Can CrossFit prepare you for a true endurance event:
After my lastest blog on the CFT programming I thought I’d really put the program to the test and use it for my prep for Man vs Mountain, a 20 mile race (well turned out to be 22 miles) starting at sea level, reaching the peak of Snowdon and back down into a natural obstacle course.
After seeing some CrossFit’s all time greats struggle at endurance events such as Jason Khalipa collapsing during the hill run in 2009, Chris Spealler cramping up during a triathlon type event in 2012, Rich Froning walking on the run during the triple 3 event in 2014 and Annie Thoisdottir reaching complete fatigue during ‘Murph’ leading to her pulling out of the competition in 2015 I was very interested in seeing how this turned out.
Therefore in preparation I would use CrossFit training similar to the CFT programming plus 1 run per week, this would mean in the 10 weeks prior to the race I would only do 1x 5-10 mile run per week along side the odd 400m runs found in typical wods.
At the start line in the picturesque settings of Caernarfon castle I was not worried about the distance or the challenge ahead of me. I had packed a backpack with more than the required kit but I wanted to challenge myself with a little weight and to carry everything I needed to survive a weekend on the mountain if needed making it more of a functional challenge.
As we set off I didn’t rush and the plan was to slowly pick off other racers and to try and gradually catch the previous heats that left 15 & 30 minutes ahead of me so that I always had someone to chase. This started out to be a very good tactic, I didn’t race too hard and constantly passing people gave me the motivation to keep going. The first few road miles settled me into the race and I was feeling good. During this section a few racing snakes passed me at a very quick pace and I decided to let them go as I didn’t want to burn out too early and I was happy with where I was as I had already caught the tail end of the previous heat. Then we moved onto cross country section still working uphill but I got caught out by the odd down hill and found myself to be quite slow on these sections. I soon reached the first check point at 8 miles which came round very quick which was a good confidence booster. My legs felt strong and cardio wise I was fine. Plus we got given cookies at the station something that I think they should bring in to all races whether they are needed or not. Over the race there were a number of check points with refreshments which really helped and kept the racers energy levels ups.
After the 8 mile check point we were onto the mountain stage and soon we were working up the mountain. I found doing intervals of running and speed marching worked well. The running burned my quads and the marching my hamstrings so alternating seemed to be the most suitable option. I also found using this method I started to pass some of the racing snakes who passed me earlier though a couple of really quick racers were long gone. As I approached the steepest sections I could see the first heats snaking in single file up the mountain, everyone was walking the section ahead of me and I was soon to find out why.
As I attacked the steep rocky incline I was immediately down to a walking pace due to the gradient. Stepping up the rocks was hard both physically and mentally as I couldn’t switch off due to risk of tripping. Trying to find the best route seemed to be everyone’s agenda as we weaved up the craveses. I chose to step up high rocks giving me as much distance as possible with each step while others chose to wind around them on the loose gravel. I remember looking up at one stage and being taken back by the scenery and even more so that I had not noticed it for the last hour with my eyes being glued to the ground concentrating on my footing. I felt that the CrossFit training had given me an advantage on these steeper sections as stepping up the rocks felt similar to weighted lunges and I found it quite easy to pass other racers. Eventually the peak of Snowdon was in sight and we made our way onto a more track like terrain. We were over 10 miles in now which was further than any of my previous runs. Still feeling strong I re-started my run/walk intervals though I was surprised I couldn’t run further on them as a few years ago I had run all the way up Snowdon form the bottom, though it was a different route and I hadn’t run over 10 miles to get there.
Towards the peak I had my first signs of difficulty when my right quad muscles felt like they were close to cramping. My legs were in new territory now on both distance and gradients I had climbed from recent years training. As I made the peak I was very pleased with the race so far and the training had definitely prepared me for the 13 mile up hill section placing 64th fastest to the peak out of over 1200 runners.
With my first step down I knew this success would soon turn the other way. With every step on my right leg the tear drop muscle just above my knee would cramp. I eventually had to revert to walking down which for a while didn’t seem too bad until floods of people started passing me. I tried to run, now around 14/15 miles in but this brought the cramps on and I had to stop and stretch numerous times. The cramps were spreading to all over both thighs preventing me from stretching properly. If I stretched my quads my hamstrings cramped and if I stretched my hamstrings my quads went. The only relief I could find was sitting in a very deep squat. But it was the tear drops muscles which affected me the most and were preventing me from running. The race now became about finishing and not performing well. Having the public cheering us on as we descended helped keep me upbeat but it was very hard not to notice how many places I had now lost. Eventually I reached the 17 mile check point, a big relief. The last section had taken its toll and I was very pleased to reach this point. I decided to stop at this point to drink plenty of electrolytes which were on offer and sit in a deep squat to stretch for a full 5 minutes. This would waste almost 10 minutes in total but at least it would get me round the course. I noticed a huge amount of salt on my clothing from my sweat which wasn’t a good sign but explained the cramping. In future I will ensure to replace these and I possibly had been drinking too much water which I think it could of washed the salts out of me giving me the cramps. A valuable lesson learned for future events including CrossFit events.
The stop & electrolytes had worked and I was back to running and even overtaking again. I made my way along the now quite flat terrain (in comparison to the last 8 miles) and I knew there wasn’t long to go now, just a few more miles. As I reached the bottom of Snowdon there was a bag drop due to having water obstacles and abseiling ahead of us. As I dropped my bag in the pile I immediately sped off getting me passed a group who stopped to drink the last of their water. I didn’t think the weight of my bag was much until I reached this point but it felt great to loose it and I definitely picked up pace once it was gone. I reached the next check point and I was now to climb the ‘vertical KM’, a series of steps and cable kart tracks that were steeper then any of the previous terrain. I felt really good on this section and again pulled out not a bad performance being 62nd fastest over the vertical KM though this didn’t really matter as from the top of Snowdon to mile 17 check point I was about 600th. The vertical KM took it out of me and I once again started to cramp within half a mile of completing it and I was also starting to feel drained at this point. Again I started to be overtaken and found myself running large sections on my own working through downhill woodland trails. This was mentally the hardest section but knowing I couldn’t have more than 3 miles to go I wasn’t in doubt of finishing it. I eventually reached the abseil and as I got ready I sneaked in another squat stretch which was needed.
It’s been a long time since I had abseiled and as I looked over the old railway bridge which I was about to descend the height didn’t seem to bother or even register. I moved quite swiftly down the brickwork until I suddenly had no bricks to put my feet on and I had swung straight into the tunnel of the bridge, that will teach me for trying to go fast. At the bottom I unhooked and I must say very slowly made my way to the water section. Before the race started this was the bit I was most looking forward to but as I approached the ‘jump’, a wooden plank reaching out over the water for us to jump off, this soon changed as I saw multiple people cramping up as they hit the water and I thought that this was my most likely outcome. I quickly made my way passed a couple of men making a meal out of jumping off and launched myself of the plank. I found the water refreshing and it was great fun. I swam purely using my arms with no leg movement to prevent cramping up. I then had to swim down about 2ft and through a square hole in a cage that was in the water to reach the shore. Again this was fun and I passed another racer who was making a meal out of it.
On leaving the water I felt good and I breezed through the next couple of water features such as climbing over inflatables and swimming under them. During this section I heard a scream for help from another racer. I swam over and thankfully it was just cramp, I looked at his calf and it was cramping so bad that it looked like a walnut. Cramping seemed to be the biggest obstacle for most runners at this stage. I quickly stretched it off for him on one of the inflatables and then carried on. As I reached the final water feature, just a swim across a river I could see the finish line 200m from the bank with only a few obstacles in front of it. There was a group in the water only a quarter of the way across and they were moving slow. I saw my chance for a bit of redemption and dived in. I front crawled as fast as I could passed them beating them out of the water but the race was on as 2 of them soon passed me again on the final run in. As they reached the first wall obstacle of around 7ft one of the racers who just overtook me had failed his first attempt to get over and the other was slow climbing over it. Thanks to the amount of pull ups and muscle ups we do I flew over the first wall to over take one of the 2 and I reached the next wall at the same time as the other. Whilst tackling the 2nd and 3rd wall type obstacles I left him behind and crossed the finish line in just under 4hrs 50mins. This placed me 179th out of 1212 runners. Not a bad placing but not where I wanted especially for running a large amount of the race well within the top 100.
