Posts

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Dave’s Dialect – CrossFit Chichester Programming

Happy New Year everybody!

Dave here with a little piece about our Programming, why we use it, how to use it and how to get the most of it.
First things first, the trial period for the programming is well and truly over and all coaches are in agreement that Thrivestry Programming is here to stay at CrossFit Chichester. The planning and thought process that goes into programming like this is second to none, and that’s where I want to start today.

The strength/skilled elements that we work on in class, and the workouts we all have a love hate relationship with are not random. They are not just chucked together to make you suffer a gymnasticy, high jumping, weight throwing, burpeefied death!… (although when laying on the gym floor in a puddle of your own sweat, it may feel like it…!) Believe it or not, there is method behind the madness!

When nearing the end of a strength cycle, with weights getting heavier, you will find the workouts getting slightly shorter, so to not tax the central nervous system too hard. When the strength cycles are in transition or at the beginning, this is where you will find the longer metcons, that test your cardiovascular fitness and endurance more.

JJ has been designing gym programming for years and years [Since 2004], from helping newbies achieve their first press up, to developing and preparing highly skilled athletes for competition. The diversity of abilities means that the programming you see every day on the big screen in the gym can be whatever you want it to be.

Progression – The process of developing or moving gradually towards a more advanced state.

You may have heard me at the beginning of a class say “this is session 2 of 12 of our Front squat cycle today guys” … Most cycles run for 12 session and get progressively harder from 1-12. This is no accident. Session one will generally begin with a medium rep range and a somewhere between 50-70% of your max effort (in this case front squat) throughout the cycle the rep range will have varied and towards session 12, have shortened, with the % of your max effort increasing to around 75-85%.

Managing to attend most of the sessions and completing each rep with good form, should see your numbers increase in that particular lift by the end of the cycle. Only however, if we are working off the correct percentage, this is why it is so important to find out what our 1 rep max efforts are to make sure we are working off the right numbers.

So why not have a look at the cycles coming up this year (ask a coach to show you if we haven’t already displayed it) and work up to your 1 rep max in an open gym session before the cycle begins. You will reap the rewards from working with your correct numbers and get best out of your training!

Context

Every session we run has its own context, Practice, Competition and Mental Toughness. ‘Coach’ will tell you at some point during the session which one it is for the workout that day. The Context is the recommended overall approach to the class that day. Without a planned approach you will likely stick with the same approach you are comfortable with and you will not get the most out of your training.

Below is a diagram explaining the primary focus and output required for each context:

The goal is always to get better overall, not just win the workout that day. It is like trying to win every battle… but losing the war.

To understand the problems with getting stuck in a particular mode are as follows:

If you do Competition context all the time you will get hurt.
If you do Mental Toughness context all the time you will burn out.
If you do Practice context all the time you will get bored.

But how to you apply this to your training? If all you know when the timer beeps, is “Go Hard”!…
It starts with taking notice as to what the context is for the day, then approaching each part of the class with this mindset.
Pay close attention to the days that aren’t your default mode. If you are someone who always goes as hard as possible, constantly remind yourself on Practice days that the primary focus is quality form, learning, and mastery (not crushing yourself or beating someone else).

If you are someone who is always extremely cautious, someone who always needs the coach to force you to ‘go up’ (in load or skill), be more deliberate on Competition and Mental Toughness days. Push yourself to attempt a heavier load or higher box (with the coach’s agreement). Always record your score on Competition days. Take the time to look up your old score so you have a target to beat. Throw caution to the wind and learn some new skills that might embarrass you on a Mental Toughness day (taking you out of your comfort zone).

Working on weaknesses

The last subject I want to touch on is about working on your weakness, or in another sentence… knit picking the workouts/exercises you like.
I can speak from personal experiences as I used to train this way, lunges… NOPE, overhead squats… NOPE, thrusters… HELL NOPE!
I knew this was wrong, I knew I would not develop as an athlete if I avoided the exercises or training methods I disliked. So I followed a new approach of turning my weaknesses into strengths.

Instead of avoiding them I would work on them, more so even than the exercise I did like, so that I would get better, stronger, fitter and eventually turn them into strengths, meaning I no longer sighed or groaned when I saw they were in the workout of the day!

One of the main things you realise from this approach is that you develop other aspects of your fitness along the way without even realising it. The more lunges I put into my programming, the stronger my legs got individually, which meant I achieved my first ever set of pistols!.. I also felt stronger in my running and other endurance aspects like high calorie assault bike or high rep wall balls.

Ok… So you may not see yourself as an athlete, you may just enjoy the gym and enjoy what you enjoy… but you are never going to experience new ‘Joys’ if you do not open that door and keep developing as a human being. Our bodies are extraordinary, so don’t limit it to what it can do.

If you have any more questions about the programming, or anything else for that matter, please feel free to give me a message of pull me aside in the gym for a chat ☺

Dave is a Coach at CrossFit Chichester. He takes the mid morning classes, and Day time PTs. If you’d like to book an assessment with him, then go here and ask for Dave when we call you! 

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The Squat – Why is it so important?

“The squat is essential to your well-being. The squat can both greatly improve your athleticism and keep your hips, back and knees sound and functioning in your senior years” – Greg Glassman, Founder of CrossFit.

So why is doing the squat properly fundamental to us?

