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.


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.


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 😉


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?)


I LOVE Coaching! (and PRs) – Thurs 12 Oct

It hasn’t quite been the case for a while but this morning I leapt out of bed and in to my gear, buoyed by the impending class at CrossFit Watford. After last night’s awesome power play (92.5kg Overhead Squat 1RM, followed by 5 RFT: 20 x Med Ball Cleans, 10 x Push Press @ 50kg, 5 x Chest-to-Bar Pull Ups – 11:19 Rx), you’d think I’d be a little wary of firing my way in to another huge WOD so soon after. But I wasn’t in the WOD, I was taking it. Tuesday and Thursday 6AM classes are my chance to give something to the CrossFit Watford Dawn Patrol. On Tuesday, I wrote a small dit on the board as they walked in, “If 6am is the only time of the day to Workout, it’s the Best time of the day to Workout!”. I’ve said it many times before but if someone can motivate themself to push themself through a brutal S&C session at 6am then they deserve my respect; the least I can do is be positive, enthusiastic and on top of my game for them.

And so, it was down the hatch with the Costa Americano, stuffing a few jaffa oranges in to my mouth, and a sprint down to the car. The drive in is always the same, a little Radio 4 to catch the news and then a switch to Absolute Radio to wake me up. Getting in to the box before the athletes, I get to pick the music; (nearly) always some kind of power ballad / rock anthems – I grew up in the late 80s guy, what can I say?

There was a look of horror on the faces of the stars as they saw the board. 2 MetCons, a 21-minuter and a short sprint to the finish.


  • Row 12/10 Kcal
  • 50 x Double Unders
  • 10 x Burpees
  • 15 x Kettlebell Swings
  • 20 x Sit Ups
  • 25 x Air Squats
  • 10 x Squat Tuck Jumps


Depending on ability, there was enough time after each movement to get the breath back and really go for it in the next one. Having a workout like this is excellent for a coach because it gives us the chance to get around a lot of people with cues, tips, and (today none) no-reps 😉 Working the far end of the Anaerobic/Glycolytic pathway, and just about in to the Aerobic/Oxidative pathway, it also meant that there was enough in the tank for MetCon 2:


  • Wall Balls @ 9/6kg
  • Push Ups
  • Empty Bar Thrusters @ 20/15kg


You’d be forgiven for thinking that there would have been little appetite or intent to complete this after the first one. But you’d be wrong. They went for it. There is a quiet, brooding sense of sense of competition in the morning class but it is there nonetheless. Julie R knows it and you can see it on her face; when she knows she’s within sight of someone close to her, she really digs in and finds another gear. But this morning, it was Hannah vs Jessie that really made my morning. This morning Jessie was going for it. Powerful and strong, (and, as I’ve just found, a spinning instructor) Jessie took the lead from the outset. Hannah’s normal position is out in front so I knew she was not going to let this lie. Just one or two reps ahead at all times, Jessie hit the 9 Push Ups while Hannah still had about 5 Wall Balls remaining. Hannah clawed back 2 reps and Jessie started the Thrusters 3 ahead. Hannah put her foot on the gas and they completed their 9 Thrusters at exactly the same time! Boom! Fist Bumps all round! I love the morning class!

And, then it was my turn.

After last night’s was complete, Charlie said to me, “you’re gonna love tomorrow’s – get yourself a weight vest – it’s a Hero WOD – “RILEY””

We typically do weekday Hero WODs with a partner; this is because getting something like this in to a single session is often unworkable. With the late nights and darkness drawing in, you also don’t want people running around the streets en masse. So, for tonight, we amended it slightly to “Almost RILEY“:

  • 1 mile Run (800m each)
  • 150 x Burpees, between partners
  • 1 mile Run (full distance together)


Of course, I still did this with a 10kg weight vest. Teaming up with a Royal Navy Diver, called Tom, we completed the Split Jerk work first. My previous best for this was 115kg, and I have a video of it somewhere, which I was really pleased with. Tom is a big guy, and deadly strong. It was clear he was going to destroy whatever I put up; and so it proved. While I hit a new PR of 117.5kg (SMASH!), he went up to 150kg. The guy is STRONG. And then, on to “Almost RILEY”.

