Patience

22 Nov

Just a short update on where I’m at at the moment.  4 years of crossfit, well, training.  Currently sitting at  113kg (17st and a lot of change), probably somewhere around the 25% body fat mark.  1rm squat 117.5kg; deadlift 140kg.

What provoked me to write this?  I was thinking about how my height affects my squat.  you see I’d just posted a slightly self deprecatory post on instagram about how disappointed I was in my lifting today.  I thought maybe a bit about that might be a good subject for a blog post.  I logged in to WordPress and saw a comment under an old post about how I suck at Crossfit.  Here’s what Sally wrote:

You are correct, you lack patience. Physical qualities and skills take time to develop.

I see a lot of excuses in your post. Your age, your mobility, your height, your level of fitness. By focussing on all the reasons why you are not doing as well as you think you should be doing, you divert focus from what you *should* be doing, day after day, trying to get better.

Your Ego is trying to keep you in your comfort zone by giving you reasons why you should never be attempting this stuff in the first place.

The comment was over 2 years old.  I remember thanking Sally at the time.  But I don’t think it can have sunk in at all.  This time though it hit me with an absolute stinky certainty.  She’s right.  Bloody Ego, bane of my life.  I’d fairly recently read Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday and nearly every word had resonated with me in some way.  All the times I’d been more concerned about all the other people in my powerlifting class lifting more than me.  All the times I’d not asked for what I wanted at work because I was afraid of ‘making a fuss’  or wanting to not be that guy.  Well, as my Sifu Phil says ‘fuck those guys’.

All these things made me realise that in order to get better, I have to stop being impatient to get better straight away and just keep turning up and eating lots (more on this later, I think).  I have got better.  But, because I’m so fixated on what’s holding me back, be it my height, age, lack of mobility, and also what everyone else is doing, I can’t see that and can’t progress.

The thing is:  I really enjoy lifting, it makes me happy.  Why then do I allow my ego to fuck it all up for me? Enjoy the process.

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Why do I suck at CrossFit?

16 Nov

Serious question.  I’ve wanted to ask this question for ages.  I’ve never quite had the heart to though because I don’t want to sound like:  oh poor poor me.  Also because, I think, to a certain degree, if you don’t think you suck, you’re sort of saying:  I rule at CrossFit, which no-one does, except maybe Rich. – Jesus, did you see him snatching at the invitational in Nanos, fuck!

I know a lot of people will say.  Shut up Chris, you don’t suck, look how far you’ve come.  So bearing that in mind. let’s put to one side the things that are reasonable reasons for me not being a massive beast and smashing every single wod.

1: Age.  nothing I can do about this.  I’m 39, the truth is I’m always going to be a bit slower and creakier than the shiny 25 year olds.

2: Base fitness:  I talked a bit about this in my last post.  But to cut a long story short, when I started this I was not  natural gym bunny.

3: Height.  This sounds a bit humble brag.  I’m quite tall.  6’4″ to be honest.  Most CrossFit athletes are way down on that.  Theere’s obviously an advantage in strength sports in being a compact machine.  Being tall makes burpees suck extra, extra hard.  It’s a long way down from up here.  It’s kinda cool for wall balls though. look here’s a picture of me standing next to Camille.  She’s so pretty.

me and camille

Fairly Gratuitous.

Putting aside the things that are outside my control.  What are the other reasons for my continued suckiness?

I’ve narrowed down a couple of reasons that I think are holding me back.  But, I genuinely want some honest feedback here.  Am I just not pushing myself hard enough?  Am I lazy?  Should I pick heavier weights (or lighter ones)?

The two biggies, then, I know, are:

1 Mobility:  Upper body mainly.  Shit shoulders especially.  Possibly due to spending the last 20 years of my life hunched over.  This means I suck at holding any kind of weight over my head.  Can’t handstand for the same reason.  Kipping pull ups can fuck right off.

I also have ludicrously short hamstrings, and bad ankle mobility.  Fill in the blanks as you see fit here.  All my awesome coaches do their best with me, especially Phil.  I don’t know what to say.  I’m getting better at trying to stretch, and mobilise my shoulders.  But, oh god, it’s so slow.

2:Diet.  This is a new one.  It never really occurred to me before a few months ago.  But, I just wasn’t eating enough. It’s not a problem, I’ve ever had before.  The lovely Sara has been a great help here.  If only I could stop eating crap.  I’m so used to just eating when I’m hungry and grabbing a sausage roll from my local Tesco. It’s a massive habit to break. Like the mobility, above, it’s a work in progress.

I believe that half the battle is knowing what the problem is.  And I am trying to deal with the problems I know.  But my question to you is:  am I missing something?  Am I just being impatient (I suspect so)?

