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Podcast 123: CrossFit Phenom Haley Adams on Being a Role Model & Mission to Win the Games

May 11, 2021

Haley Adams, the 4th-fittest woman on Earth, joins the WHOOP Podcast to discuss her rise to the top of the sport of CrossFit. She also answered questions from our members via an in-app AMA, with highlights below.

By Will Ahmed

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Haley Adams won CrossFit’s teen division in 2018, and said then that she would win the CrossFit Games within 5 years. Since moving up to the adult division two years ago, she has turned in 6th and 4th place finishes at the Games and is looking for an even stronger performance this year.

Haley details her journey from gymnastics to CrossFit, what it’s like competing against athletes she idolized just a few years ago, and why she tries to be a role model for girls getting into CrossFit. She also shares how she approaches training, sleep, recovery, and performance.


CrossFit Phenom Haley Adams Podcast Show Notes

2:05 – Early Success. Haley talks about winning the teen division in 2018 and making the jump to the adult division in 2019. “The intensity and the volume of the elite level is totally different [than the teen division]. Just having to sell your soul in every single workout just to maybe get in the middle of the pack was something that was totally different for me. I had to learn to really run my own race.”

2:48 – Finding Confidence. “I surprise myself every year. I don’t know why I keep setting lower goals for myself when I know that I can do it. This year I have way more confidence than last year or the year before.”

3:12 – Discovering CrossFit. Haley details how she left competitive gymnastics for the world of CrossFit. “There was this building beside my gymnastics gym, it had glass windows and it was a CrossFit gym. I remember driving by there every day and I would see these women lifting weights, jumping ropes, doing something on a pullup bar. I just really, really wanted to try it. I begged my dad after I quit gymnastics to take me in there. He did, and the rest is history.”

6:17 – How Different Workouts Affect Recovery. “[Metabolic conditioning] with really high intensity, but still that 10-15 minute timeframe with a heavier barbell really seems to catch up to me and make me feel sluggish and affect my recovery score the next day. Usually longer intervals, like running, seem to help [my recovery]. I’m not usually in the red because of that.”

8:06 – Short-Term Goals. “We’re trying to overall increase my top end strength. That’s something that’s been building for a while. It’s not anywhere near the top, but it’s my journey and I’ve seen improvements and that’s all that matters to me.”

8:37 – Training at CrossFit Mayhem. Haley discusses training at one of the world’s elite CrossFit gyms with legendary CrossFitter Rich Froning. “I look at him as like an older brother,” Haley says of Rich.

10:16 – Helping the Next Generation of CrossFitters. “I get a lot of messages from young girls asking things like about nutrition and training. I always make an effort to answer those because I would like to try to help people not make the mistakes that I made when I was that age.”

11:00 – Being a Role Model. “I was also that young girl who knew basically nothing [about CrossFit]. I just looked at other people and would do what they did, whether that was tracking macros or doing their program. I think it’s important to be someone that people can look to and trust for advice,” Haley says. “I would like to be a role model.”

12:43 – Winning and Being a Good Person. “Obviously training is very, very important. I want to win one day and be the best, but also I want to affect as many people as I can in a good way. I want to leave a good impression and make someone want to better themselves or help someone in any way that I can.”

14:52 – Overcoming Low Recoveries. Haley explains how she pushes through days where she wakes up with a bad recovery. “You’re not going to show up today and say you’re not doing something because your WHOOP says you’re in the red. Obviously, that wouldn’t go over well!”

16:33 – Food Before Bed. “If I don’t eat close to bedtime I’ll wake up all night. Tossing, turning, especially when training gets hard. I don’t know why, but if I don’t have food in my stomach, I’ll be up all night.” Mike notes that many people experience the opposite, where eating close to bed will negatively affect their sleep.

19:02 – Training and Sleep. Haley says she uses CBD every night to help with sleep. “When I’m in my offseason and I’m eating enough, I could sleep all night and not wake up once. But as soon as I start training hard, and I’m still eating enough, it just seems like I am up all night.”

20:25 – Finding Inspiration from Other CrossFitters. “There are so many good people in CrossFit that have inspired me and many others. It’s hard to [list them]. You could say Rich [Froning] for sure. He’s one of the big ones. But just the community as a whole. We all try to lift each other up.”

