Monday, April 29, 2013

The only way out - is through it.

WODs look scary most every day, but sometimes there are WODs that are cloaked in simplicity – masking their ability to kick your booty. Today was that day. WOD shared below – but here were my initial thoughts… Wall Balls – I tend to like. It is a synergistic movement that feels good when all the rights parts are firing the right directions. Kettle Bell Swings – I like the momentum and the raw power that is generated in the movement. Push-ups – not sure we’ll ever be friends. At best we’re mild social acquaintances. So when Coach Brian unveiled the WOD, I thought – this doesn’t look too hard… I really should know by now to NEVER think that – and if I think I’m going to think that – to immediately assess myself a 25 Burpee Penalty for being a dufus.

The most dangerous part of any CrossFit workout for me is when I’m struggling near the end of round 1. The reality is sinking in of how much further I have to go. There is no denying how difficult it is going to be to get there. This is the time I wish had a mute button for my brain. I’m not sure at what point you silence the complainers and whiners that take up an unwelcomed residence in your own head. But today as I am struggling into my second round I remember something Louise Cooper would say while trekking the Grand Canyon last year. I describe Louise in the highest regards as an "elegant badass". She's an accomplished athlete (worth the Google) and thankfully a trail angel to tender paws like me. We were standing somewhere along the canyon floor unable to see where it was we were attempting to climb to when Louise matter-of-factly stated, “The only way out - is through it.” That one simple statement was powerful then, and it still is today. It is Louise's voice - in that gorgeous South African accent - I hear rallying me against the complainers and whiners. Those negative and fearful voices are energy zappers, and I look forward to the day I successfully evict them out of my head.

So how’d I do? At 18:00 I had my last round of push-ups remaining. I’m so glad Coach Brian had me complete them. I’ll take the 19:23 booty kickin, but I bet if I replayed the morning – that 1:23 is probably the exact amount of time I let negative voices run unchecked in my head. Lesson learned: evict negativity during the workout.

WOD 4/29/13
For time: 18:00 cap
800m Run
3 Rounds:
25 Wall Balls (20#/14#)
25 KB Swings (53#/35#)
25 HR Push-ups

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

But I don’t want to…

I’ve mentioned before that I’m preparing to trek Rim to Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon. This trip is 46 miles round trip in two days. No helicopters. No Pink Jeeps. No burrows. On this trek you are the burrow… The plan is to hike down the South Rim – cross the canyon floor aka “Bowels of Hell” – climb-up the North Rim. Wake up and do the reverse the next day. I’m not an extreme endurance athlete; I’m just lucky to know a few. They keep the “Tender Paws” like me from dying out there, but the deal is to come to the event prepared, strong and ready to suffer hike.

The logistics of life are tricky for everyone. Carving out time for training is a highly-coordinated effort with my husband. I’m blessed that he is very supportive of my endeavors. So without sharing the excel spreadsheet (yes, there is one) here is a quick rundown of the schedule. The alarm goes off Monday – Friday at 4 am. No, I’m not kidding. An ideal training week includes CrossFit at 5am Mon-Wed. I also juggle a mid-day run that I fit in around calls and meetings during my actual job. Thursdays are happy rest days – which should be renamed “Run-all-the-errands-you-didn’t-run-Mon-Wed Day”. Friday morning is back at CrossFit for the 5am class and hopefully another run. Saturday – I’m fiercely protective of my Saturdays. That day is for playing with my babies and NO SCHEDULE!!! On Sundays we have a standing babysitting appointment, and my husband and I hike. I don’t share all this to brag – I realize it is a lot. I also recognize that my sanity was probably questioned right after I described the GC trek in the opening statement. The point today is WHY I have set this schedule. Ironically the answer is simply because I am lazy. That’s right – in fact, I’m super lazy. I just can’t allow myself to be. I’ve learned the only way to make this lazy girl workout is to bake it into a larger, even epic, effort.

To get the training I need to completely prepare for a successful trek – I need three things – strength, time on feet and cardio. A sauna would be helpful – but I learned my local Y really frowns on camping out in there all day long… I’ll get back to my point. With two little ones at home, the only way to possibly meet my training needs (and not sacrifice family time) is to workout around their schedules. Below are a few questions/commentary I get. “Do you like waking up at 4am?” No. But I can slip out of the house while everyone is sleeping and be back home by 6am in time to wake them up to get ready for school. “Doesn’t running on your lunch make you feel gross for the rest of the day?” Yes. Definitely not bringing my "A Game" in the looks department after a lunch run. But running after work isn’t an option for my family life. I’ve received comments that I spend too much time away from my family, and I disagree. This schedule was coordinated in order to maximize family time yet still accomplish very large goals. Everyone feels the pressure of lack of time. My only real option was to steal it early in the morning.