There is a nagging doubt that maybe I just suck because I’m just not working hard enough at it.  Maybe I should be squeezing in one more rep, putting another 2.5 kg on the bar.

One year on and I’m just starting

19 Aug

Hi Crossfit peeps.  First up is the obligatory apology for not posting in over a year.  If only my motivation to write stuff was as strong as my motivation to keep going to CrossFit.

 

So, what inspired this breaking of my writing fast.  Mainly it was the moment of clarity I had at the box the other day.  I realised I’m just starting.  Obviously I’ve been going to CrossFit more or less regularly for a year and a half now.  But, what I mean is I feel, now that I’m beginning from the start.  I feel like I’ve reached the point where most crossfitters begin their journey.  There are a few souls like me out there.  I come across you now and again.  Oldsters who have never done much to keep fit before.  Sure, maybe you’ve had the odd gym membership, been once or twice a month then waited till you could cancel the membership.  Then the cycle starts again.  I see a lot of people like me in beginners.  Beardy guys who want a fresh start from the hopeless narcissism of the Easy gym.  Some of them stay the course, but a lot don’t.  I could surmise here that a lot of these guys and gals fall by the wayside because they feel outclassed by the big boys.  But, I won’t for two reasons.  One:  I’ve kind of written before about dealing with guys who can lift more than me, and if I can learn to live with it, why can’t they?  And, two:  There’s been a thread on our box’s Facebook group about why people don’t progress after level 1 (beginners) and the reason’s are various:  financial, time, not what they wanted etc etc.  Anyway, it seems the guys and Women who do survive the rigours of a month or two post graduation largely tend to be those better equipped than I.  By equipped, I mean swole.  They tend to be swole.

Last Sunday I went to Crossfit Strongman for the first time, after the week previous doing the strongman beginners class.  It was love at first atlas stone lift.  I felt like I did the after the first WOD I did.  Aching but happy in the knowledge that I’d found a true love.  The big difference this time was that I didn’t completely suck at it.  Let’s make this absolutely clear:  I really suck at Crossfit really bad.  I can’t do pistols, handstands, strict pullups, kipping pullups, I can’t sustain more than 6 double unders consecutively.  I can’t even do the ladies level 2 RX weight in WODs if it involves that weight going overhead.  But, ask me to pick up something heavy, pull it, carry it, swing it and put it back down again, I’m your man.  (let’s not get carried away here though!)

My point here, is that I feel like I’ve reached a point in CF that is equal to where the vast majority of new level 2ers start.  After a year and a half of sweating buckets and working my arse off has led me to point A.  Now I finally have my point A, I can start work on getting to where I want to be.  I’m also much more happy with my weaknesses.  Can’t do handstands?  OK.  So, I’ll have to scale HSPUs in a WOD.  CF is supposed to be all about functional fitness, yeah?  If some-one can explain to me when I need to be able to do a handstand, I’m all ears.

 I’m really happy that I have lasted the course.  It hasn’t been pretty most of the time.  I have had ups and downs along the way.  Mostly if it was’t for the amazing, awesome (and swole) people there encouraging me, I’d probably have given up.   

 

 

 

 

on patience

30 Jul

Let’s talk about handstands shall we?  There are many things I could write about but at the moment it is handstands that are on my mind.

I have a bucket list of things I want to achieve by the end of the year at CrossFit, perhaps the subject of another post.  A handstand was on that list.  It isn’t anymore.  Why?  There are too many things all conspiring against my handstand:  strength, mobility, and confidence (they just bloody scare me).

Of all the other things on my list, body-weight back squat for example, although I can see that I may not achieve my end of year objective, I can see that one day it will happen.  There is a technique that I understand and can, to a certain extent, execute.  With handstands, no, there is just too much in the way.  So I thought, maybe handstands, let alone handstand push ups, just aren’t my thing.   Just give up.  If they appear in a WOD, well I’ll scale it, and just get it done and moan about how much I hate HSPUs.

If I have learnt one thing this year since I started doing CrossFit it is that I am capable of doing things that I never thought I could do.  But the most important thing I have taken to the bank from these achievements, no matter how small, is that they didn’t just materialise out of thin air.  A perfect storm of: impending middle age fear, an awesome wife, excellent coaching and an awful lot of really really sweaty t-shirts, helped me on my way.

Back to the handstands.  What I’m boiling all this stuff down to is about patience.  I’ve always been fucking terrible at giving things up because I’ve not got good at it straight away.  I know I’m not alone in this!  But, I’m not giving this one up, not CrossFit and certainly not fucking handstands.  You will be mine.  Oh yes.

Chris,

p.s.

