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Our Checklist Method

Making it easy to assess new client needs. Few CrossFit gyms do this, but more need to.

I am a huge fan of check lists. A pilot friend got me into it last year, when he showed me his method, and he said that checklists are how he does all his work (both in a plane and in business).

I thought, ‘why can’t we do that in our initial assessments’?

What I wanted was an easy way of helping all the coaches here, benefit from my experience, and have a method of accurately assessing client needs right from the start.

The new CrossFit Chichester assessment checklist was born out of this idea. Subsequently I created a few more checklists, and started working more on surveys, and viola, we’ve got some great ways of really helping our members reach their goals.

As great as this is, it’s not enough. So I thought, how can I start getting a better sense of people’s fitness without even seeing them move. I can usually get a good picture from a 10 minute phone call, but I couldn’t do that with everyone, so what if I put those same questions online, and allowed people to answer them, and have it scored. Once they get a certain score, it should hopefully give them (and us) a clearer idea of what to expect before even walking into our gym.

Since then, these questionnaires have helped me see how fit a much larger number of people are, than I would have done, had I used our old method of booking an assessment first. (If you’d like to Download our  CFC Initial Assessment Score Card you can here.)

So…. given that many believe that CrossFit is ‘too intense for you’, I will invite you to try out our survey, and discover more closely what it would take you to be ‘CrossFit ready’ so to speak.

Here is the link, and fill it out and try the home mobility assessments.

As responsible coaches, it’s our job to see what level each person is, and in order to ensure their chance of succeeding within our program, we can appropriately adjust and scale their workouts and their fundamentals to suit their needs.

This is not, and will never be, a one size fits all model. With us, you’ll get a responsible and experienced coach, a dedicated coaching team and a workout program that is fun, sustainable and most importantly safe.

We champion our members successes, as you can see from our weekly updates, and provide a community that is supportive, and encouraging. Totally interested in your success.

Sometimes, I have people come to me, worried about being judged or made to feel embarrassed for their fitness level (most likely from those closest to you or the thoughts in your head). It is our desire to provide a mental refuge from those negative, doubtful, dream destroying beliefs and respect you for what you are working on, and where you going.

That is our gym.

Archie,
Head Coach,
CrossFitt’ing since 2011.

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Low Hanging Fruit

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Getting (or perfecting) Your Pull-ups

The bar needs to stop your chest from going any higher.

I remember way back when I was 10 years old, and I first discovered out how hard it was to even do a pull-up, after 4 weeks, I’d worked up from 1 to 5, doing them every day. When I was 16, I could do 50 push-ups comfortably. I could do just 7 pull-ups. Pull-ups are hard. The muscles we use for them are relatively small compared to the rest of our body, so it’s harder to develop significant strength in a short space of time. They are also very easy to strain. The tendons are small. The blood supply is relatively limited. In order to get a decent hormone response from them you have to be consistent, BUT you have to be careful not to over do it.

I know many who have decided they want to improve their pull-ups, and start doing them (or a progression) every day, and end up getting a tendon strain because they’ve pushed them too hard. It’s really easy to do. Unlike the legs which can recover, and handle a decent amount of volume (such as 100 or 200 air squats in a session) unconditioned doing that many reps is a recipe for disaster with pull-ups in the beginning. You simply cannot train them in the same way.

First of all, what exactly is a perfect pull-up?

My definition, is one where we keep our body, dead in line, abs, glues, and lats switched on. All stretched out, hanging, with toes pointed. Then, we pull down with our shoulder blades into what we’d call a ‘scap pull-up’. Then, you drag your elbows down and behind your body, keeping your body completely in line, until your collar bones (or chest) hits the bar. Pulling to a point where your body is physically stopped by the bar, is the only way to properly strengthen the lats, back and shoulders (and core) to a point where you’ll be robust enough to attempt certain movements such as the coveted muscle-up (going from below to above the rings/bar).

Developing an excellent pull-up, takes practice. It also takes persistence, because progress will be sometimes slow and frustrating. What it also asks, is that we are at a low enough body fat percentage so that we aren’t lifting up any unnecessary weight (to do a number beyond 15-20 reps).

Becoming proficient in the pull-up is a sign of pure athleticism and health. If you can do set’s of beautiful strict pull-ups, then you’re part of the healthiest percentage of people in the world. Especially if you are female.

The challenge of developing strength is the muscular strength isn’t just necessary to be able to do it. It also takes denser bones, stronger ligaments, thicker tendons, and tougher connective tissue. You’ve also got to have enough flexibility in your thoracic spine to be able to raise your arms fully over head, without any pain, or impingement.

Needless to say we love training pull-ups because they are so effective at producing healthier people. There is so much work involved it is a constant cycle of strength, mobility, strength, mobility, conditioning. To say that the effort is worth it, would be an understatement. The sense of achievement that I see when people pull themselves over the bar, unassisted for the first time, is almost as good as seeing their first muscle up. It’s amazing, and one of the main reasons why I started training people in the first place. We deserve, all of us, to be stronger. No matter where we are. The pull up is one of those movements that defines our sense of well being more so than other movements.

Over the last few years as a coach, we’ve helped many of our clients to achieve unassisted or improved pull-ups. Our method is simple, and has been derived from Pavel Tsatuline’s training principles. This particular program can take you from no pull-ups, to at least 1,2 or more, provided you follow the progression as written and do your best to keep up with it for as long as is necessary to achieve it.

Here are the basic rules:

If you have less than 1 or two pull-ups, then consider using a progression to assist you with getting between 3 and 5 reps as a minimum.
Every set has to be executed with perfect form (no cheat reps). If your form is less than perfect in your first set, use an easier progression.
Make contact with the bar every time to ensure proper range is being trained through.

Start with a max set. Rest. Then do another set with one less rep*. Repeat for a total of 5 sets doing one less rep each set.

