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 Γ— 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.

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 πŸ˜€

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 πŸ˜‰

Strength down, Engine up. Happy for Now.

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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

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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 Β£6 per session, the 750m loop is a little puddle of heavenly joy. The school provides ample parking and Β 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 πŸ˜€ 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.

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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! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

CrossFit

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

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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 πŸ˜€

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.Β  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.

Enjoying the Journey, Strength, Open Water Swimming, Recovery

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself,

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

The intense beauty of Istanbul is all well and good but it did smash through my workout plans for last week. There was little strength training beforehand and none out there at all although I did manage 7 miles on a Treadmill and a WOD that I’d programmed for long haul flights.

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Unfortunately, the run was in minimalist shoes…cue getting up for my flight the next day and collapsing in a fit of one-legged agony at 0430, my left calf as solid as the marble on the mosque roof on the other side of the dawn-bathed Bosphorus. It wasn’t exactly funny at the time but imagine the inevitable pain that comes another 24 hours later! Saturday morning, trying to get down the stairs to the Action Princesses was hysterical. Trying to get a cup of tea up to the Chief Warrior Princess was even funnier! It turns out that walking backwards up stairs isn’t very clever either (unless you like Early Grey covered carpets).

I want to highlight my last post. Before heading out to the continental bridge between Europe and Asia last week, I got a new Clean PR baby! 103.5kg! I kind of brushed over it in my last musings, covering the Level 2 CrossFit Trainer course instead. But hell, I got my first major PR in AGES! Boom and, indeed, SMASH! I put it down to the strength programme, CF Watford’s programming, good nutrition and adequate recovery.

Having a goal is really keeping me motivated at the moment. More than that though, I’m enjoying the process. I’ll be honest, I do enjoy weighing and tracking my food. I love seeing my power output in workouts and I’m pushed to keep writing this blog in the vain hope that someone might read it πŸ˜‰

Anyway, back in to it today with Day 24 of the AMRAP Plus One Strength Programme and my first proper Open Water Swim training.

Strength

  • Cleans 5 x 1 @ 75% – 77.5kg
  • Cleans 5 x 1 @ 80% – 82.5kg
  • Cleans 5 x 1 @ 85% – 87.5kg
  • Clean Pulls 3 x 3 @ 90% – 92.5kg
  • Halting Clean Deadlift (3 x Knee), Finish (x1), Floating Clean Deadlift (x1) @ 87.5kg

I didn’t warm up completely this morning and felt it in the catch, in the lumbar. It took me all day to unknot it. However, each rep was strong. I’m enjoying this programme.

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Swim

1km Open Water @ Denham Water Ski

Time: approx 24 mins.

Nothing fancy, a chance to try on the new DHB wetsuit (which I love) and get in to the cold water (11C). I plodded around (is there a ‘slow swimming’ verb?) and made my way out in good order. Of course, what noone tells you (unless you actually read triathlon websites! – Ed) is that trying to walk after a 1km swim is REALLY funny! πŸ˜€ How I’m expected to run 15km, I’ll never know. Still there’s about 5 weeks until the event – plenty of time πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

Nutrition

  • Pre-Strength – Banana
  • Breakfast – Porridge, Whey Protein, Milk
  • Snack – Brazil Nuts and Cherries
  • Lunch – Turkey Burgers, 2 x Eggs
  • Snack – Seed Mix
  • Dinner – 2 x Organic Bramley Apple Pork Sausages, tonnes of carrots, broccoli and parsnips.
  • Post-Swim – Whey Protein & Milk, Chicken, Rice, Egg

Total Carbs: 202g (808 KCal)

Total Protein: 211g (844 KCal)

Total Fat: 73g (657KCal)

Level 2 CrossFit Trainer now, don’t you know.

Some months ago I realised that my Level 1 Trainer qualification was about to expire, after 5 solid years of training others in 3 boxes (1 of them my own). I took some time to reevaluate whether or not CrossFit Coaching would have any part in my future before shelling out another $1000 on another course.

You see, for coaches there are negatives as well as the considerable positives of developing other people. Not only do we get in to the box that little earlier, set the place up (and tidy it, more often than not), and leave later, but for many of us it comes at the not inconsiderable sacrifice of our own training and fitness. That one spare hour in the day that many use to fit in their training, for us is that same hour that we coach others. It’s slightly different if you own a box but even then not too much. 

I’d identified this issue at CrossFit Keelhaul and then it transpired too in CrossFit Plymouth. Of course, it’s the same in CrossFit Watford. Despite this, I’ve made strong advances in my overall fitness attributes; I even set a new Clean personal best yesterday after 18+ months of trying. However, it was “only” 103.5kg, a solitary 1kg (2.2lb) improvement. Compared to others of my CF experience, I am well off of the mark by about 5-10kg. Still, it was an improvement and I’ll take it! I’m not sure that many athletes see the distinction between the coaches and the athletes, often perhaps thinking, “well you work here, you should be the fittest”. True, we should be among the fitter members but most often we won’t be at the top, especially if you travel from afar to coach- there simply isn’t the time to get both in. 

It could be argued that we could take part in the sessions. I’ve never been comfortable with this approach although, yes,  I have done it. Athletes pay to be coached. This isn’t Globogym (“we’re better than you!  And we know it!”) where you check in, get ignored by the ‘trainers’, do you your thing alone and leave. CrossFit is different. As coaches, we do care about our charges. While we want them all to be safe, more than that we want them to improve and soar, exceeding their own expectations, and smashing goals. We can’t ensure that if we take part too. At intensity, movement becomes shitty and patchy – we’re there to sort it out.