So did my training prepare for the event. Well yes I finished what I considered to be a proper endurance event but and this is a big but, I did not finish as well as I think I could have with a different approach and I fell to the same fate as my CrossFit Hero’s had in previous events. I believe running and endurance work to be one of the most functional things we should do and would argue this is more functional than the strength levels required to compete at a high level in CrossFit competitions. However if you are just looking to improve all round fitness this can be very easy to achieve by simply just adding or swapping in more endurance work. I think just by adding 1 more run per week focusing on hill running then I would have performed a lot better, placed higher and still would not have sacrificed my performances in other areas. Yes I might have lost a few more reps on my pull ups or a few kilos on my deadlift but I would easily be able to pick these back up with a little extra training on them. That’s the great thing about CrossFit, you can tailor it how you want as it is literally anything, and as long as you don’t stray too far from the core elements you will always be able to perform well in all areas. This brings me onto my next blog which will be on what I think was my biggest mistake in my training and that was specalising.
So to summarise yes CrossFit training can prepare you for an endurance event as long as you include a suitable amount of endurance work in it and if you focus purely on the competition side of CrossFit, particularly chasing big lifts then your endurance and long distance capabilities will most likely suffer.
I often get asked by people what’s the best program to follow to get better at CrossFit. There are a lot of good programs out there but it seems that many people try to mix match a few of these together to create a super CrossFit program ie. they do the smolov squat cycle with the gymnastic wod skills and some of the CrossFit main site met cons. The trouble with this is that although individually they are all good programs they are not designed to go with each other and therefore you would not be following any of these programs as you are not following the correct protocol for them, in particular the allocated rest. This type of training almost always leads to over training and with that injuries and generally no progress or even a decrease in performance.
Then you may find people being a bit clever with them so they do 2 days smolov, 2 days gymnastic wod and 2 met cons of their choice. With this you end up so far from the actual original programs your not doing them at all and again generally no progress. I also find people will only pick the met cons that they like and do not always work on what they need to.
Another point with any online program made for the masses is it has a flaw as the coach never sees you train or has no feedback of how you are getting on. How will they know what areas need a little more work, what is working etc.
So when people ask me what to do to get better at CrossFit I always say follow the CFT program, it’s aimed for CrossFit, it’s watched & programmed by a coach who sees you and you have a whole gyms worth of people to compare your self to so you know where you stand.
The CFT program is always designed to get the best results for CrossFit with a compromise on making it so that everyone gets the benefit no matter which day or how many times they train. Ideally for a training cycle I would program Mon=strength 1, Tues=strength 2 Wed=met con day etc… but this way those who can only make Tuesdays & Wednesdays would never get to do Strength 1 so I rotate the format.
The CFT program had always been based around my training and what I found to work. This was easy for me to know it was working before as I was competing using it with reasonable success and therefore I knew the training was working. But now I haven’t competed properly for almost 2 years I thought I’d better practice what I preach and test the program I was recommending.
The challenge, I was to attend 5 of the 6 CFT programmed workouts each week for 6 weeks. I chose 5 as I believe most people need 2 rest days per week for the best improvements and from looking back at my training over the years I was always better training 5 days per week rather than 6. I could not do any strength or CrossFit training outside of the program but I could do a 10 mile run & a swim each week due to running ‘Man vs Mountain’ in September which I had to keep the miles in my legs for. I also attended 1 grappling class per week, part of CrossFit is to take part in sports with grappling being my favorite one. This did mean that I had to do some some double training days.
Previous to the 6 weeks I had done a month of Olympic weightlifting, grappling and cherry picked met cons I liked the look of. Before that I was running but had stopped for a few weeks as I felt I had to get my WL numbers back up for the Lifting League.
To check my fitness I set my self 2 met cons to do at the start of the 6 weeks and at the end to check my progress, these were the CrossFit benchmark wod ‘Angie’ and a heavy deadlift, burpee wod. I also checked a couple of strength tests on top of the keeping track of my strength scores on the strength cycle we were doing.
So how did it go:
Well in ‘Angie’ (100 pull ups, 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 air squats) I saw a huge improvement dropping 2 mins 30 secs off my time before the 6 weeks. My muscular endurance had greatly improved over the 6 weeks and I was able to do much larger sets on the exercises.
The deadlift burpee wod:
Still to be retested, will update soon.
Some other improvment on the 6 week strength cycle:
Max – Deficit HSPU/Strict/Kipping, 2 mins rest between
week 1: 8 / 12 / 28.
Final week: 10 / 16 / 38.
week 1: 80 / 85 / 85 / 85 / 85, 2 misses and had to drop between reps.
Final week: 85 / 85 / 87.5 / 87.5 / 90, all T&G and no misses.
Clean complex 6×1 (C.Pull+H.C+C&J)
week 1: 100 / 105 / 110 / 110 / 105 / 100, These were tough and I had drop and rest 5 secs between reps. I missed both jerks at 110.
Final week: 100 / 105 / 110 / 112.5 / 105 / 100, All T&G reps with no misses.
OH squat 5rm
Week 1 i just about squeezed out 5 reps at 100kg from the racks. I then decided I would stay at this weight but go straight into the 5rm from the last set on the clean complex (above) straight into the 5rm as it was already above my head. I started this on week 2 and only got 3 reps at 100kg. Week 4 (missed this workout week 3) I got 4 reps and on the 5th week (missed this workout in the final week) I got the 5 reps straight from the complex which I was happy with.
Deadlift 10rm T&G
I really struggled with the deadlifts on the test session at the start of the 6 weeks. This surprised me and I was glad to start working on these again. In the test met con I failed to do 10 reps at 140kg so this was going to be my start point.
Week 1: 140kg
Week 5: 160kg
I did this by simply adding 5kg on the previous weeks 10rm and this always felt manageable.
As you can see all of these have had good improvements which I was very happy with. So what didn’t improve?
My 1rm front & back squats, these pretty much stayed the same. I was worried these had not improved as I had missed both the heavy leg day and weight lifting day twice which could of left my legs behind. Another factor could of been reintroducing the running as this greatly affects strength. Anyway my Back squat was 170 at the start and on week 6 I got 167.5kg quite comfortably but failed 172.5kg.
The good thing about this is that it’s all recorded so I know that the last strength cycle did not have enough squatting so I’ve added more to the next cycle. CrossFit is a bit like spinning plates, a plate slows down but you spin it again before it falls off, when that plate is fine you have to go back to another one before that one falls off and so on. As long as most are spinning well and none have fallen off your doing fine but you have to keep going back and forth to keep on top of them all. This is eactly the same for the exercises we do. My squat slowed but everything else is fine so I concentrate on my squat and in 6 weeks I look at what next needs work.
I also felt my overhead strength had not changed much which I feel was down to not having enough heavy push presses and similar exercises in the last 6 weeks strength work.
Overall there was a very good outcome improving in most areas. I did find the volume a lot especially with the added non crossfit activities which I do feel held back my strength a little. I did end up having to do only 4 CFT work outs on week 3 & 6 due to this and feeling over-trained. Giles Greenwood (Commonwealth medalist) once said to me better to be at 95% of your best and under-train a little than over-train and plummet to 70% or get injured, some very wise words.