Contrary to popular opinion, it is a remarkably a good exercise of rehabilitation for cranky, damaged and/or delicate knees. In fact, if you are do not squat, your knees are considered not healthy regardless of ‘pain free knees’ or the amount of discomfort you are not in. This is equally true of the hips and back as well.

“The squat is no more an invention of a coach or trainer than is a hiccup or sneeze. It is a vital, natural and functional component of your being” Greg Glassman.

The bottom position of the squat is nature’s intended sitting position, as you stand from the bottom position, this is movement is a biomechanically sound method of which we stand. There is nothing artificial about this movement.

Why we use different versions of squats?

 

Back squat- trains the entire lower body musculature, the back squat places greater emphasis on the muscles of the posterior chain, such as the glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors, than other squat variations. It’s also an unparalleled lower-body mass-builder. In my opinion, the back squat is the king of the strength-training world, and we’re all just lucky to bask in its glory. Not only is it the most commonly utilized form of squatting—except for the half-squat, maybe—the full barbell back squat is one of the most effective exercises in the history of civilization for strengthening the lower body.

The front squat is quickly gaining popularity among a wide variety of athletes, partially because of its prominence in CrossFit protocols. It’s also a crucial component of Olympic lifts. Whatever the reason you do it, it’s an brilliant movement, not least of all because it’s harder to do really badly than a back squat. But you need good front rack mobility to be able to front squat without your elbows dropping which causes your chest to fall- causing a rounded back.

By locating the barbell across your shoulders in front of the body, the front squat puts much more emphasis on the quadriceps and upper back than the traditional back squat, but still trains the glutes and hamstrings well.

Overhead squats have their roots in Olympic weightlifting. The overhead squat strengthens the midpoint of the barbell snatch and is essential to mastering that particular lift. For non-competitive weightlifters, it can be an effective way to train the lower body while developing balance and mobility. Overhead squats demand a certain degree of shoulder mobility to be executed correctly, but taking wide grip on the barbell makes this much easier.

The box squat – a staple for newer members to learn proper mechanics.

Box squat is that an athlete will always have to break parallel in order to reach the box during the eccentric phase of the lift. When free squatting, there is a tendency for athletes to squat higher as the weights get heavier. Box squatting eliminates that entirely, and after consistent practice with the box, an athlete should always break parallel for all squats. Box squatting helps teach correct squatting technique by ensuring that an athlete sits back completely when descending, rather than just dropping down and bouncing up.This kind of squat is a form of ballistic stretching, and can be an excellent method to assist with poor flexibility and range of motion and provides an easy way to measure progress. It also forces an athlete to squat backwards rather than straight down. This allows the lifter to sit further back on the box and achieve a shin angle that is perpendicular to the floor.

In fact, “box squatting produces a rate of force development that is three to four times greater than other forms of squatting.” Quote from boxlife magazine.

How long does it take to master/ develop the squat?

“It’s fair to say what when the squat is mastered the technique and performance are superior. This suggests that none of the points of performance are deficient and fast multiple reps are possible. We can use Crossfit’s favourite standard for fast multiple reps, Tabata squat. Performing perfect squats for 20 seconds, rest for 10, for 7 more times. This will show if you can keep perform form in those 4 minutes of work aiming for 140-160 fast reps. By this you will know if you have mastered the perfect squat.” – CrossFit Level 1 training manual. 

How people with different leg length need different stances?

We are all built a little bit different.
Anatomical differences, height, body weight, mobility, experience levels, muscle strengths & weaknesses etc. all affect how a person is going to squat.
If you look at the best squatters in the world, they are built to squat. This usually means that they have shorter femurs and squat very upright.
The femur bone AKA the thigh bone often has the biggest influence on what your squat will look like. The Quadriceps/Thighs are the prime movers in any type of squat.

Longer femurs (legs)- will have an increased range of motion (ROM) in their squat. The knees and ankles will have to move an increased ROM to perform the same movement.
As the ROM is greater, the mobility requirements for the squat will also be greater. So by taking a wider stance this will help you perform the squat with good depth. To get deeper in your squat stance, make sure you keep your chest up. People with longer femurs tend to learn forward more- by keeping you chest up you’ll be able to get deeper in the squat.
When you squat wider, you’re artificially making yourself shorter. This can be seen when you film yourself from the side. You can clearly see that the apparent length of the femur is shorter with a wider stance. Because of this ‘shorter’ femur.
Lifting shoes with a help reduce the dorsiflexion demands (ankle going forwards). This allows your knees to travel forward without your heel coming off the floor. This will allow you to squat more upright and deeper.

How does stronger squatting improves anything?

Running- one of the best ways to ensure your legs and glutes stay strong is by squatting. And while it can sometimes be hard to give up a day of running for a day of strength training, benefits of squatting for us runners outweighs the pain of skipping a run day.

Jumping- The squat is a basic functional movement and is essential for any training program designed to help you jump higher. The movement patterns used in a jump and squat are similar resulting in the same muscles used for each exercise. As a result, improving squat technique, strength and endurance can directly influence your ability to jump higher.

Deadlift- you improve your squat, it will improve your deadlift. If you focus on building a massive squat, you’ll be more likely to move some impressive numbers in the other major lifts. The squat requires so much raw strength and stability through every major joint, that it impacts heavily on your performance of the other lifts. To have a big squat you need to be solid and stable through your entire body and his raw strength translates to the deadlift.

