Part 2: People I met at the California Regionals

The man, the myth, the legend! Coach Glassman himself. What a privilege this was.


I have to admit that I was a bit starstruck meeting the founder of CrossFit . The OG himself. He was incredibly approachable and friendly. He happily signed my shirt. He asked us some questions about where we’re from and which affiliate we belong to. Whether we were enjoying the Regionals. One of the highlights of the trip for me.


See my previous post about meeting Jamie Hagiya.


Part 1: People I Met at the California Regionals

Over the coming days I’ll post some photos of the interesting people my friends and I met when we attended the California Regionals of the CrossFit Games in Del Mar, San Diego.

The first athlete I was able to meet and get a photo with was Jamie Hagiya.


What a class act. Jamie came out of the warm up area and interacted with fans for a good few minutes. She was super-friendly. She laughed with us and posed for photos. I posted this photo on Instagram and she even responded.


The Ireland reference is because my Cape Town accent prompted Jamie to ask where we were from. Answering, ‘Dublin’ was obviously confusing since I didn’t add California. It was cool to share a laugh with her.

Look out for Part 2.

Did any of you attend any Regionals events? Did you meet anyone fun?


We have lift-off!

Olympic weightlifting. I am suddenly obsessed. A couple of weeks ago I attended a weightlifting seminar run by California Strength. Rob Blackwell along with Jordan Weichers and Jaden Washington came to our CrossFit gym, I Will CrossFit, for a full day of coaching and training.


What a great experience. We started off with quite a long warm up which Rob says he does on any day he is lifting (for the record, he has up to 9 sessions a week). It took almost an hour. By the end of it, your muscles and tendons are pretty thoroughly stretched and you’re sweating already. And the lifting hasn’t even begun.

Since I’m no expert, I’ll not try and explain the details of what we were taught. What I’ll do instead is give some of the cues and tips passed on by Rob and the other experts on the day. Things which stuck in my mind and which I’ll be working on as I strive to improve my technique. The day was well structured. We started with some drills to learn the snatch technique. This was followed by time spent working up to a one rep max for each of us. Rob, Jordan and Jaden then showed us how it’s supposed to be done. They demonstrated the snatch and moved weights which I can only dream of lifting. Totally impressive. We took a break for lunch during which Rob shared some great insights into the world of weightlifting. After lunch it was time for cleans (first we did an abbreviated version of the warm up). In much the same way as the snatch, we started with some drills and then worked on our 1RMs. Jerks were next. The demonstration from the pros was just as impressive for clean and jerks as it was for the snatches. Rob finished up the seminar with some accessory strength exercises.


Jordan (left), Rob (top right) and Jaden (bottom right) showing us how it’s done

On to the cues and tips:

  • the shrug is actually the start of pulling yourself under the bar vs a move to pull the bar higher
  • expect the bar – as the bar reaches its high point in the pull, expect the weight
  • meet the bar in the clean – it should land on your shoulders without hearing the sound of the weight or the spinning of the barbell
  • chest out throughout – pigeon chest
  • eyes up – looking down makes you fall forward
  • weight always on your heels except right at the beginning of the 1st pull when you move it to the balls of your feet
  • pull is almost straight up – Rob showed this to great effect by standing right in front of one of the lifters during their snatch. If the bar is on the right path it shouldn’t hit the person standing there
  • leg drive is upwards – you don’t drive your hips/waist forward – the bar meets the hips/waist as a result of the upwards movement
  • there is no leaning back
  • after full extension is reached, you need to stamp down on your heels as you receive the weight and go into the squat
  • your arms should not be involved in the pull except to guide the bar path – they should be relaxed and loose as the power comes from the leg drive
  • jerk split is forward and back at the same with bodyweight staying down the middle
  • core tight throughout – breath in to tighten everything at the start of the lift

17 year old Jaden Washington with a massive clean and jerk

I realize that these cues and tips may not make too much sense without the context of the lift so please reach out to me if you have specific questions. Some of them are quite general though and I hope they’re useful.

All-in-all it was a fantastic day. I learned a lot. I PR’ed my snatch and my clean. I feel a lot more confident about Olympic weightlifting now but I still have a lot to work on. I forget to breath in at the start (in fact, I breath out) for one and I look down quite often. My arms also swing forward during the final extension. I’m looking forward to continuing my practice and hope to improve my technique to the point were I’m comfortable with the lifts. I Will CrossFit is also planning to start some classes focused on Olympic weightlifting, which will be totally cool.

Thanks for reading. Any cues or tips and tricks from your side? Let me know in the comments.


Open and shut – CrossFit Open 2017

The 2017 CrossFit Games Open is done. At 5pm PST on Wednesday, all scores were validated and the leaderboards were finalized. It’s been an incredible 5 weeks. This was my second Open and I enjoyed it even more than the first. The #530crew I’ve been training with for the last year has come a long way. We’ve all improved and we’ve all made great strides in our CrossFit journey. My finishing stats are below.

