Skipping Ropes and Choosing yours.

If you are new to CrossFit® there’s two accessories that have the potential to speed up your progress. 1. A flat soled pair of shoes (Nanos, Metcons, No Bull, Inov8, Vans etc) and 2. your own skipping rope. 

The shoes are a cinch. Head to Whatever it Takes near St. Pauls, London or order a bunch in your size online, try them on and see what you like. As long as they have a stable base, a flat sole and feel like they fit your feet well when you lunge, squat and jump you can’t really go far wrong.  The rope, however, seems to be a bit trickier. 

If we press the simplify button and K.I.S.S this jump rope problem, you need your own rope to be suitable for your arm length and your height. How do you achieve that? Grab your own ADJUSTABLE rope from Amazon that fits your budget, have a small screwdriver and pair of snips ready and get to skipping, testing the correct length via trial and error. 

Snip off a little at a time and you’ll soon have a rope you can throw in your kit bag and whip out (pun intended) when there’s skipping in the WOD at Shapesmiths.

It’s such a great investment and serves to be an amazing portable fitness tool that can form part of a workout, anywhere you have the space! 

Basic Brands: 

Consider these to dip your toe in before buying an expensive £30+ rope:

5£ or less:  or

5-10£ range:

10-20£ range:

Popular Brands: 

Rx Smart Gear


By having your very own rope, customised for your body, you’ll be a skipping fiend in no time.

Becoming a CrossFit® coach: some advice.

[written by Lee Steggles, 16 APR ‘21] 

We [Shapesmiths] go through periods where almost weekly, we receive lovely job applications to work as a CrossFit® coach at Shapesmiths. Some are super experienced CrossFit® coaches, some have no experience in the fitness industry, some have experience elsewhere but not in CrossFit® coaching and some have just passed their CF-L1. 

This article is to give those with little experience in CrossFit® some insight and advice on what you can do to get experience and work towards becoming a fully rounded CrossFit® coach. 

Insight: first and foremost at Shapesmiths we really care that our coaches care. Totally and genuinely. Those whose natural state is to help others and care for their mental and physical wellbeing stand out miles from the crowd. This is the foundation upon which it is easy to build the requisite skill-sets as a Shapesmith.  

How do I become a coach / get experience if no one will give me experience?

Well, after sending in a CV and covering letter to make contact and state your intention to coach or develop as a coach, start by booking a class and afterwards meeting the owner/s. Get a feel for the community, the coaching and the facility that you could potentially be working in. 

Past this point we have laid out some of the key things that we would advise you to do, to get more experience and continue your CrossFit® coaching development. 

  1. If you haven’t already taken your CFL1 Online or IN PERSON. It’s literally the first step to take that shows you are serious about coaching CrossFit® as a career.  It’s a very well designed course that will light a fire of continuous professional development, in a variety of ways. 
  2. Head to and take a look at the online courses. Start with the more practical ones, Scaling Course & Session Planning and build from there. 
  3. Consider gathering some friends and start a regular training group to coach and practice what you have and are learning. You’ll need to grab some insurance for that. It’s always good to cross the t’s and dot the i’s.  Plus, you will be able to use the insurance later on in a coaching job or when personal training.  
  4. Shadowing & observation are key. This doesn’t have to be exclusively in a CrossFit® gym. You may have friends that coach gymnastics, running, weightlifting, rowing etc. Check them out. You need to start to appreciate the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to coaching. 
  5. Visit other CrossFit® gyms. You’ll pick up an appreciation for other affiliates. How they operate, their values and how they make you feel when you visit. Their vibe attracts their tribe as the cliche goes.
  6. If you find a CrossFit® gym you really want to work in, join that gym. Day to day you will pick up, subtly, the way they do things from a coaching perspective.  You’ll form lasting relationships and you’ll know the team. 
  7. Continuous professional development. As a heads up, we should all know that learning never stops. I’ve been in the fitness industry for 20 years now, i’ve tackled two sport and physiology based degrees and I am constantly learning. What’s more, there’s heaps still to learn AND keep up to date with. Being open is highly important, as is being able to examine the efficacy of any information coming your way. 

Remember, even after following all of the above there’s still water to pass under the bridge. It could take some time before you are working where you want to work as a coach. Every aspiring coach develops at different speeds and so it’s important to be patient and persistent with your development. 

To go into this pursuit with your eyes open, you should consider that sometimes you may not be a perfect fit for a space, at the point at which you are NOW in your coaching career. But that’s not to say you won’t be in the future. In some gyms remember that the coaching roster may be full, with no additional hours available. Some gyms run an internship program and some don’t, for various reasons. Time constraints, financial reasons & hiring policy will all influence the decision to have one. For those that have an internship program, remember that there may or may not be a job waiting at the end of it but it’s all good experience (as long as that internship is paid in some way). 

Below I have listed out some practical examples of CPD learning you could use to enhance your CrossFit® coaching abilities, with a view to becoming a CrossFit® coach.  I would even go as far to say that these examples are important for those who are already CrossFit® coaches. In fact they feature in the Shapesmiths CPD Guide, which our coaches receive during their induction phase. 

I hope this article has been helpful and if you have any further questions, drop us a line via [email protected]

N.B. This list has been adapted from work done by the Allied Health Professions’ project ‘Demonstrating competence through CPD’ (2003)

Work-based learning                                        

–  Learning by doing                                     

–  Case studies (covering diabetes, metabolic syndromes, aging, cancer, obesity etc)

–  Reflective practice after coaching. 

–  Conversations with members about their learning styles.

–  Coaching from others or being coached. 