Bench press- Believe it or not, squats produce the most Human Growth Hormone out of any movement you might do. As a result, due to tension maintained throughout the body during the movement, it can improve seemingly unrelated lifts. Athletes who have completed long squat cycles will agree that, their bench press improves, even if they’ve not trained it during that period of time.

It’s safe to say that learning how to squat correctly, and progressively trained, produces phenomenal results in your overall fitness. We found at CrossFit Chichester, that it takes a while to develop, but the results are worth the effort.

For further reading – see:

Zack Long’s article on dissecting the squat. 

Or download the level 1 training manual for the most in-depth analysis of the squat, and makes for good bed time reading!

Coach Macca is one of our excellent coaches here at CrossFit Chichester. To book an assessment with him, to gain some of his knowledge book an assessment here!

Our Checklist Method

Making it easy to assess new client needs. Few CrossFit gyms do this, but more need to.

I am a huge fan of check lists. A pilot friend got me into it last year, when he showed me his method, and he said that checklists are how he does all his work (both in a plane and in business).

I thought, ‘why can’t we do that in our initial assessments’?

What I wanted was an easy way of helping all the coaches here, benefit from my experience, and have a method of accurately assessing client needs right from the start.

The new CrossFit Chichester assessment checklist was born out of this idea. Subsequently I created a few more checklists, and started working more on surveys, and viola, we’ve got some great ways of really helping our members reach their goals.

As great as this is, it’s not enough. So I thought, how can I start getting a better sense of people’s fitness without even seeing them move. I can usually get a good picture from a 10 minute phone call, but I couldn’t do that with everyone, so what if I put those same questions online, and allowed people to answer them, and have it scored. Once they get a certain score, it should hopefully give them (and us) a clearer idea of what to expect before even walking into our gym.

Since then, these questionnaires have helped me see how fit a much larger number of people are, than I would have done, had I used our old method of booking an assessment first. (If you’d like to Download our  CFC Initial Assessment Score Card you can here.)

So…. given that many believe that CrossFit is ‘too intense for you’, I will invite you to try out our survey, and discover more closely what it would take you to be ‘CrossFit ready’ so to speak.

Here is the link, and fill it out and try the home mobility assessments.

As responsible coaches, it’s our job to see what level each person is, and in order to ensure their chance of succeeding within our program, we can appropriately adjust and scale their workouts and their fundamentals to suit their needs.

This is not, and will never be, a one size fits all model. With us, you’ll get a responsible and experienced coach, a dedicated coaching team and a workout program that is fun, sustainable and most importantly safe.

We champion our members successes, as you can see from our weekly updates, and provide a community that is supportive, and encouraging. Totally interested in your success.

Sometimes, I have people come to me, worried about being judged or made to feel embarrassed for their fitness level (most likely from those closest to you or the thoughts in your head). It is our desire to provide a mental refuge from those negative, doubtful, dream destroying beliefs and respect you for what you are working on, and where you going.

That is our gym.

Archie,
Head Coach,
CrossFitt’ing since 2011.

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Low Hanging Fruit

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Getting (or perfecting) Your Pull-ups

The bar needs to stop your chest from going any higher.

I remember way back when I was 10 years old, and I first discovered out how hard it was to even do a pull-up, after 4 weeks, I’d worked up from 1 to 5, doing them every day. When I was 16, I could do 50 push-ups comfortably. I could do just 7 pull-ups. Pull-ups are hard. The muscles we use for them are relatively small compared to the rest of our body, so it’s harder to develop significant strength in a short space of time. They are also very easy to strain. The tendons are small. The blood supply is relatively limited. In order to get a decent hormone response from them you have to be consistent, BUT you have to be careful not to over do it.

I know many who have decided they want to improve their pull-ups, and start doing them (or a progression) every day, and end up getting a tendon strain because they’ve pushed them too hard. It’s really easy to do. Unlike the legs which can recover, and handle a decent amount of volume (such as 100 or 200 air squats in a session) unconditioned doing that many reps is a recipe for disaster with pull-ups in the beginning. You simply cannot train them in the same way.

First of all, what exactly is a perfect pull-up?

My definition, is one where we keep our body, dead in line, abs, glues, and lats switched on. All stretched out, hanging, with toes pointed. Then, we pull down with our shoulder blades into what we’d call a ‘scap pull-up’. Then, you drag your elbows down and behind your body, keeping your body completely in line, until your collar bones (or chest) hits the bar. Pulling to a point where your body is physically stopped by the bar, is the only way to properly strengthen the lats, back and shoulders (and core) to a point where you’ll be robust enough to attempt certain movements such as the coveted muscle-up (going from below to above the rings/bar).

Developing an excellent pull-up, takes practice. It also takes persistence, because progress will be sometimes slow and frustrating. What it also asks, is that we are at a low enough body fat percentage so that we aren’t lifting up any unnecessary weight (to do a number beyond 15-20 reps).

Becoming proficient in the pull-up is a sign of pure athleticism and health. If you can do set’s of beautiful strict pull-ups, then you’re part of the healthiest percentage of people in the world. Especially if you are female.