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I finished inside the top 200 in Northern California in the 40-44 age group. A group of about 750 competitors. A massive jump up the leaderboard for me. I finished 401st last year in a smaller field of about 500. I am over the moon about this.

What are the stand-out things for me:

1. There’s always room to improve.
I re-did 17.1, 3 and 4 this year. I bettered my scores in 17.3 and 4. But I meant this more generally. No matter how good you are at a skill or how strong you are for a lift or how fast you can finish a set of movements, you can always improve – form, technique, speed, how you feel at the end. Keep practicing. Consistency is key.
2. The CrossFit community is amazing.
This has been said again and again by just about everyone who does CrossFit. But it is heard all the time because it bears repeating. The spirit in a CrossFit box is always great – encouraging, supportive, fun and loud. During the Open, this steps up a notch. Our box was no different. The atmosphere during the Open workouts was phenomenal. Many a suffering competitor made it to the finish in large part due to the shouts and screams of the people looking on.
3. Double unders suck!
At least mine do. Even though I’m much better than even a month ago, I still have a long way to go to do these efficiently and for more reps before tripping up. In 17.5 I managed to injure the tendon between my calf and Achille’s during the 9th round of DUs. I finished the workout but the pain meant I was doing one to three DUs at a time and trying to do them on one foot.
Well, maybe I didn’t only learn that because of the Open but it certainly cemented that fact even more concretely. I am addicted. I thoroughly enjoyed the pain and torture which were the Open workouts. I loved testing my limits and my skills. I couldn’t wait to get back into the box this week to start working on the next set of improvements. Look out 18.1, here I come.

Training bias – strength, conditioning, other?

I Will CrossFit, the affiliate I train at, has a more conditioning biased training regimen. The programming is an oft-discussed topic in the #530crew conversations. We’ve all made remarkable progress over the last year or so, in terms of strength and conditioning. This is evidenced by the fact that our PRs have all been moving steadily upwards for the various weightlifting benchmarks and downwards for the timed benchmarks.

Ben Bergeron, legendary coach of the two fittest people on Earth, Katrin Davidsdottir and Mat Fraser, has podcast series called, Chasing Excellence. In a recent episode he discussed Conditioning-Biased Training. Give it a listen.

BB chasing excellence

I love that there is a copy of Seth Godin’s “What does it sound like when you change your mind” on the shelf behind them.

In this episode: We talk about the difference between programming for competitors versus members of our affiliates, the downfalls of strength-biased programming, & why less is almost always more.

It’s a great discussion and offers excellent insight into the different programming approaches which can be followed. What I found just as interesting, though, were the comments about the podcast. Ben divides the programming needs for an affiliate between competitors (Games- and Regionals-level athletes) and ‘regular’ members. And rightly so. The programming required to reach Regional level is so far beyond what most people want from a training program that they bear little resemblance to each other. However, there is another group of athletes not addressed with this approach. These are the guys who are not going to be in the top 20 in the Games and they’re not looking to beat Dan Bailey’s Fran time. They’re also not just trying to keep fit. Many of them played or still play other sports. They’re competitive. They want to improve. They want to get stronger. They want to learn how to do all the gymnastics movements. They want to get faster. They use CrossFit to supplement and complement their other sporting activities. Often making great strides in the other sporting disciplines because of the work they do in the CrossFit box. A program that suits some looking to keep/get fit may not suit this sort of CrossFit athlete. I think there is room for something in between. In some affiliates they program three versions of the workout: scaled, Rx and Rx plus. Perhaps this does address it to some extent. In ours, we have scaled and Rx but people do their own scaling depending on their experience and strength, often ending up somewhere in the middle.

I’ve only trained in one other affiliate when I was on holiday, so I don’t have a frame of reference for how other philosophies on programming work. I know I’ve improved significantly in the last year in all aspects of CrossFit that I’ve focused on. For me, I tend to trust the process our Coach has us following but it’s interesting to think about progressing to the next level. And trying to define that next level. I think if I discuss this with my coach we can work out a plan to address whatever it would take. But I also think that despite my progress, I’m still at a level where I can continue to improve just by following his current program. Intensity during the workout can make quite a difference without changing the program. But that’s a topic for another post.

In what direction is your programming biased? How are your WODs structured? If you changed affiliates was it because of the programming?

17.5 – Thrusters and Double unders?

Tonight the final workout of the 2017 CrossFit Games Open is announced. Thus far the workouts have been as grueling as expected. Dave Castro posted a clue to 17.5 earlier in the week.

17.5 clue

Social media was alive with guesses and predictions. Dead meat came up a few times. A knife thrust through under-cooked meat. A Ka-Bar knife. Thrusters, double unders, bar muscle up (again!). There are some movements that have been repeated every year since the start of the Open. Two of those have not been in any of the workouts yet – thrusters and double unders.


