September is my Second January

Sweet September 12, I can’t believe it’s been two months since I’ve last written.

This hiatus from blogging – and it appears a few other things in my life – have made for an interesting summer.  Filled with very little but yet feeling full.  Days spent with my kids – running, laughing, playing, exploring, beaching, hiking, sunning, and more.  Lazy afternoons.  Quiet mornings.  Taking a break from a lot of what I defined my life by prior to summer….a schedule that included pre planned meals, CrossFit classes, blogging, early morning power hours, and more.  All of that went to the wayside in August and apparently into the first couple of weeks of September.  I totally took a vacation from my life, other than committing to be in my office and with my kids.

And it was awesome.

That being said, I entered into September with a sense of renewal.  Ready to dive back into a life that has more schedule.  Like many parents, I crave the first day of school.  I eagerly packed up their lunch boxes the night before.  We set out the school clothes on their floors, ready to go.  We walked together down to the school on the first day and after meeting their new teachers, with a wave of my hand and air kisses as the classroom doors closed, I had this intense sensation come over me.

Freedom.

This literally was me walking back home:

o-FREEDOM-facebook

Maggie was at daycare.  Caleigh and Blake were in grade three and senior kindergarten, respectively.  I had five hours to myself with nothing to fill that time but whatever I wanted to do.

I hit up CrossFit for my first workout in almost a month (yes, ALMOST A MONTH).  It hurt like hell.  I was sore and I was tired but the sense of accomplishment after was worth every bead of sweat I left on the floor.  I felt like I was getting back to being me.

I went home.  I made some chai tea.  I read from my latest book.  I journaled.  I walked around our new home, in silence, and marvelled at how perfect it was for our family.  I sat on my back porch and just breathed it all in.  I took stock of my summer.  Yes, it had been amazing.  Yes, it had been liberating.  Yes, it had been “easier” to say no to the routine that I lived by.

But I was ready to get back at it.  I gave myself a second New Years Resolution, except it falls in September.  A September Resolution.  I started a 21 day sugar detox and gave up all sugars, grains, and alcohol that had crept into my life this August.  (I swear to you, the red wine is the hardest part.)  I have been walking again regularly (tacking on more of a walk after getting the kids to school helps).  I have been back at CrossFit four times, with the commitment back to three times a week as of next week.  I’ve been up early again (not every morning, but at least 3 mornings a week) to renew my power hour.  I feel like I’m getting back to being myself and committing to making myself a priority again.

And it feels awesome.

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Still on Track

Well, it’s January 3.  Which means that a good percentage of people are already off their resolutions.  Why is this?  Why is it that people have such good and firm intention to change their life for the better just three days ago and now, poof,  it’s gone.  That resolute just disappeared.  I think it has to do with one major misstep in their planning – their goals and resolutions do not support their values.  They don’t place a large enough priority on the change they want to make and instead they allow the old behaviours to continue to rule their life.  

For example, starting on January 1, I made a choice to cut out processed sugars and grains for 30 days.  Coming off of Christmas, I had indulged more than I normally would in sweets.  A few dark chocolate covered almonds here, a chai latte from Starbucks there, and a few Christmas cookies in-between.  I still stuck to my Paleo food choices otherwise but there were a few treats snuck in from time to time.  I didn’t feel gross by the end of December, but I didn’t feel myself either.  So, I made a call to cut out the sugars and grains for the next month.  Done.

Secondly, I started the 100 Day Burpee Challenge.  The plan is to complete a number of burpees based on what day it is.  On day one, it was just one.  Today, being day 3, it will be three.  Easy, right?  Well….on April 10 (day 100), I will be doing 100 burpees.  Unsure as to what a burpee is?  Watch the video.  It’s one of the most dynamic exercises you can do for both conditioning and strength.  

Obviously resolutions can be made at any time of year.  I am constantly adding to my list of things I want to do as I tick off the things I’ve already accomplished.  However, there is something fresh about starting a new year.  Maybe it’s just an easy measuring point from where I was last year that makes it easy to get wrapped up in making resolutions.   The thought of 365 blank days to be filled with what I want is inspiring and exciting.  It’s very similar to my children’s bedtime routine – I can do anything I want to do.  

Allright then.  Off to the basement to do my three burpees and a home workout.  What are you doing to increase your level of awesomeness today?