The plan isn’t perfect. There are downfalls of the plan. One missed workout has a chaotic ripple effect on not just my schedule – but my family’s schedule as well. What I’ve not listed out in the above is how we also factor in my husband’s workouts, t-ball, bus stop, day-to-day life etc. But here’s the beauty of this plan - when that alarms goes off at 4am – “I don’t want to” isn’t an option. For me – it works. I truly doubt I would workout as consistently as I do if my workouts weren’t tied to an overall training plan for a set goal or specific event.

So much of my fitness journey has been realizing things about myself along the way. For me – I have to attach myself to something epic – and just go all in to prepare for it. If the sizzling canyon floor wasn’t waiting for me – that snooze button would be too easy. So if you are struggling with daily motivation, seek out an event that requires planning and preparation. It doesn’t have to be the Canyon. Just aim for something that is bigger than just you. For me the workouts aren’t the end goal – but only a component of a larger goal. That makes them more vital to my overall success and that makes them harder to miss, even on the “I don’t want to” days.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hiking – that’s just walking right?

I’m not a gym person. If you want to make me very sad, then put me on a treadmill where I’m expected to stare straight ahead while completely ignoring the person hoofing it out on their machine 18 inches away. Don’t get me wrong, living in the flat Midwest during the winter I have to log plenty of time on a treadmill because it is my best hope of getting incline practice. But do I prefer it? Absolutely not. The reason I was drawn to hiking was my desire to get outside more. I’ve heard statistics that adults in North America spend 90% of their time indoors. We seem to have voluntarily turned ourselves into caged mice. Once I started trying to figure out what I could do to be more active, I realized that on the days I was outside the time flew by. I could play for hours outside yet one cardio class at the gym felt like torture. On the days where I “played” outside, I was more relaxed and I slept amazingly well. So here I was trying to figure out what I could do outside within my physical capabilities – and viola – I decided to go for a hike. I mean – it is just walking, right? 

Hiking is great exercise and is something that can help anyone at any fitness level. Other than good shoes – you really don’t have to invest in a lot of gear for a while. The most amazing part of outside is that Mother Nature doesn't charge a monthly membership fee. My first hikes were small and along a path at a nature preserve. As I grew stronger and less timid to venture into “the woods” the hikes became longer, and I started seeking out new places to explore. I've mentioned before that I’m currently training for a second trek of the Grand Canyon this June. The irony isn't lost on me that my hiking habit now drives my workouts in the very gym I tried to avoid early on. Having recently added CrossFit to my training, I’m now spending lunch hours on the treadmill and going to CrossFit three days a week before work. All of this is an effort to increase my cardio and strength that will be needed to successfully complete the Rim to Rim to Rim adventure. 

The majority of my weekends are now spent outdoors, or at least in the pursuit of getting outdoors. It is becoming an increasing family activity for us. It really is the activity that we can all do together. We scale back when the children join us, but I'm thrilled to see them spending time outside and happily exploring. I’ve never been the “outdoorsy” type, and I promise that you don’t have to stop shaving and wearing deodorant when you start hiking. So don’t dismiss hiking as a very real option for getting active. I was always the girly girl that avoided any activity that looked like too much work. But that girl ended up really overweight – so I stopped listening to her. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Does Bigfoot CrossFit?

Confession: I'm slightly obsessed with Finding Bigfoot. I blame Animal Planet and the lovable BoBo on his constant hunt for Squatches. I'm genuinely disappointed each and every episode where they lack conclusive proof. So imagine my delight when some of the most awesome women I'm proud to call friends organized a hike on a portion of the Appalachian Trail called the Roller Coaster for this weekend. According to BoBo the AT is the Bigfoot Super Highway. They might be hiking, but I totally planned to knock branches and woop my way into the fuzzy-film-footage-of-a-squatch hall of fame. We set off mid morning - with the goal of 12-14 miles aiming for 5,000 feet of elevation work. We never did reach mileage consensus - but we knew regardless our pick-up car was dropped at a fixed location and we had to get to it by sun down. Although in hindsight - nighttime does seem to be the best for luring squatches...The trail was challenging not only from elevation and distance, but it is by far the most technical hike I've ever done. The fact that all of us ended the day without a turned ankle is a huge accomplishment and a testament to an awesomely focused effort.

To backpeddle just a smidge: This hike serves as a training hike for an upcoming Rim To Rim To Rim trek of the Grand Canyon with Project Athena Foundation. It deserves its own post - so I'll do that in the near future.

What is important about this Appalachian adventure - are the reminders of lessons that I seem to forget all too quickly...

