Sammy Ventrice was a competitive swimmer at UK national level – until she found CrossFit in 2011. Fast-forward to today and she’s crushed countless competitions and made it to The CrossFit Games Regionals twice. Oh, and she just happened to be named the Fittest Woman in Wales by CrossFit, too. Here’s why she’s kind of a big deal…
TC: So how did you get into CrossFit?
SV: It was in 2011 and I was in my first year of university, still trying to swim competitively. My brother (who wanted to join the army) wanted to get his fitness up so he was told about CrossFit. I remember going with him to see the gym and watch the members train. The music was blasting and I had instant FOMO and wanted to get involved.
My first ever WOD was 3 Rounds of 15 box jumps, 15 press-ups and a 400m run – and it ruined me. But it gave me an adrenaline rush (which I love) that swimming no longer did.
TC: You were officially awarded the Fittest In Wales title after the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games Open. That’s kind of a big deal. How did you prep for those workouts that earned you the accolade?
SV: 2016/2017 wasn’t an amazing year for me. I think most CrossFitters will relate when I say I took it out in the gym. I would do morning cardio before work then I’d head to the WOD in the afternoon. I didn’t do any specific training but just kept busy.
“I never expected to win Fittest in Wales – I didn’t even know it was ‘a thing’ until I got the email from CrossFit!”
I never expected to win Fittest in Wales – I didn’t even know it was ‘a thing’ until I got the email from CrossFit! It was a nice surprise, but it was thanks to the coaches at Dragon CrossFit [in Cardiff, Wales] for their programming that made me do so well in The Open workouts.
TC: You’re not just known for your personal efforts, you also compete as part of Team Dragon Athletic (who qualified for the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games Europe Regional). How does your training differ for personal/pairs and team competitions?
SV: I don’t like to take training too seriously. I think that’s because I was a competitive swimmer for 10 years. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good race at the gym but I like a good laugh at the same time, too.
When it comes to team training, none of us expected to qualify for the Regionals. Even leading up to The Open we were all pretty much just doing the regular daily WODs five times a week with the occasional Olympic lifting session thrown in.
But, when we stayed top 16 on the leaderboard we all began to take it up a notch. We were cleaner with our eating, tried to get eight hours of sleep each night, rested before the workouts were released and generally went harder in the workouts.
“you have to stay switched on… being part of a team means you have to keep communicating and stay in sync with each other”
Once we knew we had qualified, our training completed changed. Andy Edwards did all the programming and it was intense! We were training hard twice a day with Thursday and Sunday as rest days. You automatically start to push yourself more as you don’t want to let the team down by not being fit enough… Even though I still had to tell Jenni [Banks] to slow down on the run in event 2 at The Regionals!
Another key difference with team training is that you have to stay switched on. I love doing regular CrossFit classes because I just switch off, but being part of a team means you have to keep communicating and stay in sync with each other.
The team worked so hard for the six weeks leading up to Regionals. We were all shit hot with our nutrition, getting enough sleep and generally not being social on the weekends. We worked hard on our weaknesses and pushed our limits in every workout.
TC: Your team made it to the Reebok CrossFit Games Europe Regional this year. How was the experience for you?
SV: It was amazing! The training schedule got hard at times but training with Jenni all the time was lush. We were good at picking each other up if we weren’t having the best day and always had such a good laugh. I actually miss it. I’d forgotten what it was like to be out on the floor since the last time I was at Regionals back in 2015 and it makes me hungry for more.
The support we had from Dragon CrossFit was amazing, too. Our Saturday event clashed with the workout at the gym but we found out that everyone stopped the WOD to watch us compete. Stuff like that makes you feel special as we really wanted to do the gym proud.
“I’ve never been so nervous… We’d practiced the workout twice in training and only finished it once.”
TC: Favourite part?
SV: My favourite part would have to be event 5. I’ve never been so nervous. Each team member had to do at least one rep otherwise we couldn’t continue in the competition. That meant Jenni and I had to finish the workout so that the boys could get at least one rope climb each.
We’d practiced the workout twice in training and only finished it once. I didn’t want to ruin our weekend by not finishing it so the pressure was intense. Luckily, we did finish the workout and the boys got 16 rope climbs, so I was a happy bunny.
TC: And the worst part (if any)?
SV: Not finishing event 4. I think the team would agree with me on this one. That worm was not nice and it’s the hardest workout I’ve ever done.
TC: So we’ve snuck a glimpse at your training and competitions, what does the Fittest Woman in Wales eat on an average day?
SV: I’ve been a vegan for over a year and in the lead up to regionals I followed RP templates. On a hard day of training I would eat six meals and consume nearly 2,500 calories. I only saw food as fuel so I didn’t care that I ate the same meal three times a day.
Meal 1 was a vegan protein shake with frozen spinach, kale and 44g of oats.
Meal 2 and 3 were whatever vegan meals I’d prepped for that week with 2 cups of greens and 1 3/4 cups of rice. SO MUCH RICE!!
Meal 4 (after training) would be a protein shake and 250ml of orange juice.
Meal 5 would be the same as meals 2 and 3.
Meal 6 was the best one – an Alpro yogurt with chocolate peanut vegan protein powder and 15g of nut butter.
TC: So far so healthy, but any guilty pleasures?
SV: I love cake! A cupcake from The Deck [in Cardiff Bay] is one of my faves!
TC: Back to the box…. What’s your favourite benchmark workout?
SV: Either Grace (because I’ve done it unbroken) or Fran (I like thrusters and pull-ups).
TC: What’s your favourite CrossFit movement? And why?
SV: Pull-ups! My good old swimmer’s shoulders like a good pull-up, plus I think butterfly pull-ups look so good!
TC: Least favourite CrossFit movement? And why?
SV: Does running count? It’s always going to be running. We just don’t get along. Ever. I’ve tried so many times to be friends with running. But it’s a ‘no’ from me.
TC: What memorable milestones and achievements stand out in your CrossFit journey so far?
SV: My biggest achievements would have to be the CrossFit Games Fittest in Wales award in 2017 and qualifying for Regionals in 2015 and 2018.
TC: Any Funny stories?
SV: Those that train with me or have competed with me would know how accident-prone I am – and something always happens when there’s a big crowd of people! During Regionals in 2015 I fell from the top of a 15ft rope and landed flat on my ass. It was caught on camera.
Another time at Strength In Depth I sat on a plastic box, which broke and made the loudest noise – in front of 400 other athletes! The team likes to remind me every year about this.
I’m not done! During Regionals in 2018, I fell over the barbell to trying to touch the cone so that the boys could start their part of the workout. I ended up crawling for it. This was also caught on camera. I also had the honour of watching Andy acting it out in the athlete area afterwards.
TC: Have you hit up any other CrossFit Boxes on your travels?
SV: We visited two boxes in Berlin when we went out for Regionals – CrossFit Aorta and Myleo CrossFit. In 2015 we visited one of the CrossFit Copenhagen boxes and I’ve also been out to Gran Canaria and trained at CrossFit KZ.
TC: So when you’re not showing people up/sitting on – and breaking – boxes/generally being awesome at the CrossFit box, what do you do in your spare time? Do you actually have any spare time?
SV: If I have spare time it probably involves going out for a coffee, food or cake and catching up with my friends or family.
Follow Sammy’s CrossFit journey over on Instagram @sammykayv