Featured on CrossFit Community Pages

Colin McNulty Snatch Olympic Lift

You’d think I’d be happy to be featured on the CrossFit Community page here: Colin McNulty Taking a Chance on CrossFit, but I’m not really. Actually I was surprised and humbled when I was asked a few weeks ago if I’d do an interview for the community pages on the main CrossFit site. I am hardly a poster boy for CrossFit, well I don’t think so any way.

But it’s always nice to contribute something and when I asked why I’d been selected, it was in no small part to this blog, which I’ve been running for 5 years now and blogged a lot about the CrossFit WODs and my general experience. And to be honest, I thought it would be cool! :) So after several hours of writing answers to questions and finding suitable photos as requested, I was happy to send off my interview.

It was a couple of weeks later when I got a message that the interview was live on the main site but I confess to being rather disappointed by the end result. The interview I did I think bears little resemblance to the article that appeared on the community page, and there are several factual mistakes that have crept in.

Here are the errors, in order that they appear:

  • “His chronic knee pain made him hesitant to try CrossFit.”It’s not true that I was hesitant to try CrossFit, I did wait a month whilst building up a basic level of fitness, but that had nothing to do with knee pain.
  • “the 41-year-old says” - A minor point, but I’m not 41.
  • “He spoke with CrossFit Manchester coach Karl Steadman” - I didn’t actually say which coach I quoted, in fact I think it was Mark Beck.
  • “A month’s work got me from two rounds to three rounds of 15 reps each” - That should have said: “two rounds of 5 reps each to three rounds of 15 reps each”
  • “coaches nagged McNulty to try the Zone diet” – That makes it sound much worse than it was, I used the words “gentle nagging” which is probably over egging it.
  • “As a personal defense readiness coach, he says his fitness education has come full circle despite his initial skepticism of CrossFit.”I’m not sure where to start with this sentence?
    • I never said my fitness education had come full circle, I’m not really sure what that means?
    • Nor do I have any understanding what that’s got to do with being a Personal Defense Readiness coach (something that’s not explained in the article at all, despite the main header picture).
    • Nor was I initially skeptical of CrossFit, I’ve no idea where that came from.

Then there’s other issues too, like the links in the article. If information is the main product of the internet, then links are it’s currency. It’s considered good netiquette to credit sources with links, especially if someone has supplied you with content for your site.  I sprinkled the article with appropriate links and as it was this blog that got me this interview, it would seem reasonable to expect a link back to here too.  That didn’t happen and all the links I gave were stripped out of the article.

Whilst I can see why they referenced CrossFit Manchester, I think it’s a bit disingenuous not to even mention the fact that Karl is not longer a coach there, nor mention the fact that my current affiliate is CrossFit 3D.

The photos are a bone of contention too.  I spent some time looking for photo’s that fitted with the article and that were appropriate to submit, but it seems that they’ve mostly been ignored and instead someone has trawled Facebook and ripped photos off there to use. I’m particularly uncomfortable about the photo of the kids being taken and used without any permission being asked.

All in all I’m thoroughly dissatisfied with the whole experience.  Perhaps I’m being naive by expecting more from CrossFit than the normal journalistic twisting of words, or perhaps I’m being over sensitive and should check my ego is still in the bin where it belongs. Perhaps it would be best to let you decide for yourself; here’s my interview in full, as it was originally submitted:

When and why did you start CrossFitting?

It was 5 years ago and I’d just turned 36, was over 15 stone (95kg or 210lbs), had a 43 inch waist and had started getting palpitations sat at my desk at work.  Chatting to a friend of mine online, I said I’d have to start going to a gym, for the first time ever.  I remember he said to me: “Try CrossFit.  6 months of that and you’ll be fitter than 95% of the population” and he was right too!  As serendipity would have it, 2 weeks after first hearing about CrossFit,  I discovered that England’s first ever CrossFit box (CrossFit Manchester) was opening soon, 1 mile from my front door.  In fact I drove past it to take my daughter to school.  Sometimes the universe just sends you a message, and when it does, it’s time to listen.

I went to watch a session first and was completely blown away by the athleticism and functional fitness of the athletes and coaches.  I remember distinctly one moment when a cable had got caught at the top of a wall mounted gymnastic frame.  Just as I was thinking that they’d have to get a Janitor and his mate with a long ladder out, (the) Karl Steadman shinnied up the 20 foot vertical wooden beam to unhook it, with all the nonchalance of a Sunday afternoon walk!   I was literally astounded to see the obvious capabilities and sheer confidence of someone who was completely in command of the faculties nature has given them.

How did you get over the fear of going to CrossFit?