Two things I learned from CrossFit this week

Earlier this week I went to my local CrossFit three days in a row.  It just worked out that way.  Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  I usually take a day or two in-between WODs (work outs of the day) because of my schedule.  This week was different.

Sunday’s WOD had me doing 140 sit ups along side some other classic CrossFit moves – box step ups, wall balls, and burpees.

Monday’s WOD included hang cleans and toes to bar.  I’m not quite at the point where I can reach my toes up to the bar (let alone multiple times) and so I am working on perfecting knees to elbows instead.

Tuesday morning, on the way to the gym, I sneezed and actually whimpered at the pain in my abs from so much work on them in the last two days.  Luckily Tuesday’s WOD was deadlifts, burpee bar hops, and overhead lunges with a 14 lb medicine ball.  It didn’t involve my abs enough to discourage me from going.

I felt so incredibly accomplished after those three days.  Yes, I could have easily bowed out of Monday’s or Tuesday’s WOD and cited that it was a rest day.  But pushing myself into three WODs in three days felt great.  I wouldn’t do it on a regular basis (I’m a huge advocate for normally getting rest in-between such high intensity workouts) but to throw in a curve ball to my body every once in a while felt awesome.

The second lesson I took from CrossFit this week was persistence.  I have been trying for weeks months to learn how to do a proper hang clean.  It was incredibly frustrating to not understand nor “get” the mechanics of this movement.  My form was brutal and it was taking a toll on my back because I was moving the weight way in front of my body instead of bouncing the bar off my thighs to get it to my shoulders.  I’m now proud to say that I have mastered (kind of) the movement and I have some awesomely grotesque looking bruises on the front of my thighs to prove it.  Those bruises are like a battle scar.  I can now do squat cleans, thank you very much.

Three three parts of a Squat Clean

Moving through a squat clean

Now if only those bruises would disappear before going to Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

Tough Mudder Strategy (all because of 10 pounds)

Ugh.  So for weeks months I have had this thing that during WODs at my local CrossFit I have done all lifts using 55 lbs.   I’ve never gone over it, regardless of the WOD.  I don’t know why.  Well, actually maybe I do.  It was a psychological barrier for me.

I felt comfortable at 55 pounds.  Not long ago, I injured my neck, shoulders, and upper back when I lifted some heavy weights overhead  (like couldn’t move more than a few degrees in any direction without causing major pain and muscle spasms….truth be told it sucked).  Looking back, it wasn’t so much the amount that I had lifted as it was the poor form.  But in my head I made it about the weight.  So I had this mental block at going over 55.  I knew I could handle it without causing more pain.  55 pounds became my weight.

It also became easy.  And I get bored with easy things.

So this week I did something a little crazy.  I went up to 65 pounds.

And it was AWESOME!  It unleashed this excitement inside of me for CrossFit again.  I never lost the love for CrossFit but it invigorated me once more.  Thanks to one coach, Raul, I finally figured out how to do a proper hang power clean and hang squat clean (bend OVER the bar….it’s not a freakn’ deadlift!) and thanks to another coach, Mitch, I attempted my first rope climb and actually got halfway to the ceiling.

I’m pretty pumped.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it but I managed to corral five other AMESOME women in my life to compete in Tough Mudder in September.   I’ve been training through CrossFit and doing some running here and there.  Truly though, I’m not feeling prepared.  But just the last two days at the gym have really given me a boost to get out there and train with much more determination than before.

images

I set up a schedule for the next sixty days until Race Day.

Monday AM             CrossFit & mobility

Tuesday AM             CrossFit & mobility

Wednesday PM       Run (up to 10K) & mobility

Thursday AM            Sprints & mobility

Friday AM                  CrossFit & mobility

Saturday                    Rest

Sunday AM               Hill training & mobility

It’s funny how changing one small brain block (55 lbs) can propel me into action in so many other ways.  Other strategies I am putting into action to get into exceptional shape by September 28 are:

  • No alcohol (except for a celebratory glass of wine on our anniversary in two weeks)
  • No cheat treats (read: no chocolate chip cookies or chai tea lattes from Starbucks, my not-so-secret Achilles heel in the food & drink world)
  • Biweekly massage to help my muscles
  • Schedule weekly adjustments instead of getting adjusted when my time allows
  • Plan for 7 hours of sleep each night, with hopes that Maggie co-operates
  • Tough Mudder weekly email accountability with the AWESOME Katherine, who has some very specific goals herself as well as the rest of  Team Dirty Skirts via our Facebook group.

