Last week I chatted to Taz about how he coped with having Ramadan during his CrossFit Games preparation. This week I chatted to Taz’s coach, Mark Brine, to find out how he had to adapt Taz’s training and find out how he thought Taz coped with the changes to his training schedule. Taz and Mark have a great bond, not only as Coach and Athlete, but also as great friends. Watching Mark coach Taz is a beautiful thing. Taz is so receptive and listens to everything Mark says. It’s clear that they both have great respect for each other.
How do you know Taz?
I first met Taz when he was 11 years old when he came to the Pro/Am Boxing Club that I coached at alongside running my Crossfit Box. He was an excellent boxer with lots of talent and determination, at the time he had ambitions of turning pro and taking on the world but due to issues with his nose he decided to put all his energy into Crossfit.
You are Taz’s coach?
Yes, but I can’t take all the credit for Taz’s rapid rise as there is a whole team in place that have helped us both on our journey.
Mark said it was absolutely amazing to be able to get one of his athletes to The CrossFit Games. He says that Taz’s talent was obvious very quickly as he had exceptional talent and confidence. Taz said to Mark that he would be at The Games within his first few years of CrossFit and 18 months later they were stood in Madison. Mark said his and Taz’s first few years of CrossFit have been incredible and they have learnt many things along to way. This, together with their great bond, leaves a great platform to build on for next year’s CrossFit Open.
How did Taz’s training change during Ramadan?
Being a non-muslim I never actually realised the commitment needed to complete Ramadan. I thought that once fast was broken then it was bed and an early rise to eat again, I was unaware of the amount of time during the night committed to praying. Once I understood this we decided that Taz could train twice, at 8pm – 9.30ish just before he broke fast and then again at 12/1am. We split the sessions into technical, cardio and strength.
How did he cope with the changes in training?
Luckily Taz only had 2 days at college during the week so he was able to sleep all day most days to recover, once Taz got into the routine he coped fantastically and made gains that were unexpected by everyone involved.
What was the hardest thing for you as a coach?
The hardest thing for me as a coach was the limited time I had to spend with Taz. At the time I had twins that were 9 months old so I could only ever make the first sessions, however, we have a fantastic box and members joined Taz most nights to help him through. I had to trust a process that I had never been through before so that was hard at first.
What was the hardest thing for Taz as an athlete?
Coming off Ramadan was by far the hardest part for Taz, it took much longer to get back into the normal routine of training than it did to get into Ramadan training. Taz definitely suffered a dip in training immediately after Ramadan.
As Mark said above, Taz made gains during Ramadan that no one who was involved in the process thought would happen. It was discussed before that Taz could potentially make strength gains during this period but no one was sure how he would adapt or how his body would be affected. For Taz to make the gains he did was incredible. Mark said that Taz grew immensely as an athlete during Ramadan. Mark says that Taz matured not only as a young man but also as an athlete as he just had to get on with the process; there was no arguing or complaining. Mental strength was also a big learning curve for Taz during this time. Any athlete who is willing to train in the middle of the night and still perform above where they are expected to surely has a very strong mind and one that continued to grow as the process continued. Bearing in mind Taz is only 17 and many adults would shy away from training during the night and put themselves through what Taz did.
What does it take for an athlete to get to the Games?
Apart from the obvious ones, talent, commitment, determination, dare I say selfishness, belief in your ability, I would add that you need to know how to listen as an athlete and be coached. Not only this you need trust, trust in your team, trust in the process and trust in yourself even when you are in that dark place questioning your own ability.
In addition to this, and I believe this is becoming more and more relevant as the sport grows, you need a coach that can feedback information to you immediately and put a plan into place to enable you to reach your full potential at the time you need to be performing your best.
Finally, you need a team behind you that covers every aspect of CrossFit training from programming, specialised coaching, nutrition and recovery.
Do you think the result for Taz would have been the same at the Games if he hadn’t have had Ramadan?
It’s hard to say, we made mistakes that I’ve learnt from and wouldn’t make again but personally I don’t think it was Ramadan why we missed our goal of making the podium. I honestly believe that Taz would have suffered mentally if he did not go through Ramadan. His faith is so strong that if he had trained normally and not fasted this would have affected him more than the dip he had after Ramadan finished. I don’t expect many people to understand this and many people said the Games should have been more important to Taz than Ramadan but you have to know your athlete and know how they tick to realise what will get the best from them.
After Ramadan Mark made notes about what he would change in Taz’s training and nutrition for the next year during Ramadan. Mark said that he would start the process of training during the night more progressive and introduce evening training a couple of weeks before Ramadan started giving Taz more time to adjust so it was not be such a shock on his body. Just as importantly Taz will also taper out of Ramadan more gradually as going straight into Ramadan training and out was far too harsh on Taz and his body.
After talking to both Taz and Mark it is clear that training through Ramadan takes way more planning and consideration than you may first expect. It is not as easy as keeping the same training and nutrition plan. Taz is very lucky that he has a team working around him alongside Mark to keep his programming @jst_competeprogramming and nutrition @ph_nutrition on track.
I can 100% say I have maximum respect for Taz and his ability and mental strength through Ramadan. I spent one night with Taz training and I can honestly say it was the hardest training session I have probably ever done, including my first ever CrossFit session and that is saying something! I couldn’t even link pulls-ups and I continually got wall balls to the face.
Stay tuned for part three where I talk to the owner of pH Nutrition @liamholmesnutrition to see how he and his team had to alter Taz’s nutrition to help him through Ramadan.