Category Archives: Blog

The CrossFit Open… coming sooner than you think

 

The CrossFit open is the first step to the CrossFit Games

Your final finishing place in the CrossFit Open is never determined by the workout you find the easiest or even your favourite movement. Usually is comes down to your weakest movement bumping you right down the leaderboard.

Identify your weaknesses

Having great conditioning and being able to throw a bar around with ease do help a lot. But the most common factor letting people down in the CrossFit open are their gymnastic skills. From toes to bar, chest to bar to the harder muscle up moves… these are the biggest separators in the CrossFit open. You could be flying on week one and two and then the handstand push ups appear and your goal of getting top 200 in your category is gone.

Ring or bar muscle ups are always a huge separator in the open

Attack your weaknesses

Right now is the perfect timing to get onto the gymnastic skills – start hitting emom’s, practice your kips, hit some strict strength work to boost your kipping numbers. Only then can you start to put your new skills into conditioning formats and start smashing every workout. If you can finish well on every workout rather than being great on some and really bad on one your final finish will be much better.

The open always brings out that extra effort

Test yourself

I have competed in the CrossFit Games open stage, injured or not since the beginning – including two years before the open was even called the open. I’ve qualified for 3 individual regionals and 2 CrossFit Games. The open is a big event for us at CrossFit Blackwater – we encourage everyone to get involved and join us on our special CrossFit open workout days every Friday during the season.  Whatever your goals it is a great way to benchmark your progress from one year to the next, see how you stack up against the competition in CrossFit Blackwater, Witham, England, Europe and even the world!

Get started now!

I’m now beginning to launch some special PT sessions to get people ready for the open in 2018. We can focus on your personal weaknesses and bring them along in time to get your best ever open finish or, if it’s your first open, to start out in style.

The notorious Chilli

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Food prep ideas

Al was asking me on Sunday for some more food ideas so with that in mind here is the notorious chilli recipe.

Last year my freezer broke and I ended up with several kilos of rapidly defrosting meat so I set to work and cooked up an enormous batch of chilli which I brought into the box and distributed to any CrossFit Blackwater members who could give it tummy space!

I make a batch of this chilli nearly every week either on the hob or in my slow cooker.  It gives you eight portions of delicious protein to feed yourself, the family and hungry business partners! If you don’t have quite so many mouths to feed freeze some portions as emergency ready meals for those weeks when everything goes crazy and planning and prepping food just doesn’t happen.

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Hot?

Apparently this chilli is on the spicy side – I make it with the full two tablespoons of chilli powder and my girls are happy to eat it (although Alys does like a spoonful of sour cream to tame it a little).  If you have a delicate constitution like HB you may like to cut the chilli down to a single tablespoon!

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Batch cooking is the way forward

The slow cooker is well used in my house – it’s so easy to use and minimal pots and pans to wash up afterwards.  I literally chuck all the ingredients in last thing at night and then wake up to a big pot of deliciousness!

1-2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional)
1kg turkey thigh mince
1 tspn oregano
1 tspn allspice
1 tspn salt
2 tbspn cumin powder
1-2 tbspn chilli powder (the uncut stuff – not the chilli mix)
1.5 tbspn cocoa powder
1 tin tomato puree
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 stock cube (I love the Knorr stock pots)

Pop everything in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

If you want to cook this on the hob, sauté the onions in a bit of oil first for 5-10min. Next add the turkey and garlic and brown then chuck in all the spices and mix well. Add your tin of tomato paste and cook it off for a couple of minutes then finish off with the tomatoes, stock cube and a tinful of boiled water.  Simmer with the lid off for 2 hours and you are ready to go!

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Make it go further

You can add pretty much anything you fancy to bulk this up a bit.  I like borlotti beans but I’ve also used kidney beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans – whatever is hanging about it the cupboard.  Green peppers are a good addition. If I’m trying to up the veg quotient or there are some lonely, tired vegetables hanging around in the salad drawer I’ve popped in grated carrot and courgette.

How to keep your training mojo over the winter

There are no two ways about it – training in the winter is tougher for most people.  It’s dark and cold in the morning before work and it’s dark and cold in the evening after work!

So what can you do to overcome the urge to spend an extra hour under the duvet in the morning or curled up on the sofa after work?

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Set some goals.

Commit to a target – choose something specific that is achievable in a 6-8 week timeframe.  For example – “I’m going to add 5kg to my deadlift” or “I’m going to achieve my first pull-up”. Think of it as a Christmas present you are going to give yourself!

