Right so on Friday I wrote a quick update about my progress. Retrospectively I realise I should have called it – kiss of death.
Anytime you write, say, think, believe or feel things are going well….a change occurs and stuff goes bad! I think it’s called Murphy’s law.
My little “kiss” came on Saturday morning. After Fridays PM session of Power Clean, Push Press and Push Jerk complex, I trained Saturday morning Deadlifts and Overhead Squats….
I was distracted and rushing. (Not a great combo) I came out of Deadlift’s about 10KG lower than the week before – but that was ok, I was under rested from the event in Edinburgh. I was coming to terms with this drop off in output as I prepared for OHS.
The gym was busy, I was distracted I DID NOT WARM UP PROPERLY FOR OHS. I just came out of the DL’s set up for OHS, get started, then in my 40kg set I felt my back spasm!!
In this moment – all types of stuff flashes through your head. Nerve, disc, fear, regret….
Did some stretching and mobility – but I was done for the day. Gutted!! Quick assessment said this was a short term setback. Nothing neural going on. No sensation anywhere except in the effected area, no pins and needles or any of that jazz. Just my body having a freak out at work rate and lack of proper muscle recruitment due to a stupid lack of warm up.
What Does This Mean?
This is part of the battle.
I want progress – I push harder
I am busy – I try to maintain my training volume
I have to fit training in around life.
I cut cals to drop weight – my emotional state suffers
My program includes multi discipline movements – I have to manage my own warm ups – even if it means re-warming up half way through a session!
I am working to bring better awareness to myself. There’s no point getting frustrated or annoyed about the set back. Stop, review, learn. Fix the issue, acknowledge the learning. Restart.
Why Should I Care?
We all need to be aware of our physical and emotional state, not to mention what’s causing it!
Stressed – slow down
Too much on – drop something (even training)
Warmed up – even for the exercise you are about to do?
Trying to train better is as much about the pyschology of training as it is about the physiology of training….I think!!
Hi Athletes, over the the last few weeks I’ve caught up with various friends and been on a ski trip with some of “the lads”.
This has been an interesting period that has allowed people to provide lots of feedback and support – mostly in the form of aggressive piss taking about the fact I am a blogger. Even as I write that, it’s not something I easily associate with. I mean I know I have a blog, and I am blogging but am I really a “blogger”…hmmm weird!
That to one side, and back on topic for a minute, underneath all of this feedback and engagement with my most honest feedback community (the boys really pulled no punches). I few things came out.
Crossfit has it’s own dictionary and language – if you don’t do Crossfit this blog is probably quite hard to follow. Should I simplify the language or should everyone just start doing Crossfit? (TBC)
Some people who don’t do Crossfit, have been motivated by the blog to want to get involved. Steve (Blue Coat on the left) at least is keen to understand if there is a “Ninja Standards” he could have a go at? Yes there are and that is what I’m going to talk about here.
What Does This Mean?
So I think there are a few standards that people could have a go at – like the Double Under, get a jump rope and start skipping. The Double Under requires the rope to pass under your feet twice each time you jump off the floor! Easy – drop me a note when you get them, I have been chasing them to for 2 years and they are only just coming! For the Nina Standard you need to be able to do 50 Unbroken!
Today though, I want to talk about Rowing.
Pretty much every gym up and down the land and even around the world will have a rowing machine. They’re a great way to build your fitness. The actual process of rowing includes lots of good functional movements that transfer well to other Crossfit related exercises. It will help you with high speed burst capacity, as well as slow burn cardio.
If you think about the row position, it’s pretty much like the bottom of a deadlift. So improving your rowing is likely to improve your ability to lift heavy in the dead lift too.
Plus you are training your whole body, legs, back, arms and if you do the 2k row right – you will even train your face muscles!! I pull some weird expressions towards the end of my 2k for time row.
OK, so how can you have a go? The Ninja standard is a 2k row for time, (#2K4TIME) this time limit varies between ladies and gents. For Men the time limit is 7.15 and for ladies it’s 8.00 minutes.
That’s it really, you have to get on a rower, start rowing and keep rowing until you get to 2k. Sounds easy! Well it is! And yet….its not!
Jimbo and I organised for one of my mates Graham Benton to come down to the gym to give us a hand. Graham and I used to work together and he’s a bit of a legend in the indoor rowing world! (Check out his Wiki page here). We’ll be sharing a full write up on our time with Graham and a #20Questionsfortime Interview to follow soon.
Some of my favourite quotes from the time with Graham were: “After 500 meters its going start hurting! Just deal with it!” and “Head up, Shoulders Back, Keep Going”!
Some of the more constructive stuff he said was, “#2K4TIME is a mind game. Build your pillars of belief”.
Think to yourself:
“I can do 500 meters at 1.48 all day long”
“Last time I did this distance I completed in a great time”
“Do you have mantra’s that motivate you? Use them”!
For men aiming at 7.15 mins, a stroke rate of 34 and splits around 1.48 will get your there. He added “Don’t try and win the race in the first 500 meters. Believe in the plan. Leave some of the work for later”.
But my favourite quote of the day was “Outsource the belief system to someone else”. What he means by this is that, the #2k4time challenge is a mind game, you know you can row 2k, you just don’t know how quick you can go. At some point when it starts to hurt you are going to start questioning yourself, you cardio capacity, your strength, the strategy.
Well you don’t need that going through your head it’s a distraction!! You need to be thinking “This plan works”. Find a coach, get a plan, believe the plan they give you! Execute the plan!! Do you have a plan? If not we’re going to put on some workshops with Graham – so watch this space!
My last quote from Graham was “I breath twice on each stroke” we made him demo this as no one believed him! It’s true he bloody does – once at the start and once at the end!
Why Should I Care?
