Sometimes, balancing a demanding career, fitness, travel, and everything else that life throws at us can feel like an impossible task. We’re always in awe of those who manage to climb to the top of their field, whilst juggling it all. Which is exactly why we caught up with successful M&A consultant and CrossFit competitor, Liam McGuinness, to find out exactly how he does it…
Has fitness and sports always been a big part of your life?
It’s been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember for sure. I grew up in a big sports, particularly football, family - I was always playing in the garden or nearby fields with my brothers and friends and it was always on tv. I was a goalkeeper and played at various levels from my hometown to county. I had a brief period when I was 13 where I was in trials with the Everton youth team, but at that point I had grown a bit disillusioned with the game (and probably wasn’t good enough to go much further...). I had picked up playing basketball around the same time and ended up being pretty successful, captaining winning school and county teams and playing representative level up until I was 17.
For one reason or another, competitive sport became less of a priority as I finished my A-Levels and university degree, but I always maintained my strength and conditioning training. I’d started going to the gym at 16 and it’s been an outlet for me ever since.
When and how did you first get into CrossFit? Why does this style of fitness appeal to you?
Post-university and into the early years of my career, I kept up with a pretty structured and ‘normal’ gym routine: weights 3-4 times a week, running or some other form of cardio 2 times a week. My diet has always been pretty dialed in too, so I was in decent shape, but ultimately ended up missing the competitiveness of sports.
I tried my hand at boxing for a while and had a few amateur fights, but struggled to train properly alongside a job. CrossFit had been something I was aware of and finally, in 2012, I walked into my first box in Clapham. And that’s been it! In2Crossfit (now Gymnasium) has been my training home ever since.
What are your biggest achievements within the sport?
I suppose coming from a relatively sporty background and having a good base of strength and conditioning from all my years in the gym, I was pretty well set up for CrossFit. I’ve competed a lot over the years, winning my box’s annual championship 4 times, a few other comps around London and coming 3rd in the elite category at the Rainhill Trials.
The CrossFit Open is a big deal year in year out as well - I was 9th in the UK in my age category last year. The great thing with CrossFit is that you can compete in a team too - I’ve captained my box to a top 10 finish at Strength in Depth (the largest team comp in Europe) 3 times in the last 4 years as well as having ad-hoc success in pairs and other formats.
How has your nutrition played its part in your achievements?
Luckily, it was drilled into me from an early age just how important nutrition is. I’ve taken protein and vitamin supplements and have been conscious of my macro intake since I was 16/17. I went through a phase of weighing my food, but it was a bit of a faff and you kind of develop an eye for what’s right and wrong.
I now stick to a pretty structured daily diet Monday to Saturday and have a lot of home-made smoothies or protein bars at hand (although I’m never too strict to not enjoy a meal out or a cake at work). Sunday’s are pretty relaxed. And by Sunday I probably mean Saturday and Sunday (and maybe Friday night!).
You’ve also had great success within your career as an M&A consultant, what does your usual working day look like?
Different to most I imagine! I normally wake around 5.45am to 6am, have some water and drink a home-made pre-workout smoothie (almond milk, protein powder, banana, almond butter, caffeine, and beta alanine), then head to the gym for around 6.30am. I train for 75-90 mins most mornings, getting into work for 9ish (definitely-ish!). It’s then pretty full on, I’d say most working days will finish around 8pm, but this can vary. I lead the consumer practice at CIL so my days are a mix of finding the next opportunity and leading project teams. I also lead an internal division called Knowledge and Collaboration, basically the sharing of processes, tools, etc.
How do you maximise your time to fit in your training with such a highly demanding job?
I typically train 6 to 7 times a week. 5 times in the gym, then a swim and/or run. The latter 2 are less strict and depend on workload. I find training in the morning easiest as I can control my day better, although sometimes I have to be flexible if it’s a late finish. I’m super conscious of getting sufficient sleep and strive to maintain a minimum of 7 hours. If I can’t hit that, I’ll make some changes to my schedule.
Overall, though, I very much follow the mantra of spending time doing what you love. I maximise my days to get as much out of them as I can!
Are there times where you had no motivation or energy to train after a long day at work?
Of course. It’s quite difficult to articulate how and what drives me to keep motivated. I’m not a big fan of putting boundaries around things or limits on what can be achieved. I get up and go to the gym because I enjoy the physical and mental benefits that come with it. Every day I question whether I want to get out of bed, but I just shrug it off and crack on because life is like that - can’t be thinking about it too much!
Do you have any boundaries or non-negotiables that keep you consistent?
I don't really, I just try and prioritise what keeps me most sane and happy. If it’s out of my control, I try not to stress about it. Evenings, unless I’m working, are for my wife and friends though. So, I guess there is a rule there!
Finally, do you have any top tips for anyone wanting to get into CrossFit or who wants to start competing?
Like most sports, there are so many levels to competing in CrossFit now. So, you just have to get stuck in and see how it feels/goes. But of course, it’s not for everyone - 90% of the people that do CrossFit do it because they want to keep fit, not compete. For those that do, please keep your integrity! I’ve seen too many people cheat themselves and others for the short-term kudos of winning a workout.