Unexpected Gains. No Goals, but still some Successes.

Motivation is What gets you Started,

Habit is what Keeps you Going.

My last post covered the problems associated with having no over-arching “Why” to drive you to achieve success. Well, me, specifically. We define “the Why” as that intrinsic (internal to oneself) motivator that keeps you focused on your goal. Without one, I would argue, you could become lost to the wilderness of laziness, sitting in your pants on a bed eating mince pies (“maybe”), and consigning training to the ‘all too difficult’ pile. I argued in my last post that while you can achieve a level of success without a ‘Why’, you will never achieve your true potential.

Strength

Well, while I struggle with my ‘why’, and just let “Habit” drive me to the box on a pissy wet Thursday 6AM session, I should also take stock of the successes I’ve had in CrossFit and strength over the last few months. Specifically, I embarked on a Weightlifting programme much earlier this year, with the goal of, by Christmas, a 110kg Clean & Jerk, and an 80kg Snatch. “Why”? Because the last few CrossFit Opens have highlighted a weakness in my strength. Why do I want to do better at the CrossFit Open despite it not leading to anything higher? Dunno…..

Anyway, I began the programme in March, I think, with my personal bests as:

  • Clean & Jerk – 102.5kg
  • Snatch – 75kg (persistent for 2 years)
  • Bench Press – 105kg
  • Strict Press – 82.5kg
  • Deadlift – 200kg (last achieved in CrossFit Keelhaul, circa Jan 14)

Following the AMRAPPlusOne 13-week Weightlifting Programme (@amrapplusone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), I dipped in and out as my schedule allowed. There was a 3-4 week break in May, and I restarted the programme as soon as I completed it; I’m on Day 55 again now.

In that time, I also recognised that I wasn’t eating enough, and upped my KCals per day to 2400 (from 2100) to cope with morning strength sessions and evening CrossFit Watford sessions. My bodyweight was 82kg when I started.

As at now, my scores are:

  • Clean & Jerk – 107.5kg +5kg
  • Snatch – 80kg +5kg
  • Bench Press – 112.5kg +7.5kg
  • Strict Press – 85kg +2.5kg
  • Deadlift – 200kg +Same

Bodyweight: 84kg +2kg

It’s now late November and I have defeated my Snatch goal; I reset that immediately in an attempt to get an 82.5kg Snatch by Christmas. I have also achieved 77.5kg at 0630hrs very recently (yesterday) which shows that I am becoming more comfortable at those weights. A 5kg increase in C&J is pleasing and I’m ploughing on to get my target. If I don’t, it’s no biggie, it might have been a little ambitious and I am pleased with where I’ve got to so far. The Bench Press and Strict Press have been a bit of a surprise but perhaps shouldn’t have been given CF Watford’s strength programme, and my extra food intake. While the Deadlift was a ‘match’ for a previous best, I have not been able to get even close to that since Jan 14; considering the extra 3.5 years I now have on that, I am exceptionally pleased with that.

CrossFit

Without going back through my notes too much, there are also notable increases in CrossFit across the board: Barbell cycling has improved (not as much as I would like but it really has done); balance and proprioception (especially in Pistols!!);  Wall Balls (50 unbroken this morning, without a warm up and ‘easily’); I have a much better endurance ‘engine’ (seen with significantly improved FGB-style WODs); and I’ve improved in gymnastic ability overall (muscle ups, handstand walking, etc). As the New Year rolls in, I’ll be seeking to lean-out a little after Christmas and will then switch focus to the 8-15 min MetCons that are typical of the CF Open. Goal for CF Open 2018? Better than last year, despite the age 😉

Reflection

A reflection like this is extremely important every so often; it’s easy to think that you’re in a rut and have plateaued but if you stick to CrossFit as it is meant to be (5 days per week, 3 days on , 1 day off) then you’re unlikely to truly plateau and will always see gains, as long as you get the nutrition, rest and mobility in too.

So, even without a deep, burning “Why”, “habit” is enough to keep you going – for how long? I guess we’ll have to wait and see; that said, I feel a new goal is just around the corner (top 20% on CF Open, anyone?)

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When you don’t have a, “why”.

The location that this photo was taken was a powerful motivator for me.

