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CrossFit Blackfriars London Blog
CrossFit Blackfriars London Blog
CrossFit Blackfriars

Crossfit: milestones, medicine and landing on my feet (heels!)

Crossfit: milestones, medicine and landing on my feet heels.

I must make clear that what I’m sharing is a purely personal experience and all the opinions are my own, formulated over time and through online research. As a surgeon I have medical knowledge, but I’m in no way an expert on sports physiology (how the body works) or sports medicine (injury prevention and treatment/rehabilitation).

When I first started at Crossfit Blackfriars coach Balazs asked me what my goals were. “Everything!” I thought. Skinny arms, weak muscles, belly, bad flexibility- where to start!?

Milestone: ˈmʌɪlstəʊn. “A significant stage or event in the development of something” January 2016 marked some significant milestones for me. It had been a full year for me at Crossfit, I ran my first mile and followed it with a WOD (Workout Of the Day) – without running out of breath! By the beginning of February, I had accomplished my first Rx (prescribed) workout, kicked up into a handstand and crucially, maintained it.

It doesn’t end there. I learnt new skills and entered a fitness competition for the first time in my life. It was all about change. Which brings me to my second point: Change. Crossfit has effected three significant changes in me:

The documented change is strength – power and endurance. I could only squat 50Kg, push-press 25Kg, and deadlift 50Kg. These have moved to 90Kg, 60Kg, and 125Kg respectively, notwithstanding countless other weightlifting moves I learnt. My endurance also went from being out of breath after running 400m and being unable to power through an AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) to running over a mile, coupling it with a WOD and actively enjoying endurance classes (previously avoided like the plague). Better still, after a diet change brought on by resident dietician Emma, I saw my energy levels skyrocket as well. A good way to keep track of all aspects of training is to log them in a “Circle of skills”. I’ve looked everywhere online for it in vain. Go ask coach Ben for a copy of his.

The unexpected change is social. When I came across Crossfit, it was from a fitness point of view. I wasn’t aware of the community built around it. As a group activity, Crossfit has been an incredible social leap for me. We are actively encouraged to know all members on a first-name basis. I have never made so many friends in such a short period of time. After maintaining 3 to 4 sessions a week and seeing the same members on almost every session, I realised that I meet them more frequently than my other friends and family!

The most elusive change, I find, is physical. Friends and family keep commenting on how toned and different I look since they last saw me. A change in our physical appearance is least apparent to us. Our brains are programmed to “remember” what we look like, what our limbs extend to and all our bodily dimensions – so much so that people who have lost a limb still experience feelings in it – the “phantom limb” because it is difficult for the brain to un-learn information that has been there for a long time. Be it a friend’s comment, or a t-shirt that suddenly fits better, it is a welcome change that my skinny teenager self would have aspired to.
The appeal of Crossfit does not end with how my t-shirt suddenly fits. My medical career makes it all the more attractive to me. It is scientific. It looks at mobility and form, and puts technique before speed and weight. The coaches, led by Fergus, are very tuned in to this. Famously, he stresses on landing on one’s heels. (Try it. It works! ) Coaches Ben and Matt never tire from reminding everyone to cork-screw one’s legs. Once I got the hang of it, feeling the lock, stability and the pre-load it offers before a move has been a game-changer for me. Likewise, all of the coaches without exception reiterate the importance of squeezing the glutes. One has to try it to appreciate the benefit. In addition, the coaches design workouts with this structure in mind having both short and long-term plans. Very satisfying.

I was told by a friend “you will love Crossfit until your get seriously injured”. This is an important point to consider. A quick search online will yield an abundance of posts on the topic. They range from general ones like joint affection and muscle fatigue, to specific ones like Achillies tendon tears (from box jumps, I couldn’t find any solid evidence for this) and rhabdomyolysis (a condition where excessive muscle breakdown leads to protein leakage into the blood stream which then clogs the kidneys like sand, potentially leading to kidney shutdown - again, no clear link with Crossfit). A recently published study from the UK by Hak et al in the Journal of strength and conditioning suggests that Crossfit injury risk is not more than that of Olympic weight-lifting, power-lifting or gymnastics.

It is important to recognise that we are at risk of injury in any activity we undertake, not just sports. Acknowledging the existing risk, one’s own limitations and foreseeing high risk situations all mitigate negative consequences. In my opinion it takes a lot of self-awareness and a lot of situational awareness to foresee/prevent an adverse event. The two times I “slipped” and either hurt or sprained a body part, I realised that I had a lapse of concentration. And it gets worse with fatigue. As fatigue is a hallmark of the progression of a WOD, it’s tremendously important to increase the focus. Much like driving a car, one is encouraged to look at each mirror sequentially to take stock of hand and foot positions, it is just the same in exercise: tempo, tool, posture, starting position, landing position – and repeat.

