17.1

The CrossFit Open is currently underway. The Open is comprised of 5 workouts, published over 5 weeks, that anyone in the whole world can participate in. If you’re registered, you can log your official time through your affiliate, or submit video evidence if you don’t belong to an affiliate, and compare your performance to every other athlete in the world who also completed that workout. The workouts are published on the Friday (1am GMT, Thursday at 5pm PT) and you have to submit your score by Monday or Tuesday of the following week (depending on your time zone).

17.1 was my first ever CrossFit open workout because I have only belonged to a box since January 6th! It was comprised of:

  • 10 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump overs
  • 20  dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump overs
  • 30  dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump overs
  • 40  dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump overs
  • 50 dumbbell snatches
  • 15 burpee box jump overs

Snatches to be performed with 50lb dumbbell for men, 35lbs for women.

Box height 24” for men, 20” for women.

Scaled athletes can use a 20lb dumbbell and step up onto the box instead of jumping.

There was a 20 minute time cap, meaning all that graft needed to get done within the allocated 2o minutes.

Before starting, I had a personal goal of wanting to finish, despite the fact that the judge at our box warned us that not many people would and we should manage our expectations. I did a scaled effort and managed to get 19 reps into that final set of 50 snatches before I got time capped. So of a possible 225 reps total I scored 179. I’m looking at that like 80% is a solid B in anyone’s book. Not a bad grade for someone who has only been going to crossfit a short while. My other goals were to make an attempt at something that seemed uncomfortable and to support my community at an event like this. Definitely ticked those boxes! The judge said, “you’re going to go to a dark place, especially around those forties”. I learned that this is a warning not to be taken lightly.

The videos I watched online about performance standards instructed coaches to tape the floor so that the athletes were able to orient themselves in the correct direction (facing the box) to perform their burpee. I thought, “how out of your nut do you have to be not to know which way to face?!” turns out that tape was pretty useful. You get pretty out of it during this workout!

As I reflect on my performance, I knew that setting off at a steady pace was better than going all out from the start. I also knew that the burpee box jump overs would be the thing that slowed me down, and I could use a steady snatch pace as a bit of a breather. I stayed moving pretty consistently until I hit that set of 30 and then had to start breaking them up into sets of 10. A friend from the box counted my reps, and thank goodness she did because I was beyond thinking at that point. If you want to help your friends who are in the pain cave during 17.1, do what she did, and give really clear instructions, because you’re essentially speaking to a borderline-deaf drunken moron at that point. “Do 3 more burpees and then take a breather” or “get your hand back on that dumbbell now!” are helpful cues.

Going forward, I think I need to work on my burpee form. I’ve seen some videos in the last 24 hours of people performing 17.1 and they’re bouncing like those BBJs are nothing. I want to move like that. Spry, like an animal. I need to be more explosive in the portion of the burpee that jumps up from the push up position, and I need to do something about my knees because they’re taking a bloody pasting, let me tell you! Think something might be off with my form, I’ll check into it and work on that for the months to come.

If you’re up for a hell of a workout, get yourself a box and a DB and give this absolutely repulsive little burner a go. Post your time to the comments below, and let’s talk about how glad we are that it’s over! 

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Perfect is bunk and it’s destroying your progress

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good!

How many times have you started a diet or training regime only to have it fall to pieces a few weeks in? How many times have you started over – knowing that this time, you probably won’t succeed in reaching your goals?

It is absolutely staggering that the majority of people are unhappy with the way they look – and look at others with an attitude of “if only I looked like that, then I could be happy” and then expect this negative outlook to give them the ability to love their bodies enough to nourish them properly and train hard. So many people feel this way. It is a serious, serious problem – and I’m saying that with 10 years experience as an academic psychologist. This attitude is toxic and it will seriously impede your progress towards your goals!

You don’t have to have 100% dietary compliance in order to reach your goals. But what you do have to do is consistently steer yourself towards those goals. Fallen off the wagon and over indulged? Doesn’t matter. Your goals haven’t changed. Get back on track. You can correct your progress literally with the next thing you put in your mouth. This is actually really liberating – you can adjust your sails and be back on track before you know it.

Do not wait for tomorrow. Do not wait for Monday. Do not wait for new year. Your goals are important – simply make your next choice one that gets you a step closer to where you want to be.

Ask yourself: do I still want this?

If the answer to that is yes, then keep working towards it. If you can’t stop thinking about your goal, don’t stop working for it. You are worthy of your own efforts! You know that in order to lose fat you need to be in a caloric deficit (that means that you have to eat fewer calories than your body needs to maintain fat). It’s no mystery. You don’t need a magic pill. What you do need is a reality check:

  • This will take longer than you want it to. Do it anyway.
  • This will not be a linear process – you may not lose weight every week, even when your dietary compliance is 100%. It simply doesn’t work like that.
  • When it doesn’t go your way, quitting will not speed it up. Chucking it all in the fuck it bucket will just set your progress back. Good enough is good enough. Just keep plugging away!