Lessons Learned (or Remembered):
  1. You can do more than you think. I'm a huge proponent of biting off more than I can chew. Seems reckless at times - but so far this sink or swim approach has continued to work for me. Forcing yourself beyond your comfort zone is where & when you figure out what you are made of. 
  2. Recovery. After a steep climb, my heart rate is really elevated. I used to think that meant I wasn't in shape - and while it can - what I've learned to watch is how well my body recovers from spurts of exertion. If you can haul-ass - but then can recover in a fairly short amount of time - then you are on the right track. A heart rate monitor has really helped me to pay closer attention to my recovery periods. I actually have gained confidence in my fitness by seeing my recovery periods improve. 
  3. Strength is useful everyday. Functional strength and plyo aren't just trendy - they are everywhere. From climbing up hills, squatting to retrieve a dropped pole while wearing a 30 pound pack, balancing your weight on a wobbly rock, regaining control from a slide or leaping over creeks - stronger people really are harder to kill :).
  4. Take one step at a time. It turns out - for this hike a Squatch would have had to have been standing on the trail passing out drinks for me to notice him. Because of the rocky terrain - you couldn't look up. Our entire day - there are five total pictures - and I'm pretty sure most of those were taken on the one short 100 yard stretch of smooth path. The rest of the 13.1 miles and more than 8,000 feet of ascent climbing - your eyes had to focus on each foot/pole placement. I tend to fixate on the end point instead of each step of the way. I think that is largely why it's been so easy to get derailed and disheartened at times throughout my quest for fitness. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

It might be April Fool's Day - but I'm not laughing.

I'm not going to lie. Today sucked - but then it was awesome. The Strength portion of the workout went well for me. Turns out that I'm a bit stronger than I would have guessed I was. How was this figured out? The other day Coach Brian at Capital City CrossFit  worked with me to establish my 1 Rep Max for a Clean & Press. What this is - is the heaviest weight you can get into rack position and then press overhead. This is probably a good time to mention that I'm completely terrible at tracking numbers in my head. Why is this important? Because after Coach Brian starts adding weights to the bar, I have no idea what I'm lifting. I only know that he believes I can lift more. Because he believes I can lift more, I figured 'I must be able lift more' - so I do. Another is added, another is added and then another adjustment made. I won't pretend it wasn't heavy. Yet every time I started the movement - I was able to press it overhead. I'm actually not sure how many weights he adjusted, but he finally seemed to agree that we had found my max. After I finished he asked if I knew what it was. Of course I stopped doing the math in my head after I couldn't remember the weight of the bar. Turns out it was 103 lbs. I was a bit proud. In fact - it felt slightly badass at that moment. Here's what I didn't know...That number was going to haunt me in almost every workout after that.

Which brings me to the workout below. Did I mention I'm atrocious at remembering numbers? Turns out I overloaded my bar. So for each move below I was unknowingly lifting more than I needed to. I was pooped. But it didn't suck yet. We move to the WOD. From almost the first Squat Clean Thruster I'm thinking how am I going to do 12 of these? Then I do, but I'm so happy to move on to the Burpees (something is wrong with that statement alone...) I clumsily get through those. On to Box Jumps, I'm in the homestretch now.... I start jumping with renewed vigor. But then it happens. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice my classmate and think "Why the Hell is she doing Squat Thrusters again?" and that is when the suckiness occurred. Maybe because I'm a newbie, or because I was too busy lifting too much weight due to poor basic math skills, I had totally missed the "3 rounds for time" portion of the WOD instructions.... In that moment those evil, negative thoughts that can immediately invade your mind started protesting LOUDLY. I was less than thrilled when I grabbed the bar to start round 2. Building excuses in my head, fretting about how to get through this. I mean the noise in my own head was far louder than the music coming from the stereo. Through all of this inner-chaos I notice my classmates moving into their 3rd rounds. My stress increases because I'm barely into my 2nd. But then the magical moments that seems to be inherent in the CrossFit community occur - I start hearing a few cheers of encouragement from classmates and coaches. Similar to how a small flame can snuff out darkness - a small cheer or a "you got this Pam" seems to drive you forward. Before I know it I'm finishing the Burpees and moving to the jump box except this time I know I've got one more round until I'm done. Coach Brian sees that I'm struggling and for round 3 he scales it back for me. By the time I finish, I'm exhausted, bummed that I struggled so much and yet exhilarated that I finished. In that moment the suckiness that is fear and doubt - gets overrun with the awesomeness of encouragement and accomplishment. 
Lessons learned that day were plentiful. 
1. learn how much the darn bar weighs.
2. read the WOD thoroughly - so you aren't surprised.
3. scaling back isn't failure - but quitting is.
Workout for April 1, 2013
Clean & Jerk
5×1 @ 80%
2×1 @ 90%
3×1 @ 95%
8×1 @ 70%
3 rounds for time:
12 Squat Clean Thrusters (95#/63#)
15 Hand Release Burpees
18 Lateral Over-the-Box Jumps (24″/20″)