Monday, 19 February 2018

How to be better at everything!

Whatever it is you want to be better at, you need to start with the basic fundamentals of life.  Even without looking at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we know if we don't have the basics of food and water, we will die.

If you are in a desperate situation, a war-torn country, a city under siege, a famine zone or you live below the bread line, then what you eat is of less importance than how often you eat.

The paragraph above is pertinent.  There are people in the world who do not have enough to eat.  There are people in this country who do not have enough to eat.  There are children going to school each day without breakfast and parents skipping meals so their kids can eat - in the UK, in the 21st century!

Knowing this, why would you abuse food just because you are in the privileged position to do so?

Let's assume you have enough to eat.  Let's assume you want to respect that fact and nourish your body well.  Let's assume also that you are lucky enough to be somewhere above level one in Maslow's hiereachy of needs and are working towards self actualization, with a gym membership and let's also assume that you are trying to improve your performance in the gym.

Already, this goal seems a little shallow after the paragraph in blue....but let's keep on.

The single most important weapon in your performance arsenal is your nutrition.  Have a look at the CrossFit pyramid - the basis of everything is nutrition.  My previous blogpost on being a sugar zombie will explain partially why this is so important.

Your body is a tool for fitness!  It is the only place you have to live!  You'd better look after it!

If you are carrying extra kilos, ALL bodyweight exercises will be harder - you only need to put on a 5kg weight vest to see an immediate reduction in the number of pullups, ring dips and pressups you can do.  Now imagine wearing a 5kg weight vest, 10kg, 20kg... for everything you do!

If you are surviving on sugar hits, with subsequent insulin crashes, how do you think that is going to affect your ability to sustain intensity in a wod? 

If you are not eating enough protein, you cannot build muscle and literally all the hard work you put in the gym is effectively wasted. 

Nutrition is key to how you feel mentally as well, so difficult wods are going to feel insurmountable.  If you feel anxious before a wod, miserable during a wod and defeated after a wod, you definitely need to look at what your are eating!

If you already perform pretty brilliantly in the gym but you know your nutrition is not great, imagine the possibilities if you were to dial it in! To be able to effortlessly deliver the required fuel to your muscles during a workout, to be able to recover more quickly after a workout - those things are going to make a huge difference to your performance and progress in the gym!

So if you are lucky enough to live in a safe area, with enough food to eat and enough spare time to devote to self-improvement, for f***'s sake, respect that gift and nourish your body!

If you are looking to lose weight, I suggest you get proper help to work out macros and calories - we can help you with that at CrossFit Uckfield. If you are looking to eat better for enhanced performance (side effect will be that you lean up) this is a rule of thumb:

palm sized amount of protein (meat, fish, eggs)
2 fingers of healthy fat (coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, avocado, coconut cream, etc.)
the rest of your plate piled with vegetables with a little fruit 

If you feel sluggish on this, have a bit extra starchy carbs the meal before a workout (sweet potato, white rice, white potatoes, banana etc).

Thursday, 15 February 2018

The 2018 CrossFit Open
The 2018 Open is nearly upon us. 

I started writing a long blogpost on how to approach the Open, mentally and physically and then figured I could just distill it down to one point.


If you are not going to Regionals (trust me - if you had a shot in hell, you would know you had a shot not imaginatively suspect you deserve it) stop taking it so seriously, relax and enjoy it, hoping like crazy that your gym's programming has prepped you for the unknown and unknowable because I suspect Castro is going to be even more of a nightmare this year than he was last year.

If you have been getting comfortable with nice predictable workouts, with safe movements you 'know' are coming up in the Open, perhaps focusing on one thing you consider a weakness and accidentally ignoring all the others, you might be in for a bit if a shock.

CrossFit is about General Physical Preparedness.  That means working a balance of the 10 components of fitness.

Your CrossFit gym's programming will ensure you get a thoughtful mix of all of these components, that builds strengths without ignoring weaknesses, making you a balanced athlete without burning you out or injuring you in the process.

The CrossFit Open tests this.

If you have spent the last year making sure you are equally as flexible as you are strong, equally skilled as you are fast, equally agile as you are coordinated, mentally strong without the ego, then in theory, you are read for anything Castro throws at you!

So relax and enjoy testing your abilities. =)


Friday, 9 February 2018

You are a sugar zombie and your addicted body has taken over your mind.

You are a sugar zombie and your addicted body has taken over your mind.  Quite literally, if you consume sugar in any quantity, your body has actually taken control of your mind.

