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.”

ยฃ40 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 Iย deserve to be there by now. I put the effort in,ย 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 ย 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 ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ 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”

 

Zombie Apocalypse…I don’t have to be the fastest. I just have to be faster than the other guy.

I threw myself out of bed this morning, excited and genuinely motivated. Sure, it doesn’t always happen that way  (as Mrs Regular Reader will know), but after an under-par performance in a couplet last night (Kettlebell Swings and pull ups…..Lots and lots of them), I really wanted to make amends. 

Plus……today is FIGHT GONE BAD day!

A benchmark among benchmarks, FGB is a brutal, high volume / low weight engine workout. Feared by many, I saw this as an opportunity.

So it was with proper whooping joy that I bounded in to CF Watford this morning. Yeah, the large Costa Americano ‘might’ have had something to do with it but it was mostly just me.

The excitement was well noted, as it was during max height box jumps last night (44″), and it got me thinking again about my ‘why’.
Why do I get excited by my fitness? why am I enthusiastic about hard charging the box and putting myself in to a dark, stinking pain cave?

The standard answer: I will be that 50+ year old who is throwing a long pass out wide to my rugby playing daughters at the park. I will be the dad on sports day that my daughters are proud to see winning the parents’ race. I will be the old man helping others move in to a new home, shifting furniture that someone half my age struggles with.

The real answer: I will outrun you when the Zombie Apocalypse comes. 

It’s survival of the fittest, baby! 

Global pandemics, war, environmental disasters, zombies. My family needs me to be on my game to protect them and lead them to survival when the time comes.

Am I the strongest? No. 

Am I the fastest? No.

But I don’t need to be. I just have to want it more than the me of yesterday, and the guy next to me in the fight for survival.

Zombie Apocalypse – they’ll get you before they get me ๐Ÿ˜€

I am that guy who finds the deactivated escalator to walk up.

With that, Fight Gone Bad was up on the board today and I was grinning from ear to ear. Some 5RM Deadlift work first, I kept this at around 85% of my 5RM, with 140kg lifts. Intentionally not hitting the heights, I had bigger fish to fry today.

Fight Gone Bad

3 Rounds

1 min on each station, Max Effort 

  • Wall Balls, 9kg to 10′
  • Sumo Deadlift High Pull, 35kg
  • Box Jumps, 24″ (standard is 20″ for this)
  • Push Press, 35kg
  • Row for KCal 
  • Rest

Total: 326 – a 13 rep improvement on a year ago.

https://beyondthewhiteboard.com/workout_sessions/31616467

So, with the world going to hell in a handcart, I’m setting myself up for the survival of my family.

Zombies….they’re coming ๐Ÿ˜‰

Strength down, Engine up. Happy for Now.

20170531_184326

Update

Sweating and heaving my way through the 3rd round of 800m Run + 21 x Power Cleans (@60kg) yesterday, it struck me that my barbell cycling and basic strength has taken a bit of a dip recently. Entirely expected, this is due to the increased attention that I’ve placed on training for the Swim/Run event coming up and the associated decrease in time therefore spent in CF Watford. I had initially worked it so that I’d still be getting enough CrossFit time in but work has a habit of rudely getting in the way of my personal life and so I had to make the decision to focus on one thing at a time!

Of course, it was also notable that my third 800m run was almost as fast as the first! So, what I lose in one area, I gain in another; let’s face it, barbell work is a lot more fun than running though so once this event is over, while I’ll keep up the open water swimming, it’s back to the box for strength!!

Open Water Swimming

20170531_182907

Having tried 3 lakes recently, I’ve settled on one that I didn’t even know existed until last week. Merchant Taylors School, Northwood, has a beautiful lake that is open to swimmers every Wednesday evening during the warmer months. At ยฃ6 per session, the 750m loop is a little puddle of heavenly joy. The school provides ample parking and ย wonderful changing facilities to the managerial ‘club’ from Hercules Events. What I would say though is that while the chalkboard might read, “20C” as the temp, this is only true for the shallower areas of the lake! There are certainly some cooler spots that unexpectedly leap on you as you splash your way around the circuit ๐Ÿ˜€ I completed 2 laps (1.5km) this evening in 33 mins. The limitations of my Garmin were evident though – it is absolutely ninja at calculating pool swims but ropey outdoors; I did know this to be the case before it was purchased. That said, it could have been the app I was using – next week I’ll use the stock triathlon app that comes with it.

20170531_192431

Running

I didn’t manage to get out on a long distance run last week. 7 miles the week before as far as I’ve succeeded in so far. Keeping at around 7min 30sec per mile, I am quietly confident about the event overall. I’ve not yet practiced transitioning from swim to run but liberal application of Shea Body Butter should make the job easier! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

CrossFit

In amongst the endurance work, I have been enjoying 3-4 sessions of CrossFit per week, including garage sessions too:

20170528_080836

I had intense Glute DOMS from Rear Rack Reverse Lunges (90kg) 2 days prior. I’d have hoped for at least a minute faster than this but to be honest, I was happy to get through it alive ๐Ÿ˜€

Nutrition

  • Carbs: 35%
  • Fats: 30%
  • Protein: 35%

Total KCal: 2300 + exercise deficit

This continues to be my plan, but with a recent tweak. While I set my total at 2300KCal based on bodyweight and requirement to get a little bigger and a little stronger, I didn’t take in to account KCal expended during exercise. This has resulted in my weight remaining pretty stable at 82kg. Since receiving my beautiful Garmin Vivoactive HR for my recent birthday, coupled with the heart rate strap, I have begun tracking my expenditure a bit more. Now, this is fraught with error, I get that – in order to not blow my good work prior to Summer hols, I am taking that watch’s assessment and reducing it by 10-15% before adding the total to my daily intake requirements. I shall continue to monitor body composition over the next month or so to note changes.

