Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Got Juice?

We are all aware of the ongoing saga surrounding doping internationally, Lance Armstrong being made the most recent example.

Everyday, all the time, athletes are being ripped of their medals and egos.  Everyone is using and everyone is denying.

Look, in my personal opinion, Livestrong's Armstrong is still an incredible athlete, he beat cancer and went on to compete in the Tour De France many a time, whether he won it or got stripped of his titles, the fact remains that this man fought and incredible fight, and won that hands down.

However whether we agree or disagree with abuse, the truth is, steroids are illegal in the sporting world.  If they were legal and every single athlete was a user, well then the playing field would be fair again.  However choosing to use when you know that you shouldn't, is cheating.  Its that simple.

It all boils down to respect for the game.

Those who know me, know I feel strongly about users.  If using is going to help you score that winning touchdown and earn you another $50 000 000 at the end of the season, well then hell that's your personal choice.  That is a choice with motivation.  I know many a power lifter and many an athlete that do use, they know that I disagree but what I will give them, is their choice to use is at least justifiable, whether it is wrong or not, they use with reason.

If you are going to use, so that you look good in boardshorts on the beach, well then, you're a complete minion in my books.  There is no justification for misuse of performance enhancers, when your performance is just strutting your stuff on the sidewalk.  Steroids have their place in medicine, as do they arguably have their unfortunate place in sport, however if you are not suffering from anything that requires the use and are not competing in something that could change your life, you just look ridiculous with your weak backbone, and fragile mind.

The long term side effects of abuse, namely cardiovascular problems, liver failure, neurological issues, blood pressure and cholesterol issues, increased organ size (amongst many other fantastic issues) are not worth the trouble caused later in life.

If you have turned to the gym and chosen training for your physical wellbeing, for absolute strength, for health, for vitality and for longevity and even just to look great aesthetically, cheating your way to hotness just cannot be equalled to the empowerment you feel from reaching those goals based on your own hard work.

The choices are simple.  Albert Einstein said "Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value"

Monday, 12 November 2012

Interview with Andy Craig at CrossFit Durban

CrossFit, whether you love it or hate it, is on the rise in South Africa.  This method of training, and approach to fitness is quickly becoming a known entity by everyone and anyone who's listening.

The community and culture of their members across the board is evident.  The training environment incorporates a sense of family, trust and belonging whilst the work involved is constantly varied, highly intensive, functional movements with the addition of power and Olympic lifts.

Over the last year I have come to know who I would consider the ambassador to CrossFit South Africa, Andy Craig.  Despite my highly opinionated character, criticism and despondence towards his training styles, Andy, being the gentleman that he is, set aside my indifference, and encouraged a friendship.  This trait, I have come to learn is definitely a strong reason behind his prosperity.  Needless to say we have got on like a house on fire ever since.

Him and his business partner Dean Ridgeway are the guys behind the flagship 'box' in Gateway, Umhlanga, and have set their new venture a light with the recent success of the UWS games.  When the dust had finally settled surrounding the grand opening, the games and business commenced, I got five minutes of the busy mans time to bring Andy to you.

1)  CrossFit has taken South Africa by storm, being in the US since 2000, it is still in its infancy in our country, where do you see your ‘CrossFit culture’ going to from here locally?

Provincially, nationally and globally CrossFit and the sub culture you talk of will only grow in size and interest.  I have often taken a step outside of what we do to really try and grasp what it is I am involved in.  It is actually mind blowing when you think of what CrossFit is globally and the wider CrossFit community that is such a big part of CrossFit. 

In Cape Town and Johannesburg we are seeing boxes open almost quarterly and in Natal I think we will have another 4 boxes open with in the next 2 years at least.  I know of 2 people already down the road to affiliating.

2)  How does CrossFit separate itself from other forms of training currently available on the market, and what led ‘Andy’ to being an ambassador to the brand in South Africa?

CrossFit is unlike any other training.  I’ll be the first to admit we didn’t invent exercise.  We didn’t invent the squat, deadlift or pull up, but what CrossFit has done is package a program of fitness that uses variety and pretty bad ass training to allow the general public the opportunity to build a level of fitness and skill most didn’t think possible. I like to think of ourselves as exercise bandits.  We will use whatever works to develop better health, strength and fitness.  If it works use it, if it doesn’t get rid of it.  This is why we use Olympic lifts, power lifts, rowing, strongman training and kettlebells in our program. 

From when I can remember I always wanted to do everything.  If I saw other kids jumping off a bridge I wanted to do it.  If I saw someone climb a rope I wanted to be the next one up there.  I played every sport at school, did nearly every event in athletics and was pretty good at most of it.  I’m sure most of us are like that and that is what is so attractive about CrossFit – you get to try everything.  It introduces people to lifts and disciplines that they may otherwise never of had the opportunity or drive to do.  I know of a guy in the UK that only got into weightlifting through CrossFit and recently competed in a competition to get to the Commonwealth games. This is what sets us aside from other forms of training, we get to do all the fun shit.

I was essentially made redundant from my day job in the UK because of CrossFit.  I was running my gym and working a day job and when the recession hit they let me go.  In Hindsight it was the kick up the ass I needed to step in to coaching full time.  My wife is from Durban originally so in February 2010 I flew out to see if it would take here and in September 2010 we got off a plane and started our affiliate.  Maybe it was blind stupidity because no one knew me or CrossFit at the time but I had a belief that it would work and it seems to have paid off.