Graham got me through my #2k4time challenge in 7.10 minutes.
That is 5 seconds inside the Ninja Standard and it’s officially my first tick in the box!
Now lets not get too excited about me being an awesome rower! I’m 6’3 and 105kg’s, I always knew that I would be able to use that to my advantage. Plus I am coming back from injury where I have spent hours on the Assault Bike – so I knew my cardio was on point.
But for you – this is just a great way to get involved! Get on a rower, set the distance to 2k and start! Find your split! Get to know your pace, good, bad, or ugly, know it – then grow it how you want. If you want to be part of the community – post pictures to Instagram and tag us or use the #NinjaOrNotIn6Months tag and we’ll do our best to support you. Get started now – tweet this article and make your public commitment to get involved!
If you decide you want to get serious about your #2k4time challenge – sign up to the blog and find out more about the upcoming events we have planned with Graham!
Ok, so Coaching Polar Bear and I met up on the last day In2Crossfit was open for 2016. As promised we have measured up – I warn you that some of the images in this article can not be unseen!
The first thing to say is sorry to Coaching Polar Bear – the camera came out and I got excited. I promise not to make lasso hands and ride my pony stances behind you at future weigh ins. I will do my best not to make silly faces and inappropriate gestures in general – after all this is a serious business.
After much deliberation we agreed on a tops off / shorts on approach to the photos. And even more importantly we agreed to an 8 points measure system. These 8 places can be seen in the table below.
We also agreed that we would measure left and right leg and arm measures. Whilst we hope to deliver a balanced improvement across the whole body, we also acknowledge that most injuries are as a result of imbalance in the system, so we wanted to capture any imbalances that exist today so we can focus on training them out. After all one of my objectives is to reduce my chance of repeat offending on the frequent-flyer list at the injury clinic!!
As you can see from the photo’s there’s an obvious height differential. Now depending on how you look at this you’re going to describe one of us as having a height advantage. Which is probably fair. There are a lot of opinion pieces written about this and you can form your own opinion with a quick google search. As I’m such a sporting fellow I’ll start you off with this article here.
What Does This Mean?
Lots of this is academic for a couple of reasons:
Polar B and I are not looking to go to the CF Games.
We aren’t actually competing with each other let alone any crossfit regional athletes.
We both believe that from wherever anyone starts, they can derive health improvements in weight, power, strength, cardio and general well being.
So with all this in mind, all we really need to do is baseline our current shape and size and maybe identify a couple of benchmark wods so that we can evaluate how the changes we make to our bodies impact our performance. At this point Polar B is saying we need to make note that this is not a scientific study and our sample of 2 is in no way representative of the populous at large. With that health warning out of the way….any suggestions for benchmark wods – please get in touch or comment below.
Why Should I Care?
Our assumption and hope is that many of you are going through your own constant development program.
Speaking to mates at the gym, despite the community that crossfit at large develops, some of these personal goals can feel like impossible solo missions and we want to change that.
Our hope and ambition is that we can bring our community closer together, support you in return for you supporting us and ultimately create a #TEAM ethos. We are in this together and we can achieve more by working together.
Now look at my muffin tops and decide if this something you want to be part of! Subscribe or follow us on twitter & Instagram. Links on the right!
Jamie Lau – British Born Chinese – BBC, (apparently that’s a thing! There’s an ABC too – American Born Chinese Jamie informs me, he also informs me he got engaged this year, April. Snook that one in didn’t he. Obviously I congratulate him, though give him a withering look when he admits he did not get down on one knee)!
(He also just got a puppy – “Lola” – which is why getting him to sit down and finalise this interview has been tough)!!
How did you get started in CrossFit?
Long story short. I met my future employer, Ed Haynes, in Hong Kong before my relocation in 2012. Although it would take him over 2 years to hire me, all of his other coaches had Crossfit Level 1 Coaching Certifications. I asked him if I would need my CrossFit Level 1 if I was going to be on his team. He said yes, he seemed smart, so I signed onto a course when I returned to the UK.
Jami (Annie Thorisdottir’s coach) was the master trainer of my CF Level 1 with other high profile coaches – not that I knew any of this at the time. At the end of day one the workout was Fran, I’d never done Fran before, I’d never done CrossFit before! I used a 40kg bar (thinking thrusters are just front squats and push presses, how hard could it be) and all my pull ups were strict – I had no idea what kipping was! The outcome was unsurprising and the soreness made sitting down and holding a pen for the exam at the end of day two very challenging.
I didn’t do Crossfit again for over two years until I joined Ed and his team at Coastal Fitness Performance Training (CrossFit CSTL).
I pursued Crossfit more after a grade 2 MCL tear during a rugby game out in Hong Kong. Then a medial and lateral meniscus tear after three months of being in a knee brace and rehabbing the knee. After reluctant surgery on the knee, I used CrossFit to add variety into my rehab as well as add that ‘competition’ I missed. As it happens, I never played Rugby again. My life changed and I closed that chapter… for now.
What’s your proudest CrossFit moment?
(lots of sigh’s and throwing his head around, at one point I think he has become transfixed on the ceiling of the coffee shop where we’re having our chat. But it’s ok, it’s just thinking time).
He finally admits – this is hard!! I suppose that year in Asia (2014), Placing 4th in Seoul in the last ever ASIA Regional before they changed it into the super regions. It was our first ever Open as a team.
We should have podiumed. Andy Bratsanos bottled the last work out. I have never let him live it down, we were already on the podium in 3rd, if he had just finished even 2 mins slower than he was in practice we probably would’ve held our spot. It was a fun experience – winning the handstand walk event but coming close to dead last in the hang snatch, lots of ups and downs.
What’s your highest CrossFit ranking ever?
