SGPT: Tell us about yourself, Aja.
AB: Well, I am a giant half Asian CrossFit athlete/gym owner that loves my family, takes pride in my goals and ambitions and lives life to the fullest each and every day I open my eyes.
SGPT: Did you have an athletic background growing up?
AB: I did. I played numerous sports as I aged. Basketball, soccer, baseball, ping pong but ended up sticking to baseball for the majority of my youth and into my teenage years. After graduating from high school, I attended Tulane University in New Orleans to play baseball and after 3 years with the Green Wave, I signed to play with the Texas Rangers. I played with them for a few years before finding CrossFit.
Video – Aja Barto CrossFit change of perspective
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SGPT: How did you get started with CrossFit competitions?
AB: When I first began CrossFit at an actual box, the owner suggested I sign up for a sectional competition that was in the upcoming weeks. I did and did alright, qualifying for regionals. I went onto regionals with a couple months of training under my belt, but no real understanding or development of skills. I ended up finishing like 10th at Regionals that year and knew I could go to the games.
SGPT: Can you tell us about some of your recent competitions and placings?
AB: Last year I qualified for the CrossFit games out of the South Central Region and ended up taking 28th overall in Carson. This year I have qualified again and look to win it all.
SGPT: How do you typically train?
AB: Right now, I train Monday through Wednesday, Friday and one day on the weekend. These sessions are one-a-day sessions but usually are composed of several components varying from gymnastic and skill development warm-ups, strength or olympic lifting sessions and some sort of cellular development through metabolic conditioning/training/and testing of various pathways. As I close in on competitions, Friday-Sunday usually tend to be higher volume and higher intensity sessions mimicking what I will see and experience during competitions like Regionals or the games. CJ “The mastermind” Martin out of Invictus Fitness does all of my programming and he is one heck of a coach. He keeps me well prepared for anything that I may encounter at competitions and also in life.
Video – Aja Barto
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SGPT: What about diet – how do you eat and fuel yourself on comp days?
AB: I eat mainly real food with the addition of rice and at times corn tortillas. Other than that I am pretty dialed in on my nutrition but not on my portion size. On competition days I’m very meticulous with my nutrition. Post workout I IMMEDIATELY AND ALWAYS take a Progenex recovery shake that consists of a couple scoops of More Muscle or Recovery (depending on the workout) and a scoop of maltodextrin (providing about 40-50g of quick and easily digestible carbohydrates). I eat when I need to eat and at times after workouts with longer periods of down time, I make sure I get a good meal into my system. These meals usually consists of easily digestible but highly dense carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and apple sauce to assist in replenishing my glycogen stores and a lean protein source like chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken peeled from the bone. I also utilize good sources of fats like nut butters and guacamole to make sure I stay satiated and my energy levels are more than sufficient.
SGPT: Do you take any protein supplements or fish oil?
AB: Yes, Progenex supplements and PurePharma fish oil and Vitamin D3.
SGPT: So I was reading your stats on Tulane baseball last night and I am saying to myself ” This guy had to play pro ball”. Sure enough it said later in article you played professional baseball. Can you tell us more about that?
AB: Yeah, I played a few years with the Texas Rangers minor league organization and had a blast doing it. They are a real top notch organization and I had the opportunity to meet and play with a lot of talented guys and learn a ton from their coaching staff. It was through their strength and conditioning program that I actually learned about CrossFit. A good friend of mine to this day, Napolean Pichardo, the Rangers head strength and conditioning coordinator introduced me to my very first taste of CrossFit…Helen….it was tasty.
SGPT: Have you had any injuries in the past and how did you deal with them in training?
AB: Fortunately I have not had anything too serious. At regionals last year I strained my achilles and it prevented me from doing any jumping or running leading up to the games. That put a damper on my training a bit, but no excuses. I wanted to be at full health when I got to Carson and if that meant being smart and putting those types of training protocols on the back burner, then thats what I was going to do.
SGPT: Do you have any pre-competition or hard workout warmup or mental drills you perform?
AB: Before I compete I like to do what I call a 5-minute progressive row, which basically consists of each minute progressing at a faster and faster pace until the final minute is pretty strenuous. This really gets me ready for the workout at hand, regardless of what it is. It elevates my heart rate, my core temperature and stimulates my Central Nervous System prepping my body for exercise. I never want any of this to spike for the first time when it’s go time, so I believe in this warm-up and it gets my mind and body the most prepared for what lies ahead. After this I do some band-assisted mobility depending on what I will encounter in the workout and then practice the movements a bit that I will see within the workout.
I completely believe in the mental drills and don’t specifically use them in my warm-up routine but rather several weeks leading up to competition and really at all times of my life. I believe in positive affirmations and believing in oneself even if the task at hand is unrealistic. I believe that mental strength is superior to physical strength and if I can constantly be positive and confident in my head, then I am more likely to achieve and accomplish the things that I desire.
SGPT: So your name, Aja – is a distinct name. Who were you named after?
AB: Actually I was named after a Steely Dan album. My parents are huge Steely Dan fans and I suppose it seemed fitting at the time. I love the name and am actually a Steely Dan fan as well.
SGPT: What are you reading now?
AB: Any and every crossfit journal article as well as random blogs/articles/stories on nutrition/strength training/recovery that will aid in my knowledge as a coach and athlete. I’m actually currently diving back into a book that I once read when I was playing ball called The Secret. It may sound a bit petty but it talks about the laws of attraction and how we are in control of what happens in our lives simply by how we control and direct our thoughts. It’s a great book and parallels the development of a similar mindset that is seen in CrossFit.
SGPT: Thanks for the interview Aja.
AB: Thank you. I have great respect for what you guys do at SEALFIT and am a huge fan. It was an honor to interview with you! Thanks again!