*If you can do more than 10 strict pull-ups, then you will need to reduce the reps by more than one. From 10-15 reps, reduce by 2 reps. From 15 to 20 reduce by 3 reps each time. From beyond 20, reduce by 4 reps. More on this later in this article.

Here is the progression:

The 3RM Program

For those who have 3 pull-ups here is how you’d progress (or if you want to add weight to this you can add enough to bring your reps to 3):

Day 1     3, 2, 1, 1
Day 2     3, 2, 1, 1
Day 3     3, 2, 2, 1
Day 4     3, 3, 2, 1
Day 5     4, 3, 2, 1
Day 6     Off
Day 7     4, 3, 2, 1, 1
Day 8     4, 3, 2, 2, 1
Day 9     4, 3, 3, 2, 1
Day 10   4, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 11    5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 12    Off

By this point you’ll be ready for the next step which is the 5 rep progression.

5 RM Progression:

Day 1     5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 2     5, 4, 3, 2, 2
Day 3     5, 4, 3, 3, 2
Day 4     5, 4, 4, 3, 2
Day 5     5, 5, 4, 3, 2
Day 6     Off
Day 7     6, 5, 4, 3, 2
Day 8     6, 5, 4, 3, 3
Day 9     6, 5, 4, 4, 3
Day 10    6, 5, 5, 4, 3
Day 11    6, 6, 5, 4, 3
Day 12    Off
Day 13    7, 6, 5, 4, 3
Day 14    7, 6, 5, 4, 4
Day 15    7, 6, 5, 5, 4
Day 16    7, 6, 6, 5, 4
Day 17    7, 7, 6, 5, 4
Day 18    Off
Day 19    8, 7, 6, 5, 4
Day 20    8, 7, 6, 5, 5
Day 21    8, 7, 6, 6, 5
Day 22    8, 7, 7, 6, 5
Day 23    8, 8, 7, 6, 5
Day 24    Off
Day 25    9, 8, 7, 6, 5
Day 26    9, 8, 7, 6, 6
Day 27    9, 8, 7, 7, 6
Day 28    9, 8, 8, 7, 6
Day 29    9, 9, 8, 7, 6
Day 30    Off

The principles are simple. The execution is the hard part. It get’s boring, but you get really really strong. It’s not unusual to add a serious amount (2.5 times) of reps to your max.

Again if you’ve got more than 10 strict chest to bar pull-ups then go Pavel’s website and use his progression to work out exactly the reps that you’d be doing.

If you’d like a print friendly sheet, to cross off days, for when you complete them, go here. Having a record make this, makes it much easier to complete. The print friendly is here –  Pull-ups Strength Progression. But if you’d like a blank PDF to print off go here – Blank Pull-ups Strength Progression.

Let us know how you get on!

Archie,
Head Coach,
CrossFit Chichester.

Succeed with support: how your social group can help you achieve in fitness (or anything else).

In the group we most associate with most, lies a key contributor or detractor for the success that we deserve. If you’d like to find out if your social network is helping you succeed in your health and fitness goals then fill out this very short survey here.

“This is not a piece of gym equipment!!”

A small note written on the side of our giant cork we have in our kitchen. A wedding gift from some friends, that we had everyone sign or write a short note or word of advice on our wedding day. A great memento of a fantastic day. The short note represented such an example of two opposing opinions. The funny thing was, the cork is heavy, awkward and would be an excellent substitute for a heavy dumbbell if I was stuck for equipment and kit and wanted to do a workout.

It was written by a uni mate who was anything but athletic. To him it must have seemed bizarre and a bit odd, me lumping round a left over curb block which I’d ‘salvaged’ from a building site, bundled into the back of my car, and served me for a year as a decent weight to do workouts in our university house garden, overlooking the beautiful town of Falmouth, in Cornwall.

“This is not a piece of gym equipment!!”

To my uni mates, I was a bit weird, because while they’d be getting up, having their cereal breakfast, and strong coffee, I’d already be done and dusted having had my breakfast earlier, post workout, showered and ready to head to lectures. They did work hard though, it’s just twice or thrice weekly curries that we may be disagreed on.

Luckily, I was focused enough to maintain a good routine, until I became enamoured with a girl at uni, who liked making cakes. I ate so much cake over one summer, I stopped training as much and my six pack went to a four pack. They laughed, but hey, I was still getting laid.

Back in ’08 when I thought trying to balance on the front of a light longboard was a good idea.

Ultimately it was not a match made in heaven, and I got back on the routine, of fitness, cold showers, and only the ‘semi-regular’ curry with my housemates. With my six pack back, I was feeling good, and have learnt that ultimately the cakes not worth it, the feeling of being fit and healthy is.

Consider this, when you’re trying to workout, do the people around you support you in it? For instance saying things like “you go get your session done, I’ll look forward to when you’re back” (an example from wife) not “you’re going to work out now???” (also from my wife!). In relationships, support is everything. Especially when it comes to personal goals. Understanding where the other is coming from, and knowing what they want, makes living together, and working together, cohesive, fun and ultimately successful. In a relationship (or surrounded by unhealthy work colleagues for 8 hours a day) if there isn’t a decent level of support in your goals, then making them turn from dreams to reality is going to be much harder. In fact, they might not even be possible at all.

 

Judge buddies.

From working successfully with clients, sometimes, I’ve not even discussed diet, or training, until, we’ve worked out, how to get the partners on board. If you don’t have a partner, it’ll be friends and family who’ll probably have the biggest influence over you and your health endeavours.

If you don’t have what you would call a ‘supportive network’ around food and eating, don’t despair. Neither did I. Now, I’ve got nothing but a supportive, amazing community, wife, friends and family, because of a few simple strategies which I’ve employed (and still use) over the last 7-8 years.

