Monday, 9 April 2018

A whole new world of shopping...or... what's in Krish's PE kit?

When you start CrossFit,
you quickly discover there's a shit-load of kit you really, really need.  From hand grips and foam rollers to knee sleeves and lacrosse balls, this is your definitive guide to what's a waste of money and what you simply cannot live without!  A few years of buying everything on offer at CrossFit Regionals have enabled me to pare down the bare essentials for you.

Spolier may need it all!  Mwahahahahah!


Sweat bands
Sweat bands a la Rich Froning are only necessary if you get a sweaty head.  Having to stop half way through a wod because are blinded by rivers of sweat will do nothing for your Fran time.  If a sweaty forehead is not something you sufffer from, either you need to work harder or you need to take the sweat band off because no one thinks you look like Rich Froning.

Woolly hat
If you train anywhere below freezing for some of the year, you need to avoid cold ears because they make you sad.  Get a warm hat. If you work hard enough, you will be able to take it off sometime, unless you live in Canada.  If you live in Canada, keep it on.

I keep a stash of them at the gym for clients who forget and in my bag so I always have one.  Long hair in your face in a pain, esecially when it gets sweaty!  Yuck!  Tie it back!


Here are a few things to bear in mind.  Men - your shorts come down when you do GHD situps - make sure they fit you.  Women, leggings are see-through when you squat.  Take a moment to think about underwear choices or wear shorts over your leggings. Dress in layers - it might be freezing when you arrive at the gym but you will soon warm up.  You also need to be able to layer up again as you cool down.  Don't wear lacy knickers on situp day, you'll get a chafed bum!  If you have got your lacy knickers on for situp day, use extra padding, like a yoga mat for cushioning.  Long socks and hotpants really only really work on the Californians but FYI, there is no sexism, ageism,  racism, or any other ism in CrossFit, so if you are 65 year-old, pasty white Brit and you can rock a cropped top and booty shorts, then you go girl - or boy - we don't discriminate....who am I to judge?  Long socks do come in incredibly useful on rope climb day to avoid rope burnt ankles.  A knee sleeve works just as well in a pinch.

The fingerless type are just masquerading as your friend.  In the initial stages of CrossFit, gripping onto the bar hurts like hell.  Your hands burn and you think gloves will help but they won't.  You need to condition your hands so you can hang on the bar for long periods.  Gloves take away an element of connectedness that you have between you and the bar.  Chalk helps reinforce that relationship. Gloves are like a gooseberry, getting in the way.  If you train in a cold gym, CrossFit gloves might be useful on back squat day, to take the chill off the bar but again, they get in the way of a good grip.  However, if you get on with gloves, by all means use them.
Wrist Wraps
When you first start CrossFit, things like front squats, cleans, overhead squats and handstands put your wrists n positions they are not used to being in.  Your wrists might hurt for a few weeks or months after starting CrossFit.  Wrist wraps can help make you feel more supported and secure and ease the discomfort a little. My take on it is if your wrists hurt a bit, suck it up buttercup.  However, if one hurts more than the other or they don't stop hurting when you go home, there is something kore afoot and you need to find out what that is - fyi, it's most likely to be tight forearms, triceps or lats.  In this case, t's better to sort out your mobility than rely on wrist wraps.  But again, if you like 'em, get 'em, just know you are a better. all-round athlete if you don't have tor rely on the for an empty bar muscle clean! If your awrists really hurt, sort out your mashed up forearm muscles, try tipping your wrists back a little more in an overhead position and use wrist wraps only when you go really heavy.

Gymnastic grips
CrossFitters are split into two gymnastic grip camps: those who do and those who don't.  I'm of the mind that if you look after your hands and condition them, you don't need grips.  Personally, I find they interfere with my grip on the bar but I know many people who wouldn't do a single pullup without them.  Again, it's a personal choice here - if they work for you and you tend to rip your hands without them, go for it.  If you don't need them, why bother?

