If I’m not a Crossfitter, who am I?

It’s a long, long story, and I’d rather not get into the particulars, but it’s been nearly a year since I’ve been to a Crossfit, and because of this aforementioned unbearable amount of guilt and shame, I’m not sure I could possibly go back.

It’s the same thing as feeling guilty about not eating CLEAN and organic food.

It really seems counterintuitive–you’d go to a gym to become fitter and achieve those physical goals. But there’s a huge piece of humiliation that goes along with returning to a community that already knows you, and you appear totally different, now looking different and losing lots of strength and stamina.

So even IF my schedule aligned with class schedules, and even IF I could afford a membership, would I return?

I’m not sure.

And that’s kind of sad and scary to admit, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately, and I think it’s true.

Would it be easier if I conveniently made it to a place where nobody–not even the coaches–knew me, so I’d literally be starting at Ground Zero? Maybe. But history has shown that my ego has almost always gotten the better of me, and I’d immediately try to impossibly PR lifts, and just as sure injure myself…once again.

What is the answer for me? What to do?

Again, I’m not sure.

It’s a question I’ve been grappling with for some time.

For what seemed like so long, my identity was intrinsically tied into Crossfit. When someone asked me my hobbies, No. 1 was always “Crossfit.” When someone asked me to tell about myself, I always began with, “I Crossfit” or “I’m a Crossfitter.”

So what happens when I really can no longer say that? Who am I without Crossfit? Lost and kind of alone. Secluded even further and confused about my identity.

I know it sounds silly, to be confused about WHO I AM–who YOU are–but it’s absolutely true. Who am I without the label of “Crossfit”? Well, I guess I’m a lady. I’m engaged, and I love my fiancé. I enjoy coffee. I like to snuggle. I love the beach, and I have bunions. I’m a gardener with a very brown thumb. I’m really good at hiding vegetables in food. I’m a friend, a lover, a daughter, a sister, a peacemaker, and I know too much about too many random things. I like whiskey. I love traveling. I like holding hands and laying on The Boy’s chest.

But a Crossfitter? Maybe not. And I’m ready right now to let go of the anxiety and bitterness that has come along with that separation. Time to move on, and take care of myself, not my false sense of identity.

(And in that vein, it was time to change the skin of my blog. I hope you find it easier to read now.)

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My boyfriend, the CrossFitter

Look! He CrossFits!
Look! He CrossFits!

Yes. You heard correctly. The Boy is CrossFitting.

I. AM. SO. PROUD.

It’s not just that he’s doing CrossFit. Because honestly, I got over the fact that he wasn’t CrossFitting early in our relationship. What I didn’t get over, though, was his stubbornness regarding doing any sort of physical activity.

When we first met, there was a really rough transition. It was long-distance, so the only time we saw each other was on the weekends. And on the weekends, we wanted to see each other, and for him that did not include working out. So, if I visited him, I had to try to work out by myself, away from CrossFit. That meant mostly running or walking on a treadmill. That, along with being as anal as possible with food, allowed me to minimize weight GAIN, and it was INCREDIBLY difficult to even maintain.

Fast-forward, and even more changes have taken place that have made it difficult or impossible to make it to the gym five-days a week, and relaxed effort at certain periods with food, and weight loss has been impossible.

But I digress.

When we first met and I was working out solo on the weekends, I constantly invited him to partake. He ALWAYS refused. One day, I persuaded him to come with me for a leisurely walk along the Chenango River, and halfway through he started a HUGE fight because he didn’t want to be on the walk. For me, this was a relaxing stroll. For him, anything that was exercise was the OPPOSITE of relaxing, and weekends are for relaxing, therefore he would not handle a walk.

After that, I laid off. Once in a while I would try to get him to go to CrossFit, and he would always refuse.

But it seems like it’s been about baby steps here. After we started shackin’ up, he started feeling better because he was eating better (i.e., I was cooking for him). I got a FitBit in the fall, and he loves gadgets, and he was super enthusiastic about playing with mine. So I got him one for Christmas, and he LOVES it.