Here at CrossFit Blackwater in Essex we have a goals board in the gym.  We encourage all of our members to write up their goals and commit to achieving them.  Ideally they are going back to the board every month or two, ticking off their achievements and setting some new targets.  Over a year, nailing 6 or 7 small goals adds up to an enormous amount of progress!

Use your coaches to help you plan your goals and training strategies. This is what we do for everyday – both for ourselves and for you when we programme your CrossFit or Weightlifting training sessions. So exploit our knowledge and experience!  If there is something that you want come and talk to us.

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Be smart with your training times.  

Early morning trainers

Get some strategies in place to overcome the lure of the duvet:

Lay out all of your gym kit the night before.  Fall straight into your kit – no scrabbling around for clothes in the dark whilst you’re still half asleep.

Get to bed a little earlier. If you are forcing yourself out of bed when you haven’t had enough sleep you won’t be able to keep it up for long and you’ll feel rotten.

Prepare your post workout breakfast the night before so you have a tasty treat waiting for you when you finish training.  Think overnight oats, a couple of hard boiled eggs with smoked fish and spinach, natural yoghurt with a selection of berries…  Anything which you can pop in a box to grab from the fridge in the morning.

Evening trainers

Try coming to the box on your way home from work – you’re avoiding the temptation of all the chores waiting at home!

Try and plan ahead so that you fuel for your training session with a mid-afternoon snack at work.  Hard boiled eggs, an apple spread with almond butter, a tuna sandwich. If you are really running on empty pep yourself up with a banana packed with carbs and potassium right before your class – nature’s own energy gel!

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Get your micronutrients on point.  

Your body makes vitamin D using sunlight. In the darker winter months (especially if you work indoors all day) it is pretty hard to get sufficient sunlight to make our vitamin D requirement.

Low vitamin D can cause tiredness and general aches and pains. If you are really suffering with these symptoms schedule a visit to your GP to get your vitamin D levels checked.

Foods that contain vitamin D include egg yolks, liver, oily fish, milk, yoghurt and cheese.  If you are struggling a high quality fish oil supplement or vitamin D supplement can help.

Scott Jenkins – Eating for Performance

Eating for Performance

I get asked a lot what I eat, how much and how often. To answer this properly I decided to blog a day of my eating to give you an idea of how clean, how many calories and what I need to keep me going during my training for The CrossFit Games.

Breakfast

I need to eat as soon as I wake up – before I can speak to be honest. Nothing comes out of my mouth until something goes in. Today I started with oats, chopped banana and walnuts. This is my usual breakfast on weekdays. On weekends it’s more likely to be eggs and bacon on toast.

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Most mornings I coach before doing my training so I hit up an extra bit of protein (and fat I am told) with a couple of eggs. If I coach at 10am and then train until 1pm it’s a long time to go without food so I try and get two breakfasts.

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Post training

Kindly donated to my daily food today was a box of chilli meat (I didn’t ask what animal) and some broad beans and peas. I have this about half an hour after training, once my stomach has settled from the gruelling met con – eat too soon and bad things can happen!

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This is my all day box. Chicken, broccoli, rice with pesto sauce. I have a munch on this sporadically throughout the day and evening, just a couple of forkfuls at a time. I hope forkfuls is a word…

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Dinner time

About 6pm, before doing my evenings coaching, it’s time for the cooked dinner. This varies depending on what I am given. Todays dinner looks much prettier than usual.  I told Jen I was taking pictures so for the first time ever it’s all laid out neatly on my plate :).

Supplementation

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Not to forget my BCAAs and Omega 3s. I’ve really noticed the effect on my recovery and knee soreness since supplementing with these. They allow me to go really hard every single session and be ready to smash another workout the next day.

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I’m a big believer in not bulling anyone. Nothing beats a nice cold Kestrel super to relax and chill with after a night of coaching.

Choosing a CrossFit gym

When CrossFit first arrived in the UK there was little choice of CrossFit boxes.  Generally there would only be one option within a sensible travelling distance.  As CrossFit has grown in popularity over the last couple of years, CrossFit gyms have started to spring up everywhere.

So here at CrossFit Blackwater in Essex we have compiled our top five points to consider when choosing a CrossFit gym.

1.  How experienced are your coaches?

The best coaches will have spent thousands of hours honing their coaching and technique skills. They will have invested many thousands of pounds on training to help them become the best coach possible.

Coaching at CrossFit Blackwater gym in essexIt’s a sad fact that it is possible to open a gym with minimal qualifications and zero experience. A certificate gained from a weekend course does not qualify somebody to be a good coach. If you are picking up a barbell for the first time and want to stay safe and injury free, are you going to entrust that job to somebody who has never coached real, actual people before? That would be like allowing a guy who’d read a couple of books and watched the odd you tube video to rewire your house.