Weight vest on, he ran first, getting his 800m in around 4.5 mins. I headed off next, realising the weight vest wasn’t tightened properly and securing it en route. 3 mins 44secs – not bad. We did the burpees in 5s, non-stop, rapid. And then the 1 mile run (together). Despite him being immensely strong, I had the edge in the running. I got around the loop 2 mins ahead, waited for him on the line and we got back in to the box dead on 25 mins!

Teamwork. An immense day, inspired by the athletes in the morning class, and finishing with a new PR, meeting a new athlete, and feel pretty awesome. Boom.






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.  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.


Snatch Increase (not PR), Weighing My Food

Train Hard.

Eat Well.



The reason for Fitness: to be able to explore and enjoy as much of the world as possible, for as long as possible.

After a long and tortuous journey on Friday, it was a relief to get home for a weekend of just ‘family time’. Since early Dec, we have been with friends or family every weekend; this was the first opportunity in what felt like ages to just do our own thing. What a superb weekend it was too! From walking around Burrator Reservoir, to Scratch coding with our eldest, doing colouring-in (DC Super Heros colouring book for Christmas 😉 ), to an awesome family Sunday lunch (with leftovers today, thanks Mrs Nomad!!), it was excellent. I just had to get that in there 😀


Batman rest on Sunday with a Superman mug of coffee.

One thing I noticed over the weekend was that I am starting to get my abs back. Now, I’ve never had a six-pack and am unlikely to but I’m getting back in to the shape I was in during last Summer. I had set that target for the start of the CF Open in late Feb but I’m there now after 3 weeks of disciplined eating (for the most part anyway).  I’m now going to take this further and see how I pan out over the next few weeks. With that in mind, I’ve taken Mrs Nomad’s kitchen scales and will spend this week weighing my food so that I can actually see what I am eating – I’ve already noticed that some of my estimates over the last few weeks have been well off. By creating a little notebook of quantities, I’ll be able to gauge my intake better in future as I tweet my training and nutrition.

But on to this morning….



…it was COLD! It hit -4C as I was driving back last night and no doubt a little further down the slide over night. Walking to the gym for the morning Snatch session was not a pleasant stroll.

Morning Snatch Session

Chatting through my Friday frustrations with one of the CF Watford Coaches (Hat, cheers for the logic!), I decided to switch my programme around slightly so that my Snatch 1RM work is done on a Monday, leaving Wed and Fri for the technique / accessory work. This way, I am rested and more likely to get in to the 85% bracket.

And that’s what happened today. Despite struggling and failing to get beyond 60kg on Friday, I achieved 67.5kg today (90%). Ok, there were a few fails in there but that’s because I’ve been messing with my technique a little as I seek to keep that bar as close to the hips as possible without actually smacking it forward and away.

Evening CF Watford Session


3 x 5 Strict Press

60 / 65 / 67.5kg

My record is 70kg but I wasn’t able to get to that in the time this evening. It’s fine, I’m confident with upper body strength.


30min Partner WOD – one completes entire round while other rests.

  • 15 Cal Row
  • 12 x Clean & Jerk @ 42.5kg
  • 12 x Wall Balls @ 9kg
  • 12 x Toes to Bar

Total: 9 rounds + 28 reps. Between Tom and I, we completed 9 rounds. I completed 5 of those but only because I started first. Had  Tom started, I doubt I would have done so well; while I completed each set of 15 cals in under 40 secs, the C&Js slowed me down – first round unbroken, others were 6+3+3. Wall Balls were unbroken and TTB were 6+3+3 or 6+6. My grip strength really struggled but it wasn’t just that. My head wasn’t in it but I’m actually not too fussed by it at the moment. I know I’m in a strong place overall.


MyFitnessPal: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/diary/nomadcelt

Having listened to the very excellent “Eating for Strength” from Barbell Shrugged, I’ve tweaked my requirements a little to support strength and recovery.