Then, a few months later, my close friend offered The Boy the opportunity to get his feet wet with a CrossFit Bootcamp. I quietly suggested it, thinking that he’d immediately shoot it down. But he didn’t. He said he’d think about it.

And then he decided to actually DO IT.

And he’s not the fastest or the strongest, but neither was I when I started, and neither AM I even now. I have to say that I am SO PROUD of him for taking that first step and waking up at the asscrack of dawn and making his life better one day at a time.

For Valentine’s Day, I got him a 2-month membership to our CrossFit. The Boy from a year ago would have cried, screamed, and ran away. But The Boy NOW? He did a happy dance.

Maybe one day—maybe someday soon—we can cheer each other on TOGETHER doing WODs and PRing, and finding joy in each other’s health.

What I learned doing a Whole30

To Paleo or not to Paleo?
To Paleo or not to Paleo?

I mentioned a few weeks back that I was in the middle of doing a Whole30. Basically, that means 30 days of super-strict Paleo.

Well, it’s over now, and I’m here to report back my specific experience on Whole30.

First, let’s talk for a second about WHY I decided to do a Whole30.

Around November, I started feeling really unmotivated to really be careful with my WW plan. I was exercising nonstop and being really strict about my carb cycling, and when you add high-stress situations to that mix (i.e., school and lots of work), it became extremely tedious really fast. I wasn’t getting where I wanted to at the scale, so somewhere that translated to going to Bountiful Bread and getting cake. Like, a lot of cake.

I was exhausted.

I was exhausted of it all.

So I just said screw it. And I did.

Things only got worse over the holidays. I thought that if I committed to a gluten-free diet when home, that would be good enough. I did okay for a bit, but a gluten-free diet in Portland also translated to going and getting a really awesome latte…accompanied by gluten-free brownies or muffins. I mean…really, DK?

Winter turned into trying to maintain after a pretty icky holiday gain.

And then my PDX box decided they were going to have a 30-Day Challenge. I was talked into giving it a shot. But every single day I attempted Paleo, I utterly failed. I refused to give up milk. And I felt sooo guilty every time my friend Shannon asked me about it. It was too much.

And then I returned to Albany. I felt totally lost. I didn’t know what to do. So I decided to re-try the 30-Day Challenge and just start a Whole30 of my own. (I had to go grocery shopping anyway, so why not just get some Paleo foods?)

At first it was fine. I was so good! I asked restaurants if their sauces had sugar in them. I was getting nasty Starbucks Americanos, unadulterated by sugars or creams. I ate eggs for breakfast instead of oatmeal. I lived on avocados, sweet potatoes, and bacon (yessss). I devoutly sent food logs to Dean, and I increased the intensity of my workouts.

After about two weeks, I was seeing clear gains at the gym. Lots of PRs, and I was feeling pretty good. But I wasn’t losing weight…AT ALL. Dean critiqued my logs, suggesting that I work more veggies in, and cut out the sweet potatoes and squash. I did that. And yet, still nothing.

And then came the small cheats. After a while, I just couldn’t do it. Even though I was making strides at the gym and feeling okay. There was just something primal and almost unconscious in the back of my brain, urging me to just stop.

And one day, I was at work, and it was one of those days where you’re just starving ALL. DAY. LONG. And I had already cleared out the food I brought, and what did I do? I mindlessly walked next door, grabbed a frickin’ red velvet whoopie pie AND a double chocolate cookie, and yes, I ate them both, and yes they were delicious. But can I emphasize that I’m not a binge eater? Even when I really want sweets, this sort of behavior is not normal for me.

So of course afterward I (1) felt like shit, and (2) recognized that there was a problem.

I continued on strict Paleo for the next few days, but then ultimately decided to officially quit the Whole30 around day 21.

