CrossFit Comps, Triathlons, and More!

Happy summer, friends! Hope you’re all managing to stay cool despite the heat bubble that is encapsulating us all right now. It’s been a super busy few weeks for me, but I’m glad to finally have some time to sit down and blog about the fitness ventures I’ve been up to lately. This month, I competed in my first CrossFit competition, completed a sprint triathlon for charity (Huge THANK YOU to friends, family, and kind folks I’ve never met for donating to the cause), and started thinking about my goals for the remainder of 2016. That’s a lot of ground to cover in one blog post, so we’ll see how far we get. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The last time I blogged, I had just joined my gym and was working on a million new goals. In the 7-8 months since starting CrossFit, I’ve seen a lot of improvement, but still have a million things I need to work on🙂 Anyhow, a few months ago, a local box was advertising a competition specifically for newbies to the sport. I don’t have any huge desire to compete on a regular basis, but I thought it would be cool to meet other new Crossfitters from the area, and have a little friendly competition, all in good fun!

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Typically in competitions, you don’t get to find out what the workouts are until the day of. Fortunately, the folks in charge of this one decided to be kind and post the workouts a couple weeks in advance, so I got the chance to do a trial run of them all in advance and figure out a personal strategy for each. Frankly, my strategies weren’t ever too complex…they were more like, “Hey, self. This workout gets hard around Round 6. Ignore the pain and keep moving.”

I arrived to the venue around 7:30 in the morning, and the gym was super legit. It’s a regularly functioning CrossFit box, but it was rebuilt somewhat recently specifically for competitions. Music was booming, people were everywhere, lanes were set up inside and out for each workout, and barbells and plates sat on the floor just waiting to be lifted. It was sensory overload, and my adrenaline/nerves started pumping immediately.

This comp consisted of 3 different WODS (workouts of the day). Those who placed in the top 4 after the three workouts qualified for the finals, which I didn’t know was a thing until after I qualified. Surprise! Here’s a recap of the day:

WOD 1: Strength Complex of 3 Deadlifts, 2 Hang Cleans, 1 Jerk for Heavy Single 

The key to this WOD is that we couldn’t put the barbell down in between movements. We started with three deadlifts, then without putting the bar down, went straight into two hang cleans, and then one jerk. We could do any type of clean/jerk, but we only had 5 minutes to work up to our heaviest weight. Some people were choosing to do squat cleans instead of power cleans, which I thought was insane because that takes a lot more energy. But I guess you gotta do whatever you’re comfortable with, man. This WOD was one that I was really relying on for points. I felt relatively confident going into it because I’m not bad for a beginner, and my gym offers an Olympic Lifting class twice a week, which gives me a consistent opportunity to work on these skills. So, I was hoping to perform well enough that if I was weaker in other areas later in the day that I could still place high overall. We didn’t really have much of a chance to warm up, but I at least had a few minutes before the comp started to grab a barbell and quickly work up to my starting weight. I felt a little stiff, but there wasn’t much I could do about it, so I headed into my lane, greeted my judge, and waited for the clock to start.

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When the buzzer went off, all my stiffness washed away and adrenaline took over. I quickly loaded my barbell up to start with 115. I knew I could hit that on any given day, so it seemed like a logical place to begin. My overall goal was to hit 125, but I wanted to work up to it, so I went up to 120 for the next attempt. Hit that, and felt great. Loaded up to 125, took a 30 second rest, then went for it and hit it. Feeling good! I had about 1:45 left on the clock, so I loaded up 130, and gave it a shot, but couldn’t get under the second clean. I decided to take a longer rest, and try again. I grabbed some chalk, took some breaths and shook my arms out. When there was :30 left on the clock, I walked up to the bar and tried again. Landed the first clean, and lowered it back to the hang position. Went for the second clean — got it! Then got ready for my split jerk, and — yes! Hit it! However, a lift doesn’t count until you’ve stood up out of the lunge position, showed that you have control of the bar and then put it down. When I went to stand up, I got too excited and lost my focus. I let my core go, and suddenly the bar was wiggling around. I couldn’t gain control of it before letting it go, so sadly the lift didn’t count😦 Huge bummer. But still, I was happy with 125, and it was enough to secure me second place. The first place girl landed 150 — super impressive!

WOD 2: 6 Minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible)–Thrusters, Burpees, Med Ball Ground to Over the Shoulder

This was the WOD I was most nervous about. We had 6 minutes to do Thrusters (w/ a 40 pound barbell), Burpees, and Medicine Ball ground to over the shoulders (50 pound ball) in an ascending rep scheme. How it worked was we started out with 2 thrusters. Then we would run over to a mat where we would do 2 burpees. Then we’d run again to another mat where we’d hoist a 50 pound medicine ball over our shoulders twice. Then we had to sprint back to the start and do 4 thrusters, 4 burpees, 4 cleans, sprint, then 6 of each, etc. etc. Thrusters and burpees aren’t really my strong suit, but I was determined to just keep moving for this one. My goal was to get to round 10. When the buzzer went off, we were flying. HUGE shout out to my judge for this WOD because he was SO unbelievably encouraging. He sprinted to each station with me, told me I was holding a great pace, and kept me motivated when the medicine ball, which was wet and dirty from the rain, felt impossible to get a grip on. It was a tough workout, but I finished 7 burpees in the 10th round when time ran out. I came in 4th for that WOD, which was better than I expected, and I was sitting in 1st place overall for my division.

