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 & Part 2 here.
Hold on to your butts. This is going to be a doozy of a post. By doozy, I mean L-O-N-G. I realize it's taken me quite a while to finish this saga. I sure hope you forgive me! I've written and rewritten it a couple of times. I wasn't quite sure how to conclude it for the time being, but I think I've summed it up adequately.
CrossFit. A previous mentor had mentioned it in passing. My new workout buddy described an awesome demo of it that she had witnessed. As my interest was most definitely piqued, I went in search of information about this enigma that was CrossFit.
I googled "CrossFit near Dayton" and was directed to a local gym's website. On that page, there was this video that showed people of all ages, shapes, and sizes engaging in very demanding workouts and nearly sweating to death in a class-like atmosphere. The people described an environment different from your average gym. An environment of friendship, encouragement, and a bit of tough love. It reminded me of my beloved bootcamp classes that I was missing so, so much. Holy crap did it look fun.
Oddly enough, as I watched the video, I recognized the gym owner! It was Mike, my very first—and most favorite—freelance boss that I ever had outside of college! I contacted this old boss of mine, and asked him what this CrossFit business was all about. He referred me to his son, Mitch, who owned a gym a lot closer to my home. I got in touch with Mitch and quickly set up an appointment to tour his gym, or "box" as they're often called.
Centerville CrossFit—which was soon to become like a second home to me—immediately struck me as a world apart from the GloboGym I was currently a member of. First off, I had a hard time finding it! Unlike GloboGym, which is positioned in the forefront of an outdoor shopping mall, monster signage aglow, CCF was nestled humbly in the back of an business/industrial plat. It had no signage at all at the time. It was a huge warehouse with big garage doors and a pile of monster truck tires nearly as tall as I am outside of it. I was soon to find out they were for flipping during workouts. Which is just awesome.
I wandered into what I assumed was the entrance and was immediately greeted with smiles from a number of people I did not know. There was very little equipment—nothing like you'd find at GloboGym, save for maybe a small line of rowers. I nearly salivated at the possibilities that the pull-up bars and gymnastic rings offered. It was impossible to tell the members from the trainers, but I was soon greeted by Mitch. As it turns out, Mitch is a young, very fit dude with a similar passion for fitness to my own (read, somewhat fanatical). He gave me the CrossFit elevator pitch about it being group-led fitness that is completely scalable to your own abilities, and focuses on functional movements that you'd use in your every day life (instead of doing dozens of isolated bicep curls that helps nothing but, well, your biceps). He emphasized how someone could be relatively fit, but not necessarily "CrossFit Fit". This is the part where I swallowed very hard. EEK.
Then I watched a class run through part of a WOD (or Workout Of the Day). Though they were all doing the same workout, I noticed there were many variations of the movements. Some of the more advanced participants were doing more challenging skills and using heavier weights. While others might be using large rubber bands to ease movements and scaling down on weights. The concept of scaling made the whole thing much less intimidating.
My first question was, "Where in the heck do I sign up"?
I knew I had to convince my husband to do this with me. For one thing, I had a feeling this was going to be a big thing for me, and wanted to share it with him. The other reason being I was TERRIFIED to do it alone! Rodger, as it turns out, was an easy sell. I took him in for a similar tour, and I think he was as ready for a push as I was. Thank. God.
SO THIS IS CROSSFIT? HECK YEAH!
SO THIS IS CROSSFIT? HECK YEAH!
I had my first date with CrossFit last July. I was so nervous during the drive there! Thank god Rodger was behind the wheel and not me, because I was shaking, my stomach was in knots, and I was mentally all over the place. What if I made a mistake? What if I FAILED to complete the workout? What if I wasn't—as Mitch had called it—CrossFit Fit?
Well, as it turns out I actually was pretty close to CrossFit Fit. I guess all those training sessions and workouts at GloboGym had somewhat prepared me for this new adventure! I still had a lot to learn, like how in the heck to do a kipping pull-up or the proper technique on a whole host of Olympic lifts (still don't have that one down). But I was relatively strong, I was fast, and I love-love-LOVED CrossFit from day one.