3)  CrossFit is not only a training methodology but a growing culture with an ever increasing community, what is the drive behind this, that separates the average gym goer from the CrossFitter?

CrossFit’s whole beginning stemmed from a desire from coach Glassman to move away from the globo gym, mass membership, limited service model with a view to providing open source free information to the masses.  This is still the case today and  the community has grown around that

The CrossFit community while global in it’s entirety, really grows from each individual box.  Every box has a distinct community that seems to have been lost in today's busy climate and this is a deciding factor for many when getting in to fitness again or taking on a new challenge.  Due to the group environment people feel part of something greater than just a workout

It is very difficult to explain to people just what CrossFit provides for you both physically and emotionally.  You have to do it and be involved to really understand. CrossFit can be tough and at times mentally as well as physically exhausting.  It isn’t for everyone and those that do it are the kind of people in life as well as in the gym, are willing to get stuck in.  CrossFit is a lifestyle.

4)  There is a lot of contention surrounding CrossFit's approach to training, me personally in the past having held a high opinion of it, how do you separate yourself from the controversy and dispute that encompasses this practice of training?

I don’t!  Why would I separate myself from the very style of training I love and practice just because other people think it’s dangerous or doesn’t work?  It works for me and my members.  With all due respect to you Lil,  there is also much contention as to whether kettlebells can really provide absolute strength to someone once they are passed squatting with 2 x 32kg bells, would this mean you would try to separate yourself from this training style?

Louis Simmons broke his back twice power lifting.  Has he tried to separate himself from that style of training? No.  Do people still do power lifting? Hell yes. Has Louis addressed the reasons he broke his back? Definitely. 

I’m a CrossFitter.  If I only wanted to be strong I would do strength work.  If I wanted to be a runner I would just run.  If I wanted to be good at lots of different things, be relatively strong and also conditioned I would do CrossFit.

5)  CrossFit aside, you are a certified trainer, Olympic lifting coach, and sports massage therapist amongst some of your other vast extent of certifications,  and like the rest of us, have a burning passion for physical strength and well being, what are some of your own personal goals in training and how do you go about achieving them?

To get better at the things I'm crap at.  CrossFit encompasses so much that you will always find something that you are less capable of doing.  Take ring handstand push ups, I can do them but not with the greatest of ability and if they came out in a workout I would be in a world of hurt.  So, I must work on them. 

I love strength work.  I love to squat and deadlift and throw heavy stuff around.  I will continue to work these while still trying to work on my weaknesses.  As long as I am constantly progressing then I am happy. 

How do I go about constantly getting better? Programming which includes nutrition and rest.

6)  What led you personally to this industry and what motivates you on a daily basis to keep doing what you do?

I have always been involved in sport both playing and coaching.  At school they literally locked me in a room and only let me out to play sport and represent the school.  It's all I really knew and understood growing up.  It's a miracle I even made it in to mainstream corporate society but I did and it paid the bills and paid for me to study my qualifications and run my gym when I first started.

I reckon mid life crisis had something to do with it.  I was coaching teams and putting programs together for guys at the gym before I studied and qualified.  It was and still is my passion and I wanted to follow that passion.

Being able to coach people and give my knowledge to them is a special thing.  Watching every day people learn and develop and be able do things they never thought possible makes me get out of bed in the morning.  Sure they pay me to do it but it's fun for me.  I have seen shy people come out of their shells.  Overweight people shed incredible weight, and people do amazing things that they thought were out of reach for them when they first started.  CrossFit is who I am.  It defines how I live my life and how I mould other peoples.

7) What is the greatest advise you can give to any aspiring coaches in your field?

Practice what you preach and never stop learning.  Never discredit anything before trying it and have the balls to admit if you make mistakes. 

 Andy, thank you so much for your insight into your work and the world of CrossFit.  

Photos by Tanya Olsen

Thursday, 08 November 2012

Fight for your life

It's all good and well having goals, and aspirations.  I want to be fit, strong and look good naked. 

The cliche's that flood our timelines, the motivational pictures, the quotes from people who truly lived and the everyday affirmations we mutter to ourselves while we put the kettle on.

I can appreciate that we need reminders, I can appreciate the motive and the drive.  A picture of a perfectly defined physique on our fridge doors to affirm our direction. Awesome.

Yet when it comes down to actually applying ourselves, it's half arsed.  Those people who are exceptionally strong, those who do look incredible naked and those that are achieving their personal goals on a day to day basis, didn't get there by talking about it.

It all boils down to mental fortitude, its about seeking the challenges and overcoming adversity.  You are only truly strong when your mind has overcome its fears. That fear for some may be that last rep of a set in training, you can either fight through the anguish or throw in the towel.  I always say it, and I'll say it again, your mind gives up before your body does.

The heart of training is in being mentally tough. Those personal aspirations you have, that extra 50kg to your deadlift, another 5 reps on the pull up bar or simply fitting into the skinny jeans you bought 5 years ago.  You not going to get any of it if you don't get through the gruelling work, this perseverance is what makes your goals an achievement and not just a vision.

There is a direct relationship with your mental toughness in the gym and your personal life.  Overcoming a trial in physical strength or fitness can transpire into you taking back your life.  It's not just about being able to push through when your body thinks it cant, its about the backbone it takes in getting there.

The most important thing I could tell you in gaining mental strength is to not lose focus. There is no excuse in the world that could justify a weak mind.  Everyone has their burdens and afflictions, we all use our vindications as reasons as to why we could not overcome something, but only you are standing in the way of you taking back control.

It's the mental game that gives the biggest reward.