I LOVE Coaching! (and PRs) – Thurs 12 Oct

It hasn’t quite been the case for a while but this morning I leapt out of bed and in to my gear, buoyed by the impending class at CrossFit Watford. After last night’s awesome power play (92.5kg Overhead Squat 1RM, followed by 5 RFT: 20 x Med Ball Cleans, 10 x Push Press @ 50kg, 5 x Chest-to-Bar Pull Ups – 11:19 Rx), you’d think I’d be a little wary of firing my way in to another huge WOD so soon after. But I wasn’t in the WOD, I was taking it. Tuesday and Thursday 6AM classes are my chance to give something to the CrossFit Watford Dawn Patrol. On Tuesday, I wrote a small dit on the board as they walked in, “If 6am is the only time of the day to Workout, it’s the Best time of the day to Workout!”. I’ve said it many times before but if someone can motivate themself to push themself through a brutal S&C session at 6am then they deserve my respect; the least I can do is be positive, enthusiastic and on top of my game for them.

And so, it was down the hatch with the Costa Americano, stuffing a few jaffa oranges in to my mouth, and a sprint down to the car. The drive in is always the same, a little Radio 4 to catch the news and then a switch to Absolute Radio to wake me up. Getting in to the box before the athletes, I get to pick the music; (nearly) always some kind of power ballad / rock anthems – I grew up in the late 80s guy, what can I say?

There was a look of horror on the faces of the stars as they saw the board. 2 MetCons, a 21-minuter and a short sprint to the finish.

EMOM 21

  • Row 12/10 Kcal
  • 50 x Double Unders
  • 10 x Burpees
  • 15 x Kettlebell Swings
  • 20 x Sit Ups
  • 25 x Air Squats
  • 10 x Squat Tuck Jumps

 

Depending on ability, there was enough time after each movement to get the breath back and really go for it in the next one. Having a workout like this is excellent for a coach because it gives us the chance to get around a lot of people with cues, tips, and (today none) no-reps 😉 Working the far end of the Anaerobic/Glycolytic pathway, and just about in to the Aerobic/Oxidative pathway, it also meant that there was enough in the tank for MetCon 2:

21-15-9

  • Wall Balls @ 9/6kg
  • Push Ups
  • Empty Bar Thrusters @ 20/15kg

 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that there would have been little appetite or intent to complete this after the first one. But you’d be wrong. They went for it. There is a quiet, brooding sense of sense of competition in the morning class but it is there nonetheless. Julie R knows it and you can see it on her face; when she knows she’s within sight of someone close to her, she really digs in and finds another gear. But this morning, it was Hannah vs Jessie that really made my morning. This morning Jessie was going for it. Powerful and strong, (and, as I’ve just found, a spinning instructor) Jessie took the lead from the outset. Hannah’s normal position is out in front so I knew she was not going to let this lie. Just one or two reps ahead at all times, Jessie hit the 9 Push Ups while Hannah still had about 5 Wall Balls remaining. Hannah clawed back 2 reps and Jessie started the Thrusters 3 ahead. Hannah put her foot on the gas and they completed their 9 Thrusters at exactly the same time! Boom! Fist Bumps all round! I love the morning class!

And, then it was my turn.

After last night’s was complete, Charlie said to me, “you’re gonna love tomorrow’s – get yourself a weight vest – it’s a Hero WOD – “RILEY””

We typically do weekday Hero WODs with a partner; this is because getting something like this in to a single session is often unworkable. With the late nights and darkness drawing in, you also don’t want people running around the streets en masse. So, for tonight, we amended it slightly to “Almost RILEY“:

  • 1 mile Run (800m each)
  • 150 x Burpees, between partners
  • 1 mile Run (full distance together)

 

Of course, I still did this with a 10kg weight vest. Teaming up with a Royal Navy Diver, called Tom, we completed the Split Jerk work first. My previous best for this was 115kg, and I have a video of it somewhere, which I was really pleased with. Tom is a big guy, and deadly strong. It was clear he was going to destroy whatever I put up; and so it proved. While I hit a new PR of 117.5kg (SMASH!), he went up to 150kg. The guy is STRONG. And then, on to “Almost RILEY”.

Weight vest on, he ran first, getting his 800m in around 4.5 mins. I headed off next, realising the weight vest wasn’t tightened properly and securing it en route. 3 mins 44secs – not bad. We did the burpees in 5s, non-stop, rapid. And then the 1 mile run (together). Despite him being immensely strong, I had the edge in the running. I got around the loop 2 mins ahead, waited for him on the line and we got back in to the box dead on 25 mins!

