As Seen in 2016

As of this post, we are 11 days into the New Year. As promised, I will share my 2016 goals with you soon…but not today. In only a week and a half, there’s already been lessons learned, cool stuff happening, and reflections made. Enough to merit a post of their own. So enjoy my New Year’s revelations (not to be confused with resolutions) and I’ll be back with goals in the weeks ahead.

So, 2016 started on a high note for me…by RX’ing our gym’s baseline WOD (one of Jess’s favs – 500 M row, 40 squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, 10 pull-ups) for the first time ever! 🙂 They always host a charity team workout New Year’s Day to raise money for a local charity for at-risk youth. This year the first part of the WOD was a relay of the baseline.

I did baseline on my very first day ever back in September 2013, and have done it a few times since, but not lately, and certainly not since my push-ups have gotten so good or I’ve been able to bust out a few kipping pull-ups. I looked a the clock when it was my turn to go so I’d have an idea of my time, then I went for it. The pull-ups were mostly singles, and not beautiful by any stretch, but hey, I got it done. Better still were the high fives I got from all the coaches and then the applause from everyone when the workout was done. I was so pumped. Talk about starting the year with a bang!

Then, I had to go back and re-read this post I wrote a year ago and remind myself to chill and not be so hard on myself. An amazing 2015 ended not so amazingly with a pretty serious bout of Christmas Day stomach flu. After being so sick, I had to take several days off of the gym because I was so weak and depleted. Then, the week after Christmas, I decided to eat double because I had been sick and could eat barely anything for a few days and missed out on some tasty Christmas eats.

Hmmm…almost a week of being sick, then a week of eating whatever the heck I wanted. You can probably guess how the first week back after that felt. Ugh. The thing was, I wasn’t even doing all that terribly at everything. I managed to get one of the top scores for our contest of the month (because it involved KB swings. Obvi.) And on a shoulders to overhead (my fav) and burpee workout, I think I was one of the top scores of the day. I just got myself mentally in a pretty bad place.

Note to self (and readers): Repeating “sucky suck suck” about yourself and your WODs over and over again in your head doesn’t help. At all. To cap it off, I gained back the weight I had lost from being sick and then some. Ugh. Again.

But this is where being a person who is constantly (some might say obsessively) logging WODs and weight comes in handy and really helps regain perspective. Yes. Maybe I overdid it and packed on a few pounds. But I looked back and my heavier post-holiday self is still 12 pounds lighter than last year’s version. It will come off.

And, newsflash: I don’t suck at everything. Even a week of less-than-amazing feeling WODs are still miles ahead of where I came from, or from the people who aren’t doing anything at all. And after Saturday’s partner WOD where I pushed it real good and carried our team at the end (overhead barbell holds while my partner struggled with snatches), I finally was like, “Oh yeah. I love this feeling. And I don’t suck at CrossFit.”

On a related note, it took my week-long New Year’s funk to make me realize again why I CrossFit and choose to eat a healthy diet. It’s not because I hate myself. It’s not a punishment. It’s not because I should. It’s not to lose weight or look a certain way. It’s because I really like myself. It’s because it’s fun. It’s because it’s where my friends are at. It’s because I love the feeling of working harder than I ever thought possible, then seeing it pay off and amazing myself. It’s because when I eat a healthy diet, I feel fueled and nourished and my body can do incredible things.

Oh, and there’s the fact that the Open is a little over 6 weeks away. Gulp. How the heck did that come up so quickly? Here we go again… In addition to the fact that our gym is programming a plethora of gas tank-depleting WODs to gear up for it, I also made the mistake of asking my coach to include Open prep for me in addition to my lifting program. Never again. If you read in a year from now that I plan on asking for Open prep, please reach out and stop me (Kidding. Sort of).

I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be amazing at the Open or be dead by then. One week in, it’s too early to tell. These Open prep mini WODs are TERRIBLE! Example: max set of back squats at 70% (I got to 20 reps). Rest a minute then 150 double unders for time. Slowest double unders of life!!!! Mind you, as seen above, I wasn’t feeling amazing last week. So I’m hoping at least things will get a little better, but I’m anticipating a kind of butt-kicking suckfest (in the best possible way) for the next 6 weeks. Hopefully it pays off.

In case you didn’t know, Jess is kind of a CrossFit celeb now. Have you seen this video about the Open? Go to 2:16 and see her big feature.

I also received one of my favourite pieces of gym feedback ever last week: I was gave a friend advice on double unders (practice a little bit every day, and try at first doing two singles skips, one DU, 2 skips, 1 DU…). A few days later he came up to me, said he tried it, and got the most DU he ever had! Hearing that totally made my day (thanks Matt- and way to go). Moments like that are one of the best parts of CrossFit, and great reminders that there’s more to success and victory than just hitting PRs all the time.

And, last but not least, in the first week and a half of 2016, I’ve been reminded anew of how awesome my gym and the people that make up our community are. I’m moving in a few weeks, and gym friends have been great about offering me boxes, a leather chair; and of course, help with the move. There was also last weekend’s fantastically fun holiday party at a local ping pong bar co-owned by one of our members. I take all my gym friendships for granted until I mention the party to a coworker and get asked “Your gym is having a Christmas party?” Oh yeah, I guess amazing friendships and great parties are not part of the typical gym experience. I can’t say it enough: love my CrossFit family.

Phew! Writing all that, it’s been a busy start to the year, and quite the emotional rollercoaster. I’ve run the gamut from huge Crossfit victories to celebrations to suckfests – and it’s only been 11 days! At this rate, 2016 is going to be quite the year – stay tuned!

