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.

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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! ๐Ÿ˜€ How I’m expected to run 15km, I’ll never know. Still there’s about 5 weeks until the event – plenty of time ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

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)

Fatigue in the Legs, Energy in the Mind

Laziness is Nothing More than the Habit of Resting before you get Tired

– Jules Renard

Having added endurance swimming and running training to my programme, and incorporating the AMRAP Plus One Strength programme, these legs are tired. I don’t mind admitting it but this morning’s WOD was a labour. At only 10 mins long, I had expected to motor through it but the Burpees slowed me right down; there was just nothing in the tank. I really did will myself on too; I pushed myself hard but it just felt sluggish. I have to expect this and get enough food and rest onboard to compensate. In the mind, I am extremely motivated right now. I’m enthused by the challenge coming up in June and can’t wait to get the wetsuit on and in to open water. As long as I can maintain this mental energy then I’ll find the means to overcome the physical fatigue.

AM CrossFit Watford Coaching

Strength

3 x 5 Cleans w/ 3 x 3 Clean Pull supersets.

With a class of 13, I wasn’t able to fit this in and I don’t mind. There were some more newbies in and I was keen to get them moving properly; besides, I have my strength programme going on anyway. A big shout out to xxxx and xxxx for top efforts this morning.

MetCon

10min AMRAP

  • 10 x Toes to Bar
  • 10 x Power Clean @ 60kg
  • 10 x Bar over Burpees

To get some energy going so early in the morning, I split the class in to 2 even groups and had them cheering each other on. With only a 10 min WOD, this was simple and it really worked too; 6am sessions are not normally known for the same levels of overt enthusiasm that you see from the 1830 crowd. It tends to be more of an ‘inner strength’ kind of period. This morning as really good though and as a coach it was excellent to be a part of. As I mentioned above, my own experience of this was not the best, despite my own willingness. In total, 5 rounds and 2 Toes to Bar. The burpees, while unbroken, slowed me down. The Toes to Bar were unbroken for rounds 1-4, with just a break at number 7 for round 5. The Power Cleans were very tough, I won’t lie. I got through the first round unbroken but after that it was 6+4, and then 5+3+2 for the remainder.

PM Running & Swimming

Last week’s 5 Mile Run (38 mins 30 secs) was pleasing and I know I’m in a good place. With a 1km Swim on Sunday in 21:45, I feel in a secure place.

So, tonight, I was going to do a 2.4km Run, 1km Swim and 2.4km Run. But having realised that my trunks and goggles are 235 miles away at home, I have taken it as a sign and am putting my feet up!

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Early start after a week of lay-ins

No photos today as the Android WordPress App is being crap and refuses to upload anything. Pictures just sit there…..queued…..forever…….like zombie passengers at Heathrow.

The alarm screeched at me at 0520 this morning. After a week of relative lay-ins, this was an unwelcome bitch of a wake-up call. However, knowing I had CF Watford to get to, and willing athletes raring to go (maybe), I dragged my sorry ass out of bed, in to the bathroom and splashed water on my face before hauling my hunched frame to the Tassimo and the glorious Costa Americano that awaited me. A quick swig of the steaming awesomeness and I was already feeling up for it. Grabbing my kit and leaping like a gazelle down to my awaiting chariot (ok, that might be a bit much….I jogged, at best), I was up for the box and well up for the WOD.

Confronted by two newcomers, Ola and Darren, among the regular legends I was immediately struck by their determination to succeed through:

Strength

  • 3 x 5 Thrusters
  • Superset: 3 x Max Effort Unbroken Push Ups

60/65/70kg – If I’d bothered to check BeyondTheWhiteboard, I would have seen that this was my previous best and I could easily have beaten it with just a few 1.25 or 2.5kg plates! Idiot! ๐Ÿ˜‰

MetCon

18 min AMRAP

  • 200m Run
  • 5 x Bar Muscle Ups
  • 10 x Burpees
  • 15 x Wall Balls, 9kg @ 10′

Total: 5 Rounds with 15 secs to spare. I didn’t bother attempting a run at the end. There was significant time spent coaching during this one, as I am there to do. I certainly don’t begrudge it – I only workout when there is capacity and freedom to do so and the athletes always come first. Having said that, I completed all rounds completely unbroken, Muscle Ups included. This is a huge achievement and I have been rocking it all day.

