Gwen is a three times CrossFit Games Regionals Europe athlete, with top 20 finishes in 2014 and 2015. She's London's best CrossFit athlete and a former semi-professional Volleyball player. A degree in sports science and three years work in a clinic with cardiac patients completes her profile as an elite level athlete with specific rehab knowledge. "For me, training isn't about fat loss or body transformation. It's about giving my clients options of how they can move – it's the most satisfying and rewarding thing in the world".
Hi Gwen, you're smashing at at CrossFit at the moment, what's driving you to progress as you are?
Thanks! This year has been going pretty well with regards to competing. What's driving me to progress is the variety of movements in CrossFit. There's so much I can and want to improve in. I love training and working on all these movements – and simply enjoy the journey of trying to become a better and more rounded athlete
Has fitness always been part of your life?
Absolutely, you can say I was born to move. I was one of those children always running around, bouncing up and down, walking on my hands... you couldn't really stop me. My whole family was – and still is – very active. We all cycled to work/school/kindergarten, and my sisters an brother were doing track and field, volleyball, gymnastics, skiing...
What were your career aspirations as a child? Did you always want to be a sports-person?
I didn't plan a career in sports as such, but my mum was teaching PE, and I thought I might be too one day. I'm glad I didn't as I really enjoy working as a personal trainer.
What was the first competition you entered, and what was it like?
The first competition I did in CrossFit was a team competition (4 guys, 2 girls) which was the best way to get started with competing in CrossFit. It was a very intense experience full of different emotions. Dealing with nerves, overcoming doubts and fears, trying to remember what I had to do – and enjoying the successes. Overall it was enough to enter my first individual competition two months later.
Alongside volleyball and CrossFit, you've also been a triathlete – how much does the training for all these sports differ? And which one do you enjoy the most?
Even though these sports are very different, the training for them won't differ as much. For all of them you need to be willing to push yourself to your mental and physical limits, and in all three sports your aim is to move as perfect and efficient as possible. I can't say I enjoy training for one sport more than for the other. I liked all of them evenly at the time, I did them and as with everything I do, I put all my heart into it.
What made you want to relocate to the UK? Does Britain have a different approach to training than back in Germany?
I moved to the UK because my boyfriend, now husband, was living here, and I was curious about the experience to live abroad. I'd say Britain has a different approach to training than Germany. In Germany people train more with the approach to prevent injury e.g. back pain or to rehab. Here in Britain, people seem to train more because they want an intense workout. Still, that doesn't mean we Germans are less tough than you guys!
You say eight hours sleep a night is a must while one is training. How do you manage it? Any tips?
Yes, eight hours is what you should aim for – not only while training, but in life in generally. If you don't sleep enough your body doesn't recover. Not from training, and not from all the things that your mind and body have to deal with in your daily life. Tips how to get the most if your sleep? There's a lot of things you can do. Make sure you sleep in a pitch black room with no electric devices switched on, not even on standby, switch off your phone/tablet/TV at least an hour before you go to bed, meditate, supplement with magnesium, and of course go to bed early enough to allow yourself to get those eight hours before you've to get up.
You look amazingly fit. What are your nutrition rules?
The number one rule is to eat only quality food. That means I don't buy anything processed, but prepare all my meals myself. I buy only organic grown vegetables and fruit, and meat will be from organic and grass fed animals. You won't find any grains or sugar in my household either.
What's the naughty snack you allow yourself every now and again?
I love chocolate croissants. Sadly my body hates them... So I stick to dark chocolate and self-made coconut banana muffins most of the time.
Does having a healthy body really mean your have a healthy mind?
Just as much as you've to take care of having a healthy body, you've to take care of having a healthy mind. Although I can't see one existing without the other.
What is the most rewarding element of training clients?
It's giving my clients a different understanding of how they can use their own body. Training (for me) isn't about fat loss or body transformation. It's about giving my clients options how they can move. If someone is able to move differently than before, and understands on her/his own how to create that movement, it's the most satisfying and rewarding thing in the world. I'll get evenly excited if someone PBs his/her squat or gets her/his first muscle-up – or if someone tells me they've worked all weekend in the garden and have no back pain cause they've learnt to position themselves differently.
Why is it that people want the quick fix training rather than the quality training which you specialise in?
I guess people who want the "quick fix training" are looking to transform their body. They aim for a change in their physical appearance. Which is what media makes them associate with feeling well, being successful, being liked, happy and healthy. But we don't live to match a certain look. We live to enjoy our lives. No one enjoys a life where you ache, and are limited in simple movements like walking up the stairs with achy knees, or having back pain while you sit in front of your desk at work. We've moved far away from our own bodies and we don't know how to use them. It takes time and commitment to regain this. People who come to train with me want to learn to move better. They're willing to invest time to learn the movement first before they attempt to deadlift twice there bodyweight.
What's the key piece of advice you would tell someone who wants to transform their lives through fitness?
Ask yourself what you want 'in the first place'. Do you want to look differently? Or do you want to improve your quality of life?
Want to train with Gwen? Drop her an email.