Tia with Reebok CrossFit coaches at CrossFit GoldBox, Business Bay Image Credit: Antonin Kelian Kallouche/Gulf News and supplied

If you are interested in fitness, you’ve probably seen her on TV, or followed her on social media and cheered for her in the competitions. Tia Toomey, the “Fittest Woman on Earth”, was in Dubai earlier this month and brought with her a dose of inspiration and intensity. Toomey delivered a demanding workout to dozens of lucky fitness enthusiasts to ceremoniously open CrossFit GoldBox in Business Bay.

The Reebok athlete’s workout of the day (WOD) involved usage of CrossFit GoldBox’s equipment such as kettlebells and rowing machines, but more importantly, teamwork and burpees.

Watch: A one-on-one with the fittest woman

As one of the participants, and I could probably speak for everyone there, the environment wasn’t just energetic, it was electric with Toomey’s presence. As the WOD progressed, she was motivating and patting people on the back telling us we’re “doing a great job, keep going and never give up”. Sounds like what every coach would say, but her words carried extra weight as she’s someone who’s been there and done a lot more than anyone ever has.

Gulf News tabloid! wasn’t just there to get sweaty, we sat down with Toomey and she shared insightful experiences in her journey.

You were previously a runner. Why switch to CrossFit?
The reason I chose to do CrossFit was to actually improve my fitness at the time I was doing track and field. I felt my running training was missing something. Shane, my husband (and trainer), recommended I do CrossFit. I’d never heard of it before but tried it out. To start off, it wasn’t really for me but I went back two months later and realised it was something I really wanted to force myself into, because I knew it was going to improve not only my fitness but my speed and power. As I got more and more addicted to CrossFit I started realising just how friendly the people were and the coaches were so encouraging. The people that went were like-minded, all they wanted to do was workout, improve their fitness and have that healthy balance in life. The community was what actually made me enjoy my experience... I was really enjoying CrossFit over running around in circles in the track so I decided to solely focus on CrossFit. At that time, it wasn’t to compete at all. It was to feel fit and feel satisfied with myself. From there, I realised I needed to improve my weightlifting, my gymnastics skills… so, the variety was so entertaining because there was always something I needed to improve on, so I really enjoyed the challenges.

There was also a local CrossFit competition that my gym was putting a team of six into. I entered with that team, so you had commit to the training and couldn’t bail out because you had five other competitors relying on you to be a participant. That was the most fun time in my life, competing alongside friends. I’m such a competitive person ever since I was a young girl… in tennis, running, netball, swimming… so it was perfect, everything in its own little bundle. And I guess my journey kind of went from there.

High-fives all over after a gruelling WOD.

Minutes before the competition, how do you prep yourself? Do you have any pre-game rituals?
I try not to develop any routine, basically anything that I need to do before competition. Because I feel like if there is an instance where I can’t perform a certain routine then it’s going to be playing in my head and I’m going to be constantly thinking when I get out on the floor ‘oh my god, I haven’t done that, I’m going to lose’… and there’s going to be negativity brought into my mind. So, I make sure I free up my mind and all I think about is what I need to do… and make sure I don’t think about people around me because that’s intimidating. You need to focus on you and just pretend you’re the only one out on the floor. You’re solely putting energy into that one particular workout. That generally helps me focus on one objective.

Being the fittest woman, how would you encourage other women who want to get fit but are hesitant to lift weights?
People are actually quite intimidated by CrossFit and I can totally understand that. When I first started out I was very intimidated by it. When I first started, I didn’t want to do weightlifting, didn’t want to put on size because I don’t want to be a heavy runner, I wanted to be light. So, the beauty for me, and I can vouch for a lot of CrossFit boxes around the world, a lot of coaches will never make you lift weights. They will always encourage you to try and be fitter, improve your health and your wellbeing. However, they’ll never make you do something that you don’t want to do. So, if your goal isn’t to lift weights or build a lot of strength, that’s fine. You can solely focus on your fitness, more of the cardio movements. And that’s the beauty of CrossFit, you can change the workout suiting to what you want to do, and change it depending on your fitness level as well. It’s such an amazing opportunity… it provides so much variety. You’re never going to get bored, you’re always going to have another option, and you’re never going to get stuck doing what you don’t want to do.