–  Discussions with fellow coaches.

–  Peer review sessions.  Get a peer to watch you coach and feedback on the good the bad and the ugly.              

–  Involvement in the wider, profession- related work of your employer (for example, being a representative on a committee)

–  Work shadowing.

–  CrossFit® Journal Club, start one / be in one.                           

–  In-house training through team meetings. 

–  Supervising Apprentice Coaches. 

–  Expanding your role

–  Significant analysis of events

–  Filling in self-assessment questionnaires

Professional activities

– Organising CrossFit Journal club sessions or other specialist group gatherings.

– Maintaining or developing specialist skills.

– Giving presentations at conferences. 

Longer term this could be:

– Being a tutor/examiner (CF Flowmaster or Seminar Staff or SME)

– Supervising research or new coaches. 


Formal and educational                    

–  CrossFit® related subject matter courses in person or online.

–  Further Education (Degrees, NVQs etc)

–  Research into pertinent topics (Disease states, Mental Health and the like) 

–  Attending seminars & conferences. 

–  Writing articles on subjects you are keen to distill your knowledge down on. 

–  Distance or online learning

–  Going on courses accredited by a professional body


Self-directed learning

– Reading journals or articles

– Reviewing books or articles

– Updating your knowledge through the internet or TV

– Keeping a file of your progress



– Relevant public service or voluntary work

–  Involvement in a professional body, specialist-interest group or other groups

–  Lecturing or teaching

–  Mentoring

Heavy Days

From time to time you will see the inclusion of a ‘Heavy Day’ in our WOD program.  These days are characterised by a smaller number of repetitions 1-5 reps for 4-6 sets using traditionally barbell or in some cases gymnastic movements.

These days are a unique opportunity to ensure that you are working the whole continuum of the energy systems. Heavy days are on the short end of that continuum, utilising the ATP-PC system. Think a heavy 3 reps of back squat for the day with 4 back off sets at 80% or a 5RM weighted ring dip for example.

There is a tendency amongst those who are new to CrossFit® to avoid these types of day, in favour of the classic metabolic conditioning (getting hot and sweaty in a WOD or Engine) however there are a number of benefits to getting stuck in to a heavy day.

  • Chance to work on a single modality in a class scenario and learn lots from your coach. With no time pressure you often will pick up a lot more technical cues.
  • You will reduce the time taken to get stronger by focussed Heavy Days every week or every two weeks.
  • Using the concept of relative intensity, a CrossFit® coach can have any athlete lift a load that is relatively heavy for him or her. As well as strength, this can build bone, technique and really important confidence!
  • To quote Mark Rippetoe, ‘Stronger people are harder to kill, and generally more useful.’ there may be some truth to this…

A caveat with approaching Heavy Days is that it’s very important that your movement pattern and mechanics are highly developed before adding load (intensity in this case). This principle of quality movement, and consistency in moving well before intensity avoids putting a glass ceiling over yourself when it comes to progressing.

“It is worth noting that even within a metabolic-conditioning workout, depending on the task and capacity of the athlete, any number of exercises may build strength. Push-ups for novices build pressing strength similar to a bench press, and attempting a 95-lb. thruster for a new CrossFit® athlete builds squatting strength. As an athlete’s strength increases, however, push-ups and 95-lb. thrusters tend to favor other adaptations, such as stamina, and greater loads are necessary to further increase top-end power”

The above is a quote from this article: from within the CrossFit® Journal. It’s well worth a read for more of a geek out session.

See you at the bar(bell)


This is an article I (Lee) wrote in 2019, drawing on personal experience and from what I’ve read along the way since starting CrossFit® in 2011! A lot if it still holds true today. I will clean the article up at some stage, but here goes:

First off, full disclosure: it doesn’t ‘ruin’ progress if someone does a workout twice in a few days.

Our programming at Shapesmiths should be robust enough (AND not so overwhelming) that folks can get away with a ‘random’ week where they do the same workout two times! 

However, using ‘the repeat’ as a strategy to get maximal scores in the Open (and doing it multiple weeks) is not entirely the correct philosophy. 

I will be the first to admit that I have on occasions been silly enough to repeat open workouts 3 & 4 times circa 2012/3, but I am hoping that I have made the mistakes so you guys and girls don’t have to. 

There are more than a few potential pitfalls  if people make repeating a habit, or core strategy, of doing the workouts more than once per week in the Open. Below I will go through the following points in hope of educating a little and setting the scene. 

  1. You will not push yourself as hard the first time.
  2. Things to think about when it comes to strategy.
  3. There are no ‘second chances’ in other competitions.
  4. You are more likely to pick up niggles. 
  5. It puts your actual training and development progress on hold
  6. It is bad for your ‘mental game’.
  7. There ARE times when repeats make sense (see below)

You will not push yourself as hard the first time

If you are planning on doing it more than once, you are almost guaranteed to ease back and not give it full, all in, effort.

Avoid the possibility of that little voice in your head saying, “its okay, I’ll try harder next time” or ‘i’m just feeling this one out to get a hang of how it feels.’ 

Think about your strategy for the workout to get the most out of it and then lock in and give it your best effort. There are 40 days left before the first CrossFit Open WOD 19.1. There are multiple competition days left in the Shapesmiths programming. This is the time to practice competing. 

Top Tip: You must be mentally prepared to ‘burn the bridges’ so you make your attempt the best. 

‘Don’t save anything for the swim back’:

Things to think about when it comes to strategy. 

Think about breaking the workout into blocks. For example if we take a workout such as 10 rounds of 10 C2B Pull Ups, 10 Thrusters @42.5 + 20 Cal Row. We can break this into 10 blocks. 