After my last post about how hard it can be for me to go to the gym sometimes when faced with a fairly poor self image, I got some really great and interesting responses, especially from Armando here.  I hope he won’t mind me saying that, I found his response quite inspiring.   It really made me realise that I’m not unique and that I need to just buckle down and ‘get on with it’.  Obviously, I’m not a sports psychologist, there are many many layers to all this and I don’t want to get bogged down in it too much.  Suffice to say that it seems I had underestimated the mental challenge of getting fit!

mobility and learning to ignore others

10 Jul

Following on for my last post about the, I don’t want to use the word ‘failure’, halting, of the 30 day challenge, I want to write a bit about the obstacles in my path.  There are only two, but my god they are biggies:  my mobility and myself (for the sake of brevity lets just call this second one: ego)

 

So, lets deal with the first.  Mobility. 

A couple of weeks ago I attended a mobility class at crossfit se11 with coaches Phillip Rolling and Carolyn Logan.  

Image  Two hours of sitting ,standing and lying on the floor in various uncomfortable positions (!!). Great.  And yes, I paid good money for this.  Honestly though Phillip and Carolyn are both excellent coaches and I learnt loads in those painful two hours.  

Why, why, why do this though?  As an obstacle, mobility is a massive issue for me.  Like most people throughout my life I have resolutely ignored my inability to touch my toes.  I’ve cringed at photos of me on facebook at parties where it looks like I have a hunched back because my shoulders are so rounded, but then pushed the image far back in my mental self image.  

I crossfit now though.  And as anyone knows, crossfit is all about lifting heavy shit over your head, for reps!  Have a look at this photo of me and I’ll explain.  Imagethis is me lying on my floor at the request of coach Chris Howard as part of the ’30 day challenge’ (we love a good 30 day challenge we do!).  More on this later. But look this is as far as I can get my hands to the floor.  I should be able to have my hands flat on the floor.  Now, imagine that I’m vertical instead of horizontal and I’m holding a barbell in my hands.  If there is weight on that bar, then it should be clear that the best place for that bar to be is directly over my head.  It is pretty much impossible for me to get that weight there.  Ergo,  I have a big problem.  

Enter Chris Howard, and the 30 day mobility challenge.  You can read up on the idea behind it here   .  30 days, using various drills and tools to improve my shoulder mobilty.  It’s only 5 minutes a day, so even lazy old me should be able to manage that.

This leads me on to the second topic.  Ego.  I have a terrible ego.  I constantly judge myself in relation to others.  My lovely wife is always berating me for this.  Unfortunately I do it in all areas of life.  Career, looks, fitness money.  It is probably the one thing I would change about me if I could wave a magic wand.  Crossfit in this respect is a curse and a blessing at the same time.  Let me give you a concrete example.  Last week we did a wod called ‘Chelsea’.  I’ll spare the details, but the results were not pretty for me.  I was a bit depressed about it afterwards because I felt that I’m simply nowhere near as fit as other people who go to crossfit, and potentially never will be. I cringed writing that, because that is not how I feel about Crossfit most of the time.  It is a curse because as someone who can barely lift an empty barbell over my head without collapsing on the floor in a puddle of my own sweat, I’m faced with men and women, seemingly effortlessly lifting, nay throwing, their own body weight over their heads.  It is a blessing too because, like an arachnophobic forced to sit in a box with spiders, I am constantly forced to face up to my ravening ego.  If I want to have rippling abs, if I too, want to lift heavy shit over my head then I must 3 times a week, go to Vauxhall, and fail, repeatedly.  

OK, all that sounded pretty bleak.  I don’t mean it to.  All the CrossFit coaches I’ve encountered are very encouraging, even dare I say, inspirational.  Several times, I’ve been called out for the classic English crime of self depreciation.  I’ve made massive gains: I pb’d my push-squat, only this week, by a ridiculous 8kg.  There is a distant rumour of a six-pack appearing underneath my sweaty MF Doom t-shirt.  All this success is achieved as Woody Allen once said ‘ by just showing up’.  That, and trying to ignore my ego’s attempt to self sabotage by comparing myself to others.  Instead I take inspiration from others success, and likewise take inspiration from others encouragement.  

what a crock

27 Jun

Well it’s pretty safe to say that the paleo challenge for june has been a bit of a wash out.  Pretty much a textbook case of ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’.  It would be fair, also, to say that there have been more cheat days than strict paleo days.  I’ve been out for drinks on more than one occasion, including a fairly heavy night involving burgers and tobacco onion strings at Bukowski in Brixton (it’s yum, you should definitely go).  

 

It isn’t all terrible.  i have lost a bit of weight, I have more importantly loss some bodyfat.  I’ll wait till the end of the month properly for a full breakdown.    I can’t speak for my wife but i think she’s  stuck to it much more than me.  However we’ve both agreed to extend the ‘challenge’ into July.  

