Alarm clocks interrupt our sleep abruptly five out of seven days each week. We countdown the days until the weekend rolls around again, just so we can have an extra few hours in bed.
Work and social commitments force us to wake before we want to and we stay up late into the night to cram in the day’s tasks. Staying up for an extra few episodes of your fave Netflix series or for an extra glass of wine with friends seems like a great idea, until the following morning when you feel completely out of sync and are drinking coffee by the pint.
Alarm clocks interrupt our sleep abruptly five out of seven days each week. We countdown the days until the weekend rolls around again, just so we can have an extra few hours in bed.
“The magic is in the movement
The art is in the programming
The science is in the explanation
And the fun is in the community”
Greg Glassman – Founder of CrossFit
I started going to the gym when I was 19 with the same old excuse: I wasn’t happy in my skin and wanted to lose some weight. I never liked sports as a kid so I started to do classes at my local gym. Following this initial interest, I discovered I really liked lifting weights so when I heard about this new thing called CrossFit which involved doing just that, I was intrigued. With the concept built around Olympic lifts, I went to check it out and I was hooked from the get go.
Going to a CrossFit gym can be quite a daunting experience, especially if you are new to exercise. Some guys take their shirt off before the workout has even started and watching them throw 100 kgs around like it’s nothing can be intimidating at best, and off-putting at worst. If you recognise this in yourself, I would encourage you to at least give it a go. Try to forget what anyone else is doing, and just be ready to give it your all. Exercise is like nutrition, there is no one size fits all. There’s more than one right way to do it, you just need to find out what works best for you and your goals.
So what is CrossFit and is it for you?
What is CrossFit?
CrossFit is actually a trademark. The company was founded by Greg Glassman with the aim of quantifying and measuring fitness. CrossFit set standards for how an exercise should be performed correctly. Before CrossFit there was no method of standardisation like it and therefore measuring progress was not as easy. CrossFit is a way of training that incorporates elements from Olympic lifting, endurance training and gymnastics. It’s all about creating workouts that are measurable and repeatable. Every workout has a recommended weight or intensity for men and women called “RX”, but there is always a ‘scaled down’ option available. This is to ensure anyone can do the workout at their own level.
Each workout is different everyday but there are several benchmark workouts created that every CrossFitter knows and regularly does to measure their progress. This includes the so called “girls”: workouts with names like Grace, Fran and Diane. The CrossFit Open is an annual 5-week event at which a new workout is released every week. Anyone can enter and you can submit your scores online and compare them with everyone who’s entered worldwide. The top athletes can enter the CrossFit Games to compete for the title “fittest on earth”.
Give it a try because...
It is very difficult to consistently do CrossFit and not get fit. However, this is true for any well designed training programme. The added benefit of CrossFit is that you’ll get the community and coaching that comes with it for help and support.
CrossFit teaches you how to lift properly and you’ll learn new movements that most people would never challenge themselves with. CrossFit is by definition about standardising and measuring correct form. They determine what correct form is, to the extent that you will in fact get “no-repped” if you’re not doing the exercise with good form, meaning the movement does not count and you’ll need to do it again to complete the workout.
You’ll also learn some cool movements like the clean and Jerk, snatch and double unders. These movements can prove tricky to master alone, and can be potentially dangerous without coaching. This keeps training interesting and it is incredibly motivating once you begin to see the progress.
So maybe now you’re thinking, “that’s nice and all, but I can also just learn all that with a PT, I still don’t see the point”. Whilst this is valid, my number one reason for recommending CrossFit to people is not because of the specific moves you learn to execute or even the level of fitness you achieve, because there are other ways of doing that. The standout benefit for me is the community that comes with it. CrossFit gyms form strong communities that support each other inside and outside of the gym. If you struggle to keep motivated to go to the gym this could be your solution. For some reason it’s much easier to push yourself harder and crush your PB’s (Personal Best’s) when there are 10 people cheering you on and often the more experienced CrossFitters help out the newbies, so instead of one coach, you might have 5. I’d be impressed if you don’t make new friends after joining a CrossFit gym. Especially if you are not very experienced like I was when I first started doing it, I suggest you give it a try. For me, CrossFit was the reason I became serious about lifting. Even though weightlifting and running form the core of my training now. Six years later I still do a class almost every week.
