Balancing the Mirror

Like most women who discover strength training for the first time, my perceptions and expectations of my body have changed dramatically since I started CrossFit 2 years ago. I’ve never really been overweight, but I’ve never been an athlete (my athletic background mostly consists of aggressive show choir choreography) and I gained some weight after college that I wasn’t terribly comfortable with. I wanted to look like a 5’3-tall version of a Victoria’s Secret Model–long, thin, graceful, and yet somehow still vaguely athletic. I used to think that you achieved these things by eating canned tuna and raw spinach and going on hour-long runs twice a day, which was a problem, because I hate running, can’t stand raw spinach, and the only way I’ll eat tuna is if it’s equal parts mayonnaise. So, needless to say, I didn’t get very far.

But then I found CrossFit and weightlifting, and my Pinterest-board images of lithe women holding dancer’s pose with one hand and a water bottle full of detoxifying lemon-ginger water in the other hand were replaced with gifs of Camille doing muscle ups and Diane Fu hang-snatching, and I learned, most importantly, that there is no one-size-fits all approach to fitness and health. So I put my scale away, and I haven’t looked back.

Or at least, that’s what I tell myself.

But the truth is that I still care what I look like, and while I no longer have an “ideal” body type, sometimes I look in the mirror and can’t help but think that I put in way too much damn work to still be this squishy. But on the other hand, I am constantly hearing that I should care more about what my body can DO than how it LOOKS, and so I shouldn’t worry about putting on weight in the pursuit of performance.

However, I’m pretty sure that the squish that I’m talking about has nothing to do with my back squat and everything to do with the nachos I had for breakfast yesterday morning. And while a lot of people I know have been embracing the “Eat to Perform” or “Eat Big Lift Big” mentality lately, I just can’t get on board. I tried Eat to Perform and constantly found myself having to coach myself through big meals, which felt almost as unhealthy as depriving myself of food. The result has been an awkward combination of clean eating and extremely un-clean eating that has, in all honestly, gone beyond “experimenting with my diet” and now leans more towards just being lazy.

But more than anything, as I got more and more sucked into the Eat to Perform message forums, I started feeling like unless I was a bikini or fitness competitor, it was no longer ok for me to say that I want to lean out. In fact, I’ve sort of been feeling like being vocal about my aesthetic goals somehow will give off the impression that I’m not that serious about my strength and fitness goals.

I don’t know how I’ve managed to swing this far on the other side of the pendulum, because I’m pretty sure that most athletes would agree with me that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get rid of body fat. But somehow I’ve gotten to the point where I’m almost embarrassed to talk about aesthetic goals, because I feel like I should be a better role model for embodying the concept that it doesn’t matter how you look, as long as you’re healthy.

So, just for the record: I want to look like an athlete, and that, to me, means having visible muscles and a flat stomach. I have strength and performance goals, but I also have aesthetic goals, and that doesn’t make me less serious about my fitness. I have a feeling that almost nobody who’s reading this would argue that point, but for some reason, that is the mindset I’ve gotten myself in… so now I guess it’s time to get myself out of it.

Spring Catch Up

It’s spring! I just love spring. It’s the best.

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This past weekend Brandon and I went to Moab for an impromptu little desert trip. I love that town so much. Someday I will move back and we will sit in the river and drink 3.2 beer because it’s Utah and everything will be great.

But until then, here we are.

The Open ended without much fanfare. I skipped 14.4 because I just didn’t want to deal with it, and 14.5 took me 27:35, a time that I wasn’t particularly proud of. I think I went way too hot out of the gates for the round of 21 and 18 thrusters/burpees, leaving me totally flattened for the rest of the WOD, but I wasn’t about to re-do it. Better luck next year I guess.

My Catalyst program is going pretty well, but I’ve been stalled a bit because of weekend trips like this past week, so instead of being on week 5, I redid week 2 two weeks ago, skipped all but 2 days of week 3 last week, and so I’m back on week 3 this week. I’m seeing some progress–last week I had a few heavy snatches that felt really good, and while I’m not nailing every single one and am still definitely letting my head get the best of me when the bar gets heavy, it’s getting easier to make those heavy attempts. But my schedule is going to settle down a little for the next month, so it will be easier for me to maintain a more consistent lifting and WOD schedule, rather than just fitting it in where I can, which I’m excited about.

So I guess the moral of the story is that not much has happened in the past 10 days or so except for spring springing. Which, don’t get me wrong, is really exciting.

Oh! I did make these marshmallows from Urban Poser! The only ingredients are water, grass-fed beef gelatin, honey (kind of a LOT of honey, like a full cup), and some vanilla. The instructions make it sound really scary, but as long as you have a candy thermometer (we had to buy one for this recipe, it cost less than $3) and a stand mixer or buddy (we went with the latter), it is actually really straightforward to make them. And they are SO delicious. And with grass-fed beef gelatin! Joint health marshmallows, right?