Before you rag on me for being a quitter or not having the mental fortitude to just “say no,” here are a few thoughts about Paleo:

  1. Paleo is a good way to eat. It emphasizes whole foods, natural foods, healthy foods. Yay!
  2. Paleo, on the other hand, is restrictive. It’s very much all-or-nothing (we’re talking about Paleo, as opposed to Primal, okay?). There is NO space for stevia or whole milk or grassfed butter or whatever.

That being said, here is what I learned about MYSELF in doing a Whole30:

  1. A 100% Paleo diet is not right for me. Before you faint from that, hear me out. As soon as I stopped obsessing over the strictness in my diet, I started feeling better, happier, and actually started losing weight again. While eating Paleo may have helped me improve in the gym, it also took a lot of mental energy. Energy that I didn’t really have to expend on this diet. A restrictive diet is not the right diet for me in the long run.
  2. mostly Primal diet is what I gravitate toward naturally. Since officially quitting the Whole30, you may be interested to learn that my days are filled predominantly with Primal-approved foods. I’ve come to prefer the taste of my homemade almondmilk lattes (unsweetened!); I’ve come to prefer peppers and guacamole as a snack over carrots and hummus (in fact, eating them now!); I would rather eat mashed cauliflower than mashed potatoes. A few days, I’ve looked back in shock, realizing that the ONLY non-Paleo thing I’ve eaten was a nonfat latte.
  3. It’s about being happy with your decisions—making them something you can live with. Like with anything in life, your diet needs to be something you can actually live with. For me, strict Paleo all the time was mostly impractical, and did not settle well with certain cravings. Some people are able to power through cravings, but sometimes it’s just not possible. And I really hate the notion of a “cheat.” It’s food. Stop associating SHAME with food, and you won’t be overridden with guilt as soon as you eat something considered unhealthy. I think the trick, like with many other things, is simply moderation. If you have a sincere craving, have something small and of quality, instead of risking a major binge by ignoring it. Honor the craving. But work it into your day responsibly.
  4. Grains are still bad…for me. It’s true. Wheat still makes me sick. Dairy, however, does not.

So where does that leave me? I guess I’m back where I started, but down a few pounds. Last week, I sat in a diner with my friend Jennifer, who is back on the tracking train. I think it was watching her laboriously track a grilled cheese sandwich and an order of french fries, with her meager 26 points per day, that made me realize what I need to do. I’m not saying that I was pretending or making things up, but it sort of shook some sense into me. Stop cycling. Stop doing Wendie. Stop the madness. Go back to the basics. Be honest with yourself. Make good choices. Indulge once in a while. But for god’s sake…frickin’ track, lady!

And I am. And I am much happier for that.

Be healthy!

Just when I thought I hit a training wall…

Jumping rope.
Jumping rope.

…I prove myself wrong, yet again.

There are some long-term goals at Crossfit that I sometimes think are pipe dreams:

  • Handstand push-ups (or handstands, for that matter)
  • Regular box jumps (14″ or higher)
  • Double unders
  • Unassisted pullups
  • Muscle ups

I’m not sure if there’s much else that I really CAN’T do. Oh…L-sits, I guess, and ring dips, although I’ve been able to do dips on a more stable platform (like bars). Bodyweight movements, I think, will always be difficult for me. Or more so than the average person, who grew up being able to do amazing things with their body and their own weight.

So those movements listed above…yeah, they’d be nice, but it’d also be nice to weigh 120 pounds, but that’ll never happen….

Except…I started thinking, Maybe it could happen.

I’m a pretty strong jumper of the ropes. I can do single unders for days. During the most recent competition, I did 170 single unders unbroken before I tripped. Not bad.

I have tried doing double unders in the past. I tried and tried, and made such excellent swishing sounds as I tried to make that rope go faster and faster. I always thought my issue was not being able to jump high enough. Until I went home and was practicing at CFSWP, and coach Troy was watching me. And what he told me shocked me.

“You’re jumping high enough. You need to have faster wrists.”

“What?! FASTER wrists?”

“Yeah, just channel all your anger and really whip it.”