 We have such a beautiful environment over here, incredible place, and incredible people... no matter what you want to achieve just go out there and give it a go.”

 - TIA TOOMEY | 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games winner 

For women out there who don’t have a lot of confidence, you need to find a friend that’ll come with you, because then you’ll feel a little more comfortable and just try use them as a little bit of a barrier. Go to your local CrossFit box and just go sit down and talk with the coach and explain to them what your concerns are because that’s going to help them get a better idea of what you want to do. Then you’ll be able to go out there and achieve what you want to achieve.

What do the words ‘fittest woman on Earth’ mean to you? How does it factor in your life?
The title ‘fittest woman on Earth’ is something I hold very dear to my heart. It’s something that I’ve trained for a very long time. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into it. But it’s not just me, it’s also my husband, who is also my coach, Shane. He also sacrificed his whole life, he actually left his job in order to be my coach 100 per cent of the time. His sacrifices and those surrounding me, my friends, my family, all constantly supporting me… that title just goes to show that everything we’ve done together as a team is all well worth it. And I feel like I’ve been able to repay them for all their efforts and hard work in order to get me to where I am. It’s very satisfying, I can go into the gym knowing that no one can ever take that title away from me and I will always be the 2017 fittest on woman on Earth. That is just so much motivation for when I go back into the gym. Every day I want to go and experience that again so I’m going to train a little bit harder. For people who haven’t experienced it before, they don’t know what they’re missing out, whereas I know how hard I really want it.

Describe your training in preparation for the games.
Leading up to the games, it’s a very full on schedule. I train roughly around six to eight hours a day. That consists outside of the gym, swimming, running outside on the trail, going on long mountain walks, on the bike… so there’s a variety of that. I also have to focus on my recovery. Because I’m training so much, I need to make sure that I’m stretching and my body is on point. I’m constantly doing a lot recovery. Then I’m at the gym doing a lot of strength training and gymnastics… that’s developing my skill through all those movements, building my fitness through CrossFit workouts… there’s so much variety, we’re making sure we’re covering absolutely everything in every fitness domain so that I’m prepared.

My schedule is very hectic, however, it’s so much fun. Everything I do, I enjoy so much, trying to be better in my nutrition and everything like that. It’s a pretty incredible experience.

What’s a typical rest day for you?
Generally, it’s doing house work that I haven’t done for the week, or I might go to the gym and do a little bit of coaching. I’ll hang out with my dogs, bathe them take them for a walk… and then I’ll definitely be laying in front of the TV doing some stretching. A lot of my rest days would be stretching or going in the sauna… kind of chilling out that way. I really enjoy watching Suits, and action movies. They get me interested.

What’s your message to Reebok CrossFit athletes in the UAE?
For everyone in the UAE, I definitely think you make sure you’re enjoying your journey. Make sure you’re going to the gym and doing a lot of quality training… a lot more quality than there is quantity. Never giving up and just always trying to be better than you were yesterday is something that I take with me whenever I train. We have such a beautiful environment over here, incredible place, and incredible people. You have quite the support network, no matter what you want to achieve just go out there and give it a go.

What’s CrossFit GoldBox?

CrossFit GoldBox general manager Johan Du Plessis said: “It’s a 14,300 square foot [1,328 square metres] dedicated CrossFit box… and it also has a 3,200 square foot ladies only section. The facility is equipped with 13 squat racks in the main area, it has two CrossFit rigs and loads of areas where you can do pullups etc.”

In terms of size, this second branch of CrossFit GoldBox (the first one being in Al Quoz) boasts the largest CrossFit floor space in the whole region.

Find out more about CrossFit GoldBox, including plans to host the Reebok CrossFit Games in its premises in the future, in a video on gulfnews.com.