If you eat sugar, your mind is not your own.  If you eat sugar, your physical needs for this drug outweigh ALL mental requirements.  So if you know you need to go to the gym and you need to eat clean and you need to avoid certain foods and you need to 'think more positively', until sugar is completely out of your system, your body will not allow your mind to succeed. 

When I started my CrossFit journey, I was eating strict paleo.  I'm not talking 80%/20%, I mean strict 100% all the time.  I ate meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts.  No sugar.  No dairy.  No grains (no rice, wheat, pasta, cakes, pastry or bread). No legumes (pulses, beans.lentils etc.). I didn't drink alcohol.

I felt amazing.  All the time.  Genuinely.  I didn't ever feel like I was depriving myself.  I was full of energy, I didn't have that 2pm slump, I felt well, alert, clear-minded and happy.  Genuinely felt great all the time.

After 2 years of eating like this, I slipped into adding sugar back into my diet.  It was a gradual decline over 2 years.

I have some perspective now on those two years.  I was way more tired.  Workouts in the gym felt hard - I was sluggish, I felt heavy.  My cardio suffered.  I struggled to think clearly about things.  I genuinely couldn't think straight.  My mind felt foggy and I found it difficult to make good decisions, especially when it came to food choices but also as far as emotional responses to situations.  Things that I could have handled before then became insurmountably hard.  I wasn't depressed but I was frustrated and angry and incredibly negative a lot of the time.

I know it sounds extreme to suggest food was responsible for my state of mind but going on the evidence I have, it's the only variable that changed.

Just before Christmas 2017, I started feeling exhausted, especially after I ate something heavy on starchy carbs or sugar.  It got to the point where, if I ate some chocolate (and I'm not talking your 95% single origin Ecuadorian stuff, I'm talking cheap nasty, vegelate with double the sugar required) I would be asleep inside 10 minutes.

So, having made myself reactively hypoglycemic, 2 weeks before Christmas, I decided enough was enough.  Gave up sugar again, cold turkey, gave up most starchy carbs.  Back on the paleo.

What have I noticed?

Everything is better!  I am more alert, less foggy-minded, less tired, no more crashing on the sofa after meals.  While my performance in the gym does reflect the fact that I am 46 years old and a bit lazy, I feel so much stronger, my cardio has improved massively in that I don't feel half as out of breath mid-workout as I used to and bodyweight movements like pullups and burpees feel way, way easier. But more than that, I feel positive!

I feel mentally more cheerful about everything!

What has changed since Christmas?  My job is the same, my family is the same, the weather is the same, my nutrition is different.

Sugar is to blame for how you feel mentally.  
Sugar is to blame for how you feel physically.

You think you don't eat much sugar because you don't add spoonfulls of table sugar to your tea or cereal?  You're wrong. Starchy carbs (like cereal and bread) are converted to sugar and anyway, most cereals have added sugar!

If you eat a lot of rice, pasta, bread, pastry, beans, processed food - albeit savoury - you are addicted to sugar.

Addicts lack the ability to think clearly because their bodies are on a constant mission to stay normal (homeostasis) by getting more of what they crave, be that heroin or sugar.  

If your body has a purpose higher than yours (homeostasis) it will take control of your mind to force you onto its own path so it can get what it needs.  
Sugar makes your brain into a zombie controlled by your body.

For example - while my diet was bad, I would drive to the gym to train (my mental pathway that was good for me) and on the way stop at a petrol station to get something to eat - it was a compulsion (my body controlling my zombified mind).  I couldn't not stop at the petrol station.  It genuinely was as if I had no control over my actions and when I got to the petrol station, they didn't sell paleo things there and as my brain was literally sabotaging my efforts in order to satisfy it's physical requirement for sugar, I would get a sandwich and a sugary snack.  
I literally could not stop myself.  I could not think straight.

Now that the sugar is out of my system (it literally only takes a few days) I am quite happy to have breakfast, go and coach then drive to where I train without eating again.  It just isn't an issue.  I have control over my brain again.

Try quitting sugar for 30 days and keep a record of how you feel and what you notice.  You need to stop eating processed foods and take-aways, you need to read all the ingredients on every label (although non-processed food has no ingredients list!) and you need to eat a lot of vegetables - like triple what you think.

If you cannot do this for just 30 days but still complain about feeling down, tired, stressed, out of control etc, then you need to seriously rethink your life!

Free your mind and the rest will follow!

Sunday, 4 February 2018

If you have kids, you should be making them do CrossFit!

