My Drug Is My Love

Ke$ha almost had it right.

—–

Shannon asked me tonight, “What did you eat before you came in tonight?”

A seemingly normal question under most circumstances. However, she asked me this because I was bouncing, jumping, bobbing and weaving all over the place during our warm-up. This is a fairly regular occurrence for me, especially when I’m doing some kind of physical activity, but we’ll come back to that in a minute.

Shannon is not the first to notice my not-so-random bouts of… well, randomness. It also comes in the form of, “What are you on (as in drugs)?” It’s a question I’ve been asked many times over the past 15 years… and today, I answer it.

L.O.V.E.

Baseball

I remember when my club baseball teammates in college asked me this, while I was running all over the outfield collecting batting practice balls. NO ONE enjoys retrieving BP during practice. No one. Except me.

So what was I “on” that made me enjoy that so much? I was high on my love for baseball.

Running

How about when I’m caught violently lip syncing The Spice Girls while running the Vita Course at Byrd Park? Truth be told, I used to have a crush on Sporty Spice, but that’s not why I’m jammin’ out. I LOVE to run, and the sound of “Wannabe” just gets me in the mood.

Sorry I’m not sorry. But who are we kidding? I saw you laughing. You liked it.

CrossFit

So, tonight at CrossFit, once again, I got caught dancing and frolicking around like a tweenage girl who just met One Direction. Guilty as charged. I LOVE CrossFit. Especially when I’ve been semi-injured this past week, and haven’t done a full workout in a while.

My energy, excitement, goofiness, dance moves, lip syncing and pure happiness have nothing to do with the food I eat, the supplements I DON’T take or the drugs I’ve never done. It’s about passion.

When I genuinely love what I’m doing, I’m truly happy. It just so happens, my happiness manifests itself in unique ways.

PS. Happiness does not automatically make you a good dancer. I cannot be held liable for lost dance battles or embarrassing karaoke performances.

But you should totally sing “Wannabe” next time they fire up the jukebox.

PPS. I love a whole lot more than just baseball, running & CrossFit. The list is too big to include here, but we all have things that we love, and none of us get to do them 100% of the time. So… when you do have the opportunity to do them… smile, and embrace the moment¬†ūüôā

CrossFit: Amanda The Beautiful

Amanda is an oxymoron.
She’s 42 reps of pain, and 3 sets of beauty.

She’s up, down, and then back up again.
All in one fluid motion.

You love to hate her, and hate to love her.
But you do love her. Because she’s beautiful.
Her beauty is simple. Her beauty is complex.
She gives you so much to think about,
but it’s best if you just forget it all & GO.

Today, I got to hang out with Amanda’s younger¬†sister. Let’s call her Mandy. She’s an equally beautiful, yet scaled, version of Amanda. Not quite as good at gymnastics, but her work ethic often scores her a few more reps than her bigger¬†sister.

Instead of muscle-ups, Mandy rocks to the beat of 18/14/10 chest-to-bar pull-ups… cuz that’s just how she rolls. And while not throwing big weight overhead, she sticks each & every rep of her snatch as if she was being judged. Methodical. Poised. And focused.

When The Party is Over…

…stay for just a little bit longer.

Everyone else finished chatting it up with Mandy, and I was the last one at the party. More time with this beautiful woman was OK by me. Mandy taught me something today.

Stay within yourself. Focus on your goal. And get better at something.

It was just Mandy & me tonight. Doin’ our thing. And our thing was different from Alex’s thing, Heather’s thing, Holli’s thing & Matt’s thing. Mandy & I danced (literally, because Luda was on), but we danced in a room all by ourselves. As if no one was watching.

Tomorrow…

Let’s get better at something else. Let’s make a dream come true.

It’s the little victories each day — no matter how small — that make us better.

Thanks Mandy, for a night I’ll never forget ūüėČ

Image Credit: CrossFit Addict (that’s actually Ashley, not Amanda, but don’t get me wrong, she’s just as badass)

CrossFit: On resting, scaling & ultimately, doing neither

Sometimes, and only sometimes, I have insightful things to say. My ramblings can be absorbed by another human being, and they might actually benefit them.

And then there’s the other times. When I completely ignore everything that is logical & reasonable, and do stupid things. Well, today… it was a stupid day.