CrossFit Open Worldwide:
2014 – 12330
2015 – 6215
2016 – 4481
14th at the Asia Championships in 2015
Why do you do it, what’s your motivation?
I like to explore training paradigms. I like to experiment with new principles. I firmly believe it’s good for the body and the mind; it takes them to places they need to go and provides a testing playground. It keeps me (relatively) sane.
Furthermore it helps me stay engaged with my clients. Coaches should train. Unless there are physical reasons why coaches can’t train, they should do some form of training. I’m not saying coaches need to train ‘hard’ or lift more than their clients but I think it’s important for clients to understand we put in the work too. It helps build empathy, acceptance, and rapport.
(I think this is a fairly simple question, these first few are all meant to be warm up rapid fire questions, but Jamie is pretty much losing his mind here – we’re negotiating over if he can have 3 or 2, but I say “it’s not really the point”) Strict Handstand Push Up. (“WHAAAT” I actually say this to him Basically it’s something he conquered, in true Crossfit style he found a weakness and he trained it into a strength. He recalls doing sets of 2-3, but now pushes out high teens without too much difficulty. And that is Crossfit I am re-assured).
(Zero hesitation – he fucking knows this, it’s like he has been waiting his whole life for someone to ask him) Thrusters! Any type, heavy, light, it doesn’t matter. (I propose they’re a great full body workout but just receive blank stares from Jamie. We move on).
Best bit of stash?
Hong Kong “A” Rugby Jersey – Jamie admits there is no question about this. He goes on to say it will be framed at some point, then asks me to strike that from the interview. I say no take backs! (It clearly means a lot to him, rugby it turns out means a whole lot to Jamie as the interview progresses and this shirt feels like it might have been the validation of a long journey and a lot of work, he never actually says that – but I just know it instinctively and I think he knows I know. We share a silent nod).
Most inspirational athlete?
Johnny Wilkinson, his dedication is second to none and the way he approaches that really appealed to me. You knew he had broken down his game in to it’s core elements and worked hard on all of them. The physical, mental, and skills based techniques. His kicking abikicking. But more than that, it was things like learning french when he played in their league. The time he spends with the younger play and the school programs. The 2003 world cup was a defining moment for me, I was at the University of Birmingham when england won the world cup with Johnny. He genuinely shaped my life, more of if that I give it credit for. He was what an inspiration should be.
You were a CrossFit team regional athlete in 2014 and 2015 for CrossFit CSTL in Seoul and Wollongong respectively. How does team CrossFit strategy differ from individual athlete strategy?
Managing emotions is one of the biggest thing. When you train together day in day out you know who has the strongest lifts, the best pacing strategies, the best at complex movements and so on – that stuff is simple. But what you can’t see is how the team will operate on the day and how people will respond to adversity, under performing, soreness, anxiety, pressure, GI distress etc. Everyone has to feel they did their best and contributed to the team outcome. In the team dynamic emotions are big.
One of your passions is Rugby, you were Assistant S&C (Strength and Conditioning) coach for Hong Kong National Rugby Team. As well as S&C coach for HK Football Club and Tigers Rugby Club. What did you learn coaching those teams that you apply to CrossFit?
In rugby, training is distinctly different to competing. There’s one match per week maximum and the week is focused on TRAINING for that match. When you train you don’t just play repeated games of 80 minutes of rugby; training involves attack, defense, passing, kicking, set plays etc. There is a clear difference between training and competition. You don’t have to explain that.
In Crossfit the difference isn’t as clear. Often the training is too competitive, based on a time or score, and it’s frequently too intense. During training you should have time to spend improving and focusing on your movement, your breathing, your efficiency, your technique – it’s not always possible to do that if you feel like you are competing.
In this environment, how do you create the mental and physical breaks between training and competing? How do you bulletproof yourself with training to make sure you are ready to compete? (This is genuine insight and I can see instantly what he says, even just in the way I will approach some of my own training. Am I training or am I competing? Was I aware of my movement patterns or was I just chasing a time? As I’m musing this, he ads)Rugby into Crossfit is bad! Rugby players are strong and fast, but they (generally) have terrible ROM, many can’t get below parallel in a squat, they’re used to tackling on one shoulder, often sidestep/kick/pass more favourable on one side. If you’re making the switch, spend the time to get the movement patterns fixed and balanced before adding too much load or speed.
As head coach for In2Crossfit Clapham you do the programming at In2Crossfit. Can you give us some insight into your approach?
There are some basic pre-req’s he thinks everyone should have:
Multiple reps of Strict Pull Ups
Multiple reps of Strict Dips
Multiple reps of BW loaded Back Squats
Multiple reps of BW loaded Deadlifts
Side plank at least 90sec
Sorensen Hold at least 2mins (without pain)
Multiple reps of loaded Single Leg Split Squats
… The list goes on…
There are also a host of energy system tests I want people to achieve but for the most part structural balance, strength, body awareness, and midline control are the MOST important so the emphasis is always there.
Second battle is how do you make the programing interesting, community based, and fun. (My own observations would be that this is a journey that Jamie has been on. How he programmed in the early days to how he programs now are two very different beasts and I think this second battle is one that he has learned through experience).
Third – I have to balance what people want with what people need. And that can be tough, it won’t always make you popular. After the CrossFit Total this year it was great to see so many of the intermediate and advanced athletes making such big improvement – they acknowledged that the programming works and that is a great journey to be a part of. Education is something I love.
At a Macro level, there is the challenge of attendance. Some people train x3, x4, x5 and some people are in the gym 6 times a week. I need to give those people a varied plan and I need to make sure I a, meeting their needs for a full body workout – but I need to protect them too. Typically I see Sunday as a rest day for most people. So I tend to start the week off HEAVY (this is not a lie – Monday 6AM is usually a fucking wake up call of a workout). Then I tend to think about High, Low Medium as the week progresses.
