The thing about plans…

…is that you have to be ready for them, and know what you are letting yourself in for.

I was really up for all out Crossfit Endurance (CFE)training until Xmas, but it’s not going to happen.

This isn’t by any means an issue with CFE, it’s completely to do with me.  There’s too much going on in my life at the moment for me to be able to fit in the two workouts a day required on some days by CFE.  I could get up earlier, but then my performance in my day job will be affected.  I’m usually up at 6.30am as it is.

Plus, I’ve just started cycling having put in one hours and 1.5 hours cycling on two consecutive Saturdays.  This goes ostensibly against CFE, which focuses more on highly intensive, short blasts of effort.  The thing is, I LIKE the long bike rides (1.5 hours counts as long currently!)  This is especially true since where I live, in the heart of England, I get to cycle through beautiful villages and vistas.

On top of that, I honestly think I need to build a very gradual baseline of strength and fitness before really going for it.  On reflection, I think I have got things the wrong way round.

My intention now is still to train using CFE, but after the base building phase.  What I am going to do for the next few months is train based on how I am feeling with the intention of thoroughly enjoying myself.  I appreciate it’s not scientific, and there are myriad “better” ways to train, but what’s right for me at the moment is to enjoy it.

So here’s the new plan, and in brackets where I am up to right now:

Monday : Rest

Tues: Run (7 miles)

Weds: Weights*

Thursday: Swim (1000m)

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Bike (1.5 hours)

Sunday: Rest


*This is a key part of the CFE training but if I am honest with myself I am such a weed still currently that I need to get the basics licked.

My goal is to be able to do (with current levels in brackets):

5  bodyweight deadlifts (currently doing 5 x 5 @ 70kg)

100 press ups (35)

20 pull ups (7)

40 ab rolls (12)

then I’ll have the base strength there I think, especially in my core.  I can repeat my workout more than once in the week if I feel like it.

I can then aim to get stuck in to my CFE plan, probably in the new year.  By then I hope to have shifted much of the life debris around me as well.  I still believe in CFE, but need to get the basics right first.


Anyone fancy a go with Sally?

I came home from work a bit grumpy today, we all have those moments.  Fortunately the WOD today were sets of deadlifts – 10 x 2 at 65% of 1 rep max.

I felt much better after yanking these off the ground, especially when I followed it up with a Sally Push up challenge.  This was introduced to me by my mate John Philips on a weekend away for my 40th.

Give it a go.  I managed 1.15 so room for improvement.  Great fun.


Well done Dan Armitage.  My mate from Brighton who is on target for Ironman Austria next month completed a half-iron distance race in a very impressive 5hr 8 minutes.

Sets him up nicely for the main event, and considering how much of a lump he was when he started down this route it shows what consistent, hard training can achieve.



New habits init.

Things are starting to click.  I’m working out how to get my training done whilst managing to work full-time and be a family man.  It’s all about creating new habits.

Look at any 40 year old bloke and you will see a man with a well formed, deeply ingrained approach to most things in the day.  What time they get up, their morning routine, what they eat, what time the leave for work, what they do when they sit at their desk / reach their place of work – you get the idea.  According to some of my friends wives it even extends to what happens between the sheets.  Thankfully since Laura read 50 Shades Of Grey that’s been taken out of my hands.

But back to day-to-day ordinary living.  To do something immense like an Ironman, something has to change.

Following the Crossfit Endurance methodology for multi-sports training means day in the week where I need to do sports-specific training as well as a WOD, usually with at least three hours gap between the workouts.  This isn’t easy for me now as I leave the house at 7.30am, and get home at around 7pm.  The only option is to get up early, and get on with it.

Several times in the past I have tried running in the morning and failed every time.  I know now why that is.  I simply tried to transport a run that I would do in the evening straight into a pre-breakfast jaunt.  Wrong.

Not only has your average 40 year olds conscious activities become routine, so have the sub-conscious.  That’s why I have always failed in the past.  I simply hadn’t given my brain enough time to appreciate that running in the morning is OK, and normal.

That’s why, for the last few weeks, I have been getting up earlier and doing a pathetically short run for the level of fitness I have built up: 1-2 miles.  Even though the distance is short, when I started it was HARD.  Clearly it’s a psychological thing, something which I am working through.  I need to if I am to fit in my training.

It’s working though.  Take today.  I woke at 6am, went for a short run with Cassie, then did a full day at work.  I got home and did the WOD of power snatches and burpees.

I have also asked my wife to force me to get out early and run when the bed is too comfy to leave for a morning run.  No excuses, these are new habits after all, and I need to keep them going and she has a green light to boot me out of the bed to keep the training momentum going.

Yes Mrs Grey.  Whatever you say.


Well that went better than I thought

The warm-up for for the swimming element of Crossfit Endurance is comprised of a 500m warm-up, then 20 minutes of drills, and then the WOD.

500m as a warm-up?   Right now that’s a workout.

It took four lengths for me to work out a few things.  Firstly, SLOW DOWN.  I am training for an endurance event, not a sprint.  Secondly I am not fit enough to breathe every third stroke yet.  I was gasping for air after every second length.

