On this episode of the Get Better Project I get to chat with 6 time CrossFit Games athlete Dani Horan!
I always try and make a minimum of five minutes a day to read.
Resources and links mentioned in this podcast
– Dani’s CrossFit Athlete Profile
– Dani’s Instagram profile
– Dani’s Twitter account
– Pure Spectrum CBD
– Catalyst Athletics
– Brian Mackenzie at Power Speed Endurance
– Nova 3 Labs
– MyFitnessPal Nutrition Tracking App
– Mike Molloy from M2 Performance Nutrition
– Justin Su’a Podcast
Questions for Dani Horan:
What’s your story – where did you grow up – did you play sports – etc.
– How did you get into CrossFit/lifting/fitness?
– How long have you been doing CrossFit/fitness, and have you been competitive about it the whole time?
– What are your current fitness goals?
– How many hours a day do you spend training?
– How much of this is accessory work, vs metcons, vs strength?
– What is your favorite recovery method (or methods) that you think gives you the most benefit?
– How would you explain your diet habits?
– How often do you “cheat” on your diet?
– Do you take any supplements?
– What experiments have you tried in the past (diet, training modalities, recovery, etc) that did or didn’t work for you?
– What aspects of being a high level athlete are the most difficult for you?
– What aspects are the most fun?
– Have you ever been injured?
– Do you ever feel like giving up? And if so, what keeps you going when you feel like quitting?
– What do you do in life outside the gym (work, family, business, etc.)?
– When someone asks you about advice on getting to the Games, what do you tell them?
– Is there anything that you think is important for listeners to know that we didn’t already talk about?
– How can people find and follow you? Self promotion!
Partners for this podcast
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If you would like to read instead of listen… here’s the transcript
Speaker 1: 00:03 Welcome to The Get Better Project where your host Joe Bauer interviews the world’s top fitness, endurance, and strength athletes to figure out what has propelled them to the top of their game. Let’s be great. Listen, learn and start getting better today. Here we go!
Joe Bauer: 00:28 Welcome to The Get Better Project where I’m excited to have six time CrossFit Games athlete, Dani, Horan on the show. Dani, how are you doing today?
Dani Horan: 00:36 I’m good. How are you?
Joe Bauer: 00:38 I’m doing awesome. Thanks so much for being on the show with us.
Dani Horan: 00:43 Thanks for having me.
Joe Bauer: 00:44 Yeah, absolutely. Uh, ever since, uh, well I should let listeners know that we dropped it at your gym maybe a week ago or something like that. And ever since then, Emily and I have been talking about how much fun that was, and cool to get to meet a CrossFit Games athlete and get coached by her, and just your community there, it seems awesome.
Joe Bauer: 01:02 So I’m really excited to talk with you and dig into some of these things that you’ve been doing to make yourself successful over the last few years.
Dani Horan: 01:10 Absolutely.
Joe Bauer: 01:11 Cool. So let’s jump right in here. And I love to get to know people from like a grassroots and figure out how they grew up and how growing up in that certain way kind of made you the person that you are and made you successful. So can you take us back to, you know, where you grew up, how you grew up, the sports that you played, you know, if you had any like parental figures that, you know, molded you in a certain way. I’d love to hear about that.
Dani Horan: 01:37 Um, so I grew up on a dairy farm in the middle of Vermont. I didn’t play sports in high school or college, I just rode horses. Um, so prior to CrossFit I didn’t really have any experience. So that’s why a lot of the breathing stuff is really challenging for me. Like running burpees, that stuff is all really hard for me. Yeah. So, uh, I didn’t, I don’t really, no one in my family played sports. Um, I just kind of fell in love with CrossFit and I’ve always been really competitive so it was very, if it’s a good fit.
Joe Bauer: 02:20 Okay. Was when you grew up, did your whole family ride horses?
Dani Horan: 02:24 No, I guess I was three or four and I told my mom I wanted to start riding horses and then I started riding horses and then I realized you could compete and so I started competing at five years old, so I was going was five and going over a little horse jumps and riding big horses. So it was a good. It taught me how to be confident.
Joe Bauer: 02:48 Okay. How about growing up on the farm? Did that teach you work ethics or anything like that that you can attribute to how hard you work?
Dani Horan: 02:58 Yeah, I think it did. Um, I think it growing up on the farm, like carrying hay bales, shoveling manure, like all that kind of stuff. I think that kind of just gives you some raw raw strength. So maybe that’s why strength work comes a little bit easier to me. I’m not sure, but I definitely learned a lot.
Joe Bauer: 03:21 Do you have any siblings?
Dani Horan: 03:23 Um, I have a younger half sister and two older stepsister’s.
Joe Bauer: 03:30 Ok, did you guys do chores a lot when you were growing up?
Dani Horan: 03:33 Um, I did chores a lot. I did tours at the farm, I did chores were I boarded horses so that I could work off some of my board or lessons and stuff. I was shoveling manure and cleaning horse stalls at like seven years old.
Dani Horan: 03:52 What do you think growing up gives you the attributes to train as hard as you do? I mean because you know, you’re in this top zero, zero, zero, zero, one percent of people and you work really, really hard and when you look at the rest of the population, they don’t necessarily work as hard or train as hard as you know, 99 percent of the CrossFit athletes out there. Is there anything that you can pinpoint that you learned as you were growing up to make you such a hard worker?