I spent about four months in regular classes. During that time I honed in on some new skills (like learned to do the elusive kipping pull-up), built up a little more strength, and figured out how to decipher the puzzling short hand that is so prevalent in CrossFit. Seriously, listed below is a workout I've done. Does it make sense to you? If you're a non-CrossFitter, I'm guessing it doesn't. We name WODs after women and use timing and abbreviations that resemble calculus at times:
7X1 Clean & Jerk @ 90% – rest 60-80 sec.
Back Squat: 1X8 @ 70%, 1X8 @ 75%, 1X5 @ 85%, 1X5 @ 90% – rest 1:00-2:00 between sets.
Notes: Percentage is based off of 120515
3 rounds for time of:
21 KBS 24/16kg
21 KBS 24/16kg
This building period was awesome. Physical gains aside, I started to get something out of CrossFit that I didn't remotely expect going into it; A huge social network. We're an odd, loyal breed of people. Outside of the gym, we might not have a whole lot in common, but we all know what it's like to destroy a WOD or get beaten down by one, and the feeling of collapsing in a sweaty mess on the floor once it's finished. I'm pretty sure some of my CrossFit girlfriends would kill for me, and we don't even really hang out outside of the box!
BECOMING A COMPETITOR
BECOMING A COMPETITOR
New skills and friendships aside, eventually that gnawing hunger to be more got the best of me. I had some knowledge that there were competitions that CrossFitters took part in. The biggest of these comps being the Reebok CrossFit Games. I'm no Games level competitor, but the idea of testing my skill in an official way was becoming increasingly appealing.
I had a talk with Mitch and he moved me to a more intensive training program (about five times a week). Suddenly I found myself a competitor in training. Me, training, for a sport? I hadn't taken part in a sporting event since I played Little League baseball when I was 12. It was time to come to terms with a new title for myself. I wasn't just a GloboGym member, or a runner or a boot camper or even just a CrossFitter. I was an athlete, and that scared the piss out of me!
Know what scared even more proverbial piss out of me? When Mitch shared a link to the Voice of America Games. It was a local competition that he wished a handful of his competitors would participate in. Well, that's what competitors do. They compete. Right? I was still working myself up into a nervous wreck before each training session, and now I was expected to go and workout in front of a crowd full of people?! Because if you've never seen a CrossFit competion, that's what it is. It's a series of WOD's in which you vie to be the fastest, lift the most weight, or complete the most rounds of movements as prescribed (or RX'd) to you. I highly suggest you YouTube the CrossFit Games and prepare to be blown away.
I freaked. A lot. The whole week before the VoA Games I clogged my Facebook feed with posts about how completely terrified I was, how I didn't think I could do it, and how I might throw up at any moment (sorry, fb friends!). Confidence has never been something I've ever had in Aces. But when the time came, I hitched up my big girl britches, stepped out of that soft, fluffy comfort zone and kicked the ass out of that competition! As a rookie, I competed in a slightly more remedial category. The three competitor classifications for the games were Athlete (there's that title again), Firebreathers (the crazies), and Masters (45 years +). I ended that day standing on the podium in second place! I couldn't believe it!
A clip of highlights from the Voice of America Games.
That day I got a real taste of what CrossFit can be about. It's about pride in your own abilities, sportsmanship as I cheered on my friends and competition, cameradery as friends from CCF came to wish us well, and a serious helping of badassery. Whoo Boy are there some badasses. My coach, Mitch is one of them. And remember his dad? My old boss, Mike? Dude, badassery is in their blood. Even Mitch's adorable older sister is hardcore (she stood in the first place spot next to me that day)! As it turns out, Mike is so badass that he went to the REEBOK CROSSFIT GAMES last year in the Masters division and will be returning again this year. That stuff is broadcast on ESPN, my friends.
That day last February was one of the most exciting and invigorating days of my life. It proved to me that through years of training, eating well, studying, practicing, clawing and quite literally working my ass off, that I could accomplish great things. I found a confidence I have never had in myself. And this wonderful, beautiful, crazy thing called CrossFit helped me realize it!
Armed with this new found confidence and enthusiasm, I've taken even harder to my training. I've set my sites on going to the Regionals level next year for the CrossFit Games. Will I make it? No idea. I've been kinda plagued with injuries, I'm smaller (and consequently weaker) than most of my competition, and every year the competition becomes more an more intense. People have begun to flock to this "sport of fitness" and learned to push their bodies farther and farther. However, I'm not sweating it. I'm enjoying the process of perfecting my form, adding new skills to my repertoire (the dauntingly high rope climb being the newest), making some amazing friends, and becoming the best athlete that I can be.
