A Tale of Two Opens

Well, another Cimage1 (3)rossFit Open is behind us. And, as I alluded to last week, I’m not entirely sorry to see it end. The Open is super-great, I think it’s really cool, and I love how it brings together the CrossFit community from all over the world. I’m definitely not sorry I did it.

But, much like last year, I was ready for it to come to a close. I won’t miss all the mind games, messing around with scheduling, picking and choosing movements to do or avoid based on what had or hadn’t come up. I’m looking forward to settling back into routine, starting a new lifting program, and focusing on other goals besides my standing on the leaderboard.

So, as promised last week, here is my Open summary post. The cool thing about not only participating in the Open two years ago but also blogging about it is that in addition to my scores and recollections, I have an actual written record to go on from one year to another. As I was writing all of my “16 on” series this year, I looked back on what I posted a year ago, and thought it would be cool to reflect back on my first two CrossFit Opens, to see what has changed, how I’ve grown, and what’s stayed the same.IMG_5306

Comparison number 1 is the first pair of pictures: me during an Open
WOD in 2015 and then during 16.2 this year (please ignore the horrible form on the clean/
give me some grace as it was during the last 10 seconds of the WOD. Also, how awesome is that pain face?).

Related to that is another comparison photo: On top my hand, casualty of T2B from 15.1 (and another T2B WOD the day before), bottom is this year, Easter Sunday, the day after completing the Open.

Why the comparison you ask? It’s not to say I ripped last year and not this year (although that’s great and true). It’s not to show off my Easter nails (although if you know me the fact that I painted my own nails and it doesn’t look like a 5 year-old did it is quite an accomplishment). It’s not a promo for Starbucks’ caramelized honey latte (pretty tasty though). Look at the ring. Same one in both photos. Index finger in 2015, and now it’s on the middle finger. Basically, it was getting too loose and I now have to wear it on a whole other finger!!! I’ll spare you body transformation details (read about it here if you haven’t) but it’s good to have tangible reminders of just far you’ve come, especially when it’s not new or fresh anymore.

And on the T2B front, I’d say that is one area where I’ve progressed SO MUCH from 2015 to 2016. I still can’t kip them (oh, to be able to kip things efficiently….). But, just think on this: 15.1 was a 9 minute AMRAP of 15 T2B, 10 deadlifts and 5 snatches. My score was 37. Meaning I did 22 T2B total, and if I had to guess, I’d say that was about 7 minutes of the whole workout.

This year: 16.2 was the whole T2B, DU, squat clean ladder. I almost made it past the first round, with a score of 87 I was just 3 cleans short (I still am hungry to re-do that one). But in that 4 minutes, I got through 25 T2B, 50 DU and 12 cleans. Wow. Just reading that comparison is a huge perspective-getter for me. I all-too-easily get down on myself and frustrated with what I perceive as lack of progress (especially when it comes to gymnastics movements). But when I see it right there in black and white, it’s hard to deny – I have come a long way.

Attitude is another thing that was different this year. I’d say that going into the Open this year, I actually felt a bit more nervous and anxious. It was because in 2015, it was my first Open and I had nothing to compare it to. This year, going in, I knew how hard I’d worked in the last year, I knew how I’d done a year ago, and I knew that I wanted to do better.

I think I’ve shared before my “CrossFit Philosophy: ” Assume that you suck at everything, and when you don’t, it’s a nice surprise. And I think that I’m just not used to being good at things, so when I have expectations, I stress myself out (I have no idea if that makes any sense). I’d rather go in with expectations low and surprise myself, than to get my hopes up and be disappointed.

So, going in, I got all psyched up, but once the Open started, I would say that overall I felt much more chill than last year. When I didn’t get a C2B during 16.1, yeah sure I was disappointed. But I didn’t quite plunge to the same depths as after failing to get a pull-up during 15.2 last year. There were a lot of things I wish I could have done better or differently, or made more progress in a year. But, at the end of the day, just as my 15.2 post was entitled: We’re doing this for fun.

image2 (2)

I LOVE this picture that my amazingly talented CrossFit friend Matt captured during the Open (week of 16.4 I believe). We’ll call it “Keep Calm, it’s just the Open. 1. Because it proves not all of my “Open faces” are terrifying (see 16.2 face above). 2. Because it was totally spontaneous and just captures the feeling of joy I have doing something I love with some of the most awesome people I know.