21:37 – Competing Against Her Idols. “I remember the first event of the 2019 Games, I was ahead of so many girls. I thought, ‘How am I ahead of them right now? What is going on? What the heck?’ … That was a kind of a flip of the switch moment in my head. I thought, ‘You belong here.’”

24:01 – Looking Forward. “I’m just excited to get into that Games training and put my head down and work. There’s something special about that. The hard days when we’re all together and just grinding. I’m excited about that.”

24:25 – A New Era of CrossFit. “I think the future is bright for all of these young athletes. I’m very lucky that I got to lead that way hopefully and inspired other people. The future is strong and I’m excited to watch it all go down and hopefully be a part of it. It’s definitely a new era.”


Haley Adams AMA Recap

Haley also answered questions from our members via an AMA in the WHOOP app, discussing things like training volume, nutrition and sleep habits, and optimizing her recoveries. Below are a few of the highlights:

Hey Haley, what were some things that you changed after you moved to Mayhem? How did your programming and volume change? What are some things that you do differently now than you did before? – Het P

I’ve always trained high volume, but Mayhem programming is the best program I’ve ever been on. Rich obviously knows what he’s doing! My overall fitness and strength has improved since being here.

Since you have recently started wearing WHOOP, what have you discovered about yourself that you now take into consideration while training or recovering? – Jenny M

I’ve really paid more attention to my sleeping patterns! Even little things such as eating something different can have an impact on my recovery I’ve noticed. But mostly getting a good night’s rest is the biggest thing for a good training day.

Are there any techniques/rituals you find particularly effective at boosting your recovery? – Liv W

I’ve been using a sauna 3-4 times a week for 30 min and I’ve loved it! It seems to help my recovery some days too.

When you’re in the red, do you still work out with the same intensity as if you are in the green? And do you have more days in the yellow or green? – Alyssa Z

So most days if I’m in the red, it’s close to a rest day so I will keep the intensity the same. I may feel worse, but with our training that’s normal. I actually have a lot of days in the yellow!

What does your nutrition look like and what foods/nutritional habits boost your recovery? – Jena F

My diet consists of lots of rice, veggies, chicken, some red meat, oatmeal, lots of rice cakes and fruit!

How does your HRV and RHR differ based on your training state? What’s it like weeks before the CrossFit Games vs. early in offseason programs? – Parker M

I’ve noticed my heart rate variability has been low the last few weeks and assuming it’s because training has REALLY ramped up. I may try and do some research to try some new things to get it up!

How do you stay consistent and committed to training over long periods of time? When you do fall off track, how do you get back to where you were? – Max M

It’s important to realize there will be bad days. You get better on those days! Having a crew that shows up putting effort in everyday is also very inspiring.

When did you start lifting heavy? What would credit as the most helpful to you in adding weight – or said another way – what do you do to break plateaus? (Maybe you haven’t had any 🙂 – Lisa O

I never touched a barbell until I was 15! I wasn’t strong at all either. I remember doing lots of light-weight reps before I started to get heavier.

What’s your lowest and highest heart rate recorded on WHOOP? – Sean A

I believe 200+ and my resting heart rate is 43-ish!

How do you fit in school and the gym in the same day? And If you would have one piece of advice to get to the CrossFit games what would it be? – Caden R

I took online classes the last 2 semesters. But not close to a full-time load. Just what fits my schedule. Trust the process! Don’t try to rush. Stick with a program and make sure to enjoy it!


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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance and health. WHOOP members include professional athletes, Fortune 500 CEOs, fitness enthusiasts, military personnel, frontline workers and a broad range of people looking to improve their performance. WHOOP has raised more than $400 million from top investors and is valued at $3.6 billion, making it the most valuable standalone wearables company in the world. Ahmed has recruited an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, marketers, and designers. Ahmed was recently named to the 2021 Sports Business Journal 40 under 40 list as well as 2020 Fortune 40 Under 40 Healthcare list and previously named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Ahmed founded WHOOP as a student at Harvard, where he captained the Men’s Varsity Squash Team and graduated with an A.B. in government.