Strategies to Gain Social Support

  • Communicate your goals effectively, earnestly and honestly to a loved one. The best way to do this is to sit down with a pen and paper write them out (a list of about 5 will do) and put a timeline on those goals. Then explain to your loved one, friends or family member the meaning it would give you to accomplish these.
    • Expressing sincerity with your goals, helps to allow you to be more vulnerable, and endearing to the other party. Making them more likely to be fully on board in helping you (especially if they come up with a plan to help you get there).
    • Making it clear that this is really important to you, and you can’t do it without their support, and help, will help them to feel part of the process and part of why you’re going to succeed with this. This step is important because giving them a sense of purpose within the realm of this goal, will bring you together and make it much more likely that you’ll have at least one person who will help.
    • If this conversation doesn’t go well. Find someone else to have this conversation. If you must make this work with the other party (for instance you live with them!) then try a gentler approach over a sustained period of time. Bring it up often, and their negative response will lessen over time. You will eventually ‘wear them down’ to the point where you make it your goal to get them on board first with you achieving these goals. Two people working on a goal is better than one.
  • Join a group of people who have similar goals. Whether this is a gym, club or social group, having friends who are on a similar path is going to dramatically increase your likelihood of success, because they will help you see methods of success that you didn’t see before. They’ll offer a different perspective and with any luck, inspire you along, when times are tough. Being part of a WhatsApp group is highly beneficial in this regard because communication becomes more frequent and sharing information becomes easier.
    • Explain to your work/boss that this is your goal. The key influencers at your place of work will have a major impact on your success. If they know you’re going to be starting later every Tuesday and Thursday because you’re finishing your longer workout/run/bike ride/swim on these days, but you’re going to be finishing later then this can be a help to them in understanding better you movements (if they’re expecting you to attend an office at a set time).
    • You could also do an event for them which helps promote their brand or if they have a charitable arm, gain sponsorship from them if its a run or a challenge such as a tough mudder, and then they’d be getting a direct benefit from you accomplishing your goal.
    • You could always invite your boss/work colleagues along to do the challenge with you. Gaining support in the office for a diet bet, or having the no junk food rule in the office can have a massively positive impact not only on your success but on those around you.
  • Invite people to join with you on something diet bet if your goals are weight loss related. Even being part of something like weight watchers, or slimming world can still have a hugely positive impact on your success because it’s a supportive community geared towards helping all of you succeed, and providing a level of accountability which you wouldn’t otherwise have if you weighed yourself alone. It provides a space to talk about things with like minded individuals who’ve already been where you are now, and can help provide an outside perspective that is impartial and objective.
  • Employ a coach who’s already done it. Professional coaches, are trained in how to help you get from where you are to where you want to go. We know how it feels sometimes, and we can be a positive source of knowledge and support to help keep you on track, and enjoy the success that you deserve. We all need coaches at some point in life. Why not start right now?

 

If you’d like to learn more about whether you could do with some extra strategies to help be more focused, and gain extra support from those around you take our all new social support questionnaire. It’s totally free, and if you’d like to talk some more put your details into our get started page here.

Social support link here too – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CFCsocialsupport

Thanks for reading,

Archie,
Head Coach.

A Mindset For The Injured Athlete: How to stop injuries from harming the rest of you

If you’re short of time, or in the car, you can download the article here and listen to it.

Injuries change lives. They affect how we move. They affect how we sleep. They affect how we think. They affect how we feel about ourselves. The truth is that injuries happen. No matter what sport you’re in. However, that does not mean that you can’t turn an injury into an opportunity to grow.

The first major injury that happened to me, was riding a bike down hill. I had no helmet. I had a narrow path to stay on. I was going too fast. At the bottom of the track was a small bridge. Either side of the bridge were concrete posts and a metal bar. As I approached the bridge, I knew I was going too fast and knew I didn’t have time to break. I hit the post with my handlebars, was flung onto the steel bar, and proceeded to crack both front teeth, and badly cut open my arm. I was 10. Not a great move. It took me a few weeks to recover and have the stitches removed (I did that at home myself because I thought it was cool) along with a trip to the dentist.

I didn’t learn the lesson though, and following that accident, I proceeded to have a second more serious crash. This time it took me out of rugby for a year, and pretty much stopped any chance of being a professional player later on due to the severity of the injury to my neck. Oh well. The good thing was, that I then became really good at judging when I was going too fast and showing off. Now, I’m much more cautious, and have managed to avoid anything of that severity since.

The view I now take is that there is always something to be gained in equal proportion to the accident. Every injury that you suffer (and they will come) is a gift.

In our training program we see a great deal of people who are injured (a most, you’ll be happy to know are injured outside of the gym). However, it often affect a person’s mindset towards training, and will if confidence has been lessened often prevent them from continuing with us. For us, this can be frustrating, because it’s my goal to help as many people as possible, live happier healthier lives, with or without injuries.

The major benefit I see, is that it is an intensely personal event. Therefore, forces us to forget all competition, and focus solely on our own progress. This in an of itself is a massive gift that can be unlocked, if then set realistic metrics for success, you can begin working towards them. If for instance you’ve injured your back, and it hurts at night on a scale of 1 to 10 pretty close to a 5 or a 6. The goal I would set is to find things that lessen the pain, so that I can lower it down to a 3 or 4. In this instance the method may be a combination of seeing a good physiotherapist, and performing twice daily mobilisations to the glutes and back muscles and surrounding tissues using a lacrosse ball, with a weekly sports massage. In this case, back pain can be lessened and voila, you’re on the path to recovery and feeling good because we can feel like we’re making progress.