This is difficult because it’s not glamourous. There’s no potion, or wrap, or detox cleanse that will help you with this. Many of you reading this will be nodding, thinking “yes, I know it’s about CICO and there are no shortcuts”. However, you may underestimate the level of patience that success requires. You must keep trying even when your body doesn’t yet show changes. You must keep trying even when hot cross buns come into the supermarket – and you love you some hot cross buns. You must keep trying even when it’s cold, and wet, and you don’t want to train because you’re tired.

Dig deep. You will get there. It’s a process, and change takes time.

New Year’s Resolutioners: Keep Turning Up!

You’re almost three weeks into your dietary change. You’ve been prepping meals, and counting calories and macros for nearly 3 weeks. And you’re maybe hitting a wall. Maybe you’ve even had to restart and are fighting to keep these positive new changes in place. 

You might have read about how it takes 30 days of a new behaviour for it to become habit. This is bullshit. Don’t set yourself up to fail with this absurdly short window with which you want to make behavioural changes. The actual research literature in this area suggests far longer time periods must pass, with daily repetitions, before you can start to consider behaviours to have become habitual. 

I want to talk to you about something you’ve probably been trying to convince yourself of: the power of sticking to your resolutions, aka Keep Turning Up!

You are writing the story of your life. You are the hero of your own story. Write a story that you are proud to tell. So when you’ve promised yourself that you’ll make it to the gym after work, get that kit packed up, and schedule time for it. Even when you maybe don’t feel like it. Forget that, actually. You should go especially when you don’t feel like it! You’ll be so glad afterwards that you went and you’re riding that endorphin wave! Driving home with your music on, and your hair all sweaty. You’ll be so proud of yourself.

Don’t have a goal of running a marathon if you’re only just starting out. Give yourself a nudge towards success by creating stepping stones on your journey; I resolve to eat one piece of fruit tomorrow, or I will cook with one vegetable at each meal. Resolve to get to the gym and move your body for at least 30 minutes. You have to nudge yourself to success through incremental changes, that you can consistently apply, and gradually build on. That’s how good dietary and training habits are formed – not enormous landslide changes all at once. You can’t expect those to stick, the jump is too great. Instead, change something manageable and keep that one thing under control. Stick with that for a while before adding in anything else. Sure, it’s not a sexy, grand way to change your life – but this method is far more successful for most people.

You can think of it as the architecture of success. You’re now creating a framework that will scaffold your future behaviours, so build a good solid foundation! Believe it or not, you have a huge amount of control over your health and fitness related behaviours: You can always choose to give 100% best effort, and live your best life. Practice making good decisions now, and you’ll be able to draw on those memories of times you were successful to strengthen your will and enhance your resolve in the future.

Next, I want you to comment and tell me what your self nudge is going to be today! Keep it small enough to manage, remember. This is a promise you’re making to yourself.

Do something to get your closer to your goals today! Don’t wait!

This time of year is peculiar. Christmas has passed, New Years hasn’t yet arrived. You’re knocking around the house in a post-Christmas slump, filled with mince pies and confusion, not really sure what day it is because none of your days have any structure.

Maybe each night you go to bed and resolve that tomorrow will be different. You’ll go for that bracing walk to blow your cobwebs away. You’ll clear out the cupboards of all those left over festive snacks. Heck, while we’re thinking about it, maybe we’ll even join a gym. Yes, in fact that sounds like a marvellous idea, and at midnight – when you really can’t do anything at all about that idea – it seems splendid, the world is your oyster! You fall asleep feeling entirely pleased with yourself, and committed to your new brilliant idea.

However, in the morning, when you could do something towards that goal, you choose not to. You stay in your dressing gown, drinking coffee after coffee and putting it all off.

Stop. This is a pivotal point.

You feel motivated late at night because there is no cost to feeling that way. You can be gung ho about all sorts of ideas (joining the gym, writing that novel, exploring Iceland on a nomadic photographic backpacking trip) because you can’t do anything about that right now. It’s a fantasy. It’s safe. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging those ideas. It’s a safe place and time to figure which goals are important to you.

After that your behaviour needs to change a bit if you’re to actually achieve those goals.

Decide something that you can do right now – today – to get you one step closer to that goal. Let’s say your goal is to drop some fat after the holidays, right? I’m guessing a lot of folks feel that way. Set yourself a SMART target. You’ve probably heard about these before in other areas of your life, but they are absolute gold.