What’s positive?  Well,  I have been going to cross fit a lot more.  I’ve stuck to the plan thus far.  I’ve had a couple of pretty decent wins.  Certainly I feel like I’m starting to ‘get it’ a lot more.  I feel like my posture (always terrible), has improved enormously.  I’ve lifted some weight over my head.  I’ve improved my kipping to the point that I believe that a decent kipping pull up is not more than a month or to away.  This is momentous for me, because the first time I ever went to a cross fit class I could barely hang off a bar without falling off, I had to have one coach push my back, while someone else pushed my chest alternately, so I could get an idea of what a kip should look like! Today after the horror that was 7 minutes of burpees, despite getting the lowest score of the two morning classes, I still had people cheering me on and high fiving me afterwards.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am NOT the sort of person who high fives.  Honestly, what has the world come to.  

The most important thing I have learnt this month so far though has been that, if I pay attention and work hard, I WILL get better, maybe not as fast as I’d like but I will.  

Cross Fit challenge is ON

23 May

Chris and friendI’ve been going to cross fit for a couple of months now.  Up till now I’ve been going about once a week.  No problem, yeah.  Once a week is fine, isn’t it?  Take a look at the photo above.  It’s me a couple of years ago.  I’m not massive but I’m not exactly svelte either.  A bit meh really.  Actually, this is me at my heaviest, around 18 stone.   The problem is, I’ve been pootling along my whole life.  I’ve never been fat really but I’ve never really been fit either.  The day before that photo was taken I took part in a 120 mile bike ride from Lillehammer to Oslo.   I’ve never really fessed up to this before, but there may have actually been a point during this bike ride that I actually had a little cry.  I came to the crushing realisation that just doing the bare minimum training wasn’t enough and I hit the wall so hard that by the time I’d made it to the next feed station I was swearing to myself that I’d never let this happen again.  Of course within a week, I was smoking and eating McDonalds for breakfast again.  Oh, how easily we forget pain.

What does crossfit have to do with this and what exactly is the Cross Fit challenge then?  Essentially every time I visit the bethnal green gym I feel a little bit like I did on that bike ride.  I’m the slowest to finish the WOD, I use the lightest weight and am always slightly on the verge of having a pathetic boo hoo.  No biggy.  No-one is judging me (I hope!), the coaches are nothing but encouraging and they have pushed me already much further than I ever thought I’d be able to go.  It’s an English thing isn’t it to be so self critical yeah.  It’s not cool to be whooping and high fiving your fellow gym goers, in the same way we don’t like to make eye contact with our fellow tube travellers.  Well Fuck That.

Bring on the Cross Fit Challenge.  One month to take it to the next level.  No more of this meh nonsense.  Of course we’ve been doing Paleo.  I’ve read Gary Taubes, Robert Lustig,  and Michael Pollen; I’ve even read Mark Sissons and Dan John.  All say roughly the same thing.  Don’t eat any sugar, cut down on crap and try to shop the edge of the supermarket.  I take all this to heart, but then I do like peanut m &ms.  So I’ve lost a bit of weight.  I am now a respectable 14st 10.  (I’m 6’5″).    So along with my beautiful wife Rachael (who also blogs about paleo/crossfit stuff here), we have invented the crossfit challenge for June.  I’m taking up membership for the month of June and will start going 3-4 times a week.  We’ll also be strict Paleo.  no snacks, no cheeky pasties, no sunday morning bacon sandwiches- just the bacon from now.  In the spirit of cross fit we’ve even got a whiteboard to record our progress.   SAM_0150

Dan John writes about how most people know they want to get to point B but haven’t really got a clue what point A is.  so this is me sticking a stick in the sand and saying: the first of June is Point A.  Let point B be being able to do a WOD to the set weight.   (n.b. Dan John love comes via the awesome Steven Shrago cofounder of Crossfit London uk. ) Point B then, is only going to be achieved by getting off my arse and putting in some real effort.  No more of this once a week stuff.  What I have to do is got off the pot and decide that I am going to stick with this.  I’ve given up the fags (still probably the second best thing I’ve ever done, after getting married), now it’s time to get fit.  And that means lifting some heavy shit – for reps.

Finally then, to set a benchmark, here is me now (actually about 10 minutes ago, but you gety my point). Apologies for the horrific photo and slightly weird dead eyed look in my eyes, I’m not sure what that is about.  It’s important to me that we set this out fairly brutally because we can only go forward from this point.  Apologies again in case anyone is feeling queasy.

SAM_0154

There it is.  Obviously, getting fit is all about improving your health, promoting longevity (hopefully), gaining mobility (look at my knackered shoulder, eek), and in no way about looking better with one’s top off.  Absolutely not.    So, let’s see if this shit works.