Just don’t stop

I’m not even sure how long it’s been, but it kind of feels like it’s been a month. Yeah, that sounds about right. Okay, it’s been pretty close to a month of the BFF’s now-dubbed Torture Death Plan (TDP), and I am still alive. Though I do have this nasty thing on my heel from Sunday’s Torture Death Run (TDR):

Blisterious. Ick.
Blisterious. Ick.

I’ve tracked every single thing that goes in my mouth, and have been vigilant with the exercise plan that we’ve put in place. And no, I do not yet love or even LIKE running, and I doubt I ever will.

I am told that I look noticeably different. Though I’ve dropped about 1.5#, so not a whole lot there. But I feel good that I have a nice little routine, and even though I HATE running, I like that this time around I am better controlling my breathing, and can run at least 2.7 miles without stopping. Just don’t stop. That’s the mantra of BFF.

That being said, not all runs are the same, and the TDRs in the hills of Greenwich are exactly that–torture, and you feel like you will actually die. The first mile of the run is all uphill. Then steeply downhill. Then small uphill. Then the way back is just awful because it’s steeply uphill, followed by a mile of downhill, which still sucks because it’s the final mile. Oh, and this goes without saying, but I’m luck to run half of it.

BFF’s goals were essentially threefold: (1) Slim down. (2) At the end of the month, be able to run the entire first hill-and-a-half without stopping. (3) At the end of the summer, be able to run at least the 3-mile TDR without stopping, but preferably the 5-mile TDR.

I told him he was out of his mind.

But a week ago, I ran to the top of the first hill without stopping.

And a few days ago, I ran to the top of the first hill without stopping. Then stopped briefly. Then ran to the top of the (very steep) half-hill without stopping.

Winded.

Miserable.

Blistery (new shoes).

But I did it.

Why is it that everything I do that is exercise-related have to be such a mental game for me? Obviously, there are the aches and pains and blisters and side stitches, but once you move beyond that, why is it that it’s so hard to just keep going? To just not stop?

I believe I will always struggle with that question, just as I will always struggle with food, with my weight, etc., etc. But it’s always a little easier when you have someone in your ear, telling you Just don’t stop.

Youch

Now that I think about it, nobody ever said that change was easy.

It wasn’t easy not going to Crossfit, and it certainly isn’t easy coming back into regular exercise. And it’s even worse when you’re PMSing.

Oh god. No, this post can’t go there. (Kinda did though, sorry.)

So by now you all know that I am getting married, and the wedding countdown is on like Donkey Kong. My BFF has thus decided that it would be his duty to get me back on track and look smokin’ for wedding and beyond.

(Does this make me that person whose sole goal is to lose weight for her wedding? Hope not.)

But what I mean to say is, I’m closing out now an entire week of getting my ass kicked.

First thing’s first: We have to deal with the elephant in the room. Say what you might, but I have felt very disparaged by Weight Watchers these days. I have returned twice now, in earnest, and have been unable to lose any weight. Maybe a half pound a month. Maybe. I have a feeling that all the shit I’ve done to my body over the last four years or so has taken its toll, and that WW just has, for all intents and purposes, stopped working. And if something’s not working…why keep doing it?

BFF was the one to put it to me bluntly, though it was really only a matter of admitting it myself. So what then? Calorie counting? MyFitnessPal? Oh god. Okay. I promised him I’d follow whatever programming he’d give me for 30 days, so we will return here then.

But aside from a new way of keeping a food diary (which I am obviously still skeptical of, but we’ll see), there’s now a no-excuses exercise regimen.

His theory being that LAST TIME around, I just plain-old didn’t get enough cardio. The HIIT that Crossfit offers is great. Springs are great! But even the burner workouts just didn’t happen enough and didn’t provide the cardio conditioning needed to continue losing weight. Case in point: A few years ago, when I was able to push myself below 200#, the only way I got there was when I added running into my workout regimen. The other problem was that certain movements have caused me injury over and over again. We know where my problem areas are, and now we need to create a program around it, in a way that will minimize the risk of further injury. My neck, back, and shoulders (especially) are an extremely problematic and vulnerable area. So we’re not in any rush to do burpees. We will be engaging in very controlled, very modified push-ups, and other (light) weight-bearing, strength-oriented exercises. This was another area that really smacked my ego down, but for the better ultimately. My upper-body strength has always been ridiculously awful, and I’ve just always pushed through, trying to jerk more than 100#, which is light weight for a lot of people, but heavy as fuck for me, and it’s just ended in injury. It’s been humbling lifting 3# and 5# this week in a beginning attempt to build my shoulder/arm/upper body strength in a slow and lasting way. (The other thing I want to note is that I recently read an article about some of the dangers of Crossfit exercise. I’m not bashing Crossfit, because it’s something I used to love, but we should be aware of some of the risks undertaken when programming isn’t deliberate. The combination of high-repetition barbell/heavy movements with bodyweight or gymnastics movements encourages poor form and fatigue, two things we are actively now trying to avoid…hence the lack of burpees at the moment. Slow and deliberate!)

