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.

 

 

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?)

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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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

Discount Link: Here

Airports. I love them. And I sprinted this morning.

I haven’t been everywhere.  But it’s on my list – Susan Sontag

I really love airports. Flying for business or pleasure, I absolutely don’t care. I can’t get enough of the experience. I never tire of it. Sure, you can have all sorts of delays, cancellations, baggage losses and other upsets, but there’s something about the diversity, emotions, hope, and anticipation that floods through an airport. 

I am very fortunate that in my job there is a pretty decent amount of travel. Yeah, so occasionally, I might have to go to an actual nasty place but that is becoming less likely these days. More often than not, I find myself conducting what most people would simply term as “business trips”. I take very short trips, often just a night or two, to far flung places to have a meeting, shake some hands and come back. These are ideal. These are short pauses in normal routine where I get to envelope myself in the hustle, joy, tears, fears, panic, and peaceful excitement of the greatest cross-section of the world. 

As I look around, I see immediately the Red and Blue of a Great Britain sports team. Not immediately obvious who they are but clearly focused, in peak condition for whatever they are headed towards. There are some who just can’t keep their eyes off the incoming arrivals and outgoing planes, streaking away in all directions across the sky. There are those buried, oblivious to the world, in a phone/laptop/tablet. Some are trying new foods for the first time at the sushi bar. Many have shopping bags, carrying devices, clothes, wine, that they didn’t think they needed when they passed through check-in. 

The smiles are the most obvious expression. Kisses and embraces at almost every turn. So far, no arguments; well, not with each other, perhaps at the coffee bill!
Anyway, you get the picture, I’m flying again. Heathrow Terminal 2 once more. My gate has just flashed up as A18 so I should get this posted. 

Strength  

4 x 6 (per leg) weighted Box Step Ups @ 24″

4 x 32kg (2 × 16kg Kettlebells). Maintained a strong core. Supersetted with Handstand holds.

MetCon 

For Time:

  • 600m Sprint
  • Rest 4 mins
  • 400m Sprint
  • Rest 3 mins
  • 200m Sprint
  • Rest 2 mins
  • 20 x Burpees 

Time: 13:43

Definitely my wheelhouse, this one. Out front from the start, despite the 0530 eye opening today. I kept up the pressure throughout, each round relatively as fast as the previous. 20 Burpees then smashed out in 42 seconds. Considering 9 mins of it was “Rest”, this is pretty strong.

Nutrition 

Still 2100 KCal per day but now compensating for cals expended during exercise, using Vivoactive HR (with HRM strap) for increased accuracy.

Still sticking with 35% Carbs / 35% Protein / 35% Fats. Still mostly unprocessed and simple.