AMRAP Plus One Strength Programme – Day 14

I began this 2 weeks ago and am enjoying the focussed attention on the Snatch and Clean & Jerk. Last week, I spent a great deal of time in my garage working this solely, without any associated metcons. On Saturday, I trotted through a Snatch routine and EASILY moved 70kg above my head. Why I didn’t continue upward, I don’t know. Instead, I moved on to the next part of the programme. I know I’m getting close the most elusive PR of them all though (for me).

Day 14:

On the Minute

  • Snatch 5 x 1 @ 73% – 55kg, 5 x 1 @ 78% – 57.5kg, 5 x 1 @ 83% – 62.5kg, 5 x 1 83%+ – 70kg, 75kg Fail, 72.5kg Fail, 72.5kg PASS.
  • Snatch Pull 3 x 3 @ 85% – 65kg, 3 x 2 @ 90% – 67.5kg

Further accessory movements.

I am not going to be disappointed for not hitting my PR or getting above it today. I think I put a little too much expectation on myself. My movement is good and I know this programme will get me over the line.

Nutrition

Back in military-world, I am able to control my intake much better than at home. Still, I ate a Cadbury Creme Egg (it fit in my macros though!) pre-WOD. I am keeping to 2300 KCal at the moment and feel good about it. As macros, that equals:

  • Carbs: 201g (804 KCal – 35%)
  • Protein: 201g (804 KCal – 35%)
  • Fat: 77g (693 KCal – 30%)

Other than the wondrous chocolate goodness, I’ve eaten lean beef mince, an avocado, 3 eggs, a truckload of veg, some oats and some whey protein. Oh, and 10 almonds. And 5g Creatine.

Confession, the Open (success), Reboot

Where is your journey taking you today?

 

Forgive me, dear readers, for it has been approximately 2 weeks since my last blog post. Since the end of CrossFit Open 17, I have been a bit lost and have struggled to find the motivation to open the WordPress machine and start tapping away. In all honesty, 17.5 didn’t go well for me; I over-revved in the early rounds and died in the latter, recording my worst individual CF Open WOD this year. Worse even than 17.1 when I was ill. It was my own fault and I felt like I’d wasted the Open this year, let the box down, lost credibility, rah, rah, etc…..

However.

While my scores on Beyond The Whiteboard have proven to be low this year, it would appear that I SMASHED my Top 25% target in the Open itself! Yes, winners, I actually hit the top 17% of Individual Men Worldwide and top 14% of Masters Men (35-39) Worldwide. I can put this down to one major factor:

Beyond The Whiteboard is a measurement of Rx versus Rx only – there is no accounting for non-Rx/Scaled scores, unlike the CF Open where a huge percentage chose Scaled.

I knew this would be the case in advance but didn’t think the difference would be so stark. To confirm my improvement, I went back over the last 2 years and compared against the same criteria (position as a percentage of all those who completed at least 1 WOD, either Rx or Scaled). I have improved in the competition over the last 3 years, despite heading in to my late 30s. Without wishing to be too over-confident though, Strength has still proven to be my Weakness. The 3-month squat programme of last year gave me more in mid-weight Thrusters / Olympic Lifts than it did for all-out strength. Something to review for this year.

So, all in all, it was pretty good really. Next year – top 15% within the same criteria.

South Milton Sands Swim/Run, 25 June
I alluded to this a few months ago when I signed up but yes, I have entered a 1km Sea Swim / 15km Trail Run Duathlon in June. Completely at odds with any strength work I want to do, I have opted for an endurance competition. Swimming has not been a strength of mine really and I am proper excited about this. Follow me as I prepare for this challenge (more mental than physical, I think!). 