That's why I head to the gym 5 days a week despite aches and pains all over my body. That's why I wrap up my aching wrists so I can throw over my body weight over my head over and over again. CrossFit makes me a better person because I can believe in myself and pass that confidence on to others. I hope that I can inspire at least one person to make a positive change in their life, too. Because if I can go from being a sickly, overweight and insecure girl to a skilled, confident athlete in a matter of years, anyone can. I'm here to tell you it's possible and it's in your very own hands.
SO A COUPLE OF STATS, SHALL WE?
The control information:
• I'm 5'0" tall.
• I'm 5'0" tall.
At the very beginning of this journey of mine, I was:
• tipping the scales at 155lbs.
• I'm guessing I was well over 30% body fat, though I'm not sure.
• I was a size 11 pant.
• I couldn't run 400 meters without getting lung burn.
• around 14% body fat, which is pretty optimal for female athletes.
• I wear a size 2 pant.
• I can run 400 meters in just over a minute.
• I have a 36" vertical jump (kinda like jumping from flat feet onto your kitchen counter).
• I can do 30 pull-ups in a row.
• I can perform a workout in front of a cheering crowd.
• I can deadlift 285 lbs.
But want to know the most important, intangible thing I've gained along the way? I have confidence. The other day, I was getting ready to go swimming. I had a brand new two piece suit on and was almost comically oiled up with sunscreen. As I was passing in front of a flatteringly lit mirror, I caught glimpse of myself. I didn't recoil. My eyes didn't dart to my big 'ol thighs like they normally do and I certainly didn't begin to tear myself apart, bit by bit, like I normally do. My arms looked strong and toned. I was pleased to see definition in my stomach. The negative self talk was gone. I actually looked good. And that, folks, is a first.
SOME ADVICE FROM SOMEONE WHO'S BEEN THERE (THAT'S ME)
If you've been a peach, and have stuck with me throughout all three epic chapters of my fitness saga, you've picked up on the fact that I most certainly have not done this all on my own. If you're looking to make a change in your own life, you shouldn't expect to go it alone either. I would not be where I am now without friends, trainers, coaches, family, and a wonderful husband that have all believed in me. Never be afraid to ask for help or support! There are people who love you and want you to succeed. If you have someone in your life that inhibits your forward progress, it might just be time to evaluate that relationship.
You have to put in the time. Life is crazy. People are busy. We all have things in our life that get in the way. But just like anything worth having, wellness and fitness are worth the effort. Look at it like this. The time you put into the gym now is like paying in advance for the extra quality years you'll have later. Remember that kidney disease I mentioned back in Part 1? I am no longer plagued by the general sickness or high blood pressure of that illness. I feel really good most of the time, which I couldn't say a year ago. More importantly, I no longer consider myself a sickly person! I just have this "kidney thing". My wellness efforts are very much saving my life.
Eat, eat, eat right! I haven't gone too far into nutrition here because that is it's own, very lengthy subject. But let me tell you that eating a Primal/Paleo type diet has made a world of difference for me. I'll probably elaborate on this one more in the future, but it's the major contributing factor in my success. Even more major than working out or CrossFit. I swear. We can not function properly if we're not using the highest quality of fuel in our bodies!
Find CrossFit or something you love. I don't care if it's kick-boxing or Zumba (though I'm the biggest CrossFit proponent you'll find). Go out and move and relish in it. If you don't love it, you won't stick to it. I mentioned before about becoming obsessed. Seriously, discover something that makes your heart sing with happiness and then go inspire others to do it with you, because nothing feels better than passing on that passion!
Finally the last piece of the puzzle is to believe in yourself. As corny as it sounds, you are your best cheerleader! No one else is going to do it for you. It took me 28 years to figure it out, but confidence in your own abilities is a beautiful thing, and you're the only one who can give it to yourself!
Good luck with your own "journeys", everybody! To the people I've mentioned and the countless others that I didn't, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart for everything you've done for me along the way. I truly love each and every one of you. I'm still growing and constantly working to be better. I can't wait to share more stories and successes with you along the way. I hope I've imparted a little bit of something here, and that maybe you'll share your story with me, too!