Ideally you want the last block (10) to be the fastest part of the WOD, the 1st block to be the second fastest and from 2-9 to be the third fastest part.  As an estimate the hardest part of most workouts is 3/4 of the way through. Breaking down the workout into parts can help you predict this and mentally prepare for them.

Identify what matters generally about the workout. Is going an extra 100 cals per hour on the rower going to impact another movement negatively for example.

Then identify what matters specifically for you (specific movements you are good at, ones you will have to manage, a particular rep scheme effect on the workout etc). 

Identify what can be decided beforehand. This could be the way you warm up and prepare. It could be that you are certain of your ability to crank out 50 WBs at the start of the WOD without it hurting the rest of your workout.

Identify what will need to be decided or adjusted as you go. For example, your rep schemes as the metabolic insult of the workout reduces your ability to ‘do work’

Stick to your game plan. 

There are no ‘second chances’ in other competitions

As far as ‘The Sport of Fitness’ and similar competitions go, you aren’t allowed to ‘try again’ if you mess up the first time. You should become adept at planning your workout (pacing, resting, technique, etc.) so that you get your best score right out of the gate. 

Giving yourself the option to repeat will prevent you from learning how to ‘knock it out of the park’ on your first try. 

Most top level athletes that sit near the top of the open rankings know themselves and the movements so well they can execute a plan 9 times out of 10. Every so often they may repeat a workout if they took a gamble on the first, or there are ‘weird’ rules about a lift immediately after or achieving a certain number of reps before a certain time to move on.

You are more likely to pick up niggles. 

There is a reason why good programs usually don’t have folks doing hundreds of reps of the same movement a few days apart, unless it has a clear rationale. 

It puts your actual training progress on hold

When people are hyper focused on the Open their progress stalls for 5-6 weeks. 

When you are planning on doing the workouts 2 or 3 times, you are NOT making overall gains. You are resting the day before their first attempt, then resting between attempts, then resting the day after, all while hammering movement that won’t be coming up in later weeks.

That only leaves a couple days to try and get some training in before the next announcement! 

It can be mentally draining. 

It can sometimes be intense to place a lot of emotional energy doing these workouts. 

By planning on doing the workout one time, you are giving yourself the permission to move on. Once your workout is complete, it’s happy days. You can move on.

You can focus on getting back to your training. You can focus on the movements that are likely to come out in the next workouts and/or getting ready for the next competition (whether that is Regionals, a local competition, or the next Open).

Some notes about when a ‘repeat’ might be a good idea

There are times when a repeat might be a good idea below. However, they should all be discussed with your coach. 

  • If you really ‘botched’ the first attempt (because of a super bad strategy, pacing, a rule misunderstanding, etc.).
  • If there are unconventional formats or rules. Things like having to do a max effort lift immediately after a metcon, having to do a certain number of reps to ‘break through’ to another round, etc.
  • If you failed at a movement that you were really close to getting. Almost getting that muscle up, or snatching that next barbell load come to mind.
  • If you are ‘on the cusp’ of qualifying for the next level. Age Group Qualifiers are the only one here unless you have a chance of going to the games by coming 1st in the country or top 20 in the world.

One last thing…

The CrossFit Open is a TON of extra work for the team. We have quite a few tasks that include:

  • Ensuring everyone who is signed up gets a chance to perform the WOD.
  • Organizing Heats.
  • Setting up the gym layout.
  • Judging
  • Approving scores
  • Coaching during the heats
  • Consoling people who aren’t happy
  • And more!

Even if you have determined that a repeat is something that you absolutely need to do, reach out to a coach or [email protected]

The best way it to ask politely if there is a possibility of doing it again, and what would be the best day and time for you to do it. Any time you are repeating a workout, the coaches (who have to be there to open the gym), and the judge, are doing you a HUGE FAVOR. You are going to have to be the one with a flexible schedule (do not ask them to come in around your schedule). Offer to pay an extra drop in fee if, and definitely give them a ‘thank you’ gift (a note, gift card, coffee, etc.).

Keep in mind that if you are asking to do a repeat, so probably are others. And if they let ‘some’ people do it, then everyone gets the chance. This adds significantly to the workload, and you have to remember that all of this extra work is on top of the regular day to day operations of the gym! Some gyms have a ‘1 repeat’ or ‘2 repeats’ max to help limit the amount of extra work, and to limit the ‘repeat mania’ that some folks get into. You should consider holding yourself to something similar. Your coaches will love you for it!

I hope this helps you understand some of the strategies behind doing repeat workouts, and how it all fits into the bigger picture.

Remember that it isn’t about where you finish this year. It is about how this year made you better!

Home truths about working from home…

working from home

Shapesmiths coach, Karima Adi takes us through some home truths, when it comes to working from home! She lays out how to look after your posture whilst at your desk during lockdown…

Lockdown 3.0 sees many of us working from home and therefore from the (dis)comfort of our kitchen tables, counters, desks, sofas and everything in between.

Not having the gym to access for our fitness for the time being also means that our work at home area has also become our workout area, meaning that our current level of activity & movement is further reduced. This means that we are spending a lot more time sitting, and most of that for extended periods of time. 

So if we are going to spend more time sitting/working, then it’s imperative that we look at adopting postures that ensure that we’re not upsetting the delicate balance of our bodies even further.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO to look after your posture whilst at your desk during lockdown and ensure that your work station is set up as well as it can possibly be to aid us in working as discomfort free as possible?

