March 9, 2013
New Zealand's Big Boy: Mahdi Te Heuheu
By Siobhan Kent

“In 2012, I came in 22nd in the Open and eighth at Regionals, and once again I was very pleased, as my goal was to be in the top 10. This year, I hope to jump up the ladder again.


Mahdi Te Heuheu is well known as one of the “big boys” of CrossFit in Australia and New Zealand. He finished eighth at last year’s Australia Regional after winning Event 3 and finishing third in the Snatch Ladder.

But it hasn’t always been this way for the Kiwi. Te Heuheu first tried CrossFit in late 2009 when his friend told him about something called Fran, and how you are "the man" if you can do it under three minutes.

“I said, ‘Sounds easy, let’s do it, and six minutes later, I was in the fetal position on the floor with blood oozing from my hands,” Te Heuheu says.

But that didn’t deter him. By 2010, he was doing CrossFit-style sessions every once and a while, and since 2011, he has been hitting it hard and competing.

A trainer at CrossFit Mana in New Zealand with fellow Regional competitors Aaron and Jennifer James, Te Heuheu has high expectations for himself. He’s ultimately aiming to win the Australia Regional and become the first-ever Kiwi male to compete at the CrossFit Games.

“I've done the Open and Regional competitions the last two years. In 2011, I came 37th in the Open and 33rd at the Regionals, and I was happy with that given it was my first-ever CrossFit competition,” he says.

“In 2012, I came in 22nd in the Open and eighth at Regionals, and once again I was very pleased, as my goal was to be in the top 10. This year, I hope to jump up the ladder again.”

Despite setting his sights high, Te Heuheu is trying not to get too tied up in the Open this year.

The global event was officially launched this week with 17 minutes of burpees and snatches.

However, don’t expect Te Heuheu to be doing the workout too many times.

“In the past, the Open has consumed my life and at the end of the five or six weeks it has just left me drained,” he says. “This year the plan is to hit each workout just once and stay focused on training through to the Regional competition.”

Given he qualifies for the Australia Regional, Te Heuheu is hoping for workouts with heavy Olympic lifting movement, after struggling with the longer, endurance-type events in the past.

“I couldn’t finish the 100s Workout in 2011, and also didn’t finish (Event 4) in 2012, so I have a big focus on doing well on that type of workout,” he says. “If there is another strength ladder, I would expect to perform well there.”

With the CrossFit season now upon us, Te Heuheu, makes sure he completes an immense amount of training each week.

His current schedule includes at least two sessions a day, and daily Olympic lifting or technique work. He also includes a mix of strength and plyometric training, aerobic workouts, power and strength endurance and/or bodybuilding-style circuits.

“My weekly schedule changes depending on the training phase I'm in. It’s currently fairly heavy and varied,” Te Heuheu says.

“All my training is directed to me by my coach Aaron Davis. A lot of my workouts are interval based, for example: five heavy thrusters, 10 pull-ups, 200-meter sprint, rest 90 seconds, repeat 10 times,” he says. “The rest lets me recover and maintain similar times for each round. My strength work is usually periodized. Each week I do similar exercises, but increase either the weight or reps.”

With all that training, Te Heuheu falls back on protein shakes and supplements since they’re faster and easier than a home-cooked meal.

Unlike many other top-level CrossFitters, Te Heuheu doesn’t follow any particular diet. On most days, he’ll eat cereal, eggs and toast for breakfast, then a lot of meat and vegetables during the day.

And he also doesn’t mind a few sweets on the weekend.

“Most Friday nights, I will have takeaway or dinner out, and I certainly won’t refuse a cupcake if it’s offered to me,” he says.

At the age of 27, Te Heuheu is also becoming more conscious about the effects of aging, and has spent a lot more time this year focusing on mobility and stretching.

“I've had a few little niggling injuries during the last year. I think it’s due to an increase in volume and being lazy when it comes to warming up and doing my mobility work,” he says. “So, I've learnt to be a lot more conscious now about looking after my body.”

While qualifying for the Games remains a goal for Te Heuheu, he is still a family man, and says his partner and 18-month-old son are his absolute priority.

“I would give up all the training and competition for them in a heartbeat,” he says.

“But right now, my goals are calling, as well. I’ve got mixed emotions coming in to this year’s competition – I like to back myself to make it through the Open, but at the same time, I don't know how hard everyone else has been training over the last year. I guess we have to just wait and see.”