What Keeps You Coming Back?

Have you been an exerciser your whole life? Yes? That’s awesome. No? Why not? Have you recently started an exercise program? How is it going? What made you decide to embark on this journey? What makes you stick to it?

I have been around physical activity, exercise, movement, whatever you want to call it, for a long time.
People list many reasons for being active and continuing with an exercise routine. I have narrowed it down to the big four: 1) Enjoyment, 2) Accountability, 3) Social Connection, and 4) Results. Personally, the combination of all of these reasons is why I continue to lead a healthy lifestyle. These four categories can also be applied to nutrition.

Enjoyment. Whatever you do, you need to enjoy it. If something’s not fun, or at least part-way enjoyable, how the heck will you ever keep it as part of your life? Whether you enjoy “getting your sweat on” or being in nature, or competing with friends, find something you like and do it…continuously. I like the brand Life is Good because of their motto, “Do what you like, like what you do.”

Worked out all day. Maybe a bit delirious. Enjoyed it. Friends help. 

Accountability. Knowing that someone is expecting you to be somewhere at a certain time is enough reason for most people to show up. If being accountable works for you ask someone to be your training partner. Text or call them to let them know when you are going to work out so they can expect to see you there. The support you get from others can be critical to sticking to a routine, especially if it’s new and you are trying to change your habits.

Your trainers and workout buddies notice when you’ve missed class!

Social Connection. In addition to knowing that your trainer, coach, or buddies will be waiting for you, the social connections you make can keep you coming back for more. Who doesn’t want to be with a bunch of cool people? Those who suffer together stay together. Although I do not believe that exercise if suffering, it can be uncomfortable. Sharing these experiences with others is very gratifying. This is why many people express that they never work as hard when they exercise alone as they do when they are with others.

Results. Better health, looking better, feeling better. I have never met anyone who doesn’t agree that looking better makes you feel better. Who doesn’t want to look #haught in a bathing suit?!?! Lower blood pressure, smaller pants, before and after photos that make jaws drop – evidence of hard work that you should be very proud of. This would keep me coming through the door.

Check out this video of our very own Matt Nguyen as he “gets abs”. 
Working hard in the gym and eating meat and vegetables. #MGA

What inspires you to get up in the morning and make the decision to be active and eat good food? Is it one of the four reasons I’ve listed above? A combination? Another reason all together? Post comments here or on Facebook.

Come and Meet My Team

The 2013 CrossFit Games Open is upon us. I’m psyched. I participated in the Open last year. It was a lot of fun. In CrossFit there is always a feeling of camaraderie and that feeling is amplified during the Open. At The Fort CrossFit, on a daily basis, someone achieves something that he or she thought was impossible. In the CrossFit Open it’s no different. If you are competing this year you will do something you thought you couldn’t do. Whether it’s a new personal record or simply the fact that you’re competing in a CrossFit competition, you should be very proud.

We have around 50 athletes from The Fort signed up for the Open this year (Our Affiliate Roster). I think we had 12 last year. I am amazed by the amount of dedication and growth I’ve seen over the past year. I’ve experience it personally, but seeing it happen throughout the gym has been even more incredible. Since last year’s Open we doubled the size of our physical space (who remembers the little gym!?) and we’ve grown our membership even more. There is serious competition in the gym and people are stronger, faster, and just better all around; our community is stronger than ever.

Back then this was a busy night.
I am thrilled to be competing alongside all of you in the festivities this year. We have people on the team who have been CrossFitting for years and we have people on the team who have been CrossFitting for months. The best part is that no matter how experienced you are as an athlete, the Open WODs will kick your ass. I am so proud to call this gym home and to have you all as my friends. Get out there, go hard, leave it all on the rubber mats, and have fun doing it. 
What a difference a year makes. These guys have come a long way.

I’d love to hear about the reasons you decided to sign up for the Open this year. Post comments here or on Facebook.

Is the healthy choice the easy choice?

The other day I was at my local supermarket and while I was there I scanned many baskets and carts, just to see what people were buying. I saw a mom with two young kids in the produce section loading her cart with tons of fresh veggies and fruits. Hopefully she continued around the perimeter of there store for some meat, fish, and eggs. While I was at the register I observed a second lady loading the conveyor belt with boxes and bags of frozen food-like products; Hungry Man dinners, Tyson frozen-chicken, Lean Cuisines, pizza bites, whatever else you can think of that’s not good to eat. I thought about how I would feel after a week, or even a day, or eating all of those processed, void-of-nutrition foods. Ugh. What is the difference between these two women? What factors are at play which cause them to take such different paths during the same task: food shopping. 

