Murtaza Nadeem is a force to be reckoned with. At 21-years-old, Taz has already competed at the CrossFit Games as a Teen, qualified again as a National Champion, represented England in the 2018 European Weightlifting Junior Championships, and is a full-time student on top.
The Afghan native moved to the UK at the age of 7 and found CrossFit aged 15. After competing in the 2017 CrossFit Games, Taz qualified to the Elite division in 2020 as Afghanistan’s National Champion, but the global pandemic meant his invite was revoked.
For 2021, following the CrossFit Open and Quarterfinals, Taz has qualified to compete in the European Semifinals for a chance to make the Games.
An Athlete Through and Through
“I was the kid that used to get bullied because I didn’t know how to speak,” Taz told BOXROX. This lead him into boxing, where he went on to compete.
However, a recurring nose problem took the enjoyment out of the sport and he decided to try CrossFit. The Box, CFR Barbell, was within the same premises as his boxing gym.
“I got strong really quick and it wasn’t something that I would think about,” he said. “Training wise, I’d do the class and then I’d do another two-hour session.”
It only took Taz one year of CrossFit training to get to the Games. He attributes that to being young and developing quickly, as well as a fitness background which allowed his body to train three to four hours a day.
“Going to the Games in 2017 was amazing. I learnt so much from the Games and being around better athletes. You don’t really know until you’re there and you do it; you can’t get the same experience anywhere else.”
The Growth Mindset
Taz likes to train and compete against people who are better than him, knowing that being the fittest around is fun, but having better people around brings him up a lot faster.
“It’s good to be one of the worse athletes again,” he said about the jump from the Teen division to the Elite. “Once you get really good, you don’t have as many people to chase. When you go back to the [elite competition], you’re suddenly the worse guy again.”
“I don’t think many people realise how difficult it is because you go from being surrounded by 16-year-olds to 25-year-olds and you don’t really realise how much better these people are and how much more developed.
“They’re bigger, they’re better, they’re stronger.”
Suddenly, goals become way bigger because you’re surrounded by people who can do it all.
“I used to be the weakest in everything I did in CrossFit. To start off with, every competition I did I really was the weakest one,” Taz remembers.
So, out of passion and enjoyment, he decided to set himself goals and work on them every single day.
“I went from 60kg to 120kg in my snatch in one year. It wasn’t something I was properly programming into my training, it was just something that I did myself – I was really passionate about it,” he said.
If you train out our enjoyment, you’re always pleasantly surprised with the results, Taz found.
He has also worked a lot on his mental game, noting that training isn’t only about the physical, but also about what’s going on through your head.
“The way I approach a max clean and jerk or snatch, I’m in a completely different mindset,” Taz said. “I’m just like ‘I will get this.’ 100% there’s no doubt, and I want to feel that way when I do a 5k row for example.”
Training and Competing During Ramadan
Taz competed in the Individual and Team Quarterfinals this past month. Ramadan, which started on April 12, 2021 and coincided with CrossFit’s Team Quarterfinals, is definitely not the best time to compete at a high level, but sometimes there’s no way around it.
“It’s just one of them, you just have to deal with it even though it’s a lot tougher than usual,” says Taz. “Ramadan is a mental challenge, it’s what it’s meant to be; it’s made to put you in the position of the less fortunate.”
“I love Ramadan, but it really does take a toll on your training,” Taz explained. Timings are different because, even though most daily tasks go on as usual, you’re training in the evening, eating in the evening, adapting your training load every day.
“It’s a good thing,” says Taz. “It doesn’t help me a lot with my training, but it does help me psychologically and mentally.”
Onto CrossFit Semifinals
Taz ranked 21st in the UK following the 2021 Open and made the top 60 in Europe after Quarterfinals.
Both events announced they’ll become a virtual competition for 2021.
His Affiliate, CFR Black, also made the top 40 in Europe and has, unofficially, qualified to the Semifinals.
While Taz is a full-time student, he would love to make a living as an athlete after he finishes university.
He chases goals pragmatically and is realistic about his prospects. Medals and participating in international competitions don’t mean a lot if the opportunities to make a living out of the sport aren’t there as well.
“I’m really trying to make the right decision for the future,” he told me. “I’ve got other stuff going on, but to be able to compete and train as your job – how amazing is that!”