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):
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.
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.
It’s been exactly one week since I started BFF’s plan. Well…I guess almost a week. Last Friday, I was super pumped up with some music I found on Spotify that I got home and decided to go for a run. Not the best run in the world, but a run nonetheless. And then Saturday was when the real ass-kicking began.
I have vigilantly weighed, measured, and tracked what has gone in my mouth, while continuing to exercise (and not increasing calories by whatever FitBit/MyFitnessPal told me I burned). Then my schedule was thus:
Friday is also my traditional weigh-in day. After all the effort put in this week, I was anxious to hop on the scale. I woke up, emptied out (ahem), and hopped on. And…
I was both shocked and not at all surprised. I mean, what has been my pattern recently, anyway? Exert effort, body works doubletime to shut it off. What it FEELS like is that I’ve just messed around so long with diet and exercise that now just everything is out of whack and nothing wants to work. The level of frustration just exploded.
And then I had what is most likely my final WW coaching call (I ended up canceling/nonrenewing, effective next week). And while Coach LG was very nice and helpful, her reaction to the weight gain was more of “What could be happening?” than going for “What did you do wrong?”
Which is fine. Which is what they’re supposed to do. But I also feel like the “What could be happening?” question just kind of gives you something to blame the gain on that is not yourself.
For example, last week, I had a tough week and was up 1.5#. I was/am super constipated (TMI, sorry). Coach LG’s suggestion? Well, it’s clearly the constipation, and just keep doing what you’re doing.
Well, you have been exercising a lot more than your body is used to. Your muscles are probably holding on to a lot of water right now. And it’s nearing that time of the month. And you’re still constipated. Keep doing what you’re doing, and I’m sure this is a fluke.
But I gotta wonder…does this method totally take all responsibility off me? This week, I tend to agree. I’ve been sore beyond belief and I’ve been drinking a ton of water. And my PMS is in full swing (sorry, The Boy). But if you gain and gain and gain…it can’t always be water weight or PMS.
Really, this method toes the line between reality and excuse.
What is reality?
Even double doses of magnesium isn’t helping my….daily rhythm.
My period’s due to start in about 4 days.
I have worked out hard 3/7 days, and done strength circuits 3/7 days.
I have craved salt.
I have tracked food, and stayed within budget, but of course can always measure more carefully.
This is the first week since March that I have eaten dinner every night.
I had four meals out this week: 2 dinners (Saturday + Sunday) and 2 lunches (Tuesday and Wednesday), plus some soft serve on Saturday, though tracked to the best of my ability.
I have not slept well on most nights.
And that’s the god-honest truth. What’s most important right now is being honest with myself. I have even sent nutrition screenshots to BFF to keep me on track.
I hope these are not excuses, and I hope that I AM being honest with myself. But who knows…maybe my muscles ARE being shocked and holding on to a crapton of water. We shall see.
In the mean time, I’m trying not to get wrapped up in fads. Facebook is hard. A few years ago everyone was preaching the virtues of intermittent fasting. And now–surprise, surprise–those same people are preaching the virtues of flexible dieting (i.e., If It Fits Your Macros). These sorts of people and philosophies make me SUPER uncomfortable and self-conscious. Like I’m doing something EXTREMELY wrong, and THIS IS THE ANSWER. I really don’t want to fall down that rabbit hole; while macros are important, I’m not interested in obsessively hitting each goal exactly.
The goal here is to live life, be healthy, look hot, and not obsess/encourage further eating disorders.
I have a super love-hate relationship with my Active Link. At about this point, you’re either nodding your head because you know exactly what I’m talking about, or you’re wondering what the hell kind of gibberish came out of my mouth just now.
Well, Active Link is this little gadget from Weight Watchers, which tracks every up-and-down, back-and-forth, and side-to-side movement. It looks like this:
And you can put it in your pocket or wear it on your belt, bra, or around your neck (a few people have thought that it was a clothing tag when I clip it on to my sports bra and am wearing a burnout tee). It unplugs and has a little USB drive so you plug it into your computer and the program will tell you how much activity you’ve done that day.
But the thing about Active Link is that you don’t just put it on and have it monitor your activity.
