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The UK’s Fittest Man: “We’re In Lockdown, But My Goals Haven’t Changed”

There’s no denying that lockdown has had a huge effect on our training this year. We’re inspired daily by how you’ve all adapted to the new normal — and by your creative ways to work out.  

Despite our best efforts, we know that some days you’re just really lacking motivation to come up with a new way to train your back, or are just really missing your favourite abs class. 

To remind you that you’re not alone and to get some great tips, we’ve spoken to Myprotein athletes on how they’re adapting their routines to still meet their goals. 

Next up is the newly crowned “UK’s Fittest Man”, functional fitness athlete Zack George.  

Zack is leading the charge for the UK within functional fitness right now and was invited to compete in the functional fitness games this year.  

With those being pushed back, he has shifted his focus slightly, moving away from peaking for competition to develop technical proficiency and mastery of certain difficult movements as well as developing his “motor”. 

He’s also been consistently putting up daily workouts for people to jump in on, entertaining the masses with his videos and keeping a sense of humour throughout this whole situation.  

We spoke to Zack and asked him how he’s adapted his life and training in this new norm. 

 

Maintaining structure, protecting routine

One of the practices that Zack has felt has helped him the most to maintain his current level of performance and physique is routine.  

He told us “The advice I would give to other people during lockdown, would be to maintain the same, if not similar, routine as you had before lockdown. 

Pre-lockdown, I would usually train at 10.30 am for around 1.5 hours and then again at 5 pm for around 2 hours, followed by 30-40 minutes of stretching.  

So, during lockdown, I have stuck to those training times and I have found that has really helped me transition into a more consistent home training regime.  

Those same rules apply for nutrition and sleep as well, keeping the same timings, style of food and usual sleeping hours has made it a fairly easy transition for me. 

Research shows that protecting and upholding a routine can contribute to an overall improved sense and physical state of well-being. 

While Zack’s equipment situation may not be as restricted as others (being the owner of his own functional fitness gym in Leicester he has been able to use some of that kit at home), the demands of functional fitness, especially at the elite level, have forced him to adapt. 

One of the groupings of exercises which separate elite from your more average gym goer, are the gymnastic movements.  

Obviously, there will be very few homes in the UK that could handle having a full gymnastics rig inside or any form of gymnastics equipment.  

When we asked him how he was overcoming this hurdle, Zack said, “To get around this I have been trying to replicate gymnastics movements with the equipment at my disposal.”  

I have attached some rings to a tree near my house so I can keep up my ring work, as well as replicating the pulling movements of the exercises I’m unable to train at home, such as high repetition barbell and dumbbell rows to mimic chest-to-bar and bar muscle-ups.”  

It just goes to show, you don’t need a full gym set up to get the work in, just an imagination (and a very strong tree)! 

 

Goal shifting

We asked Zack just how he is able to keep himself motivated during this time. Functional fitness workouts are incredibly intense and it’d be difficult enough to get yourself motivated for them in a gym environment brimming with energy and other competitors.  

But to be able to push yourself to do them at home when many struggle to get out of their pyjamas is truly something else. 

Zack told us As things stand, I’m gutted not to be competing at the Games in 2020, but it’s really fuelled the fire and in me and motivated more than ever to qualify again next year, in even better shape, so that I can put in the performance of a lifetime. 

Zack also mentioned “As soon as we went into lockdown, I mentally prepared myself that the 2020 Games was not going to go ahead, which shifted my focus straight away onto the 2021 season. 

“I just have to focus on the things which are, like how prepared I am for the 2021 season.”  

Preparing for this outcome in advance, meant he had already begun to shift his goals. Hes making his goals fit to his current environment as opposed to getting frustrated that his current environment may not support his immediate goals. 

Zack told us that his “… current focus is on October for the Open. I will be aiming for my fitness to peak for that event and take the UK’s Fittest Man title for the second year running.  

This unexpected break also gives me a solid year to work on my weaknesses for the 2021 Games. I’m excited about the challenge! 

You could use Zack’s approach, not only for exercise but for life, as there are many things we could be focusing on right now that we may have let slip in our normal busy livesSpeak to family and friends, work on a side hobby, focus on self-education etc.  

Zack’s example shows us that, just because your immediate goals may have to take a backseat, it doesn’t mean that you can’t shift your focus and begin to work towards others that’ll improve your physique, health, relationships, career or whatever else those goals are centred around. 