Teamwork. An immense day, inspired by the athletes in the morning class, and finishing with a new PR, meeting a new athlete, and feel pretty awesome. Boom.

 

 

 

 

 

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Gains, Losses, Goodbye Instagram

Wow. Well, what a few weeks it has been. Utterly maniacal at work, I’ve been unable to blog since my Jiminis Insect Protein bar review. Even then, it was a few weeks before that too. I promise to get back on track as of now. In that time, there have been gains to the Snatch (oh yes!), the Thruster (vom!), and I’ve said goodbye to Instagram. I’ve reviewed my own outlook and perspective on my fitness, nutrition and goals. It’s been a busy time, that’s for sure.

Starting in reverse order:

Outlook. I’ve written about it before; I am competitive by nature. I always was while growing up and used to play a lot of rugby, sprint a lot of races, and jump in a lot of sandpits. My aptitude my have been somewhat debatable but I competed. I am motivated by competition. It’s what got me through the Commando Course, and it motivated me to leave the Army for the Royal Marines (competition against myself). As I’ve grown older (😢) so I’ve moved away from rugby and ahletics, no longer spend time yomping around the hills and sleeping in bushes, and instead found CrossFit. At the same time, I’ve hit a point in my career where I’ve taken on a lot more, and where family situations mean I simply don’t have the time to compete at weekends. That may change in the future but not yet (standfast the 10km OCR I have coming up this Sunday). But I still work best under the pressure of competition. So what? So I’ll be using my time in CrossFit Watford more wisely to identify specific individuals and compete against them. It’s what CrossFit should be about anyway but we tend to be a little ‘British’ about it over here…very polite. I’ve also begun revisiting those things that motivated me to push myself to great lengths before and will regularly refer back to a few ‘totems’ such as the Commando Dagger and Dartmoor Map above.

Nutrition. I’ve not been eating enough to build mass and strength. Simple. I have been carefully managing my intake to not appear flabby and soft. Appearance-first. Well, you can’t put on muscle mass and stay trim easily. I’ll now be upping my intake, still monitored, to at least 2500Kcal per day, and to 40% Carbs, 30% Protein, 30% Fat. Close to Christmas, I’ll reevaluate and begin to focus on conditioning once more.

Instagram. Instagram made me sad. I’ve concluded that unless you are happy to take your top off (which noone wants to see of me!), make awesome food, or take amazing photos, then Instagram just isn’t going to work (oh, and post at least 5 times a day). After a year, I have the total of 240 followers, even though over 1500 have followed/unfollowed (highly irritating). I only joined to try and build an audience for this blog but the time taken to fight for followers in a congested domain (fitness) wasn’t worth it. I found instead that I was rearranging coffee pots, contriving situations, and staring at my phone during workouts. I noticed a horrible narcissism developing and I got upset every time I saw someone in better shape than me (perceptively, everyone). So, I’m taking that time back. Goodbye Instagram. I’ll still be on Twitter @nomadiccrossfit though!

THE GAINS

Now, the successes.

3 weeks ago, CrossFit Watford, “15mins to a heavy Thruster”. Previous best of 90kg. New Personal Record of 100kg!

2 weeks ago, at home in the garage, @amrapplusone programming to work up to a heavy Snatch. Previous best of 77.5kg (achieved only about a month or so ago). I fought and fought for this, failing 3 times on the way up. 80kg. Boom. I have chased and chased this for 2 years or more when I finally took 75kg after years of trying. I was ecstatic all day after this. Done at home, with a York Beefy Bar (no spin) and 1″ hole mixed plates, this went up easier than I was expecting. It took a lot of working up to, granted. I couldn’t have achieved this on a 6am session, for example. However, I’ve reset my numbers on the Amrapplusone programme and will continue to push onwards.

There we have it, all caught up. Well, the main events anyway.

As I endeavour to write more often again, what would YOU like to see on here?

Let me know.

Jimini’s Cricket Flour Protein Bars – a Review

The review you are about to read is my own work, my personal opinion, and has not been influenced by the producer/distributor of the product.

Yes, you read that right. Cricket Flour. From Crickets. You know, Grasshoppers.

