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.

Day 4 & Getting my Body Back

I’ve been pretty good with my 30 Day Challenge.  In reality, it’s only day 4.  But often, it’s the first few days that are the hardest.  It requires dedication and a lot of effort to change the habits we’ve had for weeks, months, and years.  For me, it was the small things – the elimination of sugar – that has been the hardest.  I didn’t even eat a lot of sugar going into the challenge however it was the small things that I picked at here and there that made me realize I wasn’t eating as by design as I should be.  The Hallowe’en candy, the chai tea latte from Starbucks (truly, that deserves it’s very own post and I promise to write one within the week), the addition of honey to my tea, and so on.  But it’s coming, and while my body has crashed a little since going to over 90% eating by design, I’m looking forward to seeing how I feel a week from now.  By “crashed” I mean my immune system was taxed over the last few weeks and as I clean out my body, my immune system is rebelling just a little.  Headache, the chills, exhaustion…all signs that my body is tired and it needs some extra support right now.  It definitely doesn’t mean to come off eating by design, taking my supplements (vitamin D, fish oils, and probiotics), getting movement in some form every day, and focusing on my purpose right now.

Getting my body back is a huge priority for me.  I was damn strong before getting pregnant and up until 37 weeks pregnant, I was still training at CrossFit Barrie 2-3 days per week.  It was a modified workout so that I wasn’t stressing out my pregnant self, but ultimately I was still doing push-ups, burpees, pull-ups, Olympic lifts, skipping and more.  It wasn’t necessarily a pretty training session but it was   being done.  So, now, other than a daily walk with my kids around our neighbourhood, I’ve started doing some simple body work to re-train my body on how to properly squat, do push ups, and more.  The physical changes of my body during the last few months really altered how one properly moves with Olympic lifts.  My centre of gravity was off and in order to not fall over in squatting moves, I really had to throw my upper body forward.  Until my posture and body position is good during the movements, I don’t want to add any heavy weights into the workout.  (Also, let’s be honest, having a cesarean birth 3 weeks ago, I do have to respect my limitations as my body heals from the inside, out)

Next week, the plan is to actually get back into the gym.  Those 5 push-ups are calling and I’ve got 26 days to get my strength back up.

The Fun Feeling The Morning After a Good Workout

You know what I’m talking about.  That feeling you wake up with the next morning, as you roll out of bed, and find that the muscles that felt great after yesterday’s session are now screaming at you.  It hurts to take a full stride.  It hurts to sit down to use the washroom.  And after you dress and brush your teeth, you look into the hallway and remember that you have to negotiate a flight of stairs.

Yes, the morning after a good workout can hurt.

Good thing though it can easily be remedied.  Your muscles are hurting because you worked them.  It’s a “good hurt”, if that is a phrase I can use without causing you to throw something at me in annoyance.

So that you understand the “why” behind the “ow”,  muscles hurt 24-48 hours after you workout because of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  Basically, you have tiny muscle tears that are being repaired.  Your muscle cells are laying down stronger muscle cells to replace the previous ones – in essence, your muscles are growing and getting stronger AFTER your workout.  So, you can use that as solace as you take those first steps down the flight of stairs.  Use a railing, it helps.

“But it still hurts!”  Yup, it will.  And it will upwards of 3 or 4 days if you don’t do something about it.  So, this is what I suggest:

1)  Foam roll.  Before your workout.  After your workout.  And in the days afterwards.  I foam roll about 5-10 minutes a day regardless of whether or not I have worked out.  I use it simply for good soft tissue health in between massage.  For a great video on how to foam roll, check out our video HERE.  Does foam rolling replace stretching?  No, you can do both.  I just prefer foam rolling as it is a deeper, more concentrated approach to muscle health and will help to reduce muscle “knots”, whereas stretching will simply stretch the healthy tissue.  Foam rolling can also help increase range of motion of a muscle therefore it does have added benefits.

2)  Lacrosse Ball.  This works in collaboration with the foam roll.  It is used to target the smaller muscles that the foam roll can’t get at.  Great for muscles like the traps (“ow! I did a lot of overhead work yesterday!”) and the calves (“Those uphill sprints are killing me!”) and the piriformis (“I don’t know what muscle in my butt that I pulled but wow, it is sore!”).   Not sure how to use the lacrosse ball?  We have a video for that HERE.

3)  Drink lots of water and eat protein.  Yes, we’ve heard this for decades but it still holds true.  You need water to help those muscles repair themselves.  The saying “it flushes out the toxins” isn’t true but water is an essential component of muscular health so re-hydrating is important.  Eating a protein meal after a workout will help though as it replenishes you with amino acids you need to help repair muscle tissue.  I personally like a protein shake as it goes down easily within 15-20 minutes after a workout and requires minimal effort on my part to prepare or consume (sometimes after a good workout, I find digesting solid food can be tough, hence the liquid meal).

4)  Move.  You have to get moving when you’re sore.  Sitting on a couch and “babying” the muscles isn’t going to help you.  The more mobility you get into the muscles and the joints they support, the better!

5)  Exercise regularly. The more often you exercise, your body becomes conditioned to the new physical “rules” you are placing upon yourself.  Your body will be less sore over time, although as you progress through a training regimen to get stronger, you will be working harder, more intensely, and adding in new muscles each day so you will inevitably have sore days in the future.

First and foremost, please don’t use the excuse of not liking the muscle soreness to deter you from training hard.  Lifting weights is such an important part of your health, it cannot be substituted with cardio or eating well.  (Just as eating well cannot be substituted with exercise – you have to do it all!)  It will build strength, build support, improves bone density (which helps protect against osteoporosis), improve balance, increase your metabolic rate (read: helps you lose weight), and reduce your chance of developing metabolic syndrome which has been linked to heart disease and diabetes.