The challenge of developing strength is the muscular strength isn’t just necessary to be able to do it. It also takes denser bones, stronger ligaments, thicker tendons, and tougher connective tissue. You’ve also got to have enough flexibility in your thoracic spine to be able to raise your arms fully over head, without any pain, or impingement.

Needless to say we love training pull-ups because they are so effective at producing healthier people. There is so much work involved it is a constant cycle of strength, mobility, strength, mobility, conditioning. To say that the effort is worth it, would be an understatement. The sense of achievement that I see when people pull themselves over the bar, unassisted for the first time, is almost as good as seeing their first muscle up. It’s amazing, and one of the main reasons why I started training people in the first place. We deserve, all of us, to be stronger. No matter where we are. The pull up is one of those movements that defines our sense of well being more so than other movements.

Over the last few years as a coach, we’ve helped many of our clients to achieve unassisted or improved pull-ups. Our method is simple, and has been derived from Pavel Tsatuline’s training principles. This particular program can take you from no pull-ups, to at least 1,2 or more, provided you follow the progression as written and do your best to keep up with it for as long as is necessary to achieve it.

Here are the basic rules:

If you have less than 1 or two pull-ups, then consider using a progression to assist you with getting between 3 and 5 reps as a minimum.
Every set has to be executed with perfect form (no cheat reps). If your form is less than perfect in your first set, use an easier progression.
Make contact with the bar every time to ensure proper range is being trained through.

Start with a max set. Rest. Then do another set with one less rep*. Repeat for a total of 5 sets doing one less rep each set.

*If you can do more than 10 strict pull-ups, then you will need to reduce the reps by more than one. From 10-15 reps, reduce by 2 reps. From 15 to 20 reduce by 3 reps each time. From beyond 20, reduce by 4 reps. More on this later in this article.

Here is the progression:

The 3RM Program

For those who have 3 pull-ups here is how you’d progress (or if you want to add weight to this you can add enough to bring your reps to 3):

Day 1     3, 2, 1, 1
Day 2     3, 2, 1, 1
Day 3     3, 2, 2, 1
Day 4     3, 3, 2, 1
Day 5     4, 3, 2, 1
Day 6     Off
Day 7     4, 3, 2, 1, 1
Day 8     4, 3, 2, 2, 1
Day 9     4, 3, 3, 2, 1
Day 10   4, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 11    5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 12    Off

By this point you’ll be ready for the next step which is the 5 rep progression.

5 RM Progression:

Day 1     5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 2     5, 4, 3, 2, 2
Day 3     5, 4, 3, 3, 2
Day 4     5, 4, 4, 3, 2
Day 5     5, 5, 4, 3, 2
Day 6     Off
Day 7     6, 5, 4, 3, 2
Day 8     6, 5, 4, 3, 3
Day 9     6, 5, 4, 4, 3
Day 10    6, 5, 5, 4, 3
Day 11    6, 6, 5, 4, 3
Day 12    Off
Day 13    7, 6, 5, 4, 3
Day 14    7, 6, 5, 4, 4
Day 15    7, 6, 5, 5, 4
Day 16    7, 6, 6, 5, 4
Day 17    7, 7, 6, 5, 4
Day 18    Off
Day 19    8, 7, 6, 5, 4
Day 20    8, 7, 6, 5, 5
Day 21    8, 7, 6, 6, 5
Day 22    8, 7, 7, 6, 5
Day 23    8, 8, 7, 6, 5
Day 24    Off
Day 25    9, 8, 7, 6, 5
Day 26    9, 8, 7, 6, 6
Day 27    9, 8, 7, 7, 6
Day 28    9, 8, 8, 7, 6
Day 29    9, 9, 8, 7, 6
Day 30    Off

The principles are simple. The execution is the hard part. It get’s boring, but you get really really strong. It’s not unusual to add a serious amount (2.5 times) of reps to your max.

Again if you’ve got more than 10 strict chest to bar pull-ups then go Pavel’s website and use his progression to work out exactly the reps that you’d be doing.

If you’d like a print friendly sheet, to cross off days, for when you complete them, go here. Having a record make this, makes it much easier to complete. The print friendly is here –  Pull-ups Strength Progression. But if you’d like a blank PDF to print off go here – Blank Pull-ups Strength Progression.

Let us know how you get on!

Archie,
Head Coach,
CrossFit Chichester.

5 Habits to Eat Healthier, Lose Weight, and Feel In Charge

Numerous times, I sit down with my amazing clients, and we talk about goals, and we talk about plans, and all of the diets they’ve followed. Recently, I was asked if I knew about the six pack sensation diet… I hadn’t. There appear to be so many diets, and not a lot of people actually succeeding with them. It’s quite frustrating really, but totally normal. A large part of our training is about habit based coaching.

I never (or hardly) focus on meal plans. I only ever focus on building positive habits, or building awareness through short periods of tracking food choices. I often get asked what is the key to fat loss, and my clients are often surprised (and so was I when I first found this out) to hear that fat loss is largely related to the speed with which we eat. By becoming more mindful about the foods we eat, than we were, and more mindful to allow ourselves to eat more slowly, we’ll often feel fuller earlier, and won’t be over eating any kind of food, let alone unhealthy food.

