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

 

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Accountability Update – Month 1

It’s been about a month since I posted about attempting to gain some accountability towards my fitness goals. So, how’s it going? Um….let’s just say I could use more time.

No, no, it hasn’t been a total disaster, but the lack of results have led me to put some new rules in place. Let’s review:

My exercise goals weren’t as realistic as I thought. I never made it to training and yoga in the same day. I always intended to do 60 minutes of cardio on Friday, but the reality was more like 35 to 40 and that was at a low intensity. The weather was really crappy here for a while so I didn’t make it outside on Saturdays very often. We had a break from dance rehearsals for a month but that will be resuming this week. And, last but not least I got nailed with a chest cold and didn’t work out for about 9 days.

My nutrition improved a smidge, but I thought I could handle an “everything in moderation” attitude. Yeah…no, I can’t.

I don’t feel like I totally failed though. Some progress was made with overall consistency and I feel like that is a good first step. Lifestyle change is trial and error and while I’m disappointed I didn’t have any changes in body composition, I set the stage for better adherence.

This month I will be trying a few new things. I started nutrition tracking again via MyFitnessPal. While it can be a pain in the ass, it helps me be aware of what I’m taking in and keeps me from thoughtlessly grazing on the goodies in the break room. Plus, after just two days, I realized how deficient I am with my protein requirements. I’m only getting about 50-60% of my goal. Huh. Who knew?

I obviously have a hard time with the length of my cardio sessions. So, I plan to keep them at just around 30 minutes, but I will commit to increasing the intensity with intervals (HIIT or Tabata) or at the very least, just a more challenging steady state. Now that the weather is warmer I find it pretty easy to get out on the weekends for at least 60 minutes of walk/jog or hiking with friends.

So, that’s the scoop after month 1. Lots more work to do but we’ll get there little by little!

Accountability – In which, I attempt to gain some

heygirl

Accountability…Level 11

Accountability.

For me, this is the single most important factor in achieving a goal.

I have alluded to the fact that my health and fitness have suffered somewhat (ok, fine, a lot) over the past year. In August I got inspired to take control and perhaps over-zealously started going to bootcamp 5 days a week. Not surprisingly, this led to injury, which still, 5 months later, hasn’t improved.

It’s a new year, and while I am reluctant to use the term “resolution” I am inspired once again to renew and improve my outlook and to take back the healthy lifestyle habits that were once easy and enjoyable.

I’m putting this all out there to the world, for better or worse, because it helps to keep me accountable. You, dear reader, are helping me though we likely have never met. Look how inspiring you are!

This post is embarrassing, quite honestly. I am supposed to be a professional that helps others achieve exactly what I am complaining about. I’m also human. I have bad days (or years), and now I know how easy it is to let things fall apart and the consequences of doing so. Perhaps next time, I will have a better handle on how to maintain my habits and goals even if motivation is suffering.

Photographs of a dance event I performed at this past weekend gave me an objective view of just how bad things have gotten. Alright! I get the picture (heh, get it?), I am ready to do this!

I set a goal of May 14, my birthday. I feel this is a reasonable time frame in which to lose approximately 10-15 pounds of fat, regain my strength, and eliminate or improve my injuries. I also plan to take a trip to Portland around this time to visit a friend and some family and I want them to be proud of me. I would hate to be one of those people you see after several years and while you are overjoyed by the reunion, you’re thinking “Eeeesh, what in the hell happened to you?” Oh come on, you know you’ve done it.

I will make any excuse under the sun not to get off my ass and go to the gym. In the schedule below I have varying degrees of accountability. I have pre-paid for personal training so I feel obligated to show up, that one is a no-brainer. I enjoy the yoga class as well, and the set times help me to get there but this is pretty easy to back out of too. Showing up consistently to a class like this would work best with a friend. Lastly, we have cardio. I really hate cardio. Like, really hate it. Sooooo tedious. My trainer expects me to stick around and do 45 minutes of cardio after our session but I usually can’t make it through more than 20 or 30 before I get too bored and begin to stare incessantly at the seconds ticking by. I much prefer to get outside, especially if it’s warm. Even if I don’t push my heart rate as high, I’m usually able to last up to three times as long while getting some Vitamin D in the process. I figure it’s a good trade-off.

My regimen:

Mon: Personal Training (60 mins)
Tue: Off
Wed: Personal Training (60 mins), Hot Yoga (60 Mins)
Thu: Dance rehearsals (90-120 mins)
Fri: Cardio (30-60 mins)
Sat: Outdoor cardio/activity (60+ minutes)
Sun: Hot Yoga (60 mins)

So, assuming 122 days until May 14, this regimen will have me working out 86/122 days, or roughly 70% of the days. ( I am not including dance rehearsals in this figure.) I think this is do-able. I suspect the double whammy on Wednesday might suffer a little from time to time, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Yes, I know there are more efficient ways to work out (HIIT, anyone?), but this is what I, personally, am willing to do considering my bodily limitations and what I actually enjoy.

Of course, 80% of results are achieved outside the gym, so I will be cleaning up my diet (again) as well. Back to meal planning, cooking real food and following a mostly paleo/primal-ish diet. I am curious to see what the 21-day Sugar Elimination I attempted a few weeks ago combined with a workout regimen could do for me.

