Latest Blog For TOWIC


Hey guys! It's that time again. Our Member of the Month this time round is James Long. James and Rose have been a part of our box for a long time now. I was lucky enough, along with Sush and Avery, to be asked to attend their wedding and our friendship has always been strong! They're a part of the furniture and we're so happy that they're a part of our community. They've also brought through other members over the years such as Rose's sister and now James' sister!

James is a Woodford boy, has always sung our praises, and brings his infectious smile to the box. He and Rose sometimes have full blown arguments which bring comedy value. But more importantly, James is encouraging, friendly, always on time, ready to go, and gives his absolute best to every workout! He also always shows up to our TOWIC community drinks.

I caught up with James recently to talk about TOWIC.

1) What do you love about Crossfit, and how does it help you in your day to day life?

What I love about Crossfit is that is different to any other exercise I have ever done in my life. I’ve always been reasonably conscious of my fitness, but I often found myself getting bored of working out on my own with my earphones as my source of entertainment. Crossfit has shown me how it is possible to pack in so many random movements into one hour. One minute you’re legs are screaming while you pluck up the courage to finish 9 thrusters yet you have to then mentally prepare yourself to do a 400m run or a set of burpees. I love the thoughts that run through my mind as I psych myself up to get it done.

2) What’s your favourite workout?

Anything involving running and deadlifts is my idea of Crossfit heaven. I love anything cardio based as I’ve always been quite a strong runner and my guilty secret is that I love a barhop burpee.

3) I wouldn't tell too many people that! What 3 things would you say are TOWICs biggest plus points?

The Coaches - I feel fortunate to be at a box where a group of coaches are able to combine the role of teacher, comedian and sometimes disciplinarian. Also helps that I met a professional singer who played at my wedding for free : )

The Community – You won’t find many places with such a diverse group of people all aiming to be the best they can be.

Partner WODs – It’s a great motivation to split up a workout and sweat together! I love cheering each other on to go faster, for longer, lift heavier. Plus the accountability makes me want to try harder to do the best I can for my partner.

4) How has being part of our community had a positive effect on you?

I am a really strong believer in the correlation between exercise and mental health. A big reason I do Crossfit is for that endorphin rush I feel as I’m sprawled out on the box floor. You are your best competition - whether it’s a push press or a burpee fest, you can always aim to beat your personal best and it is exhilarating and exciting every time. Finally, being married to a woman who also likes CrossFit is great as we have such a key aspect of our lives in common. It’s just a shame that she wipes the floor with me every time.

5) She does. E-v-e-r-y time! Whats your favourite cheat meal?

Pizza has always been my biggest weakness but recently I’ve started to go for thin crust. That counts as healthy, right?

6) What would you say to anyone new trying out TOWIC for the first time?

Embrace it. In my first class I walked into 200 single arm kettle bell swings and swore to myself that I would never return. I’m thankful I came back. Things have changed now, you get to go through a Fundamentals class and are taught the basics, which is a massive help. TOWIC is unlike any other gym or box. It is friendly, welcoming, and you will never receive as much support anywhere else to be the best version of yourself. If that all fails you can always just turn up to laugh at Dons dancing.
The Deadlift is one of my favourite lifts. There’s always a sense of achievement and a feeling of strength when you lift a heavy weight off of the floor, safely, efficiently and with good form. Especially every time you beat your PB!

A few points to take in to consideration about the Deadlift;
  • It’s a great movement to build overall strength.
  • If your sole focus is body composition there are other exercises that will build muscle more effectively.
  • It’s a full body movement or compound lift. I get asked a lot, which muscles the Deadlift works and I tend to answer, all of them!
  • It works the posterior chain effectively – but the Romanian version does so even better!
  • Having long legs, being tall and lacking mobility can all hinder the Deadlift. In these cases alternatives may be better – think Sumo Deadlifts, Back Extensions, Bent Over Row – still working the posterior chain – but safely and efficiently.
After taking these points on board, we can now look at the Deadlift!
I like the image above. If we look at it from right to left you’ll see the form that should be maintained throughout the movement.