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2015: What a Year it’s Been!

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My Christmas present to my gym: Gingerbread Gym, complete with coaches to scale.

As I type this, it’s the last day of the year and I’m staring 2016 in the face. It seems like just yesterday I was sharing my goals with you for the year, and now it’s over.

Since I shared goals with you for the year, I think it’s only fair to share with you how I did. But, I’m also going to give you a bit of a year in review in my CrossFit life.

Basically, I met some goals and others I didn’t. Would I have liked to have met all of them? You bet. But you know what, I’m not particularly sad/upset/depressed about the ones I didn’t meet. Over the past year, I’ve come to see that goals are great to guide you. They give you vision and something to work towards. But, in CrossFit and in life, there is life beyond your goals.

Life happens, you run into setbacks, and some goals don’t get met. But, at the same time, sometimes there are unexpected victories. Sometimes success comes seemingly out of nowhere (but it’s actually the result of months of hard work). Just yesterday, my coach reminded me again how important the little things are. Which is an important perspective, especially when it seems like months are going by with no PRs. If you keep grinding away, working on the little things, you WILL see results.

That being said, let’s revisit the goals and talk about how things went…

  • Unassisted strict pull-up (hopefully in time for the Open!)
  • Pistol squats
    • Nope. But, to be fair, I didn’t work on them consistently all year – off and on again, but they were definitely back burner for a while. I’ve been back at it for the last couple weeks, and I think (and others have told me) I might be close.
  • Deadlift 300 pounds (currently at 270)
    • No. I actually haven’t retested my 1RM in months, but not there yet. I really think that I just need to clean up technique, and actively engage my lats, and I’ll have this. No doubt I’m strong but I need to fix some things. I can get this one in 2016.
  • Clean and Jerk 150 pounds (currently 135)
    • So close! I’ve gotten my C&J to 145, and I’ve cleaned 157, but the 150 C&J hasn’t happened – yet. Although I have to say, I’m really happy with the progress I made on my clean in the fall. It went up by a lot, and I’m way more comfortable in the squat clean now, which is huge for me, considering I always used to freak out and power clean when it got heavy.
  • Snatch 100 pounds (currently 90)
    • Yes! I actually got this one before the end of January in competition. And then I was stuck for most of the year…but thankfully PR’ed again (finally) in November. I still feel like if I can fix a few problems, I am on the verge of a breakthrough. My OH squat has gone way up, and other things have gotten a lot better. It’s not strength that’s holding me back (noticing a theme here…?).
  • Get better at tracking how I’m feeling after WODs. I’m really good at writing down my workouts every day, but I want to pay attention to how certain things feel so I can focus on how nutrition/life outside the gym is affecting my performance.
    • Yes…sort of. I’ve been better at recording this, but not exactly at looking back over it and making changes accordingly. I do think I’m more aware though of how differently I can feel on different things, and how what I eat (or don’t eat) affects my WODs. I will continue to pay more attention in the year ahead.
  • As well, keep up with clean eating in order to drop a bit more weight to help make body weight movements (especially those pull-ups) easier (I hope to write about this part of my journey in a separate post soon).
    • Yeah! It’s still a journey, but I have achieved the weight I wanted to be at, and managed to more or less maintain it (give or take a few pounds) for about 6 months. It’s amazing how not only what, but how much you eat can make such a difference in your performance. Yes, I’ve lost weight, but it’s amazing how much my body has changed over the last year.

So…my goal accomplishments were a mixed bag for 2015, but I’m not upset. Because, in addition to all the stuff mentioned above, a few others things happened…

I competed in my first CrossFit Open. To say I had highs and lows would be an understatement. But at the end of it all, I was proud of myself for putting myself out there and giving it my all. Even though I was pretty tired of the Open by the end, I am glad I did it, and am looking forward to/ am completely terrified for the Open 2016.

Toes to bar have come soooo far. Open workout 15.1 was the first time I’d ever RX’ed a T2B WOD. Huge accomplishment, I was so proud. Even though in a 9 minute workout, I only completed 18 T2B total. During the last few weeks of 2016, I did three WODS which involved 50+ T2B. RX. Yeah. So there’s that. Gymnastics movement are a huge struggle for me (understatement of the century) so any success in this domain is pretty big for me.

I got injured. At the time, this was one of the hardest and scariest things that had happened in my short CrossFit career. I couldn’t do the WODs or lift the weights I wanted to. So I was forced to drop the weight, do a crap ton of mobility, avoid some of my favourite moments, and have a laser focus on form. It wasn’t sexy or exciting, and at times it was downright frustrating. And PRs? Forget about it.

But, at the end of the summer, I started feeling better. And all that hard work payed off – big time. First of all, I fixed my squat, a longstanding bastion of terrible form (I now joke that my old heavy backsquat was a really heavy good morning – that’s how far forward I folded). My squat form is now on point (give me a follow on instagram and scroll back through for a great side by side comparison). Fixing the form was great, but I also started adding some serious weight to my back squat, and over the course of the fall, I PR’ed my back squat by a total of 15 pounds. And that’s 15 pounds heavier than my old PR at terrible form. I feel really great about where my squat is at now, both in weight and form.

Oh, and speaking of PRs…since building back up to lifting heavy, the last few months of 2015 were PR city. The summer drought ended, and in the last few months, I have PR’ed my overhead squat, back squat, snatch, clean and jerk, clean, bench press, push press and strict press.