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The three station set-up for WOD 2

WOD 3: 4 Minute AMRAP 15 Box Step-overs, 15 Kettlebell Swings (26 pounds); 2 Minute Rest, then 4 Minute AMRAP: 10 Calorie Row, 20 Lunges

About an hour and a half later, it was time for WOD 3, which was split into two parts. Originally, we were supposed to do prowler pushes, which I was excited about because the prowler and I are buds. But they changed it to lunges… lunges and I are not buds. Haha. They also changed the height of the boxes. Initially, we were supposed to do 16″ box step overs, but then they changed it to 12, which is pretty low. And they gave you the option of doing Russian swings, which are easier than American, with no difference in points. So, I decided that since the difficulty level was lower, this workout would be for SPEED. When the buzzer went off, I flew through as fast as possible. The box step overs actually made me dizzy because I was basically jumping in circles. I hit somewhere around 155 reps, which secured me a 2nd place spot for that WOD, and then it was time for part B.

 

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I didn’t have many pics to choose from for the kettlebell portion, so here’s a pic from my regular gym. Guy on the prowler FTW.

I’m not amazing at rowing, but I tried to focus on keeping my form as efficient as possible and kept my power output high. We had to row until the computer screen said we hit 10 calories, then we jumped off and did bodyweight alternating lunges. Lunges after rowing… OUCH. It was only 4 minutes, but it was mad hard, and I had a pretty good pain face going throughout most of it. I wish I had pushed just a little harder though, because I ended up tying for 5th, and was only 3 REPS behind the next girl — womp womp. Those 3 reps ended up sealing my fate later on, but more on that in a sec.

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Finals: 5 Minute AMRAP of Wall Balls, Sit-ups, Single-arm Dumbbell Snatch (25#), Ascending Reps

After the last WOD, I was sitting in 4th place overall, which qualified me for the finals. We had two hours before finals began, and no idea what the WOD would be. I thought back on the day trying to figure out what movements we hadn’t done, and was feeling somewhat confident because we had already covered most of my weaknesses (Thrusters, burpees, rowing, lunges). Then I saw them dragging out the wall balls. Of course.  How could I have forgotten wall balls? In my home gym, we have to throw wall balls to a 9″ tape line on the wall, but this gym had specific round targets to hit.

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We had 5 minutes to get as far as we could, doing 1 wall ball, 1 sit up, 1 snatch, then 2-2-2, 3-3-3, and so on. I was neck and neck with the girl in 3rd place who was next to me, so it was her that I was focusing on throughout the final comp. If I remember correctly, I think I ended up with 120 reps, and was doing sit ups in round 9 when the buzzer went off. I ended up 1 rep behind my competitor– Rats! But it turned out that I had beaten one of the other girls, so I ended up tied for 3rd at the finish. Yahoo!

Unfortunately, there are no ties in CrossFit. Instead of looking at total reps for the day, they broke it based on how we placed in our other events, which is a huge bummer. I had identical placements with the girl I tied with (we both placed either 2nd or 4th in all events), but unfortunately my 5th place finish in the last WOD cost me a spot on the podium. Still, I’m really happy with how I performed in each workout, and I was super inspired by the other girls I competed with. They definitely deserved their medals!

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Doing cleans and making ridiculous faces.

 

All in all, it was a pretty fun experience, and I’m glad I did it. I don’t know that I’d really want to do another competition, at least not until I improve on certain areas, but overall I’m pleased with how the day went. It was definitely something different!

I still think joining CrossFit has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made. I love my gym and the friends I’ve made through it, and it definitely helped prepare me for the sprint tri I completed a week after this comp.

 

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The tri was a charity event to raise money for breast cancer research, and it’s meant to be more of a celebratory event than a race. It was really inspiring to see all the women from all different walks of life participating and going after a big goal! I didn’t really do much triathlon-specific training for it, aside from a few bike rides and swims, but consistent CrossFit and running helped me snag a PR on the course, despite biking in a downpour (holy scary!!!). I was going to write a recap of that race here too, but this post is getting quite long, so perhaps I’ll do that at another time!

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Rainy, scary bike ride.

Anywho, now that those events are over, I’m trying to focus more on my powerlifting goals that I set for the year. The one downside of CrossFit is that it’s really hard to powerlift consistently because the rep schemes, weights, and workouts constantly change– that’s a great thing for keeping things interesting and keeping your body guessing, but it can be hard to make progress on specific strength goals. In order to do it, I have to carve out time to do 5/3/1, so I’m still working out how to do that on a regular basis. My squat is especially something I really want to improve on, but it’ll be easier to do that when I can start lifting on Sundays again (the gym I go to on Sundays is closed for the summer).

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I wish I had tracked my Olympic Lifting maxes when I started CrossFit so I could reflect on them at the end of the year. I know that I’ve improved, but there’s still a loooot to work on. Here are my powerlifting and olympic lifting maxes right now:

  1. Deadlift: 250 (Haven’t tested since March)
  2. Squat: 180 (Haven’t tested since January)
  3. Bench: 125 (Haven’t tested since Jan)
  4. Strict Press: 90
  5. Clean and Jerk: 130
  6. Split Jerk: 135 (Think I can hit 140, but haven’t tried)
  7. (Squat) Snatch: 90
  8. Overhead Squat: 120 (Haven’t tested since May)

Strength gains are a slow process, but progress always feels good, no matter how small!

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That’s all for now, I think. Got any fun events planned for the summer? Anyone else have lifting goals for the year? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Hey, CrossFit!

Oh, CrossFit. The sport that everyone either loves or loves to hate on. If you’ve ever surfed YouTube in your entire life, chances are you’ve probably come across some kind of “CrossFit fail” video featuring people doing really stupid things on a pull-up bar, or with a barbell, or maybe even with a barbell on a pull-up bar (I hope not). And if you know someone who knows someone who does CrossFit, you’ve probably seen them post an excited status on social media all about their “WOD,” featuring a bunch of jargon and numbers and symbols that look like complete jibberish. I get it, man. I get it. But it’s really too bad that people judge things without trying them, because honestly, stepping into my CrossFit gym (or “box,” as the kids say) for the first time was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. #SorryNotSorry, guys… I really, really love my gym. And I want to tell you about it.