Despite offers to join in, watching that first session was very intimidating, but I had seen something that I wanted: to fully realise my body’s capability. I never imagined I’d be able to do half of the exercises; I’d had knee pain ever since school, undergone 2 sets of consultants and surgery and still suffered severe knee pain nearly every day for approaching 20 years.  Just walking down stairs was a risky business as I’d be in danger of my knee giving way.  I couldn’t kick a football; I’d fall over every time due to the pain.  I had a frank conversation with the coaches, Karl and Mark and explained that box jumps were out, squats were out, burpees were out, in fact I wasn’t really sure what I’d be able to do. But they just nodded knowingly and told me not to worry, everything was scalable and tailorable. I’m sure they’d heard it all before.

“What’s the standard warm up?” I asked. “3 rounds of 10 push ups, 10 sit ups, 10 air squats, 10 pull ups.” was the reply.  “Right,” I said, “I’ll be back when I can do that.”  It took a month of working out in my living room to go from 2 rounds of 5 each of those exercises (which took 26 minutes the first time, yep 26 minutes to do 40 reps!) to 3 rounds of 15 each before I went back for to join in my first session (there was no On Ramp process back then).  By the end of the warm up I was exhausted and ready to go home, but through the support of Karl and Mark, and the other members, I managed to finish a very heavily scaled workout and had done more exercise in that hour than I think I had in the previous 15 years put together.

How did you know you were hooked?

After the first week. My body ached and was sore like I’d never known, but I couldn’t stop talking about CrossFit, much to my wife’s chagrin. She persistently told me I was mad and it all sounded very extreme and dangerous, but I couldn’t get enough of it.  She was right of course (well not about the dangerous bit) to most people CrossFit does look mad and extreme, but once you start actually doing it, and feeling the difference in yourself and your body, it all feels right in a “this is what my body was made for” kind of way.  I truly felt for the first time in my life, I was actually using my body as nature intended.

Who motivated you to start the Zone diet?

It took 6 weeks of gentle nagging before the coaches persuaded me to  try the Zone Diet.  I’d done Atkins before and lost a load of weight, but it had crept back up again once I’d gone back to eating “normally”.  I’d never been able to understand when on days when I was late for work and had to skip breakfast, why I was *less* hungry in the morning?  Now I understand that hunger has nothing to do with the quantity of food in your stomach, and everything to do with an insulin driven blood-sugar low, derived from a carbohydrate fuelled blood-sugar high; it all makes sense and fully fits my own experiences of hunger and weight gain.

I’m all for self experimentation (in a good way!) and so I tried an experiment.  I was working on the Athletic Skill Levels, well level 1 actually the “Well Rounded Beginner” level and one of the targets is the WOD Christine in 15 minutes.  Christine is 3 rounds of: 500m Row, 12 Dead lifts, 21 box jumps (I did 60kg dead lifts and 20” box jumps).  The first time I tried it my time was 19:01, way off the 15 minute target.  Then I started on the Zone Diet.  2 weeks later I tried again, the exact same workout, and got a time of 14:38 a massive 23% improvement.  Now I didn’t get 23% fitter in 2 weeks, so the only explanation is the Zone Diet improved my athleticism.  That was all the motivation I needed to change my eating habits for a life time.  I now describe my diet as 95% Paleo Zone + Dairy.

How long did it take for you to start seeing results?

The easy answer is days.  I could do more on week 2 than I could on week 1. But to be fair I think anyone who comes from zero athletic background and starts doing regular exercise of any kind is going to see quick results. A milestone for me was the ½ year mark though: after 6 months I’d lost 2 stone (13kg or 28lbs), my body fat percentage was down from 30% to 18% and I’d lost a massive 8 inches off my waist.

BUT that pales into insignificance when compared to the real achievement.  After nearly 20 years of nearly daily and severely physically limiting knee pain, within 3 months of starting CrossFit, it had gone entirely!  Not only was the pain gone, I was doing things I’d never thought possible, including heavy squats, box jumps and even Olympic weight lifting.

Why did you start blogging?

Pretty much straight away.  I’d always thought about having a blog but what would I write about?  Well now I finally had something to say, so I started ColinMcNulty.com almost immediately, if for no other reason than to keep a diary of my achievements. What’s really amazing to me though is my little blog gets about 50,000 unique visitors a month now and it increases every month.

Not a lot in the scheme of things perhaps, but I’ve already had a million visits and am getting close to having had a million different people visit my blog! I guess that’s what happens when you write about things that you’re passionate about, like exercise, nutrition, weight lifting and personal safety, among other things.

How has the blog changed you?

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said that “Change is the only constant”.  We are constantly changing.  I’ve changed a lot in the last 5 years, both physically and mentally, how much of that I can apportion to the blog, I’m not so sure.