So the next cycle will include a little more strength particularly squats and overhead movements and we’ll see what that brings.
Follow on from James Miller at msk health clinic:
Lower back pain: Management and Prevention
Some of you may have read my previous blog about how to manage acute injuries. As many of you have been completing the Open 14.3 workout I thought it might be a good idea to write an article about lower back pain.
Lower back pain is extremely common, not just amongst the CrossFit community but in the general population. Lower back pain accounts for one of the top two visits to the doctors and makes up for 40% of all missed days at work.
The spine is an incredible part of the body made up of many nerves, muscles, ligaments, bones, and tendons. Most of the time they all work in harmony providing us with support and enabling us to move in all directions, occasionally though it can get upset and when this happen it can be very painful and limit our daily activities. What can make it more frustrating is that the pain may come and go and the pain can vary in severity.
At the outset of this article it is important to raise awareness that whilst 98% of the time the pain is mechanical back pain (i.e coming from the muscles, ligaments, bones etc) the other 2% of the time there maybe something serious going on. For the sake of this article we will group lower back pain into mechanical and leg dominant lower back pain.
Mechanical lower back pain is when the pain and symptoms can be felt predominantly in the back, occasionally this pain may also radiate into other areas such as the back of the legs, the hips or into other areas of the back.
Typically the pain is made worse or eased when you move into certain positions such as arching your back or bending forwards to put socks on. The pain may also come and go and patients often say they feel it as a dull ache. The pain may feel worse after long periods of sitting in the same position. It may not always seem like it but this type of back pain can be viewed as a good thing because it is likely that no damage to the nerves of spinal cord is present.
The second type of lower back pain is when leg pain is more dominant than the lower back. The two most common causes are disc problems and neurogenic claudication.
Disc problems occur when the disc puts pressure on the nerves in the spine causing the pain to be referred into the legs something which is often called sciatica. This type of pain is often constant but it can feel better when you lie down. Pain is still present in the back but this time the pain in the legs is dominant. Sciatica pain can often go away without any intervention over a few weeks but it is a good idea to speak to us if you are experiencing sciatica.
Neurogenic lower back pain is less common, typically it affects people over 60. The pain can be present anywhere in the legs and comes on when standing, walking or running. Relief can be gained by sitting or bending forward. Patients often describe a gradual worsening or heaviness in the legs which eventually causes them to stop.
Before we move on it is useful to review some of the red flags associated with lower back pain. Red flags are signs that you require further medical investigation
• A sudden change in bowel or bladder functions (although not always the case it is commonly a loss of bowel control or urinary retention) with numbness around the groin, buttocks and rectal area. This is a medical emergency and you should go to A&E for attention.
• Signs of infection are present: Prolonged fever, you have a weakened immune system or an IV drug user, unexplained weight loss.
• Signs a fracture maybe present: A recent big fall, history of osteoporosis, been involved in a recent car crash.
• Cancer: You have a previous history of cancer particularly prostate, breast, or lung. The pain is constant with no position of ease lasting weeks and is especially worse lying down or at night. Unexplained weight loss.
• Inflammatory disease: Night pain, morning stiffness lasting over 1 hour, easier with movement/exercise and worse after rest
This is not an exhaustive list and if you are concerned then please do seek advice from a healthcare professional.
We also use yellow flags, these are used to help identify or predict when acute lower back pain is becoming chronic.
• Flag 1 – Belief back pain is harmful or disabling
• Flag 2- Fear and avoidance of activity or exercise because of back pain
• Flag 3 – Low mood and isolation
• Flag 4 – Expectation that passive treatment rather than active will help. This is when the patient expects the therapist to do all the work.
If you notice that you may these flags may apply to you then it is worth consulting with us so we can help build a program to assist you in your recovery.
So why do so many of us get pain in the lower back?
The pelvis is located between the spine and the hips and many muscles cross those 3 joint areas. It is possible that when an imbalance is created for example in the hamstrings, glutes or lumbar muscles they create overload at the lumbar spine, pelvis, or hips. When overload is sustained for a long period of time and the movement through the pelvis region is not optimal the overloading through the lumbar spine may create pain.
Many people have sedentary lifestyles and even active people who work out or exercise 4-6 times a week have jobs that require sitting for many hours during the day. This can mean muscles become deconditioned and adaptively shortened.
Lack of recovery or rest may also contribute to pain, this is not just limited to the lower back but anywhere in the body, we have a certain ability to compensate but when the body becomes overloaded with stress it may manifest itself in pain in an area such as the lumbar spine.
It may be that a problem further away from the lumbar spine such as the thorax or the knees may create compensation in other areas of the body and again over load the lumbar spine.
Poor form and movement during workouts may also create the overload. Often with workouts such as 14.3 you start out with good intentions and good form but as you race against the clock and fatigue starts to kick in it becomes harder and harder to maintain good form.
14.3 was especially difficult because not only did the reps increase each round but so did the weight. It was a double edged sword. Once you add in the box jumps which require some explosive power the legs really become drained, so now you have really tired legs, heavy weights to shift, and a race against time. Because the legs are no longer working optimally the form drops off in the
deadlift and so the lumbar spine takes a lot more of the load and the potential to develop lower back pain or an injury increase.
How can lower back pain be avoided?
Sometimes injury is unavoidable it happens to everyone at some point during training or competition however, certain things can be done in order to lower the risks.
Technique: if you are not sure you have the right technique of you struggle with a particular part of your form during a movement then revisit the basics and ask one of the coaches to go over it with you. Being able to execute movements with good technique will become automatic and this will help with exercises such as 14.3. It is important to remember that movement is a skill learning new
movements is not always easy and we need to be smart about it and always return to the basics not just keep going harder and harder.
Kelly Starretts book Becoming a supple leopard is very good for providing ques and tips for techniques so if you have a copy it is worth going over those chapters. If you don’t have a copy and would like a summary for a particular movement contact me and I will be happy to provide a summary.
Get plenty of variation in your workouts. This is something I mentioned in my previous article as being something CrossFit is very good at. Mixing up the primary movement patterns of squatting, lunging, twisting, pulling, pushing, and bending is important to help avoid injury and lower back pain.
If you do spend long hours sitting either at home, work, or in the car then try to shift your position frequently, it doesn’t have to be big shifts as little movements will change the load on a specific area and help to spread it. One idea that can help is to roll up a small towel and place it in the curve of the lumbar spine and then to move it around every 10 -20 mins. Alternatively you can stick post it notes to remind you to get up or even set a timer.
Everyone tends to be quite good at performing stretches and mobility exercises after a workout but trying to build them into a daily routine even on rest days may prove to be beneficial.
One of the best exercises is to sit in the deep squat position. If you are unsure about how to achieve this or have some difficulty getting in the position ask one of the coaches or contact me and we will be happy to help.
It can be quite difficult at first but with a little bit of persistence it does become more comfortable. Start by setting a timer and trying to see how long you can stay in position, then try to build it up and try to reach 30 minutes. This can be doing whilst on the laptop, watching tv, making a phone call. If you can’t get to 30 minutes in one sitting beak it up over the day into 10 mins chunks. What sitting in the deep squat does is really stretch out the joints and muscles in the lower back and patients have
found it very effective.
Stretching the psoas: This stretch is one patients find helps them to relieve tension in the lower back and also to stretch out the hips after sitting for long period.
To do this kneel in a lunge position. Once in this position allow yourself to move forward slowly until you can feel a stretch in the top of the leg/groin region. Try not to arch the back and over extend as this may be uncomfortable. Hold for 15-20 seconds and
switch to the other side. Repeat each side 3 or 4 times
Be patient with these exercises, they are not quick fixes; it often takes a while before the pain becomes apparent so it can take a little time to reverse it. Once again the advice and exercises are not exhaustive and a more tailored and detailed approach can be provided.