As soon as I changed to breathing every second stroke I found my groove, and was averaging 30-35 seconds per length at a level of exertion which felt the same as running nine minute miles for me when I was training for the marathon.  Zone 2 if you know about that sort of stuff.  It’s not good practice to breathe on one side, but it’s also early days.  I’ll get to every third stroke eventually.

All in all I did 30 lengths and felt I could have carried on to 45-50 at the pace I was going.  What surprised me was feeling annoyed that the length had come to an end and I had to turn around.  It’s a hassle.  I wanted to keep on cruising (but not in the Brighton definition of the word).

There’s a pool reasonably local to me at Faringdon.  There were only a handful of people there, and I only counted three plasters which had slipped off their hosts body during their swim.  That’s not bad for a municipal pool in my experience.


Baggy Trousers

Hello again blog.  Remember me?

Since my last post I have been inundated by requests to get this blog started again (thanks Mum and John D).  There are reasons for the news blackout, but I should be back on track now.

My life has had a bit of a change around recently.  To cut a long and hassle-filled story short, my family and I are now in Oxford, UK, I’m back working in property for a company called Property Frontiers, and the grandparents can now more easily see their kids.

Quick summary:

New house: good

Job: good

Kids school: good

Kids: good

Wife:  I would never be so presumptive as to second-guess a womans opinion…(because I am a coward)

Moving is a hassle as everyone knows.  Moving, putting the kids in a new school and finding and starting a new job multiplies the hassle-factor tenfold.  As a result something had to give and it was my training.  Brighton marathon came and went without me, and TODAY was the first day of me getting back on the Ironman wagon.

Now seems a lot more appropriate anyway.  This is supposed to be part of my midlife crisis and since I tipped over into my forties in April I need to get on with it.  Laura was kind enough to inform me that the number of grey hairs I now have has suddenly increased, plus whilst dancing around the lounge with the kids to this song I found myself running out of breath.  Time to tackle the old man that is evolving here.

I’ve decided to fully commit to the Crossfit Endurance way of doing things.  That is, lots of weight training using functional movements, and a combination of short and long intervals with the odd longer sports specific session thrown in as well.

So today the WOD (Workout of the Day) was

Five rounds for time of

7 Cleans

21 Wallball shots

I managed three rounds before my legs were really complaining so  I thought I’d leave it there as I’m just getting started again.  The principle is the weights element builds the strength you might not ordinarily get from running alone.  It’s a good job because currently the pipe cleaners I have masquerading as legs need some serious development.


If a six year old can do it…

…so can anyone.

Last Saturday morning Luke and I toed the line to start Hove Parkrun.  In case you are unaware the Parkrun series are free-to-enter 5km runs which happen all over the country at 9am every Saturday.  It was started by one chap and now hosts thousands of runners over many events every week.  Simple and brilliant.

Luke has attended Parkrun before and managed progressive improvements in distance up to a maximum of 3km, and even then with numerous breaks to walk.

Last Saturday he ran the full 5km, with only two periods of walking for a maximum of 50m in total.  It was brilliant and he loved it.  He was easily one of the youngest there and although the time is irrelevant he certainly didn’t come last.

He just quietly trotted along enjoying the comments such as, “Well done young man” from the marshals and from a few friends that know him.

It’s a tough call to say who was most proud at the finish line, and I’m not sure exactly what made him go for it.  Perhaps it’s the new diet, perhaps he was just ready for it.

In keeping with my involvement with my sons sporting activities I’m joining the coaching staff at Hove Rugby Club to train Lukes age group.  For the first time in 20 years I’ve bought some (cheap) rugby boots.  I attended a coaching session last night which included a game of touch rugby, which again is something I haven’t done for 20 years.  I thought my fitness would hold up but I have to admit to finding it tough going – I guess my ‘fast twitch’ muscle fibres need some work.  Naturally the slinky skills remained – you never lose that obviously.  I just found focusing on the ball a little bit harder than I used to, and I kept forgetting my teammates names.  I’m nearly 40.  That’s allowed.

On Monday I got a new PB for my 5K time shaving a colossal 2 seconds off my time last week.

13 miler tomorrow.  I am entering new territory for me now and will do so up to and including the Brighton Marathon in April.  For me, Wednesday lunchtimes = squeaky bum time.



5K in 23.30 – new PB

Following a rather lazy weekend I was desperate to get out for a run today.  Oh dear – I just wrote that without thinking about it.  Have I crossed that line where exercise ceases being a pain and becomes something you need?  Hope so because I’ve got an awful lot more of it to come.

I was a bit pushed for time today so chose to do a 5K run, with Cassie as always.

I completed the run in a PB time of 23.30 (or PR if you are viewing this post from over the pond).  I’m pleased with that as it’s definite progress, and I worked my booty off to reach even that time.

I think I was driven to try the 5K after hearing that a boy in Erins class (aged 9) can do a 5K in 20.30.  His Dad is ex-Olympic marathoner Richard Nerurkar so he clearly has the genes for this stuff.   My own genetic enhancements extend no further than an above-average penchant for curry.