Dani Horan: 04:23 I think it comes honestly from my grandfather. He was always a very hard worker and always going above and beyond and always doing something, you know, to the best of his ability. And that was that ingrained in my life when I was a young girl. Um, I didn’t really have a father figure growing up in my life. He was my father figure, so he taught me a lot of things and one of those was working hard and I think that just transfers to honestly every aspect of my life I try and work as hard as I can. I don’t think you always achieve what you want, but I still work hard and try to do my best.
Joe Bauer: 05:07 Very cool. How did you end up getting into CrossFit from riding horses?
Dani Horan: 05:14 Um, so I stopped riding horses. It was just really expensive and I needed to finish school and I was going to the University of Vermont. I was working in a dental office. I was planning on going to dental school and I just decided I didn’t want to be a dentist anymore, and my dentist was working out at Champlain Valley CrossFit and told me that I should try it out, that I would really like it. And also that there was this guy that he thought I should meet. So at the time I was like, no, no, I don’t have time for any relationship like I’m in school. I’m working two jobs, but I’ll try it. So I tried CrossFit and I fell in love with it. I was very intimidated, I had no prior sports experience beforehand, um, but I just kept going, even though the first time I went to the gym I walked in and there was a guy, he had his hands duct taped to a rower and had a burger on his lap.
Dani Horan: 06:22 You know how Concept 2 does a rowing challenge once a year. So he was doing the rowing challenge and just was behind on his meters. So he was trying to catch up on meters. Yeah, so I was like what is this? But I love it and I loved it from the first minute or so.
Joe Bauer: 06:45 Wow. How long ago was that?
Dani Horan: 06:51 Um, eight years ago.
Joe Bauer: 06:53 Okay. And did you go ahead?
Dani Horan: 06:57 Uh, October 2010.
Joe Bauer: 06:59 Okay. And when you started, were you immediately hooked in training like crazy or what did that look like?
Dani Horan: 07:11 Umm, yeah, I was pretty hooked, and then when the owner of the gym showed me the 2009 Games, I think, yeah, I think it was the 2009 Games. I literally sat in his room and watched the entire, the entire Game and then afterwards I was like, I want to go. He’s like, yeah, yeah, I know it would be really hard, and I was like, no, I don’t care. I’ll do whatever it takes to get there. And that just started everything!
Joe Bauer: 07:41 Did you have anybody that was like a mentor helping you out at that point to figure out how to train to go to the Games?
Dani Horan: 07:47 Um, so Brian Mackenzie pretty much started doing my endurance work right when I started, like 2010, 2011. He started doing my endurance work and then I just followed the blog and Jade, the owner of Champlain Valley CrossFit would give me ideas of stuff to do.
Joe Bauer: 08:08 Okay. So Brian Mackenzie, did you know him from, is he from your area or how did you get involved with him?
Dani Horan: 08:15 I don’t remember how I got involved with him honestly, but you know, he’s from out west. It was originally was at CrossFit Endurance and I knew, I think I reached out to him because I knew that’s what it was. I reached out to him because I knew endurance was such a weakness for me. And so I reached out to CrossFit Endurance when that was a thing and he was running it and that’s how I got connected with him.
Joe Bauer: 08:41 Interesting. Yeah. I’ve done some CrossFit Endurance stuff in the past. And he’s a super smart guy.
Dani Horan: 08:48 Yeah, he’s really smart and now he does its power, speed endurance and it is just really cool to stuff like he has me doing and they actually offer a competitors and endurance program. So it’s pretty much like what I’m doing and it’s really, really cool stuff. A lot of nasal breathing and breath hold. Um, it’s, it’s very hard, but it has changed how I breathe and how I perform as an athlete, which is really cool.
Joe Bauer: 09:19 Super Cool.
Dani Horan: 09:23 It’s power, speed, endurance. And the new program, I don’t know if it’s released yet or it’s going to be really soon, but it’s called the competitors program.
Joe Bauer: 09:33 Very cool. I’m going to link up to that in the show notes so that people didn’t get after that. And I’m going to look into it myself because it sounds really cool.
Dani Horan: 09:40 I just did 60 minutes on the assault runner and it was really cool. Like every 10 minutes I got off and had five attempts at a Max breath hold. It was really cool. And then you repeat for a total of six. So it’s like six, 10 minute intervals. It was really cool.
Joe Bauer: 10:03 That’s super cool. I’ve done some breath hold training before in the past as well when you hold your breath and do activities and things. And it’s amazing how much that helps you out. It’s really cool.
Dani Horan: 10:13 Yeah. So when I first started it was all like this nasal breathing stuff. I almost panicked because, well, like it feels like you can’t breathe and um, eventually I stuck with it and it went away and now like I can drop my heart rate just by nasal breathing and breathing properly. So it’s pretty cool.
Joe Bauer: 10:36 This is totally a tangent, but do you do use nasal breathing as you’re doing metcons?
Dani Horan: 10:42 Umm certain parts of the metcons yeah. So like at the Games this year I did a, you know, it was like a run assault bike, hand-over-hand sled pull. So I did all those runs, nasal breathing and then uh, I did, I did all of the marathon row, but the last 2k nasal breathing. Yeah. So it just like kept my heart rate regulated and like allowed me to just breathe. Breathing is really hard for me. I have no idea why, but ever since I started nasal breathing about a year ago, it’s taught me how to breathe properly.
