During my prep for competition me and my other half kept our diet insanely clean. I like to increase my calories because of the amount of training that is involved but I like to get them calories from red meat, oily fish, potatoes, rice and, after an hour of met-cons (posh work for intense circuit training), a battle oats or a primal kitchen bar (they are AMAZING).
I was introduced to macronutrients through a personal trainer in London, Gordon Greenhorn (go check out his Facebook, it's quite amusing), as I had developed a bad relationship with food. I began cutting my calories between 800-1100 and could maintain that for a week or so and then would have a massive binge.
It sounds so corny. It sounds like I am just repeating the same old "motivating" lines that Pinterest gargles out. But there is something in it. Your fitness journey should be about YOU. No-one else.
Coming into the new year and having some time on my hands with the three days off work and i thought i would google crossfit with "womens fitness" and "womens health" to see what the commercial magazines were publishing about Crossfit.
Coming to the end of the year and we all begin to think of the year gone, what we have accomplished, review what we have succeeded and whether we haven't done enough.
Then come the thoughts as to what we want from next year and what kind of person we would like to be. It is only natural.
Staying on track in the winter is tough. It's grey, it's cold and every superstore pushes the big tins of sweets and chocolates in your face.
So it's a bit posey. But we had a few photographers down at our box to take pictures of "muscley people" and they snapped this. Originally it was me just chilling and then they poised it into a more camera friendly shot.
We all like to have that odd treat. Especially if we train/exercise a lot and don't always have the time to make/bake something that we can take on the go. But what got me about this Starbucks latte is 50 GRAMS OF SUGAR!!!! That's a huge amount to put in your body in one day let alone a single DRINK! Yes, you can grab this in the space of ten minutes. BUT.... on the right is a picture of chocolate brownies that all is required is mixing the ingredients in a bowl (will take 5 minutes) and can be left to bake for 20 minutes....you can even set a timer on your oven so once popped in you don't have to worry about it. Fridge for the week and you can snack on these throughout your week. No flavourings, no preservatives, no type 2 diabetes. It's not about depriving yourself, it's about changing some simple choices, saving yourself money, and after all, wouldn't it be better to eat your calories rather than slurp on them?
Below is the ingredients, makes 12 brownies and can be shared and enjoyed with family/friends.
Ingredients (makes 12):
2 ripe avocadoes, mashed
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon coffee grounds
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup coconut flour
What I love about this podcast is 4 burly men who lift heavy, covered in tattoos and big beards talking about the emotional side of training, lifting and competing. They speak about how to use arousal to your benefit, what can happen if you let that anger of a lift over-rule you (yep, break down and cry is one option). This is a hidden gem of a podcast.
We all read/hear about/talk about how to get "hench", how to improve our numbers on our lifts or sign up for courses to improve our movement patterns.
But what are we doing about these negative thoughts or that voice that screams "THIS IS HARD" half way through a WOD?
You may already use some of the methods that the barbell shrugged guys speak about in this podcast, without giving it much thought. But there are a lot of us that just drop that wall ball when that voice comes in, or let the bar roll off of your back when you hear that demon tell you its too heavy.
This is a good podcast to listen to when you're sitting chilling at home or driving to/from work. They discuss how to deal with them moments when you're mind gives up before you're body. How to use meditation, breathing to control your thoughts and visualisation, is it for everyone and how to do it.
For me, I could really relate to this. We are now seven weeks away from Battle of the Beasts and its going from a 300 person spectator seating to 1,200 person arena with top Crossfit Games and Commonwealth games attending. Pressure much?
Last year I qualified 6th and finished 9th (damn you bar muscle ups). This year I qualified 6th and am back to having that pressure on myself of, will I finish worst or better this year? I will be wearing the number 6 on my shirt all day. I hear all the time on a lead up to any competition "ah you will do really well. You are so strong." There are a lot stronger girls out there than me, girls that are better at gymnastics than me and girls that can move a lot quicker than me.
What can I do to make sure I leave everything on that floor? I have an experienced coach writing my programme, I train twice a day. I use my recovery and rest days wisely. I eat well, tracking my macros on a daily basis and ensure I get a lot of sleep (I do love a nap).
But what about the daily stressors? Relationships/ careers / money / pressure we put upon ourselves. This can ware down them positive vibes and a good training day in a second. So what about the days when life in general is going a little badly?
This is where mental strength is required. Release the negative thoughts and just live in the moment. One step. Two step. Three step…
Leading up to competitions and on competition day we all have that fight or flight response. Our arousal levels increase and adrenaline rises. I for one become just as aroused by a WOD that doesn't suit me as I do about a WOD that I know I will love and succeed in. My heart beats like its going to explode out of my chest, my hands, legs and feet shake (yep, all three all at once), I can't keep my concentration and I need the loo about 100 times beforehand.
I know I am not alone with this.
From this podcast post I came across a few little tricks that we can practise without taking any time out of our day.