That doesn’t mean I have to lie or pretend I am always 100% satisfied with my performance. It just means that at the end of the day, I am getting better at shaking it off and moving on. With greater time spent in any sport comes greater perspective and maturity as an athlete. And, although I did ride the emotional highs and lows of the Open rollercoaster, I think this year I did a better job of remembering that age-old adage: Keep Calm, it’s just the Open.

Preparation-wise, I’d say the 2 months of Open Prep I did paid off in some regards. Gymnastics is still a glaring weakness (actual words of my coach – we are obviously now beyond the point of him trying to make me feel good when we are evaluating performance and goal-setting). I did a lot of work on HSPUs and C2B pull-ups, and yes, I’m disappointed that I didn’t do either one of them in the Open this year.

But gas tank-wise, I’d say the Open prep I did was really helpful. I got used to doing the “staple Open movements” (think rowing, thrusters, box jumps (although they never showed up), DUs, oly lifts, wall balls, burpees) under fatigue. So when they came up in the Open, it seemed almost like another day of training.

I also learned (again) that I am somewhat of a CrossFit anomaly in that I secretly love all those long, supposedly soul-crushing WODs that everyone else hates (read rowing/thrusters in 15.5 and thrusters/burpees in 16.5). I have great pacing ability, a pretty decent gas tank, a love for long workouts/a good grind, and enjoy WODS that are low skill, just requiring grit, mental toughness and repetitive movements. Both after 15.5 and 16.5, I felt like, what was the big deal? That’s what all the fuss was about?

One cool thing about 2016 vs. 2015 is that I submitted 5 scores RX this year. Granted, some were pretty low/I did the scaled version to get a workout in after submitting my RX score, but still, it is kind of neat to say I did the whole Open RX (although I still struggle with the whole RX vs scaling on some weeks and whether it’s in the “spirit of the Open” (whatever that means)…guess it just depends on your goals).

I have also learned, through 2 Opens, that progress, for me, is slow, but it is there. I have yet to get “my first ____________” during the Open, last year or this year (True, 15.1 was my first time RXing an entire T2B WOD, but not my actual first T2B). No C2B pull-up, handstand push-up, muscle-up (bar or otherwise) happened for me. And if I spend a lot of time thinking about it, I can get pretty upset (which is why I try not to).

That’s also why I posted a shout-out on Facebook after 16.3 to everyone who DIDN’T get their first bar muscle-up. I think it’s so cool all the people who did, and how the Open pushes people and all that, and I’m not trying to take anything away from them. But, reality is, it’s just not going to happen for a lot of us. And if you make the Open all about those elusive, magical moments that may or may not happen, you can set yourself up for disappointment (need I remind you of post 15.2 caverns of despair?).

If you’re showing up and doing the Open workouts each week, you win. If you’re working hard, chipping away at weaknesses, and grinding day in and day out no matter what season it is, that is the big victory. Don’t let 5 WODs and your ability (or lack thereof) define you.

 

Thanks to all who made this Open possible:

Dave Castro for your crazy Open announcement antics and the fodder it provided amongst CrossFit friends and on social media (I’m just going to hold back my opinion for now).

All those CrossFit friends: for the great Thursday night text conversations, cheers and camaraderie at the Saturday Open parties, and just generally being the awesome people that you are.

CrossFit friend Matt who took all the awesome Open photos at our gym this year, capturing my crazy pain and insanely happy faces, as well as designing some kick-a** t-shirts for our team.

CrossFit friend Kellee who forced/encouraged me to write Open update posts again this year when I didn’t think that I would.

CrossFit friend Kim for all the words of encouragement, being a (loving and honest) form judge, and all those post-WOD food and drink celebrations (which were much-needed).

All the coaches at Alchemy. Duncan for kicking my butt with 2 months of Open prep and unfailing honesty when it comes to assessing where I’m at. Broder for never letting me settle for less than I’m capable of (especially when it comes to kettlebells). Craig for encouragement/always making me laugh/reminding me to pull up my pants during 16.2 ;). Alex for your awesome countdown/pacing during 16.4. And Janet for captaining our awesome team (we should’ve won!) and great strategy advice each week.

So, with that, Open 2016 is officially a wrap. I made it through, with triumph and disappointment and a few bumps in the road, but ultimately I survived to WOD another day.

I’m ready to tackle a new lifting program starting this week and do a partner comp with  Kim at the end of the month (stay tuned for updates on both), and just generally shake off the Open crazies and get back to normal.

CrossFit Open, I’ll see you in 2017. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a heavy barbell I want to get back to and some gymnastics work to do.