I kicked this off on Tuesday with 2.4 Km Run, 1 Km Pool Swim and another 2.4 Km Run. All this in under an hour, including changing room nonsense, unknown route, etc

AMRAP Plus One Strength Programme

At the same time, I have begun a Strength programme from AMRAP Plus One. I know, I know…how can I carry out strength training and endurance training at the same time? Well, while I do want to complete the Duathlon, I just want to complete it. I have no aspirations of a placing, it’s just for my own fun and challenge. With that in mind, I’ll be simply getting miles under the feet and water under the arms to a point of confidence. I won’t be spending every day out pounding the pavements or floundering in the sea. My overall focus is still strength but I’ll assess as I begin to head in to this.
Nutrition

MyFitnessPal is awesome. That’s it. In Jan, I set myself the task of getting to my Summer 2016 form by end of Feb 17. I achieved that and more. Through careful consideration of exactly what I eat, as well as precisely how much, I have lost a noticeable 4-6% body fat. I feel swifter, with no loss of strength and improved endurance. I highly recommend getting a set of kitchen scales and a MyFitnessPal account.

Ok, I’ll finish there, that’s enough of a catch up for now. I’m motivated again and promise it won’t be as long next time!

Strong Women and “So THAT’s where the Energy went”

She is clothed in STRENGTH and DIGNITY

and she LAUGHS without Fear of the Future.

 

I just want to give a big-up to all strong women everywhere. I don’t just mean the obvious physical strength aspect. I mean the mental toughness that most women have that most men can only dream of. From my grandmother at the head of the family, to my courageous mother, my incredible wife and my warrior princess daughters; to my sisters, cousins, aunts and great-aunts; I am surrounded by strong, incredible women.ย Independent, strong, intelligent, imaginative, fun, amazing, beautiful women. Thank you for all that you do, all that you are and all the you will become.

 

Update

For those who read yesterday’s post and have signed in for a 2-in-a-row streak, you’ll know that I was upset at myself for not having been able to motivate a small group early in the morning. As I acknowledged at the time to myself, some days it just ain’t there, no matter what you try. That said, there were lessons I took away and will look to rectify.

And then there are days like today ๐Ÿ˜€

6am session and 14 people show up! This is my first early morning session with a full house and, given the WOD, I was really nervous about it. While it was was not a particularly high-skill event, it was a long one and I was focused on keeping it to time as I have to back in the office for 0800. But, not only did 14 people jog through the doors, there was considerable energy in the room too. Lots of banter for that time of day, bags of questions and bucket loads of determination to succeed. Some days, it is there and it just works. Probably best not to analyse it but to accept it and embrace it!

Which is what they did. Fair play, well done to the Dawn Patrol, it was a genuine pleasure to coach.

Because of numbers and length of the MetCon, we had to speed through the strength element a little faster than I would normally do it, and get stuck in. Also, with some relative newcomers and maximum attendance, I wasn’t able to workout and so did it tonight instead.

Strength

  • 3 x 5 Split / Push Jerk @ 65/75/85% 1RM

60 / 70 / 80kg – nothing too much to worry about here. I was cleaning each set as the racks were taken. Not the heaviest I can lift but then I’m not going to get any stronger during the Open so am not overly fussed at this point.

MetCon

8 Rounds of:

2 mins On / 2 mins Off

  • Row (Cals) 25
  • Max Effort Double Unders

Score = Double Unders = 298

Each row took approx 65-70 seconds, hovering around the 1350-1400 Cals per Hour mark. I was extremely pleased at maintaining this pace each time. The Double Unders weren’t quite so great. The first was a grand 60 but the others were all sub-40 with 1 set being sub 30! This brought me under the 300 total that I’d aimed for but it actually turned out to be a pretty good score, all told.

