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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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.

No Time or No Will? Thursday night Coaching.

Seen more when the darkness encroaches on the working day, but we hear it quite a bit, “I just don’t have the time for exercise.” While I won’t ever get upset by this comment, it’s more from an apathy now than an understanding. Health IS important, it’s that simple. While you don’t have to spend an hour (or more) a day thrashing yourself flipping tyres or swinging from bars, you do have a responsibility to keep yourself in good health. If you choose to sit and watch TV for 2 hours in the evening then it is a choice that you have made to prioritise that activity over another (although a lot can be achieved in front of an episode of Australian Masterchef!). Do not claim, “I just don’t have time” when you clearly do have time in the day to watch, “Britain’s Ugliest Shoe Bakeoff” or whatever. Instead, simply say, “I don’t want to” and be done with it.

Feeling extremely positive on getting up this morning! Coffee down the gullet, banana to follow, jog to the gym and get started. I love starts like this, they don’t happen often. You wake to the alarm but it’s as if the alarm has magically sync’d with your sleep rhythm and you awake feeling genuinely refreshed and good to go!

BOOM!


Morning Snatch Programme

Second portion of my new Snatch programme this morning and, like everything, it requires a tweak. As per Monday, it’s an EMOM but because I am focusing on overhead strength today (vice ‘volume’ for the Snatch Grip High Pulls on Monday – this will switch each week), it was 16 mins instead of 20. Working on Snatch Balance and Heaving Snatch Balance, I started too light but caught up towards the end. Next week, I’ll be working on volume where today’s weights will be better suited. That all said, the strict Snatch Balance takes a high degree of confidence and it was ‘shaky’ this morning. I did get up to a happy weight though but it’s clear I need more time under the bar. The final 6 were all Heaving Snatch Balance, intentionally, working on the power from the hips and a more dynamic movement.

  • 40 / 40 / 40 / 40 / 40 <– Snatch Balance
  • 50 / 50 / 50 / 50 / 50 <– Snatch Balance
  • 55 / 55 / 60 / 65 / 65 / 67.5kg <– Heaving Snatch Balance

 

Coaching at CF Watford

It’s Thursday and so my coaching night in CF Watford. I genuinely look forward to these occasions as a chance to have a positive effect on the athletes in the box. Shaking things up a little as I always try to do, I changed the warm up to incorporate Wheelbarrow Races (shoulders / core), Fireman’s Carry / Piggy Back Rides (balance, stability) and Partner-carry Squats (legs, hips, core).

Strength

3 x 3+ Bench Press

Demonstrating the Bench Press first, I highlighted the requirement to force the feet in to the ground and brace with the shoulders pressed deep in to the bench. An small upward arch of the back in the lift is no bad thing and assists in securing that core as you press up.

A key mental note to some: when in the heavier lifts, focus less on pushing the bar away from you and more on snapping those elbows completely open and locked. This minor tweak to your mental focus can work wonders.

MetCon

3 Rounds for Time:

  • 400m Run
  • 10 x Ground-to-Overhead (60 / 40kg)

Emphasising scaling in this, the purpose of the WOD (especially after a pretty heavy session the night before) is to aim for unbroken. Perhaps go heavy enough that you only break once in the 2nd and maybe twice in the third but that’s about as heavy as you should go else risk losing all intensity. Of course, I’m as bad for letting my ego get in the way as anyone else. However, with a time-estimate of approx 9mins, this is an anaerobic WOD that needs to be pushed on through in order to develop Anaerobic Capacity. Regular breaks will very quickly bring you back down in to an Aerobic state, losing its value.

Thurs 12 May 16 – Why, hello Barbara, you can go the way of Isabel and get spanked!

I forced myself out from under my warm, comfortable Afghan blanket, pressed START on the Tassimo and got changed for a Watt Bike session. Now they’ve been upgraded, they’re all available and it’s my first outing on them in 5 weeks. Sticking to the Aerobic Engine plan, I had an interval session, spending 20 mins between 85% of my average watts (from the 10 min max effort session) and 50%.  Thereafter, I’d booked in to CFW for a hammering before ending the  week.

Aerobic Session

As I outlined above, 20mins of 30 secs at 85% / 30 secs at 50%.

This translated in to 30 secs at 181 Watts and 30 secs at 106 Watts.

