"I don't feel old in one cell of my being."
Amanda Allen is arguably one of the fittest women on Earth.
At the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, she convincingly won the Masters Women 40-44 Division after narrowly missing out on a spot as an individual competitor with a fifth place at the Australia Regional.
This year, Allen has secured yet another appearance at the StubHub Center in July after dominating the Masters Qualifier.
Not even an injured foot could stop her from winning three of the four qualifying events in her division to finish first.
“Two weeks ago, on the last step of the last workout of the day, I heard a crack and I froze and thought if I didn’t acknowledge it, maybe it didn’t happen,” Allen said.
“Weird things happen for different reasons and it meant I got three days of rest, which might have been what my body needed,” she added.
Allen, who will turn 44 this year, is well known for her high-volume training, completing multiple sessions each day, every day. Unlike many other athletes, she doesn’t have a rest day. Her Sundays always include an active, long-distance recovery run.
“Maybe that level of volume isn’t as necessary as I thought,” she said. “Maybe I need to dream a different dream and find a new balance.”
“It’s not because I’m getting older, because I don’t feel old in one cell of my being, but it’s about continuing to evolve your programming and intensity,” she continued. “People like Kara Webb often say they train once a day for an hour or so and I’ve seen it enough now to start believing it. At the moment, I’d do a week’s worth for most people in two days.”
Her results in the Masters Qualifier show the extra rest did Allen no harm. She even took an impressive 2:10 off her previous Amanda PR to post a blistering time of 4:55 on Event 2.
That time was faster than the entire field at the 2010 CrossFit Games, including the eventual champion Kristan Clever.
“I didn’t think I would go so fast in my wildest dreams,” Allen said.
“I was hoping to finish close to the six-minute mark and it’s the funniest thing as muscle-ups are supposed to be my worst movement and it was a muscle-up workout and I did well,” she said. “I still wouldn’t call them a strength. In my mind, at the last two regionals they cost me a return to the Games as an individual.”
For Allen, the result is a testament to what the body is capable of.
“I was blown away by what I could do a week later on a foot that was completely blown up,” she said. “In the past, I’ve had a few injuries and I’ve become severely distressed, but I decided not to let myself indulge in that this time as it sucks your energy and slows your recovery.”
With just weeks to go before the Australia Regional kicks off in Wollongong, Australia, Allen—the fifth-ranked woman in Australia in the 2014 Open—is adopting a more relaxed approach as she prepares for her fourth consecutive regional.
“This is my third regional where I’ve had a clue and a goal, and in the past I’ve been extra driven, amped up and pushing harder, but this year I’m calming down,” she said.
In 2011, she earned the third berth to the CrossFit Games. Each year since then, she has dropped by one placing—fourth in 2012, and fifth in 2013.
“Every year I’ve wanted top three, but it’s not everything,” she said, “and pushing and stressing hasn’t delivered so maybe there’s a better way.”
“I’m really enjoying this period, which I haven’t before,” she admitted. “I’m spending more time meditating and having quiet time and eating more.”
It will be a different ride into the regional for Allen, who in the past has enjoyed the stress, and even demanded it. She has spent the past three years building a level of fitness and skill, and now it’s time to enjoy it.
“I can start to enjoy that and find those one-percent improvements,” she said.
No matter what happens at the Australia Regional on May 16-18, Allen will go to the Games.
“My masters ticket is sealed,” she said. “I had so much fun last year, and this year there’s more money in terms of the prize.”
While it’s never been about the money for Allen, who would do it for free and has done it for free for years, she has a good chance of taking a piece of the recently increased prize pool for masters competitors.
As the champion of the 40-44 Division last year, she took home US$3,000. This year, she’ll have a chance at 10 grand.
Unswayed by the prizes, Allen dreams about returning to the individual competition.
“Personally, I’d compete in the stadium for free instead of on the track for $10,000,” she said. “I just love the atmosphere in that stadium.”
Over the next few weeks, Allen will focus on improving her game. She respects her fellow competitors, but doesn’t dwell on what other athletes are doing.
“The only person I can have control over is myself. I just have to go about my business of training and recovery, but the other women are incredible,” she said.
“It’s a gnarly age group and a deep talent pool. They have an incredible capacity and talent and no one can go in assuming they’ll be No. 1.”
Now a veteran of the sport, Allen has signed on as an ambassador for Barbell for Boobs and has released her first book, The Time of My Life, detailing her journey to CrossFit.
“It tells the story of my athletic life, my experiences dealing with depression and alcohol and food abuse and the different sports I tried until I found CrossFit,” she said.
“CrossFit is the time of my life.”