Good coaches have been on a journey to get to that point – ideally they will have had internships and been mentored by established coaches. Taking part in someone else’s classes is not the same as shadowing a great coach and learning how to watch, correct and develop strategies to help a people from a wide spectrum of different abilities and training histories.

Check whether your coach is invested in ongoing training. The best coaches approach their development as a lifelong job. They invest time and money in reading and studying and they have ongoing hands on coaching themselves to keep improving their own performance and coaching skills.

2.  Are you tempted by the “budget” option?

Whether this works for you depends on your own level of training and experience. If you just need somewhere with bars and chalk and you are completely confident with all movements and get expert coaching elsewhere this could work for you.

However if you are interested in CrossFit because of it’s small class sizes and coaching focus, you do need to consider how the “budget” CrossFit gym operates. Running restricted numbers classes is far more resource intensive than packing 50 people into a bootcamp class. These small group classes are the best way to get access to coaching at a fraction of the price of personal training sessions.

If a CrossFit gym is able to operate this style of class whilst offering bargain basement prices and constant special offers, consider where they are saving money. Often it will be on the coaches. Fitness is a notoriously low paid industry but a box that cannot pay a living wage to its staff will not be able to retain staff and won’t be able to recruit the best coaches. Are you paying for a coach to help you progress or a cheerleader getting a job on their cv before they move on?

3.  Does your box have a specialist Olympic Weightlifting coach?

Christine Cope olympic lifting coach CrossFit BlackwaterOlympic lifting is a complex and technical sport. Whilst you may not be interested in being an Olympic weightlifter, you will undoubtedly be exposed to the lifts as your CrossFit journey progresses. If you are taught badly at the start, not only can it take months to reverse ingrained bad habits but you are increasing your risk of injury.

If your coach demonstrates the movements and expects you to copy them you are in the wrong place. Learning the lifts well requires breaking down the lifts and learning the correct positions. Trying to “just copy” someone is a recipe for disaster.

4.  Do your coaches compete?

It is not necessary for a good coach to be an elite athlete – but it is important for them to understand what it is like to perform under pressure. CrossFit is the sport of fitness and competition is a part of that – this competition may only be with yourself but the desire to progress and improve is fundamental to CrossFit.

Coach Scott Jenkins competes at CrossFit GamesA coach who has never been faced with a movement they struggle with in a competition or stood alone on a lifting platform with a room full of people watching has no place coaching.

Competing, experiencing success, facing failure and moving onwards with new resolve and training strategies after a setback are things that make your coaches great people to be around. They know what it is like to feel demoralised and struggle to move past hurdles of their own.

If your coaches have never put themselves on the line how can they ask you to do the same? Everyone’s line will be different – it may well be making that first step through the door into a box environment which is totally alien to you.

5. Are you going to make progress?

If there are things that you cannot do, will your box help you to achieve those things. Scaling movements is a great way to get a fantastic workout. However, if your coaches are not giving you the right exercises and progressions to help you achieve the movements you desire, you will be stuck doing the scale forever.

If you are a lady with no pull-ups you will not magically get them by entering a CrossFit box – a good coach will guide you through the work needed to achieve them. Often this will require a bit of extra work on top of the classes – the guidance your coach gives you with these “extras” to work on before and after class is vital in helping you achieve your goals along the way.

If you rock up to the class and get cheered through the workout you will get quite fit. But you won’t become the most awesome version of you. Good coaches will be there for you – use them!

Scott Jenkins talks CrossFit Games Part 2

In the second part of my catchup with Scott Jenkins ahead of his trip out to Carson we talk about his training regime, diet and tips for getting ahead as a masters athlete. (read part 1)

Scott, you mentioned last time that you now work full time at your affiliate, CrossFit Blackwater in Essex.  How does your day look now?

I’ll walk you through my day yesterday…

I had two breakfasts.

Two breakfasts? Is that normal?
No.  I have my longest training session on a Monday and I also had a class to coach before I trained, so I like to get a lot of food in me early!

The first time I did a 3 hour session I felt spent before the end of it and ended up sandbagging the last met con because I was physically tired and unused to the long sessions.  When I was still working in London and doing long hours I only had time for 1 hour sessions so my body was accustomed to 1 hour sessions.

So yesterday I did a 44 minute warmup: preconditioning, stretching, mobilising, empty bar drills.

