Coaches Soap Box

Hey all I’m back on my soap box again (for all 10 of you that read this). Just got back from the RP Diet seminar and I have to say it got me thinking a bit more in depth about some of things I was going to talk about here. I’d like to address a few things I’ve noticed over the years especially as it pertains to people’s viewpoint of what ‘fitness’ means to them and getting over the body image barriers that some of you might have in your subconscious due to the media barrage all around us. Hopefully this puts some myths to rest and makes it easier for you to focus on what’s really important as we march into 2016.

 

“I need to lose 5 pounds for my cruise”

Too often I hear statement like “I’d really like to be 145 pounds” or “ I just need to cut 20 pounds and then I’ll be good”. When I ask where these folks get their figures from they tend to look at me with a dumbfounded face and reply with an unsure shoulder shrug  (not the barbell type either). Other peeps tend to tell me “well that’s how much I weighed when I was in High School/College” (insert any other periods in your life when your metabolism/body composition was completely different). I’m going to reveal a secret the coaches have been keeping from you all this time: If you have been hitting the box regularly 3-5 days a week for a good 2 years straight, your biological make up has changed a bit. You have added more lean mass, legs and arms growing in diameter and maybe even a thicker trunk from all the core stability work you have done while lifting weights. Expecting to get back down to a body weight that you assumed pre training when you’ve gained significant muscle mass as well as a decade or two of a slowing metabolism is just unrealistic and dangerous.

 

I going to use an example from my own experience to showcase what I mean. I wrestled in high school. If I weighed in at a soaking wet 160 pounds my senior year, train for the next 10 plus years and end up gaining a good 60 pounds in the process of strengthening my body as well as developing into a mature adult male it’s safe to say I won’t be seeing 160 again unless I’m captured by an invading army and sent to a labor camp with little to no food for a good year or so. At best I could maybe wrestle at a 215 pound weight and still maintain my strength without fainting during a match or having chronic nose pleads. I know because two years ago I almost tanked during a weightlifting meet foolishly trying to stay at 207 pounds when I knew damn well the other athletes my height were competing at 231 and up. Getting down to that weight wasn’t difficult however staying there and maintaining strength was near impossible. My elbows and knees started to ache, wrist pain I had never had before, as well as dizzy spells during heavy squat training were plenty of evidence that staying at this weight class and a deficit of calories was a no go and I am now a much happier athlete that is able to train with more vigor and intensity as well as handle more work volume (sets/reps in a day/week).4961_573275993417_5161796_n

Circa 2008 at a very soft 190lbs

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December 2015 at 225lbs with about 20% body fat

Another great example is everybody’s favorite person. Coach Allie has been with this gym since the beginning. She got to where she is at by doing CrossFit, not by overloading herself with endless conditioning work. For the last several years she has done little more than the class WOD and maybe some extra skill work on the weekends. It’s my opinion (for what that is worth to you all) that she is a great example of what is a realistically attainable fitness and overall health level because she follows the plan and watches what she eats nothing more nothing less. Will her body change as she ages, sure, but I doubt that is going to be a major issue as long as she continues doing what she is doing. What she is doing is CrossFit. What is CrossFit? CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at intensity coupled with a diet based on lean meats, healthy fats and carbs, some fruit, little starch and NO SUGAR.

“4 years ago i was 100-105 lbs. Skinny, stick figure. Now 130….that would freak most people out, but you and I both know that my weight means strength in numbers. I’m not going to lie, it was a hard pill to swallow at first. But, I learned, I feel far more nourished and stronger than I did before.”

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Circa 2007 just over 100lbs

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2013, She’s even more jacked now!

“I need more Ab work”

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Where did her quads go?

 