1. Breathing - We all probably think we have this down. Been doing it all my life. Ive got this.
But when we get nervous/anxious/aroused our breathing changes and you might find it hard to concentrate. There might be a task coming up that scares the living daylights out of you OR that you can't wait to do. All of your focus is on that one thing.
To get your head back in the game……breath. Close your eyes, or keep your gaze on one object in the room. Take a deep breath through your mouth all the way through to your stomach, hold it for 5 seconds and release through your nose. Repeat this ten times and you'll be surprised how clear your mind becomes.
2. Visualisation - It may be a day when we have a training session planned with a buddy, or have a personal training session in which you know whats coming up that day. All of our focus is on what we suck at. We know that this is going to be our weakness. We know what we would LOVE to get it but can we really pull this out the bag?! You've tried breathing, you've tried distracting yourself with another task at hand. Nothing is working.
Now its time to bring your focus to it. Face it. Take a tea break and visualise 5 times the movement/workout. Visualise yourself doing it. This could be visualising through yourself as first person or visualising yourself from birds view, third person. Once you see it, visualise how it will feel. The bar on your back, your feet pounding the pavement, the feel of the air, is it cold or hot? The smell around you. The sounds around you. Hear the voice of your mate or your PT/coach.
Now visualise you completing the task. It could be you re-racking the bar. Stepping over the finish line. You're end goal.
Keep practising this and it will only be a matter of time that your goal becomes reality.
3. Meditation - Whilst you're travelling to work/on the train/sitting waiting for the kettle to boil. You could even take yourself to the loo at work and just have a little seat.
Download an app on your phone called Pranayama (so that you can focus on your breath), put your headphones in and practise for ten minutes just being in the moment. Let the thoughts come into your mind and then practise letting them go. If you begin to daydream bring your focus back to your breath and let the thought slide out of your mind. This takes practise and can feel a bit weird at first but it is great practise for when you come to training, or competition to let the negative thoughts come in and then release them. As if you are popping them with a pin. This practise will allow you to accept that we all have negative thoughts but it will also allow you to wash them away letting your focus come back to the task at hand.
4. Arousal - Yep, they make the same joke in this podcast. Its not about boobs or picturing anyone naked. Arousal is when we get "hepped up". That moment when we scream at the bar, slap ourselves round the face, have a little shake before we get going or sniff some salts. What they talk about in the podcast is when they are approaching a heavy lift, a hard workout or a competion how to release this arousal. Some people scream. Some have a little shout. And some don't have a clue how to deal with it so they burst into tears.
One possible way of dealing with it/or build up arousal is to get angry. Think of every single bad thing that can/has possibly happened to you, build up them emotions in your body and go for it.
For me personally this is the worst thing I can possibly do. I was recently told that I look like the world is against me when I train. I have a look as though what I am doing at that moment is the worst thing that I can possibly do and my workouts are the hardest out of everyones. Unfortunately (for me) that is just my look. As I am training I am actually thinking about winning. Winning against myself. Being the best. How much I love it. And how bloody good I am at it. At the END of my training reality checks in and I know there are things for me to work on. But what triggers me to perform my best is in that moment BELIEVING IN MYSELF and POSITIVITY. If I become angry or think that the world actually is against me then I have a wave of "just stop" and the thoughts of quitting and hibernating underneath my duvet with a big fat cake just doesn't let me be.
If I am doing a heavy lift I actually like to let that thought of "you can't do this" come in so that I can scream back at it (in my head) "YES I BLOOMING CAN" (in so many words) and prove it wrong. I win.
My favourite ever quote is from a lifter called Donny Shankle, who said to lift a bar off the floor "like you are ripping a lions head off". No anger, no negative thoughts (anger is an emotion after all and can create people to make some bad decisions). It is more of an aggression and a visualisation that you are the best. Because I bet ya in real life you wouldn't actually win against a lion with your bare hands.
So whether it be anger, positive thinking or having a scream, make sure and practise how to use that arousal to your benefit so that you are not the dude in the corner having a little cry and rocking yourself back to comfort.
5. Have a laugh - I think this is a nice final point. This doesn't take too much practise but is just nice to remember every now and then. DON'T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY.
You messed up at competition and you were the last person or didn't even get to finish the workout? I've been there. Don't leave the floor embarrassed or upset. Just laugh at yourself. A weakness has been highlighted. As long as these mistakes aren't injuring you then you should be able to have a giggle and take the mickey out of yourself. Ive fallen over during lifting, right on my bum and bounced a little. Yes, it hurts but only a little bruise. More than anything I wish that I had filmed the lift so that I could watch it back and put it on instagram (I am more impressed that all them squats have made my butt bounce-able ha ha).
If you mess things up or have a bad day, find a way of laughing at it and finding that positive spin. It might not be right after the moment but it will and should come. Life is for living and laughing.