I’m not sharing these numbers with you to show off. More so just to show that hard work really does pay off. And the longer you stick with CrossFit, or any sport, you see that you go through seasons and phases. Summer was really hard. I didn’t PR for months. But I didn’t give up and walk away. I worked hard in a different way, and, once I was healed, that hard

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The first pull-up. Easily my favourite CrossFit moment of 2015.

work payed off big time.

And speaking of hard work, one other thing that has really come a long way in 2015 is my push-ups. I’ve been chipping away at them all year, and didn’t really realize until the last few months that they have gotten so. much. stronger. Push-ups don’t come easily to me (or to most girls), but they are much less of a weakness than they used to be.

There’s a lot more that happened in 2015 (competitions, Murph, 6 AM crew getting even more awesome) but this post is getting pretty lengthy and I don’t want you to think I’m just here to brag. I just want to share some perspective, and to remind all of us that even when it seems like we might have failed, or haven’t met our goals, there are so many other successes going on.

So here’s to another amazing year. Another year of showing up, even when I don’t feel like it. Another year of hard work. Another year of finding my passion and chasing my dreams. Another year of small victories, of success and failure. Another year of PRs (and likely several months without a single one). But, most importantly, another year doing what I love alongside some of the most amazing people I know.

Stay tuned for a post coming with 2016 goals. And keep on doing what YOU love. Whether or not you met your 2015 goals, I’m pretty sure you did something awesome this year.

Happy New Year!

Love Hilary ( on behalf of the Two Babes and Barbell)

Here’s to you, 6 AM Crew

I love CrossFit (I know what you’re thinking: “Um, thanks Captain Obvious, I’m reading your CrossFit blog). I could rhyme off for you now a thousand reasons why I love it, but one thing I love even more than CrossFit itself is the people of CrossFit. I can’t say enough about the community I’ve built, amazing people I’ve met, and friendships I’ve made from my gym.

Before I started CrossFit, I’d seen posts on friends’ Facebook, and read on Carrots ‘n Cake about all her great CrossFit friends and hangouts, but honestly, I really didn’t get it. Maybe it was because I never played team sports. Maybe it was because I had always seen the gym somehow as a negative. But until I tried CrossFit for myself, I didn’t realize how tight a community it was, or how it would become for me as well.

It’s no secret that I’m at the gym a lot. Since I love WODs and my own lifting program, I’m often there more than once a day. But my first loyalty will always be to 6 AM. I just love starting my day with a good workout (so much so that although I’m a teacher and have summers off, I still went to 6 AM class for most days during July and August).

What makes 6 AM even better though is our 6 AM crew. There are a few of us who have been around for longer, and some faces have come and gone, but I just love my 6 AM-ers. It takes a special kind of person to get up early and suffer through the pain of a tough WOD. I say all the time, it’s not for everyone (and we at 6 AM like it that way – we don’t want our beloved class getting too crowded).

6 AM crew has gotten pretty tight over the last month or so. First, it was the semi-impromptu mini potluck. We had a big weekend coming up (two of the crew getting married, several of us doing the partner competition at our gym, another one of us running a half marathon) so we decided we needed to mark the occasion. Of course, we all have jobs to get to and places to be, so we couldn’t linger long, but it was great to take even a few minutes to share food together. And now we’re planning to make it a recurring monthly event.

Next, there’s the Facebook group. To facilitate communication between members, we’ve created a secret (ultra exclusive) Facebook group. We use it to share potluck recipes, congratulate each other on tough WODs, and plan for upcoming social gatherings (more on that one in a minute).

And then there was Murph. Our gym does Murph (1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats then another 1 mile run) every year on November 11 for Remembrance Day. This was my third go-round, so I knew what was coming (other 6 AM crew members were a little upset at me for not posting a warning in our group 😉 ). My goal this year: simply to finish it (something I’ve never done before in the 45 minute cap).

Weight vest is absolutely out of the question. And pull-ups are not where they need to be for me to attempt RX-ing that many. And I thought the 20 round Cindy option (5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats) was smarter for me than doing it chipper-style. But still, I just wanted to make it to the end so I could say I finally made it all the way through Murph.

We all worked at different standards. Some of us did half Murph. Some RX’ed pull-ups. Some RX’ed push-ups. Some of us had to sub movements due to injury. But we were all in it together, slugging it out and cheering each other on.

I somehow managed to RX all of the push-ups. That’s right. 200 total, all from my toes. I was sure when I started I wouldn’t make it to the end. At first I thought after the first 10 rounds I’d go to my knees. Then I thought maybe 15. Or I kept expecting Coach Duncan to cut me off, as I knew that if my form really started going, he wouldn’t let me stay on my toes. But after round 15, I was like “well, ok, I guess I might as well finish all of these RX.”

Anyhow, bodyweight movements are slow for me, and I had to break those push-ups up a lot, so I was the last one out the door for the mile. But somehow that didn’t bother me. And when I got back in, the 6 AM crew greeted me with cheers and applause. I did it. I finished Murph. I didn’t even think about coming in last. I felt like the biggest winner ever and went into my day knowing I could do anything.

And beyond potlucks, Facebook and hero WODs, 6 AM crew has started taking it outside of the gym. The day after Murph was our first social: tacos! We talked CrossFit (of course)…mainly it was a lot of “how sore are you?” the day after Murph (and, due to a little programming snafu, a couple of us did ANOTHER. HERO. WOD. the next day…oy) and sharing anecdotes like “I was peeling carrots and could barely hold them,” or my story of only doing my hair in a ponytail for work because I was too late (it took me just over 50 minutes to finish) and sore to do anything else. I also told Sandy he was my beacon of hope when I rounded a corner and saw him running ahead of me that last mile.