I’m pretty damn excited about all of this.  Plus having all of you who will be (in my mind) cheering me on to accomplish all of this makes it feel all that more paramount.

All because of a ten pound difference in a WOD yesterday.  Yea me.

March Madness

Basketball?  No way.  March Madness should truly be described as the feeling any mom has with three kids at home over March Break.  I can’t imagine what it will feel like after all three of them are at school and then at home for the week (or summer) but right now to have three at home during the week is crazy hectic.  I go between loving it and getting overwhelmed.  Loving the opportunities to be with all three of them, going on adventures each day, and spending quality time together.  Feeling overwhelmed at the insane energy of the two older ones (Maggie is pretty chill for the most part) who are off-the-wall excited over March Break.  I don’t even think Blake knows what March Break is but many a time I’ve heard the chant of “March Break!  March Break!  March Break!” wafting up from the basement as the two are playing tag.  Yikes.

So, for dinner tonight (because it’s Wednesday), I had this:

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Just kidding.  Kind of.  I did have a glass as I prepared dinner (after taking 45 minutes to put Maggie down…totally unlike her but likely due to two 5 minute naps today).  And now I’m enjoying a second glass as I am writing this post.  🙂

But in all honesty, what was for dinner was something much more filling.  An incredible grilled steak (with a dry rub of salt, pepper, parsley, cumin, cayenne pepper, chill pepper, & tumeric – Tom’s amazing concoction that we use regularly), sweet potato fries (tossed in olive oil, salt, & fresh garlic), and a fresh salad topped with avocado, red onion, tomato, and roasted slivered almonds.  I made a really light homemade salad dressing of 2 parts olive oil and 1 part rice vinegar with a sprinkling of spices – oregano and basil.  Really simple because the steak was unbelievable and I didn’t want to take anything away from it.  This is the final dish and it was awesome!

Love BBQing in the winter.

Love BBQing in the winter.

This week had some amazing plusses.  I was back at CrossFit on Monday for the first time in three weeks.  I’ve had some really angry trap muscles that were overworked 3 weeks ago.  As a result, spasm.  And lots of them which kept me out of the gym and working on strictly mobility and restoring the brain body connection with chiropractic.  Adjust, adjust, adjust.  🙂

Being back at the gym on Monday and Tuesday was hands down awesome.  I MISSED feeling strong.  This is something I’m not willing to compromise on with my health, up there with all of Life by Design.  I find that if I drop out of my routine of working out, eating well, my morning power hour, or getting adjusted – the rest of it all unravels.  I truly do have to do all the right things at the same time in order to see the benefits.  My psyche just tanks.  And for the last three weeks, even though I’ve been uber careful with how I eat and how I think, my physical health was making me frustrated.

If you remember from a previous post, I am not a lover of sit ups.  I think it’s probably because my basic core strength is building back up after having Maggie.  She was born as a gentle cesarean but being it my third cesarean birth, it did take a toll on my body.  I’m happy to have that toll – it’s an amazing reminder of the incredible kids I have.  And while I can sometimes feel anxious of the lack of core strength I have NOW, I realize that it will build back up and I need to be patient and supportive of my body in getting back into shape.  Tuesday’s workout included 100 sit-ups (between double unders – jumping once but bringing the skipping rope over your head twice- and push jerks – basically taking a 40 lb bar and lift it over your head multiple, multiple times) and when I sneezed earlier this afternoon,  I winced from the strain on my abs.  Grrrrrr.  Must.  Work.  On.  Sit-Ups.

Prior to those bloody sit-ups, we had some walking lunges to get through.  Have baby?  Must train.

Me & Mags.  Working the "walking lunge".

Me & Mags. Working the “walking lunge”.

To all the moms and dads out there who think that their health isn’t a priority.  Please think again.  You are enough of a reason to put a priority on working out, eating well, and focusing on your purpose in life.  I love this picture.  It’s a picture of a strong mom who is doing her absolute best to be healthy for not just herself but also her kids.  I’m proud of this picture.  Because it represents the vision of a mom I want my kids to be proud of.  A healthy, energetic, fun, inspired, and awesome mom.  And each day I make choices to create that vision I have for myself.  It’s coming along….slowly but surely.  But that’s the fun part of goals.  It’s a constant, never-ending process that will always be in a state of evolution.