STEP 1 – DO NOT SIT for more than 15 minutes at a time

What happens when we sit for too long?

  • The psoas along with various other muscle tissues begins to shorten in an effort to keep our torso stable, due to your glutes essentially being switched off when you’re in a seated position. When this occurs over long periods of time, you may notice that it feels more difficult or uncomfortable to stand up fully/extend.

As Crossfitters & Weightlifters we are extension driven – compromising that by sitting for too long can therefore compromise the integrity of our athletic performance.

  • Can you take a meeting/work call on a walk? We know right now it’s often grey, dark and rainy, but the movement will be well worth it! Just have a warm shower, a hot cup of coffee and your comfies ready for when you get back!

STEP 2 – Let’s take a look at your workstation: 

  • Are you sitting or standing to work?
  • If you’re sitting, what is your set up?
  • What is the angle of your forearms/elbows to the floor?

Ideal working set up: standing vs sitting

Sitting:- what is the BEST set up if you’re going to be sitting down whilst working from home?

  • Feet flat on the floor
  • Roll your shoulders back 
  • Move every 15 mins – SET AN ALARM
  • If moving every 15mins is not possible, figure an interval that works for you and set THAT up as an alarm!

Standing:- though this is a lot better for you, standing for long periods of time is not the most comfortable thing to do.

How do we make this more comfortable and more efficient?

  • Have something (stack of books etc) to put one foot on to take the extension load out of the spine and support it accordingly by adding a little bit of neutral flexion.
  • Adding a bar stool/high chair to the mix means that even though you are sitting down, not doing so fully and you are STILL weight bearing meaning you haven’t switched the entire musculature system off completely, hanging on your connective tissue.

STEP 3 – Breathing

  • Can you take a deep breath in your work set up position? If you’re in a “bad” position, the answer is most likely NO.
  • Add some breathing exercises: 
  1. Box breathing (In for 5/ hold for 5/ out for 5/ hold for 5 [seconds]) 
  2. In for 6, hold for 6, out for 10 [seconds]


Roll your shoulders encouraging an externally rotated (as opposed to internally rotated) position. Opens up the ches, allows for better breathing.

Get up every 15-20 mins – perform a few air squats perhaps.

Spend some of your working day standing – BUT do so with the correct set up – it needn’t be expensive to set up, stacks of books are the perfect tools!

Roll/rotate your wrists so they don’t stiffen up only ever perched in a typing-ready position – imagine a front rack position with super tight wrists – NOT FUN

So there you have it. Some sage advice, but now it’s time to put it into practice and make it a habit. To accompany this article, I’ll be delivering a short webinar via the Shapesmiths Members Page. Stay tuned for the date announcement!

Building Better Bones FAQs

Welcome to the Building Better Bones FAQ document! We have put this together to answer all your questions as you start your journey on the path to feeling more confident in your daily activities and enjoying exercise. 

Here are all the questions we have had so far below with a little response from us. If you still can’t find the answer to your question, please use the BBB WhatsApp group or email either Lee: [email protected] or Emma: [email protected]

Looking forward to seeing you all in the next class!

Booking Classes & Wodify

Q: How much is a class? 

We want to offer Building Better Bones for FREE for a few weeks so you can get into a routine with it and feel some benefits! If you’d love to get involved do let Lee know and he will get you signed up with our booking software, called WODify. This software allows you to book your BBB classes in advance. This means Emma and Lee will know who is attending and can plan accordingly for any modifications or tailoring of exercises. 

Q: How much is a class, continued…? 

After the free period, we would have to add in a small charge to cover our cost to provide the classes, but for now, we will bear that cost as we believe in this project and the good it can do immensely!

To stress, there is no pressure to carry on past your initial free period. If it’s not right for you. Just as a heads up, the pricing options would be 

  • £8.50 per class, PAYG (booking and payment via our WODify system) 
  • £60/m gives access to all classes, Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 1PM (booking and payment via our WODify system)

This will also include access to the live coached session, programming and the WhatsApp update group where you will receive the Workout of the Day (WOD) in advance with a tips and modifications video so you feel confident going into each session.

We want to help as many people as possible, and if cost is an issue, please do not hesitate to contact Lee to see what we can offer you.

Q: How do I join the Building Better Bones WhatsApp Group? 

When you have been added as a Shapesmiths member on WODify, we will send you a link to add yourself to the group.

Q: What is the Building Better Bones WhatsApp Group For?

It is a really positive online community space to ask questions if needed. It is also where Lee & Emma will send you the exercise session in advance so you can prepare and get any equipment you may need together. Often this will be accompanied by handy videos with demonstrations of each exercise so you can prepare and go into class confidently. Don’t worry we will always go through technique in class too and give you options for each exercise to choose from. 

Q: I’m busy at 13:00, how do I follow the recorded workouts?

We record every workout that we do, so that if you can’t make the live session time, you can follow along in your own time. Bear in mind you won’t have any coaches watching or checking your movements.  Don’t do anything you are concerned about, stop if it hurts, be very careful.  You are doing this at your own risk, but it can still be of huge benefit for you.

We highly recommend you do the live workout with us, as you will get lots of quality feedback on your form, interaction with others in the group, and the coaches also love getting to know you and how your bodies move! This keeps you extra safe. 

If you do want the recording you will need to email Lee to be signed up as a Shapesmiths member on WODify, our booking system. Then you simply sign up for each class and will get an email with the recording soon after the class finishes. All instructions are also in the welcome email that comes through.

Q: Also with the class recordings that have taken place since I signed up, I’ve been receiving the links via the Whatsapp group – do these expire after a certain amount of time?