I went into today pretty sore. I worked out hard on Saturday, and even harder on Sunday. The rest of my weekend was a blur, and I barely had any time to rest. On Saturday, we ran 6x300m sprints before we even started the teamer. Needless to say, when it was over, I could feel my calves burning (and that doesn’t happen often, as my legs are used to taking a beating).

Sunday was team practice day. Lindsay, Sam, Phil & I are competing in Battle of the Boxes this coming weekend. So we ran through the workouts, each doing 2 WODs with about 15 minutes rest in-between. And we pushed it… hard.

Enter Monday

Clearly, today should be a rest day. My legs knew it. My shoulders knew it. My left tricep knew it. And even I knew it. I woke up looking forward to a day off.

Annnnnnd then Danielle posted the workout. Wall balls, box jumps & toes-to-bar (which we often scale to hollow rocks). It was almost too easy to scale, so I talked myself into it. Stupid me.

Rest means rest. As in, do nothing.

Scaling is not the same as rest. And more often than not, true rest will deliver more benefits to your fitness than scaling a workout when you’re tired. Especially when it’s obvious that your body needs the rest & recovery time.

Scale all or scale none

Just as rest means¬†do nothing, if you’re going to scale, you scale THE ENTIRE WORKOUT. Not part of it. Not just the things you don’t like to do. Not just one body part or muscle group. You scale the entire workout.

So here is my stupid self, scaling wall balls to air squats (high five!), toes-to-bars to hollow rocks (nice, safe choice)… and then I set my box up for 30 inches (MORON!). “But I love doing box jumps, and I’m really good at them, so I should totally be jumping 30 inches.” Wrong. Dead wrong.

Long story short, I strained my right calf 12 minutes into a 15-minute workout. And it had nothing to do with the jumping. It was because I stepped down with my right foot every time, and put a lot of strain on that calf because of the 30-inch drop, and the angle it created on my lower leg.

It doesn’t matter how I did it. The point here is that I was an idiot. Well, aside from that, the point is to listen to your body. You’ve heard it a million times. And by now, most of us have a pretty good understanding of our bodies, and know when it’s telling us to chill out.

Do as I was too foolish to do on this particular day, and listen to it. Find the self-control to say no to the workout, and yes to your body.

So, yeah, about that competition this weekend. Well, with 4 entire days off (and yes, I mean true, 100% days OFF), I should be well-rested ūüôā

CrossFit: Why Is Everyone Yelling At Me?!

Did you read that title as if you were a 5-yr-old kid at the dinner table while your mommy was yelling at you to eat your vegetables? Good. Because that’s how it was intended.

Note: This post has been edited since it’s original version. I realized that it might be misinterpreted by some, and there was a better way to make the same point. It is aimed at the CrossFit culture¬†as a whole, and to serve as¬†a reminder to the broader community.

This article was inspired by today’s WOD at CrossFit Addict,¬†and the hard work of one of our newest members, Kim. More on Kim’s story at the bottom of this article, but first I’d like to say a few things about motivation.

First off, let’s be clear. This is not unique to CrossFit (the yelling-for-motivation or¬†the vegetables), but both definitely have their place in the sport. For the sake of me not getting hungry again, let’s focus on the yelling. We’ll save the veggies for later.

While I’ve only worked out at a few CrossFit gyms, it comes as no surprise to me when I see folks very loudly encouraging others. I hear chants of “Let’s go!”, “Come on, keep moving!”, “Down and up, down and up!”, “Don’t stop!”, “What are you doing?!”… you get the idea.

CrossFit workouts are, generally speaking, very intense. Intense people are drawn to CrossFit, and thus, their intensity shows. Comments like these, spoken at a loud volume, certainly have their place on the motivation-and-encouragement spectrum. For some‚ÄĒI would suspect mostly elite athletes & adrenaline junkies‚ÄĒthis technique works. It’s highly motivating, and gets those athletes to perform at an incredibly high level. A level they would not have reached on their own.

The problems with this type of motivation

1. Most athletes in a CrossFit gym are NOT at this level.

They’re not here to do competitions, compare themselves to others,¬†and beat themselves into the ground until they can’t stand up any longer. They want to get in shape. They believe CrossFit is one of the best ways to do that. And the community of people is awesome to be around.

CrossFit prides itself on being scalable. And I truly believe it is. I, for one, have scaled, and am still scaling, quite a few movements. And I continue to see people enjoying workouts AND getting stronger, all while scaling the movements.