Feet under the bar – Your feet should be in a neutral position – try jumping on the spot, where your feet land should be a pretty natural position for you. The bar should be sitting over the middle of your foot – think laces of your trainers.

Bend from the hips – push your butt back and bend over to reach the bar. If you’ve done this correctly – your shoulders should be slightly forward of the bar and your arms should be locked out straight.

Bend your knees – until your shins reach the bar. The bar should remain over the middle of the foot. It’s only a slight knee bend, make sure you can still feel a slight pull in the hamstrings so that you are loading the back of the body.

Neutral spine – The back should not be rounded or over arched. Lift the chest and keep the belly and lower back tight.

Take a breath – Into the belly and brace – imagine you’re about to be punched in the stomach – this should cue your body to brace.

Drive through the feet – Whilst the Deadlift is technically a pulling movement – think of it as a pushing movement. Push the ground away with your feet and stand. The arms should still be straight, the back should still be neutral and the bar should remain over the middle of the foot.

Bar path – The bar should come up vertically. Keep the bar close to the legs – moving it away from the body will put unwanted pressure on the lower back.

Finish position – You should finish in a standing position. Keep the bar close to the body, arms locked, and don’t lean back. Hips and knees should be locked out at the top.

Tune in next week for what could go wrong with the Deadlift – and how to fix it.
New year, new you? Starting 2018 feeling excited and ready to go? Got big hopes and dreams for your CrossFit progress this year? Great. Here’s
my top 10 tips to help you smash your fitness goals...
  • Have some fitness goals. 😜 seriously though, how can you achieve or smash your goals if you don’t take time to write some down. Not too many, just a few, and make them SMART too ... (Specific / Measurable / achievable / relevant / timely). Talk to the coaches about your goals (after or before class - not during!)
  • Dial in your nutrition. This actually where you can make the single biggest difference to how your body looks and how your body feels. You don’t need to jump straight into tracking macros and weighing your food, simply having awareness of calories in vs calories out is a great start.
  • Get enough sleep. The goal should be 7 - 8 hours. Minimum. (And no - time in bed scrolling through social media or watching ‘The fittest on earth’ doesn’t count)
  • Be consistent. Keep showing up on a regular basis and getting the work done. There’s no substitute.
  • Look for balance in your program. To keep things interesting and to challenge your body to reach its full potential you need to do different things. If you only show up when we program squats and dead’s then other areas of your physical development will suffer.
  • Mobilise - we all need to do this more than we think. More than you are thinking right now. No - even more than that. Getting closer... every day there should be some form of mobility work in your routine, whether it’s when you watch tv in the evening or brushing your teeth in the morning there are plenty of opportunities to get flexy!
  • Take a ‘One more rep’ attitude. With CrossFit workouts your mind often gives in before your body. When you feel like dropping the bar or taking a break, hit one more rep first.
  • Celebrate finding a new weakness. It can be frustrating when you feel crappy after a workout. But think about why and if this is due to a specific weakness then actually that’s a great thing to understand because you can then do something about it. Talk to the coaches if you need help figuring out what.
  • Track your progress. Said it before and I’ll keep saying it. The only way to know if you’re improving is by tracking your lifts and workout scores and having data tell you. Not feelings - data.
  • Enjoy small victories - a 1.25kg increase on a lift is still a PB. Don’t be annoyed if you then failed a 2.5 kg increase. 42 double unders is better than 41. Celebrate every little gain and ring that bell.

Bonus Tip

Have fun - Allow yourself to smile and enjoy the process. Be able to laugh at yourself. To share a joke with your classmates. We train together, we gain together, but we also have fun together. 👊🏻
Add a few of these to what you do this year, and you will without question see benefits in your training.
Looking forward to working with you all in 2018.
Hey guys! It's that time again where we celebrate our Member of the Month.

This month we've gone for Greg Johnstone.

Those of you who know Greg know that he's a stand-up guy, with a great sense of humour. He's always throwing in funny comments, especially when it comes to workouts! He knows how to train but still have fun.