This is probably one of my least favorite statements I hear and some of you probably have already seen me cringe when it happens. First off, the reason we do so much full body movements, aka CrossFit, is because they inherently challenge and engage the core-to-extremity model as well as the entire  Central Nervous System (CNS) and therefore already target those areas you are concerned about. You can do planks and crunches for ions but you will never come close to the same stimulus as a heavy Turkish Get-up or Front/Overhead Squat.  A possible reason you may feel like you aren’t getting enough “abs” is because doing real abdominal work not only strengthens but also thickens your midriff/trunk area. Let’s not freak out now!  Also doing excessive crunch and sit-up abdominal type movements tend to cause a bit of a bulged look for the pyramidalis (that little triangular thing towards the mid center of the stomach) when you ignore or neglect the rest of the abdominal wall (obliques,transverse, rectus). The people on the covers of fitness magazines look the way they do for a reason. Assuming these folks have not undergone any plastic surgery and haven’t taken illegal supplements, the picture you see before you is still not how they look day to day. They are typically at a huge calorie deficit for weeks and purposely dehydrate themselves for the camera/show to look as lean as possible. It is not a sustainable lifestyle 365 days a year. Add photoshop and airbrushing and you are really giving yourself some majorly unrealistic goals. Also how many sessions/hours do you think these folks spend at the gym per week. They are not in there for fitness, they are striving for a certain look within a very subjective sport (bodybuilding/physique) You have to be reasonable about your overall goal for  yourself and realize most of you are not training to be swimsuit models or to be Mr Universe, rather to be fit and healthy well into your twilight years and have fun doing it in the process.

 

 

“I need more cardio”

Sometime I’m not sure that people know what they mean by this. Usually what they mean to say is they think longer workouts with senseless movements will somehow equate to a better physique/scale number. I’ll tell you why this is false:  

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No traps, biceps, deltoids or lats sold here…

 

  1. For many of us if not all of us this is just not the case. Most of us aren’t nearly disciplined enough in our daily nutrition to suggest that more work load is actually needed. Usually the real answer is being more dedicated and consistent with monitoring your caloric intake and macro-nutrient ratios.
  2. Excessive aerobic or “steady state cardio” conditioning can actually have a negative effect on your progress and hold you back to the point of lost strength through not ingesting enough calories while adding volume of work that has no rhyme or reason. Excessive cardio can also reverse the effects of the strength training you did that day to the point of ZERO ADAPTATION, meaning you did all those squats and presses for nothing basically. Unless you are of the particular category of obese this kind of workload probably isn’t needed or healthy and even if it is, I strongly suggest a slow work up in volume rather than jumping in and killing yourself. Slow progress is healthy progress.
  3. Is the number or physique you are chasing reality or is it something you put on yourself through a self image problem you have from your past? Maybe you were fairly overweight at some point in your life, maybe overly skinny? Maybe you got teased (kids are mean) when you were an adolescent. I got crap for being a twig all my teen years until I finally developed and I still feel inadequate most days. The fact that some women out there snatch my Clean and Jerk doesn’t help matters. However, sometimes you just have to LET GO!
  4. Any significant strength/gains go hand in hand with gaining a slight percentage in body fat. You can try all you want to up your squat and bench while cutting weight but unless you are overweight, you are going to find this highly difficult and SUPER SLOW. Why retard your progress when you can sacrifice your belly for 10-12 weeks in exchange for some major strength gains? Not to mention once you have gained that lean mass it’s far easier to cut back down your body fat to your desired percentage. That’s largely the reason we train in blocks of focused work, moving slowly from a strength phase over to a fat burning/conditioning phase. It’s just how the body works, and if you haven’t noticed we have moved to that model lately in preparation for the CrossFit Open.

 

“I need more strength work/When are we going to deadlift/bench again?”

 

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Some folks have voiced concerns in the past about lack of strength work during certain periods. It’s all apart of the plan peeps. Sometimes in order to keep an even keel we need to back off of certain exercises in order to ensure we are as well rounded as possible. Not all CrossFit gyms practice this method but I am a firm believer in not only constant variance but PLANNED VARIANCE. Variety is great but without a plan it’s doomed to failure. Some recipes just work. I don’t head over to my dad’s house and screw with his spaghetti sauce when I know it’s amazing. I have had it before, it’s always good. Would I change it just to change it up? No of course not. The point is that regardless of what you might think, the workouts throughout the year have a specific goal in mind, specific stimuli in mind during specific months of the year. Ultimately it would be impossible for you all to do every movement in the book and be in peak strength levels, and be in peak conditioning shape year round. That’s why elite athletes have periodized blocks of training as well as scheduled off seasons and breaks from training. The body just doesn’t work like that and neither does strength and conditioning. Did you hear that? “Strength and Conditioning”! You do one before the other for a reason and sometimes emphasis the focus in certain areas more than others in order to produce a certain result while doing your best to maintain some level of adequacy in the other domains of fitness. Some of us get bummed about not hitting back squat PRs every time we walk in the gym and others could give a hoot if they ever see a barbell squat of any kind again. However, we all have to do them just as we all have to do kettlebell work, running, rowing, jumping, and anything else. You all had a general ed class you loathed in college but you had to do it in order to get that bachelor’s degree. Now if your goal is to be ridiculously strong and care about nothing else, then CrossFit may not be for you but good thing we have a weightlifting club! Just remember that the barbell strength is a process as well and doesn’t come easy by any means.