As previously mentioned, there is no such thing as “one size fits all”, so for some people CrossFit may not be the way to Rome. If your main fitness goal is muscle gain it’s probably not for you. There’s a reason bodybuilders and CrossFitters have endless arguments about the difference between a kipping pull-up and a strict pull-up. It’s 2 different exercises with a different purpose. Bodybuilding and CrossFit focus on very different goals. Bodybuilding is aimed at aesthetics, gaining lots of muscle with little fat and the way your body looks, not necessarily how strong or fit it is. Although there is a correlation between the two, CrossFit is performance-based training aimed at improving fitness, not the size of your biceps. You will probably get leaner and put on muscle from doing CrossFit but it’s not the main goal. You won’t find bicep curls in a CrossFit workout and doing CrossFit 6 times per week is not going to get you on the WBFF stage.
You cannot lift without your ego. CrossFit has a bit of a bad rep in regards to getting injuries. Yes, there is some more risk involved in doing a snatch (bar from the floor to an overhead position in one go) than doing air squats, because it’s a more complex movement which requires more skill. In my opinion, people injure themselves when they have some experience lifting and they can’t let go of that when learning new things in CrossFit. This results in them picking too much weight without having the technique yet. If you can deadlift 100kg it might feel like you’re back to square one if you start snatching with just the bar (which is 20kg). If your ego gets in the way, you might want to skip to stay safe.
Furthermore, most CrossFit gyms tend to be quite a bit more expensive than the average gym. This is in part because each gym needs to pay a fee to be allowed to carry the CrossFit trademark and trainers need to do several instructor training courses which aren’t cheap either. Therefore, most gyms have prices that start around £100 or more, and then you’re allowed to come only once or twice a week. It’s more if you want to have unlimited access. Having said that, you may need to ask yourself where your priorities lie. Many of us can spend £100 on a night out easily without giving it much thought.
Regardless of everything I’ve just said, there’s only one way to find out whether CrossFit is for you or not and that is to just give it a go. I would say CrossFit can certainly become anyone’s thing and that it is suitable for all levels. You may not be able to snatch 50 kg on day one but that is not expected of you, nor advisable. There is always an option to scale the workout down to meet your level. Some gyms also make you do some sort of induction or a beginner’s crash course to get you up to speed with the movements and terminology if you are very new. It’s also not a magic bullet, I still can’t do a ring muscle up but I can clean and jerk my own bodyweight. The gymnastics part has never been one of my strengths but that’s part of the reason it’s still interesting for me.
What CrossFit can do is help you push yourself past the limits of what you think you can do, teach you new skills, improve your fitness and get you some new friends along the way.
We've teamed up with the team at WIT to offer you the chance to try. To be in with a shot of winning a free class, head to our Instagram. We'll pick the first 20 people to comment!
Disclaimer: FYI I am in no way paid or associated with CrossFit. This is just me talking about my experiences.
Most people do not need to be taking supplements if they’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, aside from a select number of groups within the population who are usually advised to take certain ones e.g. folic acid for pregnant women.
Despite this, there are a couple of exceptions to the above and occasions where the general population may need a little extra help, namely in places like the UK in the Autumn / Winter months.
Spotlight on vitamin D (pardon the pun)!
Due to the shorter days and fewer hours of sunlight, vitamin D deficiency is becoming more common in the UK at this time of year. Recent reports suggest 1 in 5 adults are deficient.
Vitamin D is needed to help absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These nutrients are key for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It also facilitates the release of serotonin – the happy hormone.
A diet lacking in vitamin D can lead to increased frequency of sickness, impaired wound healing, increased risk of bone fractures, muscular aches and pains, fatigue and tiredness, as well as detrimental effects on mood.