So please, let’s not treat everyone the same. Stop assuming everyone in there is a superhero-inspired, former athlete, hardcore badass. They’re not. And some of them never want to be.

CrossFit should welcome those folks the same way it welcomes the elite‚ÄĒwith a smile, a handshake, and a collective “Let’s get to work.”

2. Different people are motivated by different things.

People respond in different ways to various types of stimuli. What motivates one person might drive another insane. What I do to make her smile during a WOD might make him want to punch me in the face.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to motivating others.

Some people work harder when you yell at them. Others do better when you help them count their reps. Some like to be stopped & coached mid-WOD. And some definitely want to be left alone.

To be a good motivator, you have to first understand your audience. Please be careful next time you’re about to raise your voice. Take a second after class to get to know that person. Talk to them about the WOD. Establish a better understanding of what makes them tick. And then you can get them to get more out of their workout.

If you fail to understand them, what you think is encouragement might be just the thing that drives them out of your gym.

3. You might not know that person’s goal for the day.

There are so many movements in CrossFit, it can take years to become efficient at them all. And a few more years to perform them all as prescribed. No one becomes great at everything overnight.

It’s important to pick a movement to focus on, and work on it. Consistently. Maybe it’s a broad goal of focusing on heavier weights one week. Maybe it’s barbell technique. Or skip the barbell all together and focus on endurance. Mobility. Handstands. Double-unders. There’s so much variety in CrossFit that you can work your entire body and still skip out on quite a few “staple CrossFit movements.” Don’t be afraid to tell your coach “No.”

A good motivator needs to understand this. You might see someone taking longer-than-you’d-like-to-see breaks between reps, but how do you know they’re not calculated? Maybe his shoulder is still sore from 3 days ago. Maybe her¬†wrist mobility is lacking so she’s doing a lighter weight.

There could be many¬†reasons, unbeknownst to you, why someone is not doing what you think they could be. But until you get to know that person, and find out what those reasons are, be careful what you say. You just might be hurting them more than you’re helping them.

Kim’s Story

I barely know Kim, to be completely honest, but I worked out with her tonight, doing kettlebell swings & burpees alongside her as she finished up her 21-15-9. Kim was the last one to finish tonight, but don’t let that fool you. All it means is that she worked longer than anyone else did, and for that, she earned a great deal of my respect.

I realize I just preached about knowing your audience before you motivate them, and here I am saying I barely know Kim. So how did she inspire this piece on motivation?

There were several of us encouraging Kim to the finish. While it would have been stereotypical CrossFit to keep¬†telling her not to stop, in our screaming voices (you’ve gotta be louder than the gigantic fans & blaring rap music)… that didn’t appear to be what was going to help Kim¬†get to the finish.

While I barely know Kim, I watched her during the workout. I saw how she was moving through her set of 21. And then again through the beginning of 15. She was smart about it. She knows her body well. She was pushing hard; you could tell by the look on her face. But she wasn’t pushing so hard that she was on the brink of collapsing.

She was doing sets of 1 or 2 burpees during the round of 15, before taking a few seconds rest. So when it came time to do her final 9 burpees, instead of trying to get her to do 9 unbroken, I encouraged her to do 3 sets of 3, with only 3 seconds rest in-between. I did them with her, and counted down on my fingers between each set, so she could easily see when it was time to go again.

Three in a row was more than she was doing at the end of her round of 15, and with the same (or slightly less) rest in-between. A difficult but manageable challenge, especially knowing these are your last 9 reps of the workout.

Truth be told, I don’t know for sure how Kim likes to be motivated, but judging by the handshake & hug she gave me right when it was over, I feel as though I may have gotten it right this time.

Final Word

Coaches, please get to know your members. Understand their goals, their personality & what makes them tick. Pay attention when they’re working out. Pick up on cues. And use all of that to be smart about your motivation techniques.

Fellow athletes, much of the same applies to you. While we aren’t getting paid to be there, and might not have a certification, we still play an important role in our own local CrossFit community. The nice thing is, ¬†you don’t need a certification to motivate. And when you really help someone through a workout, you do get paid… with a sweaty handshake and a hug.

Repetition builds confidence. Confidence builds strength.

Last February, Open workout 14.1 was announced. It consisted of double-unders & 75lb snatches. Back then, a 75lb snatch scared the crap out of me.

I remember watching the live announcement from our coaches house, alongside¬†30 other super-fit athletes. Right after they announced the workout, I said to myself, “I don’t know if I can do a 75lb snatch. Like, at all.”