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Jiminis Protein and Energy Bars

Unless you’ve been living in an isolated bubble from environmental change conversation, you’ll have seen a slow but assertive rise in the discussion about the farming of insects as a potential protein source for the the future. Billed as a sustainable way to alleviate the problem of providing enough protein to fill this globe’s need for food, insects have been pounced upon to save the day. As you might expect within western nations, the thought of eating insects hasn’t really gone down all that well. But marketers being clever people, they always find a way around it.

Despite evidence disproving the sustainability angle of eating insects (here), I’d like to introduce you to Jimini’s Cricket Flour protein and energy bars. I read about them while researching alternative protein powder sources for sports supplementation and boldly approached them to ask for freebies in exchange for a review- who doesn’t like a freebie!?

Enthusiastically, they swiftly despatched 4 bars to me, 2 of the protein bars and 2 of the energy bars. I distributed them around our coaches in CrossFit Watford and their thoughts are incorporated in this.

In order to overcome the squeamishness of the western European market, they’ve done away with presenting insects to us in an “I’m a celebrity…” fashion. Instead, the insects are bred (they are animals after all), killed (or left to naturally die, I don’t know), dried out and powdered. That ‘flour’ is then what is contained in the bars.

Ingredients. And a top way of doing it it is too. Containing nuts, fruit, a little honey, and some spices, they look and feel a lot like the explosion of other cold-pressed ‘paleo’ bars on the market. They taste almost identical too. And the texture is no different. In fact, the very best thing that I think I can report is that you would have no way of knowing that insect powder makes up a significant portion of it, without looking at the packaging.

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Taste & Sugar. They are nice. Very nice. What’s not to love about a sweet snack bar that you know is ‘healthy’? They’re not too sweet either. I tried the energy ones (still containing over 5g of protein per bar) and wasn’t left with the sickly taste that often come a from sweetened products. They’ve got the balance right there. Still, there was over 14g sugar (honey) in each small energy bar. Typically, you don’t find added sugars in a cold-pressed fruit product and I wonder why it was felt necessary.

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Protein. Despite them focusing on crickets as the source of protein, there’s actually more pea and sunflower protein than that from crickets. I do find this a little disingenuous but nothing out of the ordinary; you see, in order to gain a comprehensive and more complete amino acid profile, you need multiple sources, you can’t rely on one. The protein bar versions have approx 8.2g of protein each, as I say.

CrossFit. I typically train at 0600hrs. This requires waking at 0520 and I’m not able to eat much beforehand. I used 2 of these bars, 1 per morning, to see if I had enough energy to get through a morning’s Strength and MetCon workouts. Normally, I eat an orange or have a teaspoon of peanut butter as it’s mostly all I can stomach at that time. Although it was only 2 workouts, I can say that I had more endurance than normal for the hour period. I put this down to the honey in each bar and it’s prompted me to include a little more sugar in my pre-WOD. I can’t vouch for the effects of the protein though, I think that takes a little longer 😀

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The flavours are nice and varied. My favourite was the Banana & Dark Chocolate.

Allergens. Responsibly, I have to mention that those with seafood allergies need to steery well clear of any product containing insect matter; the same reactions came develop! Enough said on that one!

Summary. I liked these bars. Taking the insect element out of it, I found them to be tasty, with a good texture and not sickly. They have a bit more sugar in than I am personally used to but this based on my own approach to macro-nutrients and should not be taken as a negative. As I write above though, they may have powered me to a bit more in my workout than my usual early morning feed. I RECOMMEND this product if you are looking for something a little different in your diet and take the view that insects just might be the future of mass protein intake.

Slow Down, you’ll go further, perhaps faster.

While walking along the north Norfolk coast this weekend, I had a glimpse of true relaxation. For a brief moment I understood something that self-help books have preached for years – Slow Down.

In the modern world, Expectation governs all we do. Everything is at 100 miles per hour. Everything has a deadline. Everything has to be completed perfectly or not at all. Yet, rarely do we achieve perfection, and certainly not to the deadline. We rush about thinking we know what is expected of us, believing we know what others want from us, or what we absolutely must get done for ourselves.

And the fact is, it’s bullshit.

We wrap ourselves up in this expectation, without seeing the stress and damage it is putting on us. Sure, we all have responsibilities, that’s true. And some things do need to be done on time, and sometimes highly precisely. But not everything. Indeed, not even most things. The harm that this stress is putting on us (me) is far more critical and must be addressed. Tension, disagreements, upset. It all becomes too frequent. Mistakes happen. The stress increases.