Knee Sleeves
Well, if you like 'em, get 'em.  They are useful to keep old knees warm.  They might make you feel a little more stable in a squat but if your knees don't feel stable in a squat, I might suggest you have bigger problems than knee sleeves are going to solve.  Get stronger glutes.....

Double Under Prep
Women, it's useful to keep a stack of panty liners on your gym bag for jumping, running, skipping - anything that makes you pee - we keep a double under box filled with panty liners in the gym for double under day, running day, box jump day... If you haven't had children, you might be wrinkling your nose right now - you might not.  If you have had children, you know what I'm saying....

Skipping rope

Get one. But you don't need to remortgage your home for one. You can spend £60 on a speed skipping rope, it isn't going to guarantee you get double unders in 10 minutes flat.  Coach Russ, on the other hand, will promise to get you double unders in 10 minutes flat with a £5 rope.... If you want to spend a million pounds on a fancy rope (I'm about to 'invest' in one with the gym logo on.....then do it but you can get just as good results with a cheap one off Amazon. (You are looking for an adjustable speed rope with a metal cable.)  You know it's the right length when you stand on the cable with both feet and the bottom of the handle comes to your armpits.

Where do I start?  You can't do squats in running shoes.  Running shoes are for running.  They are too wobbly for dealdifts, squats, box jumps and thrusters.  A CrossFit staple is Reebok Nanos.  I prefer the earlier models of Reebok Nanos but recent manifestations seem to be popular.  Try them out, see what you think.  I also really love the Adidas crazy power TR shoe, which is really comfortable and very flat.  No Bulls are another favourite  - very beautiful and they make the Nanos feel a bit wobbly by comparison.  You also have Nike Metcons, the biggest rival to the Nano.  I did promise you a whole new world of shopping.....

If you are serious about CrossFit, these are a very worthwhile investment.  They make a big difference to your Olympic Weightlifting - specifically in the catch - nice and solid with a little heel that makes a deep squat more comfortable.  They give you some assistance too with squats.  Nike Romaleos are your top of the range go-to.  Reebok do a great lifter as do InoV8.  If you want the prettiest lifters on the block, get some No Bulls.  They are stupid money but stooooopid pretty.  It is useful, as a CrossFitter who wants to be prepared for everything, to be able to squat and snatch and clean and jerk in shoes that aren't lifters as well so try not to rely on them.

Not many of these things make you a better CrossFitter.  If you can't do CrossFit without these things - maybe it's time to ask why and look more closely at your weaknesses.

Zinc Oxide tape
A very useful thing to have - it isn't however something you should use all the time.  If you find you are getting blisters on your thumbs from snatches, for example, tape will prevent that but so also will not gripping the bar so tight, which will have the added benefit of relaxing your arms in the snatch.
If your hands are ripped, a plaster followed by tape will patch you up to finish a comp.  Otherwise, don't do pullups on ripped hands. (NB - don't put tape straight onto a rip - you won't be able to take the tape of without re-ripping!  Use a plaster first then keep it in place with tape.) You can make some effective palm grips for pullups form tape but again, in my opinion, it's better to condition your hands to look like manual labourers so you can stay on the bar without these things. Some people's hands just rip a what works best for you.

A little word on taping bars.  I hate it.  I hate it because it's so good.  It makes staying on the bar much, much easier.  But listen guys, are we about taking the easy road in CrossFit?  No, we are not, so let's improve our grip strength and do pullups without a taped bar.

Hand Rescue
Also useful can be some hand balm if you do rip - speeds up recovery by stopping the rip from drying out and cracking. If you're a proper CrossFitter and have a beard and tattoos, you'll know about the magical healing powers of bepanthen.  Nappy cream.  Works a charm on ripped hands.  You might also have heard of this if you have children....

Mobility tools
A lacrosse ball is essential.  Get 2.  Google what to do with them and use them every day. A foam roller (knobbly is good) is useful too.  I recently discovered gua sha massage tools - the buffalo horn ones are much cheaper than the steel versions and work great for really getting rid of muscle knots - use with a massage oil, like coconut oil - I avoid the bruising by not going too mental with them - I think it's best.....Electric massage tools (!) look like they will get the job done but are a little disappointing - I haven't tried that £500 one, if it doesn't do what's promised, it's an expensive impulse buy.  A rolling stick of some description is great for sorting out tight quads.