  • 182g Carbs – green leafy vegetable carbs, on the whole.
  • 180g Protein – Lean Meat, Nuts, Seeds, Whey Powder to supplement.
  • 70-90g Fat – keeping it closer to the 70g mark while I lean down a little.

These numbers won’t be hit exactly and will require a little tuning over time. I am including more carbs late in the evening though in order to raise insulin, which leads to a drop and a subsequent drop in cortisol, which aids sleep.

More Newbies, Less Time. FGB-Style.

Every Pro was once a Amateur.

Every Expert was once a Beginner.

So Dream Big

And Start Now.


Morning Coaching Session.

I remember my very first thoughts this morning when my alarm went off, “people are relying on me to get out of bed. My fitness is in their hands.” Genuinely, in all seriousness, I actually thought that. It had quite an alarming effect on me and focused the urgency as I pulled on my kit, pressed “Start” on the Tassimo and raced out of the door to my beautiful Seat Leon “Stormy” (short for Stormtrooper as she does look like one from the front).
Getting set up in the box, I noticed a few new names on the sheet and was immediately worried to see 3 newcomers walk in to join the 1 regular. With Turkish Get Ups and Cleans in the WOD, I knew there was going to be a significant degree of ‘teach’ rather than ‘coach’; I hadn’t prepared for this and had to revisit my plan on the fly. Curtailing the warm up and using the movements themselves to warm the team up, we began breaking down the Turkish Get Up in to component parts, explaining the rationale and utility of the TGU. While 2 of the newcomers ‘got it’, 1 took longer than I’d intended – more work required by me to develop my coaching technique, I think.
The same was then true with the Clean; after teach/coaching it yesterday successfully, I’d hoped to follow the same pattern today. Alas, teaching military folk and teaching civilians does take a fundamentally different approach in many cases – today was one of those cases. Again, while 2 succeeded very quickly in getting a sufficiently safe movement pattern locked in for the upcoming WOD, 1 needs significantly more time. There’s no denying the effort put in at all, and I suspect the time of day was partly responsible, but there was only so much time I could devote to focusing on one person. I suggested substituting Front Squats in to WOD instead but found that they had ignored it and opted for some crazy attempts at Power Cleans instead, albeit at a very low weight – just how far can a coach go to say, “no, put that down and please do as I’ve suggested”? Especially as it’s not my box and if they take it badly, never to return, it’s not my pocket that it is hitting.
So, an interesting start to the day. BAGS of effort throughout but deeply frustrating for me as a coach not to have prepared correctly and not to have been able to address issues immediately.
We continue to learn.


CF Watford Evening Session


  • 4 x 100m Farmers’ Walk AHAP
  • super set 3 x 4 Turkish Get Ups AHAP

24/28/32 (x2 kettlebells) kg for the Farmers’ Walk.

3 x 4 TGUs at 20kg. 22 would have been manageable ‘just’ but 24 was too much.



5 Rounds of:

  • 1 min Row (cals)
  • 1 min Power Clean @ 65kg
  • 1 min Burpees
  • 1 min Rest

Score = total Reps+Cals = 203

That was tough. However, I knew from the outset that the power cleans would slow me down and so I went harder on the row, maintaining 21 on each round (22 on the last one). I achieved 6-7 power cleans on each round and then topped it off with burpees.



  • Breakfast: 75g Porridge Oats + 50g Dried Skimmed Milk Powder + 25g Whey Protein (I forgot to buy milk).
  • Snack: 15g Mixed Nuts
  • Lunch: 3 x Scrambled Eggs + 100g Chicken Breast + tonnes of leaves, a few tomatoes and a small beetroot.
  • Dinner:
  • Post-WOD: 25g Whey Protein + 25g Dried Skimmed Milk Powder

Wellness Update

I’d been having a lot of trouble sleeping; I listened to a Barbell Shrugged podcast that spoke about “Eating for Strength” and included the requirement to get some carbs in before bed. Ever since, I have added dried skimmed milk powder to my protein, adding carbs and casein. Since then….sleep!


The athlete’s most important tool.