 

 

 

“But that girl in the last class used the same weight as me (male voice)”

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This athlete may be out snatching some of you men, but you must remember it probably took her hours of extra coaching on the lift, not to mention she is in her 20’s and doesn’t appear to have much mobility problems. There is ALWAYS a girl that is better than you at something out there somewhere. Just accept it gents.

We all need to stop using unhealthy comparison of ourselves to other people. Checking your Wodify update to see if you beat that guy who is of similar size and age is totally okay and healthy. Being emotionally distraught over being dead last on a WOD or lift that you have a hard time with is not. One of our female athletes recently was able to perform overhead squats with weight for the first time. It was a huge success and it would have been a tragedy to overlook it just because she didn’t use the same load as another female athlete 10 years her junior. Its also important to remember that even if you are an ultra competitive athlete it’s not healthy for other folks to hear you bitching about not hitting a PR Snatch or openly calling your own performance “pathetic” or “crappy”. The person next to you may have been feeling good about their session beforehand, but now they just heard your negative talk about your performance when they might possibly look up to you as an example. “If he thinks his snatch is awful then what does coach think of mine?”  I have been guilty of throwing tantrums over missed lifts, but I try not to do it in front of others. Kevin had a really good point in our last blog about not being 25 anymore. It’s true. None of us will ever be as young as we were the day before. It’s the way of life. But that is the beauty behind this journey. However, we can be healthier each day and we can be comfortable with who we are and what we look like but we don’t have to put away our swords just yet. There are local competitions, the CrossFit Open, Olympic weightlifting meets, 5K races, marathons, fun runs, Spartan races and other obstacle challenges any week in this country. Even if that’s not what you are looking to do there is still work to be done in the gym. Why be content with just 5 strict pull-ups when you could PR with 7? Why settle for pull-ups when there are muscle-ups, legless rope climbs, and strict hand stands? You will never beat CrossFit. That is the whole point behind this training program. There is always a way to make the WOD more challenging. There is always another movement to achieve, a lift to perfect, a PR to be had.

 

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Its important to remember that these athletes are at the peak of there game. If you are past this age you don’t have to give up, but you can’t put unreasonable pressure on yourself. You only be as good as YOU can be.  and you have to be okay with that. The fastest/strongest 50 year old in a small gym in Pennsylvania is better than the 50 something on kidney dialysis and a hip/knee/shoulder replacement around the corner.

 

“There are no shortcuts”

30 day challenge this and 100 burpee challenge that. Sometimes they can be great tools to spark the community to get out of a rut and get back in the gym. Motivation is good but it’s important to realize that they are no short term solutions for long term problems. Crash diets, 20 day cleanses, juice fasts, it’s all a gimmick/hoax unless you are willing to make long term commitments.  Fix your mobility issues! If you work on that you can better focus on your movement quality, that will lead to better reps, which leads to more reps in a shorter amount of time (increased work performance). Add this and a  focus on a steady clean nutrition plan and you will get better results. I love seeing everyone pushing themselves to be stronger, more flexible, and all around well rounded athletes rather than chasing a ‘look’ that might never be achievable for the long term.  I think we all need to remember the end goal for your training is not always how you look in the mirror or what the scale says and should be more about your accomplishments, where you’ve been, and where you are going. After all we are not bodybuilders in this gym. CrossFit is supposed to be a broad and inclusive fitness, not magazine abs and crash diets.

 

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In closing we all need to buckle down, look in the mirror and ask ourselves why we think the way we think. What is it about ourselves we aren’t comfortable with and why is that? You are either ready to take the plunge into slow, steady, but healthy progress or you are doomed to be troubled with short lived successes followed by terrible a big crash. Jumping into diets without guidance from a coach who knows your daily exercise routine inside and out isn’t the answer and neither is taking fitness advice from “experts” who have cheated by starving themselves, abusing diet pills, and taking injections of anabolic steroids. These folks have thrived on the shortcut to success and their health will ultimately suffer because of it. Remember the kind of example you want to project into your household as the young minds under your roof begin to shape their own self worth and independent ideas. 