Do yourself a favor, throw it all away. 

I’ve been out of the academia loop for almost two years now. Sometimes I miss being a total geek…sometimes. Lately there’s been talk in the gym and on the Facebook thread about what we’re eating as a society. The good ol’ U.S. of A. We even had a brief chat in the gym the other day about how much more time, planning, and effort it takes to cook at home and make healthy meals; making the choice to buy, prepare, and cook healthy foods is not easy. So I want to get a little bit geeky on you, throw out some food for though (pun totally intended), and get some feedback about what’s really going on in this sick, over-fat, metabolically-deranged country of ours.

Obesity is a disease which now affects approximately 33.8 percent of adults in the United States and according to the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 19.6 percent of children in this country aged six to eleven years are now obese. These are just the obesity stats, even more of us are overweight, carrying too much body fat around. The problem transcends generations as evidence reveals children who are overweight or obese are likely to be overweight or obese as adults. This obesity epidemic in the United States is a result of complex multilevel, multidimensional web of behavioral, environmental, and social factors. For individuals, obesity is the outcome of energy and hormonal imbalances; too much of the wrong foods compounded by not-enough physical activity. Many believe that people are just lazy and that is why they eat crappy food and don’t work out; solely placing the responsibility for health choices on individuals. But behaviors, whether they are healthy or unhealthy, are influenced by circumstances and characteristics of the environments in which people live, work, and play. So partly it is up to individuals to make good choices, and that comes from knowing what healthy choices are (education) and actually choosing health, but it’s also partly about creating environments where easy choices are healthy choices; setting people up for success and better quality of life. 

Obesity Prevalence in US Adults 1985 and 2008. Whoa.

Public health professionals are focused on creating programs and policies which aim to affect populations. The goal of many of these programs is to educate populations about making healthy choices when it comes to food and physical activity. Is education what we need? Or do we already know how to live a healthy lifestyle and are just not doing it? Public health policies enforce behaviors by restricting access to unhealthy things and/or by making it easier to choose health. An example of this would be taxing sugary beverages (or banning them – see the controversy in NYC) or requiring that school-aged kids get at least 60 minutes of time to play each day. Lots of political action is underway as a result of the alarming rate of childhood obesity. It’s a start, but who knows if it will actually create positive outcomes. Some grocery stores have implemented point-of-purchase labeling systems to help consumers choose healthier options.

Ever see this in a Hannaford store? It’s called the “Guiding Stars” program and it rates foods based on caloric and nutritional content as set by the USDA. If you know where I stand when it comes to food you can correctly assume that I do not agree with the USDA nutritional guidelines. However, I do believe that systems like this can be helpful and are a step in the right direction when it comes to educating people and influencing their purchases. 

We’re in a tough spot. Based on population-level statistics it is clear that individuals are not making healthy choices. What do we do? Shall we continue creating educational programs that aim to give people knowledge about healthy living? They don’t seem to work very well. Or do we create policies that make it more difficult for people to access unhealthy things or easier to make healthy choices? There is a lot of resistance when people feel as if their freedoms are being restricted. Rugged individualism, anyone? I think there must be a combination of both education and political action. Programs need build people’s knowledge base, but also give opportunities to put that knowledge to use. Although it would be awesome, I don’t think we’ll ever see the total abolishment of junk food, so we’ll have to continue to boldly walk past it in the grocery store. But how do we influence others to do the same? How do we get parents to stop feeding their kids sugary snacks and drinks? How do we influence adults to start eating better protein and more vegetables? It’s a daunting task. I don’t have the answers. 

I choose to lead by example and create demand for healthy choices; advocating for health and helping people to change their behavior any way I can. I know I am making an impact in my community and that means a lot. There is much to be said for grassroots movements that occur in small communities. Small groups of people changing their behaviors, creating demand for change, expecting it from those around them, and influencing change throughout a broader community. I see this every day at The Fort CrossFit. Dozens of people through the door, committed to make their lives better and, in doing so, influencing others.