 

 

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Postpartum Crossfit

Hey friends. The boys are 7 months old now and I realize that I haven’t posted in a while (thank you Hilary for carrying this blog!). There have been some persistent requests for a ‘Postpartum Post’ and I haven’t felt ready to post until now. So here’s my last 7 months, in a nutshell. I’ll touch on PP recovery, life with new twins, postpartum depression, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, athletic ability and my efforts to regain my fitness. If you’re a pregnant athlete, trying, or have a new hatchling at home, I hope some of my learnings will help you through the rough patches or maybe help you feel understood. So here it is, in raw honesty, from one mother to another.

jdc

The Realities of Parenthood 

Excelling in a high performance sport requires surprisingly few components. Dedication, drive/willpower, time, adequate rest and recovery, and proper nutrition/caloric intake… okay and maybe a bit of talent. This formula was always simple for me throughout my life: Food + Rest + Time + Passion/Hard Work = Success and Achievement  …Simple enough, right?

When I found out that my husband and I were expecting twins, I figured I would just add in ‘+ adorable twins’ somewhere in my equation and it would still be hunky dorey. We’ve all heard of supermoms- they exist, right? Reality hit hard last August. I crossfitted throughout pregnancy until 7months when I was just too large to be proficiently and comfortably mobile. I had had a great pregnancy and felt fantastic.

My sons were born at 34w3d, six weeks early, presumably due to a lack of space. Both were born very healthy with APGARS of 9 and 10, they had to stay in the NICU for 5 weeks until they were big enough to feed on their own.These weeks were challenging to say the least but my husband and I left the hospital with our boys ready to take on the world. Life was easy and thrilling. They fed every 3 hours and slept in between. I could do things. I had time. The newness of parenthood was exhilarating and I started back at the gym when they were 6 weeks old. I would bring the boys in their stroller and while they slept I would work out. I took things slow at first and really enjoyed the Bootcamp classes my gym offered. They are programed in 1 minute stations so I could push myself as hard as I wanted to depending on how I was feeling that day. I was tired, and adjusting to motherhood and sleeping in 2.5 hour intervals, but with the boys sleeping in between their feeds, I was guaranteed this 2.5 hours of rest around the clock. Being a mother was so amazing, and I cherished my new sons immensely but I was also determined not to toss out my passions and interests for the job title of Mother. Don’t get me wrong my kids definitely came first, but I was also determined to be an awesome wife to my husband and also take time to look after myself!

Then they woke up (“It’s aliiiive!”). Hello 4 months! Around month 4 the boys started to spend more time awake during their feedings. They were now awake during the day and during the night. My 2.5 hours of rest between feeds became 2 hours, then 1 hour, then 15 minutes. If one boy was awake, the other was asleep. They seemed to tag team screaming matches, and my husband and I even joked that there seemed to be a buzzer in their nursery that went off if one of our heads hit a pillow. It was constant. I became a breastfeeding zombie. All I thought about was sleep, and my immediate yearning and desperate desire for some of it, just a little bit, anything really, took over my consciousness. My need for sleep became a powerful all consuming obsession. I started to analyze every movement I took. Could I save some energy by only eating while laying down? How could I minimize my walking steps? I read countless books on twins and scheduling. How to keep them on the same schedule, when they would start syncing more, when I could expect the fabled ‘sleeping through the night’.  Would or could the demands of breastfeeding actually kill me? I dropped off the map. I turned my phone off. Friends started to comment that I was a ‘hermit’. They didn’t understand. I was in survival mode. I took my earplugs out only to shower and to sleep. The few days that I felt like trying to go out with the boys I went to the grocery store. I quickly came to feel like a walking freak show. It seemed that everyone walking by me while I pushed my double stroller and pulled a cart had something nasty to say: ‘Oh double trouble!’, or ‘You’ve really got your hands full! I don’t envy you!’ or (my favorite) ‘Twins!? My condolences’. I started to hate everybody. It had taken me 2 hours to get the boys ready, loaded and into the grocery store. I felt a bit of accomplishment… I was doing something! Only to be heckled by strangers, stared at or harassed. This all sounds dramatic, but I assure you I’m serious. December and January were months I’d like to forget and I now understand why sleep deprivation is used for torture.