 

So, there’s the update for now. Once things calm down a bit with work and training, I’ll pick up the blog a bit more. Until then, have a peaceful and safe evening, wherever you are. x

Setting an Example, Out at the Front, not at the Top.

 

We are the Coaches.We are empowered and entrusted to develop the health and wellbeing of athletes. We have a responsibility to Deliver. We Set the Example. We Lead from the Front.

This statement I firmly believe in and I would like to take this time to break it down.

The Whiteboard. Being a coach to athletes is not about being at the top of the whiteboard, day in and day out. As a coach, there is certainly a degree of credibility that comes from being in the top few % though. Who is going to follow the person who doesn’t demonstrate a strong level of all round fitness, regardless of their competencies. At least, not in this game, perhaps more so in elite, specific sports where the coach is intentionally detached from playing but who has demonstrated high levels of competence as a dedicated coach. In fitness, you trust the person who demonstrates fitness. As coaches, it is our job to make those around us better than us and so there will always be people above us on the whiteboard. Plus, time spent coaching is time spent not training which will have an impact.

Communication is about more than words. It is the sum of our words and deeds. Simply put, we cannot expect athletes to listen to what we say if we don’t follow it ourselves. We are being watched ALL THE TIME. Our words are just part of what we are saying. How we act, how we move, the example we set…these are powerful messages. Don’t get me wrong, I am hardly the most virtuous CrossFitter out there. I like chocolate, I like a little cake sometimes and I drink too much caffeine in the form of Monster Zero (yep, I do); I may or may not have a secret thing for Cool Doritos too. But in front of the athletes (and 80% of the time generally), it’s professional, competent and leading by example. While on communication, be careful to not overstep the bounds of your own knowledge – not rumour or heresay, knowledge. Bad advice and guidance, no matter how well intentioned, is bad advice and is not guidance. Seek help the moment you are outside your comfort zone. And then go and dive in to the books and learn!

Programming. If we are following completely different programmes then how do we sell our programme to the athletes? Standfast those on competitor programming vice General Physical Preparedness (although CrossFit opposes this view too), but if you turn up and stroll to the other end of the box to do your own thing while others are sweating in a heap on the floor then it screams, “this programme isn’t good enough for me but it’s good enough for you”. Back to my previous point about not being top of the whiteboard, you still have to be ON that whiteboard. Athletes want to see how they measure up against you; as coaches, it’s good to see where you measure up too.

Nutrition. In the words of the guy who took me through my Level 1, 5 years ago, “here be monsters”. Nutrition is a thorny subject – everyone is set in their ways, there are thousands of competing ‘diets’ and approaches. However, one thing that almost all agree on is to reduce/remove refined sugars, have some starch, have some nuts & seeds, eat lean protein, eat tonnes of beautiful, green leafy veg (REAL FOOD). Within that, you can weigh/measure/count what you like within your preference. Personally, as you know, I weigh my food for 5 days a week and see considerable benefits by the 35% Carbs / 35% Protein / 30% Fat model. Of course, quantities of each do depend on your activity levels and goals. BUT what is not included are heavily processed, manufactured, brightly coloured products that contain clearly artificial ingredients but which have killa names obviously designed to get you to part with your cash as quickly as possible.ย  As coaches, it is hard enough attempting to talk about basic nutrition while competing with highly-funded advertising, what is even harder is if trainers in your profession advocate them too – I should mention that this is not a common occurrence in CF Watford; it really isn’t. I’m merely highlighting a point as something that I have witness. The only way we can compete with dissociated advertising is with the up-close-and-personal approach that a coach delivers.

Effort. We might not be the best in the box. Our mobility might not be where it should be. We will have our ‘goats’ too – things to work on. But as coaches, we demonstrate the effort required to get to that next stage of fitness. We put in the full range of movement in the burpee box jump, and we explain why. We fight to maintain external shoulder rotation in the shoulders during overhead squats, and we explain why. The athletes have to see that we work as hard as they do in every facet of the coaching session. You might not think it but they are looking to see your progressions too. And this goes for that 6am session that we really didn’t want to get out of bed for too. The athletes made it, we need to bring our A-Game, even if we don’t feel like it.

Scaling. We might Rx most things…but we didn’t used to. Not only that, we shouldn’t always, either. Scaling plays its part in all our development but the coach scaling a workout occasionally will also send the message to some of the more ‘determined’ athletes, “hey, if coach is scaling, perhaps I should too”. You might have told that to scale a thousand times but nothing demonstrates “leave your ego at the door” better than actually doing it ourselves.

Jumping in on WODs. This is a habit that I started getting in on but have now drawn back from. CrossFit is not cheap. It is far more expensive than typical gym memberships, despite not having the free towels, DVD memberships, spas, beautiful changing rooms and TVs. It is expensive because athletes pay for the value that a coach brings in giving them the personal attention throughout the 60 mins of the day that they invest in. It is our duty to unrelentingly pursue their progression and development. If there is another coach present to take over then dive on in – athletes do want to compete against the coaches, after all. But ultimately, they pay for coaching; they didn’t pay for globogym.

So, that about covers it, I think, although I’m sure I’ll think of something else as soon as I publish this.

Is there anything you look for in your coaches? Are there strong examples out there that we could learn from? Are there bad examples out there that we can learn from?

Answers, not on a postcard, but in the comments box below.

Cheers.