Point being, more cardio, less super heavy, more conscious movements and eating.

Oh yeah, and accountability. Because it’s been awfully easy for me to say screw it at 4 p.m. because I’m too tired.

We have a deal. Weights three days a week. One cardio day by myself. Saturday and Sunday are owned by him.

And after a week of doing this…I want to die.

We are working on running. And it is well-documented that I hate running, despite its efficacy. So what does BFF do? BFF decides that we are going to go running for like 3 miles (though Fitbit said it was closer to 5….) in the hilly terrain of Greenwich. OH MY GOD. Talk about painful. Up and down up and down…uphill both ways. Come Monday, I couldn’t walk.

I think I will always hate running no matter what, but my hope is that going with him will make it bearable at least. Because I will say, having someone at my side, pacing my stride and by breath is so much better than by myself. Also…I’m much more apt to turn around by myself, but there is absolutely no turning around with him. He doesn’t let me.

Let’s revisit at the end of his 30 days.

What I’m hoping is that I stick with it (in the last week, I have run 4 times, done weights 3 times, and yoga once), eat cleanly but not restrictively, and to be able to actually run up some of these hills without extreme pain.

What do you think?

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.

More life changes!

Beauty school dropout.... Nah, just a grad-school dropout. Oops!
Beauty school dropout…. Nah, just a grad-school dropout. Oops!

I already mentioned in my return post that the last year has been absolutely nuts, full of adjustments and life changes.

Well, this week comes another ridiculous life change.

I have made the choice to leave the PhD program in which I was enrolled, and begin a new job in another week. The decision isn’t sudden by a long shot. After I earned my masters in anthropology back in 2011, school essentially made me miserable. I tried in earnest to fall in love with the new department and the research I was supposed to do, but it never happened. And anyone who’s been in a PhD program or has earned a doctorate knows that if you don’t have a borderline obsession with your research, it’s torture. That, in tandem with a…ahem…heavy handed…supervisor and advisor, I was in a constant state of stress and misery.

So, I was offered a job doing something creative with bennies to boot, and I accepted! It’s a very exciting new chapter that I am so ready to begin.

But with that comes a whole host of new things. And let’s face it: Change is tough. Over the last few years, I’ve had the luxury of a fairly flexible schedule (this job is 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, with about a 45-minute commute each way), and I’ve generally had the time to cook a breakfast, go to the gym later in the morning, come home and shower and cook a lunch, and then go to class or work in the evening. That is, I’ve had a fairly stable schedule of going to the gym and doing cooking spur-of-the-moment almost every day.

In a week, my schedule will be more along these lines:

4:45 a.m. Wake up
5:30 a.m. WOD
8 a.m. Leave for work
9 a.m.–5 p.m. Work
5:30–9 p.m. Second job (2–3 days per week)
9:30 p.m. Get home

I know I’m not alone. There are many of you out there who probably have similar grueling schedules. Right?

So…how do you make this schedule work for you? How do you pack food for an entire day away (often I have no idea how hungry I will be from day to day!)?

I worked full-time when I lived in Portland, but I never went to the gym, and I didn’t hold a second job. So I could get used to waking up early and having a longer commute, but I never made time to exercise or do much else than go to happy hours with friends. How do you all hold it together, budget your time, and still find time to go grocery shopping?

If I think of my life as a puzzle, when I’m sort of just replacing my school piece with a work piece, all of the other pieces have to fit into place, but maybe just in a different way than I expected.

And, of course, it’s going to take some adjustment. Hrmph.

So give me your tips! What should I prepare for? What helps you through? Comment below to let me know!

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!