Unfortunately, yes they will expire after 30days. We suggest you download the videos if you would like to do so. 

Q: Will there be some sessions at a US friendly time?

The nice thing about being in the UK is that we are in the middle of the world for timings. 1PM should mean that in the US you will be able to join us in the morning time! What a way to start the day! If you have kids, feel free to include them too!

As we continue and grow our reach, and if there is a demand for it, we would love to build out our timetable! So, tell your friends!

About the Classes – is it for me?

Q: I don’t know my risk of fracture? Am I ok to join in?

Building Better Bones (BBB) classes are definitely suitable for anyone, even if you just want to sit and watch, feel part of the community and maybe ask the coach a question at the end?

Hopefully everybody knows from their GP &/or specialist, if not, do ask them at your next appointment your fracture risk, what level of exercise (low, medium or high) you can do & what amount of weight you can lift generally & exercise safely with.  There is an online Frax tool which calculates fracture risk which is currently used by GPs & specialists to decide what risk individuals are at for fracturing & also if they need treatment, although medics will also make a judgement call about this and might not use Frax eg. if individuals have had a lot of vertebral fractures or injuries or have unusual or rarer eg. younger or pregnancy associated osteoporosis, they may be judged to be at higher risk than their Frax scores. Hopefully Frax will be refined & improved going forwards.

Another online tool is the Q-fracture algorithm, which gives the 10-year probability of fracture, and were developed especially for UK population between the age of 33 and 99.can be found here Q-fracture : Bone Health Assessment

If you feel extra nervous please get in touch with Lee or Emma ahead of time so we can discuss your needs, which are very important to us! 

We have some individuals who are at high fracture risk taking part in our classes. Some who can only do low impact exercise and limited weight lifting. In these cases their osteoporosis specialist physiotherapists have checked and approved the classes.  But the classes are designed for all levels and there are also people doing the classes who have low fracture risk, who can do high impact exercise and lift heavy weights.  We really think the classes will help everybody wanting to build Better Bone Health.

We will prepare you for exercises by offering a personal chat (if needed), and also via the BBB WhatsApp group (workouts released in advance, advice, video help) so you can get the Bone Building benefit of the sessions. All sessions are actually COACHED too. This means you will get individual feedback throughout the session as well as eyes on you to keep you making progress. 

Also note we are working within the ROS guidelines for Exercise for Bones and stay up to date with the latest research on bone health and the impact of exercise on it. Note: we are not affiliated with the ROS (Royal Osteoporosis Society), simply using their guidelines that are freely available and open source, in conjunction with research from several other sources to inform, support and balance almost 30 years of fitness industry knowledge.


Q: Should I do a session like this every day?

For now, we recommend sticking with our 3 x per week classes. Maybe mix it up with other activities you like doing or that have been recommended to you so you get a variety and continue to enjoy everything you are doing! In an ideal situation, we would like to put on classes that are suitable for people with Osteoporosis & Osteopenia daily (Monday – Saturday) so you have the option to join in daily and get moving. As we progress with you all as a group, hopefully this is where we will end up!

We would also include those who have been Osteoporotic or Osteopenic in the past and are keen on staying out of that category. The caveat is you will need to go at your own pace with every class and listen to our suggested modifications. In some cases, you may need to build up how frequently you attend and mix in some days where you take a nice walk or jog or run, depending on whether you can do low, medium or high impact exercise. The classes are intended to build health, wellness and fitness across a broad spectrum of attributes.  

Q: Are the exercises catered for different needs and abilities?

For sure every exercise has levels to it and we try and explain the levels in each class. Indeed in our other groups we have a whatsapp support group where we demonstrate the exercises and their modifications so it gives an opportunity for folks to take the wheel and prepare for the next day’s session. Obviously we are just starting out here and don’t have that set up yet. 

The key thing here is if 3 sets of 3 of 4 repetitions feels good on any given day, you should for sure take control of that. We can even show you how to use the chat function on Zoom or to mute and unmute yourself so you can flag that if it feels scary. We will then give you some further instructions to help the movement feel way less scary. Over time you will build up and have some super confidence 🙂 

If something comes up and you are not keen, you can always flag it ahead of time and we can modify it for you 🙂 

Q: I’m self-conscious about being on camera, do I have to show my video screen?

This is actually a very common question regarding zoom classes! First of all, do not worry, as it is very unlikely anyone will be watching you! Screens are pinned to watch whoever is talking, which is mostly your coach unless you are unmuted.

Essentially, yes you can turn your video camera off, however we strongly advise you to keep it on, this way we can provide instant feedback, such as a small tweak to your movements and therefore help you get the most out of your workout and more importantly, you will be safer! 

Q: Why am I muted during sessions?

We start with a lovely chatty catch up section to welcome everyone to the session, but then mute everyone in the zoom class so there is no feedback (noise) over your coaches voice, and so that you can clearly hear us. It is really hard to hear the coach talk if you are not all muted!

We will also have a debrief and chat time at the end of class. You will also be encouraged to un-mute yourself at any time during the class to ask questions. If you don’t want to speak up in the class, you can also use the chat function to message everyone or to send a private message to the coach.

Q: I want to find out more on the coaches. What are your instagram links? 

Lee is & Emma is you can follow Shapesmiths too Both Emma and Lee are on linkedin too if you wanted to search and check on backgrounds. 

Q: Can we talk more about nutrition?

Liam made an appearance in our first ever BBB session – click HERE to watch the recording. Liam is from pH Nutrition, he has a wealth of knowledge and focuses on what we call world class basics (WCB). WCB means getting the real food side of things squared away before anything else. He really does have a good handle on it all. 

