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!
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!