A weight vest
I don't keep mine in my gym bag, I keep it at the gym as it weighs 10kg.  Useful.  Not essential.  Your gym probably has one you can borrow.

Weight Belt

Contentious.  I got one after I injured my back.  It made rehab better - it enabled me to go back to basics on my squat and improve it massively.  A weight belt is not for supporting your back - it will not stop you hurting your back.  What it does is give you physical feedback - when you brace properly, you can feel the belt tighten all the way around you and when you let go of your brace, you don't feel the belt anymore.  It enables you to remind yourself to stay braced - it does not do the bracing for you.  Only really for use on lifts that are 85%+ of your 1rm.

Food and drink
A water bottle is essential.  A shaker bottle is good if you have protein shakes.  I make my own recovery drink that I take to the gym in my shaker bottle that has a place for the protein powder pre-mix.   I also keep a few pouches of Ella's Kitchen fruit purees and a few Nakd bars as they are a great refined sugar-free source of instant carbs if I am feeling hungry or a bit dizzy.  Get yourself a fancy 6-pack bag to keep your gym kit in and it also has spaces for food boxes and ice packs. There is no evidence to show that taking vitamins and supplements benefits you in any way at all and actual evidence to show that certain supplement may in fact contribute to cancer.  So I've thrown away the ones I've been taking for the last month to see what they do.  I was taking vitamin D, fish oil and and old lady tablet.  They made no discernible difference anyway....Click here for article

So, there you go, you guys - 3-2-1 SHOP!

Totally paleo recovery drink recipe:

1 tbsp BCAA powder
1 tbsp creatine powder
1 tbsp collagen powder
1 tbsp vanilla powder
2 tbsp flax seed+probitics
5 tbsp whole egg powder
5 tbsp ground cricket powder
7 tbsp freeze dried ground strawberries

33% protein
14% fat
53% carbs

Sunday, 1 April 2018

More isn't better, better is better.

Several people have asked me recently about some other bits they can do on top of the daily programme to help them get better at CrossFit. 

It's tempting, I know to want to do more, to think if the daily programming is good then double that must be better but more isn't better, better is better.  If you just add volume without thinking about the stress on your muscles and joints and without making sure that these things are well-balanced so you aren't increasing or developing muscular imbalances, you will pick up injuries, without a shadow of a doubt.  Injuries are rarely sudden, traumatic events, they are slow, niggling annoyances that develop into things that ultimately stop you training.  If your aim is to train a lot, you want to avoid this at all costs.

It's tempting also to stop following a program and work only on those things you think you need to improve on. In creating workouts that genuinely do work on your weaknesses, you can, in the process, get rid of any discernible plan and forget to keep on top of the rest of it. The thing about a coach is that they can see the things you can't see.  They might agree with you that you really need to improve your handstand waking for example.  You might know in your heart of hearts that all you need to do is practice handstand waking all day every day.  Your coach, on the other hand knows you have a shitty overhead position and if you made a bit more effort to work on improving that with a combination of targeted mobility and stabilising exercises, your handstand walk would instantly improve.  Thus saving you time and stress on your shoulders and freeing up time to work on all that other stuff you're shit at.  I'm talking about myself here, btw.  Even with coaches to tell me this shit, I waste a lot of time!

So what's the plan?  What's the best way to go about getting better at CrossFit?  Really, just do more CrossFit and do it with more integrity!  That's it.  If you currently train 3 or 4 times a week, up it to 4 or 5 in order to make the most of the programming.  And just do it better.

