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Emily Rolfe on How to Be a CrossFit Games Athlete and Work Full-Time

Emily Rolfe on How to Be a CrossFit Games Athlete and Work Full-Time

Is it possible to work a full-time job and train for the CrossFit Games? Emily Rolfe is finding a way to make it happen. She's a 4x CrossFit Games athlete from Canada who also spends her days in medical scrubs as a radiographer, balancing a busy job with high level training.

"I like getting out of the gym and doing a totally different thing that fulfills me in a different way than CrossFit," says Emily. "I'm really enjoying doing both." Emily finished 15th at the 2021 CrossFit Games, earning the unofficial title of the Fittest Healthcare Worker on Earth.

If you've been in the position of balancing work and training, you know that the energy roller coaster brought on by sugar or caffeine will destroy any chance of getting it all done. Here's how Emily manages to combine both elite training and her day job.


Emily’s athletic background in gymnastics created a solid foundation for her success in the Crossfit Games. The two sports go hand in hand - they both demand determination, drive, and a high level of body awareness. Her training schedule is extremely demanding. Emily spends 4-5 hours a day in the gym, often training twice a day. She mixes up her workouts, sometimes focusing on weightlifting for strength and others focusing on high intensity intervals for conditioning to prepare for CrossFit’s emphasis excelling at many styles of training. She has to get creative with her training schedule to accommodate her job.

  • "If I'm doing an 8 AM - 4 PM day shift, I'll work out early in the morning," says Emily. "It's 5:30 AM, get up and go. Then I'll do my evening sessions immediately after work. It's good because I have 8 hours of recovery time between sessions."
  • Days that she works the evening shift are more challenging. She fits in all of her training before her work day starts, and only gets 2-3 hours to recover between sessions.

Sleep is a critical component of allowing Emily to get the most out of her training. She started tracking it last year to enhance her understanding of how sleep impacted her. "I used to think that if I was in bed from 10 PM - 8 AM, it meant I got 10 hours of sleep," says Emily. "Now I have a better understanding of how much deep sleep I'm getting and I can modify my training based on that." While Emily tracks her sleep in training, she doesn't focus on it leading up to competitions because she knows she has to go out and compete her hardest no matter how much sleep she got.


With her busy schedule, it's vital that Emily's nutrition is dialed in so she can train at the highest level. In her own words, Emily "crashed and burned hard" at one of her first CrossFit competitions and learned an early lesson in the importance of proper nutrition to fuel workouts.

"Before UCAN, I tried carb supplements that would give you a huge spike and crash," says Emily. "It's basically the same as eating candy. If you have a half an hour workout that's 5 rounds, you're going go 3 rounds and then hit a wall hard. It's happened to me and it's awful and there's nothing you can do. You can't stop the workout and go fuel up."

Even high-quality, complex carbohydrates weren't giving Emily exactly what she needed. "It's hard for me to get what I need from things like sweet potatoes and oatmeal that will sit heavy in my stomach," says Emily. That's where UCAN comes in. "I can drink it leading up to workouts or between intervals, it doesn't sit heavy in my stomach, and I can perform."

For morning workouts, Emily drinks Tropical Orange UCAN Energy or UCAN Edge because it's light on her stomach at a time where she doesn't feel like eating. For her evening workouts, she chooses UCAN Protein + Energy to fuel her.

"After work, I find I'm kind of hungry and thinking about dinner, but I still have to go to the gym and do a 2-3 hour session," says Emily. "Sipping on the UCAN Energy + Protein during the last 30 minutes of work lets me go straight to the gym and get work done, and the protein prevents me from getting hungry." Pro tip from Emily - "You don't want to go home and eat before the gym because you're not going back out again!"

In terms of her daily nutrition, Emily's focus is on making sure she eats healthy, well-balanced meals that are predominantly comprised of healthy, whole foods to keep her full and sustained. She works with a nutritionist who helps her plan out how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat to include in her meals based on her training schedule. She also supplements her diet with fish oil and magnesium.


Emily always aims to craft mental strength as well as physical strength. She has two main methods of bolstering her mental strength: positive thoughts and visualization. Until a few years ago, Emily never realized how many fleeting negative thoughts came into her mind until she started writing all of them down.

Now, she has taught herself to control her mind and when she notices a negative thought creeping in about herself or her athletic performance, she addresses it and then replaces it with something positive and reaffirming. This teaches her mind to reinforce what she wants to focus on - success!

To Emily, success is just as reliant on the mind as it is the body. If your mind continues to push yourself, your body will follow suit. Emily uses visualization practices to imagine herself crushing every workout in the CrossFit Games and finding success in every competition. To her, this makes competitions less nerve-wracking, because in her mind she has already envisioned the difficult pathway to success.

We all may not be able to immediately complete Emily Rolfe's incredible CrossFit workouts, but we certainly can utilize her strategies to create a life that emphasizes mental and physical strength, well-rounded nutrition, and a balance between work and fitness.

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