It’s my long-run tomorrow and I’m planning to trundle around Brighton for 12 miles, and increase one mile a week leading up to the Brighton Marathon.  I’ve started listening to podcasts on my long runs, in particular one by Rich Roll, and if I fancy something more technically focused around training and nutrition I’ll listen to Ben Greenfields offering.  Both are on iTunes if you are so inclined!


Laura and I have just about made it to the end of January following a vegan diet.  I’ll admit to having had a little bit of cheese, rather a lot of chocolate (which will have animal products in them I suspect) and one chicken jalfrezi so it’s not been perfect.  Overall however, we’ve both enjoyed it, feel good on it, and want to continue.  The kids have been largely vegetarian during this month as we need to make it a slower transition for them we think.  Green smoothies, where have you been all my life?

Food, glorious-ish food and Les Dennis

The Ball family are collectively now two weeks into a dietary experiment.  We’ve gone vegan.

[Cue much laughter, eye-rolling, and comments along the line of 'That's two years in Brighton for you', from our friends and family].

Hear me out.

You know I’m training for an Ironman, and in the short-term I have Brighton marathon in April.  As part of that process I have been reading loads, listening to podcasts, and surfing the web on subjects around training for these events.  Ask any endurance athlete and they will tell you that one of the most important components of performance is nutrition.

I’ve been influenced by Scott Jurek (7 time winner of Western States 100 mile race) and Rich Roll (voted one of the worlds fittest people) and their books.  Rich also has a great podcast about vegan nutrition and the illnesses that a Western diet, including meat, is responsible for.

So after much prevarication, discussion, and a Christmas where I drank heavily and ate like a man condemned Laura and I decided to give it a go.

Laura is now working full-time, and my work means that I can collect the kids from school and cook, so the responsibility for pulling this nosh together falls on my shoulders.  Without a doubt Laura is the superior chef in our household so the pressure has been on.

Every time I plonk a dish of grub in front of Laura and the kids in my head I hear Les Dennis on Family Fortunes (I KNOW, I CAN’T HELP IT, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP), saying, “And the survey said..?” followed by the machine replying “Ur-Urrrrr“.

But that hasn’t happened.  Even the kids like most of the food I’ve been creating.  Even a dish made with black beans which no-one in the right minds would look at on one of those picture menus and think to themselves, ‘Ooh that looks lovely, I’ll try some of that.”  They loved it.

Not only that but Erin has a new-found interest in cooking.  I’m not sure if it’s about spending more time with me, or if it’s a genuine interest, but I’m making the most of it.

Here’s Erin working on a veggie chilli, which she did most of the work for.  Note her ingenious method for avoiding ‘onion-eye’.

Veggie Chilli



And the end result:

Veggie Chilli





It was absolutely lovely, and is a new house favourite.  Instead of beef mince we used quinoa – a very tasty protein-rich little fella that doesn’t clog up your arteries like red meat does.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids still like pizza, and we still let that happen.  It’s just less than we used to.  Plus they are still having the occasional bit of cheese for their school lunches but we will be slowly edging these out of their diet, assuming we stick to it ourselves of course.

And the weird thing is neither Laura nor I miss meat – at the moment.

Oh, and one other thing.  I haven’t had booze since the 3rd January.  Not that long ago I know, but it’s a start.  I’m planning on being booze-free in January.

The Executive Summary:

Teetotal.  Vegan.  Wannabe Ironman.  Midlife crisis victim.

Time to get stuck in

2013 is the year I need to get serious with my training.  I am doing Brighton Marathon in April, and I want to do other events throughout the year.

I let my training slip over the Christmas period like all normal human beings should.  When you consider that my stepdad used to be a chef, is now a wine merchant, and has ‘generous’ as his middle name it would have been silly to pass up anything that was offered.  Plus my in-laws are equally as generous.

Not to mention my brother and I had bottles of Scotch that we needed to do the ‘Pepsi Challenge’ on.  I don’t think either of us has ever been so indecisive.

So I’m back on it this week.  I did a slow 7-mile run on Monday and then 5 x 400m repeats with 1 minute recovery jog (OK, walk).

My plan for running will be to do my long run on a Monday, short interval on Wednesday, and long interval on Friday, together with weights four times a week.  I’ll do a separate post about that because it’s quite detailed.  Based on past experience that will build fitness without getting boring or getting an overuse injury.

I was concerned about the long run on Monday but it was OK.  I’ll soon be back to ten miles and then will keep pushing it onwards.  The good advice of personal trainer / torturer Louise Fitches to use a foam roller on my IT band appears to have sorted out the knee pain I was experiencing.  So far thats my recurring back pain that has been removed (by doing deadlifts) and now my knee feels better.  Just my shoulder to deal with (I am 40 this year, I’m allowed to be falling apart).

I’ve got some news about how my family diet has changed which I’ll update you with another time.  It is another of the unexpected outcomes of my training.  I can’t do it now because Laura is watching a TV programme about how one of the girls from 90′s pop band Steps is a ‘yo-yo dieter’ and if I watch much more of it I may well slip into a coma from which I might not return.