At just 28 years old, Lee Duance has been a semi-pro sportsperson, made it through the grueling ranks at the Royal Marines, become a CrossFit instructor in his hometown of Cardiff, UK, and launched a successful online coaching programme whose philosophy has attracted CrossFit athletes worldwide. Inspired already? We caught up with the over-achieving athlete to find out how he made his way from the military to the box…
TC: You’re a former Royal Marine – is the training as brutal as they say it is?
LD: Yes! The training is as brutal as they say it is! When they say it’s the toughest in the world, they are not lying! I have worked with some of the big named forces from the States and they found the fitness test hard when we put them through the drills.
TC: You’re not just a one trick pony – a little bird told us you also played semi-pro ice hockey, too…
LD: Yes, I started playing when I was 8 or 9 in Cardiff and played all the way up through the age groups. I played for a number of years from age 16 to 22 in the ENL team, which is kind of a feed team for the Cardiff Devils. I finished hockey when I was 22 right before I joined the Marines.
TC: You got to travel with the Royal Marines – any favourite places and why?
LD: My best trip was probably to Halifax in Canada. We went for 3 weeks to play ice hockey with a number of Canadian Forces and a couple of barn teams. For people who don’t know what barn hockey is, it is basically like the hockey equivalent of a local football (soccer) team.
“When I was on Christmas leave [from the Royal Marines] I went to Dragon Crossfit, did my fundamentals and never looked back”
TC: You’ve done a helluva lot and we haven’t even got to the CrossFit bit yet – how did you get into CrossFit?
LD: After I finished my Marines training and got assigned to a unit we did some fitness in the mornings as a troop, but you do lose a lot of the fitness you had from training. But every 6-8 months we would have to pass the basic fitness tests to make sure we are fit to fight. I would find the test hard compared to when we were intensively training, so I searched fitness training and come across CrossFit online. When I was on leave at Christmas I went to Dragon Crossfit, did my fundamentals and never looked back.
TC: You’re not just known for your personal efforts, you also compete as part of LD: Team Dragon Athletic (who qualified for the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games Europe Regional). How does your training differ for personal/pairs and team competitions?
LD: It doesn’t really change as we still all have weaknesses as individuals and need to crush them. But we still need to be well-rounded athletes so when it comes to team workouts or a competition it’s just about working as a team and not trying to hide any weaknesses.
“I love competing as part of a team because you get to share the pain and success with people who have just gone through the exact same experience”
TC: Your team made it to the Reebok CrossFit Games Europe Regional this year. How was the experience for you?
LD: It was epic. It was my first time at Regionals and was a great experience as an athlete and as a coach. It also made it better doing it with amazing friends. Maybe it’s my team sporting background but I love competing as part of a team because you get to share the pain and success with people who have just gone through the exact same experience. It’s really lit the fire in my belly to do it again – hopefully next year!
TC: So we’ve snuck a glimpse at your training but you’re also a coach at Dragon CrossFit (in Cardiff, UK) and an online coach to CrossFit athletes around the world, too – what’s your style of coaching and why is it so successful?
LD: As a coach, in person and online, I want to be the coach everyone comes to for help or with questions. I want to educate as many people as possible and help them out long-term in life. I don’t want to help them for just an hour a day, I would rather teach them something in that hour which will last forever. It differs slightly with the elite athletes I coach – during these training sessions my aim is to get them to learn something new about themselves, which they can then take into competitions.
TC: What are you currently reading? And what books or articles would you recommend to fellow CrossFitters?
LD: I’m all about learning so I read a lot of books on coaching and leading, business, mindset, etc. I’ve just finished reading I’ll Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse by Michael Franzese– a former Mob Boss who shares how he made his money, how he dealt with other businesses and how to read people when making deals – it was really interesting book. As a CrossFitter, though, I’d highly recommend Never Let Go by Dan John and First: What It Takes To Win by Rich Froning.
TC: What does your diet look like on an average day?
LD: It’s pretty simple at the moment as I’m eating for health and not performance, but when I have a competition coming up I’ll switch to a performance diet. There is a massive difference between eating for health, performance or aesthetics, but that is a long story in itself!
“One of the biggest strains on the NHS and our health services today and by just cutting sugar out and cleaning up our diets we can save the NHS and other health services – and we can also save ourselves”
TC: You’re pretty anti-sugar – what’s the low down on this?
LD: To keep it simple, sugar is one of the main causes for weight gain, which then leads to chronic diseases such as diabetes. It’s one of the biggest strains on the NHS and our health services today and by just cutting sugar out and cleaning up our diets we can save the NHS and other health services – and we can also save ourselves.
TC: This aside, any guilty pleasures?
LD: A cheeky tub of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough.
TC: Back to the box…. What’s your favourite benchmark workout?
TC: What’s your favourite CrossFit movement? And why?
LD: The snatch! It never use to be – I actually hated it as it was always so hit and miss. But, as it was a weakness of mine I attacked it and got it consistent so now I love it.
TC: Least favourite CrossFit movement? And why?
LD: That’s a tough one! It’s got to be between thrusters and burpees. It could just be that combination that sucks!
TC: Have you hit up any other CrossFit Boxes on your travels?
LD: I’ve been to loads around the UK – from North Devon to London to Glasgow –and also hit a couple up when I was in Berlin for Regionals.
TC: When you’re not gracing winners podiums, making muscle ups look like a breeze or walking for miles on your hands, what do you do with your down time (if you actually have any)?
LD: A lot of my down time involves moving! I like exploring so I’m always walking, cycling or running around different areas like the Brecon Beacons or Dartmoor.
You can follow Lee’s CrossFit Journey over on Instagram and Twitter @leeduance
You can also check out his online coaching and find out more about his winning philosophy over on Instagram @ld_performance_training, Facebook LD Performance Training and via www.ldperformancetraining.co.uk