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Every great gym has a resident dog. My great gym has a resident dog who likes to sit on other dogs/humans, as demonstrated here.

First, let’s back up, because everything is more fun with a full backstory! I’ve wanted to try CrossFit ever since a friend told me about it 5 years ago. And even though there was always something in the way, whether it was time, or money, or having specific race goals, or whatever, the little nugget of interest was always there in the back of my mind. If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you probably know that I started following a 5/3/1 lifting regimen last year, and made substantial strength gains as a result– yay! Unfortunately, improving my conditioning was a slooooow moving process. So, I started flirting with the idea of CrossFit again, researching gyms in the area, doing the “ehhh, I dunnooooo…” dance. But when I quit my job a few months ago and suddenly found myself without a gym (my old job had a free gym on-site), I made a snap decision to give it a try. Ok…maybe not quite a “snap” decision. More like, I drove to the gym, peeked in the windows, walked back and forth in the parking lot a few times, and THEN went inside. Yeah…I might have been a little intimidated, shhh.

But from the first conversation, I knew I was in the right place. I felt immediately welcomed, and was offered the chance to not only come to the free Saturday class that’s offered every week, but to try out a regular class of my choice, any day, any time I wanted. No commitment, no pressure. The owner basically said, “we want you to want to be here.” And I really dug that. Here’s the thing — since every CrossFit gym is independently owned, the environment at each is completely unique. It’s like the difference between going to a Planet Fitness and going to a hidden little underground gym. You can work out at both, but the experiences will be different. The people at this place were really chill, and I was pleasantly surprised that I felt right at home.

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What I didn’t realize about CrossFit is that it’s not just a HIIT workout. The classes start by working on either strength (squats, deadlifts, presses, etc.), or skills (handstand pushups, double-unders, muscle ups, etc.). There might be some stretching and mobility work in there, and then you typically move on to a higher intensity workout of the day. Essentially, the classes are a combination of great things like running, lifting, and swinging off of bars like a monkey, with a dash of terrible things like rowing, burpees, or wall-balls.

I’m not going to lie to you guys…I truly expected to hate it. I thought it was going to be super dangerous and that no one would have any regard for form or safety, because that’s what I’d seen online. I was completely wrong. I’m continually impressed by the knowledgeable coaches and staff at my gym, because they enforce form above everything. If someone (me) occasionally gets a little too big for their britches and tries to do something he/she (me) isn’t quite ready for, the coach will kindly tell them (me) to scale down the exercise to do it correctly. Or if my form is off and I can’t tell, the coach will quickly let me know so I can fix it. That was one of the biggest realizations for me — CrossFit isn’t inherently more dangerous than powerlifting or distance running. Yes, the workouts ask you to move weight efficiently at a rate that will challenge you. But you control the weight, you control the pace, you control your form. As with anything, it’s up to you to know and respect your own limits. I will say that I’m glad I had a lifting background when I started. Every exercise is scalable, but for me personally, it would have been hard to start from scratch.

Really, though, the thing that ultimately convinced me to join that first day (and what continues to impress me on a daily basis) were the other people I was working out with–especially the other women. Aside from being cool people, they are all SO strong! It continually blows my mind how fit these individuals are. I have so much respect for every single person who steps into my gym because they are there to WORK. And that’s super motivating to be around in those moments when you’re facing your 75th burpee, and your soul is dying a little bit inside. (Kidding. Sort of.🙂 ) Even though we’re working, people are always joking and smiling at the same time. I laugh every day, and I genuinely look forward to going there.

So, yeah! Fast forward about four months, and we’re at the present, where I am happy, humbled, and incredibly frustrated on a daily basis. I feel like I have 8 million new goals because there are so many things I want to get better at, but all I can do is be patient and keep diligently working at things, bit by bit. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this journey is getting to dive into the world of Olympic lifting. The lifts are so technical and will probably take me years to get the hang of, but they’re fun. Well… clean and jerks are fun; snatches are ….hopefully going to get better someday.😉 I’m still doing a lot of powerlifting, and am weaving in pilates and running regularly as well.

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Different gym, same tight hip flexors.

I’m sure the owners of my gym will eventually read this and be annoyed that I said all these nice things and then didn’t give the name of the actual box– sorry, guys! Stranger danger is real! If we know each other in person, hit me up and I’d be happy to recommend a great CrossFit box you can join.🙂

Anyhow, I’ll post more about this later on, but if you’re looking for more info on CrossFit itself, here’s an unbiased write-up that took the words right out of my mouth. In the meantime, someone please help me fix my snatches.

 

And as always, Remember to Breathe.

 

 

Healthy Food Relationships

Happy New Year, blog readers! ‘Tis the time for New Year’s Resolutions, and with that comes a barrage of social media posts about fitness, health, and of course, food. No matter the time of year, I’ll always support people’s efforts to live happier and feel better. However, the topic of nutrition nags at me every time I see people posting about how they’re cranky because they’re cutting carbs, eating a low fat diet, or are unhappy with the quinoa salad on their plate.

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On the real, quinoa salad is delicious🙂

In an effort to stop yet another person from developing an eating disorder, or beating themselves up for “falling off the wagon,” or spending every meal feeling like they’re a prisoner to their plate, I’m going to just cut through the bullshit, and give it to you straight: Stop dieting. Stop it. If you’re staring at a wilting salad, resigned to your new “healthy lifestyle,” then you’re not really living a healthy lifestyle at all, are you? If you’re committing to your health, then let’s stop the food problems before they start, and instead, develop some actual healthy habits. Here we go.