14.3 and More Lifting, Please

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Another week has passed, and The CrossFit Open continues!

I felt similarly to 14.3 the way I felt about 14.2; I was excited to see what I could do, but also had realistic expectations because I know my limits. For 14.3, my Deadlift max is 170#, so I knew that 20 reps at 155# (which, if you’re playing at home, is over 90% of my 1RM) would be a stretch, but that if I did make it to 185#, it would be a miracle to get a 15# PR after 55 previous heavy deadlifts.

I did step-ups instead of box jumps, linked my first set of deadlifts at 95#, then broke the 135s into sets of 3 and 4. When I made it back to the bar for the 155# deadlifts, I had about 3:30 left on the clock. I picked up the 155# bar, and thought, “Ok, I can do this, maybe I can make it back to the box…” But by the 3rd rep, I knew that I was not going to be able to finish all 20 deadlifts. I had a great judge–Chris G, one of my favorites at the gym, who also interviewed Joy & me in GGW Episode 31–who helped coach me through the last set, and with his help I stood up my 10th rep as the timer ended.

I am definitely happy with my results–of course I would have loved to surprise myself, but the amount of fight I had to put up in order to get those final 3 or 4 reps made it pretty clear that I was giving it everything I had, and really, that’s all I can ever ask of myself.

In addition to all this Open fun, yesterday marked the end of the first week of the Catalyst Athletics training program that I’m working on. I decided on a slightly shorter one from the original plan I was considering–this one is 6 weeks instead of 12, at the recommendation of TJ who pointed out that coming from a sporadic weightlifting background at best, I would be at a much higher risk for an injury if I just walked into 3 months with no deloads.

So far I am really liking the program. For those of you who asked about how I’ll incorporate this into my normal CrossFit schedule, I plan to still WOD at least 2x a week (one of which being the Open), but apart from that I’m going to be giving the lifting program priority. If my body feels good and I want to do a 3rd WOD, then great; but more than likely I’ll be keeping the metcons to a minimum for the duration of this program, which is fine. I am already really enjoying the extra time under a barbell, and I managed 2 reps at my C&J 1RM last night, so I think that a C&J PR is in my future, which is exciting.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, after a little high volume programming last night, today I was SO hungry. So that part is working.

Eating Enough

There is a funny thing that’s happened a bit in the corner of the CrossFit blogger world that I live in, and it’s that women have not only rejected the idea of a calorie deficit, but have moved to the other side of the spectrum. Instead of fitness bloggers who humblebrag about how little they ate today, CrossFit bloggers post about how MUCH they ate today, how they are still hungry, and how they are going to go make themselves a 1500-calorie bedtime snack because #gainz, y’all.

Don’t get me wrong, I am more than supportive of ditching the calorie deficit mindset. I will be the first person to tell you that eating less does not mean being more fit, and in fact not eating enough can be detrimental to your progress. I know this, because I can barely get myself to eat enough on a regular basis. I am not a big eater, and never really have been, and up until the past few months, I’ve been pretty ok with that.

But, to be honest, I am also not really ready to just start adding indiscriminate mass to my body. I’ve said this before, but I know that even though CrossFitters are only supposed to care about our increasing fitness, it is also pretty nice to look in the mirror and like what you see. When I gain weight, I can tell immediately–and not because my lifts go up. Also, I’ve been noticing that the high carb meals that are encouraged by ETP and Lift Big Eat Big-style athletes and coaches just make me feel sluggish and unenthusiastic. My body is apparently not as on board with the idea of eating 3 cups of rice for dinner as I want it to be.

But I also know that if I want to get stronger, I have to, at the very least, shift my weight around on my body a bit. And I think that the solution to this dilemma might less to do with “eating big,” and have a lot more to do with lifting heavy weight on a regular basis. Tomorrow I am starting this 12-week Strength Cycle Training Plan from Catalyst Athletics–I have tried doing a few Catalyst programs in the past, but both times have been stalled by illness (last spring) and injury (stitches from a dermatology thing this past November) and then never found myself back on track (And yes, I’m starting on a Thursday… it just fits better in my schedule that way). And I’m hoping that this will give me some focus and, if nothing else, maybe make me a little hungrier.

So in the meantime, I am still working on making ETP work for me. Two nights ago, I had two burger patties with 2 cups of brown rice for dinner, and I had to coach myself through the second half of the meal. Who knew eating so much could be so hard?

14.2 and Eat to Perform

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Luckily, Joy was there last week when I did 14.2, and she took pics of me without me even having to ask. Oh, blogger/podcast friends. They are the best.