He never complains and attacks every workout.
He talks to new members and makes everyone feel welcome. I caught up with Greg earlier today;

1) How has CrossFit impacted your life?
Crossfit has positively impacted my life in many obvious and some subtle ways. Initially, it helped me to lose some holiday weight unintentionally through the different training styles and from there taught me the importance of a healthy sustainable lifestyle and diet with the occasional treat. I can say with confidence this is the fittest and healthiest I've ever been as a direct result. More subtly it's an hour of my day where I can focus on one thing, forget if I've had a hard day at work, and have a laugh with people whilst also getting a tough workout in.

2) What's your favourite thing about CrossFit?
My favourite thing about Crossfit is the constant variation and having my gym programming out of my hands with someone who is professional. All my training beforehand was traditional gym based freeweights, which has helped with my strength, but it never included any metabolic conditioning. I love being able to walk into a class not knowing what I'll be doing for the next hour but seeing the previous class covered in sweat and jokingly telling me to go home while there's still time.

3) Do you have any advice for someone just starting out at TOWIC?
My advice to people new to training or Crossfit would be to take the plunge and remember that everyone once had their first workout. Every workoutisscaleable and you'll be amazed at how quickly you start adding more plates to the bar, running that little bit faster, or beating your PB's in a movement you never thought you could do (I hate overhead squats but I can do them now!).

4) How would you describe TOWIC to other people?
My favourite thing about TOWIC is the people, both the coaches and the other members. The coaches are always knowledgeable and quick to help with technique and giving people a gentle nudge to work harder than you thought you could. And each class is an opportunity to get to know someone different from all walks of life who share a common goal of getting fitter than they were yesterday.

5) What's your favourite workout?
My favourite workout is the easiest answer to any of these questions. Having previously been a short distance athlete in school and uni my preference is now for endurance events as they test between your ears as well as your physical ability. Without adoubt the best test of endurance ability is the heroWOD Murph. 1 mile run, 300 squats, 200 push ups, 100 sit ups, 1 mile run. It partners my favourite activity, running, with bodyweight movements that anyone can do anywhere and is a great benchmark to test your fitness over time. Like every WOD it's scaleable so everyone can attempt this beast.

Thanks Greg, and thanks for being such a big part of our community.


Obviously we all breathe, but have you ever been in the middle of a workout and found yourself gasping for air and feeling like you just can't get enough oxygen in quick enough?

How about just before you try a big lift - ever find yourself wondering whether to breathe in, breathe out or hold your breath?

Don't worry, it's normal. But not thinking about your breath during a workout can lead to sub-optimal performance, and focussing on when and how you breathe can have a positive impact on your training.

Hell, it can even improve your Fran time - and that’s what we all want that - right?!

If you read books or listen to podcasts by coaches and athletes then you’ll notice they all talk about breathing at some point. How important it is. How much difference it can make.

And the good news is thatthere’s only a handful things to consider about your breathing when working out - when and how to breathe in, how long to hold the breath for, and when and how to breathe out.

Here's some patterns we recommend:
During strength training, where we typically focus on between 1 and 6 reps for a number of sets, deeply inhaling into your belly and holding the breath before you start a rep engages your core and braces the body.

It opens and lifts the chest helping you to maintain good form. It also gives you the option to use a powerful, quick exhale to assist the completion of the movement.

So in the example of a squat: You unrack the bar and get your feet into position, you look forward and take a deep breath in then start to move down. Once you hit below parallel you start to exhale (in a strong but controlled way) and stand back up.

At the top of the movement you repeat by breathing in, bracing and holding on to the
breath before thedecent. Personally this has made a huge difference to my front squat.
That deliberate inhale at the beginning lifts my chest and elbows into a much better starting position, and using a powerful exhale when coming back up feels like it allows me to ‘explode out of the hole’ more effectively.
This same breathing pattern also applies to deadlifts and presses. Just watch this video of Annie (and her super abs) to see it in action.

Annie Strict Press

Now on to MetCons. This is a little more tricky as sometimes it involves both lifts and strength aspects, solets split this one up.