I’ll start this post by saying that I’m not a Registered Dietitian. But I AM a person who spent years battling an unhealthy relationship with food because I, like many people, started my fitness journey thinking that everything is all about calories in/calories out, low carb, blah blah blah. It took years, literally years, for me to undo all of the damage that mentality caused. I had to re-learn how to eat, how to recognize my hunger and fullness cues, and how to form a healthy relationship with food– I did this by finally embracing the idea of food as NOURISHMENT. That’s really what it is, at the end of the day. Would you believe me if I told you that you could be healthy, strong, happy, fit, not tied to a scale or a calorie calculator, and you don’t have to give up pizza, or ice cream, or whatever else it is that you love to eat? Man, that sounds like a sales pitch, but it is completely true. You can eat chocolate and still have a body-fat percentage in the athletic range. You don’t have to exist on 1,200 calories a day, or agonize over what you can’t eat. It’s not magic, and it’s not a secret. If you started 2016 thinking that it was time to make a change and get healthy, then here’s the solution… you ready?: Take care of yourself. That’s it. When you make a choice (and this really goes beyond food, this is for everything), ask yourself, “Am I taking care of myself right now? Is this behavior benefitting me?” If yes, proceed. If no, consider a different choice. And yes, sometimes taking care of yourself does involve eating a slice of pizza. Hold on, I’ll explain.

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Your body needs macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) and micronutrients (iron, vitamins, etc.). All food, whether that’s a cheeseburger or a veggie casserole, contains some combination of these things and will help keep you alive by fueling you. Thus, there are no good or bad foods, no foods that you necessarily should or shouldn’t eat (unless you have allergies), but some foods are more nutrient-dense than others. When you decide that certain foods are off limits, doesn’t that make you crave them more? It does for me. Kinda like when someone tells you you can’t do something… even if you didn’t want to do it before, now you kinda do, right? So, instead of telling yourself that you CAN’T have something, understand that you CAN have whatever you want. The key is to prioritize what it is that your body actually needs, while you consider what it is that you want.

For example, let’s say it’s squat day, and I need something in my system to perform the way I want to at the gym (Or if that’s not relatable, insert whatever other activity in there that describes your life– maybe your child wants you to play outside with them, or maybe you’re about to head out on a bike ride. Whatever, you get the idea). Let’s say I have the option of eating oatmeal, peanut butter toast, or a donut. All three choices will provide fuel for me… so what do I choose? In my case, peanut butter before a workout tends to make me sluggish, so mehh, maybe not that. Both the donut and the oatmeal will give me some quick carbs, which I need for energy– so which do I want? 9 times out of 10, I’m going to choose the oatmeal, because I don’t want the sugar crash that comes with the donut. But once in a while? Hell yes, I will enjoy the heck out of that donut (or two), if it’s truly what I want. Would I eat 5 donuts, or 5 bowls of oatmeal? No–not because I’m not allowed to, but because my body doesn’t need that much. That’s what I mean– there are no rules, only choices that you determine by asking yourself, “will this serve me?” Making food decisions based on how those foods make you feel, and what nutrients you need to perform certain tasks, will help you to understand the purpose of nutrition.

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I do think that it’s important to understand the nutritional profile of what you’re putting into your body (i.e. reading food labels), and to have a general idea of how much you’re consuming. By that, I don’t mean counting calories, I mean being aware of what you’re eating, and making purposeful choices. I usually check in with myself and think, “ok, I ate such and such today… hmm, I didn’t really get enough veggies or protein in my system, so I’ll have a stir fry with some chicken for dinner.” And if there’s something I really, truly want (not just because it’s sitting there, but because I actually want it), like a piece of chocolate after dinner or something, I’ll work it in. There’s a difference between being obsessive and being mindful. You don’t need to eat anything that you don’t like –restrictive dieting is unsustainable, and it will only lead to MORE weight gain once you stop sustaining it. So, just think about fueling your body with what it needs, balancing that with what you like/want, and nix the negative, restrictive behaviors before they start.

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It can take time to re-train yourself and to ignore all the media messages we get pummeled with each day. But in the end, no one knows your body better than you do. Listen to it, and treat it kindly.

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Happy 2016!

I’m very passionate about this topic, and welcome any feedback you might have. Questions? Comments? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to chat with you!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

 

 

Why I’m Not Vegan Anymore

I’ve been dreading writing this post. The little voice in my head has tiny feet that are firmly planted in the ground, digging in its heels, shouting “I don’t wanna!” But it’s a topic that I know will resonate and possibly help others, and so, here’s the truth: I’m not vegan anymore. And I have a lot of complicated feelings about it.

For those who don’t know, I was a vegan endurance athlete for 3.5 years. I even wrote a handy-dandy guide for newcomers to the vegan lifestyle, and I still wholeheartedly support every word I wrote. Being plant-based fueled me through GORUCK Challenges, Tough Muddershalf marathons, two triathlons and a Half Ironman. Not to mention, dozens of other road races and countless training hours. Suffice it to say, veganism was kind to me (and animals!) for years. Until it wasn’t.

Somewhere along the way, my head started getting very foggy. I was fatigued; constantly exhausted. But why? I was taking my B-12 every day, eating tons of leafy greens and colorful veggies, drinking bounties of water, working out reasonably, sleeping a normal amount… it didn’t add up. I went to a doctor and had my bloodwork done– everything was normal. Iron levels? Great! B Levels? Superb! They had no answers for me.

For several months, I had a nagging in my back of my head, gently poking me. I ignored it. And ignored it. And continued ignoring it. And then, I found myself covertly looking up “vegan to omnivore transitions” online… just poking around on the interwebs to see what showed up. After several weeks of this, finally, I made the decision to try — just try– eating meat again to see if it helped.

For anyone else who is thinking about making the transition back, I do not recommend doing it the way I did. I basically just jumped back in head-first– you really ought to take about 6 weeks and eaaaaaaaase your way back. The first non-vegan thing I had was eggs, and I wanted to die. Nooooo bueno for my stomach. Then I tried some tuna a couple days later. My stomach tolerated that a little bit better, but it felt very, very wrong. The next day, chicken. A week later, steak. RP was treating it like his own drama reality show, texting me “how’s it going? What are you eating next? Tell me when you take your first bite!” The whole process was strange and hard, and I say that with full appreciation for the fact that I am fortunate to have food to eat at all, and am grateful for the animals that gave their lives for my meals. Believe me, those things are not lost on me– I am grateful for both.

