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  • James Pook / Q&A

    29th January 2021

    29th January 2021

    By Caitlin Bell

    James Pook, a.k.a. Coach Pooky, broke the chain attached to his 9-5 desk job and pursued his passions, becoming head coach at CrossFit Putney. 

    I used to use Fitness as a way to deal with stress (I used to be a director for a media agency), but the more I got into it I found that the more right I was with myself. Then I had time for others and in the process could help them get right with themselves. A quote I live by is “You are the most important person in your life.” My interpretation is that I need to be 100% with myself so that I can help others; if I'm not 100% how can I be 100% with someone else. The focus of health and fitness shouldn’t be on aesthetics. If we focus on nutrition, training and having our heads in the right place then those pieces of the puzzle will all come together with the best result for you.

    Hey Pooky! Could you tell our readers a little more about yourself? 

    Hey all! So my name is James Pook aka CoachPooky. I'm 31 and currently the Head Coach at Crossfit Putney, and I compete around the world in different functional fitness competitions. Originally from South Africa, I have been in the UK for 14 years but am still very much a beach baby at heart. 

    What does #liveinnermost mean to you? 

    It means expressing myself through staying active with a positive attitude everyday and being the best person I can be.

    Your two favourite Innermost products, and why? 

    The Strong Protein (OMG that taste!!) and The Detox Booster. As my focus is to keep my strength at a level I can compete on any given day, the Strong one gives me everything I need to maintain and gain when needed. The Detox Booster is the first thing I drink every morning to revitalise my body after a night's sleep. 

    What do you do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

    I train twice a day. My morning session is more cardio focused, then the PM is weightlifting, gymnastics and a few workouts. I eat around 4000cals a day and make sure I get 7 1/2 to 8hrs of sleep.

    How did you get into CrossFit? How did you find the change in career from your 9-5 desk job?   

    So until I got into coaching, I was a director in a media agency and used to train at Gymbox. I was always a sporty kid but only found myself in an actual gym for the first time at the age of 22. During my time at Gymbox. I used to train with one of the PT's who started doing Crossfit while I was doing olympic weightlifting. He put me through a few WODs, and I was hooked (it reminded me of the feeling after a tough rugby match). After doing my Crossfit Level 1, the PT I used to train with moved to a Crossfit box, and after a visit they offered me a job! So I shadowed the head coach there while I worked through my notice period, and then I was in and never looked back. It has honestly been the best decision of my life. 

    How has being a Head Coach at Crossfit Putney changed since the pandemic and how have you adjusted?

    It hasn’t been easy especially with the constant changes. It has felt like I’ve been riding a yoyo, but one amazing thing has come out of this is our community. The support we have gotten from them has been truly amazing, and my coaching team has been amazing! So we have managed to keep our heads above water and are constantly looking at ways to improve our offering.

    In your opinion, how has the fitness industry in general adapted to the various lockdowns? Do you think any practices have changed forever?

    I think some handled it very well and some very badly. We needed to understand that at a time where people’s money was more important than ever to them, we couldn’t take anything for granted and that a gym membership is a huge luxury. That being said it is also a lifeline to so many, so if gyms and PT’s were open-minded, then there could have been some amazing stories to come out of this lockdown. Another big plus has been to see the advancements in technology within this sector. Apps specifically were super expensive to build, but now PT’s and gyms can get them for a far more competitive price. I think one thing that will change forever is that even after gyms reopen, they will still offer some form of online membership or offering.

    Why do you think that the ability to adapt is important?

    It's hugely important, and I have seen it first hand. We need to realise that everyone is replaceable, so how do you make that thing that needs replacing not you? Think outside the box and be willing to take a risk.

    What are your top tips for adapting to a new situation or environment quickly?

    Communication and research. Talk to your team and community, and get them involved in your thought process. Do polls on social channels, and get real time feedback from the people who are clients or potential clients. 

    Have you upheld your new year’s resolutions?

    Yes, myself and Becs (another Innermost ambassador) have gone refined sugar free, and while it can get pretty interesting while shopping, we also find it a fun challenge.

    Has there been another time in your life where you felt you had to adapt to a situation? How did you handle this?

    5 years ago, I decided to quit drinking. At the time I was still working in media and had a regular Thursday night out with the lads, so this wasn't an easy one for me, but I stuck to my guns. Also if the people around you are truly your friends. they will accept you for who you are. So pints became orange juice, but I still got my rounds in so no one was short changed.

    Do you think the events of 2020/21 have made you more resilient? Are you proud of how you’ve managed to adapt?

    I have certainly learnt not to sweat the small stuff, to focus on the bigger picture and to really appreciate what I have around me. I can honestly say that I wake up every day with a smile on my face.