Joe Bauer: 11:20 That’s super cool. Yeah. I haven’t talked to anybody at any of the nasal breathing stuff. So this is really interesting.
Dani Horan: 11:28 You can ask me any question about it.
Joe Bauer: 11:32 Yeah, no, I think it’s really cool. Do you think that you have, I’m just genetically a strength in your background or in yourself as an athlete or was that developed through riding at all?
Dani Horan: 11:47 I think my natural strength and their genetics, like my, like my cousins are strong. Um, but I think riding horses definitely attributed to that. I mean I rode sometimes five, six horses a day. You, I’m carrying heavy water buckets and hay bales and that’s just stuff that’s like grunt work and just makes you strong.
Joe Bauer: 12:13 And what are your current fitness or CrossFit goals?
Dani Horan: 12:18 Um, I just want to get better at running burpees and get my strength back up, which my strength is coming back up. So really all I care about is running and burpees.
Joe Bauer: 12:32 Why, why does this strength have to come back up? How did it go down or what happened there?
Dani Horan: 12:37 Um, I took a pretty big off season last year. I took like four months off. I had some adrenal hormone issues going on and I needed to really let that stuff recover. So I didn’t do a lot of heavy squatting and stuff for four months. So just trying to get all that back.
Joe Bauer: 12:59 I love to talk a little bit more about that. So how did that come about? Can you give us, like, I would love to go back to the beginning, like where you thought that it started for you, was it, you know, training too much? Did you just start feeling weird wherever you think it started?
Dani Horan: 13:22 Um, so back in 2015 , I had qualified for the Games and then I got injured and I couldn’t compete. I ended up, I had two herniations in my cervical spine and lost all strength in my left arm so I couldn’t do a pull up or push up for like four months, but I was still training and then in 2016 I missed qualifying by one point in my region and I came home the next day and trained way too long. I just trained that summer like I was going to the Games and my lifestyle at the time. It’s gotten better now, but it’s still not perfect at all. Um, my life is very busy. I coach a lot of classes. I’m always on my feet. I’m up early. I go to bed late. My priority is to be the best person I can be and I’m at the gym and I care a lot about our members and athletes and so I balanced both.
Dani Horan: 14:25 It’s a daily thing. I’m always balancing coaching and an athlete so I’m never going to put one over the other. And that’s the choice I’ve just decided to make. I’ve just, I don’t want to pick one or the other. I want to do both. So my lifestyle was not supporting my training habits. I wasn’t eating enough, I wasn’t sleeping enough. I’m in, my lifestyle was just busy. I didn’t have any real downtime. So that fall of 2016, I would stand up lift and I wouldn’t, I feel like I was going to black out a little bit. I’m at the 2016 regionals I felt like I couldn’t push any harder. Like I felt like I couldn’t go to that third gear. Um, so I had some testing done and it definitely came back with levels being really off. So I changed a lot of things. I cut my training volume and half, so I was only training 90 minutes a day.
Dani Horan: 15:31 I started eating a lot more food. Like I think at the time I was only eating like 2,500 calories, or no. I don’t even think I was eating 2,500 calories, but I bumped my calories up like a 1000. So I was eating anywhere from 3000 to 3,200 calories a day just to give my body extra fuel. Um, I started taking one supplement from Nova Labs their, Max Adrenal, and then I was very aware of what was going in my body for food and then I was really trying to sleep as much as I could and recover. I’m just meaning quiet time, like whether it was going in my sauna, going in the ice bath, going for a walk with the dogs, just trying to quiet my mind and I really feel like, like this is the first, like right now is the first time I feel healthy since then that’s like what? Almost three years? At least two years. So.
Joe Bauer: 16:33 Wow, okay.
Dani Horan: 16:34 I know there’s a lot of information. Like is it adrenal fatigue? Is it not adrenal fatigue? I don’t know, but all I know is there was something wrong and I felt really off and now I feel a lot better. So it just takes time. You know, you can’t, everyone wants to have a quick fix or like what’s the magic pill? And like that there is no magic pill, there is no quick fix. It’s just time and letting your body heal because if you really allow it, your body will heal itself.
Joe Bauer: 17:05 Yeah. Interesting. And for, for people that are watching this in their training really hard and they’re trying to, you know, get to the Games or to some of these qualifying events that we have now, what kind of signs would you tell them to look for? If they’re training, you know, a lot potentially overtraining and not doing enough testing to see what their blood work or their saliva or whatever is showing up. What would you tell them to look for?
Dani Horan: 17:35 I guess just overall signs. Like if say like for whatever reason hanging gymnastics movements start to be like impossible, like muscle ups, chest to bar, toes to bar, pull ups. Like if all of a sudden you can barely do a set of five when you could, do you know, 20 of something hanging on is like a cns fatigue when you struggle to, to hang onto something. It’s a lot of the times like cns, like I remember struggling to like hold onto reps for like pull ups. I would say if you feel dizzy, light headed, if you just feel really off and you lack motivation, I’m a feel like I’d say the biggest one is you feel consistently day after day that you can’t push into that third gear. I’d say that’d be the big thing and just not ignoring it. Like this year I have been all about. Less is more, don’t get me wrong, I’m training a lot, but there’s days when I’m like, you know what? Like I just, I think I’ve done enough. So I think those are just some things to kind of be aware of.