To be a champion in anything, whether it’s a sport, motherhood, your daily workout, your job, or life in general, you must be willing to put in the time and energy; caring about the details and creating positive thoughts which aim to bring you success. Take a moment to think about how your actions create a ripple effect around you. What are some of the barriers you face when trying to make healthy choices? How have you found ways to work around these barriers?

Please post comments here or on Facebook. Cheers!


It’s Not About That Silly Number!

In the fitness industry there are so many misconceptions. There’s the “women will get bulky if they lift weights”, the “I need to get rid of this little patch of fat”, and the “fat will make you fat” – just to name a few. These misconceptions somehow evolve throughout time and make their way into our conventional wisdom. Anyone who actually knows something about human physiology, anatomy  and the science of exercise and nutrition can easily disprove these beliefs and support their reasoning with sound science, but it takes someone with an open mind to actually listen and heed advice. As a fitness professional it’s frustrating to constantly see this misinformation permeate society; we see it on the covers of magazines, in the news, and, unfortunately, coming out of fitness institutions and from the mouths of so-called “experts”.
These myths confuse the hell out of us; the ones trying to fight the good fight; exercising and eating all the right things. But are we really eating the right things? Are we really getting the most out of our time at the gym?
This post is intended for everyone; guys and ladies. Most of the time when I hear “I’m afraid I will look like a freak if I lift heavy weights” it’s coming from the mouth of a female. If I ever hear a guy say that he thinks women should not lift or that they look “manly” if they are well-muscled, then he is just not worth my time and I will stop listening. I’m not kidding. Being muscular and strong is how we keep our bodies functioning like they should; preventing injury and decrepitude. 
I’ve now been on my CrossFit/Paleo journey for over three years. It’s been an amazing and rewarding journey and a huge learning process. I want to share a little bit about the journey, in order to help change your minds about some of these misconceptions and distorted ideas that float around in the fitness business. I hope you enjoy the photos as well.
Scale weight: About 150lbs
This picture was taken at the beginning of a 30-day Paleo Challenge in 2011. Before the challenge I was eating about 75-80% Paleo; I couldn’t commit 100%. I was still drinking alcohol on a consistent basis and eating Paleo baked goods often. Partying on the weekends takes a huge toll on the body composition and training schedule. That November challenge set me up for totally committing to this way of eating; the absence of grains, dairy, legumes, and added sugar became my “normal”. I’ve never looked back.
These photos were taken at the beginning of a Spring 2012 Paleo Challenge. The differences in my body composition after a winter of CrossFit and clean eating are apparent. During this challenge I leaned out a lot. I don’t have an after photo unfortunately. There was a problem, though. I wasn’t eating enough carbohydrate to support my activity level. I was getting all of my carbs from vegetables like kale, broccoli and asparagus, which isn’t a bad thing, but it just wasn’t enough for the amount of work I was doing in the gym and for my active job as a trainer. I found myself becoming annoyed really easily and I felt fatigued a lot of the time. In the mirror I saw the results I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t sustainable because I was miserable. You can read about my food intake back then HERE.
I thought it might just be sugar withdrawal that was making me feel so shitty, but when I began reading more about carb intake and read Sweet Potato Power, I saw the light. I tracked my daily carb intake and it was not nearly enough. I added a sweet potato to my daily food intake and it was amazing. I was hesitant because I though the dense, starchy carb source wouldn’t allow me to stay as lean as I wanted, but then the opposite happened. I actually leaned out more! The best part was that I was also a lot happier. Sweet potatoes and squash are now essential to my life, haha. Sweet potato is definitely the food that I could never live without.
 Scale Weight: 155lbs

The above photo was taken at the beginning of my January Whole30. Since September 17th, 2012 when I embarked on a 60-day challenge I have eaten very strict Paleo; the cleanest I’ve ever been, with the exception of Christmas. I ate a lot of Paleo cookies over the holidays and enjoyed a few adult beverages. It tasted good but I felt like crap and felt bloated and swollen from the sugar and booze. I felt slow in the gym. It took me about a week and a half to completely recover from this mini-bender. 
I included my weight in each of these photos to show that the number on the scale is kind of a silly thing to pay a lot of attention to. I weigh more now than I did two years ago, but I look much different; better, in my humble opinion. I am smaller now than I was back then, when I weighed less. Isn’t that strange?! I think it’s awesome. But how does this happen? Muscle is denser than body fat. So if you look at a five-pound piece of muscle it will take up less space than a five-pound piece of fat. As a result of training and clean eating, I have built muscle and reduced the amount of fat on my body. So my scale weight has increased because of the muscle, but I am smaller because I lost fat. Don’t fret if the number on the scale isn’t moving like you thought it would. In fact, put the scale in the basement or dark closet and use it sparingly, if at all. A much better way to track progress is to take measurements with a tape measure (hips, waist, chest, legs, arms) and to take before and after photos like I’ve done here. Also, gauge changes in your body by how your clothes feel. Tight jeans don’t lie!