I will post an update once a month until May rolls around. I expect to be able to give you excellent progress reports. Gold star for me!

So what do you think works best, high stakes, positive reinforcement, the buddy system, or the promise of a reward? I would love to hear what works to keep you accountable.

“I See A Healthy Me” Children’s Book

I See A Healthy Me!

I’m so excited because my mom, Lois DiMari, has just published her first children’s book!

The book, titled “I See A Healthy Me” is about teaching young children the value of building healthy habits from a young age. Adorable illustrations and fun, easy to read text make this a great book you can share with the little ones in your life.

This would make a perfect Christmas gift for under $10! Available in softcover or Kindle editions.

Please check it out at Balboa Press or on Amazon, spread the word, and encourage children to be healthy for life!

How I Decided to Stop Being Miserable and Start Kicking Ass

When I tell people I am a personal trainer for a large gym chain, they usually exclaim how awesome it must be to be employed at a place where you can work out anytime you want. I thought the same thing when I started. A year and a half later I now understand that though I like working with my clients, the gym is still a job, and that means when my time is my own, the last thing I want to do is be there longer for my own workouts. This led to less and less motivation until I realized one day that my clients were becoming fitter than me.

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.

My recent relationship failure was a wake-up call. I immediately decided that I didn’t want to be the person who reclines on a chaise lounge with the back of their hand to their forehead exclaiming “woe is me!” Nope, unacceptable. I decided to use this opportunity to become something better. I took a few days to process the sadness, then got to work.

fainting_thumb

“Woe is me!” Hell no, not happening!

It was a convenient coincidence (or was it?) that during this time Groupon happened to offer two things I had been wanting to try: Kettlebell classes and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Both of these classes were close to me and even fit with my schedule. Realizing I needed to be out of my gym’s environment to succeed, I immediately signed up for both.

I have committed to going 5 times a week, as long as my schedule continues to allow it. Having an obligation each morning helps keep me focused and more productive throughout the rest of the day. Working hard next to new moms, overweight empty-nesters, cancer survivors or ultra-fit triathletes boosts me out of the depths of loneliness as we cheer each other on. Now, in week 4, I am starting to notice my endurance improving and my muscles becoming firm again, I am eating cleaner than I have in a year, and I have even lost 2 pounds so far. There are still bad days, but being healthy and strong makes them a lot easier to take on.

Want to hear the best part? The best part is knowing that I am doing this solely for myself. This is my practice, what I do that will lead me one day to say I’m proud of who I am and what I have accomplished. Like a catalyst in a chain reaction, this growing confidence will spread to other areas of my life, and to other people in my life. We’re going nuclear, baby, yeah! An explosion of greatness is about to happen!

415575_424625037551784_1253440103_o

Effecting worldly change whilst kicking some ass. Go me!

Authors note: This post took quite a U-turn. The original intent was to write about injury prevention, but sometimes you just gotta go with the flow and express the message that needs to be given. This helped me process the past 4 weeks of emotional turmoil; I hope it helps you in some small way too!

No crunches necessary


I had heard of models having shadows and highlights strategically applied to their torsos to create more defined abs for photoshoots, but now you can order a kit for $69 to do it yourself at home.
I also ran across a few reviews that mentioned the Dancing with the Stars contestants use it to appear in better shape than they actually are.
Not fair. I feel betrayed.

On a related note, I heard a while ago that France is moving forward with plans to require a disclaimer on all images that have been digitally manipulated. I think this is a great idea although I can see it becoming problematic with minor retouches. I’m assuming there will be some guidelines.

The Expense of Running Shoes

Moses found a great link to an article about how the most expensive running shoes in the world don’t provide any injury prevention and in fact, are more likely to cause it. I know a lot of my friends are runners so I thought this article may be of particular interest to them.

You can read up on the details in the article, but basically the way your foot behaves in a shoe is completely different than when walking or running barefoot. The altered gait is responsible for the common injuries the majority of runners will eventually face.

Runners wearing top-of-the-line trainers are 123 per cent more likely to get injured than runners in cheap ones.

A Nike researcher filmed athletes running barefoot:

Instead of each foot clomping down as it would in a shoe, it behaved like an animal with a mind of its own – stretching, grasping, seeking the ground with splayed toes, gliding in for a landing like a lake-bound swan.

I’m not a runner, but I can say from my experience with dancing barefoot what a difference it makes in the way your muscles are used. Since I have been on a hiatus from the daily dance activities I used to do, I’ve noticed that when I do the occasional performance my feet get tired, will often cramp, and my knees and lower back become sore. All this discomfort just from atrophy in the stabilizing muscles in the feet and ankles.

I also noticed when I watched the Olympics last year that the runners nearly all had very thin shoes that conformed tightly to the feet. They must be in the know and not falling for the millions of dollars spent in advertising the newest most technically advanced running shoes.

I think next time I look for shoes, I’ll try my best to find some of the lightweight, less cushioned shoes and see how I do in them. As an almost trainer, if you were to switch from expensive shoes to simpler ones, or even go barefoot, I’d recommend starting out very slowly. It takes a lot of time for the muscles, tendons and bones to adapt to stabilizing the impact of running.

I wear the Under Armour Proto shoes and I love them specifically because they are so cushy and really hug the foot. Maybe I should try the bushman shoes instead.

Nike Shox $165


Masai Warrior footwear $0