Not gonna lie, I did not get too worked up about 14.2. Overhead squats are my favorite lift, but I haven’t practiced Chest-to-Bar pull-ups since last year’s Open, when I got my first C2Bs ever in 13.4. So I knew that I could link the first 10 OH squats, but I also knew that it was going to take a miracle for me to get 10 C2B pull-ups in the remaining 2 minutes. I went into the workout just hoping to get at least three C2B pull-ups, which is exactly how many I got. I’m not thrilled with my score, mostly because it highlights how little I’ve worked on pull-ups in the last year, but I feel like I did my best. And it was tons of fun because there were a lot of people from the previous class who stayed to cheer us on, and everyone went crazy when I got my first C2B after two initial failed attempts, which was pretty great! Oh, and Brandon killed it with 110 reps–even better than Bob Harper! What a stud.

And now, onto 14.3! What do you think it’s going to be?

In other non-Open related news (is there such a thing this time of year?), this week I am starting to experiment more closely with Eat to Perform. I bought a membership to the site back in November, but never really took much time to figure out how to use it, and honestly found their site pretty difficult to wade through in order to get to the basics of what I was supposed to be doing. They have a TON of information on there, but I felt like all of the questions and FAQs assumed a baseline knowledge of counting macros and planning meals that I did not have. So after seeing Jen from Wine to Weightlifting write a post about her ETP experiences, I finally reached out to her to get the inside scoop on how the heck to get started.

The biggest thing that both Jen and the ETP site have driven home so far is that I need to get ready to eat a LOT more than I have been. ETP also encourages lots of non-Paleo carbs, like rice and cereal. I eat rice (mostly in the form of sushi) about once a week or so, but have noticed that if I try to incorporate it on a more regular basis, I tend to feel pretty bloated. A lot of people can eat grains without any issues, but I have always had a ridiculously sensitive digestive system, so I am looking forward to experimenting with how to get enough calories and macros without compromising my gut health. As always, I’ll keep you posted!

14.1: Finally, Some Double Unders

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Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of me doing 14.1. In fact, I am always amazed at the plethora of photos that other bloggers seem to have of themselves in the midst of working out. How do you get these photos? Do you have a personal photographer? I mean, if I propped my phone up on a box and worked out in front of it, I would get no end of ridicule. This is a serious question. How does that work?

Anyway, moving on to the actual workout and not just the photojournalism aspect… When Dave Castro announced 14.1, I was thrilled. As you all know, I LOVE double unders… they are the one thing in CrossFit that I really feel like I am awesome at. Everything else I am still trying to figure out, but double unders are my jam. I know that double unders are a pretty polarizing topic, so let me say that they have not always been my favorite thing–in fact, for the first several months of CrossFit, I struggled to link more than 1 or 2. But then, about 6 months into CrossFit, I bought my own jump rope and dedicated 10 or 15 minutes after every WOD to mastering the double under. Many, many whip marks and thrown jump ropes later, I finally started linking 10… and then 15… and then 30… and now can link 60 or 70 on a consistent basis, with my double-under PR at 110. (If you are struggling with double unders, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having your own rope… not necessarily because a rope you would buy yourself might be a better quality than the ones your gym provides, but because being able to practice with the same rope consistently is a huge X factor in making double unders happen. I started with an Rx Jump Rope with an Ultra 1.8 cable, and now have a Rogue SR-1 Bearing Speed Rope.)

Last year, double unders appeared only once in the Open… and they were after 150 wall balls. OH THE INJUSTICE. So I felt like this made up for it. And then 55# ground-to-overhead wasn’t the lightest weight for me, but I felt was totally doable.

I went into the workout guns blazing. A little too blazing. I skipped on my 13th DU, but then recovered and managed to link all of the DUs for the rest of the WOD. The snatches got heavy fast, but I had a plan for pacing. My goal for the WOD was to get through 3 full rounds and into the DUs of the 4th round–hoping for at least a score of 150. I figured that 30 seconds of DUs, plus 10 seconds per snatch, was a reasonable pace, considering that 55# is almost 70% of my 1RM snatch. In my 3rd round, I decided to switch to C&J, which in retrospect I probably should have done the whole time, but oh well. The C&J took longer per rep, but required way less rest, so ultimately it evened out.

In the end, I came out with 174, only 6 reps shy of 4 full rounds. I was super happy with my score, and even though I may have been able to improve by a few reps if I had re-done the WOD using C&J the whole time, I decided to stick with my score. And now I am sitting comfortably in 2,486th place in the Southwest Region, which is about 500 places better than my 13.1 finish. So I’ll take it!

And now I am just hoping that 14.2 is as kind to me as 14.1 was… but I think we all know that it won’t be. Unknown and unknowable, right?

PS, I am still waiting for Dave Castro to program the Limbo in the Open. Balance? Check. Flexibility? Check. Agility? Check. Coordination? Check. Accuracy? Check. Measurable and repeatable? Check. I mean c’mon.

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