A second example, for myself has been my right hip. I’ve damaged it in some way. Meaning that I can no longer perform single leg squats. It goes weak at a certain point of hip flexion (when my knee gets closer to my chest). So, my metric of success is currently, to increase gently the range in which it feels strong and stable. So far, I’ve scaled back my progressions, to one which I can feel the same recruitment of muscle fiber in both legs, and then over the last few months have been progressively increasing the depth of the squat, and soon will be able to increase the difficulty of the progression further once I’ve developed further strength and stability in the joint. In this instance, I never would have quite focused so greatly on the nuances of a single leg squat as much had I had not experienced this injury. I wouldn’t be emphasising the point as much of glute activation and strengthening. Of watching for valgus (inward) knee in my clients as much, had I not been experiencing this injury to my own right hip. In fact, getting injured in my right hip has been a god send. It’s allowed me to become a more caring and diligent coach as a result and allows me the opportunity to help my clients before they get to this point. It’s also forced me to focus more on gymnastic progressions, rather than lifting heavy weight (I’ll get back to those later).

I suspect that any injury within the body, can be seen as a metaphor in how to approach challenges in life. That is why I believe so passionately in the benefit of injury. The opportunities they present are unique and will lead each and every single person on a journey they never thought they would take, and with the right approach, setting proper and achievable metrics for success, we can come to appreciate them for the gift which they really are.

If you’re injured, or recovering from one, it’s also important to concentrate movements that you can do, in recovery, and not focus on the movements you can’t. Our classes are intense, but they can 100% be adjusted towards each individual person. For those who are curious, I’ve added this guide which you can download here, and use any time you come to a Crossfit class and are not sure what movements to substitute to. Let us know what you think in the comments below. 

Training Substitutions Guide

If you fancy a good listen you can download the audio guide here:

Key takeaway – “if its pain free, it works.”

Notes:

Back Pain – Some tools to help fix it – link here. 

Terminal Knee Extension – Link here. 

 

Archie Cunningham, Head Coach

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The Future of Fitness in The 21st Century

When I first begun my fitness journey I was ten years old. I was doing pull-ups on the gangway of our boat, that was my home for a short period of time. I was so proud that I could do 5 and I remember showing off my strength to my friends because I thought I was pretty cool being that strong. It felt like if I could be anything, I could be fit and strong.

Right through my teens, I began training in the school weights room. We lifted weights with the standard bench press (my then favourite lift) and the pull-ups bar, while we were in or out of the rugby season. As these kinds of movements bored me, I began looking elsewhere. I looked for that level of interest in martial arts. I looked at in home training programs and I looked at it from books, from deadlift specific programs, or kettlebell specific programs. I found the things that fascinated me and kept on studying and learning.

It quickly became apparent that there were holes in my fitness that I hadn’t addressed. I felt like trying sports such as surfing might help, and they did, because I became less self conscious with the way I looked and more focused on how my body could actually perform. Being someone who was always conscious of how ‘lanky’ they were, as a teen, it was a significant shift in self acceptance that was beginning to develop in me that in truth hadn’t been felt in a long time. Something, all of us will eventually do at some point in our lives. After discovering that surfing was not competitive enough for me, I began looking back to the sport I’d grown up with: rugby. Still, it wasn’t enough. It didn’t capture my fascination anymore. As much as it used to be fun, we as players weren’t getting any better.

Only when I took my brother to this tiny little gym on top of Portsdown Hill that I discovered really what I’d been looking for. A fitness program that covered all the bases of athleticism. One where we developed strength and cardio vascular fitness. Where the movements required a high level of skill and flexibility. Where I was able to feel good, not about how my body looked, but about what it could do. That was the major difference, because this training program allowed me to focus on developing my bodies’ ability to get fitter, and to be stronger, more athletic, rather than aesthetic.

The training program that I discovered was called CrossFit.

Proper coaching is the backbone of a good training program.

Currently to the majority of the population, the fitness industry places the emphasis on the aesthetics of exercise. The images, the plans, the focus is too much on how your body looks, on how your abs look under top lighting, or how you look in swimming trunks or a swimming suit. I certainly for a time felt that getting ‘beach ready’ was more important than ‘life ready’. The frustrating aspect of this focus, is that often leads to feelings of self-doubt, self-consciousness, and envy. Although we have some control over how our body looks, it seems that we have more control over the effort we can put forth today, than the way our body may look in 6-12 months. This was a real and measurable benefit to altering the reason for training in the gym.

This realisation, not only happened to myself, but as we are seeing all around the world (and in our gym) is that the other two balancing reasons for exercise (health and performance) are coming much more into the forefront of people’s ideas as to why they’re training. What we’re beginning to realise is that taking care of yourself, has impact way beyond the way you look. As a coach, some of greatest transformations that I’ve witnessed, have been when the client focuses more their physical performance via setting a specific athletic goal (for instance run the london marathon, or do an assisted pull-up).

 

In this light, it’s our belief at our gym that, children nowadays, would be more successfully athletic if they were encouraged to focus more on their strength, than their waist size. Seeing increases in performance can far more readily be seen by you and others than losing 1 inch around your waist. Most people will experience comments after 6-12 weeks of following a regular training program about how they look, whereas they might have noticed that their strength had increased already from just week 1 to week 2. Getting these visible signs of being fitter and healthier come far faster when this focus on athletic performance is encouraged.

For instance our teens program is 50:50 girls and boys. The girls often out lift the boys, are more coordinated and more powerful than the boys. Up until the age of 13-14, both girls and boys are on a level playing field when it comes to strength. CrossFit is also one of the few sports where men and women are paid the same in prize money. Girls and boys, who adopt these training practices early in their childhood also stand less chance of injury in other sports, due to the development of more strength than we can usually expect from kids that age. It’s important to remind yourself that there was a time, probably when you were under the age of 6, that you could squat bum to ankle, and stay in that position for as long as you wanted. Try that now without assistance, and you’re part of the small proportion of westerners who can do that.

