Category Archives: CrossFit Inspiration

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.

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.

CrossFit Nasty Girls

This was one of the first CrossFit videos I watched. This is also the original CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz. Annie, Eva and Nicole all trained here together and regularly hit main site workouts that people would copy all around the world.

Back when this was filmed around 2008 if you were close enough to an affiliate to train there with other Crossfitters you were truly blessed. So what the rest of us did was follow crossfit.com. Every morning a workout would appear on main site then you would get yourself to your local globo gym and do it to the best of your ability and rush back and post your times on the main page comments -scrolling up and down seeing who you beat or who beat you. Just like at the gym now, I had my names to look out for, people I would do my best to beat every day. Nik ‘Alan’ Nichols from Texas and Richard Vanmeerbeek from Belgium were my main contenders and like me they posted a score every single day… apart from the rest days of course when we made our own workouts up.

Fast-forward six years from my good old days, and where
is CrossFit now? There are over 4,000 CrossFit gyms spread across the
entire world. There are now hundreds of thousands of
CrossFitters, and it seems like there are hundreds more
every single day.
I hope you enjoy the video… And yes the form’s not always great 😉
Strength
Hang Power Clean 3-3-3-3-3 – Build to a heavy 3 reps
Conditioning
‘Nasty Girls’
3 rounds:
50 Air Squats
7 Muscle Ups / 21 Ring Rows
10 Hang Power Cleans 60/40k
Finisher
Tabata Sit ups

Back Squat

Jeff doing a back squat at CrossFit Blackwater, Witham Essex
Jeff hitting some back squats

Jeff has been CrossFitting since January 2015.  He has achieved a great deal – not only has he reduced his blood pressure dramatically, he has also lost over 1 stone in weight.  When Jeff first started he had rest periods programmed into all of his conditioning sessions – now he no longer needs them and completes the entire metcon with minimal rest.

Jeff is a great example of how consistency alongside sensible scaling can deliver amazing results.  Well done Jeff – keep up the good work!

Strength

Back Squat  10-5-3-3-5-10

If you’re currently following the Olympic lifting classes and squatted yesterday then today you can switch to Push press. Overhead 20rm is going to be a benchmark so don’t forget to get your pads out and make a note of what weight you lifted… and how it felt.

Conditioning

50 Sit ups
50 Wall Balls
40 Sit ups
40 Russian Twists
30 Sit ups
30 Pull Ups
20 Sit ups
20 Handstand Push Ups
10 Sit ups
10 Burpees

Finisher

Max Hang Plank combo