I WANT TO HIT ALL THE WEAKNESSES (He didn’t shout this or anything, but it was just such an all encompassing statement and it was a kind of from the hip shot that I heard it like this. Jamie is usually quite measured and controlled with his delivery – so this feels like a big admission and I’m not sure he even realises the magnitude of this statement)
I AM ALWAYS TESTING PEOPLE (As above, this I guess should be obvious, but I’d never really thought about, but you can tell he means it. He is like the ever present weighing scale – measuring us)
We’ve spoken a lot about pain through my rehab. There’s a lot of different types of pain associated to CrossFit, what advice could you share with people who don’t benefit from one to one training with you?
If pain gets worse through a workout it’s bad pain – stop working out.
If you have pain that doesn’t change after 4 days, it’s bad pain see a (good) doctor or (good) coach/physio/osteo/chrio
If pain eases off through movement, welcome to crossfit – you might be ok!
My tip – write it down. Make a record, take charge of your own health and safety. If you want to know what breaks you need a record of what you were doing. Then at least you stand a chance of managing the risk and avoid the same thing happening again. (At the time this didn’t feel like it was aimed at me, but as I write this – I think it might have been, I don’t keep a record and I am a persistent re-offender of the injury bench)
Can we talk about goal setting? Are there any principles or guidelines that you follow?
Yes (great, can you fucking tell me what they are you smart arse)
Goal set when you are at peak performance and in good health
Goal set when you don’t think you need to
It’s like hydration – by the time you think you’re thirsty you’ve missed the window of rehydration
The year is not always your book end. Don’t ONLY set goals in January. Work at them year round
Make your goals SMART
What’s your view on supplements, are there any you recommend to support rapid adaptation to training?
Thanks for this question, I am going to put the cat amongst the pigeons here. (he is being sarcastic about the thanks I am sure of it)
Creatine for rapid adaptation that is the answer – I tell my mother to take it, but she never does. Really the answer is consistent protein intake – assuming you can’t carry round endless chicken breasts or a cooked cow you can slice bits off – then protein powder is a solid go to. It’s the substance that has a lot of research done on it, the science is out there, it’s pretty undenaible!
Secret Sauce, what’s the missing ingredient most people don’t see or understand?
Pass (you can’t pass that isn’t an option) Ok well I was going to say sleep or movement – but that’s so generic I don’t think anyone will take any action from that advice. Maybe it’s better to say stress management. Mental fatigue is a thing, it affects your physical self. Lack of sleep, relationship stress, work stress, gym stress; all of these things deplete the system and if they all ramp at the same time – how will you manage your energy / stress balance? I often say to people it’s like a bank, you can’t just keep paying out without making some deposits. If you neglect this balancing act, eventually you will have used all of your energy and you’ll go broke. Everyone needs a buffer.
You love a technical term – but seriously dude- what are you on about?
1)I use this exercise as an accessory movement, activation tool, as well as building a bigger picture in an assessment.
Circular meaningless tautology?! (I think he’s just given me one of his phrases to explain the answer to one of his phrases…)
2)working only on the eccentric phase. Add in the concentric phase.
I like to educate people….
3)I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much negative and positive self talk in one session. I’m no high level athlete – but I love the journey of self discovery. Doubting yourself. Overcoming challenges. Questioning everything.
That’s epic (laughs out loud), I mean that training allows your mind and body to grow in a way you that’s rare outside of the gym. Where else can you test yourself repeatedly in the way you do inside the gym – where else can you overcome your own personal limitations so often. You can make your own magic happen!
4)To train, or not to train, that is the question: Whether ’tis Nobler in the body to suffer the Aches and Pains of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Pity against a World of uncertainty, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep.
I remember this one, I was in LA. This resonates with me because people’s mind state fluctuates a lot. Why am I here? Will I finish on a high or should I push for one more rep, round, another 5 KG’s, what will this do to my emotional state? Should I let him win today, or am I going again. Shakespeare nailed it and some days I don’t know myself. (I recognise some of this in my self, does every day have to be a PB day, how do I know when to push and when to yield, I don’t think there’s an answer to this)
There’s a lot of movements in the shoulder – fear mongering and showing off how many technical terms I know! hahaha
I think about your brand as very scientific and based on latest research. How would you describe your brand?
Ever Learning Ever Evolving: (Any examples of a recent evolution?) I don’t want to sound generic, I just mean that I am striving for more answers without assuming finding these answers will make me any smarter. (I offer a quote I like: My Wisdom brings me closer to my ignorance. He nods and agrees). I guess I just want to be honest and authentic but without using those words, I just can’t think how else to put.
When we first got to know each other, I scored you in one of the workouts for the open. I was clearly shouting at you stand up the last squat clean. Why did you defy me?
Honestly, I just wanted to beat John Hood ha! I needed two more reps, but I knew I didn’t have the time on the clock, I needed more rest, but if I waited I would run out of time. Equally I knew there was no way I could stand that weight up. I think I called myself a f***ing A-hole, if I had waited I would have got 1 more rep in the time and evened his score, but I wanted the win so I went early and blew up. My ego got ahead of me. This is the challenge of a competitive spirit.
(this is really interesting to me, as Jamie has been the king of strategy at the gym. For the open last year he broke down each of the workouts and highlighted where the main challenges were likely to come and how people might think about approaching each movement. LInk Here I guess in the heat of battle, we all go for the win).
We’ve spoken a lot about adaptation through my rehab. How do you help people around the longevity piece to training, the body comp vs performance vs health complexity.
