The European Championships 2018: A lesson learned

The European Championships is the highest level of CrossFit competition in the UK and I was thrilled to qualify. I had done the last version of the competition in 2016 and loved every minute of it. Athletes come from across Europe for a share of the £11,000 prize money. I wanted to try and push for a place in the semi-final, but was I fit enough?


I may as well get all of my excuses out of the way right at the beginning…

It’s no secret that I went into the competition with a shoulder injury which I was rehabbing. I had not done any kipping, only done strict rig work with pull-ups and toes to bar and hadn’t done any muscle up variations over the last two month. I had pretty much talked myself out of performing on any bodyweight kipping movements or movements on the rig. Having not done any big sets of hanging and kipping rig work for a long time my grip wasn’t as conditioned as usual.

However, I was working with Next Step Nutrition to gain mass to be able to compete with heavier athletes on the barbell cycling and strength based workouts. I was super confident I could more than make up for my lack of pull-up capacity on the barbell in workouts so I wasn’t too worried.

My nutrition had been as prescribed and I felt good going into the competition after tapering and working on a few movements I thought would come up. Jamie Emblow, Khaleed and me all qualified from Form Leeds and we were all buzzing to get down there and represent the gym against 87 other top athletes from across Europe.

Workout 1 (38th)

–    15m Beep test

Result: 12 + 8 rounds

Unlike any other competition I have done, The European Championships programme their first workout to be outside of the actual competition. It’s usually an endurance type workout, which wouldn’t be great for spectators to watch, but is equally as important to test overall fitness. These endurance tests never favour me, as I’m good at short sprint workouts due to my previous life as a rugby player.

This workout was tough and my gas tank was fine, my legs gave in before my lungs. I stepped off the same leg each shuttle which was a mistake, but it was comfortable and stepping off alternate legs messed with my pacing and stride.

Jamie, Khaleed and I all did workout one together and pushed each other to finish on 12 +7 or 12+8 rounds. I knew this would be around mid-table and was happy with that result as this was a weaker workout for me.

Workout Announcement

On the day of the competition, the workouts were announced to all athletes. None of the workouts besides maybe the hang clean played to my strengths. It’s usually good if competitions announce the workouts on the day for me as I’m around average at most movements I’m weaker at, but not this time. The bodyweight movements and hanging movements which required kipping would expose my weight gains and lack of pulling and grip conditioning on the rig. I was nervous for what was to follow. However, I put on a brave face and was looking forward to working out and catching up with people I hadn’t seen for a while on the CrossFit scene.

Workout 2 (76th)

FRAN 21-15-9

–    Thrusters @ 42.5kg

–    Pull-ups

Result: 3:02

The only way I can sum up this workout is that I went into this with completely the wrong mindset. I was afraid my grip was going to fail instead of thinking positively that I could go unbroken.

Thrusters in FRAN

I finished the first set of thrusters first in my heat and then for some strange reason went to chalk my hands. I think I was only delaying getting on the bar as I didn’t want to see if I could do 21 butterfly pull-ups. When I finally got to the bar, they actually didn’t feel too bad and I could have gone unbroken for the first set of 21, but I got down at 17 to save my grip. I was using a peg to get up to the high bar, but in hindsight, I should have jumped to save time. I finished the set of 21 and was now behind everyone. I caught a few people up with a fast set of 15 thrusters, but again my mind was telling me to break the set of 15 pull-ups. I did 9 and 6 and would not have been able to go unbroken, but again got up on the peg and chalked my hands. I then whipped out the set of 9 thrusters, then climbed back onto the peg to help me up onto the bar and did the last set of 9 unbroken.

In hindsight, I should have pushed a lot harder, but I was afraid my grip would go and I would get an even slower time than pacing the workout. I know for next time to leave nothing to chance and to attack every workout at a competition. I never want to feel like I have more to give at a competition again!

Workout 3 (37th)

  • In 4 minutes establish a 3 Rep Max hang clean

Result: 124kg

*After 4 minutes workout 4 starts

Workout 4 (64th)

4-minute AMRAP

  • 12 pistols
  • 6 bar muscle ups

Result: 53 reps

*After 8 minutes workout 5 starts

Workout 5 (60th)

  • 1 legless l-sit rope climb
  • 6 burpees over the bar

Result: 14 reps

Workouts 3, 4 and 5 were all crammed into one 12-minute window for the ultimate grip test after FRAN. After my dismal performance in FRAN, I was looking to make amends and attack these ones best I could.