Joe Bauer: 18:48 And how many hours a day do you spend training?
Dani Horan: 18:52 Um, I don’t know. Probably like around four right now, but that doesn’t include all the recovery that I do too. So recovery, being Brian, Brian Mackenzie has me doing like breathing a workouts, like reading warmups. I do stretching, mobility, PT, Normatec and that doesn’t happen every day, but I try to be as good about recovery as I can because I know that it’s really important. It’s just as important as training.
Joe Bauer: 19:32 And people watching and listening to this are going to totally geek out on one of your days actually looks like, or maybe a couple of days if you don’t do the same things everyday. So could you walk us through a couple a day or two that includes the training and the recovery, etc.
Dani Horan: 19:48 Yeah, so I’ll go with mondays. Monday’s are my busiest day. I coach like four to six classes on Monday. Yeah. So we’re here, get my fiance and I get to the gym at 5:00 in the morning and we don’t leave until 7:30 – 8:00 at Night. Um, so it’s a really long day. Um, so we get here, I coach a class, um, I do some breathing work and then I do some endurance, some gymnastics, coach a coach. And recently I’ve been doing projects around the gym. I’ve been redoing the lobby and the main gym floor, just doing some painting stuff. So I’ll do that for a little bit. UM, and then I’ll train again in the afternoon. Um, I’ll try and do some stretching for about 20 minutes. That’s sometimes all I really make time for.
Dani Horan: 20:50 Um, and then I always try and read five minutes before the evening classes. um, I sometimes I can make more time than five minutes, but I always try and make a minimum of five minutes a day to read and then I’ll coach all evening. I’ll go home, make dinner, go in the hot tub, a, take a cold shower and then do some breathing drills before bed. And then I will go to bed, take some supplements, and then I’ll go to bed. So that’s monday.
Dani Horan: 21:22 Go ahead.
Joe Bauer: 21:27 Gymnastic segment look like for you. I know they change constantly, but right now at least what’s that look like?
Dani Horan: 21:34 Um, so I gave an example of my endurance piece earlier today was um, 60 minutes on the runner and then every, and it was all like certain heart rate zone. Um, so, and then every 10 minutes I got off and did five rounds of one max breath hold and then five breaths in between. So that’s an example of an endurance piece. Um, and then gymnastics, I don’t know, honestly, it depends on what I want to work on. I’ve been really trying to work on my muscle ups, um, so I’ve been doing a lot of muscle ups but I try and either do it in a conditioning format, um, but I always try and mix in some just raw strength. So three sets of three strict weighted pull ups with and then couple that with, you know, five strict weighted ring dips.
Joe Bauer: 22:30 Very cool. And do you do that portion of your program and yourself?
Dani Horan: 22:34 Um, so I do a, I have someone that does my endurance, so Brian does all my endurance work. Umm, Amy from Catalyst Athletics. She’s been helping me with all my strength work and my olympic lifting and stuff. So that’s been really cool. And then everything else I just do by myself. Um, you know, this is the second year I’ve been doing my programming and uh, you know, I really enjoy it. I enjoy experimenting on myself, a learning, reading. I really do enjoy being able to program for myself and kind of do what I want to do.
Joe Bauer: 23:15 How long have you been a CrossFit coach?
Dani Horan: 23:19 I think a 2010.
Joe Bauer: 23:23 Okay, cool.
Dani Horan: 23:25 When did I start coaching for you?
Joe Bauer: 23:32 Okay, cool. And just like personal knowledge question, do you have any other, any programs within CrossFit other than the level one or let’s say general strength certifications or programs that you’ve done that have been really or learning environments that you’re like, wow, that was super awesome.
Dani Horan: 23:50 No, I mean I think you mean like have I done any training or have I followed a program that I thought was really cool,
Joe Bauer: 23:58 Like, you know, just learning experiences. So like CrossFit level 2 or….
Dani Horan: 24:03 No, no, I read a lot and I watch a lot of youtube videos and honestly like I’ve learned so much from Brian Mckenzie. Yeah, I’ve learned a lot from him.
Joe Bauer: 24:16 Very cool. And what are your favorite? So you mentioned that you do sauna, you do hot tub, you do cold therapy. I’m sure that all of those have a certain place in, in your training. Do you have any things that are, would you say that those are your favorites and did I miss any. You also had stretching you a lot of stuff, which is,
Dani Horan: 24:40 Yeah, I try and control or you know, there are only certain things you can control in your training. There’s very few things you can control. And recovery is one of them. So I try to do the best job that I can with that. Um, the other thing that I use for recovery is I used cbd, so there’s kind of three different types or different forms of it I use I guess. So in the morning, um, I worked for the company called pure spectrum. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them or not, but their products are really clean and they’re really good. So in the morning when I wake up, I put a little bit of their isolated in my coffee. I’m, it’s like a little powder form and it just makes you feel very alert and focused. And then, um, after I train I will take some of the oil tincture. I’ll put it in my post workout shake if I take one. Um, I don’t always take one, but I at least take a dropper full of a tincture. And then at night they have like a vape pen that I use and I just take a couple puffs of that and then I used their topical on areas that need it.