Fast Forward

A few weeks ago, along with 3 of my fellow CrossFitters, I signed up for a local competition taking place at the end of this month. This past Sunday, Phil & I practiced the workout that we’ll be doing together.

9-minute AMRAP
Ascending ladder: 3… 6… 9… etc. of:
105lb snatch
53lb kettlebell swing
Bar-hop burpees

After warming up with a few reps of a lighter snatch, we put 105 on the bar. Phil knocked out a few practice reps, and then I stepped up to the bar. Our plan entering the workout was for Phil to do all the snatches. Yes… ALL of them. (Silly plan. Didn’t work. But that’s another story.)¬†I needed to be ready just in case. So I cranked out a few.

To my surprise, they weren’t nearly as bad as I had thought. Even during the workout, I ended up doing 10-12 snatches in the 9-minutes, and most of them were not a problem. The last few were tough, but all-in-all, I handled 105 better than I handled 75lbs back in February.

Big Boy Kettlebell Club

Oh, and earlier in the week, I had done my first workout with the 70lb kettlebell, as opposed to the 53-pounder. I’ll admit, it always scared me. I thought my form would break. I’d hurt my back. Or it’d slow me down so much that I wouldn’t come anywhere close to finishing the workout. I hung in there pretty well with the 70-pounder, but definitely have plenty of room for improvement.

Because 70lbs is the prescribed kettlebell weight for guys, I felt like I finally joined the big boy club.

And guess what? The big boy club makes a 53lb kettlebell swing that. much. easier.

Repetition. Confidence. Strength.

So, the moral of the story… practice. Be consistent. And don’t be afraid to do those movements that you’re afraid of. The ones you think you’re terrible at.

Your confidence will build. And surely you’ll hit mental blocks along the way. There will come a point where you second-guess yourself. Question your ability. Doubt will try to play tricks with your mind.

But repetition will win out. And when it does, confidence rises. And that, my friends, is how you get stronger. Physically. And mentally.

I’m getting fat & I like it

[sung to the tune of Katy Perry’s 2008 hit single “I Kissed A Girl”]

I had a doctor’s appointment today, and the nurse asked if I knew how much I weighed, or should she put me the scale.

I thought I weighed between 165-170, because I’ve floated in that range for the past 12 years. And I have no reason to believe it would’ve changed… except for CrossFit. And lots and lots of FOOD.

I took everything out of my pockets to get an accurate weigh-in, and shizam. A buck 75.

The nurse couldn’t see the smile on my face, but believe me, my huge¬†grin was no joke. Excited, I blurted out, “That’s 5 pounds more than I thought it’d be.”

Her immediate response was, “Uh oh.”

Oh, but on the contrary my friend. That 5 pounds was a long time coming. It was a hard-earned five. Five pounds of solid muscle, sweat & consistency. Five pounds of squats, cleans and, well, LOTS OF SQUATS (Thanks Trey).

While I’m very proud of the weight I’ve put on, I think there’s a much larger problem with the nurse’s reaction. Her, like many, would automatically assume that adding weight is a bad thing. But that’s such an ignorant assumption.

While 1/3 of our population is now considered overweight, how much a person weighs is completely relative. Weight itself doesn’t even begin to paint a real picture of health.

Many of us would be healthier if we packed on some pounds. And the molecular¬†makeup of those pounds means a great deal. Where we carry those pounds, how quickly/slowly we add them, etc. ‚Ästall these things are far more important in determining our health than the actual number of how much a person weighs.

All pounds are not created equal.

Even when you’re trying to lose weight ‚Ästwhich for some people, is what will help them become more healthy, and is a great first step ‚Ästeven for them, they should not be focusing so much on how much they weigh, and how many pounds they’re losing each week/month.

Creating & maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong journey, and how much you weigh should not be the focus of your story.

So what should you be focusing on?

Body fat, cardiovascular strength, great vitals like resting heart rate & blood pressure, a varied diet filled with vitamins & minerals (regardless of how much fat or calories they contain), lowering stress levels, positive energy, a feeling of community, flexibility & mobility, proprioception (a good sense of where your body is in regards to the world around you), smiling, stimulating conversation, laughter…

Here’s to a few more hard-earned pounds to come.