44 minutes?  That’s nearly as long as most people’s training sessions?
Well I can afford the time at the moment – and I do faff around with the music so it’s not all pure warmup.

Afterwards, a 10 minute snatch EMOM.  I’m working on consistency with my olympic lifts – yesterday I only dropped one so it was a good day.

Then snatch grip deadlifts, back squats, some metabolic conditioning including running, muscle ups and toes to bar and finishing with an EMOM of muscle ups and toes to bar.

What do you do after training?
Scott after hitting hero WOD Glen at CrossFit Blackwater

I should stretch – sometimes I don’t.  I get easily distracted by conversation.  I’m always 100% focussed on my training but today I got chatting with somebody outside the box.  Business comes before stretching sometimes!

I go home in the afternoon for a bit of downtime and a nap before I return to coach 2-3 hours of classes in the evening.

This time of year is brilliant because Springwatch is on TV – my favourite programme.  I get to see how the blue tits are doing.  Sadly no sticklebacks this year – Spineless Si was my favourite Springwatch character ever!

I don’t think many people would have you down as a nature lover?
I can name every British bird.  Not in order – you’d have to show me a picture.  Hopefully there’ll be 5 rounds for time at the Games – 20 pistols OR name these 5 British birds!  That would be brilliant… Or a muscle up then recognise the bird call.

Tell me about your diet?

I’ve been told that my diet is pretty good.  I do make the mistake sometimes of telling my members at CrossFit Blackwater that I eat pretty much what I want – which is the truth.  But mostly what I want is a lot of MEAT!

I do have the occasional french bread sandwich with cheese, tomato and onion.  I don’t have it every day but if there is a french loaf in the house I can’t resist.

O3So you eat pretty clean – what about supplements?
Omega 3 at the moment.  I’ve started to take it consistently over the last 3 months and have really noticed a difference.  I have trouble with my knees – they get sore very easily but I’m able to squat twice a week now.  I still get discomfort but it’s manageable.

BCAA’s.  I didn’t believe in them but I was doing these really long training sessions and struggling to recover.  Since I’ve been taking them I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my recovery.  I’ve been taking them since the Open and I’ve definitely moved forwards.

You mentioned last time that you are following Ben Bergeron’s CompTrain programming.  Why are you using somebody else’s programming when you do the programming yourself for CrossFit Blackwater athletes?

I programme the stuff I like too much for myself.  Whenever I’m in a bad mood or feel like I need a treat I programme muscle ups or handstand pushups or toes to bar or bar cycling.  I love a bit of bar cycling…

I like to wake up and have something to follow that makes me address all areas.  I’d been looking at Ben’s programming for quite a while before I got on board and it’s one of the only programming systems that I fully trust.  Ben has been around in CrossFit for a long time – he’s done wonders with Katrin Davidsdottir.  Since she moved over to him last year she seems to have a new fire.  A lot of Ben’s philosophy is about mental mindset.  That is an enormous part of CrossFit.

What do you think your mental game is like?
At the moment it’s good.  I’m prone to a tantrum but I’m getting better at focussing it into my training now.  Injuries and niggles are the things that can really wind me up and put me off my game.

What advice would you give to people training away in their boxes, working hard and comparing themselves to elite athletes?

Train for quality.

Especially as a master – there is only so much wear and tear our bodies can endure.  Everything needs to be for a reason.

When you leave the box ask yourself “Did my training today make me better?”  If not you’re doing something wrong.  If you are going into the gym and beasting yourself at the same things over and over again you may improve your engine a little but you won’t be getting better as a CrossFit athlete.

Work on your strength base – don’t constantly max and test lifts.

Practice skills outside of timed WODs – EMOM work is great for gymnastic skills.

Don’t do three half hearted met-cons – do one, but do it right.  Get intensity into your training over volume.

Technique above all else.  Everybody is different but success and progress at all levels depends on establishing a solid base of strength and technique.

Scott at the CrossFit Games 2015Thanks Scott for taking the time out of your day to chat with me.  I know I can speak for all the guys at CrossFit Blackwater when I wish you the very best of luck out in Carson.  We’ve all seen how hard you train and are looking forward to seeing you attacking the Games workouts in 2 weeks time!

(Read part 1 of the interview if you missed it)

Scott Jenkins talks CrossFit Games 2016

Scott gamesCrossFit Blackwater athlete and head coach, Scott Jenkins has qualified for the CrossFit Games 2016 for the second year running in the Masters 45-49 category.

Ahead of his trip to Carson I caught up with him to ask him a few questions about his preparation for this year’s competition.