HOWEVER!! How bloody hard is it to maintain a steady power output on those bikes?!?! There was no way I could keep to a set wattage and so I went for RPM instead. Maintaining 76 RPM for the 50% and 91RPM for the 85%, it actually evened out quite well in the end with an overall average wattage of 148W, only 5W more than I had calculated should have been the case. If nothing else, this is too complicated for 0630!! I was happy though; I think I under-performed but with a CFW session coming up I wasn’t overly upset.

Strength

None…….I was expecting a 1RM Deadlift or Bench Press but instead…..

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MetCon

“Barbara”

Five rounds, each for time of:

  • 20 x Pull-ups
  • 30 x Push-ups
  • 40 x Sit-ups
  • 50 x Squats
  • 3 mins Rest

Time (minus the 12 min Rest): 24:32 Rx

I intentionally paced this and I think I paced it very well indeed. Hitting the rounds in 4:15 / 4:45 / 5:02 / 5:41 / 4:21, it took me a while to get over the DOMS in my abs from the situps 2 days ago. I’ve also pulled the muscle that sits just over the outside of my left scapula which hindered the pull ups. I adjusted the pull ups and did them underarm, managing to maintain good butterfly kips all the way through round 3; all rounds were 10/5/5. Push Ups are coming on a treat again and I kept smashing them out in 30 for the first round, then 15/5/5/5 for the remainder. Squats were all unbroken and the Situps were just a pest until my abs got going again; every round unbroken.

This is another woman slayed, after Isabel’s thrashing yesterday. Time for a bit of a break over the weekend, I think.

 

Nutrition

Routine for Breakfast and Lunch and snacks (nuts, eggs, slices of meat and leaves)

Dinner: Chinese Chicken Curry from Morrisons.

Still aren’t getting total required calories so will drink a pint of whole milk before bed for recovery.

 

Links

Rich Froning does Barbara: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3SdPyN_e9E

 

 

Wednesday 11 May 2016 – CrossFit NWD, Isabel and the Hang Snatch

I skipped CF Watford today and trotted on down to the on-camp gym at 1730. I had intended on completing a Deadlift 1RM, in line with CFW’s programme but there was already a session going on in there and it was a case of either joining in or getting out. CrossFit NWD, as it has recently been affiliated, is a very small facility tucked in the back of a huge hanger of a sports hall. With a large BeaverFit rig, 1 lifting platform, plenty of barbells and a few rowers, it really reminds me of CF Keelhaul, all those years ago. The die-hard regular members contain a few Level 1s and some very keen athletes; being primarily military, with a lot of international flavour, they are a bunch with a strong baseline of general fitness. They train once a day, most days, but are looking to increase the options available. I’m therefore mulling over running 3 x 0615 sessions per week but we shall see.

Strength

5 x 5 Snatch Balance

40 / 50 / 50 / 55 / 55kg

Using the Power Snatch to get the bar up, I am pretty happy with this. As a measure, athletes should be able to Snatch Balance with 110% of their Snatch weight. However, with an old 1RM of 75kg, I know I am not currently able to Snatch Balance 82.5kg. Besides which, I didn’t have access to the rack and was Snatching the bar in to position. I had it in me to go past 60kg but…….

MetCon

“Isabel”

For Time: 30 x Snatch @ 60kg

Time: 6:42 Rx – Personal Record by 1 min 49 secs!!

When Sean (today’s coach) announced Isabel as the WOD, I immediately stopped with the Snatch Balance. With a previous personal best of 8:28, I was wary of this; strength and muscular endurance hasn’t exactly been my …..strength. 60kg is still heavy for me, Snatch-wise. However, I cycled through the first 5 pretty quickly and realised that I had it in me for a huge jump today. Maintaining pace up to 20, I was amazed at my time. I’ll admit that the last 10 were not pretty at all; they were safe throughout, with good back position, but ugly in general form. What impressed me the most was my ability to ‘re-cycle’ the bar at that weight. This shows a significant leap in muscular endurance, if not in raw strength.

Nutrition

· Breakfast: Eggs, Milk, Ham slices, Leaves, Nuts, Whey Protein

· Lunch: Eggs, Milk, Ham Slices, Leaves, Nuts

· Dinner: Military Chicken Pasta, mixed with Tuna Puttanesca (from military ration pack), Nuts, Leaves

· Snacks: Nuts

Still very protein-dominant and I’m seeing significant benefits. My weight has dropped to 80kg, down 2.5kg in 6 weeks, but I am feeling agile, niggle-free, generally ache-free, and I’m getting faster. I now need to hold this weight, lose a little more body fat and then start putting weight back on again to no more than 83kg.