I’ve been planning this post for a while, based on where I find myself at this moment in time. Having completing my annual fitness test this week though, I decided to just sit down and write it. It was my worst ever fitness test performance and while I destroyed the basic times and scores set for my age group (and of those literally half my age), it was still my worst. I felt no motivation to push myself, and no drive to do more than “just enough”. My fitness hasn’t really degraded, and I ‘could’ have done better but I didn’t.

You see, right now I don’t have a, “Why”.

I’m too comfortable.

There is nothing positive to focus my training and pull me forward, nor any threat or fear to push me from behind. There is no challenge to prepare for, no competition to win, and no team relying on my best performance.

http://emgn.com/entertainment/8-common-nightmares-mean/

Coaches often talk of the, “why”. It’s our challenge to assist a coachee with drilling right down in to that intrinsic spark deep inside that them that truly motivates them. Rarely is a stated goal the true intent. In the military, we call it the, “in order to”. As in, “I want to beat my lose weight…in order to fit in to my favourite dress.” Even then, it might be, “I want to fit in to my favourite dress…in order to look amazing at the Christmas ball.” And THEN there will be a deep-rooted reason behind wanting to look amazing at the Christmas Ball.

You get my drift.

Right now, I have no, “why”. Sure, I tell everyone that I want to be the fittest 50-60 year old that I can be in order to be able to do absolutely anything that my kids throw at me, including when they have kids of their own (*scary times*). And yes, that is a long-term driver which keeps me going to CrossFit, keeps me attending Obstacle Course Races, and keeps me generally fit. But after that, there is nothing. Although I was a competitive athlete in my teenage years, and I enjoyed playing rugby, I’ve never been a natural. I am not what you’d consider to be talented. I will never win OCRs, nor achieve anything of significance in CrossFit, even locally. It’s not that I don’t want to, but because it’s just fact.

And this is not necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t make me a bad person and I know that.

So why do I bother then? Why do I haul my sorry ass out of bed at 6am or drum up some motivation at the end of a long, draining day?

Without a goal, or a short-term challenge, I firmly believe in doing some things…just because.

Why? Because.

Taking pleasure, and seeing success, from the daily routine can be just enough to maintain stability and maintenance fitness. It won’t get you too much further forward but it’s enough.

Seeing the WOD on the spreadsheet (because I see it before the athletes) and not cherry-picking which ones I attend, or setting mini targets (such as going unbroken in pull ups or adding 2 extra wall balls to the previous max effort best) can be all it takes to achieve enough success to maintain the overall motivation to keep going.

Taking pleasure from the shared challenge of the workout is an area that CrossFit excels and something that coaches should capitalise on.

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Those fist bumps and back slaps at the end demonstrates shared achievement in adversity and is powerful enough to deliver a sense of belonging, driving you to come back for more until a powerful motivator unmasks itself.

Of course, having an underlying , “Why” is powerful and always to be harnessed where it exists; without it, you’re unlikely to see real change and success. But not having one doesn’t mean you need to regress.

I’m also a believer in the next, “Why” being right around the corner, just a few moments, hours, or days away. And you want to be in the very best shape to dominate it when it arrives!

https://wasted49.deviantart.com/art/Danger-Zombies-264686736

Recovering from Injury; “We Can Rebuild Him”

We can rebuild him!

Thanks to tvtropes.org

“We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.”

– Oscar Goldman

Recovering from an injury, short term or long term can be both a physically and mentally debilitating process. You might feel that you’ve reverted to a long and happily  forgotten position after rising to a particularly good place; or you may feel that goals you’d set are further away than they’ve ever been. You might tell yourself that you can never recover what you’d had or wanted to attain. Below, is a story from Grant, one of our athletes in CrossFit Watford. He requested an article on recovering from injury, having been knocked back over the last half year, having been operated on, and now focusing on getting back to his prime:

