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?)

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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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Leave your Situations at the Door

Leave your situations at the door

So when you step inside jump on the floor

– Mary J. Blige 

Staring in to the down gazing eyes of one of our athletes, it was clear that she was about to just give up on the day, if not the week. Hard work ebbing onto the floor, leaving a sullen shell to clear the rower and remaining kit away before shuffling out door defeated. 

HELL NO!

Not having that shit in this box! 

I don’t care what is going on in your life outside the box (well, I do actually but my upcoming point still stands), you do not allow it in to the box. Leave it at the door. I say this not from a standpoint of how it might affect the mood of others, nor how you’re not going to be on your game – both of those are valid – but from the this:

Your time in the box is your time. 

What you do in that hour is for you. It is your opportunity to develop, to succeed, to improve, and to win. How DARE the comments of colleagues, the stresses of work, or the rising cost of the bus fare impinge on YOUR time?! You have your goals, you have set out your plan, and you have paid your subs. The effort you put in within the hour we set for you is all yours. It is not to impress coworkers, it isn’t to think about tomorrow’s meeting, it certainly isn’t to worry about that note you forgot to write – all of those things are important but they won’t be solved in your hour with us.

This is YOUR TIME. Everything else can get f@#&ed. When with us, you are not judged, you are critiqued and not criticised, you have nothing to prove to anyone except to yourself.

How often in your daily routine do have to answer to none except yourself? How many times a day do you end something a stronger, faster, more powerful version of you than when you started? When else do you get to shut the world out and focus on your own needs? Give yourself over to this time, this chance, and kick the rest of the world in to touch.

This is YOUR time. How dare anyone ruin it for YOU. Own it. Dominate it. Leave as a fitter person, on YOUR terms, than when you came in.

Rant over.

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 😉

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

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)

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!

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

 

Pistols in Turkey, Max Out at Home

Wake up with Determination

Go to Bed with Satisfaction.

Last week saw me traveling again, out to Turkey once more. Knowing the lack of gym, but abundance of space, I decided to make use of what was around and work on some of my weaknesses. As I mentioned in my last post, Handstand Push Ups and Pistols were on the menu. Both of these movements can be practiced anywhere and have considerable gymnastic, strength and agility benefit. However, I personally like to do them on top of a great hotel, overlooking a beautiful city.

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5 Rounds for Time:

  • 10 x Handstand Push Up (Strict)
  • 20 x Pistols (Single Legged Squats, Alternating)
  • 30 x Sit Ups

Time: 15:13 Rx

I really got the hang of pistols for the first time ever. The left leg is by far the most stable at the bottom but I got a good rhythm up; not fast but consistent. The Handstand Push Ups were unbroken for the first 2 rounds,7+3 in the third and then 5+5 and 5+3+2 for the final 2. All Sit Ups were unbroken.

And then a swim 😉

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Despite having fun out there, I didn’t get long and still only had 3 workouts last week. So, getting home I had to put in a bit of ‘catch up’ work. Again though, without being able to get to any equipment, it was a return to bodyweight work over the weekend.

  • Max Effort Push Ups (neither hands nor feet moved throughout, knees never touched the floor)
  • Max Effort Sit Ups (non stop, completely unbroken)
  • Max Effort Air Squats (non stop, completely unbroken)

115 / 300 + (I got bored) / 200+ (daughters got border)

That left me with a nice, relaxing Sunday before heading back to work.

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Monday

AM Snatch Work

20 mins to work to a 1RM

  • 5 x 45 / 45 / 50
  • 3 x 50 / 50 / 55
  • 2 x 60 / 60
  • 1 x 65
  • 1 x 70

After the confidence boost of last week’s Power Snatching, this was another. Ok, so 70kg isn’t a lot but 75kg is my 1RM and it was 0630hrs! Essentially, I’ve not become weaker over this year but have really increased engine. Superb.

PM CrossFit Watford

Strength

Strict Press 5/3/1

  • 5 x 60
  • 3 x 70
  • 1 x 75
  • F @ 80

Equaled my 1RM here. Content.

MetCon

In Pairs, For Time:

54 / 42 / 36 / 30 / 24 / 18 / 12 / 6

  • Thrusters @ 42.5kg
  • Over Bar Burpees

This is a pairs-version of a WOD that has come up twice in the Open. I completed the official version (half the numbers) in 19 mins first time, with considerable illness, and then 15 mins the second time. Doing this in pairs, and hitting 5 reps each time, was outstanding and allowed me to really keep up the pace. My partner struggled with lower back issues and it allowed me to add in a few extras too.

I tell you what….I’m as ready as I’m going to be and really looking forward to the Open!