Looking Forward

CrossFit Games Regionals begins this weekend with California! My personal CrossFit Champ to Cheer, Dan Bailey, will be competing this weekend. Check out the links below.

Links

Dan Bailey does Isabel (and 2 other Girls): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLETC0cfzbg

CrossFit Games Regionals Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/CrossFitHQ

Mon 14 Sept 14 – Personal Record to start the week

And sometimes it just works.

As per usual, it was an 0540 start this morning, in the box for 0600 and warming up at 0615. The coffee was still hot at this point and there were only a few bodies joining in (although others turned up late! 😦 ) We went through a very comprehensive warm up, digging in to some overhead squat work and a good Clean complex. There’s a big emphasis on overhead work at the moment and it’s my job to ensure it is done correctly. Internal rotation of the shoulders is the big issue here; it’s easy to rotate in, stick your arse in the air and lfit weight with a horizontal back. By doing so, you have shock-loaded an unprotected shoulder joint and must then rise from depth rotating the shoulder back as you do so, under extreme load. You are also not rising vertically, but with a tendancy to rise butt first, pushing the load forward initially instead of up and then generating forward momentum that must be overcome. So what do we do? We externally rotate the shoulders, keeping armpits facing forward and elbows down to the floor. Try it. Sure, it’s really bloody hard! It’s hard because we are middle aged individuals who have sat down for more than 3/4 of our waking lives with short hamstrings, tight calves and with no flexibility in the thoracic spine. It doesn’t mean we lift heavy anyway, it means we work to overcome the limitations and improve upon them.

At least, that’s the theory. In reality, it means people ignoring the coach just because they want to see increased numbers on the board at the end. And then they blame CrossFit for any injury.

So we are working overhead movements a lot right now and I’m happy to see it given the attention it needs. After that, we moved in to the Clean complex with 30kg before setting off on the strength portion of today’s mission.

Strength

Every Other Minute – 20 mins

  • 1 x Clean
  • 1 x Front Squat
  • 1 x Jerk

60 / 65 / 70 / 75 / 80 / 85 / 90 / 95 / 100 / 102.5

YES!! A new 1 Rep Max for the Clean & Jerk!! And it included a separate front squat in the middle of it! BOOM!! SMASH! That’s 100kg well and truly done, cemented in place, and overcome. 90 and 95 went up very easily, so I knew 100kg was on the cards. When that went up smoothly, including the front squat thereafter, I knew I had another in me. Wanting to end on a high and finally break past 100kg, I chose 102.5 instead of 105. Sure, I probably should have gone for 105 but this was about psychology more than strength. 100 is now no longer a fear for me. Next stop, 110. That’s my goal for the Clean & Jerk by June 2016.

MetCon

5 Rounds for Time:

  • 5 x Pull Up (Strict)
  • 10 x Push Up
  • 15 x Air Squat
  • 40 x Double Under

Time: 9:36 Rx

Recently, it’s been push ups that have stimied me but today it was pull ups. The first round was unbroken but the other 4 were 3+2. Given the C&Js, plus the push ups, I suppose this is to be expected. I’m not down about it though. The double unders were decidedly ropey (excuse the pun) today. While the first round was unbroken, the others certainly weren’t and were a mess. I’m happy to take this today due to achilles pain and having done so well in the strength portion.

Recovery

I’ve added in a new title now, focused on any injury areas that need to be addressed. As you all know, it’s achilles tendonopathy that restricts some of what I do. While I know it to be degenerative, I can’t just let it degrade and accept it, I shall continue to work on it. I went through 3 months of the Alfredson protocol last year and will redo that this year but with 10kg extra. Twice a day, 3 x 15 (per leg), toes on a step and lowering to full extension before recovering to horizontal while using the other leg to assist – I haven’t explained that well, I apologise, but I think you get what I mean.

Sunday Snatch Day

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What a confidence boost. More than 2 years unable to get my previous 1 RM and then I put it up in the air with strength and good form. When I achieved this before, 70 was safe but 75 was a mess. Today, in my garage gym, I took it slow, worked on component parts and focused on the set up. As with the Clean & Jerk, I have realised the benefits of forcing the breath down in to the pit of my stomach and keeping it there. I’ve changed my setup to keep my backside much lower, chest up and pushing down through the heels. It’s how I used to do it but have become sloppy in recent months.

So, a true Snatch 1RM. Nothing to write home about but as heavy as I can go. I failed at 77.5kg but it was mental; had I been in a place where I could ditch safely then I know I could have spent time working it.