Learning how to look after your body from an early age is exactly the 1% course correction our kids need to have massive success later on.

When looking at obesity rates in the UK alone, 26% of the population are obese and 61% are overweight. The health services, are now beginning to show signs that cure is no longer the solution, and prevention is going to become the new way forward to healthcare in the modern world. Recently, I was reading the recommendations from the midwife on what a pregnant woman should be eating as part of a low glycemic index diet, and more or less all of their foods, were in line with what I as a nutrition coach suggest to my clients. The world is changing, and more and more, we’re going to see that your doctor is going to be requesting a meeting or notes from your fitness coach. That healthcare will be integrated into the fitness industry more closely than we’ve ever seen before. You’re going to find that more and more, that gyms and training schedules will be part of the prescription that doctors give to overweight, or unhealthy patients.

If you don’t agree with me, then speak to members of a gym known for its reputation in producing long term health change in it’s clients, and ask them who has had a bigger impact on their health, their doctor or their gym, and they’ll most likely say their gym. This isn’t to brag, this merely to make the point that when it comes to healthier lifestyle choices, and producing fitter healthier more positive human beings, gyms and coaches, not hospitals and doctors are the real experts in the field.

Ultimately, prevention is going to become the cure. It is far cheaper to invest in £100 a month in an excellent gym program that you use for the rest of your life, than having to suffer the consequences of diseases in later life due to poor health choices. Plus, healthier people, drink less alcohol, eat better food, are less of a burden on the healthcare system, less likely to take sick days and be more productive and have a positive impact on the workplace than less healthy people.

Even later in your 60s you can still get the benefit of resistance training. Maintaining bone density helps you bounce, when others might break if fall over. Balance and accuracy too, if not used, atrophy over time.

What’s quite amazing about this entire process is that, for someone to adjust themselves to adopting the ‘prevention over cure’ model for health and fitness, the actual changes necessary to make a real and measurable difference are actually quite small. With just a 1% course correction, over time that adds up a measurable difference in health over the long term. Small consistent changes, managed with a knowledgeable and understanding coach can add up to a dramatically different lifestyle and health position in just a few years without sacrificing on the basics such as relationships, enjoying time with friends, and negatively impacting work, which can happen when there is too much of a drastic change in a short term transformation program, as it’s proven some training programs can impact.

It’s a very simple choice, either to make the 1% correction now that’s going to lead a measured gap in your own health over the next 5-10 years or more, or continue on the path you’re on, getting the same results as before, and putting yourself at that higher risk of disease in later life. Notwithstanding the positive impact that just coming to a supportive encouraging, growth orientated environment as the gym we run is is going to have on your day, you week, you month your year, your life. There will never be the right time to truly a make a difference to your health, but now is always going to be better than tomorrow.

Archie Cunningham
Head Coach
CrossFit Chichester

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5 Years On – Here’s Where it Began

Here are some pics from the old gym. You can find it on our facebook page too, but here are some we picked out:

My first client – my lovely wife Lydia.

Workout done. Henry asleep on the mats. I feel really guilty now looking back.

Steve and I building the monster rig. It cost half the amount of a standard rig, but took about a week to build and 10 people to help build it. Never again.

The old gym looked so bright until we put the matting down!

The final stages of the gym coming together. We learnt a lot.

Why We Sleep and Why We Need It.

It is possible to extol the virtues of sleep. However, that would be too easy. What is difficult is to talk about the consequences of not. They range from pathology, and physical ailments, to psychological disorders. However the most poignant are the ones where the consequences are more instantaneous, and more damaging. If you are easily upset, and do not wish to read this, then please move on to the later stages of this article.

In 2006, a school bus in Florida was stopped at a junction. There were 9 children on board. Behind it, a car carrying 7 people pulled up behind this bus and stopped. Further up the road, an 18 wheel truck was travelling down the road towards the junction. It didn’t stop. It hit both the bus and car. The truck driver, and the children in the bus sustain serious injuries. Three of which were thrown completely out of the bus on impact. The car, was crushed, underneath the truck and burst into flames. It was carrying teenagers and children. 5 of which were from the same family, and the youngest was just 20 months old. It was later discovered that the truck driver had been up for over 30 hours straight.

If you take nothing else from this article, and from my reading, if you’re drowsy while driving, please pull over. It can take just 2 seconds to veer into an oncoming lane, and that’s usually how long a micro sleep lasts. No tactic of windows down, radio on, will work effectively. Find somewhere to pull over, and have nap, or get to sleep for the whole night.

Sleep and Emotions

Children, when given a good nights sleep, behave well, are well mannered, and fun to be around. Given a broken or poor nights sleep, and they become tantrum throwing little so so’s. The same is still true for adults, just not to ‘quite’ as much to the same degree. It seems that when measuring brain scans, of participants, viewing an emotional range of pictures, the well rested brain shows a modest reaction to such images (emotionally benign being a piece of driftwood, to more upsetting such as a burning house or a snake about to attack), the other group who stayed up an entire 24 hours, showed a 60% increase in the use of their ‘irrational’ centre of the brain, the amygdala. In this case, what was found, was that our dopamine (linked to impulsiveness and reward) receptors in the brain, had become hyperactive once being deprived of sleep. What is interesting, is that when underslept, it’s more likely that we become more emotional, in both positive and negative ranges and can more easily switch between the two.

Sleep and Alzheimer’s 

Two diseases which many fear in the developed world; Cancer and Alzheimer’s. Both of which are linked to inadequate sleep. Alzheimer’s disease has been linked to a build up of toxic proteins within the brain called beta-amyloids. Amyloid plaques are poisonous to surrounding neurons. What is fascinating is the it was only until recently that we didn’t know how this build up occurred. It has been discovered that the brain has an equivalent lymphatic system called the ‘glymphatic system’. In deep NREM sleep this system flushes out these amyloid proteins from the brain, and disposes of them, using cerebrospinal fluid which bathes the brain. The glymphatic cells or Glials shrink in size by up to 60% during NREM sleep to allow this fluid to remove these amyloid build ups.  At the same time, other harmful proteins called tau, are also removed during NREM sleep.