This article is not set out to replace any medical advice or to prevent you from seeking help. If do have lower back pain and have concerns or worries then please do contact us and we will be happy to advise you.
We do not charge an additional fee for an initial assessment and we offer members of Tonbridge CrossFit a £5 discount
For further information about our clinic please see:
Phone: 01732 758883
Guest Blog from James Miller, owner and practitioner of msk health clinic:
Managing Acute Injury
My name is James and I am an osteopath and owner of msk health clinic in Tonbridge. I have treated a few CFT members for various injuries and wanted to put a blog article together covering acute injuries and how to manage them.
Before I start it is important to remember the information provided in this blog article is not to be taken as or replace any medical advice. If you are concerned or have doubts about your injury then please do get checked out by a health professional.
Acute injury can be defined in various ways but for the purposes of this article I am referring to injuries that are normally quick in onset and occur as a result of an impact or trauma to a specific area of the body.
To go over every potential injury individually would be too time consuming for this introductory article, instead I will provide 2 acronyms that can be applied in some measure to most injuries and will hopefully be useful in the management of an injury.
The first acronym forms a number of things you should avoid doing in the first 72 hours after sustaining an injury. It is HARM and stands for Heat Alcohol Re-injury Massage.
Heat – Applying heat to an injured area may increase dilation of blood vessels which in turn may increase bleeding and swelling to the local area
Alcohol – Drinking alcohol may also increase bleeding and can delay the start of recovery process
Re-injury – Going out and exercising heavily within 72 hours of injury may cause further damage
Massage – As with heat and alcohol massage may increase the bleeding or swelling so avoid massaging the area of injury directly.
Now that we have identified the things you should avoid in the first 72 hours following injury the second acronym will explain what you should do. Most of you will have heard or RICE or PRICE. RICE stands for Rest Ice Compression Elevation and that then progressed to PRICE Protect Rest Ice Compression Elevation. However following research in 2012 it has now been updated to POLICE which stands for Protect Optimal Loading Ice Compression Elevation.
Protection – Protection goes alongside optimal loading (see second paragraph) but you should be careful and protect the injury as it heals by not over loading it or by putting excessive movement through it.
Optimal Loading – This has replaced rest in the process. While rest may be helpful in the very short term continued rest can actually make an injury worse, this is because the tissues surrounding the injury may become deconditioned. Optimal loading will help to stimulate the area and therefore aid the healing process.
Optimal really does mean optimal though and you should try not to over load the injured area, as a rule little and frequent amounts of loading are better than just doing a large amount of loading for a long period of time.
Finding the balance will really depend on the severity of the injury, if you are in doubt about how much you should be loading an injury then ask a qualified health professional.
Ice – Icing has always been one of the first things people do when they are injured. However research into the use of ice for swelling is quite inconclusive and really lacks in terms of how it should be used.
We do still advocate the use of ice following an acute injury as it may help prevent over swelling of the area and reduce pain.
Application of ice:
Do not place ice directly onto the skin as this can cause ice burns. Wrap the ice pack/peas in a tea towel or other cloth before placing onto the skin.
Do not place ice on an open wound.
Duration: 10-20 minutes is long enough and this should be performed 2-3 times for the first 5-7 days.
You should stop applying ice if you suffer any adverse effects such as an increase in pain or the swelling.
Compression – Compression can help to manage the swelling.
When applying the Strapping or bandage to the injury site it should feel compressed but not be uncomfortable or painful, good circulation should always be present to the extremities.
The bandage can be removed at night for comfort during sleep.
Elevation – This is particularly useful for injuries to the extremities such as a twisted/sprained ankle and can be used to manage swelling and pain of the injured site.
Sustaining an injury can be a worrying and frustrating time. It leads to questions about how long it will be before you can train or compete again and may mean the goals you have set yourself seem further away than ever.
Try not to worry (easier said than done) because with nearly all musculoskeletal injuries the healing time is 6-8 weeks and treatment can still be effective beyond that time.
Follow the POLICE protocol
See a professional health care practitioner
Perform rehabilitation exercises
Eat and sleep well
Obviously the best thing is to prevent an injury from occurring in the first place. Quite often however that is not always possible as many factors may lead to an injury. Athletes try many different things to try and stay injury free such as massage, stretching, core workouts, foam rollers, and whilst research is not very supportive of many methods athletes do still get benefits from them, the problem is which method to use because it is difficult to do them all.
One area that does have some support is to change your intensity gradually and to also have plenty of variety in the exercises you perform.
This may sound a bit simple and it is really. It can be very tempting to keep pushing in every training session but the musculoskeletal system (muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments) takes a while to adapt so it is important to bear this in mind and give it the time it needs to fully adapt.
Including plenty of variety in your exercises is important too and this is something that CrossFit is very good at. Make sure each session covers different intensities, planes of movement and multi joint exercises.
Finally, get adequate amounts of rest, if you have been working hard for 6-8 weeks with multiple training sessions then don’t be afraid to take a week off to rest, it may just be what your body needs and you could find that the following week you perform even better.
I will cover specific areas of injury in some future blogs but hopefully this has given some helpful advice on what to do when an injury occurs and how to potentially avoid getting injured to start with.
If you are injured and are concerned or want further advice then please do contact me.
At msk health clinic we offer a 15-20 minute assessment and consultation at no extra cost. Treatment if required is then charged at £30 for members of CrossFit Tonbridge.
Please see my website for further information or call me on 07584373788
Eating for CrossFit/Sport:
Quite a few people have asked me recently about what they should eat or how their diet should look so I decided to write a short piece on this. I haven’t ever really been known for my healthy eating habits however I have almost always reached my fitness goals which my diet would have had some part to play.
There is some science behind my diet but mostly it is just how I eat or things that I have found to work so take it as you will. I’m not saying you should defiantly do this it’s just something for you to think about. I’m sure there will be people out there who will disagree with what I say as there seem to be a lot of ‘experts’ out there, some may be right, some will be talking rubbish and some may agree.
Banana, medium size bowl of porridge or muesli, protein shake made with approx ¾ pint of full fat milk.
Apple and some meat, usually chorizo or salami
Eggs & rice / fish, veg and potatoes / omelette / or quite often what’s left from one of the evening meals
Protein shake made with approx ¾ pint of full fat milk
Fruit and protein shake made with ¾ pint of full fat milk
Large meal:Noodle, veg & meat stir fry / Fajitas / Sausage or beef casserole / Roast dinner / Steak, potatoes & veg / curry & rice.
Pint of full fat milk if I did not eat straight before bed.
If I get hungry between these meals I eat Whole Earth peanut butter.
I eat my main meal later than most due to working evenings. If I did not I would swap the ‘evening’ & ‘late evening’ meals around.
With this I drink a lot of water throughout the day as well as 1 or 2 cups of green tea. If I want to lose weight then I simply replace the milk for water and increase my green tea to 3 or 4 cups. The rest stays pretty much the same. Before a weightlifting comp I dropped 4kg in the same amount of weeks by doing this and without loosing any strength. If I want to put on weight or get stronger I use above plus I won’t be as strict and will allow myself to eat/drink breads, desserts, juice etc but all in moderation ie only at 1 meal per day.
Have a cheat day or even a weekend, we want to be fit but why make it a complete chore. On the other hand maybe this is why I never made it to the CF games finals but I doubt it.
The plan is not flawless; it is a compromise between what I like, what fits in with my lifestyle and what gives me what I need.
As for timings this is hard to generalise as everyone has different day patterns and times they workout. The only points I would keep the same for everyone are:
- Eat within 1 hour of waking up.
- at before training, between 2hours and 45 mins (can be a meal or snack depending on how food sits on your stomach and how close the session is).