People need to realise they will fluctuate. When a holiday comes, people want to lose weight and get some muscles. When injury strikes, people focus on their weaknesses or pain points. Fluctuations are natural and normal. However achieving body comp, performance and good health simultaneously is almost impossible. Goal set and be realistic!
If you don’t like the way you look, take some comfort in the fact that it’s not your fault it’s almost all your parents!
You love to ask me – “is that good CrossFit”? What do you mean?
Well, you should be able to elicit a response that you understand. When people finish a workout and say “I can’t believe….”, “my grip failed”, “my lungs blew up”, “that weight felt so heavy I couldn’t lift it”. Either they’re delusional, or they don’t know themselves (or they’re too new). Yes a tall heavy athlete doing a rowing and pull up workout is likely to blow up on the pull ups. And a shorter lighter athlete will struggle to generate power on the ergo. But I should be able to program for an outcome. If I get the outcome wrong I didn’t understand the person enough or the dose response of the workout. It’s training not competing!
We’re going to teach you Double Unders in the shortest possible time to get you ready for the Crossfit Open!!
For the FIRST TIME EVER this comprehensive and detailed training event is coming to Europe and it’s being delivered here in London. On the 18/19th February at this location.
Developed by Rx Smart Gear founder and competitive CrossFitter David Newman. “It is the breakdown of jump rope bio-mechanics and cable dynamics dictated by the athlete’s philosophy carried out in the athlete’s workout strategy. These principles are focused specifically as they apply to high intensity, functional fitness with sport specificity centered around the “sport of fitness.”
What Does This Mean?
The RX Smart Gear team will take you through a group discussion, warm up, dynamic group exercise, isolation drills and transition skills. Their unique training tools will assist everyone in understanding their double under philosophy and methodology including plenty of hands on application.
The RX Smart Gear Team are in London for 1 Weekend only to run these x4 training events. Spaces are limited and there are early bird discounts for the first 3 participants to register for each event.
Why Should I Care?
The Rx Method focuses on the following key points:
Jump Rope Sizing Philosophy - Learn the different sport specific disciplines that utilize their own methods and standard for sizing a jump rope to an athlete’s body based on the goal of the activity in which they participate.
Jump Rope Bounding Technique – Learn the proper technique of efficiently jumping to minimize fatigue and increase work capacity while jumping rope.
Jump Rope Biomechanics – Learn the most efficient posture and mechanics of jumping rope. Creating ideal tolerance levels between the moving jump rope and athlete’s body, increasing efficiency. Learn about individual imbalances and deficiencies and how to self-manage them.
Jump Rope Theory- Jumping Rope as it applies to functional fitness requires its own sport specific applications. As it is typically a component within a larger series of exercise movements.
You will learn detailed practices and strategies even as simple as how to pick your jump rope up and put it down efficiently to shave seconds or even minutes off of your workout times.
When I started out down this path, by which I mean, started discussing the general idea and concept with Jimbo I wasn’t really sure what this would look like. I was still injured, still frustrated and my weight wasn’t in what I consider an acceptable range.
Jimbo really helped me to switch my frustration into something motivating. Now there was a lot of rehab work that went in before this and the coaches at In2crossfit – specifically Jamie and Gwen can’t go with out a mention. But Jimbo pushed me over the edge, he gave me some focus, a sounding board, some structure and the concept of making my hopes and dreams (goals) publicly stated. We met up yesterday for a planning chat and I did feel a bit like I’ve run away with his idea. (Sorry Jimbo).
But then something cool happened. Simon got in touch to say, I’ve read your blog and I fancy “Being Clarky”. Now this is just straight A crazy
– seriously – no one should want to be me!! But having picked myself up off the floor. I probed a little deeper.
Simon read my blog and as he’s already got the Ninja standards he doesn’t want to be left out…..so he’s bought a freaking weight vest to make
himself the same weight as me so that he can retrain towards high body weight goals with an artificial increased body weight.
This is genuinely touching for me, because when I blogged earlier in my posts about your training buddies who don’t get hurt and maintain steady progress that you’ll never catch back up with. Basically I’m talking about Simon. For like 6 months we trained 5 mornings a week together at 6am.
There’s a big height difference between me and Simon, but in strength terms, in movement patterns and just general functional fitness, Simon is a better athlete. He would always be the one pushing us to go bigger, one more rep, one more round. And he would pretty consistently out perform me. So when he suggested jumping on board for the journey, I was excited and touched….
What Does This Mean?
Well, this got me thinking, one of my big drivers is and has always been #Team. And when I think about what means and who that team is, I really don’t have a definition for it. Is there a limit to the size of the team? Do we have to train at the same time in the same place? Do we even have to train the same sports or have the same goals? Or is the team, about something else? Is this just about like-minded people who are willing to make a connection and to put some of their knowledge, time, effort, experience into your journey?
Then I saw my Dad over Christmas and in one of those throw away chats while walking the dog, he dropped the sound bite “The Secret to living is giving”. And I can not shake this comment, I wake up thinking it, I fall asleep thinking it. I am looking for more ways to give more.
That is what Jimbo did, that is what Simon did and they both continue to do it….then there’s Jacqui. Jacqui is one of the coaches at the Gym, but she works full-time too. So she trains at 6AM. The 6AM class is actually a pretty tight team. Everyone is there before work, having got up at 5AM to GET SHIT DONE!
There’s not much chat and not much standing around (unlike some other classes I have observed).
The reason Jacqui is worth special note, is that she runs the Open Gym on Sundays. This is typically where for the last 2 years I’ve arrived fresh-faced with jump rope in hand and set about whipping myself in various parts of my body in the pursuit of Double Unders.
Jacqui has put some serious time in to my technique and we still aren’t there yet. But she has helped with everything, from what type of rope to try, how high to jump, timing drills, calf stretches, video analysis, laugh with me, talk me down from my frustration. If anyone else has been or is going through the pursuit of double under… you will know what I mean.
