I was lucky enough to cross paths with Joyanne Cooper several years ago. Here was a woman as passionate about movement and fitness as myself!! Joyanne has taught TRX as well as a metabolic conditioning classes for BTF, and has continued to amaze us with her commitment to growth as an athlete, a coach, and as an inspirational role model in our health and fitness community. Joyanne first introduced me to CrossFit, and she continues to influence my own learning and growth in training and nutrition.
What are your first experiences of exercising/training? Was this part of your life growing up?
Having two brothers growing up, I was very active with them on bikes and skateboards to keep up with them. I was a late bloomer when it came to organized sports. I didn’t play my first sport until high school, playing for the school’s volleyball, basketball, badminton, and track and field teams. I enjoyed sports a lot, and I liked belonging to a team.
What does your regular training on a weekly basis look like? How does this change throughout the year?
A typical training week includes 5 days of training, for about 2-3 hours per day. I always take one full rest day each week (usually Sundays) and one active recovery day, which includes accessory work plus light rowing, biking, and/or running.
The training year is pretty much broken up into 4 sections, starting with the Fall which has a focus on strength and technique, as well as a time to learn new skills. This is the fun time of year, and the training is a little less serious.
From December through February, the focus changes to getting faster, and building the cardio engine in preparation for the first round qualifier for the Crossfit Games: the CrossFit Open.
April is when I need to peak for the Master Qualifier. This is one weekend of four workouts, and these scores will determine the top 20 athletes that qualify to compete at the CrossFit Games in the late summer.
From May through July the training volume ramps up, swimming is added on recovery days, and I train outside as much as possible in preparation for the Games – outdoors in the full sun and heat.
Nutrition, recovery, and sleep quality are just as important as the hours I put into the gym. These are monitored carefully throughout the entire year to avoid injury and to be able to train my very best.
Who and what are your biggest influences and inspirations?
My support system motivates and encourages me to be the best I can be at what I do. This is true for the entire training year, not just for those exciting moments during competition.
My support system is huge and includes my family, friends, coaches, therapists, and my CrossFit community.
I’m inspired by the new abilities people find in themselves – becoming better than yesterday, stronger than ever, fitter than 20 years ago, and doing new things they thought they were never capable of.
Even as an elite CrossFit athlete, what does a “balanced” approach to health and fitness mean to you? What role does your nutritional approach play in the overall approach to your fitness?
As long as I’m enjoying what I do, and it isn’t negatively affecting the rest of my life, I consider myself ‘balanced’. I love what I do, and my husband and kids are big-time supporters; this is a major priority for me.
I have recently become self-employed, so can choose my own ‘business hours’ and flex my day to accommodate my training schedule. As recent as last year I worked full time, and while I made it work by training in the evenings, it made for long days. I wasn’t able to be home as much as I am now. While I made it work the past three years, I definitely prefer the flexibility I have now.
Nutrition has been a very important part of my focus in the past 3 years. Eating enough food each day, in the appropriate proportions, and timing my carbohydrate intake around my training times has benefitted my training energy, recovery between workouts, quality of sleep, levels of stress, and given me the ability to still enjoy the foods I love.
What “feedback tools” do you regularly use to determine what needs adjusting within your training and programming schedule?
I listen to my body. This past year was the first year I’ve had an injury in my five years of CrossFit. I have had issues with both shoulders, first my right and now more recently my left. I follow the rule that if it hurts I don’t do it. Through this injury I have learned to increase my emphasis on proper warm up and mobility, good movement patterns, and proper rest. As well, I have an awesome team of therapists that maintain and fix me on a regular basis; physiotherapy, massage, and chiropractic have been key players in my recovery and my ability to still compete at this elite level.
What do you love to teach in the gym and why? What about nutritional education?
My favourite things to teach in the gym include how to move better and more efficiently, how to approach a workout, and how to develop mental toughness.
I talk a little about nutrition at the gym; generally when people say they are tired or still sore from the previous workout, my first question is usually if they’ve eaten before their workout and what do they plan to eat within the first hour after their workout. Nutrition is key to energy levels and recovery!
What do you find the most challenging in the gym to teach and why? What about nutritional education?
It’s not so much ‘what’ is most challenging to teach. The biggest challenge when coaching is usually found with the resistant learner type of person, or someone who isn’t willing to be coached. When people leave their egos at the door, listen intently, ask questions, and trust their coach or instructor, anything can be taught and learned.
Nutrition can be a tough topic to teach people. There are so many old myths and beliefs about too much fat, too many carbs, cleanses, etc… People have become scared to eat, and as a result most people are not eating enough, and are therefore not eating the foods that match their activity levels and goals.
Joyanne is a 3 time CrossFit Games Masters Athlete, finishing 5th in 2016. Learn more about Joyanne’s approach to training and nutrition by visiting www.thejoyfullife.ca