- Eat straight after training, fruit & protein. If you are training again that day or the next then fruit (carbs) are probably more important than the protein as you need to replace your glycogen stores.
Don’t skip meals, if hungry then eat.
at something within 1 hour of going to sleep (this could be just milk)
Again it is difficult to generalise portion sizes and unless you weigh and measure all of your food it is pointless in giving daily calories. Use common sense, use a regular size plate and don’t pile your food up. Balance out the amounts of different foods.
I don’t like the paleo method especially if you are training hard. I have tried it twice and both times I have lost strength and not performed at my best. I’m pretty sure I will never try it again. I also do not believe grains are the enemy for a number of reasons which I won’t go into.
As for supplements I only use protein powder which I don’t see any different to eating some dairy products and creatine which does seem to work but will make you heavier. Don’t take pre workout drinks or waste money on testosterone boosters.
The bits I would cut out of your diet are:
- Processed meals as they are full of unnatural products.
- Sugars – squash, juice, any fizzy drink, sugar in tea/coffee, sweets, yoghurts, the list goes on.
- Pastas- I know these are similar to bread but I find I am able to eat far too much pasta before it fills me.
- Crisps and other junk food.
- Heavily fried food ie fried breakfast, fried meats, chips etc.
- Pre workout energy drinks (just don’t).
Hopefully this might help you or give you some ideas.
GUEST BLOG – ‘WHAT ABOUT RHABDOMYOLYSIS?’ by RICHARD KINGHAM
As some of you are aware Alex and I have begun a new venture of teaching first aid to all that want to hear what we have to say. We have so far taught in our own Box and Crossfit Central London. A question that came out whilst in London was “what about rhabdomyolysis?”. This initially caught me unawares as it’s a term I expect to hear in my actual job and not one in the jovial, albeit painful settings of a gym. Anyone who has spoken with Max Power will know that the biggest words he knows are abbreviated for him (WOD) and when he needs food he asks for protein. This made me do some investigating and lots of reading, plus calling some favours from very clever people who are better at picking apart studies than me (thanks Rachael).
So what is rhabdomyolysis? Here’s the WebMD explanation:
“Rhabdomyolysis is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from a breakdown of muscle fibres and release of their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to complications such as kidney (renal) failure. This occurs when the kidneys cannot remove waste and concentrated urine. In rare cases, rhabdomyolysis can even cause death. However, prompt treatment often brings a good outcome.”
This came into the Crossfit world with Greg Glassman writing an article that highlighted the risk of this particular condition. The article got the CF world quivering because if you read it quickly it says ‘CF potentially causes death’. So I thought I would give a little explanation of what I believe Mr Glassman was trying to say. Glassman’s article looked at five people who presented in the emergency department with symptoms of rabdomyolisis. They were all brand new to Crossfit and underestimated the strain the workouts would have on them. All five made a complete recovery but in my opinion had a common theme running through them. They all thought they could handle it and had big egos. They didn’t appear to have any idea of what scaling is for. We’re very lucky that the coaches within CFT are never asking too much of us and scaling us correctly, the fact that we’re all still training is testament to this. (That’s the last ever compliment Max). The only danger we have is our own rush for gains.
It’s my personal belief that the article was titled wrongly. It should be a reminder that good hydration is absolutely necessary. We’re all guilty of not drinking enough and then training. This hot summer is a prime example of why we should be drinking loads and having a brief glance down when we pass urine. Your urine should be a light straw colour. If it’s dark then you’re not drinking enough. It doesn’t end there, you also need to be taking on salts and sugars so remember to eat too.
So how does this translate into rhabdo? Well, the symptoms of dehydration are actually the same to those of early onset rhabdo.
Here are a few…
- Dry mouth
- Dark urine
- Achy joints
- Muscle weakness
- Feeling unwell
I guarantee we have all felt at least half of these after a session in the Box. Were you suffering from dehydration? Yes, you probably were. Dehydration puts more strain on your kidneys, heart and brain and affects not only performance but also everyday function.
Every medical book I have ever read always has the caveat that a patient may suffer from all, none or some of these. With this is mind it appears we’re on a hiding to nothing. Where does that leave us? Simple, remember to drink plenty and don’t get caught out. If your mouth is dry then you’re already on the road to dehydration. You should be taking on fluids prior to training and throughout your day. Doing so will help you function better, feel healthier and enjoy the inside of your loo a lot more.
If you have any questions on the matter then feel free to ask… I’ll be at the back squatting.
MEET THE ATHLETE – Paul H
Finally we are back on a roll blog wise. This week we bring you the self appointed ‘Good Old Chap’ Paul Hyde. I especially enjoy his every entrance to the box as he usually wears a face that displays mild signs of an impending doom – yet he returns time after time and always tackles WODs with excellent spirit.
How did you end up at CrossFit Tonbridge?
“Well, my youngest son is always beating me up (only joking). We both watched UFC on the TV, so were interested in similar things. He started working out and got really fit, and it was a bit of ‘one upmanship’ from me when I told him I was going to do CrossFit. (Thinking I would go for a couple of weeks and get bored)
He laughed, I never thought I would stick it, and the rest, as they say, is ‘History’. I would really like him to come down and give it a go, as I’m sure he would love it.”
What is your athletic history?
“Not a lot really. Reached the grand old age of 40 and alarm bells started to ring. Bought a cheap mountain bike. Then a better one, then a better one. Entered a local “Vets” MTB race at Penshurst alongside Barrie Clarke and Caroline Alexander, both Factory riders. You can probably guess the rest…..
Undeterred, started MTB racing at the “Beastway” on Wed nights. (Now the Olympic site). 200 riders every Wed, on what was essentially an old Victorian dump. But it was a great way to blow off steam.
Then I got into Timetrialling for 12 years, employing a coach in the last couple of years and finally getting within 8 secs of cracking the ‘Hour’. Averaging 25mph at 173bpm for 25 miles. Got bored with that and found CrossFit.”
What is your biggest strength in the Box?
“Running. Lol…… I can climb to the top of the rope. That was a great achievement for me.”
What is your weakness in the box?
“Muscle ups/double Unders/Overhead squats/Pullups. How long have you got ?”
What do you enjoy most about CrossFit Tonbridge?
“The camaraderie, the people and the competitive nature of the beast.”
Any advice for those new or considering starting CrossFit?
“First rule of CrossFit…… don’t talk about CrossFit.”
What is the greatest sports film of all time! (Doesn’t have to be serious…)
“I really enjoy watching “The Fighter” with Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.”
MEET THE ATHLETE – LAUREN
Following Karina’s story from our last ‘Meet the athlete’ was always a tough call – hence the lack of activity. However whilst looking through Teamup one afternoon (as you do…), I was struck by the consistent attendance of an athlete at CFT. She was the top attender of classes in both June and July – although as a regular attendee of the 6.30am crew many of our members may never have met her. She also was a member of our final making ‘Tribal Clash Team’ which highlights that solid and consistent training does equal progress.
This months Meet the Athlete is Lauren Cater.
How did you end up at CrossFit Tonbridge?
‘I ended up at CrossFit Tonbridge after Dia persuaded me to join. I used to train with her at Sevenoaks leisure centre and she suggested I give CrossFit a go. Initially, I was apprehensive about being really bad compared to everyone else, but decided to bite the bullet and give it a go anyway.’
What is your athletic history?
‘I have never been especially athletic. As a child I did gymnastics and ballet and then hockey at school. More recently I have often found I start up with some sort of exercise/sport, but get bored very quickly and start something else. I have done a lot of horse riding, but thats about it. Before I joined I was just going to the gym and spinning.’
What is your biggest strength in the Box?
‘I would say my biggest strength in the box would be deadlifts, followed by back/front squats. Anything that involves using leg power really.’
What is your weakness in the box?