How did you decide to take your CrossFit Journey to the next level (by obtaining your certifications?)

I had never intended on doing a Level 1 Cert as I’d never considered myself coach material, but when Coach Glassman himself came over to run the first ever cert outside of Europe, in my local box a mile from my front door, how could I not attend?!?  It was a privilege and an honour to hear him speak first hand, as well as to buy him a drink in the pub afterwards and shake his hand and say thank you, for his teaching has had a profoundly positive effect on my life.  Since then I’ve also attended the Martin’s CrossFit Kids cert and Burgener’s Olympic Weightlifting cert (Yay Burpees!) as well as BWLA’s Assistant Club Coaches cert.  It was really Olympic weightlifting that got me doing things outside of the box.  I started lifting competitively, which culminated in winning a British Masters Olympic Weight Lifting title in 2010, something I will remember for the rest of my life.

Do you currently teach at a box? If yes, which one and what do you teach?

No, I’ve never had any aspirations to teach in a box.  I enjoy helping people when I can and have coached some friends.  I also judged at the first CrossFit tournament put on by CrossFit Central Manchester, which has now become a major event in the UK CrossFit calendar.  But there are many much better athletes than me, with much more coaching experience. If I were to teach anything CrossFit related, I think I’d specialise in  what I knew best: the Olympic lifts.

What do you love most about teaching others?

This is more relevant to the PDR Self Defence Classes that I do though PDRmanchester.com but can simply be answered with: I love changing people’s lives. I have spent more learning how to coach people in personal safety than I’ve ever charged in fees, but that doesn’t matter.  I’ve taught kids as young as 9 to pensioners, and everyone in between, including one lady who was 6 months pregnant. I have yet to find anyone who wouldn’t recommend it to a friend, women in particular say that after just one day’s course, their confidence doubles, and that’s huge.

Why did you become a Personal Defense Readiness Coach? Any similarities to CrossFit?

I’d looked at martial arts many times over the years, but from a real world self protection perspective, something had always seemed missing about them. I was aware of Tony Blauer and his SPEAR System and it’s general public arm: Personal Defense Readiness, and had watched all the videos, but it was only when Zeb Glover came to Karl Steadman’s new box CrossFit 3D where I was now a member, that my eyes really opened to its simplicity and efficacy.

Not only that, it’s the whole package, not just physical self defence, but personal protection on the psychological level dealing with how to detect and avoid a potentially violent situation, how to defuse a violent confrontation, and only as a last resort defending yourself without needing the hundreds of fancy techniques that other systems expect you to master over years.

Then when I heard that Coach Blauer was coming over to the UK to put on the first PDR Coaches’ cert outside of North America, I had to go.  Karl Steadman and I attended that course and I agree with him when he says that Tony’s teaching changed his life as much as CrossFit has.  It’s a massive eye opener to realise you can avoid being a victim just by the way you act and I’m very excited that Coach Blauer has launched CrossFit Defense which will bring his revolutionary teaching to much more of the CrossFit community than it already has.

What do you love most about the CrossFit Community?

As CrossFit grows, there will be growing pains, and already in the UK there has been some upset and schisms between gyms opening up in the same city as others, it’s inevitable but very sad, not least because it splits the community but also because give CrossFit’s universal applicability, I believe there’s room for dozens of boxes in every city.

But I love that it’s a worldwide CrossFit community, not just a local one. Any CrossFitter can walk into pretty much any box in the world and get a warm welcome.  As I did when I recently holidayed in South Africa and was made very welcome by Danie and Charmain at CrossFit B4C in Johannesburg who asked me to put on a PDR course for them.

I’ll leave it to you to decide just how close the CrossFit Community page article resembles the actual interview and whether I’m being too precious or not. But I know that from now on, I’m going to read CrossFit Community interviews with large pinch of salt on standby.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Claire Adams 28 November 2012, 11:20 am

    “It was 5 years ago and I’d just turned 36″
    5+36 = 41… No?

  • Sue Knorr 28 November 2012, 5:46 pm

    Media is notorious for taking some poetic license (been there myself, experienced that), but all in all your message in this interview is a good one. You continue to inspire. Kudos to you Colin! Hey, and I’d say the Zone also played a big role in becoming pain-free in only 3 mos. BTY, I agree with you on their choice of photos.

  • Mark Ellens 2 December 2012, 9:44 pm

    It’s good to see you getting the recognition you deserve Colin. I remember when you were one of the few people blogging about Crossfit and I’ve followed your site since. With your blog and the map of boxes you’ve been part of building the community in the UK.

    No intention of reading the interview on the community site. I’d have thought people who want to will be able to find your site without much effort – your namecheck on there will bring people to your site who will pick up the PDR stuff. Suggest you take the positives and move on.

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