The first couple of weeks were the hardest, mentally. Physically, I feel better…and worse. It took about two months for my body to get used to everything. I’ve noticed that digestion is nowhere near as fast as it was before, but putting on muscle has been easier (though, I started 5/3/1 around the same time, so obviously that is a major contributing factor). I don’t feel bloated the way I did when I was eating beans every day, but I also don’t slim down as quickly as before (again, this is due, in part, to the fact that I am lifting heavy and running less). The fatigue and brain fogginess is gone, but I also don’t feel as light as I did while plant-based. So, as you can see, there are pros and cons to this transition. I don’t weigh myself (and even if I did, I’m lifting heavy now, so the scale would be irrelevant), so I can’t tell you whether that’s changed. I toned up a lot after switching my diet, probably from eating more protein and less carbs. So, it’s a trade off– I feel better in some ways, and not as good in others. But, getting rid of the fatigue and brain fog was extremely necessary for me to function in my daily life.

Emotionally, it’s very, very hard. Not only did I meet a lot of wonderful people through the vegan/vegan athlete community, but I don’t feel any different about animals than I did when I was plant-based. I love all animals. Factory farms are unspeakably evil, and should be eradicated. The conditions for “farm-raised” animals vary greatly, and either way, I don’t support killing sentient creatures– except, since I’m eating them, I guess monetarily, I do now? It’s hypocritical, really, that I would never be able to kill a chicken in front of me, and yet I’m willing to eat their meat when someone else does. As you can see, I do not feel at peace with my omnivorous decision, but for the time being, it is what I physically need. I take moments before meals to thank the animal I’m about to eat for its sacrifice. I do not eat unconsciously, and perhaps I will return to veganism again, someday. I’m sure this post will receive its fair share of opinionated comments from both sides — that’s fine. I don’t deny that my decision is a selfish one. But for now, this is where I’m at.

I would like to mention that there are many, many people who live happy, healthy, vegan lifestyles for 20+ years without problems. Every person’s body is different, everyone has different needs. I still advocate for veganism, and at the very least, conscientiousness as it relates to food, agribusiness, animal rights, etc. As with all things, you know your body best. Do what works for you.

Do you have any questions about vegan-omnivore transitions (or vice versa?) Comments? Anything you’re curious about? Please let me know in the comments.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Lagree Pilates in NYC!

Hola mis amigos! I’ve got loads to tell you, and limited time because my mom and I have a Skype date tonight — we’re carving pumpkins!!!😀 In the spirit of Halloween, I really want to share stories from my trip to Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Adventure last weekend, but I’ll save that silliness for another entry, because I have to keep my promise from a couple of posts ago and tell the tale of my experience taking a Lagree Pilates class in NYC!

I’ve been having a pretty serious love affair with Pilates for nearly six years, so I thought I was well-educated about it. Well, a month or so ago, I fell down an internet hole and stumbled on an article talking about the Lagree Pilates method. Saywhaaaat? Deemed “Pilates on crack,” it combines resistance training with isometric exercises, all done on a weird re-vamped pilates reformer machine called a “Megaformer”. Naturally, I was intrigued and NEEDED to try it. The method is only taught in certain cities, but I happened to be going to Manhattan that same weekend, so I found SLT in Midtown and booked a class– why not, right?

Midtown, NYC-- you're lookin' gawwwgeous

Outside of the studio. Midtown, NYC– you’re lookin’ gawwwgeous

Saturday morning arrived, and I ventured out to the studio feeling curious and a little nervous. I walked in and was greeted by blaring pop music, an instructor trying to scream directions over Katy Perry’s 110 decibel crooning, and 12 sweaty women of all body types and ability levels doing squats on top of these crazy moving platforms. Someone is definitely going to faceplant or break an ankle, I thought to myself.

The receptionist at the door was extremely friendly and welcoming, and after filling out some paperwork, she invited me to sit down on a plush white bench while I waited for the other class to finish. I wasn’t feeling too excited at that moment because I am anti-motivated by instructors that yell, but I figured it would be a new experience either way. I watched as the people in front of me bent down into lunges, simultaneously performing biceps curls with resistance bands that pulled their platforms forwardWell, this is interesting. 15 minutes later, class ended and the dulcet tones of Nicki Minaj finally quieted; everyone looked relieved.

Once the previous class cleared out, it was time to get started. After snagging a machine toward the left side of the room, the instructor (a different, much calmer individual than the previous class had) came over to talk me through the basics of the Megaformer. It wasn’t *too* complicated, but it had a variety of springs, levers and other movable pieces to keep track of. Fortunately, the instructors go around and adjust things for participants during the class so I didn’t have to worry about it too much. Music pumped through the speakers at a reasonable volume this time, and we were off.

We did some basic things like single-leg squats, rows, planks, bird-dogs, etc. all using resistance bands that attached to the machine. And we did a lot of non-basic things that I’m not even sure how to describe. At one point, I was holding side plank with one foot kicked out to the side, and one hand in a resistance band pulling myself forward on this rolling platform thing– can you visualize that? Probably not. IDFK, guys. It was weird.

I’ll admit, at the beginning, I was all “I totes got this, no problem,” because it felt easy. But by the end, I was sweating EVERYWHERE. And I mean, eeeeverrryyywherrree. The instructor came over to adjust something, and I watched, horrified, as sweat dripped off my forehead in a steady stream onto her hand, and there was NOTHING I COULD DO ABOUT IT because my appendages were busy trying to keep me from falling on my face. She took it like a champ though, subtly wiping her sullied hand on her pants, without outwardly grimacing, as she strolled to the other side of the room. Woof.