He also has a team of Nutritionists that work for him that include clinical nutritionists specialising in conditions like IBS. Which means getting the real food side of things squared off before anything else. He really does have a good handle on it all. Check out more here and get in touch if you want to chat to him:

Q: What kind of footwear do I need?

In short, if you wear the right shoes, you will move well and transfer force effectively. How? well, the running shoes, tennis pumps, and sports fashion trainers you have on your feet often have huge padding and shock-absorbing ‘tech’ built-in. For our program, rather than absorb force, you want to use the force that your body produces to help you move the weight/object/bodyweight you are lifting. This can aid correctly stressing your bones so they start to strengthen. The more force you can produce; the more weight you can move effectively, due to the amount of ground reaction force you can produce. Newton’s third law of motion if you think back to science class.

Q: I’m not osteopenic, but anxiously approaching the menopause, can I join the classes to prevent a fracture?

What a great question! 

Yes, of course, we would definitely recommend you joining the classes to help with fitness and general health and alleviating menopause symptoms. You will learn how to move well first, then with load, building stronger muscles to support your bone health. 

We know that physical activity can alleviate or reduce some symptoms & improve the quality of life. Research studies have proved that exercise can result in improvements in sleep quality, insomnia and depression. Exercise during and after menopause also offers various other benefits, including preventing weight gain. – Age UK

Exercises & Programming

Q: What about balance exercises? 

In classes we may do some exercises that you don’t realise are actually helping to improve your balance. Some examples of this being our “foot clocks” and certain lunge progressions we have used so far, both of which will help you with your balance over time by strengthening those muscle groups that help you to stabilise.

If you have a spare 5 minutes, watch this great video on Foot Clocks and get practising!

Q: Is this enough core? 

On the whole, the sessions will give you plenty of core challenges. We will be including some floor work in the future too. Sometimes we may run out of time, or have a longer workout, in which case there is normally some kind of core movement hidden in the exercises!  Additionally, we will have a big focus on neural adaptations to training for balance etc. 

If you have had a baby we would recommend reaching out to Helen Keeble, who is a Pelvic Health Specialist, – Helen Keeble can be found here: and she has an insta Q&A every Thursday. Tell her you know Lee & Emma from Shapesmiths and she will look after you. 

Q: How does the programming work? Is it just random or is there thought behind it?

Our long term goals for you are distinctly structured, following Shapesmiths principles and methodologies…

CrossFit specifically advocates that we focus on movement FIRST, then we build consistency, then finally intensity.  This fits nicely alongside the current general guidelines for exercising with osteoporosis and osteopenia

It is not a simple task to produce programming that not only progresses each individual over time, but also allows for new individuals to join the program at any time. However, we do feel that the way we have designed this program and the guidelines enforced each session allow us to challenge each of you individually, whilst allowing for risk-free exercise.

Q: What exercises can I do to strengthen my flabby tummy?

Consistency with nutrition and exercise is the key component to most goals of this nature. Sorry that there is no quick fix. We recommend focusing on what we call world class basics when it comes to exercise (mastering the movements) and nutrition and building a routine around these. Then goals as described above will fall into place given the right time frame. 

Aches & Pains

Q: I have face and neck pain, sometimes behind the eyes and linked to headaches. Any tips?

Lee has produced a wonderful document on this topic here for you!

Q: I have had sciatica type pains, what will help relieve this?

Firstly, speak to your PT and check there is no underlying issue. We believe in the phrase “motion is lotion” as sciatica is worsened from stress, lack of sleep and unhealthy lifestyle. We also  like to get you to ‘wake up your sleepy glutes’ and have a go at this series of 4 exercises, adapting them to suit your ability. 


You could also include standing rotations and laying rotations a few times a day. 

Q: I have pains in my lower back, what can I do?

Obviously first thing is speak to your PT and check there is no underlying issue e.g. a re-fracture. If this is muscular aches and pains we do have some stretches that you can try, links below. Don’t forget, consistently coming along to classes will also help, as movement is key to keeping your joints and body feeling great!


Lying Hamstring

Samson/ Lizard

Also, see above question linking to sciatica, as the glute activations will also help!

Plan the week, Zoom WODs & how they help.

We are 10 days deep into Lockdown 2.0 and we really are here to keep you moving.

We have a number of programs online led by our lovely coaches, that we would love for you to get involved with. But first, we have a few recommendations on how best to set up your week with our offerings.

Set up for a great week!

  1. Pick the classes that you will do each day, a couple days or a week in advance. You can choose a mix of Live WOD classes and Broomstick Weightlifting with Yoga, Mobility, Running, Cycling & Handstand Sessions either Live or on catch up. 
  2. If you have planned your movement for the week you will be able to work in your food to fuel and recover which is super important. This will have huge carry over to your work productivity too and most likely will reduce decision stress. Which sounds pretty good to us. Stuck for ideas on what to cook? Check out pH Nutritions recipes and tips here:
  3. Set yourself little goals and targets for the week. For example: Basic: Aim to run twice per week Advanced: Aim to run 15-20km next week. Cover off Coach Mark’s Cycling challenge. Attend two online zooms next week. Complete two mobility sessions with Karima and JJ.
  4. Finally remember, that it’s OK to do just a little bit of the above. The goals that you set should be personal and should not be too overwhelming. It could even be that you will get up at a regular wake time each day or simply  cook enough dinner to have it for lunch the next day too.

How will the Zoom WODs help me?