But we also found (thankfully) that we had other things to talk about and it was fun to see what we all looked like in our “real people clothes” and when we haven’t just rolled out of bed. There’s talk of more outings and even coordinating a 6 AM Crew Christmas gathering.

So I get it. CrossFit is much more than just a gym. It’s a community like no other. People of CrossFit, I love you all. But 6 AM Crew will always have a special place in my heart (and Jess, if you’re reading this, I am still holding out hope that one day you’ll come back to 6 AM).

A Food Revolution…One Year in the Making

So, mid-November marks a year. A year ago, I was frustrated at my slow progress. A year ago, a coach saw how hard I wImage-1as working and cared enough to take me aside and help me focus on eating properly to fuel all that hard work. A year ago, I began a process that is still ongoing today, of shifting the focus both on how I view food and myself.

As I’ve said before, I don’t consider myself an “after.” I’m still living, learning, and making mistakes like everyone else.

A lot has changed in a year. Slowly, I’m letting go of old habits, but more importantly, old attitudes about food, what is “good” or “bad” for me, what and how much I “should” or “shouldn’t” eat. I’m learning to stop giving food an emotional value and to start trusting myself.

I’ve read several articles lately about orthorexia. And I find it scary how easily I can relate to them. How so many things were labeled as good or bad, how willpower made me seemingly better than others. Or how after making one poor or less healthy choice, I could feel guilty and worry about it for hours. How I would pre-plan virtually everything, and although I may have held it together on the outside, I would be inwardly freaking out about a food situation outside of my control.

I wrote the above paragraph in past tense, but the truth, if I’m honest, is that it’s still hard. When you’ve struggled with a mindset and behaviour patterns for years, they’re not going to go away overnight. Not even in a year.

But that’s the bad news. Good news is I am making strides. And all these articles I’ve been reading, posts I’ve been seeing, and strides I’ve been making have got me to thinking…

Can we *please* just get rid of the term “guilt-free,” when it comes to food? I mean, really, when you stop and think about it, what does that imply? That if you are eating other foods, you should feel guilty about them? Why does food have to be guilt free or not? Why can’t it just be food? When did what we eat or not eat get to have such weight on our psyche? To be sure, there are some foods we should probably choose to eat less than others, but there are enough things in life to worry or feel guilty about. Food doesn’t need to be one of them.

What if all the labels we’re putting on food, diet and lifestyle are actually hurting us more than helping us? What if calling something out for being healthy or not is really only a matter of opinion? What if it’s actually healthier not to have  strict food rules or things that are off limits? What if it doesn’t matter if something is Paleo, gluten-free, or within your macros for the day (*just to be clear, I know that these lifestyles are helpful for many people for dietary and health concerns, and I don’t want it to seem like I’m judging those people)? What if it’s more important just to listen to your body, and what it’s feeling and craving at that point in time?

What if social media, instafood and all those hashtags and food porn are just feeding (pardon the pun) the vicious cycle of disordered eating? What if cheat meals (who or what are you cheating on anyway?) didn’t need to be a thing? What if clean eating was just a mask for disordered eating? I mean, if we go look at instagram feeds, it seems like all people are eating is green smoothies, oatmeal bowls, produce galore or insanely decadent “cheat meals.” Is there no middle ground?

What if eating less isn’t the answer? What if eating more could better nourish and fuel your body? What if embracing foods you avoided for years actually wouldn’t make you gain a whole bunch of weight but might in fact work the other way around? What if, if  your body felt hungry or like it was craving something, you listened and fed it?

What if eating bread and pasta could be part of a healthy diet? What if it was ok to have a bagel for breakfast every now and then? What if eating a few more carbs would actually give me the energy I needed to fuel my performance? What if I could cook with real ingredients instead of having to worry about too much fat and use ultra “healthy” (aka ultra fake) low fat ingredients, or only cook with a microscopic amount of oil because it was “bad” to have too much fat?

What if I could finally stop eating like a person on a diet and just eat like a normal person? What if I didn’t have to always be looking for recipes to cut calories or carbs? What if I could admit that I’ve worked hard to get where I am, that I am at a healthy weight, and I can relax the rules a bit and actually enjoy life? What if I trusted myself enough to do that?

What if everything I thought about food was wrong? What if I’m not the person I used to be? What if I’m now an athlete who needs food as fuel, rather than someone at an unhealthy weight who is constantly afraid and worried about what she can and can’t eat? What if I could admit that while I’m so proud of where I am now I’m still scared to death almost every single day of going back to where I was before?

What if food and exercise now mean something entirely different to me than they have for most of my life? What if exercise is now a reward and the best part of my day and not a punishment? What if I admit that I love food, and that it’s ok to love food, in all its delicious shapes and forms? What if food wasn’t a reward or a punishment, but just something to be enjoyed for what it is?

What if I could completely change my body through diet and exercise? Beyond how much I weigh, but its total shape and composition? What if it keeps changing and getting stronger, even after I met what I thought was my goal? What if, more important than all of that, I totally changed how I saw myself? And, for the first time ever, I was actually confident and proud in who I was, not only because of how I looked, but what I could do?

My healthy is different than yours. And that’s great. How about I won’t judge you and you don’t judge me – deal? You might not be a 6 day a week CrossFitter, so you probably have different needs than I do. You might not have struggled with food and your weight your whole life, so you might not have all the same mental hang-ups as I do (lucky you). But if you’re reading this, we are on this journey together.

So let’s ditch the labels and the guilt, and embrace food and life. Let’s learn to trust ourselves and our bodies to tell us what they need. Let’s realize that one good or bad choice doesn’t define us. And let’s be kind to ourselves. We are too awesome not to.