And it was while laying on my back on a sun-dried marsh, staring at the sky, that I took a deep breath and …. relaxed. The clouds wandered past, the faces and animal shapes morphing gently. The boats floated to the breeze alongside. There may have been a call from a tern but I started not to notice or care. I lay there and realised how tightly wound up, how tensed, how detached I have become. I saw how the expectations of my working life have driven my behaviour in my private life. For that fleeting space, my mind lifted to those clouds and I discovered how some times could be if I just slowed down for a moment.

Imagine dropping from 100 miles per hour to 80. Pretend that the spelling mistake in that bit of work doesn’t matter. Take a chance and disbelieve that you know what the important person next to you really wants. Will anyone notice, as they speed around in their own frenzied bubble? When you’ve tried it, picture how your shoulders might feel. See your vision opening to take in more of the world around you and not simply tunnelling in to that one task. Enjoy the unexpected for-no-reason-at-all smile.

Do you think you may just achieve that next task a smidge better without the stress? You just may!

Do you think someone might notice that smile though? You betcha!

And, of course, the brief break in time was sped up as my little Action Princesses lost interest in the clouds and wanted their next hit of excitement, almost skidding over in a less dried out area of the marsh as the rush restarted.

But I did notice that my strides were a little shorter, my pace a tad slower, and my breathing just a fraction quieter.

The smile broadened that bit bigger, in to a grin

Nomadic Gains

Sorry, sorry, sorry!

Yes, I know it’s been a few weeks since the Huel Review post. I have no excuse and seek your forgiveness. Do I have it? Cool, thanks! You guys and girls are great.

So, I’ve been away for the last few weeks. My travels and holidays haven’t stopped me working out though, and I’ve seen gains on the way.

Before I get in to the travels….a new Clean & Jerk Personal Record! After the 103.5kg a short while ago, I then nailed 105kg…followed with 107.5kg in the garage gym, on a Sunday! @amrapplusone programming really pulling me up this hill. Love it!

First up, Tampa, Florida. Yeah, boy!

Florida in July. All with work but after a 9hr flight, I was invited to throwdown in CrossFit TAS by a long-time buddy of mine. Yep, within 90 mins of landing, this was us:

CrossFit TAS are regular Regionals Team competitors and yeah, it shows. What a box. Newbies and elite athletes throwing down together to the same programming each day. Immense attitude and genuinely friendliness too, top bunch. It was awesome to catch up with Roly. He got me in to CrossFit in early 2012 although he has really progressed onward and upward. Great to see.

Next up, back to the garage gym and another Personal Record, this time in the Snatch.

Using my 10.5kg York Beefy Bar, and a random collection of old plates, I secured a 77.5kg Snatch. That’s 2.5kg higher than a number that I’ve held for over 2 years, unchanged.

Staying in the garage gym at home, I also recorded this little number: https://youtu.be/kRCmAJJirJQ

Do check it out.

In between all of that, I’ve been getting workouts in regularly, not letting the excuse for a British Summer put me off with its regular downpours and cold snaps. We’ve also been out and about in Cornwall and North Devon. While I have no photos, I did this on the beach in Combe Martin:

I ran the mile down to the beach in an ok 7:30, did the WOD with a piece of wall, bricks and cement (all unbroken) and then staggered back the second mile.

So, it’s been a good couple of weeks away. Back now, and back in C.F. Watford for the next few weeks, I’m looking for some more pre-summer holiday gains and improvements.

Watch this space!

Huel – a Review

The following review, and all sentiments contained herein, are completely my own and have not been subject to approvals from the provider.

Bottom Line:  Recommended

 

Sucking in the dust, dirt and chalk from the floor one morning (after an awesome WOD, I should add), Steffi came over and asked if I would be able to take a look at products from a company she works for. I’d seen the simple white packaged bars on the counter before but had never opened a Huel bar up to that point. When I peeled my sweating form out of the angel shape on the mats, I told her that I would absolutely love to but that she should know that I ordinarily err on the side of negativity towards meal replacement products. She grinned and excitedly explained that Huel is different; nutritionally balanced, basic, no soy, supporting everyone from athletes to regular no-gym-Joe who just wants to have a better nutritional option than snacking on less healthy options. Well, her excitement immediately sparked mine and so I agreed.