And it was the Coaching of others that swung it for me and prompted me to look at the Level 2 course.  Discussing it with Charlie & Hat, they offered to front up the cash and then I’d pay them back in coaching sessions. With military discount of $200, that brought the cost down immediately.  Another Β£180 of military funding, plus VAT rebate on it made it much more palatable and so it was last weekend that I found myself at CrossFit Perpetua in Battersea, London.

Immediately greeted by Bobbi, a belle from North Carolina, the long haired, big bearded Matt from south Wales and “I left the navy recently so am letting the hair hang out” McCoy from Scotland (and head coach at CrossFit Thames), we sat ourselves down and awaited the knowledge.


From the outset, it was pacey but very well structured. A much smaller gathering than the Level 1 Course,  there was an obvious focus on us from the coaches.  The aim of the course was to focus on coaching others in the 9 foundational movements, as well as group management. We held each other in front squats, overhead squats,  presses, etc, and analysed the positions to the nth degree before highlighting appropriate language and cues to develop the positions of others. We deep-dived in to programming methodology and had a no-holds-barred presentation on how CrossFit should be delivered as a programme, even if as affiliates we really are encouraged to build as we see fit. No questions were off limits and I took the opportunity to dig in to some nutrition information despite it not being on the programme.

We were assessed throughout,  encouraged, and given brutally honest feedback.  All 3 coaches were absolutely critical in their assessment and pulled no punches. It was exactly what I needed. After 5 years, you do become a bit soft, lazy and set in your ways. You need professionals to step in and break it up, give us fresh perspective and,  perhaps more importantly, reenergise and reenthuse. Enthusiasm was definitely their watchword. I don’t know if, as individuals, they are always like it but they held extremely high energy levels for the whole weekend.  We were treated to 2 workouts too, one MetCon and a heavy strength. Both were delivered in the manner of a ‘ideal’ lesson plan and I took considerable notes throughout.
The collection of coaches from the UK and the world who made up our 21 person contingent was immense. Australia, Denmark, Holland, Croatia, USA….all brought their incredible experiences to bear as we learned about and from each other. It is a testament to the genuine life-changing abilities of the CrossFit community that people are willing to travel so far and wide to learn and progress. I truly believe that many of us will stay in touch as our own journeys succeed onward and send upward.

We departed late on Sunday afternoon, a little battered and stretched, new certificate in hand, and definitely with a spring in our step. I feel as I did after the Level 1, ready to employ everything I’ve learned with the athletes, and with energy. 

Next up for me will likely be to get stuck in to the Anatomy Primer and to do a few of the online courses. 

In the meantime, it’s about the athletes.

I’m feeling motivated.

Sometimes, you just have to get the work done. Just Do it. But prepare for the Zombie.

Fitness.

Because one day the Zombies will come.

zombieA full CrossFit session in the AM, inc. strength and a MetCon, the AMRAP Plus One Strength session in the evening, and then duathlon training. That was my yesterday. My morning today? Zombie. Coffee. Oats. Zombie.

After taking a day off last week mainly through laziness, and with weekends sacrosanct, I played catch-up yesterday, determined to get CF, Strength and the Running & Swimming in there too. I have 2 events on this week which take up space in my calendar where I’d otherwise be improving myself – that said, one of them is at a Steak restaurant so….you know….that might work too πŸ˜€

Yesterday AM @ CF Watford

3 x 3 Front Squats – 60/80/100kg. I intentionally kept it light, knowing I had more to come that day.

  • 20 Dumbbell Snatches
  • 30 Toes To Bar
  • 40 Box Jump Overs @ 24″
  • 800m Run
  • 40 Box Jump Overs
  • 30 Toes To Bar
  • 20 DB SnatchesCFW

Time: 14:56 Rx. This was supposed to be a partner WOD of double the reps but I was the odd man out; I still did the 800m Run though. It seems that it was a pretty fast time by comparison. Only the Toes to Bar were broken, everything else was done in a oner.

amrapplusoneEvening AMRAP Plus One Strength, Duathlon Training

  • Power Clean 2×3 @ 70%, 3×3 @ 75% – 62.5kg and 67.5kg
  • Power Jerk 2 x 3 @ 70%, 3 x 3 @ 75% – 62.5kg and 67.5kg
  • Straight Leg Deadlift 3×5 – 67.5kg

All light; I am forcing myself to trust in this programme, despite it having some pretty light stuff in there. I might usually be hammering myself at 85%+ otherwise. However, perhaps the light load was perfectly timed, given that I then had:

  • 2.4km Run
  • 1km Swim (Pool)
  • 2.4km Run

This is a slightly awkward one because I have to run with a rucksack to carry swim gear, water, ID card, wallet, phone, etc. The run was therefore never going to be fast, and it wasn’t. The swim was my first taste of what

being within a pack will be like – the pool was full, the lanes narrow and there were very different standards trying to train. It made it all extremely difficult to keep any pace or cadence but worthwhile as I ploughed through the 40 lengths. After that, a jog 2.4km back to camp, trying hard to will my body to move a little faster with each stride but feeling like I was pulling against a thousand invisible hands dragging me backwards.

And then Bed.

I find myself in front of the computer now, at 0640, having attempted to head over to the gym for my Strength session but having returned; feeling like a Zombie, hands and legs a little sore, fingers wrapped around my Ospreys RFC coffee mug. There was no way I was getting anything meaningful done this morning. I took a quick look at the CF Watford session tonight and realised that I can fit the two together rather neatly and so can sit here, eat my oats and start the day more sedately.
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