During this time I obviously did not go to the gym. I vividly remember my last visit around month 3.5. I had been ‘back’ for about a month and a half and I was desperately trying to do a set of thrusters during a WOD when I simply had to stop and basically collapsed on the floor. The realization that my body was not physically able to exert any more energy was crushing for my psyche. I had slept 3 hours total the night before and I felt that I had sacrificed so much becoming a mother that all I wanted was one hour away from the house, doing something for me and now it seemed impossible. I craved that endorphin rush after a great WOD, and the alertness I once felt at the gym. I needed something positive to motivate me and was truly crushed with the inconvenient truth of what was to come. My husband and I were running on all cylinders and there was no time or energy left for anything other than breastfeeding and caring for our two babies.

I think it was late December when I started to loose my milk. Looking back, I realize it was because I was eating so poorly and in such a sleep deprived state that I had completely lost my appetite. At the time I felt like it must have been some sort of cruel joke. I didn’t care about eating, I didn’t care about bathing, or changing my clothes or anything other than making it through the day and feeding my precious little boys. When my milk supply started to go, I truly hit an all time low. I was trying my very best, and now I couldn’t even feed my hungry babies. I went to see the doctor. My husband was concerned I was suffering from Postpartum depression and we needed some advice. I actually started to believe that my sleep deprivation would kill me. There were times that my husband would have to hold me up because I was too weak to stand. I constantly walked into doorways and felt like I was drifting. I dreaded when he went to work for his 24 hour shifts because it meant I was alone. Alone with two demanding boys without a second to sit down. If they did sleep I was busy resetting the house for their next wake. His parents helped out as much as possible, but I still had to feed every 3 hours. I was determined to breastfeed and really did not want to resort to formula. ‘I could do it!’, I thought. Even if it killed me, I wanted to keep trying.

The doctor explained that sometimes PPD leads to the sleep deprivation, and sometimes its the sleep deprivation that leads to PPD. I explained my feelings and symptoms and he felt that I had started down the later path. We agreed to meet weekly to discuss how I was doing, and I reluctantly agreed to try supplementing formula for one night feed. My husband and I made a more concrete plan with his parents and we all took turns for the next 4 weeks during the days to reduce the workload. My husband also started pre-cooking hearty meals that we froze so that I could just pop them in the microwave and eat when I had time. I became proficient at breastfeeding and eating. Actually, I became proficient with breastfeeding while doing anything. Walking, cleaning, laundry, peeing, brushing my teeth. The formula helped me regain a bit of my milk supply, and I was pumping in between feedings to try and stimulate more production. In the end my milk came back, but it was extremely tough. Looking back, I’m so glad I stuck with it.

Nearing the end of January, my husband and I were on a serious schedule with the boys. Every minute was analyzed and planned. With twins, you truly don’t have the luxury of ‘on demand’ feeding or sleeping. If there’s no schedule, there’s no predictability. The boys started to sync and were sleeping and eating at the same times. We had it down to a very fine art. We started to sleep more. FOUR HOURS! What a glorious thing. I remember sleeping for four hours in a row one day and feeling like a million bucks.

Fast forward to today. Mid-March and although the boys don’t sleep through the night (I’ve yet to actually meet these fabled children who do by the way), they do sleep long stretches at night. They go to bed around 8pm, wake at 2am to feed, and then 6:30am to feed and wake up for the day. They nap for one hour at 10:00am, and two hours between 1:00-3:00pm. We have an awesome schedule and we are enjoying life again. I’ve heard and read that with twins, people say that ‘the clouds part at around 6-7 months’. I think 7 months was our lucky number, and I’m so glad for it. My family is happy and healthy and I look forward to each new day.

The Inconvenient Truth

I started back seriously at the gym about a month ago. 3-4 days a week was my goal; Get out and move. It’s been a whole new experience returning as a mother. I’ve learned a lot about my body and the demands of crossfit. Hopefully some of my hard won battles can save you some toil…

It was obvious after my twins were born that my equation was now drastically altered and needed some serious revisions.  Food + Rest + Time + Passion/Hard Work = Success. If I wanted to Crossfit, I’d have to increase my food intake, ensure I was resting (ha), and set aside enough time to warm up, WOD and cool down properly. All these things were basics, but seemed a feat of strength in themselves! Throw the demands of breastfeeding in the mix and I seriously had to reconsider what I was doing. Breastfeeding requires an exorbitant amount of energy. Breastfeeding twins requires an outrageous amount of energy, especially because I’m naturally a lean person. I’m talking requirements of more than 3000- 4000 calories daily while working out. I’ve had to do some research on the feasibility of building muscle mass while breastfeeding. Are these two activities just incompatible? If going to the gym was going to reduce my milk supply, I knew I wouldn’t chance it. Feeding my kids is obviously more important than my fitness goals.