1. Pure cardio i.e. Running, rowing, skipping, burpees etc.

This is all about rhythm. You need to establish a breathing pattern that works for you and allows you to continuously breathe in and out with ease. The aim here is to avoid very short sharp breaths and to get into a tempo of 2 sec in -2 secs out (or more),
rather than 1 sec in - 1 sec out (or less).

2. Combo exercises like Thrusters and wall balls (aka the motherf*cker movements of CrossFit).

These expose poor breathing techniques like no other. If you hold your breath for multiple reps during these movements, (which most people do especially when at the beginning of their CrossFit journey) you will quickly find yourself either on the floor or standing with your hands on your knees searching for answers to why you can’t keep moving!
But - if you can remember to breathe out at the top of the movement in that brief pause before the ball comes back at you or your arms bring the bar down for the next rep, then
everything gets easier.
Same thing applies to burpees, air squats. Breathe out at the top of every rep.

3. Body weight exercises like toes to bar, pull ups, muscle ups require a little bit of both of the above.

Don’t hold your breath, rhythm is critical and you need to find the right point to inhale and exhale. Experiment with this by trying 5 reps with an inhale on the pull and an exhale of the release, and then 5 reps the other way round to see what works best for you.
Let’s leave it there for today. Like mostthings it’s important not to over analyse this to the point where it becomes a distraction. Sometimes all you need is the intention to focus on this during a workout. Not necessarily by stopping moving, but by deliberately paying attention to your breathing pattern, making a mental note of when you feel particularly out of breath and experimenting with different things to see what helps you and what doesn't.

For more info or questions just ask the coaches but until next time - don’t forget to breathe!
Let’s go back. Back to Basics…

Having recently attended (and passed -woop woop!)

the Level 1 CrossFit trainers course I was reminded of one of the most important aspects of CrossFit, which is a focus on form first. Always.
Now, whilst this is something Shaun has always made sure we embed into our coaching at TOWIC, and why we always spend time warming up and mobilising specific muscle groups as well as breaking down movement patterns prior to the workouts, during August we’ll be having a real focus on this area in a ‘back to basics’ month.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean we’ll only be programming air squats and push ups for a month!

What it means is that we’ll cycle through the 9 foundational movements of CrossFit throughout August. Each day (apart from Saturday where the normal partnersWOD will remain) we’ll make sure that everyone is really clear on the movement standards and has plenty of time to practise and get some 1-1 pointers on good form and full range of movement.

It might also mean that we ask you to scale certain movements, reduce the weight you’re used to lifting, or do some mobility homework, but this is with deliberate intention. That intention is to improve you as athletes and to help you progress to become stronger, faster and more injury resistant in the long run (amen to that!). Remember - we’re not looking to provide a quick fix to get you fit for a few weeks or months, we’re in this for the long haul to constantly improve your fitness and extend your life!

The bottom line is that if you can lift a weight withgood

So – what are the 9 foundational movements?
form through a full range of movement, we’ll encourage you to go heavier. If you still maintain good form we’ll encourage you to go faster. If you struggle with getting the form right and have issues hitting the full range of movement, we’ll ask you to slow down, or go lighter and will work with you and give you options to help get it right. That’s it. Simple.
  • Air squats
  • Front squats
  • Overhead squats
  • Strict press
  • Push press
  • Push Jerk
  • Deadlift
  • Sumo Deadlift High Pull*
  • Med Ball Clean

*We will be supplementing this movement for work on the hollow body position, as we believe this will provide more benefit, simply because having a strong hollow position is transferable to many more movements and day to day life than the high pull.
Now, in terms of what the classes will look like, they’ll follow the familiar pattern of warm up, then a strength component followed by a met-con component. So you’ll be able to lift sometin and get your pump on, build a solid foundation and a core of steel, and maintain the engines and stamina following the great work you’ve put in over the strength, gymnastics and met-con months we’ve recently had
(it’s almost likes we planned it…!!! 😉)

As always, for any questions please just ask the coaches. Otherwise, brace yourselves and get stuck in. It’s going to be tougher and more rewarding than you might think…
Well.. It's another close one! After much deliberation with my coaches, we have chosen our Member Of The Month. It was a close run affair, but we believe we have chosen the right person this time around.