Food awareness is however very difficult. The reason being that we were raised by (or at least our parents were raised) people who had experienced rationing. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the general population would have had to limit what they bought, and therefore would absolutely made sure they finished what was on their plate. With food scarce, it was logical for all children to be raised to finish what was on their plate. So our parents would have then habitually trained us to finish what was on our plates, right from an early age.

Nowadays, with plates larger, portion sizing also, food more processed, and cheaper to buy, we always tend to eat more than we need, because we’re set on finishing the meal, and we often eat quickly (unthinkingly). We are a society of mindless eaters.

By eating too quickly, we’re not giving our stomach the time to tell our brain that we’re no longer hungry. This is largely due to the fact that eating food reduces the release of ghrelin, (the hunger hormone), and this takes time to be removed from our system, helping to maintain the feeling of hunger, even when we’ve eaten enough for our bodies to handle. We are also slightly, but chronically under slept, which increases the release of ghrelin, in turn causing us to eat even more.

  1. Eat Slowly. (15 to 20 minutes is ideal). So the simple solution to this is eating slower, and we can do that, by setting timers to get us started, or by checking the clock when we start eating and setting the intention of finishing after a certain time. There will be times we’re largely unsuccessful. However, if diligently working on this, we can begin to be more food aware, and slower eaters. When we eat slower, we lose between 50 and 70 calories on average. Add that up over 3 or 4 meals a day, and that’s at least 150 calories less per day. Add that up over a week and thats at least 1000 calories less. Do that over a year, and the weight loss is pretty steadily downward so long as we do the next 4 habits in conjunction to some decent degree –
  2. Eat Protein Rich Foods with each meal. The protein will provide for more growth and repair. It reduces hunger further. Is harder to digest, and leaves us feeling satisfied for longer. It will allow us to maintain healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day, and therefore mean we’re able to be even more mindful about our next meal.
  3. Eat lets of deep green or bright vegetables with each meal. They are high in volume, low in calories, high in vitamins and minerals, and therefore is optimal for providing a conditions of health. It is still conjecture, however it seems logical to think, that when a person becomes vegetarian for the first time, their energy levels take a spike, because of the greater array of nutrient dense foods, that allow for optimal bodily function. In this instance, a 1 or 2 handfuls is the best bet with this.
  4. Eat fruit or starchy carbohydrates on days where you perform vigorous physical activity. This includes foods such as bananas, large fruits, potatoes, pasta and bread. These are great for fueling depleted glycogen stores in the blood stream after you’ve trained hard, and pushed yourself. In this instance, one fist of this, will suffice. On non training days, do the best that you can to avoid these foods, and eat less starchy carbs than you would otherwise. The sugars are less necessary, and are more likely to be stored as fat, if you do.
  5. Each healthy fat daily. This includes saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. What do I mean by this? Saturated fats include coconut oil, butter, cheese, animal fats and eggs. Monounsaturated fats include macadamias, pecans, almonds, cashews, and pistachios, olives, pumpkin seeds, olive oil and avocado. Polyunsaturated fats includes fish oil, algae oils, sunflower seeds, peanuts, walnuts, flaxseeds and flax oil, brazil nuts. Aim for 1 to 2 thumbs of which per meal, with a variety of different sources, and you’ll be winning. At each meal choose a different fat source to get ⅓ of each per day.

These are the 5 healthy habits. Let me know what you think, and how you get on. Post any questions to comments.

Archie,
Head Coach
CF Chichester

Succeed with support: how your social group can help you achieve in fitness (or anything else).

In the group we most associate with most, lies a key contributor or detractor for the success that we deserve. If you’d like to find out if your social network is helping you succeed in your health and fitness goals then fill out this very short survey here.

“This is not a piece of gym equipment!!”

A small note written on the side of our giant cork we have in our kitchen. A wedding gift from some friends, that we had everyone sign or write a short note or word of advice on our wedding day. A great memento of a fantastic day. The short note represented such an example of two opposing opinions. The funny thing was, the cork is heavy, awkward and would be an excellent substitute for a heavy dumbbell if I was stuck for equipment and kit and wanted to do a workout.

It was written by a uni mate who was anything but athletic. To him it must have seemed bizarre and a bit odd, me lumping round a left over curb block which I’d ‘salvaged’ from a building site, bundled into the back of my car, and served me for a year as a decent weight to do workouts in our university house garden, overlooking the beautiful town of Falmouth, in Cornwall.

“This is not a piece of gym equipment!!”

To my uni mates, I was a bit weird, because while they’d be getting up, having their cereal breakfast, and strong coffee, I’d already be done and dusted having had my breakfast earlier, post workout, showered and ready to head to lectures. They did work hard though, it’s just twice or thrice weekly curries that we may be disagreed on.

Luckily, I was focused enough to maintain a good routine, until I became enamoured with a girl at uni, who liked making cakes. I ate so much cake over one summer, I stopped training as much and my six pack went to a four pack. They laughed, but hey, I was still getting laid.

Back in ’08 when I thought trying to balance on the front of a light longboard was a good idea.

Ultimately it was not a match made in heaven, and I got back on the routine, of fitness, cold showers, and only the ‘semi-regular’ curry with my housemates. With my six pack back, I was feeling good, and have learnt that ultimately the cakes not worth it, the feeling of being fit and healthy is.