After 50 minutes of contorting my body in all sorts of bizarre ways on a machine that I assume was built by people who hate happiness, class was over. I thanked the instructor and gave my machine a thorough wipe-down before loading my drowned-rat self into the elevator with a group of girls who looked like powder-fresh ballerinas. Of course.

So, what’s the final verdict? While I’m glad I did it, and it was pretty fun getting to try something new, it’s definitely not worth the hefty $40 per class price tag (Note: I paid $20 cause it was my first time). More than that, it’s so far removed from traditional pilates that I don’t think the two should really be compared. While I moved my body differently than I ever have (or will probably ever need to), I was not sore from it, and I honestly feel that lifting weights and doing PiYo are a better use of time. I guess I feel like, while it was a cool thing to try, it’s unnecessarily complicated. You don’t need a crazy machine to get a good workout. You don’t need to do dangerous things like squatting on one leg on a moving platform to get results. Still, it’s interesting, and it’s worth trying to see if you like it.

And since I couldn’t take pics in the studio without being a major creeper, here’s a clip of me riding a *special* bike at a museum that RP and I went to. Bonus points if you know where we are in this🙂

Happy Halloween!!!

Punkin!

Punkin!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

The Crazy Ridiculous World of BBB

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how awesome 5/3/1 is as a strength-training program (If you missed it, don’t worry, you can catch up here). But there’s an optional piece to it that I didn’t describe, called “Boring But Big,” or “BBB” for short.

BBB is pretty simple: After your normal 5/3/1 work set, you do 5 more sets of 10 reps at 50-60% of your training max (Learn all about this by reading up on 5/3/1 for free). Besides just getting stronger, it’s also nice because you have the chance to really focus on your form — it gives you the opportunity to see if you have any imbalances you need to correct. And most of us do have imbalances from things like sitting at a desk all day, or having one side of the body that’s stronger than the other. Hooray, right?

I’m going to lay it out honestly for you: Yesterday was my first time incorporating BBB on squat day. Doing so may make you want to openly weep. You might find yourself sitting down in the squat rack after your sets, seriously contemplating the meaning of the universe, or digging down deep within to find the will to stand up. It’s great, in a really terrible way.

And since sharing is caring, I wanted to post my workout from yesterday on here in case anyone is really jonesing for some lower body love. *Disclaimer: Do this workout at your own risk. Seek medical advice before beginning a new exercise routine*

Squat Day Warm up:

  • 5 x 40%
  • 5 x 50%
  • 3 x 60%

Work Set:

  • 5 x 65%
  • 5 x 75%
  • As many reps as possible at 85%

BBB:

  • 5 sets of 10 reps at 60%

Assistance:

I’m pretty adamant about not texting at the gym, but I made an exception for this one.

FullSizeRender

Have you given BBB a try? Got questions or comments? Give ’em to me, I’d love to hear from you!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

I Pick Things Up And Put Them Down

Ahoy, Maytees! It’s been a minute since my last post, and I have so many new things to share with y’all. I’ve been going through a ton of changes lately, and I’ll delve into them all, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

1.) After 3.5 years of living a vegan lifestyle, I’m now omnivorous. And I have extremely mixed feelings about it.

2.) I went to NYC and tried out a Lagree Pilates class. It was sweaty and weird.

3.) I transitioned from triathlon/endurance running to life as a gym rat, lifting heavy with 5/3/1. Werkin’ on dem gainz, son.

There’s a lot to say about each of these subjects, so I’ll break them down into separate blog posts. I think sharing some thoughts around each of these experiences will be pertinent for many of my readers out there, so…Brace

Since I’m having a pretty backwards day today, this post will focus on #3 first: Talkin’ bout dat 5/3/1.

Story time! If you’re an avid reader of my blog (and even if you’re not, just read the last couple of posts), you may know that after many years of competitive running, I got completely burned out on racing this year and wanted to do something new. Enter, weight lifting. I started lifting weights when I was about 11 years old (weird, and probably unsafe, but that’s what happens when you have an older brother), but I’ve never dedicated more than a couple of days per week to it. So, when I started talking to RP about putting together a plan, he suggested I do 5/3/1.

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 8.02.08 PM

What’s 5/3/1, you ask? It’s a strength training program devised by a guy named Jim Wendler. Its tactics are used by bodybuilders, powerlifters, and regular folks who are interested in getting stronger. I’ve wanted to do it for years, but always had other goals I was working toward. Now, with no races or deadlines in front of me, I knew this was the time to go for it.

The principles are simple: Lift heavy four days per week, focusing on four compound lifts: Squat, Deadlift, Military Press, Bench Press. There are four weeks to a cycle, and each week you lift a certain percentage of your 1 Rep Max. At the end of four weeks, you increase the load you lift by 5-10 pounds. And so on, and so forth. Written out, it might sound complicated, but I promise that it’s quite straight-forward.

The key to this program is patience, and that’s oddly what I love most about it. It’s not a “quick fix.” You’re not going to bench 500 pounds after a month. It’s sloooooooow. But it’s awesome and effective. Each week, I find myself in the middle of a workout thinking, “There’s no way I can finish this workout,” or “I don’t know if I can beat my reps from last week.” But then I do. And many times, I end up doing way more than I thought I could. That’s a great F-ing feeling, guys. Even on the days where I don’t perform as well as I’d like (you can’t win every time), I still leave the gym knowing I gave it everything I had.

It’s also been eye-opening for me in regards to form. I always thought I had pretty good form on major lifts, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t going low enough on my squats, I wasn’t doing deadlifts correctly, and I’d never even done a military press in my life. Once I began watching YouTube videos and doing things differently, I started working muscles I didn’t know I had. And there’s always room for improvement, always more to learn. Which is mega cool.