Same weight, fat vs. muscle. Ever notice how sweet potatoes kind of look like muscles?

The next series of photos are a few of my lady CrossFit friends. They all train hard and eat clean. To me they are beautiful, fit, strong women. They are nowhere near “bulky” or “manly”.

 Dana drags the 135# sled. She works part-time and is a full-time wife and the mom of two little cuties.

Brittany does shoulder taps. She works full-time and is also a part-time fashionista.

Ilda with a gorgeous clean and beautiful smile. She is a full-time student, studying medicine at Dartmouth.

My hope is that post is enlightening for my readers. If you already knew all of this, then it serves as reinforcement. If you’re still skeptical I would be happy to have a chat with you. Experiment with the food you are putting into your body; change it up if it’s not working for you. Ask a good coach for some advice if you’re not performing, looking, or feeling as good as you know you could. Most of all, give your body the time it needs to change. Change does not happen overnight. We must be patient and remain focused on our goals in the gym and outside of the gym. 
Special thanks to Dana, Brittany, and Ilda for graciously agreeing to let me use their photos for this post. Thank you to my amazing chiropractors, Drs. Matt and Whitney Swiesz for repairing my posture over the past year and half. It’s very noticeable in those photos! Finally, thank you to my coaches and mentors who have helped me along this path – the entire way: My little(BIG) bro, Ky-Guy, Mike Molloy, and Rob Austin.

Please let me know what you’re thinking about this. Go forth and lift big!

For the Ladies…Underwear Review

Wearing spandex pretty much every day of my life is fun, but finding underwear that works with spandex and also stays in place while working out is not so fun. Finding the right undies for CrossFit is a daunting task. For years I have searched high and low for the perfect unmentionables for working out. In this post I will focus on the bottom half. I hope to also do a review on sports bras in the near future. I have found a few items that work well. When I find something I like, I stick with it. In no particular order and at the risk of sharing too much information, here goes…

1) Lululemon Light As Air Thong
I love this thong. I wish I had one for every day of the week. I love to wear it with spandex. It feels like you’re wearing nothing at all. I generally cannot stand working out in a thong, but I have worked out in this one and it stays in place, especially if you’re wearing a tight layer over it. I wear a size medium, but I could probably even get away with a small. It’s very stretchy and laser-cut for a seam-free fit and no visible panty line (VPL)! These are $16 a pair and worth it if you’re a thong-wearer.

Lulu Light As Air Thong

2) Lululemon Premium Technithong
This thong is my second favorite for working out. It’s a little bit more snug in the waist than the Light As Air Thong, but it still works really well under spandex. I wear a medium. These are $16 a pair and if I had to choose between the two, I would choose the Light As Air Thong, not this one.

Lulu Premium Technithong

3) Maidenform Microfiber & Lace Boyshort
If you’re the type that doesn’t like to wear thongs while working out (like me), these are a great option. They fit well under tight-fitting shorts, they stay in place, and there’s no VPL. I have worn these through day-long competitions and they are very comfortable and work well. These are definitely my go-to undies when it comes to working out and not worrying about what my underwear are doing. I think you can buy these at Kohl’s for $21 for three pair. Great buy.

Maidenform Boyshort

4) Jockey Modern Micro Boyshort
I bought a pair of these because they looked really hot on the mannequin. Doesn’t everything look good on mannequins? Gets me every time! They feel nice and fit okay, but they are very visible through pants and shorts, especially on the front of the thigh. I bought a size 7 and that seems to fit well in the waist. I think I would end up with a muffin top if I went any smaller. I haven’t worked out in these yet, but I probably only will if they’re my last clean pair of undies. This rarely happens since I have so many. Probably a waste of 10 bucks.