New Body, Old Tricks (and it ain’t like riding a bike)

It has taken me a while to accept that I’ve returned to the gym in a different body than I left. A different body with different abilities and capabilities. I’ve had to learn some serious self compassion, patience and hardest of all, I’ve learned to toss out old PRs, and expectations and replace them for new and more realistic goals (and not secretly still yearn for my old PRs). I guess I somehow expected to walk back into the gym and take off where I left off. The thing is, pregnancy changes your body- a lot. Everyone’s body changes differently and I’m no biologist by any means, so all I can tell you for sure is how it changed mine. I’m not quite sure where to start because it literally feels like I’m in a completely different shell, but I suppose I could start with my skeleton. Everything stretched wider, splayed and stayed wider after birth. My hips are two inches wider to be exact (totally killing my once fab summer wardrobe btw), and my ribs are almost three inches wider. I’ve read that this is because the ligaments that hold everything together, especially the pelvis stretch and relax to prepare for childbirth due to the hormone relaxin. During the later months in pregnancy, my abdominal tendons stretched and separated, this is called Diastasis Recti and is very common. If I do a crunch, I can stick two fingers in between my abdominal muscles- yeah, it’s weird. Basically it feels as though the ligaments and muscles in my abdominal wall that used to hold in my guts don’t do their job anymore. My guts feel ‘loose’ if that makes any sense. With my coaches guidance, I’ve been working on strengthening my core and regaining much of the stability that I lost… although I can tell you I still have a ways to go to rocking a six pack… I’ve got a two-pack at the moment. If you’re interested, there’s a great article on abdominal health postpartum here:  http://www.befitmom.com/postnatal.php . In addition to my muscular and skeletal changes, I’ve also started to sprout grey hair (…I’m 26), I’ve noticed wrinkles starting to form (gah!), and I just generally feel ‘older’. It’s hard to describe but I truly feel that pregnancy ages you. You have to give a bit of yourself up to receive the most beautiful gift of all! (All wrinkles in the world are totally worth it for my boys 🙂 ).

So what do these changes mean? Well, they mean that my ‘old tricks’ don’t come as easy as they used to. I have to work harder to achieve goals. My body doesn’t tone as quickly, recovery is much slower and that building muscle is more challenging than before. It means that I’m back to basics. I have an extremely weak core, and even weaker noodle legs. Luckily carrying around two growing boys has helped my wrist, grip and forearm strength bounce back which is awesome. I figure at this rate, I’ll basically look like Popeye in a year if nothing else changes. Whatever I’ll take it.

Oh right, boobs. I have those now. Although I’m now proficient at C2B pullups (hey, an extra couple of inches does wonders), all that milk production is really making it difficult for me to make serious gains. Yeah, we are back to that old conundrum of the incompatibility of gaining muscle mass while breastfeeding. Turns out you can build muscle, it’s just very difficult to do and you have to eat A LOT. My twins feed every three hours, and so do I. I am constantly eating. I wake up at 5am to eat, and then go back to sleep for an hour before the boys wake up. I eat dinner with my husband, fill my plate with more food than he does, and STILL COOK AND EAT A FULL MEAT LASAGNA TO MYSELF afterwards. I drink (get this) 12+ litres of chocolate milk a week. Not. Even. Joking. Costco is a magical place for me. So much meat and milk. Even with all this intake, it’s still difficult for me to build mass. I weigh about 6 lbs more than I did before I got pregnant, but I realize that my body needs this bodyfat store for nursing. I will add that I’m fairly certain that if I got more sleep, I wouldn’t have to eat as much. My husband and I have a tendency to replace missed sleep with food. Tired? Go drink a litre of chocolate milk. That’ll keep ya goin’ for at least another two hours.

My lifts are slowly recovering and I’m taking lifting very slowly. I’m not chasing any numbers, I’m just working on regaining my overall strength and stability. My main focus is bodyweight movements. My goals include: getting my strict pullups back, a 4:45 Baseline WOD (I’m at about 6:00 right now… damn push ups), and a muscle up by July 1. I’m currently competing in the Open for fun and have a competition lined up for this summer. 🙂 Going back to basics has been a blessing as I’ve been able to work on my technique and concentrate on form. Learned skills like HSPU are coming back now, but my strength and overall cardio/conditioning still needs a bit of work!