Why Should I Care?
This is important because, Jacqui is the one who said – “Get an RX Smart Gear rope. They come in different lengths and different weight ropes, and the handles have bearings so the rope spins fast”.
I have had the rope for about 12 months now and through that time I have been chatting to the team at RX Smart Gear about various things. Like how annoying the shipping charges and import duties are on their stuff for Europe.
But when I combined this with my Dad’s sound bite “The secret to living is giving”. I was struck by an idea. Other people must be struggling with Double Unders. I could give some of my time, energy and money to get the RX Smart Gear team over to London to help other people overcome their challenges.
This lets me give something back to all the people who have helped me along the way (most of them have double unders, so I guess in the strictest sense I am paying it forwards). This helps me to build a community and a team around the blog, people who hopefully want to provide and receive support from the fitness community. Plus on some very competitive level, it might actually help the UK Crossfit Community score better against the rest of the world at the Crossfit Open.
So its done, it booked, it’s paid for, the team are coming. I hope this is the first of many events like this. I guess they should all be called “the Secret to living is giving”, as long as they’re not called “Being Clarky” because frankly I am not sure that’s a worthwhile pursuit! Unless you’re Simon – for you sir it is! Great Job! Thank you!
Thank you to everyone who has helped, will help, or is currently engaged in helping other people do more, be better, achieve new goals! GREAT JOB TEAM!
Anyone who wants help with Double Unders will be able to sign up for the RX Smart Gear Clinics and Workshops from Friday. Subscribe to the blog to get early bird discounts.
It’s Thursday morning at 11 AM, nothing remarkable about the day, it’s a couple of weeks before Christmas and I’m working from home.
My phone buzzed to indicate I had a new message on FB. This is how the conversation went, my writing is in blue.
Holy shit – someone is actually reading my blog! Holy shit, they aren’t messaging me to take the piss for the self indulgent nature of sharing my own blog. They’re contributing – this is freaking awesome!!
The conversation continues and I get back to focusing on what Rich Jefferies is actually saying to me. I like Rich, he was one of the original 6AM Crew when I joined In2crossfit. Pretty much 5 mornings a week, this guy was then and still is the real deal. Trains hard and has good functional fitness, not just good strength and endurance, but he’s got some serious tekkers – you need to see his burpee box jumps to believe them!
The theme is Sports Psychology and specifically Performance Psychology!!!
This is not a completely alien concept to me. I attended a Future-Leaders event through a previous employer. It was a day long session with Andy Cope a clinical psychologist. Andy had spent the first half of his career looking at how to help people with depression before switching to start to examine what he called “the 2% Mindset”.
He wanted to know what made people high achievers, and what was the secret of happiness. As in, what makes some people happier than others.
He eventually found the happiest man on the planet…in Birmingham of all places!! WHAT!!
Without ruining the surprise for you, it turns out that the secret to being happy is to just decide that you are happy and that life is good. I’ll give you some time to let that sink in. YOU JUST DECIDE!
……anyway back to the podcast. It’s worth a listen, it covers a lot of content around topics like; the “Relentless Pursuit of Progress” which I imagine any crossfitter can really associate with.
“Motivation and Purpose”, I mean there has to be a reason why we do this? Why do the 6AM Team get up at 5AM, leave loved ones warm in bed and drag themselves to a cold Crossfit Box to engage in their own personal battle with self improvement? Why do any of us train at the times we do – it’s a conscious choice we’re all making and it’s not because any of us is going to be a Games Athlete….is it….??!
One of the questions the podcast asks of us, are we willing to do the minutiae of the work – not the big sexy stuff – the boring stuff! This reminds me of a conversation I had with Gwen. If anyone has ever had golf lessons, you turn up with your driver and you want the coach to help fix your drive so you can stop slicing it and just drive the ball 300 yards off the tee straight down the fairway…
But instead of that, the coach tells you to get out a 7 iron, then completely disassembles your swing and builds a new swing from the ground up. It’s so bloody frustrating – but guess what, they’re right! It’s about the minutiae of the work. You can’t build massive achievements without a solid foundation.
Gwen has taken me back to my golf swing (metaphorically). Lots and lots of hollow holds and focus on control of my form. Can I hold a good hollow position whilst hanging on the bar? Doesn’t look like it here.
(I should add that this work went on for a long time before we started Deadlifting. It still continues, so if you see me laying on the floor I’m probably involved in my own minutiae).
What habits do you have today and what are the new habits you will need if you want to achieve your goals?
You don’t have to be sick to get better!! What a sound bite that is!!
The Podcast talks about some books that are worth reading.
Based on my own research and what appears to be widely held opinion (on the Internet) the Deadlift seems to be the mother of all power lifts.
It’s also one of my scores with the biggest delta between my own capacity and the Ninja standard….so if I have to start somewhere – this is the place.
According to thisarticle – the Deadlift works more muscles than any other exercise, including the squat. According to exercise physiologist Kevin Farley. If you need to do one exercise, this is the one to do. The Deadlift works your lower and upper body, including your back muscles. And the article lists many other benefits.
I talked this through with Jamie Lau – Head Coach @ In2Crossfit this week. We discussed a lot around the approach to take. How much can I train, how much rest do I need? Have I got my nutrition right?
We both agreed that given I am coming back from injury I need to think about how I can manage the risk / reward of my exercise strategy. How much time should I spend in open class doing CrossFit WOD’s v’s working my own programme? How should I phase my volume and intensity?
