Couple of weeks ago, one of the biggest fitness events in the Middle East – ELFIT 2015 Season 3, announced its winners. With over 500 athletes competing from Egypt, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Kuwait over the title, Haitham Mahgoub (Instagram @haitham_mhgoub) took home the title of the Fittest Man in the Middle east 2015.
This year marks Haitham’s fourth participation in ELFIT where he never failed to be among the top four athletes. Earlier this year, he was crowned the second fittest man in egypt in the CrossFit Opens, and in 2014, he was competing in South Africa for the CrossFit Regionals. With the CrossFit Opens coming up next february, Haitham is definitely one to keep an eye out for!
Get Healthy Cairo met for a long chat with the champ about his recent victory, workout routine, and how he prepares for the competition..
GetHealthyCairo: Tell us more about yourself and your sports background?
Haitham: My name is Haitham Mohamed Mahgoub, 32 years old, married and a father of two Aicel & Adam. In the morning, I work as a Senior Financial Analyst in a brokerage company, and in the afternoon, I work as a CrossFit coach in FitFactory.
Before starting CrossFit, I was a professional MMA fighter, where I was ranked third at the World Championship of Shotokan, first at the Arab Professional Championship of Thai Boxing, and first at the Egyptian Championship of Kong Fu for 3 consecutive years (2005 – 2008).
GetHealthyCairo: So what got you into CrossFit?
Haitham:I had a bike accident and got a double fracture in my arm so I was forced to quit fighting. I, then, heard about ELFIT competition in its second season, where I decided to participate just to gain experience. I won second place, and it was then that I was introduced to CrossFit.
I had no trainer to coach, so I decided to educate myself about CrossFit and its various techniques. I started reading a lot, and watching videos of training demos. There was a lot of trial and error during this phase; I had to test what technique and training style best suits me.
GetHealthyCairo: How do you prepare for a competition?
Haitham: Well, it depends on the competition itself. Preparing for the qualifications round for ELFIT – for example is different than preparing for the Final round. The level of challenge, intensity as well as competitiveness gets higher; so it takes more and more effort.
It typically takes me around four months to prepare for a big challenge. I design my own training program, that requires me to train twice a day; and I follow it religiously!
GetHealthyCairo: What does it take to be a champ?
Haitham: It simply takes determination, sacrifice and mental toughness. Most people want to reach the podium, hold a medal and pose for photos, but only few know what it takes to get there.
For me, I wake up everyday at 6am to train before I go to my morning job; I finish 4pm to go train again till 6pm. then I start coaching my sessions from 6pm till 9pm. It takes more mental than physical toughness to do this every single day. I have to sacrifice being able to spend quality time with my family and kids, or being able to go out with my friends.
I have to follow a certain eating plan with specific meal times. Sometimes it is very difficult to eat the same food every single day, or to not be able to eat even if I am starving just because it is not meal time yet. It takes determination to continue. I personally believe that the higher the effort one does, the higher the reward.
GetHealthyCairo: As a CrossFit champ, what advice would you give to a new CrossFitter?
Haitham: I guess there are two types of people who do CrossFit; there are those who do it just to lose weight and have a healthy lifestyle, and for them, it is easy to pick a CrossFit box to train in because the nature of the workouts will help them achieve their goals. The second type is those who want to become CrossFit athletes and be able to compete. My advice to those is to pick a coach, who had been an athlete before. Having the “athlete experience” for a coach is very important in designing the program, understanding the nature of stress and the potential of injuries associated with competitions preparation. Of course there are some habits that they will need to let go of like, smoking, drinking – even if occasionally, changing regular eating and sleeping patterns.