60 Days of Crossfit – A Skeptic’s Review

Woman and Bar

CrossFit. Saying the word evokes two kinds of responses. One is the wide-eyed stare of awe accompanied by OMG, I heard that is SO hard! The other is the sneering sort of disdain where they roll their eyes and insist CrossFit is a cult for meat-heads. There’s even a phrase for the latter referring to its cultish following: Drinking the Crossfit Kool-Aid.

I fell somewhere in between the two responses above. Clients often asked me what I thought of it and I always replied that I heard it was good but that everyone I know who tried it had also been injured. I wrote it off as another fad and intended to stick safely within the comfort zone of my typical (ineffective) workout.

So how then did I talk myself into trying CrossFit?

I mentioned in a previous post how I fell off the fitness wagon for about 18 months.

Fast forward through the general stresses of life like moving back and forth across town a few times, a couple of breakups, a nearly empty summer client schedule, dwindling funds, and lack of exercise, and I have to admit I put on a few pounds. Well, ok, more than a few. Even worse, my energy was lacking, my strength was waning, and the depression demons were starting to eye my growing discontent greedily.

Determined to get my body and my health back, I tried a few things. Group-based tabata training was fun for a while but the repetitive plyometrics on a concrete floor led to an injury that still bothers me nearly a year later. Personal training and group fitness through my gym was good at first, but I quickly plateaued and got bored. A co-worker suggested I give CrossFit a try. I even did the thing where I rolled my eyes and spouted a few excuses. “Yeah, but it leads to injury. Yeah, but they do gymnastics and stuff and I can’t do that. Yeah, but I don’t want to work out with a bunch of over-zealous meat-heads.” The truth is, I had no experience with CrossFit and was basing these opinions entirely on hearsay.

Haters gonna hate

Haters gonna hate

I justified starting not for myself, but because I would then have an honest opinion to give those who asked me about it. I researched a few gyms (they call them boxes) and put out some inquiries. Voodoo CrossFit 512 in northwest Austin was the first to respond in a timely manner so I begrudgingly went to check it out.

Join me at Voodoo!

Join me at Voodoo!

I’m not going to lie. I was scared. I was afraid I was too out of shape, that I would embarrass myself attempting to do olympic lifts, handstands and ring dips. Within two weeks though, I was hooked. Here’s why.

1. Every workout (WOD – workout of the day) is different. Boom! No more boredom!

2. Every day you look at the WOD with shifty eyes and think there’s no way you can get through it. An hour later you leave feeling elated because you DID do it!

3. You become more competent and confident in what your body can achieve every week.

4. You work out your brain too as you assimilate new technique and form. Neuroplasticity y’all. It keeps you young.

5. It inspires a healthier diet. You will begin to notice how your food affects your workout. Indulging will make you feel sluggish, bloaty and nauseated while eating well allows you to conquer your workout and still have energy left over to complete your day.

6. You instantly gain a new family. The community aspect of CrossFit is always talked up and I’m learning that it’s truth. Turn to anyone to ask for help and it is given, take motivation and strength as people cheer you on to finish, gain renewed energy when, dripping with sweat and barely able to stand, someone offers you a high five with a beaming smile and tells you what a great job you did. Plus, this is a huge bonus when you need strong people to help you move.

Voodoo Dolls April & Jenny help each other out at a competition.

Voodoo Dolls April & Jenny help each other out at a competition.

7. You gain a dozen new role models. I thought everyone would be chiseled and intimidating but you walk in and see men and women of all different shapes and sizes totally kicking ass. It erases the stigma that you have to have a flawless body and 8-pack abs to be strong and fit. These are ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.

Starting to sound pretty good right? Not as scary as you thought? To be fair, it’s not all sunshine and roses and there is a flip-side.

1. You MUST know your limits. Body awareness is a key factor so that you can identify when you may be lifting too heavy, your form isn’t quite right, or you are teetering on the edge of overexertion. Someone new to exercise may not know the difference and could be more prone to injury.