So I have been researching the perfect deadlift form, both of these youtube clips are good. (Or so I thought before a PT session with Gwen)
Gwen said something like, she doesn’t agree about the neck positioning. (I think her words were “that is total BS, look at how olympic lifters do it” which Gwen qualified with this video. Her point I think is, there’s no need to tuck the chin under. Based on her experience (she has plenty) lifting while looking ahead makes it a lot easier for people to maintain a straight back.)
Gwen took me through a warm up for my lower back and hamstrings with split-stance good-mornings.
1st) warm up reps, one of the adaptions we threw in here was a bottom of lift hold. (Not like in an elevator, which floor would you like, “hold the lift please”) Basically, find perfect form (I was initially dropping my ass too low which took tension off my hamstrings and meant I was lifting with my thighs. Plus I was looking at the floor, not the wall ahead).
2nd) once I’d got to perfect stance, brace your core, midline and back and put tension in the bar as though you are about to lift. But do not lift. This is just to warm your muscles and to teach your body how to maintain perfect form.
(Gwen Sound Bite) “Focus on form. There is no point completing a lift where you can’t maintain perfect form. That is not training”!
3rd) We then proceeded through 4-5 reps at 40kg. Same at 60kg. Then we dropped to 3 reps at 80kg. At this point I’m thinking “this is good, getting back into it. Greasing the groove” see this article for what I mean.
But Gwen has different ideas. Although there is no point completing lifts without perfect form. If you can maintain perfect form at each weight, there’s no reason, other than lack of strength (or confidence), why you would not continue to add weight.
3 reps at 90 kg, 2 reps at 100kg,
then 2 reps at 110kg. Now keep in mind my best ever 1RM is 130KG. So I’m pretty happy that in my first DL’s for 6 months I’m back towards my 1 RM and my form is good. Gwen decides we’re going to 120…..I chicken out.
We stopped as there’s no reason to add weight and go for it if the confidence to perform the lift isn’t there. We went down to 40kg and discussed the difference in lifting off a regular deadlift and a clean.
Gwen’s view, my old 1RM is wrong, I’ve got plenty more. But at 110, I could feel the legs and hips searching for stability. I could feel the heat rise and sweat start to bead on my forehead, and to be honest, I lacked the confidence.
Jamie and I had discussed the day before, slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
I can build my capacity slowly which will build my confidence and train my body and mind simultaneously. I don’t need every session to be world beating. I just need to train consistently and with focus to achieve my outcome.
Maybe if I had more confidence and didn’t have this nagging feeling that I’m coming back from injury, I could go more for intensity over volume, something like this article. But I do have that nagging feeling. “Don’t go too fast too soon”.
This is a head game as much as it is a physical one!
Luckily something else cool happened this week. Another friend from the gym read my blog and sent me a podcast on sports psychology for peak performance!!! Next update on this insight from Rich Jefferies….
“Moved for love” and wanted to experience living abroad (Gwen is desperate to add this last bit, but I think the first bit is really the truth)
Highest CrossFit ranking:
13th place at this year’s Meridian Regionals
Hang Snatch – I just like it.
Double Unders – I am embarrassed to see myself doing these…
Best bit of stash?
I don’t think I have one particular thing I like most. Certainly love all my Northern Spirit gear.
Most inspirational athlete?
I don’t look at athletes as “inspirational” really but I think what Jessica Ennis-Hill achieved in her career is just amazing and she just comes across as a very “normal down to earth person”. Also Mo Farrah.
How did you get started in CrossFit?
Watched a friend working out when I was a PT, she was in damn good shape, went to watch a comp with her, heard lots of noise about CrossFit and decided half a year later to try it. For the first two months I really wasn’t sure about it.
What’s your proudest CrossFit moment?
Tough question, there are many exciting moments. Winning my heat of the last event at Regionals this year was awesome. It closed the circle of having won a heat at my first Regionals which was a great experience too – even not comparable to this year.
Why do you do it, what’s your motivation?
I couldn’t imagine a life without sport. It lifts me up. It gives me energy and excitement. The joy of movement – be it CrossFit, a bike ride, swimming or just a simple set of squats…I just love to move and be active.
How do you balance the personal drive and commitment required of a focussed athlete against your coaching commitments?
With regards to my own training, e.g. preparation for Regionals, I will prioritise training. Work will be scheduled around my training slots and I’ll make sure to get things outside the gym right too, e.g. recovery, nutrition, sleep,…
In class when I’m teaching, I am just focussed on the people in the class. I want them to get the most out of their training. I insist on quality form, there’s no point trying to do advanced movements and heavy lifts unless you have nailed the technique.
I do struggle to understand people who just show up and aren’t keen on improving. Not everyone has to be as driven as I am but I feel it’s a waste of time to train and do things half hearted.
What are, for you, the most important fundamentals of functional fitness?
Functional Fitness is Bullshit. (lots of laughing from James and looks of amazement from Gwen)
I mean, what is “functional fitness”. There’s no such thing as “functional fitness”. It’s just a phrase created by the fitness industry but I don’t think anyone could give me a satisfying explanation what this means.
How did you feel about the Glock association with CrossFit Games this year?
I’m against guns. I don’t see why Crossfit has to be related to using guns. I hated the association and I was pleased to see that at the Games there was no Glock advertising.
You’re about to take on a whole new challenge, how has pregnancy changed your approach to training?
Well, I still love to train. I can’t train everything I would like to but there’s still plenty of things left I can do. I’ve to go with how I feel on the day though – sometimes my body doesn’t like my plan – I had to stop swimming the other day, as much I as I wanted to, someone else didn’t.
I sometimes miss the routine I had when I trained for competitions. But at the same time it’s nice not to have that routine and the excitement of becoming a mum soon outweighs everything anyway.
We’ve spoken a lot about focus and bringing that focus to specific muscles and muscle groups through my rehab. How can people who don’t get the benefit of your coaching apply this?