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Some random thoughts from a 45 year old CrossFitting pharmacist who’s a father of two teenage daughters:

I’m not 25 years old anymore.
But that’s okay because my goal is to be the best 45 year-old I can be. I realize there are certain lifts I might never master and times I’ll most likely never achieve. I do, however, set what I consider to be attainable goals for myself. I still enjoy competing but at the same time I realize there will be guys who are faster and stronger than me. However, it’s great working out with them because they motivate me to keep pushing myself.

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For me, CrossFit is the best workout.
I played high school football and lifted all through college and into my late 30s but wasn’t truly serious about working out until one day towards the end of 2008 when I decided I would run a marathon. Two of my cousins finished marathons and I thought it was a great accomplishment and something I would like to try. I bought a book called “The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer”. In it the authors promised that if their program was followed someone who had never seriously run could finish a marathon. I followed it religiously and finished the 2009 Philadelphia Marathon. My time was terrible but I had achieved my goal. I also swore to myself that day I would never, ever run another marathon. I continued running but was getting tired of it and decided to try P90X. I saw good results but became bored with it.
Then, in the summer of 2012 my wife Janice and I watched a series called “The Weight of the Nation”. She had always walked and tried the latest fitness trend but that program motivated her to do something more and she joined “Warrior Bootcamp” and loved it! She encouraged me to join and I did so in January of 2013. I can honestly say it changed my life.
I’ve met a great group of people who I look forward to seeing and working out with, many of whom I consider friends. Surrounding myself with like-minded, healthy individuals has also motivated me to eat better. Is my diet perfect? Absolutely not, but I have more good days than bad days. During a workout the encouragement from others helps me to push myself when it would be easier to walk away and not finish. Because the workouts change daily I’m never bored. I’ve don’t recall considering working out fun before but I definitely have fun at CrossFit. The social interaction is awesome – I can honestly say I laugh every day I’m there and the atmosphere is one of support and inclusion. When someone has a big lift, we all share in the joy. When someone is having a bad day we all try to pick that person up. I might be feeling down when I walk in the box, but walking out I have a good feeling simply because I know I pushed myself and had fun with a group of people I want to be around.
The coaches are very knowledgeable and supportive. I feel the instruction received before every class lessens the chance of me inuring myself. During the workout they watch what I’m doing and if necessary correct whatever mistakes I might be making.
I realize CrossFit might not be for everyone, but for me personally I have a hard time imaging my life without the people and coaches of CrossFit Hail Fire in it.
I see the effects of obesity.
Part of my job involves reading thought medical records and reviewing drug therapy. A lot has been said about the “Obesity Epidemic” and I seCFHF055e it every day – instances of someone who is clinically obese and on multiple medications to treat Type II Diabetes. I’m not saying that every person who has Type II Diabetes is obese, but obesity is definitely a major contributor nationwide. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to kidney damage, nerve pain, amputations and eye damage.
I don’t want that to happen to me. I’m not saying I won’t get diabetes or will never be overweight because I CrossFit. But it is my sincere belief that working out multiple times a week and watching my diet lessens my chances. One measurable, positive effect I’ve seen from working out and watching my diet is that I’ve had the dose of my medication to treat high cholesterol cut in half. I’ve also been able to maintain my weight and have normal blood pressure.

My daughters are surrounded by positive role models. 12002063_1166489336700868_3882694663388464794_n
I’m pretty sure every generation feels childhood was simpler for them and is more difficult and challenging for their children. I know I do. In my opinion children today are bombarded by negative images and role models and, because of the access to the internet, these negativities are there 24 hours a day. Additionally, it’s become very easy to be entertained in the home and to not have to go outside, thus reducing physical activity. Personally, one of the most disturbing things I notice is what is portrayed on television and on the internet regarding how a woman should act and look.
I feel fortunate because my daughters have numerous positive role models. The most important one, of course, is their mother, who as I mentioned above, encouraged me to join CrossFit and leads a healthy, productive life. Additionally, because they CrossFit, they have countless other women who are positive influences on their lives. They’ve made great friends who share their same interests and values. They also get to see several times a week what “real women” look like. The ladies at CrossFit come in different sizes and shapes. They are strong and independent. They encourage and support each other. They are nurses, coaches, teachers and stay-at –home-moms. What they are not is heroin-shooting super models. They aren’t pop-singing superstars with eating disorders. While I worry about what they are seeing on television and the internet, I rest a little easier knowing who my daughters are surrounded by at CrossFit and the real life role models they have.11059659_1071595952856874_4580140837347103660_n

MENTAL TOUGHNESS, SELF IDENTITY, AND THRUSTERS

In December of 2012, the coaches had us write a goal on the whiteboard after the last workout of the year. The Saturday before that day, the workout was 50 thrusters for time, which mentally destroyed me. Thrusters were my nemesis and I 10313672_10107641050575284_661502863859416546_ntoiled with whether or not to come to class to battle it out. I hated that about me. I wanted to not be afraid of a workout. I wanted to be confident. So I wrote “mental toughness” on that whiteboard.