    Other Insights

    Discussing Truth & Transparency with Anj Magecha
    Innermost Insider and mindful wellness advocate, Anjali Magecha sat down with us to discuss truth and transparency in the wellness industry, as well as her own journey to unlearn industry myths and reconcile her relationship with food and exercise. Honest, transparent and vulnerable, she sheds light on what it means to be true to yourself even in the most challenging of circumstances. Tell us a bit about yourself and how began your health and wellness journey? Hi, I'm Anj, I’m 23 and I'm passionate about helping people have a healthy relationship with exercise and body image. Before my journey into mindful wellness began, I had poor mental health and would use food to cope, resulting in a vicious cycle. I was chronically under eating, and I had never taken protein powder or any kind of supplement, so I wasn’t hitting my protein goals at all. It took quite a while for me to recognise this but eventually I found myself in a place where I was tired of being constantly unhappy and knew something needed to change. It was at this point I decided to forget all the expectations I had previously put on myself and just do the things that made me happy, with the knowledge that everything else would fall into place. I began getting more into training and lifting and begun fuelling by body with protein powder and supplements such as the Power Booster. Now I feel happier and healthier than ever and want to help other people to achieve the same. View this post on Instagram A post shared by anj |mental health+fitness| (@grow.with.anj) Our campaign for January is truth and transparency. What do you think the importance of this is, particularly in relation to the health and wellness industry? There are so many health and wellness influencers who are not truthful and transparent in their journey, and it makes people feel like a failure when they aren't getting the results that are falsely promised to them. For example, there are people who've become millionaires, have massive brand deals and are living a life that most people could only dream of, all off the back of their fitness transformations. Everything about them just screams success and obviously people want to emulate this. But if those same people don’t disclose the full story people are never going to achieve this and they’ll feel like they’re the problem, because if someone else can do it, why can't you? Humans are quintessentially social creatures; we're always going to be comparing ourselves to one another even when we try to be mindful. So, it's so important to understand that you can save someone a lot of pain by just being honest. This is something that I used to get angry about, but now I know that anger will never be the solution and that you just need to be that other voice and hope that you can help as many people as possible. So, how do you try to be this voice of truth and transparency, particularly within the health and wellness space? I think it’s important to remember that to be entirely truthful and transparent about your journey you also need to be vulnerable enough to share the moments when it isn’t easy. Sharing these moments is infinitely more valuable than just showing the highlights because it makes us realise that we all go through them. However, in the health and wellness industry this isn’t the norm; people use photoshop and promote ‘fat burners’, and avoid any vulnerability, creating this pressure to conform. I think to break this cycle, we all need to be a little more vulnerable. Because whilst waking up at 5am and walking everywhere might make you feel happy and fulfilled, some people need 10 hours of sleep and sometimes you’ll want to sit in front of the TV and watch something mindless. This doesn’t make you a failure and by being honest with yourself about what truly makes you happy and portraying this in a vulnerable way you can help other people realise this too. As you mentioned, the space does currently have a lack of transparency, so how do you discern the truth from the myths? When it comes to fitness and nutrition, I always try to think about who the information is coming from. I hate being a cynic and I love to think that everyone has everyone else's best intentions at heart, but I think it’s important to consider what would this person have to gain if they weren't really telling me the entire story? Then you also need to consider what their credentials are. Are they a doctor or dietitian or are they just someone who looks good? It’s so important that you can know and trust your source of information. I also think, that there’s no one size fits all approach, and the most important source of information should be yourself. For example, I love chaos and I thrive under pressure, so taking five minutes to write affirmations down just doesn’t fit with me. It’s important to trust your own intuition and timing. If you can do both these things then when influencers promote low calorie diets in partnership with these big brands you can ask yourself, what are their credentials, what do they stand to gain and is this something that I think from my own experiences would work for me and make me happy? What is a truth that you've learned during your journey that you're passionate about and think that everyone should know? To get something you've never had you must do something you've never done. What I mean by this is that it's not your fault if something hasn't worked for you. A lot of people blame themselves for not sticking to diets and fitness regimes but if you didn’t stick to it, it’s not you that failed, it’s the diet/ fitness regime that failed. There's a reason why it was so difficult for you to stick to it; perhaps it was too restrictive and resulted in binge eating. Perhaps it was stopping you from enjoying meals out and living your life fully. The answer should never be to blame yourself. You just have to try something new. Create a meal plan which allows you to feel good without restricting yourself and cutting out whole food groups, try a sport you actually enjoy and keep trying new things until you find something that works. You’ll never get to a different destination by taking the same route over and over again. View this post on Instagram A post shared by anj (@anjmagecha) Finally, it feels very relevant to discuss this during January. There’s always this huge influx of mixed advice, myths, and fads at this time of year so what’s your opinions on this and particularly the idea of New Year New Me? I think it's utter rubbish (laughs). You don't need to change people. It's just January. The only changes you should ever make are the ones that genuinely make you happier and you can make these year-round. We all experienced this during lock-down too, there was this huge hustle culture and pressure to use lockdown to learn a new skill or achieve your dream body, and if you weren’t doing this, you were lazy. It made me feel rubbish and I know lots of other people felt the same. It’s so important to try to drown out the pressure and just focus of being in touch with what makes you come alive and what makes you happy. Shifting my focus from external validation to internal happiness is the most important change I made when transitioned from the miserable person I was, to the person I am today. Of course, in the spirit of transparency, not every day is a good day for me and some days I have identity crises and some days I break down. But that's all just part of the job. We’re all a work in progress and the sooner you can embrace all of this and focus on do what makes you happy on a daily basis instead of doing what you think should make you happy, it will open so many doors. To keep up with Anj, check out her Instagram and TikTok for more content on truths vs myths. Read more
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