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, your body begins to produce vitamin D. It also occurs naturally in foods such as fatty fish, egg yolk, cheese and mushrooms.
Tracking your vitamin D intake is pretty tricky and so I would suggest a combination of the following to get your daily vitamin D boost:
1. Aim to include plenty of vitamin D rich foods in your diet
2. Get yourself out over the weekend or even during your lunch break for a wander and make the most of the (limited) winter sunshine
3. Add a supplement in to give you a little added boost during the autumn / winter months.
Note, supplements (like vit D) have a time and a place, but are not vital for all. They should not be used as a base for the diet and should always be considered a supplement not a substitute for food. Opting for whole food sources not only provides you with the desired vitamins and minerals, but also other beneficial nutrients such as carotenoids, antioxidants and flavonoids that often aren’t in supplements.
Photo by Jessica To'oto'o on Unsplash
Our ratatouille is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals that will keep you feeling healthy and energized in the cold months ahead! - And, it's absolutely delicious too
Topics: Food & Recipes
Turning up to work bleary-eyed and exhausted seems to have become a frequent occurrence in our daily lives. Many people find themselves in an endless cycle of snoozing the alarm, relying on coffee and counting down the minutes until bedtime each day.
The days are getting shorter again and if you’re a morning gym go-er you might start to struggle with the early alarm. What is the optimal time to train? Is it in the morning or is it the evening?
The answer is simply down to the individual as it highly depends on your schedule and preferences. Some people swear they can only do morning workouts and to others a morning run is their idea of hell. I have done both, even though I used to be part of the latter category of people. There are pro’s and cons to both from a scientific standpoint and also from personal experience. Here’s a bit more about what I’ve learned about getting your sweat done, be it am or pm:
Training in the morning..
Topics: Fitness & Training
When you picture a typical vegan diet, you probably think salads and green smoothies. Vegan diets are thought of as being healthy as they promote the consumption of a diverse variety of fruits and veggies.
Therefore, choosing vegan snacks as a healthier option than the regular alternatives is the way forward, right?
Unfortunately, (and to the dismay of many), this is not the case! Many commonly eaten junk foods such as French fries, biscuits, crisps and even some sweets are vegan. Yes Oreos, we are talking to you!
As a reminder for those who may not be familiar, a vegan diet omits all animal products, including eggs and dairy. A growing number of people are now following a vegan, or primarily plant based lifestyle, be it for environmental, ethical or perhaps religious reasons. A report by The Vegan Society branded it one of the fastest-growing lifestyle movements in the UK.
It is becoming increasingly common for non-vegans, to dabble with things like meat-free Monday as well as altering some of their meal and snack selections to incorporate vegan or plant-based alternatives. The alternatives are now readily available and there are even retailers, cafes and restaurants catering exclusively for vegans.
When it comes to snacking, there are several reasons why vegan doesn’t necessarily mean healthy and I’ve rounded up the main points you should consider before reaching for your mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
Firstly, eggs and dairy are commonly used in desserts and snacks. They give a rich, thick consistency. Vegan snacks have these ingredients replaced with artificial alternatives. Manufacturers tend to add in things like emulsifiers and stabilisers to give the snacks a similar texture and mouth-feel. The resultant food items are likely to be heavily processed foods which may have little nutritional value.
Secondly, be wary of some snacks as they may be laden with refined sugar. Refined sugar comes from sugar canes or beet which are processed to extract sugar. Chemical processes are used to remove impurities and coloured compounds. It is typically found as sucrose. During the refinement process, sugar is stripped of its nutritional components, therefore, refined sugar is essentially ‘empty’ calories as it provides no nutritional benefits.
Your brain will also react to the sudden influx of sugar by producing serotonin, which acts as a sleep- regulating hormone. An afternoon slump is far from ideal when you’re in the middle of a working day!
If you’re looking for a vegan sweet treat, look carefully at the food label and assess the ingredients. As is often the way, the fewer ingredients the better! Try to choose snacks with a couple of whole-food ingredients, as opposed to a long list of unpronounceable components. Being careful with your selection will be more beneficial all round.
