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

Dealing with anticlimax and disappontment

Awaking early on a Sunday, I was excited. My first competition in well over a year. Not a race I could win but one to truly challenge myself. Not sports I would usually go for either,  but something relatively new. 

I headed downstairs for my big bowl of oats. Cup of coffee, staring out of the window at the grey, brooding skies…quick check of the Met Office app – yep, a little drizzle, some light breeze, but ok. Taking the Earl Grey up to Mrs Nomad, I flicked open the drawers to get my race kit out. The wetsuit, goggles and trunks were already good to go by the door. The warrior princesses awoke and we got them through breakfast before swiftly dressing and shuffling them in to the car.

My excitement was building,  I’ll admit. Having not had any form of competition for so long, the chance to just launch from a start line, surrounded by 249 others, was compelling. 

We headed off along the A38, and then down narrow country lanes, weaving through Devon villages still silent on a Sunday morning. The turning for South Milton Sands loomed, the National Trust Car Park symbol leading the way. We crested a hill and saw it…the sea…the start…a little choppy….a lot choppy. 

Parking among the few early arrivals, I jogged over to the TrailEvents.co marshalls setting  up. “1km Sea Swim, 15km Trail Run”, the billowing banners read. “Not a chance”, the faces said. “Sorry mate, swim cancelled, we can’t get the safety boat out – you can still run though, or you can defer.”

£40 for a 15km run on public roads, Mrs Nomad and the girls sitting in the car?

No chance.

And with that, it with as over and we were driving away, back through the Sunday morning villages. No race. No challenge. Gone.
What hit me very quickly was pretty intense and unexpected. 

The sense of anticlimax was pretty tangible. It felt like a new emotion, having not really felt this for a very long time. I’d paid, physically prepared, mentally prepared, was ready, and then…….flat.

So what do you do? How do you overcome that? What’s next?


Well, for starters, the weather improved within an hour, as did my mood 😉

Acceptance

You can’t get around it. The event was cancelled. There’s no arguing or challenging, it’s done.  Let the emotion do its thing and learn from it for the next time.

Achievement

I conducted a whole heap of new training that I was unaccustomed to before.  I’m not much of a long distance runner and I’m certainly no swimmer. But I achieved new skills and new levels of Fitness that are transferable back in to CrossFit and for the future. Didn’t Greg Glassman tell us to, “Learn and play new sports” in the “What is CrossFit?” genesis document? How many of us regularly do? So this is a new achievement and should be celebrated.

Motivation

Tap in to the motivation that was there when you woke up to compete and set a new challenge as soon as you can. While I’ve been focusing on endurance, it was at the expense of strength and CF competitions. Immediately, I reached out to Charlie Goode, our Coach-in-Chief and asked for comps.

Build

Take the new skills you have and build on them. I’m not going to now put my wetsuit to one side and say, “thanks”. I’ve given myself the challenge of getting to a lake, and doing a swim/Run on my own or with a friend. I need to see this through, if for nothing but closure. After that, I will continue to seek open water swimming opportunities.

This has been a learning opportunity for me. I didn’t like it at first but I’ve seen strong positives in it. I am stronger now as an athlete.

Leave your Situations at the Door

Leave your situations at the door

So when you step inside jump on the floor

– Mary J. Blige 

Staring in to the down gazing eyes of one of our athletes, it was clear that she was about to just give up on the day, if not the week. Hard work ebbing onto the floor, leaving a sullen shell to clear the rower and remaining kit away before shuffling out door defeated. 

HELL NO!

Not having that shit in this box! 

I don’t care what is going on in your life outside the box (well, I do actually but my upcoming point still stands), you do not allow it in to the box. Leave it at the door. I say this not from a standpoint of how it might affect the mood of others, nor how you’re not going to be on your game – both of those are valid – but from the this:

Your time in the box is your time. 

What you do in that hour is for you. It is your opportunity to develop, to succeed, to improve, and to win. How DARE the comments of colleagues, the stresses of work, or the rising cost of the bus fare impinge on YOUR time?! You have your goals, you have set out your plan, and you have paid your subs. The effort you put in within the hour we set for you is all yours. It is not to impress coworkers, it isn’t to think about tomorrow’s meeting, it certainly isn’t to worry about that note you forgot to write – all of those things are important but they won’t be solved in your hour with us.

This is YOUR TIME. Everything else can get f@#&ed. When with us, you are not judged, you are critiqued and not criticised, you have nothing to prove to anyone except to yourself.

How often in your daily routine do have to answer to none except yourself? How many times a day do you end something a stronger, faster, more powerful version of you than when you started? When else do you get to shut the world out and focus on your own needs? Give yourself over to this time, this chance, and kick the rest of the world in to touch.