My kids - 1BC (one year before CrossFit)
I have three children, aged 16, 14 and 12 and while the other kids who come to Teens' CrossFit enjoy it, I have to force mine to do it twice a week. I imagine this is partly due to the fact that their mum runs the class and also to do with in intrinsic streak of laziness that (honestly) comes from me.

In this series of blog posts (starting with the previous one about why feminists should do CrossFit) I want to explain how different types of people benefit from CrossFit.

Firstly, you need to understand a little about my children; they are unique, of course, just like everyone else, but I'm hoping you might see similarities in yourself or your own kids.

My eldest son is, at his own admission, a bit of a nerd.  He really likes computer games and science.  He relates strongly to the characters in The Big Bang Theory and he doesn't go out much. He has recently discovered the joys of Dungeons and Dragons... He likes routine and he isn't hugely adventurous though I wouldn't say he was a nervous kid.  He suffered a little from anxiety in his transition from junior school to secondary school but more of that later.

My daughter is the middle child and, on the whole, delightful.  She is very competitive and though not vocal about it, very feminist. She flip-flops between worrying terribly about what others think of her and not caring in the slightest.  While, like a lot of teenage girls, she likes makeup and clothes, she has a very positive body image and once weighed herself, which had me recoiling in horror until I realised it was to discover what percentage of her body weight her deadlift was.  (It was 1.5x bw!) #proudmummoment

My youngest son is a free spirit.  He has been left to drag himself up a bit so knows his own mind, has strong opinions and at the same time is the least competitive and least adventurous of the three.  He is not a fussy eater and will eat almost anything just very, very little of it.  He seems never to be hungry so is pretty thin and when he lifts weights, you worry he might snap.  He has struggled in the past to back squat 6kg...

Each of my kids gets something different from their experiences at CrossFit. 

This video of my youngest, sums up one of the reasons I make him do CrossFit.  He did not believe he could do even one rep at this weight, he put it on his shoulders and said it felt heavy.  I repeated what my coach says to me when I say exactly that: 'Yes, it feels heavy but that doesn't mean you can't do it!' and he did 3.  Even though his knees are wider than his thighs when he squats, he has got stronger - he couldn't squat 6 kg a year ago and now he can squat 22.5kg for 3 reps.  This allows him to see the big picture.  It shows him that even though he might not see the results immediately, consistent behaviour yields results further down the line.

Jake is learning that it all takes effort and commitment and showing up and doing the work.  And in an age where everything is available to our kids via a screen in their pocket, 24/7/365, this is a powerful tool to give them some perspective on their lives.

My eldest son struggled a little with anxiety for a while and CrossFit helped him control it.  Mid way through a workout, you feel hot, sweaty and out of breath.  If you aren't used to this feeling, it can be a bit scary at first.  If these feelings mimic anxiety attacks, they can be even more scary.  So initially, we had to give Zack the get-out clause that he didn't have to do the hard fast bit of the workout but he had to do some strength work instead.  Gradually over time, he became less uncomfortable with being uncomfortable and in finding ways to manage how he felt in a workout, he was able to use these strategies when he felt anxious outside of the gym.  He no longer gets anxiety attacks.

My daughter (and my boys) are growing up in a dynamic time for feminism.  There is a lot of talk in the media about what is and isn't acceptable for women to expect.  Hopefully this generation of women will have a much more equal footing in the world but it is still set amongst a backdrop of institutionalised sexism and old-fashioned ideals.  I talked about implicit bias in the previous blogpost so I won't go into it again but CrossFit goes some way to mitigating residual inequalities.

My daughter gets to be regularly surrounded by men and women whose expectations of equality are very high.  The women she spends time with are strong, competent and confident and the men treat the women with respect.  There are no mirrors in our gym.  We never talk about diets or weight loss or body image.  We talk about what your body is capable of doing.  We talk about a positive mindset, commitment and hard work.

In an age where our children have it easy, where a lot of their aspirations end at 'being famous' or 'being rich' I think that forcing my kids to do something twice a week that gives them a sense of pride in their achievements, that makes them work hard to reach a goal, that is difficult and sometimes mentally and physically painful to do, that encourages them to be supportive and work as a team, that makes them have to dig deep to get through it is an incredibly valuable thing.

This is why I force my kids to do CrossFit twice a week.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

If you're a feminist, you should be doing CrossFit!