Crossfit Fail

What I fear will happen every time I pick up the bar

2. You will doubt yourself. Staring at the bar thinking holy shit how am I going to manage this? is your opportunity to overcome. All movements can be scaled and as long as you don’t quit, you win!

3. There is a learning curve. Besides a whole new vocabulary (AMRAP, EMOM, WOD, WTF?), it takes time and repetition to learn these highly technical skills. Ask for help, again and again, and again, and again some more (sorry, Scott!).

4. It’s hot. There’s no A/C in the box so if you are prone to heat exhaustion this may be a limiting factor for you. Get used to sweat dripping from your nose, your hair, and down the crack of your butt. Take comfort in the fact that everyone is as dewey and glowing as you are.

5. It’s expensive. It is a chunk of change, but you are paying for accountability, community, self-confidence, and results. If it’s at all within your budget, it’s totally worth it.

6. Calluses, bruises, marks and scars. CrossFit is a sport, and stuff happens sometimes but no one complains and they often wear their wounds like a badge of honor.

7. Hunger. After a few weeks you will want to eat everything. Many an overheard conversation in the box starts like this “You know what sounds so good right now?”

But wait, what about the results? Oh, that’s what you’ve stuck around for? To hear my amazing transformation story? Well, I don’t have one…yet. I haven’t lost any weight, but I’d say in the past two weeks or so I am starting to notice my muscles feeling denser and more firm and my hunger is ramping up (yay, metabolism!). I err on the side of caution with my lifts so I don’t aggravate any of my previous injuries, but as my technique and strength improves I think I will develop the confidence to go heavier and harder. Many of the people I have met do have amazing transformation stories though, and it inspires me to be patient when you see what they have achieved within a year. In the meantime, I am actually enjoying my workouts and I’m happier than I have been in years.

You may love it, you may hate it, but I hope that if you have never tried it that this post inspires you to give CrossFit a shot. I still remain a bit cautious. Instead of gulping the Crossfit Kool-Aid, I’m savoring it in sips.

Titanic Crossfit

 

Why Giving In Doesn’t Mean Giving Up

never-give-up

I originally moved to Austin a little over two years ago to start my own health & wellness business. I’ll give it a year, I thought. That’s enough time to get established.

I vastly underestimated the amount of time it would take to immerse myself in a new city and a new community. It wasn’t until at least a year and half went by that I really felt like I was finally starting meet some people and make friends. My business was going nowhere, but, I thought, I’m just starting to build my network so I need more time. Unfortunately bills don’t wait for you to build an established clientele so I started personal training at a major gym chain.

Nearly a year and a half went by working at the gym and clientele had slowed to a crawl for all of us. Looking at the accumulating debt and shrinking paychecks I decided I could no longer give the gym more time to make it work. I had dabbled in viewing Craig’s List ads and could never quite commit to sending out a resume that would chain me to a desk again. On a whim one night, I sent out a resume thinking nothing would come of it. I got a call back the very next day which led to an offer I couldn’t ignore.

Though I made it known how thrilled I would be to work with this company, a part of me rebelled. Why am I giving up everything I have worked for the past 2 years? Would I be selling myself out for the comfort of a steady paycheck? If I go back to an 8 to 5 job is the dream dead? Am I trading the potential to change someone’s life for a stapler and some white-out?

I wrestled with this for quite some time before I made peace with my decision. Here’s how. First, I had to accept that it’s ok to take care of myself. My mounting debt was a big source of stress for me and knowing I can reduce and soon eliminate it is like a huge burden removed from my life. It’s ok to do what you need to do to pay your bills.

Second, I realized my opportunity to work with clients or teach classes or workshops wouldn’t really be hindered. Most of my successes have come in the hours when the public is free, on nights and weekends. If anything, I now have more time for these opportunities since I was working nights and weekends at the gym.