If life was a movie and had foreshadowing music, it was playing in that moment. What I was about to learn about mental toughness had nothing to do with overcoming my fear of thrusters. Ugh, I still hate thrusters. Instead, I was about to embark on a journey of self-discovery. Here are five important things I learned along the way.

Take injuries seriously.

Before 2013, I don’t think I’d ever been injured. I have been hurt– sprained ankles, sore muscles, a few aches and pains, but nothing that ever stopped me. In January 2013, my knee injury stopped me in my tracks, right off that box jump. I remember worrying that I might miss a week of workouts; I could barely stand the idea of missing a week. After I tore my ACL and meniscus, I learned the mental toughness that I never knew I needed, and not in any of the ways I expected. I spent dark days wondering why, what if, and how would I ever overcome this. I know I sound dramatic. The 6-12 months of surgery, recovery, physical therapy and the aftermath challenged me physically, emotionally and intellectually.

I learned that I must take injuries seriously, from the beginning. I need to be willing to go to a doctor, take a break, and know my limits. Over the last two years, I had to work on healing and to my surprise, my body complied. In the past, I struggled to determine when enough is enough. I grew up in an era when you played injured and you taped every body part to get back in the game. I never know if I’m sore, hurt or injured. I have tried to become more reflective about my body and how it feels. I’m so thankful to Allie who helped me modify the movements along the way. She continues to offer insight into whether or not I should modify or if I can ‘go for it’. I now pay attention to tweaks, quirks, stiffness, and mobility issues. I challenge myself to go to a chiropractor, a doctor, and a massage therapist to fix those things- whether minor or major. I need to do yoga, foam rolling, mashing, and stretching. As I get older, the days of not needing to stretch or work on mobility are over. Since my surgery and physical therapy, I have attended courses taught by Yoga Tune-Up founder, Jill Miller, author of The Roll Model: A Step-by-step guide to erase pain, improve mobility and live better in your body. I have used her products and DVDs, so much so that she featured my story in the knee chapter in her book. I know that I not only have to do the few minutes of mobility work in the beginning of class, but I ne10917470_1021784687838001_223746278893288895_ned to continually work on my issues—hips, ankles, knees, shoulders… on my own time. Why, do I feel like I’m made out of wood? The only elusive thing I’m truly jealous of—flexibility. I’m striving to find it, to develop it, to own it. I can say it because I’ve told her; I’m so envious of the depth and capacity of Lucy’s squat. I often watch friends without tight hips and achy knees and I envy their ability to
bounce back from a squat or drop from a pull-up without considering what direction their knee must land. Jealousy aside, I am working on my mobility so that I can have my own enviable squat form.

Make good decisions about food.

I like French fries and ice cream. As I
approach 40, I know that I can’t eat whatever I want. My relationship status with food is definitely “it’s complicated.” I need to tell myself that food is fuel, not comfort. Not reward for good or pity for bad days. It is not to be used to drown sorrows or lower stress. Convenience and laziness are my excuses for bad eating habits. It seems that it is always someone’s birthday in my family, so there’s cake—or someone is being hired or retiring at work, so there’s cake. It’s ok to say no, I don’t need any cake. And then I tell myself, the cake doesn’t taste that great, especially when comparing it to the number of burpees I would have to do to burn the calories of all that cake. Nothing tastes that good, because of course, burpees suck.

I have found I can overcome those bad habits if I prepare my meals for the week on Sunday afternoons, because if I don’t, I will most certainly order takeout. Food prep has been the key to me making better decis
ions. I have to plan what I eat and I have to be disciplined to stay on track, but I feel so much better, I sleep better and I feel better during the workouts.

Schedule workouts.