He proceeded to tell me that perhaps I would never get double unders simply because I am too nice, and that I really have to want to punch something in order to get them.

I tried and tried with the gym’s speed rope, and sometimes I would get one foot under the second whip, but mostly, I just landed on top of the rope.

And then I gave in. I went online, and purchased a jump rope from Rx Jump Ropes, which Shannon had recommended. It had a nice, thick, plush handle, which I loved, along with swivel grips, so the rope didn’t get gnarly like the speed ropes. But what sets this rope apart is that the cables come in four different weights for training. The heavier, the more you can actually feel what’s going on with the rope and what you’re doing wrong. As you improve, you can replace your heavier cable with lighter ones for cheap. It’s also cool to choose colors.

Anyway, I got the rope just in time to test it out for the competition. And the first night I used it? I totally got a few double unders.

Like ten of them! And I’ve gotten them since then, too! I can’t string them together quite yet, and I tend to stop jumping after I get that ONE double under, but now I know exactly what I need to work on. And ALSO that I HAVE DOUBLE UNDERS.

I was shocked.

Really.

I just about shat myself when I got them.

But then.

Yesterday.

I was working on double unders.

And somehow I started chatting with a fellow athlete about handstands and handstand push ups and kicking into a handstand.

And somehow, she was convinced that I could kick up no problem, but am just afraid…or something is holding me back.

I’m not going to argue with that. I hate gymnastics. I hate tumbling. Ever since I was a kid, I could not handle it. I have these horrible visions of me getting upside down, and landing weird on my head, breaking my neck, and then dying. Or something equally horrible and terrifying. I mean, ick!

So we actually pull out a really plush gymnastics pad…she she and two other people try to show me how to do a somersault, just to begin being comfortable upside down. I spent a solid 10 minutes at it, but I ended up actually getting a somersault. I can’t say it was pretty, but I did do it. And then we moved on to kicking to a handstand. And with that big-ass pad, I almost got it. I was definitely less inhibited than I generally am without a pad. I can feel a handstand coming soon!

The moral of this story?

For so long I’ve felt fairly stagnant. Comfortable, but stagnant. I was pretty content where I was with the skills that I had acquired, and a PR was really coming from adding weight to lifts, or something. I am so glad that I finally made that extra push to acquire a new SKILL that had nothing to do with weights. Granted, I’m not good at either, but it’s a step in the right direction.

An exciting one, at that.

I did what I said I wouldn’t do again…

Some Garage Games competitors.
Some Garage Games competitors.

…and that is compete. Apparently. And I did pretty well, if I do say so myself.

My sudden adversity toward competing happened around the time that Dean told me that I needed to stop being so stressed out during WODs…to basically stop being so bipolar, in that I expressed extreme highs and lows tied to achievement/PRs (or lack thereof). I don’t want to say that I took his challenge too seriously, but I really did take it to heart. There was no reason for me to get so worked up and stressed out in a place that is supposed to be my ultimate Zen haven.

So instead of competing, I saved my money for other things. Instead of competing, I photographed the other events. Instead of competing, I watched others and let their experiences refuel my own love of CrossFit.

But really, there’s nothing quite like competing yourself, when you get right down to it.

Before I came back to Portland for the winter, I saw that CrossFit SW Portland, my OTHER home box, would be hosting an installation of the Garage Games when I was visiting. I knew that many of my friends in Portland were curious about CrossFit and knew that I did it, and they all saw photos, but never saw it in person. I thought to myself, Self, it might be kinda cool to compete at home.

So I thought about it some more.

And I decided that it would, indeed, be rad to compete at home.

So I signed up.

I also thought it would be something fun to train toward. And it was! And this particular competition was a little different that the other ones I’ve participated in, because we actually found out ahead of time what each of the WODs were. This was a mixed blessing, because we could train the movements, but we already knew our weaknesses, and there wasn’t much spontaneity…which, let’s be honest, is kind of fun.