This is YOUR time. How dare anyone ruin it for YOU. Own it. Dominate it. Leave as a fitter person, on YOUR terms, than when you came in.

Rant over.

Greatness comes from Joy…and a truck load of Hard Graft.

If you can’t find Joy in the path you are on and what you are working toward now,

how do you expect to find Joy when you get there?

I experienced 2 great lessons this weekend. Ones that we all ‘know’, that we’re all told over and over yet few truly believe or adhere to.

While at Wookey Hole Caves on Saturday, I was aggressively reminded that Greatness takes time. In our modern, consumerist, “now” society I think that many of us (certainly, not all) have collectively forgotten just what is required for true success to be achieved. There is a sense of entitlement pervading society; there is the belief that we somehow deserve success without having to put the true effort in to achieve it – we look at the cover models of Mens Health, or at Olympians, or CrossFit Games athletes and think, “I should be be there”. Yet, when you look around a cave formed over 10s of 1000s of years, and wonder at the splendid magnificence of it, you see that genuine greatness really does take time. When it was explained to us how the larger, 73 foot high caverns were formed, some beginning with nothing more than dripping water, you can’t help but make a comparison with modern life. I have my goals and I regularly get upset and frustrated that I have yet to achieve them. I often decry the length of time this process takes, missing the small gains along the way, focusing on the distance yet to travel. And I get upset because I feel that I deserve to be there by now. I put the effort in, I believe, and I am entitled to see the success NOW.

But life isn’t like that. Success takes time. Not only that, the successes along the way need celebrating too. I have no idea just how big that cavern is going to be in another 100, 1000, 10000 years but it’s pretty goddamn amazing now. I don’t know how strong, fast, flexible, powerful I will be next year, in 5 years, or in 10 years time, but I have put a lot of effort in and I am in a pretty outstanding place now. As long as I keep chipping away at it, one drop at a time, the only way is success.

The other lesson – Joy enables that Greatness. We were treated to a circus display from the Wookey Hole Circus School. These children and teenagers train 3 times per week and the ages seem to range from about 7 years to 17 years old. They showed off juggling, trapeze skills, strength, rope work, incredible balance & acrobatics, high unicycles, etc….it was clearly a physically and mentally tough performance for them all. There were some minor errors in the latter, and more complicated, stages but there was one thing that stood out throughout, especially during the minor mistakes – the sheer joy on the faces of those taking part. It  was amazing and incredibly uplifting. They were laughing at each other, constantly smiling, helping each other, and willing each other on through every moment. It looked like the world’s most fun ever and they were right in the centre of it. Sure, they had to demonstrate intense concentration to achieve some remarkable feats but never once did it look like pressure. At all times, it just looked like they were messing about with friends.

This is such a key lesson in life. When we look back, do we want to focus on the minor mistakes, the what-ifs, the could-have-beens, the oh-so-closes…..or do we want to look back on those moments of sheer joy and success with friends and family? Those fun-filled events where you achieved so much with a grin on your face, no matter what the adversity in front of you. I took a lot from this, especially as a parent to the Warrior Princesses.

Funnily enough, as I was thinking about this post, Andy Murray (tennis player bloke off the tele) was talking about this year’s Wimbledon prep. He said that in previous years he focused on the process, the preparation for winning-at-all-costs, that he didn’t really enjoy the success when it came. This year, he’s just enjoying his tennis, taking it how it comes and celebrating each little victory with a smile – a perfect case in point. Here’s to you and a third Wimbledon title, Mr Murray!

Strength

5-3-1 Strict Press

62.5kg / 70kg / 80kg / 85kg (F) / 82.5kg PERSONAL BEST!

So, 38 years old and still getting strength personal bests! Smash! It’s a 2.5kg PB over a lift 2 years ago. If I’d had a bit more time, I suspect I would have got the 85kg on another attempt too. BIG SMILES!

MetCon

For Time:

  • 50 x Double Unders
  • 10 x Clean & Jerk (Power) @ 50kg
  • 40 x Double Unders
  • 8 x Clean & Jerk @ 60kg
  • 30 x Double Unders
  • 6 x Clean & Jerk @ 65kg
  • 20 x Double Unders
  • 4 x Clean & Jerks @ 70kg
  • 10 x Double Unders

Time: 8:54 Rx

This would have been even quicker, had I not stopped to put my Vivoactive HR watch on to monitor!! Still, that took less than 5 secs so not exactly a game breaker 😀 😀 The temp here in Devon is peaking at about 28C which added to the spiciness of it all too. When I threw my scores on the the CF Watford Coaches WhatsApp group, I then found out that the head coach had increased the weights on-the-fly as she thought it would be too easy for people. Personally, I think it was absolutely bang on for my own requirements and I went for it. Thoroughly enjoyed it too!

Coming Up Next….. “Don’t let the shit get in the way of Your Time”