Getting the members of a CrossFit gym better at CrossFit is no different than trying to get a class of children better at schoolwork.  You can't read about Biff and Chip or Romeo and Juliet if you don't know your alphabet.  You can't get better at creative writing without scaffolding the skills you have with adequate support to build confidence in new skills. You aren't going to learn your times tables if you don't make a sustained effort daily to learn them. You can't focus on an algebra problem if you are tired and hungry! You aren't going to learn anything at all if you keep bunking off!  It's no different with CrossFit.

So, this is the plan:

Start simply by adding intensity to your workouts.  
When it's a heavy day, go heavier than you want to, go heavier than you think you can; you'll get stronger more quickly.

On a sprint day, go faster than you want to, rest less than you think you need to; you'll get fitter more quickly.

On a skill day, be ruthlessly honest with yourself, if your toes to bar were a no rep, no rep yourself and do the movement properly. Go through the full range of motion and for goodness sake, use your core, your glutes and your lats - don't fake it; you'll get better more quickly.

Secondly, recover better! 

There is absolutely no point adding more volume if you aren't first sleeping well (at least 7 hours a night) eating well (count your macros stop eating sugar, stop drinking alcohol!) and recovering well (keep well on top of your mobility!)  Seriously.  You're wasting your time and risking injury if these things aren't in place!

Thirdly, go back to basics.  

Are you trying to skip ahead without getting all the basics in place first? If you don't have a good air squat, your snatches are not going to be any good.  If you can't hang in a good hollow position for 30 seconds, a load of core stability and control is going to missing from a lot of your key movements.  If you can't do beautiful strict pullups, you really have no business working on kipping pullups and if your kipping pullups suck, forget about butterfly pullups.  Don't even get me started on muscleups!

Lastly, Stick to the programme!

To be honest, stick to any programme.  Just follow it religiously for at least 6 months, to the letter, before you decide if it does or doesn't work. (A word here - any programme will work if you stick to it - just like any diet will work if you stick to it but unless it's incredibly rubbish, the programming at your own gym will work the best because your coach knows where you are, where you want to be and can draw a line between those two things taking all your mobility issues into account.)

In my experience, the clients who do the best, who progress the fastest in the long run, are those who are patient and work really hard on building the basics. 

So if you do want to add some more volume to your training, at CrossFit Uckfield we have two additional ways to do this. We have the CompClass and MasterClass programming that are bolt-on programmes to the daily board.  And we have Olympic Weightlifting classes. They both take into consideration the daily programming you already do and your age - which is very important - once you hit around 35, things start to slow down and get creaky and you often have more responsibilities, which really do impact on your training - the Masters bolt-on programme reflects this and adds a little less volume and a little more mobility than the CompClass; other than that, they are essentially the same.

The two extra Olympic weightlifting classes a week focus solely on the snatch and the clean and jerk and accessory movements to support these lifts.

These two bolt-ons are included in Gold membership and are well worth it but they don't replace the main workouts, they complement them.

For those of you who don't want quite that much additional work, who just want to add a few little extras in, I'm going to divulge three important secrets to you.

1 - Vary the movements you practice each day  More isn't better.  Better is better.  Doing a million pullups every day hoping to get better at pullups won't work; you won't give your muscles a chance to recover and you won't get any better.  Do extra pullups or pressups etc 3 days a week max.

2 - Work out why you can't do what it is you can't do (this is where a coach comes in really handy!) and work on strengthening your scaffolding.  A million banded pullups won't make you better at pullups, they just wont help you get stronger lats and a stronger core, which is why you can't do pullups.  Do bent over rows, do hollow body rocks, do lat pulldowns - work on those muscles you need to be stronger to do the movement - your coach can help you work out where your scaffolding needs strengthening or tightening.

3 - Combat your daily life - prolonged sitting creates imbalances that seriously affect how you move. 99.9% of people, even people who are already strong and fit, come to CrossFit with comparatively weaker lats and overactive traps and comparatively weaker glutes and tight hip flexors.  So pretty much everyone would benefit form strengthening their glutes and lats, foam rollering their quads and stretching their hip flexors and mashing up their traps.