Bethany Thorndyke

Why Bethany?

Since Bethany has been here, she has displayed such grit and determination. She started her CrossFit journey after her brother recommended us and hasn't looked back.

During our weight-lifting month, she made massive gains and was always willing to try and lift heavier. Never afraid of the challenge. During gymnastics month, she also displayed a great attitude, throwing herself into every movement without fear. She has stuck to the6 week Pull-Up Challenge we set her, building some awesome upper body strength. She is strict with her eating habits to ensure the best performance during her workouts. Every session, if she finishes before somebody else she will encourage the next person. She'll do it for the person finishing last too. She's active on social media, always giving us a shoutout and expanding our reach. We're always grateful for word of mouth!

I caught up with Bethany recently to ask her a few questions;

1) Why did you start CrossFit?

I started CrossFit as I was bored at the gym and felt I had plateaued and was not really achieving anything. I also didn't know how or what to do with weights at the gym and thought CrossFit might be able to help with that.

2) What are your goals over the next 6 months?

One goal is to do 10 strict pull ups in a row. Since I started the Pull-up program I can now do 3 in a row! My 2nd goal is Toes To Bar.

3) Three things CrossFit does for you?

CrossFit makes me feel more confident in myself as a person.
CrossFit has made me a happier person (I've found something I love and enjoy andfound a community that are really supportive).
CrossFit helps me stay on target and helps me know when I'm starting to slip.

4) Favourite Workout?

I love cleans but my favourite workouts are partner workouts where we have 200 or 100 of an exercise to do and we share the load and get it done. (Also love a wallball! Plus I am now able to use the red ball, which is great as its something that really shows how I've progressed)

But it's really thanks to you guys (coaches) for making it different, challenging, and pushing us when we wouldn't usually push ourselves!
Well done to Bethany for being our Member Of The Month!
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The Big Bang Theory. Modern Family. Friends. 8 Simple Rules. How I Met Your Mother. These are some of my favourites sitcoms.

Why do they appeal to us so much?

In my opinion, it’s because they have mastered the basics. In that 20-25 minutes, they make us laugh with simple jokes, observation of everyday life, they hit an
emotional note and tug at the heartstrings, and over a period of time, the story arc sucks us in and we become attached to the characters and their journey.

However, no matter how much the story twists and turns, the basic elements remain a strong underlying presence.

Look at Cristiano Ronaldo. He can do all the tricks and then some. But he still does the basic things that make him a great footballer. Passing and Shooting drills will make up most of his day to day training.

What does this have to do with CrossFit or Fitness I can hear you asking?

Mastering the Basics, and I mean really mastering them, transfers to every other skill imaginable.

Let’s take Press-ups for example.

At a basic level, it is a pushing/pressing movement. You are transferring your bodyweight through your arms, chest and shoulders, whilst keeping the rest of the body tight and switched on. This works the abs, as your core needs to stabilise the legs and torso.

Let’s say you come from a completely non-athletic background, and you can’t perform a solid push-up. As time goes on and you move through each progression, a few things happen:
  • You’ll learn how to do a Push-up properly. Quality is much more important than quantity here. If your form is completely right, you’ll add size and strength to your arms and chest.
  • You’ll transfer that strength to other movements; Handstands, Pull-ups, Strict and Push Press, Toes to Bar.
  • You’ll feel in control of your bodyweight and be more confident in demanding physical situations.

Can you see why this ‘basic’ movement is so important in CrossFit (in any fitness programme really)?

This also applies to other basic movements like Squats (Air, Front, Back), Sit-ups, Planks, Hollow Holds, Tumbles, Glute Bridges, Pull-ups, Split Squats and Lunges.

I realise that watching CrossFit online, gives people certain expectations as to what CrossFit is. But those athletes who are doing all that crazy stuff, have the basics mastered, and can probably perform the movements without much thought or effort.