Thankfully I have not sustained any major injury. When I sprained my left little finger I had allowed my hand to crash in to a wall ball. This caused tears in the ligaments (strong condensed tissue that gives joint stability) near my finger tip. A small plastic cast and some pain killers did the trick. For the 4 weeks it took to heal, I concentrated on lower body exercises.

Don’t get me wrong, Crossfit is not for the faint-hearted. It is heavy-duty, intense and I would recommend a proper medical check-up before starting. Reassuringly, the incidence of sudden cardiac death among adults in the UK is estimated to be 9.1 in 100,000 and mercifully it is only a real risk if there is a family history of sudden cardiac arrest, a previous sudden cardiac arrest episode, or pre-existing heart disease.

While on the topic of health, I have a blood disorder called “factor 5 Leiden mutation” which is a problem with one of the proteins in the blood rendering it more prone to clot in certain conditions (It’s actually a fairly common condition with a prevalence of about 3-8 % in European populations). For a young and healthy male like myself, I was cautioned against immobility during long-haul flights and after orthopaedic surgeries because it’s the biggest risk factor that may give me a clot. Last Christmas I was shocked however to be diagnosed with a small clot in my leg. Out of the blue. I
hadn’t been on any travel, nor was operated upon. I was started on blood thinners and my first anxiety was “How will I continue to exercise while taking these?” It was a scary thought. Scarier still was a suggestion that I may need life-long blood thinning medication. Crossfitters know all too well the dreaded shin bash during a failed box jump.

I took to the scientific literature to find an answer to living with a bleeding disorder while maintaining my Crossfit. There was an abundance of material on athletes with blood clots and how to treat them on the short-term. Frustratingly there was no satisfying answer for long-term treatment or lifestyle advice. Even seasoned coaches couldn’t advise me. I decided to soldier on during the 6 weeks it took to treat my clot, but I scaled the exercises significantly – and it went well. Most of the time I forgot I was even on any medication.

In my opinion, scaling is one of the most important features of Crossfit. It allows the new starter, the recovering and the learning to move from a position of baseline ability to a higher one, all while avoiding injury.

Finally when it was all over my doctor said they would not need to put me on long term blood thinners. She also hypothesised that the clot might have been brought on by dehydration (besides immobility, it is the second leading risk factor for clots) while working out. The answer is of course: hydrate. The adage goes: If you feel thirsty, it’s already too late.

It’s not all blood, sweat and DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). There is immense fun and trivia. One of the days someone asked why joints make a popping sound. The doctors among us rushed to research it and came back with the answer: excess carbon dioxide produced by the body which accumulates and is released with a pop!

To wrap up, I am delighted to see my box grow with new members joining regularly. Unlike other business models where subscriptions are encouraged but attendance not, the onus at Crossfit Blackfriars is on showing up. The coaches’ approach led by Richard promotes this and is evident just by glancing at the scoreboard at the end of the day. Rows upon rows of names.

I joined Crossfit to do something different and change. I have emerged one year later bigger, stronger and grounded. At the end of the day, if you pace yourself, squeeze your butt, cork-screw your legs and land on your heels- you’ll be fine!

Aly Shalaby (MBBCh, MSc, MD, FRCS) is a paediatric surgeon working at Great Ormond Street Hospital for children.

CrossFit Blackfriars

Week starting Sunday 14th February 2016








Sunday 14th

“OPT Repeatability Test”
2 rounds, at 10000% effort:
Row 250m
10 American Swings 32/24
10 Burpees
10 American Swings 32/24
10 Burpees
10 American Swings 32/24
Row 250m
Rest 12 minutes between rounds.






Monday 15th
1)
in 15 minutes

200 Double unders
then

Clean & Front Squat x 4

rest 5 mins then

2)
10 mins to establish
5 rep Push Press

30 mins upwards running clock on the WOD

rest 2 mins

3)
5 min AMRAP of KB snatches @24/16





Tuesday 16th:

10 rounds of:

10 x wall balls
30 x doulbe unders
10 x burpees

rest 90 seconds between rounds


35 min cap




Wednesday 17th;

1)
10 rounds every 90 seconds of:
Clean & Jerk

can increase or decrease every lift

2 to a bar and 3 burpees for a miss


2)
for time

21 thrusters @50/35
Run 400 meters
15 thrusters @50/35
Run 400 meters
9 thrusters @50/35
Run 400 meters

cap 12 mins






Thursday 18th

5 round FGB Style

battle ropes
burpee box jump overs
heavy slam balls @ 50/30
Dumbbell man makers @10/7.5kg
plat pushes
Rest





Friday 19th:
1)
Squat
5 sets of 4

one set of 10 at more than last week

lift every 2 mins on a rolling clock
weight can increase every set

2)
30 x muscle ups for time

15 min cap




CrossFit Blackfriars

Week starting Sunday 7th February 2016






Sunday 7th

 
1)
Open WOD 13.2

10 min AMRAP of:

5 shoulder to OH @ 50/35

10 deadlifts @ 50/35

15 box jumps @24/20

 

NO REST

 
2)
Run 1 mile

 

13 min CAP


3)
Open WOD 12.1

7 min AMRAP of:

Burpees

 

 

 

Monday 8th:

 
5 round Bear Complex

 

7 reps of the below = 1 round
 

1 power clean

1 front squat

1 push press

1 back squat

1 push press

 

 
start on 0,7,14,21,28

 
rounds should be unbroken
 

if they break, less weight next round

5 burpees for a break (before finishing round)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 9th

  

10 rounds of:

30 x double unders

30 x russian swings

30 x slam balls

run 200m with your slam ball

 

cap 35 mins

 

 

 

Wednesday 10th

1)
Squat

5 sets of 6

 
one set of 10 at more than last week

 

lift every 2 mins on a rolling clock

weight can increase every set

 

2)
5 rounds of:

12 x HSPU

12 x strict pull ups

 

cap 8 mins

 

 

 

 

Thursday 11th

 

"Burpee Engine"
 

start each station every 10 mins

 

Row 1k  + 50 burpees

Run 1 mile

Ski erg 1k + 50 burpees

Run 1 mile
 

5 min cap on each piece of equipment

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 12th

1)
10 rounds every 90 seconds of:

Snatch

 
can increase or decrease every minute

 
2 to a bar and 5 burpees for a miss

 

 2)
3 rounds of:

15 x thrusters @45/30

12 burpees

 
cap 10 mins

 

 


CrossFit Blackfriars

Week starting 31st January 2016








Sunday 31st

1)
Open WOD 13.4
7 min AMRAP of:
3/6/9/12/15….
c&J @60/40
TTB

rest 3 mins

2)
500m row x 3

cap 10 mins

rest 5 mins

3)
5 min AMRAP of Burpees




Monday 1st Feb

1)
Max height box jump


2)
10 min AMRAP of:
5 bar muscle ups
30 double unders





Tuesday 2nd Feb


50 wall balls
run 400m
40 wall balls
run 800m
30 wall balls
run 1200m
20 wall balls
run 1600m
10 wall balls

cap 40 mins




Wednesday 3rd


1)
Drop Snatch into Sn Balance

15 mins for a heavy technical max

2)
4 min AMRAP
KB snatches @ 24/16

rest 2 mins

4 min AMRAP
single arm KB shoulder to OH @24/16




Thursday 4th:
1)
The Chief

5 rounds of:

3 mins AMRAP

3 x power clean @60/40
6 x push ups
9 x squats

rest 1 minute between rounds


rest 5 mins

2)
Tabata
Hollow rock holds




Friday 5th:
1)
Pistols

8 rounds of 1 min max pistols

rest 1 min between rounds

2)
10 mins to establish
3 rep max Jerk

3)
Tabata air squats



Saturday 6th:

30 min AMRAP:

400m Partner carry - change as often as you want

30 x Burpee box jump overs
60 x Slam ball @9/6
90 x Russian swings @24/16
120 x abmat sit ups

Teams of 2







CrossFit Blackfriars

Week Starting Sunday 24th January 2016






Sunday 24th:
"Triple 3" 


3k row
300 double unders
3 mile run






Monday 25th

1)
10 rounds every 90 seconds of:
snatch & high hang snatch complex

can increase or decrease every minute

2 to a bar and 5 burpees for a miss


2)
10 min Amrap of:

20 x KB snatches @ 24/16
10 x burpees




Tuesday 26th

"2015 CrossFit Games Long Chipper"

1,000-meter run
25 x cleans @50/35
25 box jump-overs @ 24/20
25 C2B pull ups
50 wall balls
25 C2B pull ups
25 box jump-overs @ 24/20
25 x cleans @50/35


cap 30 mins

(compare to 6th Aug 2015)




Wednesday 27th:
1)
in 15 minutes

run 800m
then
1 reps max Deadlift

5 bars max on the floor


rest 5 mins

2)
10 mins to establish
1 rep max bench press

rest 1 min

3)
200 unbroken KB swings @24/16
10 burpees every time you break

8 min cap




Thursday 28th:

"Light Kalsu"

100 thruster @ 45/30

3 burpees on the minute

start with burpees

cap 40 mins




Friday 29th


run 1600m
30 x cleans @ 80/55
30 x HSPU
run 1200m
20 x cleans @ 80/55
20 x HSPU
run 800m
10 x cleans @ 80/55
10 x HSPU
run 400m

cap 40 mins


Saturday 30th
35 Min AMRAP of:

everyone run 800m
25 x slam ball GTOS
50 x push ups
75 x american swings @24/16
100 x double unders

teams of 3



CrossFit Blackfriars

Week Starting Sunday 17th January 2016






Sunday 17th

1)