Joe Bauer: 25:56 Oh, okay. Cool. How long have you, how long have you been using that and what have you noticed?
Dani Horan: 26:01 Um, I’ve been using, I’ve been using cbd since January of 2018 because that’s when they legalized it in CrossFit. I started using pure spectrum I think in may and I noticed a pretty big difference in their product versus the one I was taking a lot stronger and worked a lot better. Um, it takes a long time to kind of get into your system. I feel like you really need to try it for 30 days before you get the real benefits, like right away. Like I took it at night and I slept amazing. I used to get up five to six times a night and now I’ll get up maybe once, twice, which is huge for recovery. Um, my acne cleared up. Um, yeah, I like put their, their cream. So they’re topical cream that has cbd in it. I put it on my face and it was getting rid of the acne, which was pretty cool when I, when I guess this is more for the ladies when I get really bad period cramps, I just take the cream and put it where I have the cramps and it gets rid of the cramps. Um, yeah, it definitely helps with like joints, recovery. Um, uh, the list goes on headaches. So it’s been very helpful.
Joe Bauer: 27:30 Yeah, I’ve definitely had some cool experiences with it as well, for sure. I’m a huge fan and that kind of leads us into, before we get into the actual dietary habit question, what are the supplements that you take in addition to cbd, if there are any and the, uh, the adrenal supplement that you take…
Dani Horan: 27:47 Yeah, those are really the only two supplements that I take. I take another one from Nova Labs, it’s called max rehab. It’s really good natural anti inflammatories.
Joe Bauer: 27:59 Okay, cool. So then let’s, let’s dive in a diet. What does your diet look like?
Dani Horan: 28:06 So I eat a pretty whole food diet. I’ve tried paleo, I’ve tried Zone, I’ve tried all sorts of things and nothing really worked except counting my macros and eating really clean. Um, so a lot of fruits, veggies, potato, rice, oatmeal, and then just good quality meats. A lot of red meat. And I do do some dairy. I do some hard cheddar cheese and yogurt.
Joe Bauer: 28:35 And how many calories are you eating right now?
Dani Horan: 28:39 Oh, I know. Um, I, let’s see. Um, anywhere from 400 to 450 grams of carbs. One 100 to 120 grams of fat, 160 grams of protein. So anywhere from like 33 to 3,600 calories on the day. So I eat a lot of food.
Dani Horan: 29:03 I went back and forth with, oh I’m going to get too heavy. Like I don’t know if I should eat all this food. And then I was like, no, I don’t like I need to eat more food. So I feel great. I can feel the difference when I don’t eat a minimum of 3000 calories a day the next day I just feel really low on energy. I can’t push as hard. So it’s a pretty big difference and I bet I could even eat more food, but I mean it’s hard to eat 3,600 calories when it’s mainly whole food, like I try and not eat a lot of breads or pasta. Um, so that it challenging.
Joe Bauer: 29:42 Yeah, I hear you. I’ve done bodybuilding before and had to get up to 5,000 calories a day and that was a challenge. Total challenge. So are you eating while you’re coaching them? When do you have time to eat?
Dani Horan: 29:55 I’m eating between classes and I make time for eating.
Joe Bauer: 30:05 Do you guys meal prep?
Dani Horan: 30:09 I do.
Joe Bauer: 30:11 One time two times.
Dani Horan: 30:13 No, like two or three times a week. I just do a couple of days at a time just to kind of keep everything fresh.
Joe Bauer: 30:22 Gotcha. Any tips for people? Have they want to eat that much food? Because I feel like people do under eat in CrossFit a lot. Like we use the, the instant pot a lot. And do you have any kind of tools like that that you like to use?
Dani Horan: 30:39 No, I just cook in the kitchen, like use the oven, stove, use the crock pot a little bit. Um, but as far as eating goes, like I know there are a ton of athletes out there that under eat and I think it’s really important that you work with a coach, a nutrition coach, someone who can help make you more aware and you know, kind of be like, oh, maybe you should eat more food because there are so many athletes that under eat out there.,
Joe Bauer: 31:13 And I think there’s something really interesting about the high intensity CrossFit training that makes you burn or burn through more calories than what your basal metabolic rate might tell you. You know, if you’re just tracking it. Because I think like for example mind says that I’m at like 2100 calorIes a day, but if I only eat 2100 calories, I’m like starving myself, you know. And that includes exercise and whatnot. So it’s pretty interesting. There’s something going on that people aren’t taking into account. And then also there’s this interesting thing that I’d love to hear your opinion on with like, uh, I’ve heard a lot of talk about people talking about how the Games athletes like yourself always look lean and ripped. But in order to do that, it, um, you have to eat a calorie deficit. What are your thoughts on that?