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Picture from Huel.com

Nutritional Balance

Throughout,  I have struggled with identifying who the target audience of Huel is. I have seen it more in gyms and CrossFit Boxes than anywhere else yet the website focuses more on it being a whole meal replacement. The needs of the powerlifter, high intensity sportsman, 45 year old house husband and 8 hr a day sedentary office worker are all different – this includes macro nutrient as well as micro nutrients.

The precise breakdown of the two primary products I shall go in to individually. Taking in to account what I said above, this is the most balanced product that I have ever come across. Not only at the micronutrients balanced to the ‘designer’s’ precise requirements but the micronutrients are too. A complete vitamin and mineral profile is included (even Vitamin B12, which is uncommon in a product aimed at vegans too due to its source typically being from animals – in this case it is from cyanocobalamin, from bacterial synthesis), which gives me a real sense that this product has been designed with genuine care to the individual, and not just about marketing for profit. However, this careful balancing does result in one or two issues.

The Powder

I was given the latest blend of the vanilla flavoured powder. Made largely of powdered gluten free oats as a base,  this vegan product includes rice protein and pea protein to give a nice blend of fast/slow absorbed proteins – not a trace of cheap soy protein anywhere. It mixes very well in water, although I prefer it with skimmed milk, and naturally thickens to a lovely consistency. The taste is one of the best on the market, I believe. Without overdoing it, they’ve gently added some natural vanilla flavour that just ‘works’. Even with just water,  the blend keeps you feeling full for and a long while.

An unexpected bonus of the powdered oat base is that it can be used as a flour substitute. I’ve used it to make my one-minute microwave cake and I never want to go back to my old recipe. This was awesome.

The macronutrient profile of this is approx 40% carbs  (when you include the 3% fibre), 30% protein, and 30% Fats. It is almost entirely in line with my own requirements as an amateur but very regular CrossFitter. However, I’ve yet to come across definitive science that informs the precise nutritional breakdown for individuals….at least not a profile that everyone agrees on because everyone is different. That said, at least there’s thought behind this.

Depending on your meal breakdown of either 4 or 5 meals a day (if taking as a meal replacement vice sports supplement), it is either ~400Kcal or ~500Kcal respectively for a meal.

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Picture from Huel.com

The Bar

Vanilla and Cocoa. There is a thought by some sports ‘purists’ that supplements/ replacements should have no flavouring. I utterly disagree with this. Food has to very enjoyed in whatever form you decide to take it.

This bar tastes good. It looks good. I really enjoy eating it.

There is a common criticism, that Huel are aware of, which is the texture. Unlike the oily, chewy mass you get in almost all other bars of this nature, this is crumbly. It breaks apart easily and is a little dry. Because of the blend, and the rigidity with which they stick to their balance of nutritional ingredients, there are no preservatives, no fillers, and no gluten. This leaves a crumbly texture that does take you by surprise a little to start with. Stick with it. The flavour is great and you just need a little water sometimes with it. Have faith that there’s good reason behind it.

The macronutrient balance is different to the Powder,  with a higher level of carbs, slightly lower protein percentage and even lower fat – 53% carbs (inc 12% Fibre), 25% protein, and 22% fats. This makes it far more suitable as a post-workout option and I’ve typically used it as such. Each bar is 250kcal.
Combination 

As a combined meal replacement product, the powder and bars are able to sustain you with that balanced nutritional makeup – 2000Kcal for just powder-based meal replacement and than an extra 250Kcal per bar.  Looking through the ingredients, they are all things I recognise and understand. I trust this product would support me, if needed.

Could I eat it as an ongoing replacement? Not personally. Both keep me feeling full, as a combination of oats, the protein, and natural coconut / flaxseed oil. However, I need variety in my food. There are flavour packs, which I’ve not yet been given the opportunity to review, to give a little change but I need my veggies and different textures.  That said, I have used both bar and powder instead of a meal if rushing about town. Because I trust in the quality and make-up, I don’t then feel the need to snack elsewhere.

Summary

For someone who doesn’t agree with meal replacements as a means of nutritional control, I’m actually a convert to this. With my biochemistry head on (albeit from 16-17 years ago), I ‘get it’ and can understand the scientific passion behind this product. For those working out, I recommend the bars as a post-WOD snack instead of quite a few of the other brands out there. I recommend the powder too, it’s kept me going when on the run and has left me feeling full for longer than a typical bowl of porridge does – do try it out as a flour substitute too!

p.s. I’ve not had a chance to review the t-shirt either 😉

Links

Huel Website – www.huel.com for further information