A SMART target is one which is:

  • Specific: So, instead of losing some weight, be specific about how much weight. 10lbs, 25lbs, 100lbs.
  • Measurable: You need to be able to keep track of your progress so that if things are going well, you know about it and if they aren’t you can adjust your sails a little. Some internet gurus say not to weigh yourself. “Stay off the sad step!” they implore. I’ll write more about this soon, but really, having some way of checking that you’re progressing towards your goals is obvious. Get a reliable, digital bathroom scale and write your weight down each week.
  • Attainable: This is about having small steps and doing something every day to get your closer to where you want to be. If you currently are taking absolutely no exercise whatsoever, living on a diet of chocolate and mince pies and have a debilitating knee injury, it is not an attainable goal to run the London marathon in the next 2 weeks. An attainable goal is about setting yourself up for small wins. Breaking your goal down into manageable steps, and working on those consistently.
  • Realistic: Give yourself the tools you need to succeed. If that’s a dietary related goal, get a set of kitchen scales and some tupperware. If it’s a fitness goal, spring for those new trainers you’ve been drooling over. This isn’t a bribe, or a frivolous indulgence. Your goals matter – you are important. Treat yourself and your goals the way you would support your best friend, or child, if they came to you with the same goals. If your kid wanted to join a karate class, or a football team – you’d get them the kit, and drive them to the matches wouldn’t you? Do yourself a solid and extend yourself the same courtesy.
  • Time bound: Having a time frame to work to isn’t to make you bust your hump for some arbitrary date in the future. It’s so that you give yourself check-points along the journey and give yourself opportunities to adjust your behaviour if your performance isn’t coming along the way you’d like. It’s to help keep your eye on the ball as you progress. For example, let’s say you want to lose 25lbs by your friend’s wedding which is 20 weeks from now. You have an idea of how much you need to lose each week to get you to that point: 1.25lbs per week. You know how hard you have to hit that diet to achieve that goal. If you had only 10 weeks to lose the same amount of weight, you’d need to lose 2.5lbs – and you’d have to hit that diet in a more aggressive way, and be far stricter with your nutrition and exercise to achieve it.

So… what do you do next? I want you to write down those late night flashes of brilliance. The things you’re inspired to do once you’re already in bed. In the morning, I want you to convert it to a SMART target and get serious about it. You can comment below if you need help to do this. Then, do one thing, something to help get you a little bit closer to it. I want to hear what it is so drop me a comment – because I know we could move mountains, if we had a good enough plan! Get after it!

How to get through Christmas without ruining your diet

If you’ve been counting calories, and tracking your macros with diligence, and some might say fervour, for the last few weeks or months – a potential iceberg in hovering on the horizon of your nutrition boat.

Christmas. 

It’s there, in the dark, looming large. The shops filled to the rafters with boxes and boxes of jewel coloured chocolates. The temptation of delicious pigs in blankets. Even the Christmas cookery shows seem to be encouraging you to throw caution to the wind every time you turn on the TV and cook everything in 2 lbs of brandy butter and goose fat!

I get it. You, like me, have been monitoring your macros in MyFitnessPal and you’re seeing great progress on the scale. You’re a titan in the gym. You are crushing it and you don’t want to throw it all away for the Terry’s chocolate orange that Great Aunt Doris has slipped into your Christmas stocking.

Here’s what you’re going to do…

  • You recognise that Christmas happens but once a year, and this is a wonderful opportunity to make special memories with your family; the food is part of that. 
  • You acknowledge that actually the components of a Christmas dinner really aren’t so damaging – vegetables and turkey are about as lean as it gets! Fill up on these wonderful seasonal treats. Go easy on the sprouts, we’re dieting, not bloody martyrs!
  • Those incredible must have parts of the Christmas food that you just cannot miss out on? Whatever those things are for you… Have some. Join in. Track them in MFP and don’t go mental. And simply get back on track on Boxing day.

You have got this. You are totally in control. You’re going to have a wonderful Christmas and all your dieting dreams are going to come true – I believe in you.

Drop me a comment and let me know what  you’re most looking forward to this festive season.

Respawning

I recently read an article on an awesome website about how when you fall off the wagon, you shouldn’t look at it as a failure. That in gaming, you are ‘respawned’ to fight that big boss again, and that the victory is all the sweeter because you found it challenging.

This really struck a chord with me, and I’ve been struggling for a while to get back on it. After I spoke to the therapist, I didn’t manage to stay so focused. Which was a real shame, because I thought that I was doing so well at that time. Instead, I got lazy about preparing my meals and that spells disaster for me.

I recently discovered menu planning .pdf documents (something like this) that I use to log my meals each day, and I have a brilliant one that also has a shopping list attached. I use this to remember what I’ve ordered from tesco online, and to tick off items as I use them – and this has been invaluable. Last week I lost 5 lbs, and undertook the journey again. I respawned.

Recently, I’ve started a number of new habits which I believe will help me to commit to my goals:

  • Nerd Fitness Academy (who have been amazingly supportive and we have a WhatsApp group to help with focus)
  • Fitocracy
  • Eat This Much (not sure I’ll keep this one up permanently)
  • I bought a slow cooker (so good! This is a real game changer) and joined some sub-reddits to help with healthy slow cooker meals
  • Podcasts aimed at fitness

I would like to lose a little more weight… ok a lot more weight… but as a milestone I am thinking of joining a new gym. I wasn’t happy with my old one for a few reasons but I think I ought to use this as an incentive. I want to set fitness related goals instead of diet and weight related goals but I know nutrition is key.

One step at a time. I must be patient.