You’re supposed to complement this training with assistance exercises. Wendler gives you some suggestions, but I also like to make up my own, and my workouts change all the time. Sometimes I do more, sometimes less. I usually try to add in circuits with some higher intensity stuff like burpees to get the cardio benefits at the same time. Here’s an example of what Bench Day might look like:

IMG_5948

There’s some simple math involved to figure out how much weight you actually need to lift, but if you hate math, you can use an app called “Big Lifts 2.” It makes it so easy, and it tracks your progress through graphs — everyone loves graphs!

The program is also cool because it’s very flexible. The major lift portion takes less than 20 minutes, so you have a lot of room to do whatever else you want to do. And since it’s only four days a week, that leaves two other days (plus a rest day) to go for a run, do yoga, play basketball, cage fight, etc. etc.

At some point, I’ll share my graphs and probably some embarrassing pictures, too. But for now, I’m staying focused. I’ve only been at it for about 2.5 months, and it’s a long-term/life-long program, so I’m looking forward to getting stronger. But my pull-ups are improving, my quads have become small bricks, and it’s been pretty fun to push boundaries.

The wide grip pull-up is my nemesis, but we're getting friendlier.

The wide grip pull-up is my nemesis, but we’re getting friendlier.

Anyway, this post is getting long, so I’ll end it here. If you’re interested in gaining strength, or trying something new, I recommend checking out 5/3/1. It’s not trendy, it’s not frilly or fancy, it’s very much a no-bullshit routine. Which is exactly why I like it. Read about it on Google or Reddit, and see if it aligns with your goals. Got questions or comments? Let me know what you think!

And as always, Remember to breathe

Embracing Change, Part 2

The fitness community is a funny place. Lately, my social media feeds are littered with updates from people about training, upcoming events, daily “accountability” posts, etc. etc. It’s awesome and interesting to see all of the different activities happening within my friend-groups. Just two days ago, I took a stroll downtown and ran into a friend and a group of his soon-to-be teammates, armed with rucks, about to embark on a GORUCK challenge. It was a surreal experience for me; shaking hands with the cadre, watching them line up and bust out burpees, explaining to passersby what was going on– I couldn’t believe it’s been almost three years since my own GRC. But, although there was a part of me that wanted to slap a ruck on my back and run with them for 12 hours, something bigger than that clicked into place in my brain.

GORUCK Class 1500

GORUCK Class 1500

A few months ago, I wrote a post on here about how my goals were shifting. How the idea of training no longer interested me, and races were becoming something that bored rather than excited me. And for the past several months, I’ve waited for that feeling to go away. I’ve felt some guilt over it, thinking, “This is who I am. I find weird-as-shit events, and I do them cause they’re fun. What’s wrong with me?” As I watched my friend and the group of strangers in front of me get ready to have this great experience, I felt nostalgic. And with that nostalgia, I finally got it: Nothing is wrong with me — I’m evolving, and this is the next phase of my journey.

I started running competitively five years ago. I thrived on the competition, the goal, the timeline. My anxious, neurotic personality was well-suited for the rigors of training. But over the years, exercise has become a pathway toward peace for me. And in the process of mellowing out a bit (in some ways), my goals shifted– rather than obsessing about being “race-ready”, my major goal is sustaining life-long health. I care about being fit enough to enjoy my life fully. If I get invited to participate in something like hiking a giant mountain, or going surfing, I like being able to accept with enthusiasm, without worrying that I’ll be unable to physically do it. My fitness goal is to simply have every awesome life experience that I can.

Like swinging on a tree-swing in the Dominican Republic, for example!

Like swinging on a tree-swing in the Dominican Republic, for example!

What has that meant for my workouts? Funnily enough, nothing’s changed. I still push myself on my runs. I still fling kettlebells around and wake up way too early to fit in some PiYo before work. These things make me happy– that’s the motivation. Do I want to do a tri this summer? Sure! But I’m interested in it because it’ll be a shared experience with someone I love. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up doing some crazy mountain marathon at some point? All I know is that I’ve finally realized that it’s okay to grow and change. It’s okay to go rock climbing instead of going to the gym. It’s okay to do backflips in the pool and body surf in the ocean for an hour without doing an organized lap swim, too. It’s okay to explore new avenues without having a schedule and an agenda attached to them.

Ocean runs are my favorite :)

After an ocean run– my favorite scenery :)

I’ve seen this issue come up with others lately as well, so that’s why I wanted to share this. Embrace wherever you are in your journey. If you’re knee deep in a training plan– awesome! Keep doing that! If you’re super stoked on your newest P90x adventure– cool! If you’re quietly practicing asanas in your backyard each morning with no other purpose than freeing your mind–fantastic. Allow yourself to just simply be.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Embracing change.

Maybe this post doesn’t belong here, I don’t know. I started this blog four years ago for a class assignment, intending to fill it with some workout ideas and maybe a few nutrition tips for a couple of months. That’s nice, I guess. But I wish I’d known back then how much wellness starts and ends with the mind — We are a creation of our thoughts. I don’t think enough people understand the magnitude of that. So, forgive me for going off the beaten track a bit today, I’m in the mood to share it all.

Change is an interesting thing. Sometimes it’s welcome; sometimes, not. Regardless, it inevitably provides the opportunity to search within ourselves. For me, change has crashed over my life in perpetual, difficult waves throughout the past year. I’ve waded through soul-crushing grief, exacerbated by the burden of secrecy. I’ve experienced the joy of accomplishment, the hope of opportunity, and the anxiety of doubt. Empty journals that were tucked away in drawers of neglect are now bursting with emotional scrawl, documenting every painful or blissful detail. Why am I sharing this? Because I realized at some point how grateful I am for the ability to feel. Even when it’s excruciating. Because when we try to numb ourselves, or run away from our emotions, that’s when we start to treat ourselves like shit. Under-eating, over-eating, chasing addictions, drowning in work — it can take a lot of forms. Embrace your bruises and your jagged scars. Embrace your successes and growth. Wherever you are, be patient with yourself. Breathe. IMG_3935 Connecting this back around to fitness stuff: On the very first day of February, I was slated to run a 10-mile race. It was supposed to be prep for a half-marathon in April and a full marathon in May. I’d been running quite happily and consistently until a couple weeks before the race when suddenly, I lost interest in all of it. We got pummeled by blizzards, which didn’t help, but I just. did. not. want. to. do. it. Any of it. I was having so much anxiety about having to train, and I actually felt guilty for not going out in the snowstorms to run. Guilt? Seriously? What the fuck, man. No.