In our programming we utilise ‘Functional Movements’ that have huge carry over to many other movements. These are technically described as ‘Universal Motor Recruitment Patterns’. The best way to explain this is that Universal Motor Recruitment Patterns are elemental, they are the primary colours of movement.

The 7 foundational primary colours of movement we use are:

  1. Running
  2. Jumping
  3. Pushing & Pressing
  4. Pulling
  5. Squatting
  6. Flexion and Extension
  7. Rotating & Twisting

So, by keeping these ticking over and improving during the next few weeks you will come back to the gym and be able to ease in a lot quicker.  We have the CrossFit open coming up (commencing Feb 18th ‘21) so maybe this will help some of you stay super switched on.

Have faith, DB snatches will transfer to your barbell snatch. Handstands will transfer to better mobility and catch positions for any of the jerk movements, push press, or OHS. Burpees will transfer to your deadlifts. The list goes on.  When December 2nd comes around it won’t take much work to get familiar with the barbell and rig once more.

Have an awesome week, everyone! Hopefully see you online!

How you can use Resilience Days to develop your mind ‘game’…

The “Resilience” days in our program, more than anything – are opportunities to work on breath and controlling your own mind. 

Resilience exists when you utilise certain ”mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors”

Robertson, I.T, et al (2015) “Resilience training in the workplace from 2003 to 2014: A systematic review” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology88 (3): 533–562

In simpler terms, psychological resilience exists in people who ‘develop psychological and behavioral capabilities that allow them to remain calm during crises/chaos and to move on from the incident without long-term negative consequences.

The idea is simple yet challenging to master: Control your breath and thoughts during a very challenging workout. If you walk away from the workout with a sense that you were able to calm your mind and negative thoughts through breath, then you’re headed in the right direction.

Within our Resilience sessions we would like you all to utilise these 4 tools to deal with the adversity of the WOD, in the hope, this crosses over to other areas of your life.

1. Visualisation: Imagining success, with a lift, a set of thrusters/devils press, a set of/your first pull up/s. You can do this before class or simply take a moment to do this during class.

2. Setting small, achievable goals: This is easy to practice when you see a Chipper WOD. Don’t think about the big set of 100 DB squat snatches you have to do, instead break this down into manageable sets of 5-10reps. This success with the little things will add up.

3. Breathing: One of the most undertrained elements of fitness training and in life. Use the Resilience sessions to practice controlling the way you breathe, deep slow breathing in through the nose (unless your previous rugby/boxing career has left you with a deviated septum) and out through the mouth to reduce tension. Breathing has a two-way relationship with biochemical, biomechanics and psychophysiological systems of the body. Don’t over look this element.

4. Positive self-talk: Assertive positive statements like: ‘I CAN do this’, reminding yourself to ‘stay calm and keep moving forward’ can be game changers. Turn up the positive chatter in your head when times get uncomfortable during a WOD.

If you have tried this and found some success, let us know! [email protected]

What you should know about Practice, Benchmark & Resilience Days…

The way the programming team set things up at Shapesmiths is very unique to us. The system you workout within has developed, with influence from some pretty amazing people, over the course of the last 20 years in the fitness industry.

Last year all the hard work of the team paid off as we can proudly claim to be the fittest gym in the UK and Fifth fittest in the WORLD, judged by the CrossFit Open rankings for our full roster of members. That’s a sign of some pretty healthy individuals!

Below you will learn a little of the background and the why behind what we do. If you want to delve a little deeper we have a blog series available on our Shapesmiths Members Page on Facebook.


If Shapesmiths are running members, or allowing members to run themselves into the ground with huge amounts of exercise and multiple classes in a day, those members won’t be here in 6-months time for one reason or another. This is meant to be a lifetime relationship that we are developing with you.  We want to teach you principles that will stay with you forever, so that you are alway closer to fitness than to sickness, on the continuum

Fitness is typically described by Greg Glassman’s ‘What is Fitness article’ and by his Fitness Pyramid shown here

The one thing that it does not consider is mental and psychological fitness. This is why we add a final foundation, below nutrition…CONTEXT. 

Context is provided by programming that recognises that as an athlete you can have 90+ movements to learn in the CrossFit world. With that being the case we should learn how to PRACTICE movements some days, compete against the clock on others to test and BENCHMARK some of the movements we have been practicing. Additionally, it is beneficial to test our RESILIENCE once in a while, whilst being open to your coach moderating your session depending on what they see in front of them. This is the artisanship of coaching human beings. Essentially it’s your coach knowing what type of day you have had and adjusting the workout so you can get a little bit better than your yesterday self. 


The programming itself is a MIND over BODY plan. Programming begins Monday to Friday (5days) x 2 weeks. This gives us 10 days or our 100% in this case. Pre-COVID this leaves the weekends open for organic fluctuation such as team workouts, fun challenges, fundraisers, box ‘throw-downs’, BBQs, Track Sessions, Swim days and more.

Prepare for some percentages to be thrown at you below…

How the programming is split up.

P = Practice Days and make up 60% of training days.

B = Benchmark Days and makes up 30% of training days.

R = Resilience Days and makes up 10%

50% of Benchmark days are movements that we are working on as a gym in a particular training cycle (12 weeks). The other 50% are something we are not practicing. This preserves some of the unknown and unknowable philosophy that CrossFit is famous for. 

The above equalises the training exposure and experience. A particular 12-week cycle is broken down further into a 6-week block. Similar themes are repeated or tweaked, depending on how the 6-week block went. Sometimes we will repeat a benchmark to get a test/retest result so we have another metric to show improvement!