In the last few years, I have been dedicated for a few weeks, maybe even a few months, and then, work or life gets hectic or stressful, and I become inconsistent. I have a job with a pretty demanding schedule… in addition to a 50-minute commute, depending on traffic from the construction on Route 61 and tractor-trailers on Interstate 78.

A few years ago, I was a die-hard 6:30 pm girl, coming to class four-five times a week; then track season started, and I missed more than I came. I missed weeks at a time. Over the years, I would have spurts where I recommitted to 6 pm and I would do my best to pack a bag, leave work early and get to class. It was hard. I never felt like going. By 4 pm, my brain was fried and my commute made me tired. I made the best excuses to why I couldn’t make it. I was at the gym so rarely that I could never get better or learn to be comfortable with the workout or the
movements. I worried incessantly about what the workout would be and whether or not I could handle it. And coming once a week made me very, very sore after each and every workout. I could never conquer any goals because I wasn’t there enough to actually make an impact.

And then this summer, I made a decision—influenced by the 10 lbs I gained on vacation– and Ang talking about how important consistency was; I committed to 7 am. I scheduled it in my work calendar as 6:30-9:15 am, which includes my commute. The night before, I take 5 minutes and pack my bag for the next day. Can you believe it really only takes 5 minutes? At first it was hard to remember everything, but now I have a bag for shampoo, soap, and a towel. After the workout, I shower quickly, get ready and then drive to work, feeling empowered and energetic. I have been doing this since July and it is working. I feel better when I’m at work, I’m less stressed and it is fun again. Sometimes I can’t believe I am getting up so early, especially now that it is dark out, but I love it. I love my 7 am classmates and look forward to seeing them. I’m sure they don’t even realize how their support helped me reconnect, helped me become consistent.

Now that the workouts are posted, I also don’t worry as much. It allows me
to mentally prepare for what we will do. I am much calmer now. I can bring the right equipment and wear the right clothes—things that are important to me. Mitch once told me, never let your outfit be louder than your performance, so I try no
t to wear too much bright colored animal print.
But I can have long sleeves for days with atlas stones, and have my good running shoes for days with 400m runs. I like being prepared. I am trying to be there as much as possible. I know that some days I can’t make it because of early morning meetings, and I don’t beat myself up about it. I am at peace with my workouts because I am committed to being there.

Don’t compare yourself.

Who doesn’t want to be Ang? Of course, I’m in awe of
the many strengths and feats that these amazing women accomplish. The numbers can consume you, beat you up and play games in your
head. After I was injured, I had to adjust my expectations for myself. I don’t want to be wimpy, but I also don’t want to be injured. My physical therapist reiterated over and over again, that there is a thin line between brave and stupid. I often teeter on that line. I hate that I can’t do certain things. I hate being the last person finished. Instead of comparing myself to someone else, I appreciate the ability to actually compete with the workout, not with anyone else.

When I was injured, I struggled to be me
because I felt like I couldn’t define who I was without exercise. I couldn’t go to that place where you don’t remember anything but the task in front of you. Without it I was drowning in a lack of self-identity, bordering on self-pity. In May of 2013, I wrote in a journal, “I feel like crying. I feel like I’m no longer myself.” One Sunday, the message at church included this verse, “I have given up all hope; and I feel numb all over.” And it resonated with me, that’s how truly sad I’d become. During that time, I physically limped around and focused on what I couldn’t do. I never want to feel that way again. I am determined to learn from this injury, to appreciate every moment so that I see success in finishing… in just doing a workout.

I’m learning to put out my best effort, to work on my form, a
nd improve my mobility. It doesn’t help me to compare myself to anyone else. I can’t even compare myself to myself. This is a lesson I continue to learn. I have two versions of my inner athlete— ‘the before me’ and ‘after injury me’. Don’t feel bad for me though, because I’m on the path to making the ‘after injury me’ better than the one ‘before’. I appreciate so much more, and I value form and efficiency. I’m thankful for all the things my body can do—how it has healed itself. My mind and body are more in tune and I care about understandin
g where my body is in space, how it moves and what it means to do something correctly.

I have power, but lack grace. I have never been graceful, and that makes a lot of CrossFit movements hard. Since I know they are hard, I must focus on getting better and being consistent. I hate thrusters and don’t really like running. I have come to accept there are things that I hate doing. Just because I hate doing it, doesn’t mean I don’t want to do it. I want to overcome it. I want to be better than it.

Appreciate the opportunity.

