Tell us a little bit about yourself :)
I recently left Ibiza to move back to London. I'm half English, half Iranian, and spent my first years in France before moving to the UK. I love trying anything new, especially things that scare me a bit (with the exception of anything to do with heights!!) - which is how I got into CrossFit and weightlifting. I also love food - Persian culture is all about eating eating eating so I find that lifting and WODing offer a nice balance ;)
How did you get introduced to weightlifting and when did it get serious?
I started lifting weights in 2014 when I decided to book in with a PT for the first time. I really fell for deadlifts. There is something so simple and yet also very technical about the movement. It was exciting to see my body change but the best part was that my focus moved away from how I looked towards perfecting the skill and developing my strength. That felt like an extremely empowering moment. I felt freed of some lifelong demons.
I wasn't able to afford more PT sessions so I eventually found my way into a CrossFit box. I started taking Olympic weightlifting classes with Carl Raghavan, the UK's only Starting Strength coach (a programme from the US developed by strength training coach Mark Rippetoe). And that was it, I saw for the first time what my body was capable of and it was fascinating and exciting. How had I lived with this thing for so long, unaware of what it could do!?
Can you share your biggest challenges?
Injury. I get overly excited when I train and tend to push too hard, too fast. Through injury I have learnt to take training more slowly and I have finally accepted that I have weaker areas that need to be managed. It has forced me to learn how my body works, something I am grateful for, as it means I now understand and respect it better.
I check in with a physio when I need to and depend on a great book called Becoming a Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett - it's packed full of advice on how to avoid injury. It's not about numbers for me anymore, it's about leading a healthy, happy life and enjoying a strong body.
How do you handle pressure and where do you find your motivation?
I'm not a professional athlete so any pressure I experience just comes from myself, no one else. I have had plenty of crises of confidence along the way. I am currently studying to be a PT and on a bad day when I am low on confidence or motivation or when my nutrition slips, then I question everything. I've learnt through this process to be kinder to myself.
The key is to treat yourself as you would your best friend. If I feel exhausted or sore then I just stop. It's also about priorities, so baths and massage have gone from treats to weekly essentials. A little bit of self-love helps to fuel my motivation.
What was your most embarrassing moment (in regards to the CrossFit gym, of course)?
Oh, I cringe at the thought. I was new to this box (CrossFit gym) in London. There was a very cute guy there. Days before he had asked me what I could bench. I told him 50 kg. I jumped onto a bench, without someone to spot me, and as I tried to push 50 kg, the bar dropped and I got caught underneath it. It took a good minute before anyone saw, and it just so happened to be the cute guy who spotted me and ran down the gym to free me. Mortifying.
How did CrossFit influence your life in other ways?
Very much so. Since starting CrossFit I feel more like myself than ever before. It has hugely increased my confidence and this has impacted my life in a really positive way. I actually got divorced (an amicable separation from a wonderful man), set up my own business, fell in love, worked remotely, lived abroad and am now pursuing a passion project by studying to become a PT and investing time into my own community - Nice Carrot.
I love the community and Instagram generally because if you follow the right people it is such a supportive and inspiring environment. I get men and women message me to say the posts inspired them to worry less, or get into shape, go running, lose 5 pounds - and I so love that. And I also have people asking for tips - it feels very good to be able to help like that.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake at 6 am, glug a glass of water and jump on my bike or catch a train to the office. I run a communications consultancy with a partner so work is varied each day which I love. At lunch I generally eat a packed lunch - usually, a salad filled with rocket, spinach and veggies with salmon and cottage cheese on top and then I go for a stroll to stretch myself out. Then I'm back at my desk until 6 pm. I'll snack on oatcakes or some berries in the afternoon if I get hungry.
Then I'm back on my bike to cycle to CrossFit - I'll either do a WOD (workout of the day), a strength session (Starting Strength programme) or my latest favourite, a kettlebell WOD. Then I head home, blend an icy protein shake and cook up some chicken, greens and sweet potato for dinner. I have a sweet tooth so often I finish with greek yoghurt and berries or a little dark chocolate. I shower, foam roll for 20 mins and then collapse in bed with a documentary, an episode on Netflix, a book or sometimes after training I like to stare into space...zombie style! Injury free, I train 5-6 days a week between 1-1.5 hours a day - I love to add swimming and cycling in as I find they complement my training, the swimming stretches my body out and really relaxes my mind (I plug in my SwiMP3 and enjoy music at the same time) while the cycling warms me up and cools me down perfectly before and after a WOD. Sunday is usually a day of taking it really easy!
And what about your flexibility training? Where does that fit in?
Every morning when I wake I stretch each part of my body in bed before jumping up. Really basic, limb by limb. After showering, when my body is warm, I lie down with my beloved roller for 10 mins. I often drop into adductor stretches, so much tension to release there so I can never get enough. I also roll at night, usually for about 30 mins.
I try to add 30 minutes before each WOD to really focus on stretching tight areas. I use a foam roller again and a band tied against a frame to hit my entire body.
I take a small lacrosse ball with me wherever I go - it's fantastic for really targeting my glutes and traps. Either pressed against a wall standing up or lying down on the floor.
Finally, I often use ROMWOD - amazing daily videos that help to optimise the range of motion and promote recovery.
What are your future plans/goals/dreams?
To qualify as a PT, grow the Nice Carrot community and show many more women how truly exciting and empowering something as simple as a barbell can be. Lifting is steeped in misconception - it's either seen as a guy thing, something to satisfy vanity or an activity that will make women bulky. I see why these things put potential newcomers off and that makes me even more determined to change that - because it has been the most mind-altering and emotionally strengthening gem I've come across. And it also helped me discover what a fit, strong body feels like for the first time. I would love to share that.
Any tips for passionate people who are starting to practice weightlifting/CrossFit now?
The most important thing to know is that all the strong people you see in a box started where you are. They didn't know the technique and they couldn't lift much weight at all when they first walked in. So don't let the environment intimidate you. CrossFit has lots of beginner classes so it's easy to get involved. Every workout is scalable so if you can't do a push-up, for example, there's a version you will be able to do.
A big part of CrossFit is leaving your ego at the door and accepting you won't be able to master it all at first (it would be crazy if you could!)...which is what makes it so great. The faster you get comfortable with that, the better. Everyone is always learning and that's what makes it so satisfying and so exciting as a concept.
Nutrition has been a really big part of my journey and through the CrossFit community I have learnt a great deal about how to fuel my body and nourish it. Macro tracking for the first time in my life gave me a whole new understanding of food and what I needed to eat and when I should eat it.