Tom Williams has been with us a just over a year, recently he had a little break of around 3 months. When he came back he had a plan and stuck to it. I asked him to sit down with me and go over some of the things he felt helped along the way. Below is a little more about Tom and how he came back stronger and better than ever before.
Who is Tom Williams?
Father to Aston (8 weeks) and Rosie (three years), husband to Helen, Managing Director of parkrun UK, presenter of the Marathon Talk podcast and novice CrossFitter.
How long have you been training at HG3?
I did a taster session with Pete on Saturday the 19th of October 2013 so I've just celebrated my 1st HG3 anniversary.
What did you do before HG3?
I'm 40 years old so quite a lot ;-) Not much that made me stronger though. Training wise I've run around 20 stand-alone marathons with a PB of 2:49 and completed seven Ironman triathlons with a PB of 9:24. I wish I'd known how weak I was in those days though, CrossFit would have helped so much and I'd never train for endurance sports without it now my eyes have been opened.
What has been the biggest change for you so far?
My basic functional strength has changed so much and is something I'm aware of every single day. A three-year-old daughter takes quite some work and the improvement in my ability to do simple things like lift her up in the air has changed more than I could have imagined. You don't realise how little strength you have until you try to lift something off the floor, especially something that gets a tiny bit heavier every single day.
You stopped training for a while... how come?
When I first joined HG3 I was training for Manchester Marathon, running 70 miles per week and hitting three CrossFit sessions was too much for someone with a busy job and active family so when I crossed that finish line something had to give. Unfortunately I'm all about routine and find a bad routine just as easy to adopt as a good routine.
Were you nervous about coming back... if so why?
I wouldn't say nervous, but I certainly paid the price. The 7th of July was my first session since the 22nd of April and it seemed at the time that I'd undone all my work form those first six months at HG3. All the coaches and members at HG3 are super welcoming though and seeing as I'd been made to feel so at home when I first started I visualised myself being back on day one… with the advantage of knowing so much more about what was coming.
What was your plan upon your return?
For the first five or six sessions back I only lifted a bare training bar or a very light weight for strength stuff and stretched while everyone else did the WODs. In my first session back I wrote the following notes…
Turkish get-ups… forgot technique and needed to do them slowly with no weight.
Back squats… three sets of ten reps with training bar, stretched in-between sets.
WOD… didn't do the WOD, instead spent time on foam roller.
Why didn't you just jump back in?
I've spent the best part of 20 years doing something related to fitness, exercise or health and know all too well that the biggest mistake novice athletes make is to do too much too soon. Small incremental changes over longer periods of time always provide the most powerful long term results and jumping straight back in where you left off pretty much always results in injury. In running I recommend people budget for one week of training per every week out i.e. if you don't run for four weeks you should allow another four weeks to get back to where you were.
Has it worked?
So far! In September/October I set all-time PBs in pretty much every lift and as I start my second year at HG3 I'm most definitely the strongest I've ever been in my life. I've even finally got the hang of double-unders. Almost.
Did you feel like you weren't doing enough?
I would have done if I hadn't had past experiences of similar 'comebacks' in running and triathlon. In endurance sport there is a term called the 'negative split' which means finishing a race faster than you started it… I believe we should carry that mind-set into individual training sessions, training weeks, blocks and even entire years. The key to achieving that is always to start easier than you think you should.
How do you feel now you're back to the main programming?
I'm really enjoying it and after a year can probably manage to hit Rx in 30-40% of the scheduled sessions. I came here to get stronger so am prioritising weight and form over speed, I also still consider myself very much a novice. Both those factors mean you'll normally see me completing less reps or taking more time than the majority of the class, but I reckon in another year I might be able to Rx everything… which for a once puny runner would be pretty cool.
Anything else you can think of to add?
Since shaving the front off both shins doing box jumps I can highly recommend my £5.99 football shin pads.
A plan is something that we all need and the ability to be strong and stick to it is the hard part. Even when you take a break, make sure you have a plan to return. Jumping back in where you left off is never the best idea!!!!