April Male Athlete of the Month

Couch-to-5k, Olympic Lifting, Double-double, Animal-style: Mohammad Zafar is putting the pieces together and is our April Male Athlete of the Month!


1.  When and where did you start CrossFitting?

It all began right here at CFNH in 2015 for me. My wife (Maryam) and I moved to New Haven in early 2015 and for about 6 months or so I tried to 'work out' at Payne Whitney. Not only was that routine super boring but it was effectively ineffective. One Saturday, Maryam decided to take a trial class just for fun at CFNH with some friends and then managed to convince me to sign up for the on-ramp program during Autumn that year. I was pretty clueless about the concept of CrossFit before this but the first on-ramp class (with Coach Dags!) was my last day at PWG- the structure and routine of CrossFit is EXACTLY what I needed.

2.  In the past year, you've been active in CFNH's Endurance and Olympic Lifting programs.  How have your goals and/or motivations changed in the last year?  What are some of your goals for 2017? 

One of the amazing things about CFNH is the variety of auxiliary programs available. The Endurance program last year with Coach Carla helped me achieve the impossible – I managed to run and finish a 5k race – it was basically a case of 'couch to 5k’ for me.
The Olympic Weightlifting classes were absolutely necessary for me to correct and iron out major and subtle flaws in technique for all the technical weightlifting movements we routinely attempt during WODs, since the majority of these were new to me. The relaxed (in that you are in no hurry, unlike the WODs) environment under the coach's watchful eye has helped my technique tremendously and I am now comfortable with most movements (except for the snatch).

The last year for me was basically about developing a basic level of fitness and incorporating a productive fitness regimen into my daily routine. I'm happy that I've finally been able to do that after a few stops and starts and it's worked wonders for me- I had knee pain, lower and upper back pain and posture problems when I initially started out in 2015 and all these problems have largely disappeared.  This year I am hoping to step it up a bit. The motivation for me is simply to compete with myself and do better than I did the day before. The one time I tried to compete with the leaderboard, I ended up tweaking my lower back and couldn't workout properly for months (lesson learnt!). Some specific goals include being able to do a strict pull up and perfect snatch, get comfortable in the headstand position, run a 10k race and do an accessory workout targeting a weak area after every WOD. Generally speaking, I want to make sure that I get into the habit of 'moving everyday’, even if it's a rest day. I want to increase my endurance and hopefully put in a solid performance come the next CrossFit Open.

3.  What are some of your recent accomplishments of which you're most proud?

I recently participated in and finished the workouts of the 2017 CrossFit Open (albeit all scaled, and I ended up 194,387th in the world!). I am able to squat and bench a weight quite close to my body weight and a 300lb + deadlift is quite comfortable. I recently Rx'd (finally!) a couple of workouts too. I think the workout programming is so good at CFNH that if you are regular, the gains, PRs and heavy lifts come automatically.

4.  Do you adhere to any form of daily/weekly diet regimen to power your workouts?  What does your dream cheat meal/day look like?

Unfortunately, eating right/clean is the bane of my existence. At the moment I'm failing miserably in this regard and I know that this is an area I must address. In recent months I've tried to consciously up my lean protein intake and be as Paleo as possible with my diet. Hopefully going forward I can clean up my diet further.

Ah, my favorite question. Well I'd start off with a California Benedict & cinnamon pancake from The Pantry, have lunch at In-N-Out (double double, animal style) and finish off with some Nihari (a kind of beef stew done best at a place called Muhammadi Nihari in my hometown) and Kulfa (a traditional frozen dairy desert from the subcontinent, again best done at a place called Benazir Kulfa in my hometown) for dinner. This may not be logistically possible, but one can dream. Also, my coronaries may need stenting after this but it'd be worth it.

5. Design 2 WODs:  1 that is your bread & butter, filled with your movement strengths; 1 that is all goats (movement weaknesses you feel you need to improve).

I prefer WODs with a relatively short workout duration in which you go all out and have a minute of 2 of rest in between:

3 round AMRAP. 4 minutes each for round with a 1 minute rest in between rounds.
10 wall balls
10 dumbell presses on a wall ball
50 jump rope singles
10 Russian twists

My shoulders and quads tire too quickly for my liking during long workouts with hundreds of reps (Chipper Thursdays :/), so:
20 min AMRAP, 2 x20m bear crawl after the completion of every movement
800m run
20 thrusters
50 kbs
20 power snatches
50 burpees over bar
20 OHS
50 lunges

6. How do you spend your time when you're away from CFNH?

I am a medical doctor. I graduated from medical school from Pakistan and am currently working as a research fellow at the Aortic Institute at Yale-New Haven Hospital. I eventually plan on applying for a residency position here in the U.S., so it is mostly just work and exam prep, although I religiously follow football (soccer) and try and watch each Manchester United game.

7. What is one fact that other CFNHers may not know about you?

I was born in Pakistan, grew up in England, moved back to Pakistan for high school and med school, and have been living here in New Haven for the last couple of years.

8.  Do you have any motivational thoughts or suggestions to folks just getting started at CFNH?

CrossFit is super fun and CFNH is more like a family- the Coaches and members are all really awesome.  No matter what your fitness level is, CrossFit is for you! It's the best way to start the day, break up a long day (lunch time classes) or end a long day. So just have fun!

I would say that regularity is key. There is a thinking behind the programming so the more regularly you follow it, the better the results.

Trust the coaches and pick their brains constantly- they are ALL absolutely amazing. Every coach in nearly every workout has a unique piece of advice which, in my opinion, helps tremendously. 

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