Jockey Boyshort

5) Lululemon Run: Speed Short
These are the best shorts. EVER. With these shorts you do not need underwear because they have a built-in brief that stay in place. I wish I had five pair – one for each day of the week I work out. These are $54 and worth every penny. They are my go-to short and what makes it even better is I don’t need undies to go along with them. One drawback might be that they are fairly short with a 2.5 inch inseam. I guess they could be considered booty-shorts, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The price is steep, but Lulu makes amazing high-quality workout clothing that’s meant to last a long time.

The list could go on, but I have whittled it down to those products I feel are worth discussing. If you have any tested and true picks to share with the rest of the ladies, please do so by posting to comments or on Facebook. Let’s help our sisters out on the quest for the perfect CrossFit underwear.

How’s Ya Swagga?

Have you ever walked up to the barbell telling yourself, “I can do this. I AM going to lift this bar right now”? Have you ever walked up to the barbell and said, “This is so heavy, I don’t know if I can do this”? Imagine yourself in front a your barbell; in one instance you’re hearing positive self-talk and in the other instance you’re experiencing negative self-talk. What do you think would be the outcome of the lift in each instance? It doesn’t matter how heavy the barbell is, you should always approach it confidently. That little voice in your head needs to be giving you a pep talk, “I will lift this”, “I can lift this”, “I want to lift this”.

Think about it for a minute. What are you telling yourself when you’re getting ready for a big lift, when you’re about to go into a WOD, or when it’s your time to workout in a competition setting? Next time you’re in one of these situations, pay attention to that voice, what is it saying to you? If you can learn how to hear that voice, change what it is saying, or quiet it if needed, you will become a better athlete. You will become more confident in your abilities as a CrossFitter, and you will feel better about your performance.

If you find that you’re experiencing a lot of negative self-talk, or if you automatically default to a negative attitude if something isn’t going your way (missing reps, falling behind in a WOD, etc), practice changing up the voice in your head. Instead of “you suck”, say, “keep going” or “go faster”. The second a negative thought comes to mind, graciously allow it to leave, and replace it with something positive.
Self-confidence also goes hand-in-hand with the concept of swagger. If you’ve never heard of swagger, this definition is from Urban Dictionary and is how I want you to think about swagger:

Swagger 205 up157 down
A demeanor of confidence, coolness, and togetherness. Someone with Swagger gives off an aura of comfortability (Not a real word, but we’ll go with it) with his/her self. Swagger is commonly referred to as Swag or Swagga. Swagger is not to be confused with cockiness. Cockiness is someone thinking they are the shit, but if you have swagger you probably are the shit.
“Look at Galton Rich Froning, he walks with such swagger”
“I know, he just gives off such a cool vibe”

HAHAHA. FROMANCE! I hope that made you laugh. As this definition states, “Swagger is not to be confused with cockiness.” When you walk into a gym you can usually pick out the athletes with swagger and self-confidence. They are calm, cool, and collected. When they are in a WOD they are calculated and focused. They’ve created a plan in their mind before going into a workout and they are executing that plan. During a warm-up this person gets to business, methodically going through movements and mobility work. This person maintains the mindset, “I’m well-prepared and I am going to do the best that I can.” Even when this person feels nervous or anxious, they remain focused and calm and allow that small amount of stress to propel them and not negatively affect their WOD. Many of the movements we perform in CrossFit require attention, composure, and finesse, and athletes who have “the swag” are better with these things, therefore making them better CrossFitters.

Whether you are at your home gym or in a competition setting, show your swag: carry your head high, remain confident in your abilities, and hold yourself to the highest standards. If you have done all you can do to prepare for an everyday WOD or a major competition, all there is left to do is create a plan and execute it. Quiet that voice in your head if it’s negative or, if it’s positive, let it talk you through your plan.

“I can do this, I will do this, I want to do this.”

Just a reminder: Don’t be like this guy…
Fast forward to the 4-minute mark of this video and you see Ronnie Teasdale bounce the bar off the ground before the clean. The head judge, who happens to be female, walks over to call a no-rep and he continues to bounce the bar off the floor. If that wasn’t enough, he pushes her out of the way, then ghost-rides the bar in her direction on his last rep. This is horrible behavior by someone who thinks he has swagger but is clearly just a arrogant bastard. Bad sportsmanship, no matter how good an athlete you are, is unacceptable. Hey Ronnie, take your jorts and take a hike.