‘My biggest weaknesses would probably be kipping pull ups. I have no co-ordination whatsoever and find it incredibly difficult to get to grips with the technique. Also muscle ups, because they’re just really hard! Ohh and box jumps, I always fall and bruise my shins. I am very clumsy. Haha.’
What do you enjoy most about CrossFit Tonbridge?
‘There is loads to enjoy about CFT. The challenge and the variety is amazing. However, by far the best thing for me is the people. The team work and support everyone gives each other is fantastic. The coaches are exceptional and I have met some wonderful people, several of whom I would now consider to be some of my closest friends. (And I only started in April!)’
Any advice for those new or considering starting CrossFit?
‘Don’t be afraid to come along and give it a go. There is something for everybody. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done. You won’t regret it!’
What is the greatest sports film of all time?! (Doesn’t have to be serious…)
‘There are so many great sporting movies, it is difficult to pick just one. Rocky/Cool Runnings/Brian’s song, but I think my favourite line would be from Rudy.’ “Sometimes a winner is a dreamer who just won’t quit”.
We took the decision two months ago to change Wednesday evening classes to Team/Partner WODs due to the large number of teams we had entered into the Tribal Clash event. I personally felt that a large number of members were also a little ‘slow’ on the uptake of understanding any workout that diverted from the norm. (To be fair this can still happen, especially when people talk through the briefing – Steve W and Gary H 24/7 – 7.15pm!….)
I’m always amused when intelligent people who have CrossFitted for a significant period of time take on the persona of someone who has never touched a barbell when the WOD ‘goes team’, but slowly I can see this changing.
As Tribal Clash draws closer I thought it would be a good time to draw together some observations from watching you guys Team WOD, as well as the first hand experience drawn from the Summer Clash in Gloucester held in early July. Hopefully there may be some suggestions here that will help CFT Teams at Tribal Clash perform better. If you are not competing at any team competitions this summer try these suggestions out on a Wednesday evening.
This is key to a smooth WOD. The best teams have a leader, who doesn’t need to always be the strongest athlete, but more importantly is able to keep a clear mind of what everyone should be doing, even when tired.
Have a plan.
Always have a plan of action that all members of the team contribute too – encourage all to be brutally honest with their strength/weaknesses as not doing so can lead to wrong movements being delegated to the wrong people. The best team at Summer Clash embraced the idea that they were better for the sum of all of their parts and they had a great understanding of these, to ensure they were all utilized in the most efficient way.
Most importantly – Have fun.
This is the best way to create a supportive environment, that encourages positivity rather than negativity. If someone can’t complete a movement mid WOD, they are unlikely to be able to complete this by being shouted at. At the same time try to avoid multiple people offering technical advice. If some must be given try to do this through one person.
Working to exhaustion.
Don’t. In a workout that demands high numbers of reps performed by multiple team mates always work within your capabilities. Do not have a fixed number that has to be hit every time a team member performs an exercise – this will eventually get slower and slower. It is much better (and quicker) to be flexible and hit smaller numbers quickly with fast transitions between team mates.
In chipper events it is always better to have less rest periods overall than to start rapidly, blow out and spend lots of time doing nothing trying to recover.
Order your team carefully.
In relay events consider all factors. Sometimes it is not as simple as loading your best athletes first – especially if there is a time cap to the workout.
If the competition allows be flexible with your team order. Be prepared to change a planned order mid event – especially if in direct competition with another team and you see an opportunity to create a mismatch. For example it is better to be ahead before the last person goes, rather than have to chase down an opposing team.
Thanks to Tommy for his observations from the morning crew WODs on a Wednesday.
MEET THE ATHLETE – KARINA:
The best thing about coaching CrossFit for me is seeing the progress of those who started from a low level of base fitness. This is a personal thing as I’m sure other coaches would all claim differently – but I get more satisfaction from helping someone with no fitness background make progress than those who perhaps are already starting from a higher base level. To me the achievements of our members who fall into this category should be lauded as much as other members who are competing at a good level – this is much easier to do if you can see the full picture of their improvement over time as a member.
Having said all that we have some pretty competent athletes who have some amazing stories about their route into CrossFit . Every now and then as a coach you hear an interesting story about a member that puts their performances in training into perspective and truly blows you away. To start of an athlete Q + A series I’d like to start with one of those. This month’s athlete Q+A is with Karina Mortensen:
Can you describe how you got into CrossFit?
“5 years ago I got ill. My calfs were hurting and I couldn’t breath properly. I visited several doctors, 4 hospitals, 3 specialists, and after 6 months they decided that I was neurotic and hysterical. This despite the fact, that at that point I had days I couldn’t walk due to pain in my legs, and I couldn’t breath due to lung pain – I had to sleep sitting up in the sofa as I couldn’t lie down and breath at the same time (3 months without sleep makes you pretty crazy by the way).
They gave up on me, except for one doctor who started doing loads of rather random tests. And she got jackpot; She found blood clots in my lungs (she counted more than 20), which had travelled from my legs (deep vein thrombosis). This is a rather normal disease for old, overweight people who do not exercise, eat unhealthy, smoke too much, etc. As I didn’t fit in to these symptoms, it took them 8 months to diagnose me. They told me, that had it been one week later, I would probably have died! I was lucky though, got treatment and started recovering. However, I was told that I should never expect to be able to run again, and that walking would be challenging due to decreased lung capacity and scar tissue in my veins in my legs. From a background with gymnastics, dancing and volleyball on high levels, and with biking every day, this hit me quite hard.
I fell, into a rather deep black hole, where I spent the summer. But as the weeks passed I decided to prove them wrong. I started biking to work again, and after a few months I started to run, well I felt like a 90 year old, but after 9 months I did my first half marathon, and the following summer I started CrossFit. CrossFit really made a difference, because one thing is to run, but lifting weights – which I’d never done before – slowly proved to me, that I could get back to who I used to be.”
Wow – How are things now?
“Now, almost three years into CrossFit and thinking back, a bit worried to sound like a cliche, it changed my life. Made me believe in myself and that *”@#* body of mine which has been such a struggle. I’ll never make it to the Games, and I have constant pains, but I can run & lift heavy things! And I love it.”
So how did you end up at CrossFit Tonbridge?
“Well, that was a coincidence! I got a job offer in Tonbridge, and as I was addicted to CF already, googling CrossFit was the first thing I did. I went to visit the box when I came here to look for an apartment (you gave me a lift to the hotel, didn’t you?), and actually CFT was one of the things that made me make the final decision of moving here!”
What was your athletic history before CrossFit?
“ It is long! I did gymnastics from age 3 to 19, volleyball from 16 to 20, contemporary dance from 18 to 27, started running when I was 28. All of them got boring in the end though, except for skiing which I’ve done since I was 7, but Denmark generally suffers from a lack of mountains. One of my skiing friends spent a year trying to convince me to try CrossFit. I thought it sounded horrible, but finally went just to make him shut up. And, well…was hooked from day one despite the fact I deadlifted max 30 kg, couldn’t get the 15kg bar over my head, and struggled to do a push-up on my knees….”
What is your biggest strength in the Box?
“Skipping & HSPUs, ha ha. Don’t know really, guess I am generally decent, except for MUs!”
What is your weakness in the box?
What do you enjoy most about CrossFit Tonbridge?
“Great people, amazing coaches, and a nice atmosphere. And the fact that it is still rather small so that you get to know everyone.”
Any advice for those new or considering starting CrossFit?
“Don’t give up just because it hurts and is difficult. It is worth the struggle.”