Nutrition

  • Breakfast: 60g Spelt Wheat / Oats, 200ml Protein Milk (Sainsbury’s), 25g MyProtein Choc Peanut Butter – I left this overnight in the fridge and ate cold this morning; delicious!
  • Lunch:ย 240g Sweet Potato, 60g Protein Cheese, 100g Chicken BreastSnack/pre-WOD: 80g Chicken Breast, 60g Banana
  • Post-WOD: 25g Whey Protein + 200ml Protein Milk
  • Dinner: Sainsbury’s My Goodness Thai Sweet Chilli Chicken with Rice + 50g Brie
  • Drink: Sainsbury’s Hot Chocolate

Totals:

  • Carbs: 180g – approx 1g per lb bodyweight – Happy.
  • Protein: 182g – approx 1g per lb bodyweight (for growth) – Happy
  • Fats:ย 73g – not bad, was aiming for 70.

Motivating a Group, Training Under Fatigue

Motivational Quote

 

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Enough of these, thanks Dave.

Update

I hadn’t intended to train this morning. On the board to coach, I arrived in the box on cue at 0545 to get it set up, put the WOD up and motivate myself before meeting the athletes. As they arrived though, it was immediately obvious that the energy was lacking; you could feel it in the conversation, you could see it in the way people moved through the warm up and the drills. Early mornings are always tough to gauge anyway; you can’t give the same energy to a 6am session as you can for an end-of-the-week Friday night extravaganza, for example. As coaches, we have to be able to read the athletes and the group as a whole, and balance accordingly in order to get the best out of them.

So, I started slowly with the warm up, gradually trying to increase the tempo and enthusiasm; we upped the music; we chatted about 17.2 and about what might come up on Friday in 17.3. Nothing. Sure, everyone was working but there was no intensity.

So, I did what every good leader should do and decided to get stuck in and lead from the front. Picking one member of the group, Jav (and we’d gone head to head the night before in 17.2), I decided to really go for it, despite my rather sore glutes and generally fatigued state.

3…2…1…GO!

I’d love to say that by getting amongst it and giving my all I was able to motivate the group. I’m not entirely sure I did though. This is an area that I will revisit shortly. One of the factors is that despite training every morning together, they don’t even know each other’s names (some do) or anything about each other. In order to generate team cohesion and a sense of camaraderie, this has to be a baseline; like I said, more to follow.

I also had the evening class tonight but they’re a completely different kettle of fish altogether!

Strength

  • 4 x 12 Bulgarian Split Squats (per leg)
  • superset with 4 x 6 Straight Leg Kettlebell Deadlift (Single Leg)

2 x 12kg / 12kg / 12kg / 12kg (so, 24kg each time)

After last night’s lunges, my glutes and quads were wimpering throughout. There would have been no point trying to go heavier.

MetCon

18min AMRAP

  • 30 x Push Press @ 50kg
  • 20 x Wall Balls @ 9kg
  • 10 x Box Jump Overs @ 24″
  • 200m Run

Total: 3 + 20

I really pushed the pace on this one. The only thing to have any breaks were the push presses, broken in to 10s and 5s each time, never less – these slowed me right down. All Wall Balls unbroken and fast. Box Jump Overs were consistent. This surprised me quite a bit given how tired I feel. It does show that your body will do what your mind tells it.

The evening class. Determination in spades.

Nutrition

  • Pre-WOD: 1 x Banana
  • Breakfast: 60g Spelt Wheat / Oats with 250ml Protein Milk + 25g Whey Protein
  • Lunch: 3 x Scrambled Eggs, 70g Spinach, 90g BBQ Chicken Breast. 1 x Banana.
  • Dinner: Sunday Leftovers!! (love it!) of 2 x Lean Pork Sausages, 2 x Roast Potatoes, Parsnips, Carrots and Gravy
  • Snack: Battle Oats
  • Pre-Bed: 90g BBQ Chicken Breast