I’ve touched briefly here on Oh, Hopscotch! about my passion for fitness and nutrition. However, I haven’t taken the time to break down my journey and how I got to where I am today. Okay, I realize calling it a journey makes it sound a little like a testimonial in a trendy weight loss brochure, but it’s the best word I can conjure to describe the path I’ve taken over the past several years. Maybe if I provide a little background it’ll shine some credibility in my direction? Here I go. You can read Part 1 here…
So when we left off, I had found a cozy little niche with a bootcamp class, figured out the best way to treat my kidney disease was with healthy eating, and I was down 20 lbs and counting! What a year! Things continued in this vein for a while. I went from nearly passing out in my first Bootcamp class, to being one of the strongest and fastest participants. I was becoming athletic! Also notable was that I was feeling healthier—no longer falling ill every couple of weeks, my kidneys were going strong, and I was having more energy than ever. However, the world is constantly changing and I was about have mine rocked.
My two favorite fitness enthusiasts, the husband and wife duo that taught my bootcamp class, announced at the end of a session one day that they would no longer be instructing at that gym. My heart sank. What would I do? How would I continue on without their guidance? I just couldn’t go back to pounding the treadmill for hours at a time!
So as LeDawn and Delbert discontinued their instruction at Gym #1, Rodg and I parted ways with the place as well. Really, they were the only thing keeping me at that gym, as Gym #1 was more and more catering to MMA fighters and meatheads. All gyms have a culture, and this one was quickly turning me off!
Enter GloboGym (that’s what I’m gonna call it). It’s a pretty nice place to work out. They have everything a fitness junky could ask for; two stories with any weight machine you can imagine, a pool, basketball court, nice locker rooms, racket ball court, smoothie bar, tanning beds, cardio cinema, spinning room and small clothing boutique in the entry way! Surely I'd have no problem reaching my goals at such a shining Mecca of modern fitness! Right?
I GOT SOME HELP
Despite all that, as I initially hit GloboGym, I felt like I was stepping back into time at Gym #1, as an exercising newbie. Now I had more weight machines that I had no idea how to use, more meatheads in the free weight area to contend with, and absolutely NO bootcamp class in sight. Panic hit me again, and I cardio’d my way through my first couple months there. Finally Dennis, a kindly older trainer took pity on me and offered a few free sessions to get me comfortable in the gym, and then I contracted some more from him. He was like the body-building Grandpa I never had!
This is another big piece of advice that I’d give to someone who is new to the whole getting in shape thing. Pay for a couple of sessions with a good trainer to get you set up with a plan, and get familiar with new equipment. If you can afford it, work with one at least once a week. I know. It’s expensive and a little awkward to let a stranger assess your body and fitness level. But it is SO worth it! Without someone’s help, or expertise, you’re likely to retreat back to the elliptical machines or treadmills and become a cardio junky like I did. I speak from experience here. It stops working eventually, and all you get is “skinny fat” and shin splints! Can’t face working with a trainer or handing over the money? Find a patient and fit friend to show you some things, or start researching like crazy. Just don’t show up at the gym without a plan, or you just might never go back.
A few months into my exclusive stint at GloboGym, I was down to 119 lbs (the lightest yet not smallest, I've ever been as an adult), but I was disappointed to hear that my body fat percentage was still pretty high (something like 24%). This was disheartening. It definitely overshadowed the positive. I didn't quite realize it at the time, but I really did look great! I think I was starting to buy size 4 jeans, and I had shed any sort of "baby fat" that had been lingering around my face. I looked healthier, too!
looking healthy and fit on my first cruise in 2010
Despite the physical results, I was getting bored again with coming into the gym, sometimes 6 times a week, killing myself on various machines, and then just heading home. I needed something to work for. I needed motivation. I needed a sport. So naturally, I tried out for Roller Derby. It took me a week to realize that I do not appreciate getting repeatedly knocked off of my skates by 250 lb girls. then I messed up my shoulder during one of those many slam sessions and have an injury that still nags me to this day. Let's just chalk that one up to a life experience!