P-days are characterised by intervals with in-built rest periods, For Quality WODs and EMOMs. This allows us to prioritise practice and training as we include ample rest periods to repeat skills without significant fatigue. 

B-days prioritise relative-intensity, based on your ability and challenging yourself sometimes to beat a previous record. These days will often have a time cap to help you make great decisions with intensity [KGs/Reps/Sets/Rounds]

Furthermore, in each two week block the three competition days feature one phosphogenic, one glycolytic and one oxidative test. In other words, one test that lasts 0-10 seconds (like lifting a 1-3rep max deadlift), one that lasts for up to several minutes (like the workout Fran or Helen) and one that lasts for longer than several minutes, like Barbara. Reducing benchmark days further, you’ll see short, medium and long tests. 

R-days, more than anything, are opportunities to work on breath and controlling chatter in your mind. The idea is simple yet challenging to master: Control your breath and thoughts. Generally, the clock doesn’t matter for these workouts. If you walk away from the workout with a sense that you were able to calm your mind and negative thoughts through breath, then you’re headed in the right direction. 

Within our R days we would like you all to practice 4 tools to deal with the adversity of the WOD, in the hope, this crosses over to other areas of our lives.

  1. Visualisation: Imagining success, with a lift, a set of thrusters, a set of/your first pull up/s. You can do this before class or simply take a moment to do this during class.
  2. Setting small, achievable goals: This is easy to practice when you see a MT Chipper WOD. Don’t think about the big set of 100 DB squat snatches you have to do, instead break this down into manageable sets of 5-10reps. This success with the little things will add up.
  3. Breathing: One of the most under trained elements of fitness training and in life. Use the MT sessions to practice controlling the way you breathe, deep slow breathing in through the nose (unless your previous rugby/boxing career has left you with a deviated septum) and out through the mouth to reduce tension. Breathing has a two-way relationship with biochemical, biomechanics and psychophysiological systems of the body. Don’t over look this element.
  4. Positive self-talk: Assertive positive statements like: ‘I CAN do this’, reminding yourself to ‘stay calm and keep moving forward’ can be game changers. Turn up the positive chatter in your head when times get uncomfortable during a WOD.

What is the program set up to achieve? What are the main aims and goals?

1)    There are ten recognized general physical skills within CrossFit’s definition of fitness. They are cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. The first aim of the program is to make you competent in each of these ten skills.

2)    Measurable, Repeatable, Observable. The fact that we use WODify to track your fitness data allows us to quantify, to some extent, the 10 physical skills. Furthermore the CrossFit Open is the major test that we program for at Shapesmiths. It brings the worldwide, and local community together. It is a great too to get valuable date and to compare your fitness/work capacity against previous tests and those in your country, Europe and worldwide.

3)  In short by developing the above you will become prepared for the unknown and unknowable things that may come up in your life. We genuinely believe that the CrossFit program is the greatest hedge against disease and metabolic type disorders. 

A quick note on athletic development.

What if you desperately want that elusive muscle up or bodyweight snatch? This is where the context comes in from our coaches. You may hear us say ‘’You’re not there, yet. We have to work the foundational basics to get you there’’ and then we will insert an appropriate scale/modification.

What if you want to go hard every session? Well that’s understandable. The high intensity workouts are what we all fell in love with, but at some point if we are not working the basics, something is going to give and we won’t have you as a member anymore. 

This is the blending of science and art that we look for in all our coaches here.

The neat thing about this is that it means that all our coaches can coach anyone from general populations to games athletes as no one is above doing the basics otherwise known as ‘doing the common, uncommonly well.’

Shapesmiths Gymnastics Class

This weekend (18.10.20) we launch the Shapesmiths Gymnastics Class. But what is it and why is it good for you to follow? 

First of all it’s important to say that this is not a traditional gymnastics class, full of tumbling, pommel and rhythmic skills.  Instead we work around what we would call ‘CrossFit Gymnastics’ that is…in the most basic of terms…elements of traditional gymnastics that will help you ‘do the fitness’, much better.  

We have put together a structured weekly class program, that is centred on developing and mastering elemental gymnastic positions, flexibility & developing core strength. This is a perfect accompaniment to WOD, Engine AND Weightlifting classes.

The class will initially cover three main elements:

  1. Wrist Mobility
  2. Handstand/Inversion
  3. A developmental gymnastics WOD that builds towards HSPUs.


With 27 bones, 27 joints and over 100 ligaments and tendons your wrist and hand will often need some care and attention when it comes to the movements that we perform in CrossFit.

By working on your wrist & hand mobility not only will we improve handstand related elements, we will also be able to improve other positions, such as your barbell front rack position for front squats and cleans.

This can also have a positive effect on your elbow and in some cases even further up the chain, to your shoulder! Huge benefits!


Getting upside down in a handstand for CrossFit newbies is often something that hasn’t been attempted since childhood. The class will slowly develop the basics of inversions so that you can reap the fitness benefits.

By working on straight arm strength you will learn how to use your bones as scaffolding upon which you can more effectively stack load (body weight or external load) and reduce the dependence on the muscles. This will transfer over to other skills such as Olympic Lifting and barbell movements too! 

Gymnastics WOD

At the end of the session we will work through 3-4 exercises, in a WOD-style, that will assist and further develop the elemental positions of gymnastics (think hollow body ‘core’ work, presses, balances and positional work) under mild fatigue.


If you can’t make Saturday’s classes at 9AM & 10AM the programming is live on WODify for you to see and give a go in open gym! If you follow along you are sure to make some amazing improvements! If you are following in your own time, let us know how you are getting on!