Take aways: more isn't better, better is better.  Make use of the valuable resource that is your coach.  Trust the programme and be consistent. Have integrity in your movements.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

This Post is not about movement standards in the 2018 CrossFit Open

CrossFit is so much more than just a workout.  A CrossFit box is so much more than just a gym.  And for me, the 2018 CrossFit Open was so much more than just a globally interactive fitness competition.

The 2018 CrossFit Open has illustrated to me how incredibly proud I should be of our members. They demonstrated grit, determination, integrity, friendship and enthusiasm, to name but a few.  They are a wonderful bunch and they CrossFitted their hearts out!  Proud doesn't even really begin to cover it!
 I am also a little but proud of myself too.  This is my fourth CrossFit Open since I started CrossFit but only the second one I have properly taken part in (injuries and mental brain-fuckery prevented the last two from being much more than a bit of a personal whine-fest).  It's the first time I have genuinely looked forward to a CrossFit workout and genuinely enjoyed being right in the horrible middle of it!

This is brand new territory for me.

If I'm brutally honest, I probably would have given up on CrossFit some time over the last couple of years if I hadn't had my own gym. I lost my way completely.  I didn't like it, I found it hard. I didn't focus on the things I should have been focusing on and I stopped enjoying the journey.  All I could see was the stuff I found hard - I couldn't see the progress.  I couldn't see any of the positives.

But recently, perhaps over the past 6 months or so, I have really found my love for CrossFit - I have genuinely begun to enjoy it in a way I never did before.

This time last year, one of my members, Jonny, tried to talk me into signing up for the Open but I just couldn't. It did not make me feel good trying to explain that the anxiety that came hand in hand with any competitive situation made it impossible to take part in the Open.  I was a gym owner who couldn't pull herself together enough to even do the Open with members of her gym who were saying it would be great to see me doing it!  I had to try to explain that to a member of my gym.  I felt like a fraud.

CrossFit made me sad; it made me cry. 

Fast forward to this year and the memory of that conversation with Jonny and a bit of gentle nagging from Joe made me realise how important it was that I sign up for the Open this year.  It was important for my members to see me suffer with them and it was important for me as a person to go into it with no (ok less) ego, to just try to get rid of the last vestiges of anxiety and just enjoy the excitement of it all.

And I did it.  I looked forward to the announcements each week.  I looked forward to the workouts and I really enjoyed the whole thing from start to finish.  This is by far my biggest achievement in my 4 years of CrossFit Opens. 

I have learnt a lot about myself through doing CrossFit.  Here are 3 things this year's Open have taught me.

1 - I can (and want to - which is amazing) push harder than I do currently.  This is a work in progress and each time I push harder than I thought I was able to, I realise I still could have pushed harder.  I'm chasing that one workout where I just know I couldn't have given any more at all!

2 - I should have higher expectations of myself.  I spent 40 years of my life being really good at everything I ever did because I made sure I never did anything I wasn't sure I would be good at.  CrossFit strips that away!  I'm shit at so many things!  But I'm also better at some things than I think I should be.  So rather than setting the bar so low, no one could fail, I am going to set the bar just out of reach.

3 - It's just CrossFit!  It's just a workout.  If I do well, great but keep it in perspective; there are still people starving to death in the world and people sleeping rough on the streets of the UK in the 21st century - don't think it matters more than it does. If I don't do well, it's really not the end of the world, keep it in perspective; there are children being bombed in war-torn countries and having to go to work at the age of 5, don't think it matters more than it does.  

How lucky am I to be able have a little egocentric, existential crisis over CrossFit?  How lucky am I that I get to do this crazy thing every day?  How dare I squander my good fortune with pathetic little whines over not being able to do as many muscleups as I would have liked to or getting all proud of the fact that at the age of 46 I can do muscleups at all.

I am so unbelievably lucky to have a mind, body and circumstances that allow me to do CrossFit.  From here on in. I am going to enjoy every second, however miserable!

Well done to everyone who took part in the Open this year.  I hope you enjoyed it and let's try to remember that although a CrossFit wod may be just a workout, as all CrossFitters know, it also is so, so much more.

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.