This thing sets goals for you. (If you look at the top image, you can see how the Active Link goal for me is to increase gradually the amount of activity I’m getting every day.) You get it, hook up the software, and then wear the sucker for a week during “assessment.” Once you’re assessed, the program asks a few questions about your current activity goals, and then you go.
Now, I was warned about Active Link. My friend/leader Jennifer told me before they even came out that for someone like me, the Active Link might piss me the f off.
Because I work out. I mean, I weeeerk out. I go to WOD four times a week, and then I do a kettlebell conditioning class once per week additionally. But at the end of the assessment week, doing everything normally, the Active Link showed that on most days I didn’t even meet my baseline. (This is something that’s cool about Active Link: Using your age/height/weight, it calculates how much activity it takes for you to simply maintain/be alive.) And since I was barely making baseline, I wasn’t earning any Activity Points. Which is what initially pissed me off. Because before, even if I didn’t eat my Activity Points, I would record between 12 and 15 APs for ONE Crossfit WOD, and at the end of the week, I’d accumulate something like 70 or 80 APs. I knew it was probably wrong, but Active Link (a) confirmed that, and (b) gave me little or NO Activity Points for my workouts!
This is what my first week looked like:
As you can see, I earned an average of 47% each day toward my GOAL of earning ONE Activity Point. This coming from someone who thought for sure she was earning 12 to 15 PER DAY.
Now, a note on Active Link: While it tracks movement, it obviously doesn’t take into account many of the pieces of Crossfit that make it more intense than other exercises. For example, if I’m doing deadlifts or thrusters, it won’t register a difference between me lifting 200# and me lifting 50#. Savvy? So often, I get only a few minutes worth of “moderate” activity registering for most WODs.
Like I said, I was initially quite…QUITE salty about this. I mean, how DARE Active Link tell me that I work my ass off at the gym and not earn APs? How DARE they?!
Simultaneously, I know that part of the goal of Active Link is to get you to move around when you’re not at the gym. So, parking a little further away (or taking the bus to campus), running up and down stairs doing laundry, etc., all contributes to your daily activity. And that was something I had to start to deal with. That my everyday motion contributed significantly—not just the WOD. Like, there’s a HUGE difference in my day if I (a) only WOD, come home and shower, and then lounge around, vs. (b) WOD, go grocery shopping, come home and change, take the bus to campus, and walk around school.
Once I saw that very first week at 47%, I knew that something HAD to change. I needed at least to earn 100% to be satisfied. Or, you know, make that stupid baseline. After assessment week, I started taking walks EVERY DAY.
This helped. It helped A LOT. But soon, I was getting burnt out. Not only that, but the weather wasn’t always nice, and I frankly didn’t have time to do another HOUR of exercising every day.
That’s when I talked with Dean, and we tweaked my eating and exercising habit.
Now I’m doing the WOD on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Kettlebells on Sunday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I work on running. Yup, you heard. Running. (And I’m getting a lot better at it!)
To give you an idea of what that’s done for my chart, this is what my last week looked like:
Yeah. Big difference. As you can see, I’m almost always above goal (the days that I’m not, I try to at least make baseline). The Crossfit workouts contribute to the Moderate Intensity checkmarks, and the running contributes to the High Intensity checkmarks.
And while it might seem tedious to do what I do, I will say that this has DEFINITELY jump-started my weight loss. Which, after a full year of plateaus, is definitely welcome.
Am I still pissed at Active Link?
I get annoyed with it, yes. Because sometimes I feel like I work so hard at the WOD for very little recognition. (I do take THAT with a grain of salt, or I at least try.) But then again, I really enjoy (a) getting a more accurate reading of what kind of activity I’m doing (and you can itemize it my MINUTE, if you want…it’s pretty cool, really), and (b) finally dropping the LBs. And you know…it can’t be all that bad if it’s forcing me to really work on one of my biggest sucks (i.e., running). Who knew?!
Whenever it’s time for some heavy lifting during my WODs, we’re generally given two options: Grab a partner (or two), or be the Lone Wolf.
Although I’m a pretty social person, I almost always choose to be the Lone Wolf. I’m not really sure why, but it may have something to do with the issues I have with people watching me—I really don’t like it. So I think it’s the same with partnering up…I always feel like there’s more pressure on me to succeed or impress, and I feel embarrassed when it doesn’t happen.