So, I was fine up until go time, basically, and then I was like…um…jumping pullups, what?! I didn’t actually think I would be able to do them.

Oh, let me backtrack.

The idea with this Garage Games installation (called WWW, the World Wide WOD) is that everyone does benchmark WODs that we will do again at the next WWW next year and retest, see how far we’ve come. There were three divisions, Rx, Scaled, and Beginner, and I competed at Scaled.

WOD 1: Helena (tweaked Helen)

Jumping pull-ups......
Jumping pull-ups……

Scaled = 2 rounds / 21 Kettlebell Swings (1 pood), 12 jumping pullups, 200 single-unders.

I finished in third place, at 6:07 (my KBs and SUs be strong, yo!). It was the pullups that really slowed me down. I hadn’t done jumping pull-ups since I first started CrossFit; since then, scaling options evolved from using resistance bands to doing ring-rows, and then volume training with bands, but jumping pullups hadn’t been seen in ages. And my high jumping isn’t the best, so when the bar needed to be six inches above our head, I was worried for sure.

WOD 2: Karena (tweaked Karen)

Yuck wallballs.
Yuck wallballs.

Scaled = 5 minutes on countdown, buy-in with 60 abmat situps, remainder of 5 minutes AMRAP wallballs. Score = weight of wallball x reps.

This one…ughh…I was looking forward to least. Um, I successfully avoided Karen for a full year and change before ever having to meet her once. I hate wallballs. But I did it, and I finished fifth with a score of 814. Yuck.

WOD 3: Grace

Cleaning...then gonna jerk it.
Cleaning…then gonna jerk it.

Scaled = 30 clean and jerks at 65#

I think I was most looking forward to Grace. It’s not that I’m particularly good at barbell movements, but, out of all the WODs during the competition, I was most confident with the clean and jerk. I’m pretty good at it. And after doing some serious volume training, a 65# clean and jerk is actually quite light.

This was definitely my favorite WOD of the day. Not only because I like Grace, but because my parents got to see it, along with a few of my friends, and that made me really happy, and definitely got my adrenaline pumping.

I finished second place for Grace, with a score of 2:48. I was quite pleased with that sub-3:00 score. Quite pleased, indeed.

In the end, I placed FOURTH, just one point shy of third place. That was kind of a bummer, but it just shows that my training is paying off, and I’m still improving. And also, I came in SECOND place in New York State (holla):

What up!
What up!

That also makes me happy.

What makes me unhappy is that I got super-duper sick right after the competition. I think I was actually fighting something off the day-of and a few days before, but right afterward, I came down with body aches, chills, and a 101°+ fever. Not fun. I was out of commission for the better part of this week, really only creeping out a bit on Wednesday and yesterday. And guess what? I’m still hoarsey and congested! Yay! DayQuil! Yay!!!

Hoping I’ll be 100% very soon, so I can at least enjoy the last few gorgeous days here in Portland!

Here we go again…

Jean ValJean: The original Strongman?

So, I’m competing on Saturday.

Yeah, I’ve known about it for a while.

I’m going to be doing the World Wide WOD (WWW) installation of the Garage Games, the same peeps who brought us the X&Ys back in March…which was, incidentally, the last competition I have done….

After having the nice little chat about mindfulness with Dean a while back, and feeling how awesome it was to not put quite so much pressure on myself, I had sort of vowed to lay off the competitions. I’ve had a greeeeaaat time explaining to people why I was sitting out competitions one by one.

Someone had to photograph the event.

It was too expensive.

It was too time-consuming.

Historically I gain weight on competition weeks (the recommended tapering and recovering periods are not generally very kind to me).

But really…it’s putting yourself in a stressful situation.

But it’s kind of like…once you’ve felt what it’s like to compete—and now I have three under my belt, a team one, a singles one, and a partners one—it’s hard sometimes to not. I mean, yeah, you get stressed, but you also have this incredible adrenaline rush that helps you power through WODs you didn’t think you’d be able to. There’s nothing like it, and for that reason, I encourage everyone to try to compete at least once.