Workout 3 was fine and I knew I just had to be able to hold onto the bar and I should hit 130. I opened with 124kg and the first rep flew up, but then my belt popped open. I managed to complete the three reps, but it took more out of me than it should after having to keep my core extra tight and fight for the last rep minus a belt. I waited until 3-minutes before going for 130kg as 124kg had taken a lot out of me. I hit the first two reps sweetly, but then my legs gave in after the catch on the third rep and I could not stand up the clean and my fatigued core eventually gave way.

Workout 3’s 124kg hang clean triple

Workout 4 was as disgusting as it sounds. The pistols were frantic and I managed to go unbroken on my first set of bar muscle ups, which I was amazed at. 6 isn’t near my max set of bar muscle ups, but after not doing any for 3 months, I was happy with this. My legs were also fried after the hang squat cleans, but I kept the pistols pretty fast to try and keep up with the machines whipping them out around me. My grip started to fail in the second round and I did 3 + 3 and then in the third round, I was down to singles before having to start workout 5. I was happy to get nearly three rounds through on a workout I thought I would really struggle with.

Workout 5 muscle ups

Workout 5 I knew was going to be the worst workout for me all day. The l-sit legless rope climb was all bodyweight and after putting on 4kg in the lead up to the competition, I knew it was going to be a long 4 minutes. On the first attempt at the legless rope climb, I put my feet down from the l-sit start too early and touched the floor. I started again and managed to grind one out. My grip was fried and forearms pumped. I then got through the burpees over the bar and returned to the rope. I rested a good 30-40 seconds before attempting again. I managed to grind out another one on my second attempt with kips on the last few reaches. I then ground out the burpees and had 30 seconds to get another rope climb. By this point, I couldn’t feel my forearms but gave it my best shot. I managed 4 reaches up to the rope and fell back onto my bum. I was done and glad those three workouts were over.

Workout 6 (46th)

13-minute time cap:

  • 40 deadlifts @ 140kg
  • 30 shoulder to overheads @ 60kg
  • 20 sandbag squat cleans @ 40kg
  • AMRAP toes to bar

Result: 84 reps

By this point in the day, I knew there was no chance of achieving my aim, to make the semi-final. I was just going to go out and try to attack what would be my final workout of the day. I planned to go 13-11-9-7 in the deadlifts and for the first set it worked. Then the second set was actually 9 and then the rep count went down from there. I managed these in 5 sets in total and then moved onto the shoulder to overheads. I did these in 3 sets of 10, as I knew what was coming next! I had nearly 4 minutes on the sandbags, but only managed 14 reps. These were torturous. 40kg doesn’t sound like much to clean and I must have been doing something wrong, as the bag kept grazing my face on each rep. My back was absolutely blown and I was ready for a bath! I carried on moving and took it one rep at a time. I wish I could have gotten to the toes to bar, but my sandbag technique was off. I did a few reps in the warm-up area, but clearly not enough. A note for next competition will be to watch other athletes hitting new movements in the warm-up area and test the movement for more reps.

In conclusion

I am embarrassed with my finish of 65th place, but think it did reflect where I was going into the competition. I was fit in movements I was doing regularly in my programme, but not in any rig work which required kipping or advanced shoulder movement. I was expecting a lot of barbell cycling, but those reps didn’t come – only in workout 6. In the end, the bodyweight and grippy pulling movements on the rig got the better of me and I just wasn’t good enough.

The competition was superbly organised and although it ran over the atmosphere was electric. Hats off to Carl Saville and the team at CrossFit Colchester for putting on another amazing competition. Xenios was the equipment sponsors and all the equipment I used was exemplary. A good find by Carl and his team to travel from the USA and bring their kit. The judging and volunteer team were fantastic and I heard no complaints all day. Pete Williamson as ever worked his magic with the photos and gave me some abs – this guy is mega! I had a great time catching up with athletes from all over the UK at the competition and discussed training and how they were doing.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel which is the venue where the exhibition hall is. We took advantage of the athlete discount and stayed for two nights to make the most of the 4-hour drive from Leeds to Colchester. The only downside to the event is the long drive, but the event quality, sponsors, athletes and prize money of the competition brings CrossFit Games Regionals athletes from as far as Poland to compete.

Lesson learned!

I’d like to thank my main supporters UGD Apparel, Contact Coffee, React Nutrition and Ascent Protein for constantly keeping me in the best threads, caffeinated and fueled. I couldn’t push as hard as I do without your support.

Hopefully, The European Championships team will programme more workouts I’m good at in the future!



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