Scott, we haven’t seen you at any of the UK or European competitions this year – what have your goals been this year?
I have taken a step away from other competitions and have focussed all my efforts on making the return trip to Carson.

My goals this year were:
1)  Get back to the Games
2)  Win an event
3)  Get on the podium
4)  Win!

Of course I want to win it!  It’s going to be tough – Bill Grundler is still the guy to beat in my mind.

So what’s the plan at the Games this year?
Last year I was thrilled to qualify for the Games.  I had been trying for 7 years to get there and I felt that I’d achieved my goal just by going.  The first couple of events out in Carson weren’t great for me and I ended up in 18th after two events with a fight on my hands just to make it into the final.

 

Scott 2015 gamesThis year I mean it to be different.  I feel like I’ve earnt my place and I want to go out there and scare a few people!  If the programming goes my way I don’t see why I can’t be a podium contender.  If there are a lot of one rep maxes and a pistol marathon – maybe not.

How do you think you stack up against the big names in your category – Bill Grundler for example?
I think the odds are slightly in his favour.  My engine is better this year so I think I can challenge him on the met con type workouts. My problem is the strength wods – I lose a lot of ground on those workouts whereas Bill does consistently well across all the board – he nearly always finishes in the top 5 across all events.

I’ve been working hard over the last 3 months – my training plan includes 3 days a week of heavy olympic lifting.  I am working really hard on my weaknesses – I am getting better – maybe not at the pace to get top 5 at the games in those events but if I can squeeze into the top 10 it won’t have such a profound effect on my overall rankings.

So is there anything you’ll do differently this year with the benefit of last year’s Games experience to draw on?
I made a lot of rookie mistakes at the Games last year.  I took my top off too much!  Got sweat all over my equipment and made some movements even harder than they were already.

You have no idea how much you sweat out there – especially in the tennis stadium.  It’s like being in a sauna – the air burns your lungs.

How do you prepare for that – you’re based at your CrossFit gym in Witham, Essex with the variable British weather and then suddenly you have to transplant yourself into California and make your body perform optimally?
Fortunately we have a glass roof in the box at CrossFit Blackwater.  When it’s sunny I train directly underneath it.  I put the rower outside when it’s sunny.  It’s not the same as California but I do everything I can!

What’s different to last year in Scott world?
Now I don’t have two jobs.  Last year I did an eight hour day in an office in London, commuted 3 hours a day and then coached 2-3 hours most evenings.  So I have more time for training and recovery.

I’m on a special masters programme – Ben Bergeron’s CompTrain.  I train 2-3 hours a day, 5 days a week.

I feel fitter.  I’m a little bit stronger – it’s hard to get stronger when you’re really old!  Now it’s more about fighting against losing strength.  But I can and have got fitter.

Tell me about injury – how do you balance the need to train enough and keeping the volume to a level that doesn’t cause injury?
I trained so safely last year because I was so nervous about getting injured.  This year I’m training sensibly but I’m pushing the intensity as much as I can.

I have a strain in my supraspinatus at the moment so I’m working around that.  I have to be careful with muscle ups and snatching.

Do you think the Masters are sidelined by CrossFit?  You’re scheduled before the main individuals events, there are no offsite workouts – do you think you are treated as a lesser category?
Not at all!  There’s not as much interest in the Masters – we don’t draw the big crowds.  CrossFit HQ provide us with the same warmup facilities, same soft tissue therapists – we are in the same stadiums…  I think we are very well looked after!

Spectators want to see athletes doing superhuman things.  Although the stuff we do as masters is amazing for our age, it doesn’t make as good viewing as the individuals with their superhuman feats!  That’s why the big sponsorship and attention is on the individuals competition.

The way the Games is programmed is perfect.  It means I get to do my bit and then sit back, relax and watch the individuals and enjoy the rest of my trip.

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What’s the vibe with the other guys out in Carson – super competitive or friendly?
It’s pretty friendly and there’s lots of banter.  But inside we are all competitive beasts!  It doesn’t matter how friendly we are – we all want to beat each other like nothing on earth.  Most of the guys have competitive experience from other sports so there’s a lot going on under the surface.

Who have you got rooting for you at the Games this year?
All the guys at CrossFit Blackwater, my CrossFit gym in Essex, are really supportive – I know last year they were all catching up on the action when they woke up in the morning. The time difference means that a lot of the events happen late at night real time in the UK.  One of the guys said that he woke up his neighbours yelling at the live feed when I came really close to winning the third event SQT last year!!

Read part two of Scott’s interview.