So, one year later, that’s my food revolution. Will you join me?

It Takes Two, Baby

Hilary here. So, last weekend our gym hosted its annual Fall Classic competition. I’ve judgIMG_4724ed for the last two years, but this year I decided to throw my hat in the ring and compete. For the first time, it was a partner competition instead of individuals. And my partner was the ever fiery Gary, hence why we were given the team name “6 AM Dragons” (and I made the costumes to match – see left).

This was my second partner competition, and fifth CrossFit competition overall. (For another post on why you should be competing, click here – it is #tbt after all).

There are a lot of great lessons you can learn from competing with a partner, or even just doing a team/partner WOD, for that matter. IMG_4751

First and foremost, HAVE FUN and don’t take yourself too seriously. This applies to CrossFit in general, not just competitions. Yes, it’s ok to be competitive. It’s ok to want to win. But CrossFit is your hobby. It’s something you’re supposed to enjoy. So, in the end, win, lose or draw, just enjoy yourself. Sometimes it’ll go your way, sometimes it won’t. Soak it in when you do well, and laugh it off when you don’t. Take part in all the goofiness that you can (see dragon shirts with crooked spikes and puff paint and matching lime green knee socks). I always say that life is too short to take seriously, and I believe wholeheartedly that that attitude has taken me far in how much I enjoy CrossFit and competing despite the outcome.

Know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. Accept them for what they are.

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Not every workout is going to be in your wheelhouse. For me, I knew the first WOD which included a three minute AMRAP of 50 squats and 20 pull-ups was not going to be my time to shine (although I did my first-ever pull-ups in a competition, so that’s something). Be ok with the fact that your partner might have to take over sometimes. Accept that you won’t split every single workload equally, and you might not feel like you are not pulling your weight.

This is 100% ok, and also a lesson in humility. Yet another reason why I love CrossFit: as good as you might be at some things, there will always be something else to work on, and workouts where you just totally get your butt kicked.

But on the flip side, don’t be afraid to own it when a workout comes up that is totally your image1 (2)jam. When I saw the final WOD included cleans, front rack lunges, shoulders to overhead and wall walks, I was giddy with excitement. I’m pretty sure I actually giggled. Stay humble, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to step up to the plate and totally crush it. And if you think you can take over more of the workload, go for it (provided you’ve discussed with your partner). We all have strengths and weaknesses, and partner workouts/competitions are the time to work them to your advantage.

Communicate with your partner. As mentioned above, talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Who’s going to do what and take over when. How will you divide the workload? What’s your strategy? As soon as you’ve seen the WOD, figure out how you’ll attack it. Also figure out the best way to motivate your partner. Some people love being screamed at mid-WOD, I also have friends who actually despise the idea. And if there’s a synchronized movement (like the burpees seen above), figure out who will be calling the movement and what your rhythm will be. If you and your partner want to win this thing, communication, and presenting a united front, are key.

Celebrate! With food! (Obviously). After everything was all said and done, some CrossFit friends and I went and got some insanely delicious burgers. And then, ice cream topped with lots of tasty chocolate (it was Halloween after all). You’ve worked hard, so you’ve earned the right to eat (and drink) whatever your heart/inner fat kid desires. And after dinner and getting cleaned up, many of us from the gym celebrated our successes at a ping pong bar owned by one of our friends (in awesome costumes, naturally, since it was Halloween). Regardless of how the competition went, you worked hard, so you deserve a celebration and to treat yourself.

Get back in the gym and start working towards your next goal. It just so happened that I finished my strength program the week before our comp. I’m in the midst of a de-loading week this week, and then it’s back at it next week. So I met with my coach to evaluate successes and setbacks and plan for what’s ahead (waiting to get a new program is like Christmas morning for me – a mix of anticipation, excitement and just a touch of dread because I know that my coach will find new ways to kick my butt).

So if you haven’t done a competition yet – what are you waiting for? I can guarantee you’ll learn something about yourself, have a great time, and be ready to take on new challenges in and outside of the gym. I know this 6 AM Dragon is!

All for Fall

I love summer. Hot weather. Fresh fruit. Ice cream. Cold drinks. Beaches. My birthday. I’m the first one to shed more than a couple of tears when it winds to a close each year (never mind the fact that fall also means back to school for a teacher like me).

But this year, I have a feeling that fall is going to be pretty darn amazing (if the first few weeks are any indication). Hard work is paying off, good things are happening and I’m pumped for what lies ahead. Why? I’m so glad you asked

  1. The summer of mobility, form, and posture work is paying off…big time. I wrote about this here, but have since seen more results. I talked about my squat form improving, and if you follow me on instagram, you saw a video I posted a few weeks back. It’s a split screen of a 5RM, almost a year apart. The difference is CRAZY! Super foldy last fall on the left, and on the right; core tight, chest up and solid all the way through. I can’t tell you how good it feels not to be sketchy. It feels so different lifting heavy, struggling through it, but knowing I can maintain good form the whole way through.

Another great video is the push-up split screen. I’ve been working on push-ups longer than just the summer. We’re talking since January here. I’d say the video speaks for itself. Top one is the last few reps of a set of 6 in January. Bottom is last couple of a set of 13 last week. Not only have I gotten stronger as they look way easier, but form is waaaay better and I’m not snaking and curling my back.