Consider this, when you’re trying to workout, do the people around you support you in it? For instance saying things like “you go get your session done, I’ll look forward to when you’re back” (an example from wife) not “you’re going to work out now???” (also from my wife!). In relationships, support is everything. Especially when it comes to personal goals. Understanding where the other is coming from, and knowing what they want, makes living together, and working together, cohesive, fun and ultimately successful. In a relationship (or surrounded by unhealthy work colleagues for 8 hours a day) if there isn’t a decent level of support in your goals, then making them turn from dreams to reality is going to be much harder. In fact, they might not even be possible at all.

 

Judge buddies.

From working successfully with clients, sometimes, I’ve not even discussed diet, or training, until, we’ve worked out, how to get the partners on board. If you don’t have a partner, it’ll be friends and family who’ll probably have the biggest influence over you and your health endeavours.

If you don’t have what you would call a ‘supportive network’ around food and eating, don’t despair. Neither did I. Now, I’ve got nothing but a supportive, amazing community, wife, friends and family, because of a few simple strategies which I’ve employed (and still use) over the last 7-8 years.

Strategies to Gain Social Support

  • Communicate your goals effectively, earnestly and honestly to a loved one. The best way to do this is to sit down with a pen and paper write them out (a list of about 5 will do) and put a timeline on those goals. Then explain to your loved one, friends or family member the meaning it would give you to accomplish these.
    • Expressing sincerity with your goals, helps to allow you to be more vulnerable, and endearing to the other party. Making them more likely to be fully on board in helping you (especially if they come up with a plan to help you get there).
    • Making it clear that this is really important to you, and you can’t do it without their support, and help, will help them to feel part of the process and part of why you’re going to succeed with this. This step is important because giving them a sense of purpose within the realm of this goal, will bring you together and make it much more likely that you’ll have at least one person who will help.
    • If this conversation doesn’t go well. Find someone else to have this conversation. If you must make this work with the other party (for instance you live with them!) then try a gentler approach over a sustained period of time. Bring it up often, and their negative response will lessen over time. You will eventually ‘wear them down’ to the point where you make it your goal to get them on board first with you achieving these goals. Two people working on a goal is better than one.
  • Join a group of people who have similar goals. Whether this is a gym, club or social group, having friends who are on a similar path is going to dramatically increase your likelihood of success, because they will help you see methods of success that you didn’t see before. They’ll offer a different perspective and with any luck, inspire you along, when times are tough. Being part of a WhatsApp group is highly beneficial in this regard because communication becomes more frequent and sharing information becomes easier.
    • Explain to your work/boss that this is your goal. The key influencers at your place of work will have a major impact on your success. If they know you’re going to be starting later every Tuesday and Thursday because you’re finishing your longer workout/run/bike ride/swim on these days, but you’re going to be finishing later then this can be a help to them in understanding better you movements (if they’re expecting you to attend an office at a set time).
    • You could also do an event for them which helps promote their brand or if they have a charitable arm, gain sponsorship from them if its a run or a challenge such as a tough mudder, and then they’d be getting a direct benefit from you accomplishing your goal.
    • You could always invite your boss/work colleagues along to do the challenge with you. Gaining support in the office for a diet bet, or having the no junk food rule in the office can have a massively positive impact not only on your success but on those around you.
  • Invite people to join with you on something diet bet if your goals are weight loss related. Even being part of something like weight watchers, or slimming world can still have a hugely positive impact on your success because it’s a supportive community geared towards helping all of you succeed, and providing a level of accountability which you wouldn’t otherwise have if you weighed yourself alone. It provides a space to talk about things with like minded individuals who’ve already been where you are now, and can help provide an outside perspective that is impartial and objective.
  • Employ a coach who’s already done it. Professional coaches, are trained in how to help you get from where you are to where you want to go. We know how it feels sometimes, and we can be a positive source of knowledge and support to help keep you on track, and enjoy the success that you deserve. We all need coaches at some point in life. Why not start right now?

 

If you’d like to learn more about whether you could do with some extra strategies to help be more focused, and gain extra support from those around you take our all new social support questionnaire. It’s totally free, and if you’d like to talk some more put your details into our get started page here.

Social support link here too – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CFCsocialsupport

Thanks for reading,

Archie,
Head Coach.

A Mindset For The Injured Athlete: How to stop injuries from harming the rest of you

If you’re short of time, or in the car, you can download the article here and listen to it.

Injuries change lives. They affect how we move. They affect how we sleep. They affect how we think. They affect how we feel about ourselves. The truth is that injuries happen. No matter what sport you’re in. However, that does not mean that you can’t turn an injury into an opportunity to grow.

The first major injury that happened to me, was riding a bike down hill. I had no helmet. I had a narrow path to stay on. I was going too fast. At the bottom of the track was a small bridge. Either side of the bridge were concrete posts and a metal bar. As I approached the bridge, I knew I was going too fast and knew I didn’t have time to break. I hit the post with my handlebars, was flung onto the steel bar, and proceeded to crack both front teeth, and badly cut open my arm. I was 10. Not a great move. It took me a few weeks to recover and have the stitches removed (I did that at home myself because I thought it was cool) along with a trip to the dentist.