I work with a variety of clients in person, in class, and I do remote coaching as well. I’m programming and coaching athletes all over the world (US, UK, China, Germany,…) and although it’s easier to work with people face to face, it’s still possible to explain everything in written form and via video feedback. There are things I can’t do right now due to my pregnancy but I filmed a lot of movements and progressions so that I can still demonstrate things without actually having to do them.
Mobility v’s Stability – after everyone of our sessions I come away with this soundbite from you. Can you explain what means?
Mobility can be described as active joint range control (quoting Dr. Andreo Spina). You want to be able to move and control your joints in a certain range.
Stability could be described as the ability to stop the rest of body moving while moving one or more particular joint.
A lack of both is one of the biggest issues I see. If you’re lacking appropriate mobility in a joint to perform e.g. a given movement you’ll likely compensate with a lack of stability elsewhere. A huge part of my work with clients / athletes is to help them understand what and how to stabilise and what and how to move to create the required movement e.g. squat, pullup,…
I asked you about weight loss v’s strength v’s cardio to improve my outcomes. You said, they should be seen as part of the same whole, not isolated. Could you explain why?
It’s not not either a cardio or a strength program that will make the difference in how and if you lose weight. First of all, watch what you put in your mouth. You can’t outtrain a bad diet.
And then you need to ask yourself if you just want to only drop weight on the scale or if the goal might be something else, e.g. improved performance in the gym, aesthetics, improved health etc. Defining the real goal will define the type of training. A strong mindset, determination and persistency will be needed for all of it – inside, as well as outside the gym.
Future of CrossFit, what do you see as the next evolution? Would you like to see it in the Olympics?
I don’t think it should be an Olympic sport. I like the age categories. In future it would be good to see more Regions again. Or let’s say I’d like to see the Meridian Region to have more Regionals. It’s such a big region and it’s dominated by a few countries, I think it would be great to provide access for more athletes.
How would you describe your brand?
Brand? What brand, I don’t have a brand! (Ok, how would you describe your style, or how you approach coaching?) Oh I am all about direct feedback. If you deserve praise I will give you praise. If you’re being an idiot expect to be told you are an idiot! If you don’t like a direct approach don’t ask for my opinion. (I would agree, if you’re sensitive or looking for someone to sugar coat the pill – don’t step in the room with Gwen. But if you want the truth, and you want to balance your personal training with being educated about how, why and the specifics of movement – you’ll really enjoy a chat with Gwen. The truth hurts! We started our PT Session today with Gwen saying, “Why are you aiming at Ninja standard, you’re not ready, you’re fundamentals are miles off”. Great pep talk coach – thanks 🙂 🙂 )
Secret Sauce, what’s the missing ingredient most people don’t see or understand?
Body awareness, Focus.
Will you name your baby after me?
No chance! You’ll have to wait 3 months to find out what we decide.
So this weekend, my Crossfit Box (IN2Crossfit) did the annual Crossfit total. This consists of pretty much everyone in the box completing their 1 rep max for:
There’s quite a good article on this and why it’s important in Crossfit to focus on strength, as well as why these three 1RM lifts are the best way to evaluate absolute strength.
This blog isn’t really about the Total, or about the work and dedication that has gone in to everyones training this last twelve months to achieve some of the things they did. It’s about the motivational impact, on the whole community, of the act of coming together to support each other through the testing, then to celebrate the various PB’s and monumental strides that people take towards self improvement.
For me, coming back from injury and trying to keep the breaks on my desires to improve quickly and get back to peak performance is hard. The Crossfit total was a tempting offer, an opportunity to test myself, gauge my capacity and feel the buzz of the Crossfit community at our box. Wisdom prevailed and I did not take part. I am 3 weeks back in to open classes and only just starting to engage fully in all the functional movements.
The photos and reports that have come out of the weekends testing have been hugely motivational to me in a few areas:
1.It’s great to see the progress that my training buddies make – it assures me that with handwork, dedication and an injury free training period I can get back to those degrees of self improvement.
2.It demonstrates that our coaches know what they are doing. You aren’t going to deliver the huge % improvements that some of the team did without following the right programs. Many of the team have been training for years and maintain improvements as your progress is difficult.
3.It made me jealous – I want those “gains” for myself. It’s a bit like when someone tells you that you can’t do it – it just makes me want to prove them wrong!
Motivation is a funny thing – taking it from encouragement as well as from adversity is a powerful thing. There’s a few quotes on this – like “It always seems impossible until it’s done” and “at first they’ll say it can’t be done, in the end they’ll want to know how you did it”.
I experienced a Random Acts of Kindness this week that was hugely motivational too. From a friend who doesn’t train in any way, but knows how much I do and he knows that I get up at 5.30AM most mornings to do it. In his own words “I saw this and thought of you”, it’s time likes this that you know that you’re doing something right. If people associate you with the outcomes and work that it takes to deliver those outcomes – keep going!
Here’s the gift from my mate Simon:
My last thought is about Community and Motivation. Many of the things each of us want to achieve are going to be hard long journeys and we’re going to have to make changes and sacrifice along the way to deliver the outcome. Going it alone can be hard.
In additional to Simon’s random act of kindness I got a like this week from my mate John on myfitnesspal. Apparently I had put a streak of 14 days in and it had notified my community. John had taken the time to like the update. Everyone needs more John’s in their life.
I have worked with and for John in the past, he’s always demonstrated leadership and GRIT! Sometimes everything is going to fail – you’re going to need lots of GRIT of your own, but a bit from your mates won’t hurt. If anyone would like to connect with me on myfitnesspal to share their challenges, get support from me and share it back – my profile is here and I would love to connect with and share some mutual motivation.