open/Regionals to be similar to last year's. Greg Glassman said so himself at the CrossFit Tour.
However, everyone will be stronger and faster this year and I wouldn't ever become complacent. It feels like CrossFit also has a much bigger groundswell this year, so hopefully that's a step in the direction towards greater spectator numbers, media exposure, and sponsorships.
What did last year teach you and how have you changed your approach to this season’s competition?
Competing is a great experience, whether it's in the Open, Regionals, or at a local competition because it teaches us what we're capable of and how to become smarter athletes. Last year taught me not to panic so much. I really struggled with how to approach training last year because it felt like there was so much I needed to improve.
Leading up to Regionals, I focused mostly on Olympic lifts and strength. As a result, I was strong, but probably too heavy and not technical enough. This year, under Darren Coughlan's programming, the strength part is already there and now it’s about refining other aspects. I'm also paying more attention to mobility and rest so that I can be injury-free.
As a competitor at last year’s CrossFit Regionals, do you feel added pressure to make it back this year?
I don't really feel any added pressure to return to Regionals this year. I know my body and how it performs, so I have an idea on how I should do in the Open. It's about getting the hands dirty and doing the work that needs to be done. Pressure comes from lack of preparation.