2. PRs are starting to come back. So my gym got a PR bell at the beginning of the summer. I didn’t ring it once all summer. There was a lot of mobility work and rehab going on, but I wasn’t exactly lifting heavy. But then, a few weeks back, I PR’ed my clean (I even squat cleaned it!) DURING. A. WOD. (more on that in a minute). What’s more, I totally feel like I can do more. My 2015 goal might even be in reach (not so sure on the jerk though). And then there’s my overhead squat. I still can’t believe this. But I managed to PR it 3 times. In 8 days. Craziness. Not like I had tested it in a while, but still. I guess a bit of a PR drought just helps you appreciate the PRs that come all the more.

Update: I wrote this post and then went into the gym for a little afternoon lifting. My working weight of clean and jerks was feeling real light and just flying up, so I decided to go for it. I proceeded to PR my clean and jerk, then went on to PR my clean. And it didn’t even feel that heavy. I’ve now met the number I wanted to hit for cleans in 2015 (just have to match it with the jerk), and am on the brink of a spot on the leaderboard AND a body weight clean. It’s so close I can taste it….boo yeah!

3. I’ve discovered fried egg sandwiches. SeriousIMG_4526ly. This may seem silly or inconsequential, but I can’t tell you just how amazing fried egg sandwiches are or how much I’ve been loving them lately. And, honestly, until the last few weeks, they were never really something I cooked or ate much of. But they are the PERFECT post-gym meal. Quick to make, nice mix of protein and carbs, get some Frank’s Red Hot on there, and some leftover veggies as a topper, pair with soup/salad/other veg and boom! You’ve got yourself a pretty tasty meal. Gym friend Ally and I have a theory that ice cream and sandwiches both lead to PRs. We are thinking of writing a book.

Also though, eating fried egg sandwiches is a bit of a departure/step forward for me. Old, “diet mentality” Hilary (who still rears her ugly head more often than I’d like) never would have eaten fried egg sandwiches. Too much fat! Too may calories! And bread? Gasp. All those carbs! But now that I am slowly shifting into eating for fuel and performance, I’m slowly starting to let go of those anxieties, and focus on real, delicious foods and what they can do for me (and I did have one of these sandwiches the day before one of those OHS PRs, just saying…).

4. The strict pull-up is making a comeback. Everyone knows the first strict pull-up came back in March. And while I still worked on pull-ups all summer long (let’s be honest, when do I not work on pull-ups?), it was at an easier difficulty, and more focused on correcting form (noticing a theme here?). So, I tried a strict pull-up at the end of August and no-go. But, after several weeks of hard work, I finally succeeded and the elusive strict pull-up returned last week. It’s still a fight. It still eludes me if it’s not a great day. But I CAN do a strict pull-up again. Next up: link more together.

And since my back is ok, I’m also allowed to work on kipping again. RX Fran will come, one day.

5image1 (1). And the best thing about fall? Jess is back. Even though she now has the luxury (I’m sure she would phrase her new mom life in different terms ;)) of coming during the day and I only get to work out with her once every week or so, it’s so great to have her back.

The pics to the left I posted a few weeks back. Jess was at the gym on a Saturday during our gym’s competitive training class and was planning on doing her own thing. Then she saw the partner WOD and asked, “should I do this? I’m only doing it if you’re my partner.” I replied that she needed to ask coach, which she did, and got the go-ahead to do a modified version with me.

Well, that was the WOD when I PR’ed my clean (and as you can see, Jess captured the official ringing of the PR bell). I told Jess she was my good luck charm. After many months without her, it was so great to have my Crossfit bestie working out by my side. And of course, she crushed it. Jess might be scaling, but don’t let that fool you. She is still the rockstar she always was, and pushing her hardest every second.

More than that, she pushes me to do the same. And I think my favourite part of our first WOD together was during part 2, when I was doing pull-ups. Jess had never seen me do a kipping pull-up, let alone in a WOD before, so she gave me huge cheers every time she looked up and saw me do one. How can you not love a girl like that? Not to mention she now brings the boys to the gym so I have cute boys to cuddle with after who don’t mind the post-WOD stench. 😉

So, fall, you’ve been good to me so far. And I think there are more good things to come. And Jess – it is so great to have you back. Keep crushing it, one day at a time. You are a rockstar. Here’s to many more workouts with you by my side.

An Autumn Tea Party with my Crossfit BFF, Two Babes, and my incredible Crossfit Commuity

Shower3I am constantly blown away by the incredible people in my life that I’ve met through Crossfit. The community at our gym is made up of extremely talented, unique and  successful people who are exceedingly supportive of one another. It’s a common sight to see everyone in the gym stop what they are working on to cheer on a new comer or someone struggling through the last 15 reps of a WOD. It’s this community, and sense of unity that makes me feel so included and supported while perusing my goals at the gym. I am so thankful for all the friendships I’ve made since joining Alchemy Crossfit.

This past weekend, Hilary threw me the most adorable baby shower and many of our wonderful Crossfitting friends attended. The day reinforced for me how fortunate I am to have such solid people in my life and friendships that now transcend the gym atmosphere. The funny thing about Crossfit is that it unites those with the will to work hard, even though we all come from different occupations, are different ages, and come from different backgrounds. In one small space we have accountants, pilots, doctors, firefighters, lawyers, teachers, stay at home moms and students all working towards common challenging goals. It’s incredible how Crossfit attracts a certain personality; one that values perseverance, honesty and integrity.

Okay, okay enough about how much I love my Crossfit friends… let me tell you about the fantastic baby shower Hilary threw for the boys! Two words: Tea. Party.