Sounds easy, but sometimes we forget to truly be thankful for the abilities and opportunities we have. When I was recovering from my injury, I couldn’t put on my own socks or get out of the car by myself. Whether it is going down

the steps or taking a long walk, I can remember the struggle—both mental and physical. Sometimes I say to my best friend, remember when I couldn’t do this? In those moments, I appreciate how I’ve grown. I appreciate the time it takes to commit to being in class. It matters. Honor that. When I get to practice and become better at a movement, I feel like I’ve accomplished something great. Sometimes, it is just finishing a workout, like those Hero WODs in September. I am grateful for my abilities or lack thereof. I relish feeling stronger everyday and even embracing the days where I know I need more work, because there was a time where I wasn’t sure if I would ever get back. Now I know, it’s possible, if I am willing to put the time in and work harder.

We must appreciate the moments. There are so many amazing moments. Watching fellow athletes successfully attempt their first muscle-up or complete Karen for the first time is invigorating. Watching Susie clean and jerk with the artistic expression of a dancer is inspiring. I have the opportunity to work out with my mom. I am so thankful that my 61-year old mom is strong—in mind and body. I am proud of her commitment to her health—and I’m so thankful that she cares about being around for me as I get older, because a girl will always need her mom. Other family members think we are speaking our own language when I ask her how much weight she did for her 5RM or how many rounds she finished of that crazy AMRAP last week. I truly appreciate sharing those moments with her.

Without amazing coaches who really care about helping me be stronger, my life would be different. By this age, at this point, I would probably have resigned myself to a low-impact aerobics. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an athlete, getting stronger every day with people I adore. These people are amazing. I love to hear their stories, to be empowered by them, to be inspired by them, to cry with them, to know what is going on in their life and their workouts. I value their support and give my support to them. I enjoy the laughter, the understanding and the unconditional encouragement. There is so much expertise in that space. I am often in awe of how each person offers his or her experiences to help someone else– or the countless examples of advice, help and support this community offers both in and out of the gym. I enjoy the diversity of ages, viewpoints, abilities and life stories and I am privileged to work along side of each person who brings their dedication to our community. I am honored to call the people my friends; actually, they are my family.

I have so much gratitude for
our coaches for all they have done for us, and all the time they give up with their friends and families to teach, train and coach us. We can learn so much from listening to our coaches. Their expertise and experience is unparalleled. I h
ave dropped in to several CrossFit boxes and I can say our coaches are the best. I try to say thank you everyday so they know how great their impact has been in my ability to stay mobile, to stay young at heart and to be the best version of myself. Thank you, coaches, you continue to challenge me, to make me better at CrossFit, but more importantly better at my life, my job and being me.

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Back to School

I’m going to preface this post by first admitting that it has been long overdue.  I have been pretty silent for quite some time, mostly because of being busy adjusting to some of my new roles in life, but here I am. This will be the first of monthly installments that will discuss a variety of topics that affect YOU in your fitness journey and I hope they help.  These topics will include everything from nutrition tips, recovery techniques, thoughts about mental aspects of training, and updates on upcoming program focuses during class, as well as guest bloggers from various corners of the health and fitness community.

It’s just about August and summer break is almost over for the kiddies. For some of you that means back to the hustle of driving through the county every which way dropping the kids off at this and that activity, checking homework, studying for tests, getting them to eat dinner, brush their teeth and get to bed on time for the next day to do it all over again. Wait just a minute! You forgot to get to the gym! There go all your gains! (Just kidding) But seriously I really don’t know how some of you do it. Not to say any of you who don’t have families to contend with have a less complex or easy life, but it does require a lot of energy to get through the work day only to realize you’ve got several little people depending on your promptness and mental focus before you even consider your own personal wellbeing.  Some of you may still not have found an “easy” way to get it all done but I am going to discuss some basic concepts that will hopefully help you find time for YOU!