90% of our gym, still need to master the basics. Many of you have come from a non-athletic background. Many of you work in an office. Many of you do CrossFit because you want to get stronger, lose weight, be healthy and have fun.


We want the same things for you. In August, we will focus on the Basics. We will test and retest the basic movements, and we’ll hopefully nail in the fundamental movements you need to master, in order to perform the best you can, become stronger humans, and be badass.

Looking forward to it gang.
after much deliberation, as it was close run, we've settled on one of our youngest members.

*Dulan Wettasinghe*

Ladies and gentleman, this guy deserves major credit!

He's 18 years old. In his first conversations with me he described how since he left school and was waiting to start university, he would sit on his computer all day and generally laze about.

In his taster session with us, he threw up.

I thought "Well, he's not coming back."

How wrong I was!

That same day, he signed up to the Induction course, then 3 sessions a week and soon moved to Unlimited. Since that day, he has regularly made the effort to show up. Some days he finds it really tough. At the end of every session, he comes and asks for advice. Am I doing this right? Should I take this supplement? He's had a major learning curve.

Dulan wasn't drinking enough water day to day, and after a workout he suffered from major cramp in his calves. I helped him kickstart his diet, including drinking enough water and slowly but surely he has transformed himself into a machine!

During the Strength Cycle, he set some amazing Personal Bests, and he's stuck to his healthy eating habits without complaining once. He knows what he needs to do and he does it.
*For your dedication, attitude and willingness to learn, Dulan Wettasinghe,
you are our Member of the Month!*--

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

A friend of mine said this to me once and that quote has stuck with me for a very long time. If you watch TOWIC’s video you will see that the person who said it was our very own Head Coach Shaun Samonini.
I love seeing you all achieve things you never thought possible. No matter what that may be, a single press-up, a great air squat, a new P.R deadlift, every achievement is unique to the individual. What may seem small to you could be huge to somebody else, and to be a part of that for me is what brings a smile to my face on a daily basis.
What do I expect from you when you come to the box?
  • Come ready to train.
  • Be ready to be pushed.
  • Don’t hold yourself back.
  • Be ready to learn.
  • Don’t come with the attitude ‘I can’t’.
This list could probably go on and on. Whilst all of these points are important, the one that stands out to me is number two.
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t push you (not physically, that’s assault). I have a very good idea of where you should be during a session. If I prescribe a weight or a variation for you, it’s because I know you are capable of it. I wouldn’t make you do something you can’t do just to belittle you! If a weight is prescribed on the board, I’ve already taken into consideration how much you can lift. If you drop down without asking, I’m going to be disappointed, and I’m going to ask you to have some more self belief and try to lift what I KNOW you can.

If you have been training for a long time and feel that you haven’t achieved anything, then you have to ask yourself why, what are you not doing that others are? Do you come ready to train? Do you come ready to be pushed? Are you holding yourself back? Are you swinging a 12kg kettlebell when you know you can swing a 20kg kettlebell?
When you walk through the door, do you say to yourself ‘I can’t’?
These two words grate on me. I dislike hearing them, as it sets a negative precedent. How do you know you can’t do something if you haven’t tried it? And even then, at this point in time, you are not able to, eventually you will be.

I can’t means I won’t and if you won’t, then how do you get stronger, fitter, faster? How do you achieve what yesterday seemed like the impossible? Are you willing to put in the effort to achieve what seems like the impossible? Have you started and then stopped because you didn’t see results straight away?
I implore you to get back on the horse and continue, because what seems impossible isn’t. There is only so much you can learn in an hour, but if you are willing to apply yourself outside of that hour, if you stay mobile, do your own research, ask us questions, you can achieve whatever you want.

Every day is a school day, and as someone who works in education I strive to push all of my students beyond what they feel they are capable of. When I see them achieve what they thought was impossible I am a very happy man, and the same is said working in the box.
I am always learning. Every day I learn from Shaun, or Jon, and if not them I find material to expand my knowledge. I then share that with you. I just want to help you be better, stronger and fitter.
Thank you for the privilege.
Donovan Simpson