Hilary likes purple, oh, and pink, and generally anything that’s frilly or could be described as ‘adorable’ (which is why she is so fond of my little men!) ;). So throwing a tea party/bridal shower is totally her jam and let me tell you- she did such a fantastic job! The food was incredible (especially the date squares), the games were fun (really, shower games, fun!), the tea was fantastic as were the 28 assorted teacups available for filling :). My two little guys were passed around like hot potatoes while I was able to enjoy the afternoon chatting with friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you Hilary for the wonderful day and memories. Your hard work and creativity were so appreciated.  And thank you to all my wonderful friends who came to support Chris, Dawson, Corbin and myself. We are so grateful for you all.

xo Jess

#tbt …to that time I started CrossFit

Jess and I at our first competition together a year ago - my how far we've come!

Jess and I at our first competition together a year ago – my how far we’ve come!

I hope you’re ready for some nostalgia. Because, as crazy as it is to think about it, this week marks two whole years since I (Hilary) started CrossFit! It’s also been a year since we started this blog, and a year ago last weekend, Jess and I did our first CrossFit competition together…crazytown!

In the spirit of #tbt, here’s a post I wrote reflecting on year one of Crossfit (which was incidentally also our very first post). And I decided to keep the nostalgia/#tbt theme going (it is Thursday after all) by creating a list of things I never would have believed if you told me two years ago before I was the CrossFitter I am today.

So here goes. If you had told me two years ago that:

  • I would have found a “workout” that I would look forward to and enjoy
  • I would be one of “those people” who spends all their spare time at the gym (and love every minute of it….well ok, not EVERY minute. I hate the minutes that I do split squats)
  • I’d be planning my life around my gym schedule
  • A large part of my social circle would be filled with my “gym friends”
  • Some of the people I now consider some of my best friends would be people I met at the gym
  • I would be able to do multiple “non-girl” push-ups, handstands, climb a rope, and do pull-ups (even if my strict pull-ups have temporarily gone away)
  • I would have an understanding and appreciation of the beauty and technicality of Olympic lifting
  • I would find challenging myself and pushing myself harder than I ever had before the most relaxing and rewarding part of my day
  • I would learn to love lifting heavy
  • I would be working out not to look a certain way, but because I love how it makes me feel
  • I would see myself as an athlete
  • I would consider myself strong and might actually be good at some things in CrossFit
  • I would start thinking about food not in terms of what I could and couldn’t eat to look a certain way, but what it would do for me and how it would fuel my performance
  • ..and along the way I’d lose over 20 pounds and totally change the way I look
  • I would actually be happy with my body, the way it looks, and more importantly, what it can do
  • I would find having a bigger butt and broad shoulders desirable
  • That multiple people would tell me I was inspiration to them
  • I would be asked to speak at an evening on physical fitness
  • People would refer to me as their “strong” or “athletic” friend
  • I would frequently be covered in bruises (*it is to be noted that I bruise EXTREMELY easily…as Jess says “all I have to do is look at you the wrong way and you bruise”), have calluses and torn hands, and not care at all
  • I would spend extra time and money doing CrossFit competitions in my free time…and love every second of it
  • I would fit in, belong, and feel like an important member of a community made of up “fit people”
  • The coaches at my gym would be some of the people who know me best
  • I would consider my gym one of my favourite things about the new city that I moved to. And wouldn’t leave it for the world.
  • I would push myself to do tough athletic feats, and constantly amaze myself

….I don’t think I would have believed you. But, here I stand, 2 years into my “CrossFit career,” and I am so happy to be wrong. This may be cheesy, it may be cliched, but CrossFit has changed my life. It has made me a better person in so many ways.

It has showed me that you can achieve any dream through a lot of hard work.

It has taught me to never give up on the dream, even in the face of defeat, and months and months of seemingly progress. That just when you think you’ll never make it, then there’s a breakthrough.

It’s taught me that injuries and setbacks can be frustrating, but through them, there’s much to be learned that can have a huge payoff in due time.

And of course, CrossFit brought me and Jess together. Our friendship would be worth it for that alone, even without all the other stuff I just wrote about.

So CrossFit, it’s been a great two years. Here’s to many, many more. I can’t wait to get stronger, set more PRs, learn more lessons, make more friends and maybe, just maybe, do a muscle-up someday…? 😉

Back at it!

So last Tuesday (September 8) was a big day in the life of both of the two babes: Hilary went back to school after the summer off (I know, I know – NO sympathy for the teacher life) and Jess went back to CrossFit for the first time since becoming Mom to Corbin and Dawson – that’s right folks – only one month and 4 days post-delivery (but we already knew she was a rockstar).

To mark the occasion, we’re doing something we haven’t done in a while: co-authoring a

First day selfies - 2 of them since I have 2 different schools.

First day selfies – 2 of them since I have 2 different schools.

post! I (Hilary) will tackle the first part of the post, which is tips for fitting CrossFit into a jampacked life, and Jess will share with us what it’s been like to be back at the gym as a new mom.

So, to start things off, it’s safe to say I like CrossFit A LOT. In addition to classes, I also have my own lifting program (strength and skills) I work on 4 days a week, so I spend a lot of time at the gym. But it’s not the only thing I do. There’s church and the commitments that go with it (playing cello, events, community dinners, small group), my two nieces who live just around the corner (and their parents) who I like to see/babysit for free on occasion, trying to maintain some sort of a social life, keeping Jess fed so she can feed those two boys of hers (trust me, it’s almost a full time job ;)), oh, yeah, and that full time job thing I have.

So I may not have kids of my own to chase around but, suffice it to say, I’m not bored. The gym could easily take a back seat without prioritizing, planning, and organization. But somehow I manage to make it happen. Top Tips:

Lay out your clothes. Whether that means the night before if you’re an early morning gym goer, or packing up your gym bag in your car before you go to work so you can hit the gym on the way home (I do both), get yourself organized ahead of time. If your gear is ready to go, that’s one excuse you no longer have for not making it.