 

Practicing gratitude

View this post on Instagram

⁣⁣ 🦍 Hey everyone, I wanted to post something as I am receiving so many amazing messages of support. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I found out about the changes to the CrossFit Games 2020 yesterday at the same time as all of you. As it currently stands, unfortunately, it looks like I won't be going to the Games this year. Only the top 20 males and females from the Open have made the cut and I am currently sitting in 26th place so will need 6 people to decline their spots. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ People around the globe are being universally affected by the virus and the main thing I am concerned about is people staying healthy and safe. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Obviously, I am hugely disappointed to have worked as hard as I have to get to the Games and not be able to attend. I wanted to compete and thrive off the amazing support I have received from everyone who has been on this long journey with me. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Don't worry, I am going to use this experience to #fuelthefire, work harder and get to the games in 2021 in even better shape so I can put in the performance of a lifetime for myself and for everyone who has supported me!⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I always aim to motivate and inspire anyone who follows me and this is just another one of those situations. You will always come up against hurdles along any journey you may be on and it is how you overcome them that counts. My hard work, determination and persistence will carry on every day and i’m already excited for next season.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ 😍 I am so grateful for all the love and support from my family, my followers and my sponsors. ⁣ ⁣ #Teamsilverback #Fuelthefire

A post shared by zackgeorge (@zackgeorge) on

What has really helped Zack cement this focus on his new goals is practicing gratitude.  

Zack reflects the coronavirus pandemic is so much bigger than just me not being able to compete at the Games. People are losing their lives, their jobs and being separated from their families. Fortunately, I’m healthy and safe and when you compare that to the situation some people are in, I consider myself very lucky indeed. 

The support he has received as well has been of an incredible help. In his own words Zack told us that he has “been absolutely blown away by the amount of support I have received from people here in the UK and across the globe.  

Knowing so many people are out there supporting me, I’m ready to attack the next season and deliver my best performance for all of them!”  

From his Myprotein family and fanbase, to his functional fitness fans, his own family and friends and many others across the UK and the globe, isolation has given Zack a chance to take a moment and to take all this in.  

Having a strong support network in place can be a critical push towards success in any goal and Zack told us that he cannot wait to get back out there and perform! 

 

The Big Picture

One of the major takeaways we had from our time speaking with Zack was his ability to see “the big picture”.  

Understanding that what we’re going through right now won’t last forever and there is an opportunity to make progress during this time in whatever aspect of life that may be.  

If we can see similarities with who we’re going to be in the future, we are more willing to make choices today contributing to a healthier, more successful lifestyle. 

Before getting into functional fitness, Zack had already gone through a major transformation of his own, having dealt with weight issues early on in his life. At that time, he was able to see the long-term goal and set him up for a level of success we doubt even he anticipated. 

He is now looking forward to the 2021 Games, to reclaim his title as the UK’s Fittest Man and working on his performance related weaknesses to set him up for an even greater level of success. 

He is also human too (you’ll be happy to hear) and one of his closing sentiments was, more than anything, I am looking forward to training with my friends and going out to eat together afterwards.  

The atmosphere of training with all your mates and then just chilling and getting a big cheat meal after a good training session is unbeatable in my book!” I think we can all raise a glass to that Zack! 

 

Take home message

Zack has taken the core aspect of functional fitness — adaptability — and transferred it over to his outlook on life. He’s focused on the long term, adapting his short-term goals to fit the immediate environment and the limitations of it.  

He’s surrounding himself with a supportive network to push him towards his goals, and doing his upmost to maintain his existing routine. 

We could take some of these lessons from Zack and apply it to our own lifestyles. Practicing gratitude and focusing on the big picture may be of particular benefit to a lot of us in this time.  

It’s important to know that this won’t last forever, but what we choose to do during these times will have a significant impact on our lives moving forward.

Feeling inspired by Zack George’s lockdown adaptation?

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Jamie Wright holds an MSc Degree in Human Nutrition and a BSc (Hons) in Sports and Exercise Science, and now works with multiple organisations as well as running his own private practice to help individuals with their nutritional goals. He is accredited with the Association for Nutrition and helped hundreds of clients, from stay-at-home mothers to internationally competing athletes, work within evidence-based, holistic nutrition programming to reach their health and fitness goals. In addition to running his practice, Jamie regularly contributes to the field of nutrition presenting and writing on its many facets. He has had his research presented at the UK Obesity Congress as well as overseas conferences and has authored several e-books whilst contributing to others (including charitable sporting organisations). His research has centred around weight management as well as sports / exercise performance and supplementation. A massive sport nut, avid gym goer and lover of all things dog related, Jamie’s goal in sharing the experience and knowledge he has gained academically and professionally is to provide a source of clarity in the vast amount of “misinformation and noise” that exists within the health and fitness industry.


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