CROSSFITTING WITH PERSPECTIVE:
Why do you CrossFit? This is a question asked in our household every so often. Increasingly I ask myself this question now and I would encourage others to do so. This is because it allows me to introduce a healthy level of perspective to my training, something that I think is important for me. For example as much as I would like to develop into the UK’s equivalent of Rich Froning, perspective allows me to realise that this isn’t going to happen and beating myself up about it isn’t really going to help. (My age, genetics, work, family and dedication levels are all barriers to this epic rate of progress that in my mind I should be making)
To help with perspective I think it is worth looking back to the early model of CrossFit that existed, which in my mind was far better than the CrossFit Games inspired model which is increasingly distorting my own perceptions of what I do and achieve and I suspect has the same affect on some of you.
When Greg Glassman setup the first ‘CrossFit’ gym in San Diego 15 or so years ago he wrote a number of articles on exercise. Many of them are cheesy in the American sense that makes a lot of British people uncomfortable/cynical. However there are some good points in many of them which I tend to lose sight of when my perspective is lost when training. One of my favorite Glassman articles is when he defines his idea of fitness in 100 words.
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train all major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J and snatch. Similarly master the basics of gymnastics: Pull ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups,presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five to Six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”
The full article can be found here.
When I first got into CrossFit four years ago the CrossFit Games website did not exist. My discovery involved reading journal articles like the one above and watching youtube videos of members from that first San Diego gym doing really cool stuff that I wanted to do. Four years down the line I can do the majority of those cool things and those I can’t manage I can make a good attempt at.
However for those discovering CrossFit today the path I suspect is a little more daunting. Click on the CrossFit games site and you cannot fail to be impressed by what is on show. However by the time the games come round in July, as impressive as they are, the majority of what is on show, goes beyond the capability of many of us. Setting ‘that’ as the standard to aspire too causes problems: It gives potential starters of CrossFit a warped idea of both what we do and what we can do for them as well as setting a standard that 99.99% of people that CrossFit never achieve. This acts as a deterrent to many people starting who would get a huge benefit from CrossFit.
Equally more experienced CrossFitters lacking perspective can feel a little deflated by their own attempts at this promoted model of ‘CrossFit.’
This is when I think turning back to what Glassman first envisaged for CrossFit is important as it helps to give us a better perspective on our training. Looking through the 100 words you should spot a number of things that we already do. However as ‘CrossFit’ as a sport has developed to the model it is today, I feel that the last sentence has begun to slip especially in my own case.
So this is the main point of my ramble: CrossFit is really cool. I have got stronger and more powerful. My overall level of health and mobility has vastly improved and I am far less injury prone. However I am using none of these improvements in anything other than CrossFit and lets face it – I doubt that I will be gracing Carson, California for the Games anytime soon. A lack of perspective in my own training has meant that rather than celebrate what I can do and have achieved, I’m constantly worrying that I can’t knock out 50 Handstand Pushups or Clean and Jerk 130kg. (As a side point we are all about Functional Fitness. Quite how functional 50 HSPU really are is an interesting question! Showing off by knocking a few out whilst intoxicated is fine; but 50. I’m pretty certain most people would have got bored after 10.)
What I should have been doing was using the things I have gained from CrossFit and using them in other ‘stuff,’ like learning and playing “new sports.” I have become far too focused on the sport of CrossFit, something which I’m certain Glassman was not thinking about when he wrote that definition of fitness. At a recent seminar I attended I was lucky enough to have a lunchtime conversation with Carl Paoli, who intimated to me that he had similar thoughts regarding the differing ‘models’ of CrossFit which are beginning to develop. Whilst not critical of the Games, I got the impression that he felt the level of performance on view there should not be the aspirational point for the majority of people attending CrossFit gyms. He even suggested that CrossFit needed to re-find its roots a little.
So with that in mind, I’m off to play some new sports, and no CrossFit is not a sport that counts.
COMPETITIVENESS - GOOD OR BAD?
How many of you know someone now or from your past who was exceptional in a sporting sense?
And both you and your friends and family, perhaps even their own family, expressed outrage/shock/disappointment when they made the decision to no longer compete in their ‘sport’?
I knew a few and as I have grown older I have often thought about ‘competitiveness’ and different peoples attitudes towards it. I have often found that the most competitive amongst us are those that talk down others who are not and this has always interested me. This ties in with the whole competitive sports debate that has simmered in schools for several decades and was recently stoked by David Cameron criticizing ‘Indian dancing’ on the school PE curriculum.
So how does being competitive help or hinder CrossFit, or should we learn to strike a happy medium in the drive to develop our athletic potential?
I think it is important from the start to say I am a competitive person in a sporting sense. As a child I can recall countless occasions when competitiveness burned so deeply within me that I could perpetrate some pretty outrageous things to ensure success. However, it was my lack of success in my chosen sport that allowed me to control my desire to win at all costs and in the long term helped to develop me athletically.
At the age of 11 I joined an athletic club on the advice of a PE teacher who later became my long term coach. In despite of my relatively sound commitment to training for a young adolescent I spent five years with very little success. (I would scrape into the Kent Cross-country team annually for the UK inter-counties but notably never won a single race in 5 years!)
Looking back it is a remarkable testament to good coaching coupled with me tempering my desire to win, or perhaps it being managed and manipulated by my coach, that I was still competing/training five years after starting. So to cut a long story short success did not come quickly, it came from hard work over a sustained period of time. If I had allowed my competitive nature to rule, I would likely have stopped as constantly not doing well had been something that I had to learn to live with. (For further reading on this topic check out Dr Steve Peters book ‘The Chimp Paradox’) Ultimately this lies behind my own thoughts on why so many young sporting prodigies never quite make the grade, but that will have to wait for another blog…
So how does this relate to CrossFit.
Firstly being competitive is a good thing as long as you channel this in a positive way.
Secondly being noncompetitive is a good thing as long as you channel this in a positive way…..
You see to me the two issues are exactly the same thing. To be successful and develop in CrossFit you need to compete more with yourself than with those around you. This is not to say that you can’t be motivated by the achievements of those around you but ultimately we have all started CrossFit from different fitness backgrounds, ages and even genetics and these all pre-determine our development, especially in the shorter term. (I’m afraid some are rather more long term than others!)Rather than trying to directly compete with others we should be concentrating more on beating our own PRs, scaling workouts to ensure we are working within the time frames that the WOD was meant to be training. These factors will allow us to develop in a far more sustainable way with a greater chance of us achieving the competitive state some of us desire to achieve. In this way our success becomes based far more on beating our own previous times/weights – something that the more noncompetitive athletes find far more appealing. A key to this whole area however is the need to know exactly where you are yourself, so an athletic diary is incredibly important in allowing you to compare yourself to you own previous efforts.
These suggestions allow two things. Firstly for the non-competitive athlete to be challenged and have direction with their training. Secondly to ensure that the competitive athlete will develop without getting injured, giving them much more perspective on their progress and possibly allowing them to reach their goals.
These points also raise the question of how do competitions fit into the mindsets of both types of people. Again a certain amount of common sense needs to be applied, a competition should never demoralize you. If it has you must question if you approached it with the correct level of perspective: Remember even in a competition your biggest competitor needs to be yourself and concentrating on anything else is likely to see a below par performance.
REVIEW OF THE OPEN SEASON:
Now that the final results are in from the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Open it seems a good time to dissect the results generally and reflect on this years open for CrossFit Tonbridge.
Overall it has been a strong showing for CrossFit Tonbridge, once you reflect on a number of factors. The most significant impact on the results of individuals has been the rapid increase of participants both across the world and Europe this year. This obviously has led to a rise in standards and makes it significantly more difficult to finish higher this year than perhaps in previous years. On a more local level we verified over 200 athlete submissions during this years open – Well done and thankyou to all those who judged and counted for people – as well as those who were not entered and had their Thursday classes somewhat interrupted by the experience.