It’s the same with partner WODs. I don’t generally LOVE them because I don’t want to feel like the asshole who couldn’t get as many reps as my partner or lift as many pounds quite as fast. Not gonna lie…I like to be the Alpha Wolf, not the Slow Wolf. (So, then, it follows that I like to be the Lone Wolf.)
There have been few circumstances during which I feel partnering up has helped me instead. It’s been (mostly) beneficial to participate in competitions with a team or a partner, exactly so you’re NOT the Lone Wolf—so you know that someone (or someones) has your back all the time.
And, after this past Labor Day, I’m thinking that really intimidating WODs are just a little bit better with some alliances.
At Albany Crossfit, each Labor Day we do a hero WOD of our own, called Stephen, named after one of our dear members who passed three years ago. It’s a grueling mindf*ck of 10 rounds of 10 burpees, 200m run, and 30 air squats.
At first glance, I was thinking, Ehhh…I hate running, but that’s gonna be the worst of it.
But then you look at it again, and all of a sudden you’re like HOLY CRAPBALLS! We have to work in 100 burpees and 300 squats?! What in the ACTUAL f*ck?!?!?! Clearly, between running a mile-point-five and 400 other movements, I’m thinking that I would either pass out or puke…or die. Or maybe all of the above.
And then my mind is reeling, and all of a sudden, I’m realizing that if none of that happens, I am going to be absolutely, positootly, dead last.
WORST FEAR REALIZED!!!
I suppose my solution was both simple and self-serving, and came to fruition when I heard a few of my dear friends complaining about how slow they were at burpees.
(Side note: If you say you’re slow at burpees, I guarantee you cash money that I am slower. You can deny it all you like, but it’s absolutely true. It takes me, on average, twice as long to do a burpee as the average burpee-doer. I wish I were exaggerating, because God knows I exaggerate a lot, but I’m not. At all.)
So, immediately, a lightbulb turns on, and I have the most brilliant eureka moment.
“Would you,” I begin, “maybe be interested in tackling this as a team?”
“I mean, as in, we do our burpees together, and we wait for everyone to finish. We start to run together, and we wait for everyone before we finish our squats. And we yell at each other until we all finish. Then…no one of us can be last.” (Which was obviously the fear of each of us.)
This was such a brilliant idea! And of course, in my mind, I would be busting through ALL of these movements, so I’d clearly be getting lots of rest time while everyone tried to catch up to my fast self (HA!).
In all seriousness, though, for once this group mentality immediately took off loads of pressure for this community/memorial WOD.
We all showed up the morning of slightly pukey, but mostly ready to get the show on the road. We confirmed that we would all, indeed, be working together, which was a great relief and comfort. And all of a sudden, it was 3-2-1-GO time, and we all started out on the burpees.
I immediately realized that my team’s version of slow was, like I had expected, much faster than my version of slow. Before I knew it, I had done 8 burpees, and my team was staring at me to finish. Or, rather, I had to just move on, because even though the people leading Round One were going slow, I was going much slower.
Oh great, now I’m being the slow one! I told myself.
Then running—not horrible. But then squats. Aaaaand………what the hell………they were the WORST part of the whole WOD. Even after round one, I could feel my legs cramping from the burpees and the running.
Something was going to have to change. Could I convince my teammates to quit after maybe four rounds instead of ten?
I quickly understood that that would not be an option, but I still needed to change, because, frankly, my team was just too badass for me—I wasn’t able to keep up with their burpees or squats. Which is when some humble scaling worked in my favor; I quietly scaled burpees to 7 per round and squats to 20, obviously not messing with the run.
Each round I finished last. And each round, I looked up to see Mary or Sarah telling me to get up or squat just once more.
By the beginning of round nine (which…I’m not sure how I even got that far), I looked at Mary and was just like, “Can this please be our last round?” To which she pretty much gave in and said yes. (Note: So…Mary kindly pointed out that she didn’t actually say “Yes,” but that “Yes, it FEELS like it SHOULD be our last round.” Goes to show how delusional/delirious I can get during WODs. Ick!) But then Sarah, bless her heart, asked which round we were on, and neither of us had I didn’t have the gall to tell her round ten. So we did the tenth round.
And yeah, we were pretty much last. But whatever. It wasn’t a big deal. And it was really, really nice to have a few people burpee-ing and running and squatting in solidarity with me.