As is said in the book, wakefulness is low level brain damage, and sleep is brain sanitation. The tragedy, is that as these build ups occur, in greater quantity through lack of sleep, the harder it is for the damaged cells to achieve restful deep sleep. The over-riding message, more and more is that by focusing and prioritising a good nights sleep, you will be protecting yourself (and those around) from having to deal with the brutal and degenerative disease.

Sleep and Muscle Memory

When trying to learn new movements, sleep is imperative. Matthew walker describes how after a lecture he was met by a professional pianist. They described how after practising a great deal during the day, he would having not been able to get a particular part correct, and in the morning miraculously be able to play it perfectly.
What then happened was Matthew went back to lab, and three years later, he had confirmed what this pianist had empirically discovered:

Practice, with sleep, made perfect.

What was interesting, is that sleep enhances practices work. With equivalent studies being conducted on participants who slept while learning a number sequence, and participants who practised in the morning, and then practised in the evening. The sleep group was the winner.

The implications are extremely important when it comes to exercise.

If we are learning complex gymnastic or weight lifting movements, then our brain will never be as plastic if we are tired and under slept as we are, when we are chronically well rested and well slept. My argument is that in order to make the most out of your own training, then getting a good nights rest is imperative to your success.

Since getting better sleep, it took me two weeks, of sleep emphasis (i.e. getting a good 8.5 hours in bed each night), with virtually no alcohol intake, to reach a normal which I have not had in years. As the book describes, that we are not fully aware of how tired we are, the truth was iterated by my own experience. Not only that, but my training performance has hit a new peak, and I will put it down entirely to getting a much better nights sleep.

The interesting part of this, is that in 2015, the international Olympic committee, published a statement saying that all athletes both male and female need to sleep well consistently to aid their athletic development. This often run’s counter to many athletes balancing a full training schedule with work and family commitment, which realistically isn’t always possible.
Matthew Walkers work with professional sports teams supports this claim, and has over 750 studies to prove it.

In fact, rather frighteningly, if we only obtain 6 hours of sleep a night:
* Time to physical exhaustion drops by 10-30%.
* Aerobic output drops.
* Vertical leap and limb extension force drops.
* Proclivity for injury goes up.

In teenagers, a study was conducted, and one of the key measurements was sleep and chances of injury. At just 6 hours of sleep a night, an athlete’s chance of injury was over 70%. With 9 hours sleep, their chance of injury dropped to under 20%. This finding has some major ramifications, when considering that many teenagers are under slept, and playing a large amount of sport.
In team sports, especially contact sport, sleep plays a huge role after a game, in limiting and removing inflammation away from troubled joints, stimulates muscle recovery, and helps restock cellular glycogen.

Similarly, those who have had strokes, it was found the motor control came back, in greater quantity, following prioritisation of sleep as a therapy tool. It seems that this ‘magic cure’ can help do things, which doctors currently are unable to replicate.

Sleep For Creativity

The major part of the nights sleep, the we receive the greatest leaps in creativity is that of REM sleep. The majority of which is in the latter part of the night. It seems that, in REM sleep, our brain makes use of the vast stores of information, and will make use of seemingly non-obvious associations, that can help problem solve. In sleep, seemingly disparate pieces of information can be brought together, and help aid in the solution to a particular problem which we in waking life, might not be able to solve. This is yet another reason to prioritise sleep, over time on task. Your brain, is a truly amazing organ, if used in the right way, and given the conditions for success.

How Sleep [or lack thereof] Can Kill You

Drowsiness causes more accidents than does drinking and alcohol combined. It is also more dangerous within an accident. If drunk driving, we react late. Drowsy driving, we don’t react at all. Which means, that there is no loss of speed, no swerving, nothing, just a collision, and therefore they are far more deadly.

Each hour (albeit in the US), someone is killed on the roads, due to lack of sleep. Let that sink in. This is just one country.

It only takes 2 seconds for a car to veer into an oncoming lane, and that’s at 30 mph. Micro sleeps can happen usually, if we are chronically getting 7 hours or less of sleep a night. How many of people do you know get between 6 and 7 hours a night? Probably more than one.

This means that a micro sleep can really happen to anybody. It also is even more frightening, considering that new parents, who are lucky to get that much, suffer for months, in a state of sleep deprivation. The risk, based off of this fact, therefore, I believe to not be worth it. Driving tired simply is not worth the risk. If you are tired, pull the f”’ over.

In a study, where various groups were tested for their alertness given varying amounts of sleep, the people who had been given 6 hours of sleep a night, by day 10, performed as badly as those who had been awake for 24 hours. This study, was only 14 days long, and by the end of it, the impairment to their performance was still continuing to worsen.

In a similar study, published at the same time, participants were asked to subjectively discern how impaired their performance was, they consistently underestimated their level of impairment, similar to that of a drunk driver who believes that ‘they were fine’ when getting into their car after a session down at the local bar. ]

What also was interesting following the above study, was that even three days of ‘sleeping it off’ all the sleep deprived participants, were still impaired in their performance of basic tests, which means that the weekends are not sufficient to catch up, on a week of poor sleep.

Sleep For Diabetes and Weight Gain

When trying to lose weight lack of sleep can be a big inhibitor. When subjected to restricted amounts of sleep, participants found that upon being restricted sleep, their bodies physiology was different to when they were well rested. In all told, we tend to eat an additional 300 calories per day, when getting just 6 hours of good quality sleep. The thing is that, in that state we often don’t realise we are doing it, because our body produces more hunger hormone ghrelin and less leptin (satiety hormone). This finding therefore means we are more susceptible when under slept to diabetes and weight gain. Sleep loss actually increases the blood levels of a endocannabinoids which are chemicals produced in the body, that are very similar to the drug cannabis.