Please post comments here, or to Facebook! What do you do in order to maintain your self-confidence, your swagger, and your sportsmanship?

Short, Fast, and Deadly

I spent last Saturday and Sunday in Boston at CrossFit Southie. It was the final event of the Garage Games New England Series. It was huge; 275 competitors, multiple divisions, multiple heats for each of the five WODs, VERY well run and organized. What an epic weekend. I wish I’d taken notes for all the amazing things that stuck out in my mind, but here I will do my best to remember and recap. These are some memorable moments that were inspiring and have some sort of take-away message.

Dana butterfly kipping like a boss. This was Dana’s first major individual competition. She was in the women’s scaled division. For those of you who know Dana, you know that she is a beast and she works very hard in the gym and outside of it. She has been CrossFitting for less than 6 months and she already possesses an extensive tool bag of skills and great movement. The first WOD of the weekend, “Queezy Baby”, was an AMRAP 8min of 6 burpee up-and-over the box and 7 pull-ups. Scaled women had the option of using a blue band for pull-ups. I was unsure as to what Dana was planning on doing for the pull-ups since she can do prescribed pull-ups, but after finishing her first set of burpees she jumped up to the bar and started banging out butterfly pull-ups like it was her job. I just started laughing; you could see her determination. It was a great way to start the day, watching her destroy a WOD. Cannot wait to see where she goes from here!

Almost missing my heat and going HAM in “Short, Fast, and Deadly”. This WOD was exactly what it sounded like. It was 5 rounds for time of 10 thrusters and 10 toes-to-bar, with a 10-minute time cap. I didn’t practice this WOD so I had no idea what it was going to feel like. I definitely wasn’t expecting it to feel good. My heat was supposed to begin at 12:24. I was in the athlete warm-up area and I looked over and recognized all the girls from my heat already in their lanes for the WOD. I ran over to the judge to ask if this was Heat 4. “Yes” he said, “2 minutes until the WOD starts”. Oops…no warm-up for Ashley. I had no time to think about what I was doing before the 3…2…1…GO! Right on the bar for thrusters…unbroken, over to the bar for T2B…unbroken, back to the thrusters…unbroken, T2B…unbroken. Despite my hand ripping more than it already had, I kept a decent pace. Thrusters felt light. I was happy about that. I actually think that jumping right into this WOD helped me to just get after it. I didn’t think about it, I just moved. This was my last WOD of the weekend; I was tired and I could have let it get away from me mentally. Glad I didn’t!
Feeling bad about Jameson not having a legit jump rope for the Chipper, but thinking about his evolution as a CrossFit athlete. I didn’t get to watch Jameson do the WOD called “Awful Waffle” because I was in the other building getting ready (more like not getting ready) for “Short, Fast, Deadly”. Awful Waffle was a chipper that started off with a 40 calorie row and continued with 35 double-unders. He was the first one off the rower, no problem. The rope he was using was pretty much a weighted rope that didn’t lend itself to getting double-unders done quickly. Sh*t. This SNAFU certainly affected his WOD time, and I assume that this was a learning experience and J will always bring his own rope from now on. It’s a minor blip on the radar when we’re looking at the big picture, though. Kyle and I often discuss the evolution of the athlete and Jameson’s evolution has been pretty incredible. From a deconditioned college guy to a beast athlete putting up big numbers and holding his own among the top men in our region in about 2 years – makes us proud. As an athlete, I look up to other athletes, like Jameson, who are motivated, committed, focused, and confident.