“I found CrossFit in January 2016, my aim was to lose a few kilos I had added after quitting smoking. Not only did I manage to shed the unwanted weight, I also developed a greater zest for life and confidence. I found a new job (leaving one I was ‘comfortable’ with) and pursued my studies with a renewed vigour (I was ready to call it quits at one point). These are just a couple examples of the impact the CrossFit Watford community had on me. All was going well, until 5 months ago when I sustained an injury. Cue several months of zero sleep, literally. An intense burning sensation started around my shoulder and ran all the way down my left arm into my fingers. Coupled with this, was a pain I can only describe as having knocked the ‘funny bone’ part of the elbow – 24/7!! After a time my palm, thumb, forefinger & forearm were numb. Oh, to top it off I couldn’t straighten my arm. My outlet had been taken away from me & felt like I was no longer part of the team. Instead the necessary pain of rehab, self doubt, negative thinking and anger of what had happened took over. Rehab started to get ‘easier’ and I finally had surgery last week to release a compressed nerve (on a side note – God Bless the frontline staff of the NHS). It is going to be months before full feeling & movement is restored in my hand. Further tests are also needed to resolve the numbness in my forearm. The surgeon is happy for me to start light training again & encouraged me to keep moving. On one hand, I am over the moon as I have missed training so much. But, on the other is the thought of re-injuring myself & the associated pain. On top of this is the negative thinking of ‘you can’t break the bad habits again’ – habits such as the crappy diet & the longer than needed lay in. How am I going to lift a bar above my head again?? I know I’ll get over the doubt eventually. This is just another obstacle to get over & we ALL have our own individual obstacles – I just need to do it…”

So that’s Grant’s story.

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Stay Positive, see Opportunities. Perhaps the hardest part, but the most important. Whatever your goals, life is a journey; we might want to get there that little bit quicker but life may have other plans for you. The trick is to see the opportunities around you at each step. I’ve written this in previous posts but an injury is an opportunity. It may be an opportunity to work on other areas of your game that you’d not had time to focus on before. It could be a chance to really specialise in another aspect. It is certainly the time to establish a pathway to coming back stronger, fitter, faster than you were before, especially strengthening the area of the injury.

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Re-Discover your “Why”. You started down this path for a reason. What was it? Does your “Why” still hold true? Be as passionate now about your journey as you were when you first walked through that door and begun building the new, better, faster, stronger you.

Goal-Setting. When you have your “Why”, start to break it down in to manageable, achievable, relevant chunks. Ask a trained coach for advice on helping you to build your new path to your goal. Sure, it might now not be the path you were once on (although, it may be), but the important thing is the end; what it is that you really want to achieve and why? The road that gets you there is not the goal in itself, it’s the way. Noone spends a day travelling to stunning mountain ranges only to comment, “well, wasn’t that lovely tarmac, I really enjoyed the motorway services!”.

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Take it Slow. Depending on the nature of your injury, this is going to be a slow process. Accept it from the outset and get over it. It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get back to your best – you can. This just means that human bodies take time to heal and it can be frustrating; see “Stay Positive” above – there’s an opportunity in this. What’s worse than the injury? Re-injury.

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Get the Community on board. I firmly and whole-heartedly believe in the power of the community. There is nothing as miserable in the fitness world as training alone. It’s proper shit. Sure, there might be times when it is unavoidable, but generally there is beauty and strength in facing a challenge together. I have always loved CrossFit for this reason. As a coach, I see it in the faces of our athletes every time they step on to the floor; the banter, the nervousness, helping each other out, cheering each other on, and the shared relief at the end. In Grant’s case, despite the injury, we’ve seen him in the box regularly, adapting movements, training other areas, doing different workouts to everyone else, but still there joining in with everyone. This is critical, in my view. Don’t stay away and go through it alone, get the team included in your journey.

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Listen to your Coaches / Specialists. We are exceptionally fortunate in CrossFit Watford to have some genuine talent in the coaches. not least the physiotherapists and movement specialists that coach (and the technically talented athletes too!). Listen to your coaches and specialists. They know what they are talking about and, as I overheard earlier this week, if they don’t then they will not bullshit you, they will seek specialist advice on your behalf. As coaches, it is our goal to see success in others, as odd as that might be for a goal. Your recovery and rehabilitation, your achievements, your wins are our goals.

You’re not Alone, You’re Inspiring. Your recovery, done well, will inspire others. We all get injured, we all have set-backs. Seeing someone recover positively from an injury is inspirational and gives fuel to us all when faced with similar problems. So really, we should Thank You for getting injured, you’re doing us a service! 😉

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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.