They essentially give you the munchies!

For those who would say that being awake longer burns more calories, it is now proven that sleep is a highly metabolic activity. So much so, that the net increase of being awake for 2 hours longer in a 24 hour period is only 147 calories, which is about one and half brazil nuts worth. Hardly worth losing sleep over, and the additional calories that you’ll want to eat when sleep deprived outweigh the loss of calories from being awake longer. Furthermore, we often feel more tired and demotivated, and therefore will not be as likely to exercise as vigorously.

Lack of sleep is the perfect recipe for weight gain and diabetes. Higher calorie intake, lower calorie expenditure. When under slept, we will gravitate towards sugary processed foods, foods which a designed for weight gain and make it harder for us to avoid over consumption. It is a vicious circle with regards to calories in, and sleep out.

The amazing thing is also that during the 20th century, the rise in obesity, is in direct correlation to the demise of a good nights sleep, almost in direct proportion. A three year old who sleeps less than 10.5 hours a night, as opposed to 12 hours a night, has a far greater chance (45%) of developing obesity by age 7 (these figures are from the US but I still hope my three year old is reading this!).

Finally, if this isn’t bad enough, when it comes to being on a calorie restricted diet and getting enough sleep, or not enough. The groups that got enough sleep, lost fat mass first. The group that was deprived of sleep, lost mostly (70%) lean mass. What did getting a good night sleep render? More than 50% of the weight loss came from fat mass.

How much help do you think it will be then, if you decide to get to bed early for the next month on your fat loss goals if you have them?

Sleep Loss and Reproductive Health (For men: How to shrink your balls)

The very best news that lack of sleep has to offer is yes, smaller balls (if your male). Lack of sleep will lower testosterone output, lowers growth hormone production and effectively ages a male by 10 years in his hormone levels. This alone is reason to prioritise sleep. Lower testosterone is associated with lower energy levels, lack of focus, tiredness and dulled libido. Along with this, testosterone manages bone density, muscle mass and strength. If you want to maximise the benefit of your training, sleep is without a doubt just as important as eating right.

For Women the loss of sleep is also a major player in loss of reproductive health. Women who work shifts such as care works or nurses or doctors, suffer from abnormal menstrual cycles, and are more likely to suffer miscarriages. For a woman who is pregnant, the science is even more compelling that any alcohol consumed during pregnancy, will not only affect the mothers sleep (if consumed in the evening) but will also affect the faetus’ brain development because of the reduction is NREM sleep that alcohol causes.

In terms of attractiveness, we become less attractive when under slept. In a study, where photographs were taken of individuals ranging from ages 18 to 30, with no make up, and flat lighting, at the same time of day, but on two different occasions. One well rested, the other with just 5 hours sleep. Then, the public were asked to judge the participants attractiveness. The results were unanimous, that under slept, everybody in the entire study appeared less attractive. This also is not only skin deep as we are about to discover.

Sleep and the Immune System

What did you do the last time you were ill? did you just want to lie in bed and sleep? It seems that the body will often force you to take some rest if you get ill.
Sleep boosts the immune system with an almost miraculous effect. When given the common cold, those who were sleeping 7 hours or more per night received just an 18% infection rate. Those sleeping 5 hours, had a 50% infection rate. Sleeping badly does not help your immune system function.

When vaccinated, individuals who responded best to the vaccine were the ones who slept a sufficient amount (8.5 hours per night). If you were getting 6 hours a night, you may as well have not been vaccinated at all as your bodies immune system will not ‘remember’ sufficiently how to tackle an equivalent live virus. Those on shift work as particularly susceptible to this loss of immunity to the particular virus.

With each passing year, it seems that malignant tumours are being linked more and more to lack of sleep. 25,000 Europeans were studied, and individuals who slept less than 6 hours a night, had a 40% increased risk of cancer to those who slept 7 or more hours a night. Similar associations were found tracking 75,000 women across an 11 year time scale. The reasons for this are unclear, but the theories are that an agitated sympathetic nervous system shows an increased amount of inflammation, and suppresses effective immune system function. Cancers use inflammation to their advantage, and with lack of sleep being unable to reduce this inflammation it is logical to draw this conclusion. For instance sleep deprived mice suffered a 200% increase in cancer size and speed of growth. It didn’t get any better on postmortem examination of these mice, the cancers had spread far more rapidly and aggressively in the sleep deprived mice, to the well rested.

Sleep and Society

1 out of 2 adults does not get the necessary sleep this week in western society.

In business there is an economic cost to sleep – The UK loses £30 Billion a year due to sleep loss. Or put it more simply, that lack of sleep costs countries more than 2% of their GDP each year. Imagine if this was spent on education.

Nearly all our faculties are affected being under slept that makes us less useful to those around us –
creativity, motivation, effort, efficiency, effectiveness in a group, emotional stability, sociability, and honesty?!

CEOs affect entire companies. When they sleep less, they affect even well rested employees. They are less charismatic and a sleep deprived employee will find the CEO less inspiring if the CEO does not get enough sleep. Productivity and honesty are the name of the game when it comes to sleep.

Given less sleep, we tend towards easy and less challenging tasks.
Under slept employees tend not only towards lower levels of productivity, but unethical practices. Which when reputation is on the line, this poses a serious consequence to the success of the company. They are also more likely to blame other people for mistakes and take less ownership over their own short comings.
It’s fundamentally wrong with forcing people to work late and sleep little.