Accountability

Tuesday morning I did a very cool thing.  For the first time ever I RX’d a WOD at my CrossFit.

What is RXing a WOD?  A WOD refers to a Workout of the Day.  It is THE workout of the day that everyone does when they show up that day at the gym.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what time you’re there, you do the WOD.   WODs are scalable.  Meaning, that whatever the prescribed (RX) WOD is, you can scale it to suit your capabilities.  For example, if the WOD is to do box jumps on a 24 inch box jump and you can do them on a 20 inch box jump, then your WOD is “scaled”.

In the 21 months I have been training at CrossFit, I have always done a scaled workout.  Partly because nine of those months I was pregnant.  It was one of my goals in 2013 to RX a WOD.  Who would have thought I would actually do that on the eighth day of the year.

The WOD was a timed work out (in other words, go as fast as you can to complete the following):

100 sit ups

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 of:

Overhead lunges (with a 25 lb plate above your head)

Kettlebell swings (with a 16 kilogram  – 35 lbs – kettlebell)

Overhead Weighted Lunge

Overhead Weighted Lunge

Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Swing

I looked at the sit ups and knew I was in trouble.  100 sit ups is a lot.  Especially when one had a baby 10 weeks ago.  I winced at the thought.  Sit ups are one of my weaknesses in the gym.  I actually have a lot of weaknesses, which are not so much weaknesses as they are opportunities to improve on a skill.  And my skill level with my sit ups need a LOT of improvement.  So, I knew they would be slow.  Plus, the kettlebell swings at 16 kg is heavy…and at first I grabbed a 12 kg, until I got a push from Eugene (the coach) to go for it.  So I did.

The clock started and the ten of us in the gym started to bang out sit ups as fast we could.  By 25, I was feeling the burn in every party of my abdomen and low back.  And I was only a quarter of the way.  When I got to the halfway mark, I saw the first guy finish his sit ups and move on to the 10 overhead lunges.  I, along with others, applauded his efforts and yelled out “Way to go, Matt!” (see why I love CrossFit so much?  The camaraderie is huge.)  In my head though, I thought “Already?” and onto sit up #51 I went.

I'm pretty sure this is what my face looked like each time I did a sit up.

I’m pretty sure this is what my face looked like each time I did a sit up.

Slowly but surely, I saw everyone else complete their 100 sit ups.  Guys and girls…finishing up as I plugged slowly away.  I was only on 70 when everyone else in the gym moved onto the next part.  The coach was encouraging to me: “Andrea, you’ve got this.  Keep going!”  And I did.  75.  80.  82.  84.  85.  Omigod. I was so sore, so tired.  And I still had overhead lunges and kettlebell swings to go.  A thought went through my head.

“If I did 90, no one would know.”  86.  87.  88.

“I could be done these freakn’ sit ups in 2…and no one would be the wiser.”  89.  90.

Except that I would be.  I would be the wiser.  My name would go up on the board with a completed time even though I hadn’t completed the WOD.  I would know.

91.  92.  93.  94.  95.  96.  97.  98.  99.  100.

100 sit ups.  I did it.  I got up and went onto the overhead lunges.  10 of those and then 10 kettlebell swings.  Then I worked my way down to 1, as everyone else on the floor finished up.  I had at least 5 rounds to go when I’m pretty sure everyone else had completed the WOD.  But then the part of CrossFit I love so much happened to me.  They all started to cheer me on, and let me know that they were there until I was done.  Three more rounds, two more rounds…and then the beautiful moment when I picked up the 25 lb plate above my head, did a lunge, and then swung the kettlebell for the final time.  Done.  The whole thing.  RX’d.

The lesson?  I will only get better if I push myself to do the whole workout.   I could have shaved 10 sit ups off.  But I held myself accountable to finishing it up even though I was sore and way behind everyone else.  Integrity is a high value of mine and certainly my own integrity would be less if I hadn’t completed the whole thing.  So from this I get the internal sense of satisfaction for completing the WOD, prescribed.  A sense of pride for the day…okay, okay, that pride has lasted an extra two days (mainly because two days later my abs are still sore from those damn sit ups)…that will last until the next time I walk into the gym and I see the next WOD.