I didn’t learn the lesson though, and following that accident, I proceeded to have a second more serious crash. This time it took me out of rugby for a year, and pretty much stopped any chance of being a professional player later on due to the severity of the injury to my neck. Oh well. The good thing was, that I then became really good at judging when I was going too fast and showing off. Now, I’m much more cautious, and have managed to avoid anything of that severity since.

The view I now take is that there is always something to be gained in equal proportion to the accident. Every injury that you suffer (and they will come) is a gift.

In our training program we see a great deal of people who are injured (a most, you’ll be happy to know are injured outside of the gym). However, it often affect a person’s mindset towards training, and will if confidence has been lessened often prevent them from continuing with us. For us, this can be frustrating, because it’s my goal to help as many people as possible, live happier healthier lives, with or without injuries.

The major benefit I see, is that it is an intensely personal event. Therefore, forces us to forget all competition, and focus solely on our own progress. This in an of itself is a massive gift that can be unlocked, if then set realistic metrics for success, you can begin working towards them. If for instance you’ve injured your back, and it hurts at night on a scale of 1 to 10 pretty close to a 5 or a 6. The goal I would set is to find things that lessen the pain, so that I can lower it down to a 3 or 4. In this instance the method may be a combination of seeing a good physiotherapist, and performing twice daily mobilisations to the glutes and back muscles and surrounding tissues using a lacrosse ball, with a weekly sports massage. In this case, back pain can be lessened and voila, you’re on the path to recovery and feeling good because we can feel like we’re making progress.

A second example, for myself has been my right hip. I’ve damaged it in some way. Meaning that I can no longer perform single leg squats. It goes weak at a certain point of hip flexion (when my knee gets closer to my chest). So, my metric of success is currently, to increase gently the range in which it feels strong and stable. So far, I’ve scaled back my progressions, to one which I can feel the same recruitment of muscle fiber in both legs, and then over the last few months have been progressively increasing the depth of the squat, and soon will be able to increase the difficulty of the progression further once I’ve developed further strength and stability in the joint. In this instance, I never would have quite focused so greatly on the nuances of a single leg squat as much had I had not experienced this injury. I wouldn’t be emphasising the point as much of glute activation and strengthening. Of watching for valgus (inward) knee in my clients as much, had I not been experiencing this injury to my own right hip. In fact, getting injured in my right hip has been a god send. It’s allowed me to become a more caring and diligent coach as a result and allows me the opportunity to help my clients before they get to this point. It’s also forced me to focus more on gymnastic progressions, rather than lifting heavy weight (I’ll get back to those later).

I suspect that any injury within the body, can be seen as a metaphor in how to approach challenges in life. That is why I believe so passionately in the benefit of injury. The opportunities they present are unique and will lead each and every single person on a journey they never thought they would take, and with the right approach, setting proper and achievable metrics for success, we can come to appreciate them for the gift which they really are.

If you’re injured, or recovering from one, it’s also important to concentrate movements that you can do, in recovery, and not focus on the movements you can’t. Our classes are intense, but they can 100% be adjusted towards each individual person. For those who are curious, I’ve added this guide which you can download here, and use any time you come to a Crossfit class and are not sure what movements to substitute to. Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

Training Substitutions Guide

If you fancy a good listen you can download the audio guide here:

Key takeaway – “if its pain free, it works.”

Notes:

Back Pain – Some tools to help fix it – link here. 

Terminal Knee Extension – Link here. 

 

Archie Cunningham, Head Coach

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The Future of Fitness in The 21st Century

When I first begun my fitness journey I was ten years old. I was doing pull-ups on the gangway of our boat, that was my home for a short period of time. I was so proud that I could do 5 and I remember showing off my strength to my friends because I thought I was pretty cool being that strong. It felt like if I could be anything, I could be fit and strong.

Right through my teens, I began training in the school weights room. We lifted weights with the standard bench press (my then favourite lift) and the pull-ups bar, while we were in or out of the rugby season. As these kinds of movements bored me, I began looking elsewhere. I looked for that level of interest in martial arts. I looked at in home training programs and I looked at it from books, from deadlift specific programs, or kettlebell specific programs. I found the things that fascinated me and kept on studying and learning.

It quickly became apparent that there were holes in my fitness that I hadn’t addressed. I felt like trying sports such as surfing might help, and they did, because I became less self conscious with the way I looked and more focused on how my body could actually perform. Being someone who was always conscious of how ‘lanky’ they were, as a teen, it was a significant shift in self acceptance that was beginning to develop in me that in truth hadn’t been felt in a long time. Something, all of us will eventually do at some point in our lives. After discovering that surfing was not competitive enough for me, I began looking back to the sport I’d grown up with: rugby. Still, it wasn’t enough. It didn’t capture my fascination anymore. As much as it used to be fun, we as players weren’t getting any better.

Only when I took my brother to this tiny little gym on top of Portsdown Hill that I discovered really what I’d been looking for. A fitness program that covered all the bases of athleticism. One where we developed strength and cardio vascular fitness. Where the movements required a high level of skill and flexibility. Where I was able to feel good, not about how my body looked, but about what it could do. That was the major difference, because this training program allowed me to focus on developing my bodies’ ability to get fitter, and to be stronger, more athletic, rather than aesthetic.

The training program that I discovered was called CrossFit.

Proper coaching is the backbone of a good training program.