  • Preparation: You pick up your son from soccer practice just in time to make the 6pm class at your gym. It’s been a long day at work but you know you don’t want to miss today – it’s “Helen”! You get in the building, roll out your lats and legs, start the warm up and then it hits you… you haven’t eaten since 6:00am. You feel weak and sluggish during the whole ordeal and almost faint during the instructional before the WOD. The coach starts the clock and you feel your legs are a hundred pounds of slow moving mush as you start your run. Next thing you know you jump on the pull-up bar and find yourself missing and falling onto the rubber matted floor. You manage to get back on the bar but can barely hold and are feeling light headed as you attempt your first set of pull-ups. Coach looks at you and tells you to have a seat as you are visibly pale looking and not well. YOU JUST DON’T HAVE IT IN YOU TODAY. I can admit I have been here, but there are easy solutions to prevent this from happening. Proper nutrition pre and post workout are important but they don’t mean much when your daily intake leaves you in a calorie deficit.  You don’t have time or funds to go out to lunch every day and prepping a meal every morning on top of your breakfast (you definitely need that too) is unrealistic.  Sunday, or at least the day in the week where you are at home the most and can make some head way on chores, should be a time set aside for food prep. I’m not talking about cooking 5 different meals for the week. I am talking about grilling up a family pack of chicken breast and pork chops to throw in the fridge for the rest of the week, mixing up a large jar of trail mix you can scoop into individual servings with your lunches, and maybe a mixed bag of vegetable/salad and done. It will probably take you less than 2 hours to accomplish and you’ll be set for the week. It’s not glamorous cuisine but it’s better than the aforementioned scenario.
  • Ruling the roost (or at least the dinner table): This may raise some hairs and ruffle some feathers but I am going to say it anyway. It makes no sense what so ever, logistical or otherwise, to cook a great well balanced healthy meal for dinner only to cater another, less than healthy meal, to the rest of the family regardless of the fact little Mikey only likes McDonald’s chicken nuggets. Ask yourself not only who the boss here is, but also what health trends you are setting for your young family. Don’t bombard them with gluten free everything right off that bat, but you can squeeze in a side of vegetables here and there over time. Put out a jar of healthy snack foods (fruits and nuts) for them to munch on as they stroll by the kitchen, they will eat it. Next thing you know they have a full plate of healthy food in front of them that they are glad to eat and you don’t have to waste your valuable time and money cooking for two households.
  • Self-sufficiency: There is a misconception out there that you need an obscene acreage of land in order to grow your own food. I’m here to tell you this is simply not true. Some of you may already be doing this but as for the rest of you here is the skinny on the suburban farm life style. There really isn’t that much to it. If you have a yard with dirt in it, you can probably pull it off. Anywhere from 100 square feet to 500 square feet is sufficient for most families to have a variety of plants growing throughout various harvest times. All you need to do is break out the shovels, get the kids involved, and make sure you read up on the planting times for each plant to ensure a fruitful yield. Once again you are setting a great example and teaching the family good habits for later down the road, not to mention you actually know where your food is coming from.
  • Pack a bag: This especially applies for those that pass the gym on their way to and from work. What sense does it make to drive 20-30 minutes north and south each day only to have to pass by the gym, go another 10 minutes to go home, maybe eat something, get your gym clothes on, then drive 10 minutes back the other way. Some of us might even decide to stay home at that point if it’s been a particularly long day at work. Don’t give yourself that chance to come up with an excuse and save some valuable time while you are at it. Have a designated bag that contains everything. you might need so you can drop by the gym on your way to work or on the way home and save some fuel (we do have showers). This bag should contain essentials like appropriate training clothes, training shoes, wrist supports, coaches’ tape, water bottle, and any supplements you might find beneficial for you pre/post workout.
  • Family time: You get done with work, make it to the gym for your max back squat day and you PR! Three solid months of eating well and consistent attendance all pay off and you feel great. Then you get home and the kids are all veg’ing out in front of the TV. This is a regular occurrence and you are beginning to worry about your children’s health. They aren’t over weight by any means, but you see that they have poor posture, tire easy, and are relatively lethargic throughout most of the day. This wasn’t so much a problem in the past, especially when most of you grew up, however the more I talk with other athletic coaches in the area I hear that they are seeing fewer and fewer kids go out for sports throughout the year. Video games and social media engulf their young lives to the point you can’t recall the last time you even saw them outside! I’m not going to suggest that forcing your kid to go to the gym is the best idea (this can cause a backlash), but it’s certainly better than doing nothing at all. You could simply get them moving around by making it a point to go do something active together as a family on a weekly basis. And I don’t want to hear there isn’t anything to do around here. You folks live along the Schuylkill River in the Appalachian Mountains! Go hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing, camping, something! Your personal goals are important but keeping an even keel is important at home. It’s easy to get so focused on your next daily grind that you start to neglect the reason you started this thing in the first place. You wanted to be healthy for your family and set a good example to follow. Don’t leave them in the dust.