Sleep and Education

This is highly significant whether we are parents or students.
Adolescents typically will have a shift in their body clock to 1 to 3 hours later. This is a natural occurance and something which should be worked around. Given that REM sleep accounts for the majority of the brains emotional intelligence, when deprived of this sleep, which 80% occurs in the last 2 hours of an 8 hour sleep cycle, then students with a deprived amount of REM sleep are more likely to be unruly, disengaged and disruptive in class.
It seems that the school start times of 9 am are more beneficial to an adolescents concentration and school performance that we at first realised. Compound this over 5 days and the results can be quite alarmingly different to those who are under slept.

When it came to 16 to 18 year old drivers the changes to one county’s school start time, rendered a 70% reduction in road traffic accidents for that age bracket. Give that Anti-Lock Braking Systems achieved just a 20 to 25% reduction in road traffic accidents, then this natural life saver is not something to sniff at, being that its more than twice the man made technologies. Natures mechanism for improving driver decision making seems an obvious and utterly astounding fact that it perplexes me, as to why we aren’t taking the lack of sleep much, much more seriously.

Notwithstanding the effect that good sleep habits can have on children with ADHD.

Sleep and Healthcare

Having worked with people in the medical world, it’s become quite apparent that a large proportion of doctors (juniors especially) are a group of people who simply do not get enough sleep. The alarming fact that a large proportion of doctors do not get enough sleep, or are being each week forced to completely change their natural circadian rhythm by doing short stints of night shifts.

Key Thoughts and what to do about your sleep:

We’re currently only giving ourselves opportunities to sleep between 7 hours and 7.5 hours or thereabouts, but the sleep opportunity needs to be more than the desired sleep.

8.5 hours sleep opportunity is the necessary amount of time we need to plan to be in bed. Which therefore means, to get up at 5 am, we need to be in bed at 8.30pm to get an adequate amount of sleep.

The key contributors that affect your own sleep –

1. LED Light in the bed room – Just a 1 to 2 percent of strength of daylight, this ambient level of home lighting can suppress melatonin by 50%.
2. Stable temperatures – lack of temperature variability affects the release of melatonin.
3. Caffeine.
4. Alcohol.

LEDs and Sleep
Blue LEDs are twice as harmful as incandescent lights to our melatonin release.

iPad before bed – suppresses the release by over 50%, the results of which we lose REM sleep. As a result, we’ll feel sleepier during the day.
What’s scary is that we seem to experience a Digital hangover when coming off blue screens 90 minutes before bed. This rather unnerving affect carries on for more than 3 days in our brains ability to produce REM sleep.

Solutions – Limit the hangover by creating mood lighting in the evenings, and invest in blackout blinds.

Alcohol and Sleep

Alcohol can be likened to that of light aneasthesia. The effect the alcohol has on sleep, powerfully suppresses REM sleep. Which as we know effects our emotion centres in the brain, and limits our ability to temper our less rational part of the brain. In short of being completely boring, the science consistently points towards abstinence being the best bet for getting a good nights sleep.

Temperature Control and Sleep

The major issues with modern homes is that of temperature control throughout the day. Our body needs a reduction in temperature to aid the release of melatonin. Our body clock is linked to natural ambient temperature.
When blood vessels in our extremities vasodilate to improve heat loss our body begins the secretion of melatonin.

What they found is that the ideal temperature is 18.3 degrees for bedrooms and No lower than 12.5 Degrees otherwise they are too cold.

In a study participants before body cooling, had a 58 percent likelihood of waking up in the last half of night and struggling to get back to sleep. The classic hallmark of sleep maintenance insomnia. The number tumbled to just 5 percent likelihood when receiving the thermal help from the bodysuit that this science lab were testing. As a result the electrical quality of sleep specifically NREM sleep, had been boosted by the thermal manipulation in all individuals who conducted the study.

Hot baths can prior to bed induce a 10 to 15 percent increase in NREM sleep in healthy adults. In short to get a good nights sleep, start by having a hot bath or shower before bed, to aid the release of heat. You’ll also fall asleep much faster.

Some Parting Thoughts

Having read this, you may be shocked by the findings. I was. As a result, I felt very strongly that I had to do this information justice. Matthew Walkers presentation of this research is groundbreaking. Upon reading the book and studying it in detail, my own sleep habits have dramatically changed and improved. For the last few weeks, I have made sure that I’ve got to bed before the 8 and half hour window of when I need to be up. I’ve focused on having hot showers, and drink no alcohol in the evenings (although sometimes at lunch). As a result, what has happened to my own life has been astounding.

I’ve felt more energetic. More productive. I’ve been happier, and a nicer person to be around. Problems which I face, don’t have the same emotional tinge to them that they used to. My relationship with my wife and my kids has improved. I’ve become more creative (writing bed time stories for my boys for example). More relaxed. My workout performance has improved, and I find that during my coaching sessions, I’ve been able to deliver more energy and more focus towards my clients than I have done. Our entire household has improved routines now. My wife has been practicing piano on a regular basis. Our boys have been better behaved with less fights between them.

In actual fact, We feel like we’ve got back to a new normal. As Matthew writes, I didn’t realise how tired I was, until I really started getting a good nights sleep, and suddenly realised what I was missing out. One of the first questions I’ll now ask my clients is how much sleep they are getting, and the answer usually comes back “not enough”.

Having worked in health for a few years now, and constantly looking at ways to improve peoples everyday life, I can categorically say, that if you prioritise nothing else other than getting a truly good nights sleep, your life will change for the better, and the health and the goals you’ve wanted to achieve will seemingly start to become more and more possible, just because your mind and body, will be well rested, and the problems you face right now, will elegantly have solutions presented to you. You’ll know, because you’ll feel normal again.

Thanks for reading,

Archie Cunningham

Kids get the best benefit from weightlifting

Weightlifting club

These girls can 🏋️‍♀️

Posted by BBC Look North (Yorkshire) on Thursday, February 1, 2018