Clearly, we were really jazzed about this race.

Clearly, we were really jazzed about this race.

The morning of the race came, and I woke up from a night of no sleep with a fever of 101 and aches all over my body. And you know, what? I felt relieved. LB and I sat in my kitchen, clutching mugs of steaming tea and watching the sunrise over the city. Instead of running the race, we met up with my brother for brunch. I earned my first DNS (Did Not Start), and I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel upset over it. Maybe because I ran the course a couple weeks earlier, or maybe because the fever went on to ravage my body for two days afterward. I don’t know. But all I could think about was how happy I was to be warm in my favorite restaurant, in my favorite city, enjoying a meal with two people I love.

Getting sick forced me to take a rest I desperately needed, and with that came a lot of clarity. For the first time in 5 years, I ditched my race plans for the entire season. I want to deepen my pilates practice. I want to go paddleboarding every day in the summer if I feel like it. There are no rules, and that fills me with peace. Maybe I’ll race, maybe I won’t. The point is that I don’t want to plan for things anymore, I want to just take them as they come. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone else, but as a Type A person who has an obsessive need to plan everything, it’s a big change for me. Sometimes you need to give yourself space to realize what it is you really want, and what is healthy for you.

IMG_3905

We tried something new for LB’s birthday🙂 Change can be good!

Anyway, the point of this post was to encourage you to feel your feelings. Sit with them. Experience them, because sometimes the hardest things are precisely the things we need. Release the “shoulds”. Love yourself enough to be patient. Whatever it is, you’ll figure it out.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Unbiased PiYo Review!

Have you ever heard of PiYo? It’s somewhat of a pilates/yoga fusion as the name suggests, but more intense. I heard about it while I was triathlon training, and was super intrigued because:

  • A.) Y’all know how much I love pilates-type schtuff
  • B.) I was looking for something different to add to my workout schedule.

After doing it regularly for a few months, I figured it was time to post a review. ReadySetGo!

I should start by saying that the PiYo program I’m reviewing is a BeachBody product, but PiYo itself exists outside of the Beachbody realm. They definitely didn’t invent it, and you can find a bunch of YouTube videos with free workouts if you want a taste of what it’s like. I’ll also tell you that beyond having a couple of friends/acquaintances who are coaches, I’m not affiliated with the company in any way (and to be honest, some of the things they do really irritate me). So you’re getting a completely unbiased review, which can be hard to find. Hooray!

Pro #1: PiYo is fricken amazing. Love. Lovelovelovelove. I noticed a marked improvement in my triathlon/running after adding it into my routine regularly. Not only that, but just basic life things got easier. (e.g. moving all of my belongings out of my second floor apartment and up to a third floor apartment sucked slightly less than it might have otherwise).  I never had brick legs during my triathlon, I sincerely enjoyed a half marathon that was mostly uphill, and my flexibility has increased substantially (meaning less chance for injury – woohoo!). So, that’s cool.

Pro #2: The workouts range from 20-45 minutes, which is perfect for waking up the body in the morning. When I was dealing with moving, I didn’t have time to go to the gym, and I only had 30 minutes a day to get something done. This program was a life-saver. Zero equipment, zero workout-dreads (You know how sometimes you dread doing a type of workout? Ugh, that’s the worst. Do something else if you feel that way).

Pro #3: It’s intense without being intense. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s hard to explain. Basically, you’re building solid muscle and working up a sweat without breaking your body. When my training mileage gets up pretty high, I stop lifting heavy because it impedes my progress. But strength training is SO important. This allowed me to increase functional strength, without feeling like I was killing myself to do it. Know what I mean?

Con #1: We get it, Beachbody. You want to sell Shakeology. Do you really have to put a commercial before every single workout? And do you really need to have Chalene Johnson talk about it before the workout is even over? And do you really need 5 commercials after it’s done trying to sell supplements and pills and whatever else? Cut it out!! I don’t need to listen to a sales pitch when I’m sweating all over myself. Put a flyer in the box, and call it a day, ok?

Con # 2: They market this program by saying there are no jumps or impact exercises, but there are a few workouts that include burpees, and ski jumps. You can obviously modify the exercise if you don’t want to be jumping around, and they’re not in there too often, but still. Just a heads up.

General Comment: There is one token dude in each video, and I’m almost positive a crew rubs oil all over his chest in between takes.  I mean, I laughed, but it’s also incredibly unnecessary, and probably a little offensive.

Overall, I’m a huge fan. I will say that I think it could be dangerous if you’re not coming from a pilates or yoga background. The first video teaches fundamentals, but if you’re new to these movements, you might not know your form is off. Plus, timing your breathing is HUGE with pilates, and they don’t really talk about that at all. So, I’d really recommend understanding form and breath and all of that before getting into PiYo, especially because the movements do flow together fairly quickly. By the way, it looks like they raised the price by about 20 bucks since August, but you can buy the DVDs for $60, which is a steal compared to how overpriced everything else usually is that BeachBody sells.

Now, I had originally put together a short, embarrassing video to give you a taste of what you can expect with this program, but my laptop died and the video died with it. So, instead I’m giving you a link to a different PiYo workout. It’s not the same, but it at least kind of gives you an idea.

So, what do you think? Have you tried PiYo? Want more information? Leave me a comment and let’s chat! And as always, Remember to breathe.

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