The amazing support crew from The Fort. It never surprises me that we have such an amazing community; I get to witness it every day at the gym, and I am always in awe of the support that our people give to others. It was great to have so many Fort Monsters come down to Boston to watch our competitors and enjoy the atmosphere. Watching a competition is a great way to motivate yourself to get after it in the gym. Despite being exhausted from doing 5 WODs in 2 days I feel energized to keep going strong with training (after a good rest day, of couse!). We have an unbelievable group of people who truly care about each other. Use it to your advantage; lean on others for help, inspiration, and support. 
After my last competition, the Garage Games at CFNE, I felt very defeated. All but one of the WODs involved a heavy barbell and I felt out of my league  I looked at the positives and took this as a learning experience; realizing that I need to get stronger and keep building my engine and work capacity. With this past weekend’s competition I had a lot of FUN. I felt like I worked really hard, but I didn’t have the feelings of defeat like I did last time. I’m pretty sure the WODs had something to do with it; they were well-programmed, classic CrossFit, all movement I am comfortable with, for the most part. Each time I compete I learn more about myself as an athlete and I gain experience to make me better; a better coach, better competitor, better CrossFitter. I know that Dana and Jameson also learned a lot over this weekend. I appreciated having others there competing to share the athlete experience with. It was just an all-around great weekend. I wish they could all be that great. 
Thank you to everyone who came out to support us and cheer us on and for all the support our fellow Monsters gave us in the weeks leading up to the Garage Games. Our next competition will be December 1st at Champlain Valley CrossFit up by Burlington, VT. We have 10 athletes signed up to throw down. It’s going to be a great weekend. 

Please post comments here or on Facebook. Thanks 🙂

Heading into Competition Week

This weekend, November 10th and 11th is the Garage Games at CrossFit Southie. You can check out the 5 WODs I will be doing HERE. Looks fun, right!? I’m pretty excited. This week I have a few things to focus on…

  1. Hydrating. We don’t hydrate for today, we hydrate for tomorrow. That means I must resist drinking more coffee than water during the day. Coffee is delicious and tempting, but it’s clearly not good for staying hydrated or falling asleep at night. 
  2. Sleep. I will be in bed at a decent hour this week, preferably before 10pm. If I can do this and then sleep until 6am each day, I’ll be good to go. 
  3. Mobility. If I neglect my mobility this week, I will be in trouble. Shoulders and hips are the priority. My left hip and shoulder have been feeling slightly off these days.
  4. Getting my mind right. I have been struggling with this lately. I get defeated easily and when it comes to competition, this cannot happen. There will always be someone better than me, and in this case, there will be many people who are better than me. I’m still thinking about how I will do this…suggestions are welcomed. I guess it might be good to just keep believing that I will do the best I can. As an athlete you cannot rush the process, if you want to be better you just have to keep working hard.

My fellow Fort Monsters, Dana and Jameson, will be there competing as well. It’s always nice to have others in the competition to feel your pain and help you create a strategy for the WODs. All Fort Monsters are welcomed and encouraged to take a trip down to CF Southie to watch our gym’s competitors and also some of the best athletes from the region. Competitions are always a good time. Carpool if you can, parking is tight down there. Reminder: NO Saturday classes at The Fort on 11/10.

I Exercise for Fun

“Hey, do you want to go out Friday night?”
“Oh, I would love to, but I have a competition all day on Saturday.”
“Okay, maybe another time. What kind of competition?”
“Isn’t CrossFit just working out”
“Yes…um, but it’s not just working out, it’s different.”
And then it dawned on me…I exercise for fun. I do exercise competitions FOR FUN. WTF!?

This is quasi-verbatim dialogue that I recently had with a friend.

During the partner competition at CrossFit Free a few weeks ago I think we all questioned why we were there. The WODs were certainly not easy, and there were 3 of them. So why exactly were we spending our Saturday working out? My reasons are that 1) it’s fun; who wouldn’t want to hang out with other CrossFitters all day?, 2) it’s challenging; you really get to test yourself, and 3) at the end of the day you walk away with an amazing sense of accomplishment.

Competing removes you from your comfort zone; your gym; your people; your lucky barbell; your ideal time-frame for WODs; you optimal pull-up bar. It challenges you to perform well when you are anxious, or tired, or working with a partner. Competing surrounds you with positive, like-minded people who love CrossFitting just as much as you do. The atmosphere is absolutely electric and you find yourself wondering how the hell did I just do that!? This leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and pride that is unmatched. We get this feeling in the gym, but it is taken to another level in competition.

