Prelude: CrossFit Games Open 2018

CrossFit Games Open 2018

Its that time of year again. Since first taking part in 2012, in Afghanistan, and officially entering in 2013, the CrossFit Games Open competition has become a staple of my year. If I compete in nothing else, I move all I have to in order to ensure I can compete in this.

Why?

It’s my annual stock take. It’s the review of my training, demonstrating my improving fitness year on year. It’s a chance to throwdown with those I’ve trained and have trained with. It’s an opportunity to see how prepared I am for the ‘unknown and unknowable’ as Dave Castro does his best to challenge us in new and imaginative ways.

Goal

My final Masters (35-39) placing last year was 86th percentile (top 14%), with it slightly higher across Europe with 87th percentile. The goal this year is of course to beat that, with an ambitious target of 90th percentile for Masters worldwide.

Can I do it? I believe I can. I worked extremely hard on strength in 2017, improving significantly in all lifts. My CV conditioning is also greatly improved, with regular PBs coming in benchmark WODs. Sure, I’ll need to be illness-free to make this work. I usually suffer during at least 1 WOD but have taken a week of rest this year prior to the run-up. With a great deal of travel over the next few weeks, I’ve also booked in to other boxes to ensure I can squeeze them in.

One and Done

Each year, I promise I’ll be “one and done” but always repeat at least one. I don’t think I’ll have the opportunity this year, with some having to be performed on Friday AM, and others on Monday PM. Unless something goes very wrong, it will be ‘one and done’.

Fun

Yes, I want to show improvement. But there are too many things out of my hands. If I don’t succeed, it’s not the end of the world. It has to be about Fun, first and foremost. Enjoying the experience, wherever it takes place, and putting my all in to it, leaving nothing in the tank for ‘if only’.

So, Dave, bring it on. Show me what you got. I’m ready.

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2018, Let’s Begin.

With goals established for 2018 (See previous post), and the final big family gathering (feasting) of the season complete, it’s time to kick off 2018.

Moving away from building strength and focusing on the looming C.F. Open 2018, it’s time to spend a little more time on MetCons and less on pure strength. This means more EMOMs instead of the AMRAP Plus One programme to supplement C.F. Watford programming. My weakness remains barbell cycling, a key likely component of the Open WODs, and so this is entirely logical; I know I can make big improvements here within the next 2 months.

Nutrition-wise, it’s back to the successes of the second half of last year. Keeping with 40% complex carbs, 35% protein, 25% fat, it’ll look something like:

Breakfast: 80g Huel

Snack: Huel Bar or pressed fruit bar

Lunch: 120g Flavoured Rice, 120g Chicken

Snack: 10-15g Nuts

Dinner: 1 x Takeaway tub-sized meal with rice / sweet potato, loads of veg, 200g (approx) chicken/fish.

Post-WOD: 40g Huel + 35g Whey protein.

Pre-Bed Drink: 200ml Semi-skimmed Milk + Cocoa powder.

This is pretty balanced and typically brings me up to the 2400KCal range; I do monitor as best I can with my Garmin Vivoactive HR, with heart rate monitor band, but it’s never perfect, only a reasonable gauge. I must ensure that I’m getting my carbs in about 30-45mins before the workout, typically in the evenings, so that I’m primed for the session.

My recent DNAFit Fitness Diet Pro test threw up a few added details in there which directly affect my nutrition but I’ll write about those in a future post.

So, until the next time, LET’S DO THIS! See you in the box.

 

 

New Year: Review & Staring Ahead with Excitement

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Welcome back, athletes, bloggers, readers, and wonderful subscribers to this meandering blog. I hope you had a superb New Year and are primed for the greatness that 2018 will undoubtedly bring. 2017 was a bit rubbish for many, although having just read my post from this time last year, apparently not as bad as 2016 was! So it’s all been upwards. And so I expect 2018 to be…upwards yet further.

Sitting here watching Scarlets vs Dragons rugby, in my cousin’s house in South Wales (although I’m an Ospreys fan), I’ve got about an hour to sit and reflect on my CrossFit successes of 2017 and look to what I seek to achieve in 2018.

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So, what were my 2017 Goals?

  1. Achieve a top 25% in CF Open 2017
  2. Look and Feel Healthier
  3. Complete 2 x Obstacle Races
  4. Significantly Improve in Strength / Olympic Lifting

And, how have I done?