Dani Horan: 32:15 Everyone is different. Everyone has different body types and I think not everyone is going to be six percent body fat and able to perform at a top level. I think that everyone’s body fat percentage as to where you sit and how you perform is very different and very unique. I personally, when I get below one, when I get below one, I weigh 150 to 152 pounds. I don’t like to get over 152 when I get below 148, 145 to 148. Uh, I feel very weak when I train. I feel like I can’t push. Um, so I, I like to have, I guess a little fat on me, if that makes sense. I think sometimes to lean can go against you and then also like I’m not going to be, you know, the same body fat percentage all year round when I’m trying to get strong right now. Like I want to be a little heavier. Like I don’t want to be leading like you want to get strong, you got to eat a lot of food and do the right thing. So I, I think that, you know, what anyone needs to realize, I guess as far as the CrossFit Games athlete bodies go, is that everybody is different and everyone performs differently at a different body fat percentage. So say maybe you’re so say maybe you sit usually at 140 and then you go to 135, you might notice that your performance goes way down, but say you put on 5 pounds, you may see your performance goes through the roof, you know, I think it’s something worth playing with if you want to be competitive in the sport or it’s just something worth playing around with in general to just see how you feel your best. Everyone’s going to feel their best differently.
Joe Bauer: 34:14 Sure. And have you done any experiments as it relates to your macros or anything like that to see are macros and slash or calories to see what has made you feel the best?
Dani Horan: 34:28 Yeah. So um, my frIend is actually, she’s a nutrition coach. She works with athletes at the gym and I was talking to her and I was like, man, like I am craving fat like crazy. And she’s like, why don’t you just eat more fat? And I was like, oh, okay. Yeah.
Dani Horan: 34:47 So I started eating, like I doubled my fat not overnight but over probably a four week period and I feel amazing. Wow. So the, I would say that’s the one thing, like I, I increased my fat and notice a huge difference, but then I have friends who have increased their fat and they feel worse. They feel sluggish. So again, I think it literally comes down to whatever makes you feel best. One, you know, one size fits all, everyone’s different and that’s great. That’s fun.
Joe Bauer: 35:19 Yeah. Do you have any like apps or anything like that that you’re using for tracking these things that you recommend others use?
Dani Horan: 35:25 I just use MyFitnessPal and I don’t pay for it. I just use the free version and it seems to, it seems to do the job.
Joe Bauer: 35:33 Yeah, I’m with you. I’ve tried some other ones in my fitness pal. Seems to be the one to keep going back to as well. It’s just it’s easy to use.
Dani Horan: 35:41 Exactly.
Joe Bauer: 35:41 Cool. Do you have any other experiments that you’ve played around with as far as like a training or anything like that? I know that I talked to a lot of athletes at your level and some of them will do certain things like they’ll, you know, hit strength really hard in the off season or a couple people. Actually. Only one so far. It said that they hit endurance in the off season, but like any of these interesting training modalities that you’ve tried or experimented with it have worked well for you?
Dani Horan: 36:12 Endurance has always been in the area of focus first and then honestly nine times out of ten when I’m in good shape I will lift very well after endurance workout. In 2016 or 2017 I went out for a run and it was a mile time trial and PR’d in my mile and I came in and I told my fiance. I was like, that’s great. And I was like, I’m going to go snatch now. How sick would it be if I PR’d my Snatch. And he’s like, yeah, yeah. Don’t get too cocky and okay, well I’m going to try and so I ended up PR’ing my snatch, um, so yeah, so I ran a 6:07 mile pace and snatched 200 pounds. It was, it was really cool. Yeah, that’s worked well for me.
Joe Bauer: 37:07 Very cool. Very cool. And how much, so are you doing endurance or something every single day or do you take days off?
Dani Horan: 37:17 I do endurance work six days a week.
Joe Bauer: 37:20 Okay. And do you have any complete days off or not?
Dani Horan: 37:24 I take off Sunday’s.
Joe Bauer: 37:27 When you take that day off, do you eat the same?
Dani Horan: 37:30 I do, yeah. That’s one of the biggest things I think athletes make the mistake of is they’re like, oh, I’m not doing anything today. Like I’m, I’m just or I’m just at home running errands. I need to not eat as much. And I think if you’re training really hard, you need to eat more to recover. That’s something that I’ve learned from one of my good friends who an nutrition coach
Joe Bauer: 37:59 Makes sense. I used to fall down that rabbit hole and it definitely makes, makes me feel way better if you just eat on those off days.
Dani Horan: 38:07 Yeah. Yeah. Mike, Mike Molloy from M 2 Performance Nutrition. I don’t know if you know him. No, he’s really smart. He helps me with stuff whenever I need it and I was always like, are you sure you shouldn’t eat the same amount on the off day? And he’s like, YES. I tried, I tried not eating the same amount and I felt horrible. My training like the training day after a rest day. So I, I pretty much eat the same amount of food every single day except Sunday’s. Maybe I’ll eat a little less, but I’m still eating. I’m still eating 3000 calories, like I’m still eating good amount of it.
Joe Bauer: 38:51 Okay. And do you plan or do any type of re-feeds or cheat meals?
Dani Horan: 38:57 So I do. Um, every Saturday afternoon I eat whatever I want. I do track it, so I do still eat the same amount of calories. But if I want to slice a pizza, I’ll have a slice of pizza or two slices. If I want a cookie, I’ll have a cookie. I’m usually, it’s a sandwich and a bag of chips. That’s usually my go to cheat meal, but I’ve tried to not do cheat meals in the past and it just doesn’t work. Like it’s just, I liked the freedom and the balance, so that’s what’s worked for me.
Joe Bauer: 39:35 Okay. Very cool. And what aspects of being a high level athlete are the most difficult for you?