And you know, I can’t say that I’m once again HUNGRY to compete. I’m not really like that. But I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t getting that itch again.

Ultimately, I decided I would participate in the WWW because it’s on my home turf. Like, my real-life home turf. I have never competed in Portland before, and this one is hosted at my regular box here. And you know, my Albany family has seen me compete and heard me yammer on about it, but my Portland family…well…they’ve heard me yammer about it, and that’s about it. I thought it would be fun to give them the opportunity to see what I can do with this new body I’ve acquired. Ya know?

So how is this competition going to be different?

Well, for one, it’ll be small. And I’m fairly confident in what I can and cannot do.

Will it be stressful? Yes. But it will be a different kind of stress, and the stress won’t be coming from the uncertainty of what the day holds. Because, unlike other competitions, I already know what all the WODs will be. The crappiest thing that will happen all day? Check it:

Karena

5-minute time

60 sit-ups

AMRAP wall balls (choose your own weight)

Score is reps of wall balls x weight

Umm…. Frackin’ gross, people.

But really, I’m pretty excited. I think.

Yes, it will be a great and new experience to compete at home. Wish me luck!

Gluten-Free Challenge: It’s happening.

The aftermath of birthday treats: massacred cupcakes....
The aftermath of birthday treats: massacred cupcakes….

The last few weeks have been brutal, mentally and physically.

I don’t want to say that I’ve had a backslide, but let’s call a spade a spade: I have. (Side note: Has this blog turned into me recounting and confessing all the things I do wrong?) I’ve been having a hard time tracking and staying on plan, and I think it’s going to get even more difficult as the holidays come closer, and I spend a full month in Portland with my friends and family.

Here’s how I’ve been feeling:

  • Tired
  • Groggy
  • Weak at the gym
  • Bored with food and exercise
  • Sore in my joints
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Indigestion (dun-dun-dunnnnn)

And yeah, I could blame it on getting older. It WAS my birthday yesterday, and today I woke up actually looking like a bona fide 28-year-old. Yikes.

But here’s where I’ve been going wrong:

  • I skipped a few WODs last week because I needed the sleep
  • I’ve been eating cake like it’s my job (honesty is the best policy, right?)
  • I haven’t been drinking enough water
  • I’ve been overloaded with stress

So, a lot of this is a mental game. I know what I need to do, which is:

  • Surround myself with people who make me happy
  • Re-commit myself to exercising like my heart is in it
  • Keep track of what I’m eating

That is the mental piece, which will translate to a physical piece. Truly.

The tangible piece at the moment, though, is to increase my water and clean up my diet. And it’s okay if that means that I can’t re-commit to carb cycling or strict Paleo. Boredom and excessive restriction isn’t good, and it leads to situations like the one I’m facing right now.

So I’m devising a plan, and I’m hoping this will be a successful one, so I’m writing it down here, and I’m hoping that YOU will help me stay accountable, and even join me on this one.

I already know that gluten is my enemy. I’ve reintroduced dairy into my diet, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that this was a good move for my body. Not only is it enjoyable for me, but  I seem to actually need it. It does not make me sick, and it does not make me gain weight.

Gluten does.

And this has become increasingly obvious each day I wake up with a gluten hangover, continue to eat it, and continue to feel like my insides are being ripped apart. Yup.

So, going into the holidays, and going home tomorrow, I’m committing to a full month without gluten.

What does that mean?

  • No bread
  • No pasta
  • No Christmas ravioli (these are homemade, too)
  • No Christmas cookies
  • No more cake….
  • No more feeling like ass
  • Being more confident approaching January 12th (more on that later…!)

But do I really need any of these things?

Do YOU need any of these things?

The answer is probably no.

Will it be difficult to stick to? Probably, considering that so much of home food involves gluten. This will be more of a mental game than anything else. Re-learning to say NO. That’s the biggest challenge.

Re-learning to say NO.

I can do this.