Hear from the 26-year-old gymnastics coach, winner of the Under Armour Test of Will regional fitness challenge. By Estelle Low
Zoe Pond-McPherson trumped over 1,400 contestants in the Under Armour Test of Will fitness challenge to clinch the women’s champion title. Photo: Raymond Saldana
ABOUT ZOE POND-MCPHERSON
“It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.”
Living by this mantra, it’s no wonder that Zoe Pond-McPherson manages to hit every goal she has set, including winning the recent Under Armour Test of Will Regional Grand Final, a regional fitness challenge.
The American gymnastics coach, who is based in the Philippines, beat more than 1,400 hopefuls by scoring in a series of agility, strength and endurance exercises. During the final rounds of the competition, Zoe proved her worth by doing 22 pull-ups while being suspended 7m above ground, and climbing a 14m-long manila rope without knots, among the other gruelling workouts.
“It was very tough,” Zoe says of her win, which also earned her the coveted Under Armour Brand Athlete title. “I had to fight against many amazing women who trained hard.”
Q: What’s your fitness routine like?
A: I work out five days a week, with two sessions a day three or four times a week. I also have one active recovery day and one full recovery day. On an active recovery day, I do light activities like swimming or hiking. For full recovery, I focus on stretching.
My first workout session of the day has about 40 minutes of warm-up and mobility exercises, 10 minutes of skill work, 60 minutes of strength and weight-lifting exercises, 10 to 40 minutes of aerobic activities, and a 20-minute cool-down.
My second session is usually lighter. I’d typically join a gym class or do endurance work outdoors.
Q: What got you started in CrossFit?
A: In 2007 before I started college, my former gymnastics team mate invited me to join his CrossFit classes. I tried and loved it, so I signed up at a CrossFit box once I made enough money.
Q: What do you like about CrossFit?
A: I love the community aspect of it. I can go anywhere in the world and find a group of like-minded people who immediately treat me as a friend. Aside from increasing strength and losing fat, I’ve also gained confidence in my physical abilities. CrossFit taught me to love weightlifting. My husband often jokes about the time he tried to teach me to do a clean (a CrossFit move that involves pulling a weight off the floor and onto your shoulders) and I refused because “I would never use it, and it’s boring”. Now I spend hours perfecting my clean technique.
Q: “CrossFit seems intimidating.” What would you say to that?
A: CrossFit workouts are infinitely scalable, so any movement or weight can be adjusted to each person’s fitness level. Almost any healthy individual, regardless of age, can do CrossFit. I was just in Australia when I saw mothers in their 60s participating in a CrossFit competition. Oh, and you won’t get big and manly, but you will get happier and healthier!
Q: How do you keep up with your fitness routine?
A: To stay on track, I set goals and share them with my coach as that holds me accountable. It also helps that I’m competitive. When I step out on the competition floor, I want to know that I did everything possible to prepare, whether I win or lose. Lastly, as a coach, I want to lead by example and inspire other women to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Q: What’s the most extreme thing you’ve done in the name of fitness?
A: I’m not one to do drastic things for the sake of fitness, just dumb things like jumping rope on a balance beam. Doing pull-ups 7m above ground during the Under Armour Test of Will Grand Final probably takes the cake.
Q: How happy are you with your body?
A: There was a time where I would focus my time and attention on trying to get abs, and smaller legs or arms, but that time has passed. Like many other women who have found a home in a gym or sport, I now measure my progress based on my increasing performance. If I want to squat or deadlift more, I will need to eat a ton of quality food to grow my muscles. My legs and arms will (hopefully) get bigger, the number on the scale will probably increase, and that’s okay. My hard work and dedication has built the body I need to meet my personal goals, and that makes me happy.
Q: Have you ever been fat or unfit?
A: There have been two times in my life where I have been less fit than I would like, and both were during transition periods. One was the first three months of college; it was the first time in my life that I was not on a sports team. The other was when I moved to Washington, D.C. for my first job in finance after college. I wasn’t used to sitting at a desk all day and I probably attended a few too many happy hours.
Q: What’s your diet like?
A: I try to follow the Renaissance Periodization diet programmes. They taught me how to time my meals based on my workout. Usually, I’ll have six egg whites, one cup of vegetables, and fruit or oatmeal for breakfast. For the next three meals, I’ll eat lean meat such as chicken, fish and lean beef, one cup of vegetables, and some healthy carbs and fat.
On days where I have fewer than six hours between training sessions, I take carbs that are high on the glycaemic index, like cereal, to keep my energy level high. I also drink Gatorade during my workout, whey protein immediately after, and casein protein before I go to bed.
Q: Any indulgences?
A: I love a good India pale ale, like that from Lagunitas Brewing Company from my hometown of Petaluma, California.
Q: What are your fitness goals?
A: In the short term, I would like to finish on the podium in the upcoming Asia Championships, a CrossFit competition. In the long term, I would like to stay injury-free, qualify for the CrossFit Games Pacific Regional again next year and place in the top 20.
Q: When do you feel your sexiest?
A: When I shatter an old personal record.