Stop Thinking & Drop Your Butt to the Ground

I’m not surprised that I’ve struggled with the barbell movements of CrossFit. I’m 5+ months into my CrossFit journey, and I’m still very much a beginner at just about all the olympic lifts.

Even after 4 weeks of training specifically with the “Barbell Club” (albeit 1 coach & 1 other person), I continue to struggle.

The problem is… there’s so much to think about. Tighten up.¬†Hook grip. Feet shoulder-width. Push your knees back. Drill your feet into the ground. Power triangle. Down &¬†finish. Elbows high & outside. Ass to grass. Throw the elbows through. … And somewhere amidst all that, I definitely forgot to use my hips. I always forget to use my hips.

The real problem

I¬†shouldn’t be thinking about anything! I’m over-thinking & over-analyzing every single part of every movement. I’m already at a slight disadvantage with (probably) more slow-twitch than fast-twitch muscle fibers. But after I’ve solved the equation two times over in my head, my fast-twitch muscle fibers are long gone.

Stop thinking & drop your butt to the ground.

Focus on one thing at a time

In tonight’s workout, I finally felt comfortable with a fairly difficult movement… and a decent amount of weight (for me, anyway). Squat cleans at 115#.

I practiced one or two before we started. They felt pretty good. So I told myself to not think and just do. I was pleasantly surprised with how it worked out.

It’s not like I attacked them with reckless abandon. I still focused on form, but instead of thinking of everything, I focused on one key point with each rep. First, it was the down & finish. Get a nice hip explosion and shoulder shrug.

Once I started to get tired, I focused on fast elbows for a few reps. After that, the weight started feeling much heavier, so I focused on my footwork, and committing to dropping down below the bar (because I couldn’t physically pull it up any higher).

Win the battle. Continue fighting the war.

Tonight’s feeling of comfort was a small victory for my confidence. I still have a long way to go, but if I can apply this¬†same methodology to many of my future workouts, I’m confident that things will continue to improve.

CrossFit: Whitten’s WOD

Today we did a hero WOD. If you’re not familiar, a hero WOD is a workout created in honor of a fallen soldier. It’s usually¬†a longer, more grueling version of a typical CrossFit workout (if you can believe that).

I’ll briefly explain the workout below, but the real story starts after that.

The WOD was in memory of Army Captain Dan Whitten.

Army Captain Dan Whitten, 28, of Grimes, IA, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, based out of Fort Bragg, NC, died February 2, 2010, when enemy forces in Zabul, Afghanistan attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

Whitten is survived by his wife, Starr Whitten, his mother, Jill Whitten, his father, Dan Whitten, and his sister, U.S. Army Captain Sarah Whitten.

The Workout

5 Rounds for Time

  • 22 Kettlebell swings
  • 22 Box jumps
  • Run 400 meters
  • 22 Burpees
  • 22 Wall ball shots

As Coach Trey so accurately put it, “Apparently, Whitten liked to do work. Lots of work.”

Why Do A Hero WOD?

Well, the surface reason is because it’s Memorial Day weekend, a time when we honor those who fight for our country. That’s a valid reason to do a hero WOD, for sure. But there’s more to it than that. There are reasons we should consistently work these in amongst all of our workouts.

It’s not about me today

Exercise, even when done in a group setting, is still most often a selfish act. It benefits us. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, it’s important to step outside of ourselves, and do the work for someone or something else. It’s a universal lesson in selflessness & sacrifice.

I’ll also admit that I know few people who are currently serving, or have ever served, in our military. And I can’t even begin to understand the lifestyle, sacrifice & emotional rollercoaster that they face on a daily basis‚ÄĒwhile actively serving, as well as after returning home.

And while no amount of exercise, or hero WOD, will even begin to come close to simulating war… to this day, it’s probably the closest I’ve come to wrapping my head around it.

For Whitten

The workout called for 5 rounds. Unfortunately, we ran out of time in our class, and many of us had to go to work, so I didn’t finish all 5 rounds. I was halfway through round 3 when we hit our time cap.

Coach Danielle stopped the clock, not realizing I had planned to finish my third round.¬†When she saw me come in from the run and drop right into my first burpee, she apologized, because now I wouldn’t be able to write down my time. I said to her:

Don’t worry about it. I’m not doing this for time. I’m doing it for Whitten.

They call ’em¬†hero¬†WODS for a reason. These people have given more to this country than most of us will ever be able to comprehend. The least we can do is give them one workout. One long, tough, grueling workout.