Dani Horan: 39:48 Knowing when enough is enough, you know, when, when to push through something. Am I being lazy? Am I tired, am I off, have I done enough training? That’s been really challenging for me. Just knowing when enough is enough, but I’m learning so that’s good.
Joe Bauer: 40:10 Yeah. I had a really high level coach I was speaking to a few weeks ago and he was and I was asking him like, how do you know when enough is enough for an athlete? And he was like, well the athlete just needs to stimulate change in their body and that’s what we’re going for. And I’m like, well how do you know when you’ve stimulated change? And he’s like, well that’s the tricky part. I’m like, okay, so there’s, so there’s no actual answer. You gotta kind of figure it out and see what’s right for you, but that makes a lot of sense. Very hard. So what are the, what are your favorIte things?
Dani Horan: 40:46 As far as CrossFit?
Joe Bauer: 40:47 As far as being a high level of Games athlete that everybody looks up to.
Dani Horan: 40:54 I don’t know. I guess I don’t really think about it like that. I, I’d say like my favorite thing is just being able to inspire others and help motivate other others. That’s like honestly all I care about is I want to be able to help somebody else out.
Joe Bauer: 41:13 Very cool. Have you ever been injured?
Dani Horan: 41:17 Yes. Yeah. I injured my neck in 2015, but I’m pretty sure it was a preexisting injury.
Joe Bauer: 41:25 Oh, interesting.
Dani Horan: 41:27 Yeah, because it wasn’t just like I caught a jerk funny and felt my neck go and it wasn’t like that movement that, you know. Riding horses I was thrown into fences, I was dragged, I was taught, you know, I had some concussions so I knew my neck had something going on before CrossFit. I just wasn’t as aware of them. So now I’m aware of it and I like, I don’t do kipping and pushups at all unless they come up in the open. So there’s just some things that I’m smart about
Joe Bauer: 42:02 That seems like it was. It coUld have been a scary injury for you when it happened. Were you worried? I mean, and then what happened as you recovered?
Dani Horan: 42:14 Yeah, I was really worried. Like I had actually just come back from Brian’s house out in California and I was doing split jerks in the back and I wasn’t even jerking that heavy. It was like, it was 205. And I just caught it and I was like, oh no, I’m not going to the Games this year because I qualified and I like went upstairs and tried to hang in the inversion table and like nothing was getting rid of it and had excruciating pain going down my arm and I didn’t sleep for two weeks because the pain was so bad. And then I went out to the Games and had someone look at my MRI and they’re like, yeah, you don’t want to compete at all. Because I was like, I wanted to compete, like I qualified, I figured I’d make it work somehow. I’m still recovering from that. Sitting there watching all the athletes compete was really mentally hard and then going back into the gym training and rehabbing that day after day was really hard. You know, I went from being on being able to do seven unbroken strict muscle ups. To I couldn’t even do one strict pull up. So it was really mentally hard coming back from that injury.
Joe Bauer: 43:36 Yeah, I can imagine. Was it just rehab or did you have to have any surgery or anything like that?
Dani Horan: 43:42 Um, they said that I should have gotten surgery, but I decided to just rehab it myself. We have a PT at our gym, Aaron Adams. She’s great. I’ve been working with her for four or five years and she helped me rehab it. So I saw her, I think I saw her biweekly for a couple months. She did a lot of dry needling work on me, which was really helpful. Um, and we did a lot of, a lot of boring, slow exercises just to help get my muscles firing again and activating.
Joe Bauer: 44:19 And do you still feel that injury at all or is it completely out of the picture?
Dani Horan: 44:25 No, I mean it’s definitely something that I’m aware of. I’ve tweaked my neck a couple since it happened. Only once really bad. Actually. I tweaked it right before the 2017 open. I tweaked it like pretty bad where I couldn’t turn my neck, but I went and adopted a puppy so it was fine. Something that I need to be aware of.
Joe Bauer: 44:57 Umm, Dry needling. Do you do that regularly now or was it just for that particular injury? Because we’ve gotten into a little bit and heard some really interesting, cool stuff about it.
Dani Horan: 45:07 Yeah, I get it done weekly. Yeah, it is great for releasing muscle and I think it’s also great for activating muscles.
Joe Bauer: 45:18 Very cool. Very cool. There’s some as as we’ve moved from state to state, there’s different regulations on each state and like what kind of practitioners can do it in and whatnot, but other than being pretty painful, it’s, it’s really cool.
Dani Horan: 45:33 Yeah. Actually, you know, you have to find the right person. It shouldn’t be that painful. Sorry, my phone is dying. It shouldn’t be painful, so if you find the right person I think it would be good.
Joe Bauer: 45:48 Cool. Very cool. and so a lot of these questions that I’ve gotten have come from the CrossFit community who wants to know things from people like yourself and one question that comes up regularly is do you ever feel like giving up and if so, what keeps you going when you feel like giving up?
Dani Horan: 46:12 I don’t know that I’ve ever felt like giving up, I’ve definitely questioned what am I doing? Actually, this week specifically has been a pretty hard week for me. My body is ready for a deal a week, but Monday Brian had me do this workout. That was the hardest endurance workout I’ve ever done in my entire life and it was like 6pm, quiet in the back room, just me by myself pushing myself as hard as I can and I’m just like, what am I doing? This is so hard. Yesterday my strength work was just like, oh man, this is hard, but it’s good that it’s hard and that I’m like, but I’ve never been like, I’m quitting. I’m not going to do this. I’m the only time I was like, that was after the 2016 Games. I didn’t understand how I could have qualified in any other region, but I didn’t qualify in my region and there were girls that I would have be in, in their region, but they were going to the Games, but that was just the only time where I was like, I don’t know if I want to do this because like I didn’t think that was fair so that that’s been the only thing.