If you're a feminist, you really should be doing CrossFit and so should everyone you know!
If you listened to radio 4 last night, you would have heard a program about implicit bias.  This is where your unconscious brain is bombarded with images and scenarios that it links together with neural pathways to create a subconscious picture of the world.  You may be the most liberal-minded of people but if you are constantly shown images and news reports that paint the world or groups of people in a certain way, your unconscious brain makes links according to those images that then affect the choices you make and the behaviours you exhibit.

The media shows us regularly that men are leaders and women need rescuing.  It often portrays women as image-obsessed cleaners, cooks and child carers. The media tell us that while we should aspire to having everything: a career, children, a sparkling social life, a beautiful, organsied home, delicious, healthy meals, perfect hair and flawless skin we are never quite going to measure up.  While men can skip through life only having to worry about which beer goes with their facial hair before buying a new strimmer.

However emancipated be believe we are, we cannot help therefore but have implicit bias implanted in our brains. Assumptions are made subconsciously that women are less able to do certain tasks, they are to be less trusted in positions of power or rank. The world may be changing but we are a generation whose brains already have a neural network deeply embedded that says women are not as good as men.

And this is where CrossFit comes in!

In any CrossFit gym in any country around the world, you will find strong, single-minded, confident, competent women, easily out-performing some men, deftly demonstrating movements and lifts and techniques that, to everyone in that CrossFit gym, just seem normal.

People who do CrossFit are regularly exposed to these powerfully positive images and scenarios where women are respected as strong, independent and competent - equal to men.  

These versions of the world are creating neural pathways where we have a chance to even out our subconscious bias and genuinely become more broad minded and open to new ideas.  These are the images I want my kids to be bombarded with!

CrossFit delivers a positive image of everyone who takes part - be they thin or fat, tall or short, old or young, black or white, male or female.

If you are a feminist, you should be doing CrossFit and so should everyone you know! 

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Building on what to eat and how to be successful...
do this for life-changing results:

Eat clean:
No sugar, check all ingredients. No alcohol. No wheat - pasta, bread, cakes, pastry and biscuits. No fizzy drinks or squash.
Each meal (3 a day) made up of:
Eat a palm sized amount of protein.
Eat two or three fingers of fat.
Rest of your plate a rainbow of veg and a little fruit.

Move more.
Build towards CrossFit between 3 and 6 times a week
Walk more - fast
Sit less.

Sleep well.
7 hours at least - 8 hour preferable. Dark room. 

Get outside.
Spend time with trees to feel better about everything.

Friday, 12 January 2018

The Ultimate Secret to Success!

What if I could tell you the secret to unlocking success in everything you do? What would you do with this secret?

Would you use it to be more productive at work?  Would you use it to get more out of your time in the gym?  Would you use it to develop stronger relationships with family, friends and colleagues?  

The secret is really simple.  
The secret is you.

'But that's not fair,' you say. 'There are loads of things in my life that are out of my control!  I cannot be the secret to my own success while that success relies on the opportunities offered me by others or while my success relies on the competence or incompetence of others... The universe just conspires against me.  I'm too unfit, I'm too scared, I'm not qualified, I'm too busy, I have too many other responsibilities to focus on my own success!'

And breathe!

While there may be many elements in the universe over which you exercise no control, you are 100% in control of how you respond to them!
YOU are in control of every thought you allow to manifest in your mind so be careful what you think, because you are listening!  Take control of that inner voice!   

I'm not suggesting this is an instant fix.  You may be the sort of person who is able to quiet the negative thoughts almost overnight. It may take you weeks, months or even years; it may be a constant battle in your life until the very end but battle it you must!

The secret to your success is YOU.

Try these 5 tips to help turn around a less than positive mindset and start becoming more successful in all that you do.

1 - Smile  - as often as you can, even if you have to fake it.  Smiling releases endorphins and genuinely makes you feel better and instantly makes others feel better too!
2 - Nod - in the face of adversity. Don't sigh and shake your head; nod and tell yourself you can do it!  You don't even have to believe this, you just have to do it to create more positive pathways in your brain.
3 - Imagine you are 90 years old and have been allowed to come back for the day - list the things you would appreciate.
4 - Imagine you have been told you have 2 months to live - what small stuff would suddenly cease to be important? That stuff right there is not important!  That doesn't mean you have to stop doing or acknowledging whatever it is, just stop placing so much value on it.
5 - Allow yourself to feel afraid.  It's OK to feel anxious and nervous and even terrified about things.  It's not OK to allow these perfectly normal and rational feelings to stop you doing things!  Feel afraid - acknowledge the fear and push through anyway! 

Be careful what you think - because YOU are listening.
Live life like you mean it!