Open WOD 12.5

7 min AMRAP

3/6/9/12/15…


thrusters @45/30

C2B pull ups


rest 3 mins


2)

7 min AMRAP of:


3/6/9/12/15…

burpees

hang squat cleans


rest 3 mins

3)

run 1 mile




Monday 18th


1)
in 15 minutes

200 double unders
then
3 reps max Deadlift
TNG, NO BOUNCING

5 bars max on the floor

rest 5 mins

2)
10 mins to establish
3 rep max bench press

rest 1 min

3)
tabata burpees




Tuesday 19th


30 min EMOM

min 1= 15 wall balls
Min 2 = 15 slam balls @9/6
Min 3 =15 burpees




Wednesday 20th

1)
Clean & high hang clean complex

10 rounds every 90 seconds of:
clean & high hang clean complex

can increase or decrease every minute

2 to a bar and 3 burpees for a miss

2)
Hang Squat Elizabeth


21-15-9
hang squat cleans @ 60/40
dips

caps 10 mins




Thursday 21st


50-40-30-20 - 10 of
air squats
Box jump, 24 /20
American swings @ 24/16
Abmat sit ups

start each round with a 400m run

cap 35 mins

(run 400m then do 50 of each then run 400m and 40 of each etc)





Friday 22nd

1)
Front Squat
5 sets of 1

one set of 10 at more than last week

lift every 2 mins on a rolling clock (you can increase the weight on every set)

2)
Diane
21-15-9
Dead lift @100/70
Handstand push ups

cap 10 mins


CrossFit Blackfriars

Week starting Sunday 10th January 2016


Sunday 10th Jan:

WOD:

Open WOD 12.4 in intervals:

9 min AMRAP of:
150 wall balls
90 double unders
30 muscle ups

Rest 3 mins

8 min AMRAP

Rest 3 mins

7 min AMRAP

Pick up where you left off each time. Total WOD takes 30 mins.




Monday 11th Jan
1)
10 rounds every 90 seconds of:
Clean & high hang clean complex

can increase or decrease every round

2 to a bar

2)
WOD:

3 rounds

10 cleans @90/60
15 STRICT pull ups

cap 10 mins





Tuesday 12th Jan



20 x Thrusters @ 45/30

run 400m

20 x Thrusters @ 45/30

run 800m

20 x Thrusters @ 45/30

run 1000m

20 x Thrusters @ 45/30

run 1200m

20 x Thrusters @ 45/30

run 1600m





cap 40 mins









Wednesday 13th Jan


1)
Front Squat

5 sets of 3



one set of 10 at more than last week

lift every 2 mins on a rolling clock


2)
5 mins skill practice / warm up then


3)
30 muscle ups for time



cap 15 mins









Thursday 14th:

4 rounds of:

30 seconds on 30 seconds off



(so 4 mins per station)



rest 2 mins between stations



ski erg
battle ropes
row
plate pushes
air dyne/ assault bike
burpees


2 people per station





Friday 15th



1)

10 rounds every 90 seconds of:

snatch & high hang snatch complex


can increase or decrease every minute


2 to a bar and 5 burpees for a miss



2)

2 rounds for perfect reps of:



10 x banded russian swings @ 24/16

10 x banded good mornings

10 Strict TTB

10 deficit push ups

10 KB rows @28/20

10 reverse ring flys



cap 8 mins










CrossFit Blackfriars

Week starting Monday 4th January 2016





Monday 4th Jan

1)
Front squat
5,5,5,5,5

(5 sets)

One set of 10 reps at 80% of your heaviest set

(6 sets in total)

Lift every 2 mins on a rolling clock

2)
For time:

40/30/20/10
Goblet squats @24/16
20/15/10/5
HSPU

Cap 10 mins





Tuesday 5th Jan

Five round fight gone bad style of:

- Double KB shoulder to overhead @24/16

- Renegade rows @10/7

- box jumps @24/20

- heavy slam balls carry @50/30

- plank hold






Wednesday 6th Jan

1)
Complex of snatch & high hang snatch

10x1

on a rolling 90 second clock (that'll be 15 minutes in total then)

3 burpees (immediately) for a miss

2)
3 rounds of:
15 overhead squats @70/45
15 STRICT pull ups

Cap 8 mins





Thursday 7th Jan

1)
Loredo
(Last seen 24th of September 2015)

6 rounds of:
24 squats
24 push ups
24 walking lunges
Run 400m

Cap 40 mins





Friday 8th Jan

1)
In 15 mins do:
50 burpees then with the remaining time establish a:

- 5 rep touch and go deadlift

Rest 5 mins then

2)
10 mins to establish a:

- 5 rep bench press

3)
200 Russian KB swings
10 burpees every time someone breaks

5 min cap

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