Joe Bauer: 47:32 Okay. And I didn’t put it on here, but we. Since you mentioned that, what do you think, what are your initial thoughts about this new CrossFit format?
Dani Horan: 47:43 I have no idea because they’ve really yet to really release any information like I feel like CrossFit has been really. It’s all been like he said, she said like there’s no real, there’s been no real announcement. So, uh, I don’t, I think it’s different. It’s change and hopefully something good will come of it.
Joe Bauer: 48:09 Okay, cool. Um, what do you do outside of the gym and you talked about like your life is coaching and training. Do you have any other hobbies or anything like that that keep you level or are you just completely able to stay focused on being at the gym all the time?
Dani Horan: 48:26 Yeah, I mean we’re six if not seven days a week. Um, so I don’t have much downtime, but if I get out I like to walk in the woods with the dogs or my fiancee and I are building a house. they bought 32 acres last fall, so I’ll go there and walk. Otherwise I’m, you know, at this point in my life I’m pretty focused and I think that’s what makes me the person that I am right now. So hopefully in the near future I’ll have some more balance, but as far as right now, no.
Joe Bauer: 49:08 When someone asks you for advice on how to get to the Games, I know that this is like a loaded question, but it’s got to happen. What kind of response do you give to them?
Dani Horan: 49:21 You have to be realistic in your expectations of yourself and where you want to go. I think that anybody can try and do anything that they want to do. Um, and you can work really, really, really, really hard and do the right thing, but you just have to be aware of your, of your abilities as an athlete, and your expectations, you know? Um, and I think that if you want to do something, you should do it and they’ll after it. I do it with all of your body and all of your soul and heart because life is so short and you have no idea if you’re going to live tomorrow or if you’re going to die tomorrow. And I think if you want to do anything in life, you should try it. I’m really try like go all and make sure you give 100 percent effort, so don’t say, oh, I want to try and qualify for the Games and then it’s Friday night and you know you need to get up early to train tomorrow morning, but your frIend wants you to go to this halloween party so you’re going to go out with them till 3:00 AM and then you’re going to try and go snatch 90 percent for five reps tomorrow.
Dani Horan: 50:48 So you just got to be aware and. But I really support anybody that wants to do anything, has any dreams or goals and I really think you should just go after it and don’t, don’t wait till you’re ready. You’re honestly never going to be ready. I’ve never felt ready for any competition in my entire life. um, so I think they should just go after it and go after some realistic expectations and then just go for it. Don’t have to go for it.
Joe Bauer: 51:20 Great answer. Great answer. As we’re wrapping up here, is there anything that you think is important for the listeners to know about you that we didn’t already talk about?
Dani Horan: 51:31 No.
Joe Bauer: 51:32 No, no. And is there anything that you would like to promote or any, you know, places that you would like to direct people?
Dani Horan: 51:43 Um, I mean, I’d say the power speed endurance is a great blog or a great website. Um, the competitors program, it’s really good stuff. All the nasal breathing is really cool and really, really teaches you how to breathe. Um, and then, you know, Mike Molloy from an M2 performance nutrition has a great group of coaches. So if you’re looking to improve your nutrition, post-workout, pre-workout, whatever, he’s a great guy and has some good coaches. So that’s a good resource.
Joe Bauer: 52:18 Where can they follow you on social media?
Dani Horan: 52:23 _danihoran at Instagram. I know we didn’t talk much about it, but I do do a lot of mental training and journaling, uh, listening to podcasts. That’s a huge part of my, my training.
Joe Bauer: 52:42 Ok, you just opened up this door. What does mental training look like for you?
Dani Horan: 52:47 Um, I am, after I work out, I do a lot of journaling. Um, I do a lot of reading. I listen to podcast. Justin Su’a has a really good podcast that comes out every day. I think it’s called impact your increase your impact. Um, it’s really, really good. So It’s like three to five minutes. I listened to it every morning just to kind of get some ideas flowing and stuff.
Joe Bauer: 53:15 Okay. And what are the questions that you answered before and after?
Dani Horan: 53:21 One before is like, what are three things I’m grateful for? What is my focus for the day? And then, you know, afterwards I’ll say, you know, what did I do a good job today? What do I need to work on and improve? What did I learn? So I definitely break it down.
Joe Bauer: 53:40 Dani, this has been really interesting and I could just keep on talking with you, but I’m pretty sure you’ve got to go coach a class coming up here. So thank you so much for your time. Yeah, for anybody listening, you can get to the show notes by going to getbetterproject.com/DaniHoran and we’ll put links to everything that we’ve talked about today. So as well as if you have any questions, you can put those down below the show notes. So Dani, thank you so much and I will talk to you soon.
Dani Horan: 54:10 Okay. Thank you so much. Bye.
Speaker 1: 54:16 Thank you for listening to The Get Better Project. If you like to leave a review head over to thegetbetterproject.com/itunes. Now get going and take action on something that will make you better today.