Having worked in a box for nearly two years, I have seen many individuals come in, sign up for membership and have taken them on their journey through foundation and the daunting experience of joining in on classes. When taking a taster session you can screen people's movements by doing the most simple of warm ups. Rowing, air squats and some bear crawl walk outs. Right there, the tight hips, hunched backs, tight ankles and weak joints/muscles are shown. I know as a coach I get excited when someone comes in for a taster and they automatically move just how I would like them to. But I also love to see people who come in, can't co-ordinate a lunge for toffee and then 6 weeks later I see them in a class hitting a run, Wallball and Kettlebell WOD like they've been doing it for months. Watching individuals overcome obstacles and improve their fitness is an awesome feeling and it is one of the reasons I love my job.
However, we sell CrossFit as though it is for every individual and anyone can rock up and do it. Is this true?
Whilst the foundation course teaches people to squat, to press over head, to power clean and to power snatch, it is all being done in the course of a week and in three sessions. Can your average Joe who has never lifted a weight before be trusted to move safely in 2 weeks when power snatch and toes to bar comes up in a class?
What about when a box programmes Elizabeth (21-15-9 squat cleans and ring dips) as the WOD?
What are we, as coaches, doing to help sell CrossFit as "fit for all"? Is there a progression out there for everyone?
I am a firm believer that is up to the coaches to assist members to move safely and efficiently. If an individual can't do a deadlift from the floor, what is stopping a coach to raise that bar on plates so they are lifting it from hang? Or to use KB instead of a barbell?
Can't do a ring dip? Let's do some push ups.
Can't do pull ups? Ditch swinging with a band and just do some ring or bar rows.
There are lots of ways to ensure people get a good workout without getting them injured or have them swinging on apparatus.
I used to be against Crossfit and what it has to offer. The names of the exercises, kipping, WODs (what the hell is that?), seeing some bad form videos online. It can all be very easy to hate upon and dislike.
But in actual fact, CrossFit is nothing that new.
Yes, it has some heavy exercises to move at high intensity but come on, we all have the common sense to say and know, "hey, that weight is too heavy for me to move for 2 reps, let alone 10. I'm going to scale the weight to what I can do for 10".
If you don't know what the ideal weight for you to use is, grab a coach. Have them look at your movements and let them help you decide. My problem with CrossFit is not the individuals/members. I'm sure if I walked into a chefs kitchen I would need to be told quantities and what ingredients goes with what.
It is down to the coach to be sensible, have that individuals best interest and health at heart and want members to improve in a safe manner at a steady pace.
However, what if you feel you know best? There is a lot to say about listening to the qualified coach and appreciate what they are being told. If you don't listen and you bulge a disc, that's on you.
It has nothing to do with CrossFit.
We have all seen "that guy" down the gym looking as though he is going to rip his spleen. I have worked in a few commercial gyms in my time and I have been that member of staff to tell someone they need to drop the weight. Yeh, it might be a big factor that they are being told this by a girl but I have had a fair few looks of "what the hell do you know?!" And they carry on. In them gyms I have been informed to let the guy carry on.
CrossFit is the only place I have worked where, when this situation has occurred I have been backed up by my team and they have helped me out. To the point where it can be stepping on someone's bar and telling them to deload their bar to a lighter weight.
CrossFit is only dangerous if the owner of the box or the coaching staff aren't stern and strict enough with movements. Yes, the foundation is a quick by-pass through the movements. But the foundation is there to learn the BASICS. After that, you come to classes and use a training bar until you are confident and/or strong enough to use a bar. The coaches advise, go through the drills of the movements at the beginning of the class and ensure each member is moving well. Most boxes you will go to will have a maximum number of members per class. This is for safety and to ensure we can keep an eye on everyone.
There are additional beginners gymnastics and Olympic lifting classes to re-run those harder movements and PRACTISE. How did anyone get to move their body a certain way or learn a new movement? They practised.
They put the time and effort in and listened to what they were being told.
Additionally to this is the programme provided by boxes. What I love about Crossfit Colchester is WE programme for the box. As a team we discuss how the members are moving, what needs to be improved and then we have a knowledgable coach and athlete programme around this. It's very hard to programme for a team of members but most people need to work on squats, most people need to improve their upper body strength and most people need to just move and get a bit sweaty.
The videos you see around the Internet of people butterfly pull ups, muscle ups, handstand walking, handstand push ups. Yes, this is CrossFit but it's also the top end. No boxes (I hope) try and teach new members what you see at the CrossFit Games. It's about getting people to move in a fun and lively atmosphere.
So is Crossfit for everyone? That depends on whether you are willing to listen to what you are being told and make sure that you have chosen a box that CARES. If you can walk out of a class and have learnt one new thing then you know you are being coached. Not just taken through a crash course of injury.
Still not convinced? Book in for a taster session and see for yourselves what CrossFit is REALLY about and how it can be part of your life. Make the decision for yourself.
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