  1. CF Open 2017. I smashed this goal with my best ever position – top 17% of individual males and top 14% of Masters Men (35-39), taking in to account all competitors, Rx and Scaled, who recorded all 5 workouts.
  2. Look & Feel Healthier. Yes. For the first time on this CF journey, I feel like a credible CrossFitter. Through good nutrition, and plenty of hard work, I actually believe I look and compete like I belong there. It’s vain, I know, but it’s a motivating factor – we all want to look good for the effort we put in. The biggest difference has been nutrition which must continue in to 2018.
  3. Events. I signed up for 2 events, as planned, but the first was cancelled on the day; the Swim/Run event had to be postponed due to weather. We’ve been promised that we can reattend in 2018 though and so that’ll be on my list. The second event, “Mission: Unbreakable”, a 10km OCR in North Devon was a huge amount of fun and really motivated me to get in another one this year.
  4. Strength. Perhaps my biggest success of this year. As soon as the Open finished, I began on the AMRAP Plus One Advanced Weightlifting programme. Beginning with a 102.5kg Clean & Jerk, and a 72.5kg Snatch, I concluded 2018 with a 112.5kg Clean & Jerk, and an 80kg Snatch. oh, and a destroyed barbell 😉
  5. CF Level 2 Trainer. Not a goal that I set out to achieve at the beginning of the year but an opportunity that was too good to miss. Thank you to CF Watford for giving me the space (and money) to do this; I’ve really grown as a coach over the last few years at CF Plymouth and CF Watford but this course gave me so much more too.

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So, going in to 2018, what do I want to see? Well, more of the same, to be honest. Keeping the same themes, my goals are:

  1. CF Open 2018. Achieve top 15% individual male finish in CF Open 2018. I never thought I’d be in this space, if I’m honest and it’s exciting me.
  2. Look & Feel Healthy. Christmas put a bit of a dent in to the good work but it’ll come back by the end of Jan. Having recently had a DNAFit Fitness Diet Pro test, I also know a few changes that I need to make to achieve greater success with my nutrition. It’s critical that I maintain the good standards that I set in 2017.
  3. Events. More events. I want to compete; I’m looking for some midweek CF events, should they exist. If not, I might sign up for the Battle of Britain Qualifiers or something like that. I’m reattempting the Swim/Run event in Devon, if it comes off, and I would like to run the Cardiff half-marathon with other family members. There’s also a “Stand Up 2 Cancer” CF event in October that I’m determined to compete in.
  4. Strength. I’m going to consolidate on this for a few months while the Open takes place. I want to get to the stage where 100kg Clean & Jerk is ‘comfortable’ and can be done under pressure in a WOD; I’d like 115kg as a new 2RM but that is a longer term, year long goal.

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I think it should be reflected upon too that even though I am that enthusiastic, motivating coach in front of the outstanding athletes in CF Watford, I didn’t find this easy. Especially 2 and 4. There were some pretty dark moments where I just kept thinking, “what’s the point?” When those moments came up, I turned to the likes of Mrs Nomad and my coaches (Charlie, Hat, Tash, Roly – you rock) and took their advice and guidance. I repeatedly referred back to my notebook to see just how far I’d come along the trail. I should note too that while Strength was my goal, my MetCon scores have rapidly and steeply improved too, across shorter power workouts and the longer endurance ones too.

So, what lessons have I learned in 2017?

  1. Surround yourself with Talent. I’ve made it a point to learn from success in every aspect of my life this (last) year. This has hopefully paid off in my professional life (find out in March) but it definitely paid off in CrossFit. Watching the higher levels athletes in our box, learned from those with injuries, chatting to everyone about their motivations…it’s all benefited me immensely and I have to thank them all. I’m sure it’s been infuriating having to put up with some of my inane WhatsApp messages but thank you all.
  2. Recovery. I’m getting (a little) older and am definitely not the 18 year old that could play a rugby match on a Saturday, get smashed in the evening, and do a 5 mile run on the Sunday. Alcohol definitely affects me more than it ever has although I’m not much of a drinker anyway. I also need the odd day off 😉 While I’ve trained twice a day for 3 days a week for quite a bit of this period, and have seen immense changes, I have also taken weekends off, by and large. Without intending it, it’s been just the right amount of rest and recovery.
  3. Write Shit Down! I can’t express this enough to athletes. WRITE DOWN YOUR SCORES! I’ve written about this one before but here’s another angle to it: there are days when you don’t feel like you can lift heavy, or run fast, or jump high. It’s so easy to let your body match your mental state. But, if you look at your notebook and see that just the previous week you put in a 115kg Jerk, then you know that you can do it and that you probably will today too. So many times this year, especially at 0600hrs, I could have just knocked 5kg off the bar because I wasn’t feeling it. Each time, I reviewed my previous lifts and set the targets accordingly.
  4. Have a Laugh. You know what? It’s only exercise. Sure, we have goals and we want to succeed. But not every day is a PR day. Not every day needs that steely-eyed focus. Enjoy it for what it is – it’s time with friends doing something you enjoy that isn’t work.

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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?)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.