I have a tough history with both movements. In last month or two, I’ve become more comfortable with double unders but given how I’ve struggled I don’t take this comfort for granted. I still practice regularly and was happy to have them programmed in our WOD yesterday. I should manage if they do appear in 17.5. Thrusters have been my Kryptonite since I first started CrossFit. My form has certainly improved but I still find a 95lb weight rather heavy for the movement. The fear I have is that we’ll end up having 50lb dumbbell thrusters. I tried these earlier in the week and wasn’t able to complete even a single rep. Anyway, this had me scouring the interweb for some tips and tricks. I found this article on Boxlife Magazine’s website which had some good insight. If you’re uncertain about thrusters as well, have a look. There’s also a link to a demo video of Jason Khalipa doing thrusters. Hopefully these are useful.

I’m excited about tonight’s announcement. Castro may yet surprise us with a completely unexpected workout. Looking forward to the final one of this season. Good luck everyone.

17.4 is 16.4 – back for more!

The old saying warns, “be careful what you wish for.” In numerous Open WOD discussions and chats and predictions, I’ve been saying that it would be great to have a repeat of 16.4. As the announcement drew closer it seemed like a good guess given the movements which had not yet appeared in the Open. Deadlifts. Wall balls. Handstand push-ups. Of course thrusters and double under have yet to appear as well. But this week we had 16.4 again.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 19.32.28

Last year, 6 months into CrossFit, I didn’t have high expectations of this workout. I attempted it Rx despite having a 3 rep max deadlift of 255 lb. Dangerously close to the prescribed 225 lb this workout called for. As you might guess, I got stuck at the deadlifts. It took me forever to finish them. I wasn’t much better on the wall balls. I ended up getting onto the rower with precious little time left and managed 1 single calorie. I didn’t even worry about the fact that I could not perform handstand push-ups since I knew I wouldn’t make it that far.

Enter 2017.

I have a higher deadlift 3 rep max now (315 lb) and I’ve been known to string together a few wall ball shots unbroken. I can also do handstand push-ups now and my rowing speed is adequate. I made my first run on Friday morning. My hope was to beat last year’s score and at least get further on the rower.

I tried to pace myself on the deadlifts. I didn’t want to run out of steam too early on. I did 5 reps unbroken but then followed those up with 50 slow and steady singles. Off to the wall balls. These went well for me. I kept up quite a good pace and my coach kept my breaks short and consistent. I got on the rower with a little over 2.5 minutes to go. I strapped in. Closed my eyes. And just started pulling. As hard as I could. I finished 40 calories! A nice 39 cal improvement on last year.


I was rather chuffed. Later that evening I returned to the box to watch the other athletes make their attempts at the workout. Man! Those guys were amazing. It was inspirational to see them go all out. Their pace on the deadlifts was incredible. They flew through the wall balls. Then pulled like Olympic rowers. One guy even made it as far as the handstand push-ups. The next morning two more athletes made their runs. Another two awesome performances. Wow! Watching them made me start to rethink my strategy. Could I push harder on the deadlifts – the only place I felt I could improve my time? I spent most of the weekend wondering about this and eventually decided I’d repeat the workout today.


I was quite nervous. I wasn’t at all sure I could go at a faster pace and maintain it for 55 reps. I decided to just go for it. 3-2-1-Go! And I was off. I started off doing singles immediately. But this time, the pauses were a lot shorter. As soon as I dropped the barbell I picked it up again. I managed to keep up a pretty good pace for 15 reps and still felt good. Each deadlift gave me more confidence. At 30 reps, I was felt strong and kept going. I finished the reps 2 minutes faster than my Friday time. Wall ball time. Good pace again. Almost the same time as Friday. This meant I was still 2 minutes ahead of that pace. Yay.


Next up, row, row, row your boat. Again, same tactic. Strap in. Close eyes. Pull. And pull. And pull. Repeat until 55 calories reached. I managed to finish! Just over a minute to get in as many handstand push-ups as possible. My whole body felt wobbly and unsteady. I took a few seconds break and then coach told me to just get up on the wall. I listened. First attempt. No rep! Dammit! Reset. Try again. 1 rep!! Woohoo. And then…5 more reps.

I was over the moon. As happy as when I managed my first muscle-up. 171 reps in total. 60 more than 2016. I’ve been smiling all day. What a great feeling. Coach Matt is the man. His programming, patience and persistence saw me to a big improvement over last year. Amazing what you can achieve with consistent training with a great coach. Incredible what you can push yourself to do when inspired by a great bunch of athletes.

One more to go. Thrusters and double unders are my prediction. 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 for time. Can’t believe the 5 weeks are drawing to a close. It’s been great so far. How has it gone for you?

Thanks for reading.