Meet the Coaches: Iain Donaldson
Meet the coaches by Jack Calvert
Name: Iain Donaldson
Biggest Strength: anything overhead
Biggest weakness: back squat
From: born Peterhead, grew up in Auchterarder
Deadlift: 140kg; Back squat: 120kg; Shoulder press: 62.5kg; Bench press: 110kg; Clean: 95kg; Snatch: 50kg; Fran: 4:48; Grace: 4:03; Annie: 6:42; Filthy fifty: 23:28.
Until recently, he spent a lot of time in the desert in charge of a small group of elite snipers, but these days you’re more likely to find him leading a troop of CrossFit athletes at 57 North’s base in Inverness.
Iain Donaldson (33) left behind his life as an RAF Sniper Commander earlier this year after 12 years of service and, as well as getting a civvy street job as a mill operator for animal feed manufacturer Harbro, put his CrossFit Level 1 award to good use and began coaching at our beloved box.
Now a well-known face at 57N, most members are likely to have met him already, but this first instalment of our ‘Meet the coaches’ series hopes to take you under Iain’s uniform – figuratively speaking – to find out what really makes him tick.
For starters, we asked him: How did you get into CrossFit?
“I found CrossFit in 2009 while on tour in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The Americans had their own box on the airbase and I used to walk past and see them doing the workouts and wondered what was going on in there.
“Finally, I broke and ventured in to ask what was going on and then was introduced to the name CrossFit. A few Google and YouTube searches later, I started joining in with them at the box and became hooked for the next five months.
“My first workout was “Chelsea” which broke me as I was terrible at pull-ups! By about the six minute mark, I had no rest time and just kept doing 5-10-15 for 30 minutes.
“When I returned to the UK, I forgot about CrossFit while on leave and only started again in 2011 when I moved to RAF Lossiemouth where a few lads there were doing it. I joined in with a workout and instantly became hooked again.”
How did you become a coach?
“I was pretty lucky really with getting my CrossFit coaching qualification. I was already a qualified personal trainer and was all set to leave the air force when the RAF gave funding for 20 PTI’s to get qualified as a CrossFit Level 1 insrtuctor in April last year.
“As I was probably the biggest CrossFit geek on camp and was always doing workouts, they gave me the opportunity to attend the course. We managed to hold it at RAF Lossiemouth with the seminar staff and I passed first time.”
How does CrossFit relate to your RAF job?
“I was a sniper commander within the Royal Air Force regiment which pushed me mentally and physically.
“On many occasions I had to endure lengthy foot patrols carrying loads of up to 100 lbs over anything from 10km-20km.
“CrossFit gives you a totally different mind-set to normal training, a bit like military training. Some workouts break you down to the point where you want to quit, but you know you have to keep going even if that means slowing the pace or breaking up the reps.
“This mind-set was ideal for the role I had on patrols. I had to endure the weight for hours on end and still carry out a tasking at the end of it.
“I could always and still do relate CrossFit to the job, as now when I think I am exhausted I just think ‘shut up you felt worse during filthy fifty’ and find another gear to keep going.”
What brought you to 57N?
“I left the RAF on June 30 this year and decided that Inverness was the place I would settle. I found out there was a box and dropped the office an email to see if they were looking for coaches, which was the right timing and they welcomed me on board.
“I absolutely love working at the box, I loved it while in the RAF, but even more so now. I was used to strong lads throwing weight around and doing whatever movement was asked of them, and when I got to 57N it was a whole different ball game.
“Initially, it was an eye opener when people said they couldn’t do a particular movement and even when scaled they still couldn’t do it.
“After a little panic we eventually found something they could do. It’s more inspiring to see individuals from all walks of life in the box smashing out a workout before work, after work or on their day off.
“It has shown me that it doesn’t matter who you are and what you’re capable of; anything is achievable.”
What is your biggest CrossFit bugbear?
“I have never liked it when people cheat themselves! As much as I should not let it bother me, it does.
“Over my time in boxes and training, it has always annoyed me when I see people not completing a correct movement or missing reps just to be quicker than the next person.
“I always look at it as, these people always get found out and probably will never compete.”
Name one way most people could improve their training?
“The most obvious one is nutrition, but I love a take-away so… The biggest thing for me is programming and weaknesses.
“If you want to better yourself every week, lose weight and get stronger then you need to stay consistent, keep a diary and always push yourself. Get to classes regularly and try even to make it to the open gym sessions to work on weaknesses.
“One piece of advice I could give is to never say ‘that weight is fine – I’ll stick with that – I don’t like doing them’.
“Always look to better yourself and push to the limits. I have noticed that as people we are capable of doing amazing things if we put our mind to it so I always think give yourself a push once in a while.
“As a 33-year-old bloke, I still want to compete with the 18-year-old lads. Even in the military as a commander I would never let the younger lads get the better of me on any fitness aspect, it’s the same in the box.
“I’m really competitive and always try to have the best form along with the best time. My ambition is to compete in 2015, not to win as I know that’s a long way off, but to see how I fare against others and to see how far off I am from the standard.
“I would like to do more team events also and would love to get a few decent teams out together from 57N and put Inverness on the map.”