With my failed attempt to become a derby girl still—literally—smarting, and my spirits at a near all time low, another important person came into my life. Dennis had an injury and was not able to train me one day. He introduced me to Laura, who was new to the gym, to fill in. From that point on she became my trainer and I had a brand new role model. A fitness/figure competitor, Laura was spunky, smart, strong, and crazy-fit, but she still embraced a very feminine side. I really admired her because she seemed to have it all figured out. Another piece of advice for the weary: Find a role model! It helps if you know them, so you can ask them questions, but even if you don't, I think it's important to have someone to look up to.
Back then I was an ardent calorie counter. I had stopped seeing results and was wondering what on Earth I was doing wrong. I mean, I was consistently netting 1200 calories a day (based on my minuscule stature, keep in mind). What was I doing wrong? So when I asked Laura how many calories she ate in a day, she told me she didn't count them. Instead she just focused on "clean eating" and the rest fell into place.
I'd probably call that an A-ha! moment. "Clean eating" turned out to be a big piece of the puzzle that I was missing. Yeah, I was eating whole grains, some lean proteins, fruits and stuff. But I wasn't really caring where those foods came from and what went into them. I figured it was cool to eat from McDonalds, as long as it was a grilled chicken breast on a whole wheat bun. Nevermind that the chicken breast was genetically modified with all sorts of nasty hormones, and that bun was pumped full of preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. I think I knew these were bad, but Laura helped shine a light on the fact.
So once again, I put on my researcher hat and found a new obsession in clean eating. I familiarized myself with the whole/organic section in my favorite grocery stores. I learned why I should eat organic, free-range chicken, and that certain fruits and veggies are way worse for you as non-organic than others. For instance, grapes, celery, cucumbers and berries, don't have the protective skins that bananas or avocados do. So if you have to make a compromise due to price, buy the organic strawberries and forgo it on the avocados (though organic is always best). I learned about the way a body thrives on protein. I was also starting to understand the benefits of limiting grains and dairy, and how to get the nutrients those foods provide from other sources.
With my eating starting to come together, I was performing better with my workouts. Laura was a really creative trainer, who knew exactly how hard to push, and knew what motivated me. She also introduced me to two of the biggest things in my life today; Paleo and CrossFit. I'll elaborate on those later, but I think it's important to give her credit for piquing my interest here!
Now I had a role model, a great exercise plan, and a diet that was coming together. The variety in my workouts was awesome, but that nagging feeling kept coming back to me. I needed something to train for. As I mentioned before, Laura was a fitness competitor. I really liked the idea of the competitions that she did where they would perform things like 50 box jumps for time, shuttle runs and navagate a badass obstacle course. I kinda toyed around with the idea of this competition. I started a training program, but eventually bowed out, as I would have to travel all the way to Florida to compete. But that seed was planted. I knew I was getting closer to finding my sport.
I worked with Laura for a while. I developed a friendship with her. I came to depend on her for fitness advice and weekly workouts. But once again, I was going to see an influential figure ebb out of my life. She was originally from Mississippi, and as I had unfortunately suspected, she was ready to move back home. I completely understood, but it was very hard to say goodbye to someone who had made such a positive impact on me.
FIND A FITNESS BUDDY
Before she left, though, Laura introduced me to another of her clients, Heather. We quickly became workout buddies. We would meet for an hour every saturday morning, and take turns running the other's designed circuit. It gave me a chance to be intelligent about a workout, provided comradery, and served up some healthy competition. Heather and I were very like-minded and equally matched physically, so we were a good pair. So, if you, personally, find it hard to keep yourself motivated, I suggest convincing a friend to come along!
Left to right: Heather, me & Laura, at Laura's going away party in February 2011
One Saturday, Heather was telling me about this CrossFit demo she had seen at the Arnold Fitness Expo. It had made a pretty big impact on her, and she explained to me how it didn’t seem too different from the circuits we were running every weekend. It kinda sounded like a supplement to that bootcamp class that I was still missing so much. And with that informal conversation nearly a year ago, the entire game was changed.
In the conclusion, I’ll explain my intro to CrossFit and how it has completely altered my life for the better.