As with non-vegan treats, they can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet, if you make mindful, nutritious choices.
I may be bias, but we have a number of delicious ones on our menu, which can be incorporated into your daily macros. The vegan millionaire shortbread is a firm favourite here at FFF HQ! Search it on our blog!
WHY YOU’RE HITTING THAT 3PM SLUMP, AND HOW TO TACKLE IT!
We all know that familiar feeling as the afternoon rolls in and we begin to feel drained of energy and desperate for a nap. There is nothing more frustrating than when you still have a long list of tasks to complete and a day of work ahead.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it’s our circadian rhythm, otherwise known as our sleep/wake cycle, which causes this feeling of drowsiness. Most of us experience the biggest energy dip between 2:00-4:00 am (when we’re usually sleeping) and a second one post lunch, between 13:00 and 15:00 pm.
The afternoon energy dip is related to our core body temperature. Our internal body temperature drops and our brain reads this signal and releases melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep and wakefulness.
Another important factor causing reduced energy levels, is our diet. After a meal is consumed our blood glucose levels will rise and the pancreas starts producing and releasing insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin will take glucose out of the bloodstream and will promote the absorption of glucose by the liver, fat cells and muscle cells. The amount of glucose in our bloodstream will therefore drop quite suddenly, and this is the reason we can feel tired post-lunch. It’s common to refer to this as a ‘sugar-low’.
Here are some tips to fight the slump and help keep you focussed throughout the day:
We aren’t here to tell you to turn down all that your BBQ has to offer, because, well, burgers are life.
However, if fat loss is your goal, it's important that you are mindful of your intake to ensure you maintain a consistent calorie deficit. One huge blowout at a BBQ can undo all of your hard work from throughout the week, leaving you feeling demotivated.
Below we’ve listed a few simple tips to see you through the BBQ season:
Be mindful of your calorie intake during the rest of the week
Keeping this really simple - if you know you are going to a BBQ, save yourself some calories for it. This can be achieved by having generally smaller portions throughout the day than you would usually. We don’t mean starve yourself all week, this is not advisable and you are likely to binge upon arrival if this is the case. However, to lose fat you need to be in a consistent calorie deficit throughout the week. Some of the team here at FFF use intermittent fasting to manage their calorie deficit, but that’s a story for another blog post...
Alcohol is often described as ‘empty calories’ as it is calorie dense and easy to consume in large amounts over a short period of time. Not to mention, as you begin to feel a little tipsy, your drunk alter-ego might have a little less willpower than you. The best thing to do in these situations is stick to lower calorie soft drinks, or water, with a few alcoholic beverages if desired. A beer can total up 220 calories, whereas a slimline gin and tonic amounts to only 70 calories. However if you really want the beer, just have one beer. It’s all about prioritising what is most important and where you want your calorie intake to come from. A great way of slowing down your alcohol intake is by taking a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage.
Opt for leaner protein
Burgers, sausages and chicken wings all taste great on a bbq but they are very calorie dense foods. You’re best to opt for leaner proteins such as chicken or prawns. Better yet, bulk these out with grilled veggie skewers to provide yourself with low calorie density volume. Stack them with peppers and courgettes, pineapple and mushrooms - which not only look Instagram friendly, they are super tasty too! If you do want burgers for your BBQ, making your own burgers with less than 5% fat mince can be great (and just as tasty!).
Top tip: Marinade the protein overnight for extra flavour!
Bring your own sides
It can be tricky eating your own food at a friends BBQ, but get in everyone’s good books by bringing along your own sides to share. 100g of coleslaw can rack up 260 kcals. Try our FFF coleslaw here to save yourself the calories and the additional saturated fat!
Salads are also a great addition to any BBQ table.Try out our fig and apricot salad recipe here - a complete game changer.
Don’t be afraid of events like these over the Summer; you don’t need to turn down social occasions to hit your goals. It’s all about prioritising and being mindful.
Hope you are all enjoying the sunshine!