The raising of standards is very noticeable in the men’s section where previous UK athletes who qualified annually for regionals failed to make the cut. Alex had no such problem, and although only ranked 4th in the UK after the Open, (17th in Europe) his consistency at qualifying three years consecutively should be applauded. Alex hit these qualifiers lacking conditioning so with some solid work now completed and more to come, regionals will be exciting this year.
There were however some other notable male performers this year from CrossFit Tonbridge. Chris Dear stepped up and was consistently second male in the team each week finishing in 214th place in Europe. (56th in the UK) Paul Christy also pushed hard throughout consistently contributing scores to the team and finishing in 604th place in Europe.
In the master categories our standout performance has to go to Mike Giles who challenged throughout the Open ending up in 7th place in Europe. This is the best CrossFit Tonbridge qualifying position ever in three years so an excellent effort all round.
In total 17 men completed all 5 workouts and our strength in depth is looking good moving forward.
The women’s section in Europe has always been strong, although sometimes the depth has been questionable. This year that seems to have been improved on and some remarkable results were seen. The same could be said of the women at CrossFit Tonbridge. Out of the 10 women who entered the open, 9 completed all 5 workouts, highlighting the perseverance that our women made, especially when compared to the men who were much more flaky…..
Standout performer this year was Ruth, despite suffering a torn calf muscle 10 days before the Open started. She placed 164th in Europe. (36th in the UK) Karina, Leah, Dia, Claire and Helen all made contributions to the CrossFit Tonbridge team scores, across all 5 workouts and placed 561, 633, 727,815 and 891 in Europe. Also a big congratulations to Anneka, Emma and Liv who completed the open as prescribed.
I would like to finally look at our team performance which saw us finish in 54th position. We quite rightly had our sights set on a top 30 finish and with that the chance to send a team to regionals. I could sense as the open progressed that a number of people felt a little disappointed at our progress but having had time to digest the figures it is important to put our final position in perspective.
Firstly this is our best ever finishing position in what has been the strongest ever regional competition. We finished as 14th in the UK which shows strong progress since the ‘Divided We Fall games’.
Secondly when breaking the figures down we missed 30th and a qualifying spot by small margins. In actual fact if each of our scoring team members had on average managed 6 more reps in each workout we would have qualified – never has squeezing every last effort out been more apparent when you view our finishing position in this light. This is something definitely worth carrying into next years open competition. Also apparent was that 13.1 and 13.4 were our two weakest performances. Strength wise the men snatched at approximately the right numbers for European qualification. Our women were consistent but struggled to snatch at the required standard so this should become a target for them over the coming 12 months. Toes to bar were also an issue for both male and female members with both groups needing to work on their consistency and accuracy in this gymnastic type movement: Especially when considering the numbers who also struggled with Chest to Bar Pullups in 13.5.
So back in teacher mode for the end of open report.
Effort: A for excellent (and also inspiring in many cases)
Comment: Great effort but be careful not to get complacent and ensure you use your performances to set future goals for improvement.
Women, distorted perceptions and CrossFit
This week we welcome guest blogger Sasha to raise a few interesting questions about perceptions of women CrossFitters and body image.
As an average adolescent, body image has become a major factor in my life. Of course this is not intentional, nor even desirable, but due to the media, I am surrounded by: the newest fashion trends, headlines of celebrities sporting their ‘bikini body’, or even the latest tips for weight-loss in “less than three days”. Therefore, as an avid internet user, it has become a continual battle to avert my gaze and ignore this constant bombardment of distorted ideals, and seek for other forms of inspiration.
Many people describe teenagers as being ‘impressionable’ and ‘easily influenced’ – and despite not wanting this to be the case, I can’t argue. On behalf of all teens, I can safely say that we need inspiration. We need to have strong figureheads to look up to: people to admire; people who we, one day, hope to be like. However, with this everlasting exposure of unattainable “perfection”, the task is close to impossible. How are we ever meant to feel good about ourselves when images of unrealistic ideals are corrupting our perceptions of feminine beauty? How are we ever meant to consider sports, such as CrossFit, when there are these preconceptions that women will look more ‘manly’ if they do so? It’s ridiculous.
I feel disillusioned. I know not what to think anymore. I look up at my Mum and I feel complete admiration: she is my inspiration. Yet, in the eyes of the media, the beauty I see is not appreciated or even welcomed and this frightens me. I see her as a true example of strength and power, not just because of her physical, toned and athletic, appearance but also her mentality. She is a strong woman: formed from enduring the grueling workouts, hours and hours of practice and also her consistent will-power to master small and minute aspects of her technique through a continual struggle of exhaustion and pain. This is admirable. This is what young people should look up to, not the likes of ‘Cheryl Cole’, ‘Paris Hilton’ or ‘Kate Moss’; all of whom are glorifying beauty and wealth , and not focusing on the true importance of effort and determination, which of course drives us forward.
By no means am I dismissing their talents, (debatable though nevertheless), but what I am trying to put across is that we need strong women to enable us to believe that we don’t need to be of a ‘modelesque’ figure to ‘fit in’. The media tells us that it’s almost bad to be strong, athletic and even muscular, whereas men are idolized for being of that physique – it doesn’t make sense. I am in absolute awe of the strength demonstrated by the women in the CrossFit gym, and I have to admit that if I hadn’t witnessed their talents, I would be brainwashed to think like the rest of my generation. I find that concept quite frankly repulsive and I am truly terrified when I see other young people of my age idolizing over images of their broken role models; spurred on by the expectations of the distorted perceptions of beauty.
The sheer strength that these CrossFit women demonstrate is truly commendable. However, it’s not necessarily their physicality; because all athletes are designed for their certain skills so will be of different physiques, but more their dedication and commitment, as they prove that woman can be just as ‘strong’ as men. Furthermore, I do not wish to disregard the passion and power shown by the men at CrossFit, but I am purely focusing on the impact of the media on the perception of feminine beauty.
‘Doing the hard yards’
In a coaching sense I have been very fortunate with the coaches I have been associated with, especially in my track career which now seems so far away.
However my experiences then, which lasted 10 years, from an aspiring youngster to a national finalist has helped to give me certain perspectives on training.
Recently I have felt the need to draw perspectives on my track training when trying to offer advice to people passionate and keen to improve their CrossFit and general athletic performance. In some ways the desire some of our members have to succeed can in certain cases limit their performance and I felt it was important to intervene.
As many new CrossFitters soon realise after starting, Strength is key to making progress in CrossFit. (A great example of this is Alex, who previous to the start of the Open had only completed two Met Cons in 6 weeks. During this time he had been concentrating purely on building strength.) Therefore they had been diligently attending open gym sessions and working on their Olympic lifts. The issue to me was obvious however, that far too frequently these sessions developed into a series of max effort attempts with far too many failed reps and a growing sense of frustration.
It was at this point that my own track training seemed to resonate with me and seemed a good comparison.
Track training is different in many ways to CrossFit training and building strength, yet at the heart of both is what I would like to describe as ‘doing the hard yards’.
A typical session on the track for a middle distance wannabe would be 6 x 400 metres with around 2 minutes recovery. A time for each repetition would be discussed between coach and athlete – often based on a % of a best time and the current stage in their training. Once agreed – often after coming to near blows, the stage would be set and the fun would begin. Frequently it did not end well – but it ended when all reps were completed with the pre-decided recoveries. My point to some of our members was that their strength training lacked two things – A thought through progressive plan, but in my opinion most importantly, a tendency to never complete a session in its entirety. An equivalent would be me walking off the track because I knew I wouldn’t hit the required time and ultimately not ‘doing the hard yards’ required to make progress in the long term.
So whether it is 6 x 400 metre repetitions or 5 x 5 squats, your performance will not progress if you never complete the session. Do the numbers and put off your max efforts for when they are truly needed – I am certain you will see the results of your hard work and the max numbers will begin to take care of themselves.