Currently to the majority of the population, the fitness industry places the emphasis on the aesthetics of exercise. The images, the plans, the focus is too much on how your body looks, on how your abs look under top lighting, or how you look in swimming trunks or a swimming suit. I certainly for a time felt that getting ‘beach ready’ was more important than ‘life ready’. The frustrating aspect of this focus, is that often leads to feelings of self-doubt, self-consciousness, and envy. Although we have some control over how our body looks, it seems that we have more control over the effort we can put forth today, than the way our body may look in 6-12 months. This was a real and measurable benefit to altering the reason for training in the gym.

This realisation, not only happened to myself, but as we are seeing all around the world (and in our gym) is that the other two balancing reasons for exercise (health and performance) are coming much more into the forefront of people’s ideas as to why they’re training. What we’re beginning to realise is that taking care of yourself, has impact way beyond the way you look. As a coach, some of greatest transformations that I’ve witnessed, have been when the client focuses more their physical performance via setting a specific athletic goal (for instance run the london marathon, or do an assisted pull-up).

 

In this light, it’s our belief at our gym that, children nowadays, would be more successfully athletic if they were encouraged to focus more on their strength, than their waist size. Seeing increases in performance can far more readily be seen by you and others than losing 1 inch around your waist. Most people will experience comments after 6-12 weeks of following a regular training program about how they look, whereas they might have noticed that their strength had increased already from just week 1 to week 2. Getting these visible signs of being fitter and healthier come far faster when this focus on athletic performance is encouraged.

For instance our teens program is 50:50 girls and boys. The girls often out lift the boys, are more coordinated and more powerful than the boys. Up until the age of 13-14, both girls and boys are on a level playing field when it comes to strength. CrossFit is also one of the few sports where men and women are paid the same in prize money. Girls and boys, who adopt these training practices early in their childhood also stand less chance of injury in other sports, due to the development of more strength than we can usually expect from kids that age. It’s important to remind yourself that there was a time, probably when you were under the age of 6, that you could squat bum to ankle, and stay in that position for as long as you wanted. Try that now without assistance, and you’re part of the small proportion of westerners who can do that.

Learning how to look after your body from an early age is exactly the 1% course correction our kids need to have massive success later on.

When looking at obesity rates in the UK alone, 26% of the population are obese and 61% are overweight. The health services, are now beginning to show signs that cure is no longer the solution, and prevention is going to become the new way forward to healthcare in the modern world. Recently, I was reading the recommendations from the midwife on what a pregnant woman should be eating as part of a low glycemic index diet, and more or less all of their foods, were in line with what I as a nutrition coach suggest to my clients. The world is changing, and more and more, we’re going to see that your doctor is going to be requesting a meeting or notes from your fitness coach. That healthcare will be integrated into the fitness industry more closely than we’ve ever seen before. You’re going to find that more and more, that gyms and training schedules will be part of the prescription that doctors give to overweight, or unhealthy patients.

If you don’t agree with me, then speak to members of a gym known for its reputation in producing long term health change in it’s clients, and ask them who has had a bigger impact on their health, their doctor or their gym, and they’ll most likely say their gym. This isn’t to brag, this merely to make the point that when it comes to healthier lifestyle choices, and producing fitter healthier more positive human beings, gyms and coaches, not hospitals and doctors are the real experts in the field.

Ultimately, prevention is going to become the cure. It is far cheaper to invest in £100 a month in an excellent gym program that you use for the rest of your life, than having to suffer the consequences of diseases in later life due to poor health choices. Plus, healthier people, drink less alcohol, eat better food, are less of a burden on the healthcare system, less likely to take sick days and be more productive and have a positive impact on the workplace than less healthy people.

Even later in your 60s you can still get the benefit of resistance training. Maintaining bone density helps you bounce, when others might break if fall over. Balance and accuracy too, if not used, atrophy over time.

What’s quite amazing about this entire process is that, for someone to adjust themselves to adopting the ‘prevention over cure’ model for health and fitness, the actual changes necessary to make a real and measurable difference are actually quite small. With just a 1% course correction, over time that adds up a measurable difference in health over the long term. Small consistent changes, managed with a knowledgeable and understanding coach can add up to a dramatically different lifestyle and health position in just a few years without sacrificing on the basics such as relationships, enjoying time with friends, and negatively impacting work, which can happen when there is too much of a drastic change in a short term transformation program, as it’s proven some training programs can impact.

It’s a very simple choice, either to make the 1% correction now that’s going to lead a measured gap in your own health over the next 5-10 years or more, or continue on the path you’re on, getting the same results as before, and putting yourself at that higher risk of disease in later life. Notwithstanding the positive impact that just coming to a supportive encouraging, growth orientated environment as the gym we run is is going to have on your day, you week, you month your year, your life. There will never be the right time to truly a make a difference to your health, but now is always going to be better than tomorrow.

Archie Cunningham
Head Coach
CrossFit Chichester

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5 Years On – Here’s Where it Began

Here are some pics from the old gym. You can find it on our facebook page too, but here are some we picked out:

My first client – my lovely wife Lydia.

Workout done. Henry asleep on the mats. I feel really guilty now looking back.

Steve and I building the monster rig. It cost half the amount of a standard rig, but took about a week to build and 10 people to help build it. Never again.

The old gym looked so bright until we put the matting down!

The final stages of the gym coming together. We learnt a lot.