When I was debating attending this event, someone told me that I should go because it’s a really great community-building, feel-good event. I can’t say I felt particularly awesome (the next day, at least), and I didn’t really feel like I had a huge connection with everyone else who came out to remember Stephen, but damn if I didn’t feel just a helluva lot grateful for my Team of Awesome.
I also can’t say that I’m going to immediately turn around and reject my Lone Wolf ways. But I will say that I am certainly more open to it.
You’ve already heard the spiel. I hate running. I don’t want to do it. Ever.
But the thing is, if I want to continue Crossfitting (I do), especially when it’s nice out, I have to start running. Really. I have no choice. It’s either that or stop all together, which I don’t really want as an option.
After intentionally skipping Thursday’s 5k WOD, I felt kind of down. I mean, I still didn’t want to run the 5k, but I should have gone and at least tried. BUT, I have the power, now, on my days that I don’t make it in, to start running on my own terms, so when we see a mile run on the WOD it won’t be quite so intimidating. This will take a while, and I’m okay with that. I will look at this more as working on my suck list.
On Saturday, I started my informal regimen. I mapped out 1.5 miles through Washington Park on Google Maps and had at it. One minute run. One minute walk. I was able to keep this pattern up for a little more than a third of the session, and it took me about 20 minutes to complete the entire route. Not great, but not horrible, especially for a first-time.
My ultimate goal with this will be to decrease my times and up my running stamina, and to eventually not be so intimidated by Crossfit running WODs.
Yesterday, the WOD was a 5k run. Instead of meeting this with enthusiasm and a sense of adventure, I automatically said NO. And this time, nobody could convince me otherwise.
There are a few things behind my revulsion here:
I hate running.
I am not a runner. (Not yet, anyway.)
I can’t stand the feeling of a DNF.
I was scared shitless.
Now, before you get on your pedestal and tell me that anyone can do anything if you put your mind to it, let me explain.
One and two can sort of merge together. I understand completely that I cannot become a runner if I don’t eventually TRY to run. But it’s hard for me to even TRY to run if I HATE doing it. At the same time, this was the sort of logic I’ve used my entire life in relation to exercise and athletics. “I am not an athlete, and I hate athletics.” Now it’s more like, “I AM an athlete, and I love Crossfit.” Better. My thing is, sort of, that my mind is having a hard time keeping up, AND I need more time to ease into a 5k. Do you think that I just hopped on a rower one day, after NEVER rowing, and was like, Heh, Imma row a 5k for the Red Cross? No! Hell no! I’ve been practicing my rows for months! Running on the other hand? We’ve done a few outdoors warm-ups that included anything from running 200m to 600m. And by about meter 250, I wanted to DIE. No, really. Wanted. To. Die. One time, Coach Dean ran almost a full lap with me, telling me to just put one foot in front of the other. And recently, Coach Kevin told me he’d kick a foot up my ass if I didn’t run. Great encouragement, really, but this was really for short-distance running. Not for a 5k. And not even for a mile.
This brings me to three and four. I wasn’t only scared of the long distance, but I was scared that I would DNF. I’ve DNF’d a WOD once, and I still remember how intensely horrible the feeling was, even though I got massive amounts of encouragement. It’s a feeling I never want to relive. But then there are people who believe that you have to fail in order to get stronger. I get that logic, I do, but I don’t really buy into it. Not now at least. I remember how I almost didn’t come back after that DNF, and how scared I was to do any WODs containing high-reps of situps for a long time after (I still am, actually!).
I actually think that part of the appeal of Crossfit is that I see the next day’s WOD post, often think to myself OH SHIT!, force myself to go, and then feel awesome for doing so. It’s this delicate balance of sweat and fear and guts. There is almost always fear. But this time, fear won. Were it a 1-mile run to ease me in? Yeah, it would have been really scary, but I would have known I could complete it. The not knowing is the worst! Who knows? Maybe I wouldn’t have DNF’d the 5k, but I didn’t want to take the risk, AND I didn’t want to take two hours to complete it, either (no, seriously, this is a legitimate concern).
In the mean time, I’ll keep working my ass off, and I’ll practice my running when it comes up. But I’m just not ready for a 5k. Not now, at least.