Lately I have been struggling with finding the “competition feeling” and really pushing myself during WODs. I’m not really sure how I can motivate myself to push harder, and it might be that the competition feeling is unique to true competition. Then again, not every day needs to be a competition. I do know, however, that competing has helped me to be a better athlete and a better coach. I am a better athlete because I think about WODs differently; I plan strategy and think about the best and most efficient way to do the work. Competing has also helped me become stronger mentally. There is always someone who is way better than me and I know that I must not lose focus when that person is ahead of me. I keep my head down, do work, and do the best I can. At the same time, competing helps to expose weaknesses. In my last partner competition I realized that I utterly despise burpee broad jumps and it’s probably because I suck at them. Not that burpee broad jumps come up that often, but I had to do them after running with a 60 pound sandbag. I realized that transitioning from one intense movement like running to another super-intense and explosive movement is something I might need to work on. I also need to keep practicing my free-standing hand stand. Absolutely NO gymnastics history/experience in this girl!

Competing has made me a better coach because I am able to think through WODs to help athletes create a strategy and push a little harder when they might think that they can’t. Competing also evokes an energy that stays with you when you return to your home gym. You want to bring a small piece of that atmosphere back with you. It reinforces the principle that being CrossFit is being prepared for the unknown and unknowable.

I would encourage everyone to participate in a competition at least one time. No matter if you’re competing in your home box or in a 2-day major competition a few hours from home, the intensity will be taken to another level and you will push harder than ever. You might not win, you might not even place in the top rankings, but at least you will have had fun. Yes, you exercised for fun – all day – and you loved it.

My next competition is the Garage Games – September 8th and 9th in Natick, MA at CrossFit New England. During the 2-day Firebreather Festival I will be challenged by 5 WODs, most of which involve a heavy barbell. I know that my competition will be fierce and I am prepared to do the best I can. Hopefully we’ll have a crew representing The Fort – that would be amazing! In competition you can take in lots of energy from a rowdy cheering section (hint, hint).

Swingin’ the 53-pounder. Fun times!

Work for What You Want

It’s interesting, recently I have read a bunch of blog posts about working hard for what you want; getting the results you want from CrossFit; actually reaching the goals we set. We bloggers/coaches must all be thinking along the same lines. A couple weeks ago I started pondering the amount of hard work and training it actually takes to get really good at CrossFit, or even just okay at CrossFit. It takes a lot of time, effort, and commitment to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

I frequently hear talk about skills and movements people want to master, or lifts they want to PR, but sometimes I don’t see that action following. I don’t see the work being done; the work that it takes to reach these goals. Being committed to practice is what it takes to get an unassisted pull-up, or multiple double-unders, or a handstand push up. Additionally, our ability to move in good positions is critical to moving well, moving safely, and being strong. Mobility work and stretching help us get to those good positions; crucial if we want to be better CrossFitters. That’s just the way it is. If you haven’t already, please read my post about mobility.

Don’t get me wrong. Every day I see people working their asses off; becoming fitter, stronger, better athletes. It’s amazing and gives me goosebumps. I think that it’s a natural trait of my role as a coach to want  more  from athletes. I know that your inner athlete is screaming for more. You know what you have to do. Those who choose to do the work (and then some) will achieve their goals. 

It is pretty clear that CrossFit and a good diet will get you in the best shape of your life. But what if it’s “not working”? Forrest, over at CrossFit Southbay in California, wrote a post about reasons why CrossFit doesn’t work for people. The following excerpt is from that post:

You think you’re committed but you really aren’t – Just about everyone who walks in the door says they workout 3-5 times every week. Every. Single. Week. They are fed up and want something that is really going to work. Then when it’s time to sign up for a membership they say, “Well, I was thinking, um, like once or twice a week”. Whoa, wait a minute. I thought you were already working out 5 times a week. Now it’s two? If you can’t whole heartedly commit at least 4 hours (preferably about 6 hours) a week to fitness, then you probably aren’t going to reach your goals. I get it, life is busy. Just go try telling that to the single mom on the pull-up bar who just got done with her double day.

I recommend reading the full blog post HERE!

To reach goals and get really good at CrossFit you must simply be committed to being better. Even if you do CrossFit a few days each week for health benefits and general physical preparedness, you still need to be committed! And I completely agree with the other 10 reasons he’s listed in this post.

LP, from Shoreline CrossFit, wrote THIS blog about Sacrifice. Thinking about these two blog posts together, the message I take away is that those who choose to sacrifice something in order to do another thing (the work) will get what they want from CrossFit. What do you sacrifice to be better in the gym? How will you commit to being better than you were yesterday? What do you want, and what are you going to do to get it?

Watch this, get inspired, get after it!