Third, I now have the time to attend events where I can enjoy myself, network, and potentially meet new clients. I am now looking at my business as a hobby that brings me extra income instead of a job that I am failing at. This releases the negativity I have associated with it and allows me to have passion for health again.

So, I did give in to taking care of my needs, but I didn’t give up. If someone wants my help, I will give it with enthusiasm. I will still learn about the newest research and health trends. I will continue to blog about health, wellness or my experiences in life. And I will still let my hair down (well, if I had enough to let down) and dance with passion when the opportunities arise.

I am grateful for the opportunity that a desk job is giving me. The chance to be debt free and to have the income to GO! and DO STUFF! again. I am so excited about that. Call me sometime; we’ll go have coffee. My treat, because, I can afford that now.

Coyote Creek Farm & Organic Feed Mill

Last weekend I had the egg-ceptional opportunity to visit Coyote Creek Farm & Organic Feed Mill located about a half hour outside of Austin. It is home to over 8,000 pastured chickens that produce outstanding, high quality eggs, as well as a dozen or so grassfed cows and a llama named Lala. Cameron, the general manager, and Emily, the office manager, were gracious enough to lead my Austin Primal Meetup Group on an egg-citing tour of the farm. Ok, I’m done with the egg cliches. Promise.

The chickens are housed in large pens. Each pen contains approximately 400 chickens, a mobile coop, and access to water, grasses, bugs, and feed. The coops are moved once a week and the pens are moved every two weeks, ensuring the chickens have access to fresh native grasses and weeds.  Once the pens have been moved the land will recover for about a year, allowing the chicken waste to fertilize the ground and the grasses to return.

Chickens require about 500 calories a day which is extremely high considering their size. They could subsist entirely on grasses and bugs, but to ensure the eggs are uniform in quality and consistency, they are supplemented with fresh organic feed made of a variety of grains. Each chicken receives a quarter cup of feed per day.  Because their primary business is milling organic feed, which they sell all over the southern US, their chickens get freshly cracked grains each day, giving the chickens immediate access to nutrients that degrade quickly.  Coyote Creek boasts a high nutrient content in their eggs with less saturated fat and cholesterol. Coyote Creek is unique in that they offer a soy-free variety of pastured eggs.

Cameron was extremely knowledgeable and spent the entire tour answering all of our questions. He said that the reason they house their chickens in groups of less than 500 is because the pecking order truly does exist, but too many in a flock will cause the social system to break down causing anxiety in the chickens. Anxious chickens produce poor quality eggs so it is important to keep the chickens happy!

Eggs are collected twice a day and taken to the egg washing and packing station. They are run through the egg washer which removes the dirt and debris but isn’t vigorous enough to wash away the bloom, the protective coating that keeps the egg fresh, longer. They are inspected for cracks and other anomalies, graded, then packed.  We learned that grading is purely an aesthetic practice. A grade A egg must be well formed (egg-shaped) with a smooth shell free of calcium deposits. The eggs that don’t make the Grade A cut are packaged up and donated to local food banks. Coyote Creek is active in the community and committed to providing low income families access to real, nutritious foods.

Some interesting egg facts: Cameron stated that the eggs you see in the grocery store have typically already been in storage for 30 days. Farm fresh eggs can easily last 60-90 days in refrigeration. A fresh egg has a small air pocket at the top that you can see if you shine a light through it. The bigger that pocket is, the older the egg. You can determine what color egg a chicken will lay by the color of their ears. Yeah, I didn’t know chickens had ears either.

Visiting the farm and meeting Cameron and Emily was such a great experience. I now have a much better idea of what goes into the eggs I eat. Making that personal connection in the food chain allows you to take an active role in your health while helping small local farming operations thrive.

Visit your local farmers market and start up a conversation with some of the vendors. Most of them would be happy to have you come out and take a tour. While there, ask if they can provide you with products direct from the farm. Buying in bulk straight from the farm can save you money and provide you with the best nutrition!