Plan your meals. Food is a HUGE part of the equation to any avid CrossFitter. Try to WOD or lift on an empty stomach and you’ll end up seriously hangry. I cook a lot on the weekends (see this post for more) so I can quickly throw together suppers and pack a healthy lunch when I’m home late from the gym. I try to go into each week with some form of protein, carb and veggies prepped so I can easily mix and match. I also like to make my own homemade protein bars that I cut into mini portions for a pre-6 AM WOD or to eat on my way from work if I’m headed to the gym in the afternoon. (Follow me on Pinterest if you’d like to check out some recipes).

Be on top of breakfast too. I try to have healthy muffins made in the freezer, as well as slices of my go-to recipe for baked oatmeal (also on Pinterest). Or there’s Jess’s great oatmeal post, an my ode to oats has some oat-standing (sorry, I had to) ideas too. If you’ve got even 5 minutes at night, you can cut up some fruit, take out a muffin, or put some yogurt in a container. A few extra steps ahead of time help streamline your morning in a big way, which sets you up for success when it comes to making healthy choices to fuel your day, and your workouts.

Remember why you do this. This is just to say that when you’re busy, on the go, and involved in different things, it’s easy for the gym to just feel like “one more thing you have to do.” Always remember the why. Remember how you feel after a workout. Remember that this is something you do for YOU. Sure, it takes extra effort and planning. But I wouldn’t trade CrossFit for the world. The value to my physical and mental health is immeasurable. Plus, I find that all that extra organization required to fit in gym time helps me stay on top of all the different things I’m trying to juggle.

___________

Hey, it’s Jess. As mentioned, this past week I pulled up my socks and went back to Alchemy Crossfit. Back to the barbell… this time with two babes of my own. After spending the past two months basically indoors with very little activity (other than that whole ‘birth’ thing), I feel more than ready to get back to the gym.

Postpartum my cardio is shot, my abs are stretched beyond belief, my arms resemble noodles and I just generally feel ‘slow’.  Since getting home with the boys I’ve been trying to get active again by going for walks, hikes, squatting, handstand holds against my walnut tree in the backyard, grocery shopping (a newfound WOD if twins are in tow). The other day my husband walked in the bathroom to find me naked on the floor doing pushups… it was clear it was time to go back.

I’m a goal oriented person. Always have been. It was important to me that I set clear boundaries and realistic objectives. After all, I am still technically healing from childbirth and want to stay safe and make smart choices that make me stronger, not set me back. So, the first objective for me was to clearly define what, when, and how I should approach workouts. I decided to mainly focus on three basic movements that I felt would enable me to regain a good base as I eased back into a routine: Handstands, Pullups and Rowing. Handstands because my core is basically non-existent and I want to regain all my stabilizer muscles that I’ve lost. Handstands will enable me to ease back into overhead lifts once I feel strong again. Pullups because I have so little upper body strength. I am focusing on strict pullups, deadhangs and other slow and deliberate accessory work. Rowing is an awesome low impact movement that will really help my cardio. With endless variations on full body intensity, and power output I truly believe that rowing is one of the best movements to focus on in Crossfit.

So I’ve just finished Day Two of my return. How was it? Oh I can barely hold a handstand for 30 seconds, my hands are raw from the bar, my wrists are burning and my arms feel a bit stiff, but on the whole it feels pretty darn awesome. Yes, it’s hard to look at the barbell and only see 10’s on either side, and it’s hard to remember how effortless strict pullups or pushups used to feel. When I feel down, I remind myself of what I am capable of and how lucky I am to have had my twins. I realize that it won’t come back quickly, and that it’s going to take a lot of work and dedication. But I’m always up for a challenge, and nothing worth having comes easy.

Simple Coconut Milk and Honey Oatmeal

I have a confession. Until recently, I thought Oatmeal was something that came in small sugar filled packets that you added hot water to in desperation if there was no bacon or eggs in the fridge. The word ‘porridge’ made me cringe. This all changed when Hilary’s sister brought me over oatmeal for breakie shortly after I got home with the twins from the hospital (She’s pretty amazing, just like her sister!). She used this recipe from Weelicious: http://weelicious.com/2015/07/09/coconut-cream-baked-oatmeal-recipe/

Since then, I’ve been making this oatmeal every morning, and tweaking the recipe. I think I may have finally created the ultimate morning oatmeal. It’s super quick, easy and delicious. Give it a try!

oatmealCoconut Milk and Honey Oatmeal

Serves 6, or one hungry Crossfitter. Bake time: 40mins  Prep Time: 12 hours

1 Can Coconut Milk (398 ml)

3 eggs

Tbsp Vanilla

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup water

2 cups Steel Cut Oats

Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

2 Peaches

Okay, don’t freak out but the porridge is a two- step process. Prepare your porridge the night before you’re planning on baking it. The delicious concoction needs time to set before baking.

Grease a 8″ square pan with coconut oil. In a large bowl, mix together Coconut Milk, Eggs, Vanilla, Honey and Maple Syrup. Add oats, and water, mix thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan. Cut up your peaches into small chunks and place on top of the mixture. Sprinkle your shredded coconut on top. Seran Wrap that beauty and put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 375degrees, and bake for 40 minutes. (Smells great doesn’t it!?)

I like mine with a bit of milk, honey and more peaches cut up on top… garnish as you wish!

I encourage you to read one of Hilary’s posts: An Ode to Oats while you enjoy your PR-fueling breakfast.

xo Jess