Mom of Strength

In July of 2011, I started my CrossFit journey.  My girlfriend and colleague, Amy, wrote an amazing blog post on being a CrossFit Mom a few weeks back.   She touched upon all the reasons that I too fell in love with CrossFit.

1.  Movement is a requirement for life.  Even at the most basic level of breathing, it requires us to move our rib cage in and out.  The more we move, the more we reinforce our health and our life.  It’s one of the reasons I teach Move by Design at our office, because every single person needs to work on movement.

2.  Pushing one’s self at a new sport builds strength and capability.  What I have gained from CrossFit, I never gained from my years in swimming, running, or working out at other big box gyms or community centres.  I gained an inner and outer strength, my inner strength was just as important as the outer in that not only did I look better, but I functioned better.

3.  Anyone can do it.  What I used to think was impossible or unreachable – getting strong but not bulky, Olympic lifting, doing a pull up, etc. – has proven the opposite.  I trained pregnant and did a dead lift of 120 pounds in my 8th month.  I train with men and women of different sizes, different body shapes, different ages, different capabilities, and at different stages in their lives.  To say “exercise isn’t for me” is a fallacy.  It’s not only a complete contradiction to what your body requires, it’s an excuse.  And it wasn’t until my eyes were opened at my local CrossFit gym, that I put aside all the years of excuses bottled up in me that kept me from being the best version of myself.

4.  I needed a coach.  For years, working out at a gym or running on my own was my way of training without having people pay attention to me at the same time.  I could blend in at the gym on the machines or go unnoticed on the road as another runner slogging through her miles.  But the years of not asking for help and “doing my own thing” ended up year after year with the same results – limited muscle tone, still overweight, and no real change in my basic health.  I ran marathons and half marathons and still carried around extra weight!  From the moment I had my first Foundations class at CrossFit, I spend my entire sessions with a certified coach.  And six months later, I could not believe the difference in the level of my health – measured in strength, stamina, flexibility, mobility, lung capacity – because of that coaching.

5.  The Community.  Unlike anything I have ever experienced in another sport, the love for CrossFit by CrossFitters is almost cult-like in the best definition of the word.  Just ask someone who is hooked, and you will discover the love/hate relationship we all have with it.  The HATE is when you walk into the gym (the box) and see the WOD (Workout Of the Day) for the first time and a deep sense of dread takes over your body.  A combination of Olympic lifts, burpees, push ups, sit ups, pull ups, wall balls, kettle bells, hand stands, sprinting, gymnastics, and more in a dizzying WOD that makes you wonder (EVERY SINGLE DAY) whether or not you’ll complete it without passing out.  But the LOVE is that high, that sense of accomplishment, that overwhelming exhaustion that has you lying on the floor after you’re done.  I live for that LOVE.  CrossFitters are a different group in that we also support one another through the workout.  Classes are small, no more than 10 people, and we are all there to cheer one another on and make sure we finish.  Not one person leaves the gym until we are all finished.  And as we finish, a round of applause and cheers breaks out to congratulate all of the finishers.  And then we all come back within a day or two to do it again.

So, yesterday, I returned to my CrossFit Journey after taking six weeks off.  Two weeks prior to baby M coming, I found that the training sessions were becoming too much for my body and I was more cranky in the workouts than I was happy.  And it took me four weeks after having her (she was a gentle cesarean birth) that I felt comfortable getting back and committing once again to training.  I spent a half hour in the gym working mainly on mobility and some basic strength movements – rowing, foam rolling, stretching, push ups, squats, lunges, and step-ups on a box jump.  It was far from what I was used to doing in the gym (first time I was able to leave the gym without breathing heavily and getting my heart rate back to normal) but it was a first step back.  I recognized my limitations after having a baby and respected them but also started pushing myself a bit.

This morning I’m feeling it.  Sore legs, chest, and arms (hello lunges, squats, and push ups).  It’s the Best.  Feeling.  Ever.  I missed that soreness knowing I’m doing something awesome for my health.  The goal?  A WOD in two weeks.

And how did M feel about her first training session at CrossFit with her mom?  Maybe not too impressed, but like Amy, I look forward to hearing “Wow, Mom!” in a few years.  There is something incredibly empowering showing my kids that their mom, like their dad, can be strong and capable.