Nelli Nurmi and the everyday life of a CrossFit-athlete
Photo: Minna Penkkimäki / @minivisuals.fi
CrossFit athlete Nelli Nurmi has been part of the Gymnation Ambassador team since the very beginning and is actually the first member of the team! Nelli recently also became the first Finnish champion of the open series of functional sports and will participate in the World Championships organized in Sweden on November 26-28. Before that, Nelli still has the general weightlifting Nordic Championships in Denmark on November 12-13 - so it's going to be a busy November for Nelli!
In this interview, Nelli shares how she trains, eats and recovers - and how she combines work and sports. Also take a look at our insta stories/highlights Nelli's "My Day" - where you can follow Nelli's ordinary everyday life.
1. WHO ARE YOU, WHAT DO YOU DO AND HOW ARE YOU?
I'm Nelli, a 28-year-old CrossFit athlete from Turku, and here I'm currently starting a relaxed rest day morning with a coffee in hand, sunggled under a blanket on the couch and answering interesting questions! 😊 I feel really good right now!
2. HOW MANY HOURS DO YOU TRAIN PER WEEK AT THE MOMENT (DURING COMPETITION SEASON)?
I spend about 15 hours a week training. That includes everything from the moment the training clock goes on before the warm-up and goes off after the final set. I currently have 5 hard double workout days and two light, restorative training days. On easy days, I only do about 60-75 minutes of light cycling/running and body care. And now, as the competitions are approaching, the focus has been on increasing the intensity and volume of training on the weekends, so that I am then ready to push hard for 3 days in the competition.
3. HOW DO YOU BALANCE WORK WITH TRAINING? WHAT DOES A REGULAR DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?I have aimed for and succeeded quite well in building a situation for myself where I can mostly optimize my schedule in such a way that balancing work and training is possible. Work gives me space to invest in my own sports career, and at the same time I am still able to take care of my share at work. It's the result of years of work, and it's cool that it's possible today. Nowadays, I know how not to take too much on at once, and I have learned and accepted that it is also necessary to make the so-called selfish decisions to prioritize things that are important to myself. For me, the order of importance at the moment is that my own training and e.g. night sleep and recovery come before many other things.
A regular day of mine often looks like this:
8-10am Wake up, breakfast and the first work emails of the day or e.g. updating training programs
10-11:30am Morning workout
12-15pm Lunch and work emails/invoicing and other computer work
15-18pm Second workout of the day and a tupperware dinner in some corner of the gym
18-20pm Coaching at the gym
22pm Time for bed
So I'm training for about 4 hours per day and working for about 4-6 hours on average – sometimes more and sometimes less.
I work at my own gym, CrossFit East, as a coach and also doing the day-to-day operational activities of the gym, which are quite varied. 😃
Photo: Minna Penkkimäki / @minivisuals.fi
4. HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE THAT YOU EAT ENOUGH DURING TRAINING SEASON?
At the moment, I keep a record and calculate the daily energy intake and macronutrient distribution, to make sure I eat enough and the right proportions. I don't want a single workout to go to waste because of too little food intake. For me, the best and surest way to make sure that things stay in balance is to keep a food diary and count macros. Fortunately, today there are easy tools for that and things in the kitchen are already going smoothly on routine.
5. HOW AND WHAT DO YOU EAT BEFORE AND AFTER A WORKOUT?
Before my morning workout, I eat a big, high-carb breakfast. Often it is porridge with "all the extras" – such as protein powder, fruits, berries and nuts.
After my workout, I immediately eat a warm lunch, or if lunch is not available right after the workout, I'll have a protein+carb recovery drink.
In the evening/afternoon, I often eat a hearty portion of fresh porridge or a filling smoothie about 1 hour before training. It's easy to make them energy-rich and they're easy to get down and digest quite quickly. After training, I eat a decent dinner, with enough carbohydrates and protein.
I try to time the carbohydrates around training so that a) there are enough energy stores when the training starts and b) I get the recovery started well after the training.
6. How do you recover from training?
SLEEP and restorative exercises. I make sure that I sleep enough (8-10 hours) and that I do light workouts on my rest days. My body notices right away if on a rest day I just lie on the couch and don't move. My recovery is best boosted by light sweating and body care, so you have to do those workouts, even if you don't always "enjoy" them.
My coach makes sure that my workouts and training program match my endurance and this endurance has been cleverly increased over the years as the body has adapted to training. Of course, you also have to constantly monitor your body's sensations regarding recovery and make changes to the program as needed. The answer to this is ultimately the sum of quite a few factors. Of course, the food intake mentioned above also plays a big role in how you recover from stress.
Photo: Minna Penkkimäki / @minivisuals.fi
7. Does your training plan include strengthening the psychological side and the effect it has on competing? What kind of tools are you using, e.g. mental coaching?
I've been using some tools for a long time and I've been aware of the importance of the psychological side in sports for several years, but putting it into practice has been a problem.
This season, however, things have been taken to the next level, as I now have my own mental coach with whom we work on psychological issues on a daily basis. I believe that this will play a really significant role for me as an athlete and big strides have already been taken!😊 Among other things, various concentration and relaxation exercises and imagery training are part of my weekly training. I believe that I will be able to create a big competitive advantage for myself in the future with this hard work on the psychological side!
8. What is the most memorable moment of your career in competitive sports so far?
The first thing that comes to mind is when last summer I managed to fight my way into the top 40 CrossFit athletes in Europe and thus earned a place in the Semifinals of the CrossFit Games and saw my name listed among the world's top names.
The second moment is the silver I earned at Winter War 2020, and more specifically the moment when I got to climb up there on the podium! It was the first "big" achievement of my career, which I had once only dreamed of. I believe that this competition and what I achieved there ignited an even bigger spark in me and those events further strengthened my belief in my own doing and that the direction is right. Well over a year later, I was there in the Semifinals...
9. What advice would you give someone who wants to start competing in weightlifting or CrossFit?
Things can be done in many ways and we are all individuals, but yes I would say that it is worth getting yourself a competent coach/coaching team or at least from time to time train with a competent coach. This is advice especially if you want to do goal-oriented training and competing. A competent coach would certainly take care of these elements as well, but it should also be mentioned that no matter which sport it is, both require patience in the beginning to create basic characteristics and learn movement techniques. Sufficient mobility, body control, basic fitness and basic strength levels should be priorities at the beginning of training for competition. I would emphasize persistence and patience in doing the basics and honing the basics until the foundations are in order. Simple is good!
If you want to compete "just for fun", which is also a perfectly fine option, then there is nothing to do but add the next competition to the calendar. Competitions are always great experiences and opportunities to surpass yourself!
Photo: Tuomas Hinkkanen / @hingane
10. Why did you join the Gymnation team?
I joined the team so early on that nobody had yet heard of Gymnation 😊 I got to know Gymnation's clothes among the very first and competed for the first time in Gymnation gear already in February 2019! I fell in love with the quality, style and comfort of the clothes, and I fell in love with the brand and the people behind it. I had found my new favourite workout clothes and at the same time my very first partner!
Now almost three years later, quite a lot has happened and there have been quite big growth stories. Both for Gymnation and myself. At the same time, however, many things remain the same: the cooperation between us continues even closer than before and the same Training Tights are still my favourites! Nowadays, there are more colour options to choose from and many other new favourite products have appeared alongside them! 😊
Although from the very beginning everything seemed really promising and I had a strong feeling that this would be a good thing, I had no idea how great and long a partnership this would build and what kind of journey would lie ahead when I joined the Gymnation team. I wear Gymnation's logo with pride every day ❤
Thank you Nelli for the interview and good luck in the competitions ahead!! Here you can find Nelli's instagram account, which you should follow if you are interested in CrossFit, sports and competing!