A Change in Perspective

The biggest change postpartum by far has been mentally and emotionally. The competitive aspect of Crossfit has taken a back seat to my desire to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. The sport has shifted from my passion, to a rung in the ladder of my wellbeing. My children and husband take the front seat in my life now, but Crossfit is still an investment in myself- for my continued health. I want to stay healthy and fit for my children and my husband. Plus being active feels pretty great. I’ve learned not to compare myself to others at the gym. They don’t necessarily have the same commitments that I do and can afford to maybe spend a bit more time at the gym and take on more demanding goals. My priorities have changed and so have my motivations. I’ve been really lucky to find Crossfit, and become a mother to two little dudes. I hope to continue to enjoy my time at the gym and reap the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle. xo Jess

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Special Thanks:  I wanted to give a special shout out to my amazing husband (who doesn’t even read this blog I’m pretty sure). You are the most incredible person I know.

Also special thanks to my friends at the gym, Alchemy Crossfit and the coaches there that have helped me through some of the most challenging months of my life. Sport is my therapy and you guys are my therapists. Thanks to Duncan, Broder, Craig and Janet for always making me feel empowered, motivated and making Crossfit seem possible again. Without you I would still have a one-pack. 😉

Further Reading:

http://games.crossfit.com/article/mother-first-athlete-second-tanya-wagner

http://kellymom.com/tandem-faq/04momnutrition/

http://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/body-changes-infographic

 

And suddenly, it’s the Open.

Well Hello there.

Sometimes, life gets busy. Sometimes you write a post or two for 2016, promise to come back and share about goals for 2016, then you’re packing, moving, writing report cards, trying to keep up with life, and all of a sudden it’s the week before the 2016 CrossFit Open and you haven’t written that post (that’s what happened to me, Hilary, if you couldn’t guess…).

Anyway, I’m still alive, still Crossfitting, Jess is still killing it as a mom to twins…just haven’t exactly been blogging much lately. But no matter. I still have goals to share, the Open to do (eek!…more on that in a minute), and life to catch up on.

So…about those goals. I’ve learned over my CrossFit career (going on 2.5 years now) that goals are useful and great to work towards, but I have to be careful. I’m all about the whole SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, time-bound) goals thing, but only to a point. It’s important to give yourself deadlines, and it’s ok to fail to meet them. BUT I have also learned about myself (from experience) that sometimes, if I focus TOO much on a goal, I can either end up injured or really really disappointed.

With that in mind, I came up with a list, and gave it to my coach back in January, that had a couple of sections.

  • Short Term
  • Keep working on…
  • Sometime in 2016…

So, short term I requested:

  • Prep for the Open (within my own programming). And, boy oh boy has he delivered on that one. I’ve said to several friends – I’ll either kill the Open or be dead by then!
  • A combination of things that were in the last two programs I worked on (heavy lifts with more accessory and tempo work)

Keep working on… (no specific timeline here):

  • Getting lats that work (it’s a never-ending quest!)
  • Correcting bad habits to fix lifts
  • Pistols
  • HSPUs

Sometime in 2016 (again no specific timeline):

  • Compete in an individual competition (I’ve only ever done team ones)
  • Handstand walk
  • Deadlift 300 pounds
  • Complete the old goal of RX Fran

So…a few words on the goals and then we’ll move on to the Open.

Lats: The longer I CrossFit, the more I want them. And the more I realize that they are holding me back in EVERYTHING (ok, not everything, but it sure seems that way sometimes), not just pull-ups. Bottom of my clean and snatch? Gotta engage those lats. Rounding out when deadlifts get heavy? Lats again. Oh, and if I engaged my lats, kipping my T2B could actually be a thing.

So I am forever doing accessory work and activation drills in addition to all the pull-up stuff I’m always working on (nearly one year later, I’m still not beyond one strict pull-up in a row). Oh lats, why do you elude me so?

As for fixing bad habits, I’m feeling stalled out on a lot of my lifts. And it’s not because I’m  not stronger. It’s all those little things I’m doing wrong, all the poor habits I’ve kept up over 2 and a half years of Crossfit. So, slowly but surely, I’m trying to break myself of them, fix my form, and hopefully, see my numbers go up.

Pistols and HSPUs: I’m just tired of not being able to do them. Once again, it’s not a strength thing. HSPUs I think are a lot about positioning and learning the movement. Pistols are about mastering control at the bottom. I’ve been doing some accessory work for both, so we’ll see how it comes along. right now I’m feeling somewhat frustrated, especially with the HSPU. Progress, as ever, is slow.

Competing in an individual competition scares me, which is part of why I want to do it. I have loved all of the partner/team competitions I’ve done, but I think I’m finally ready to try a competition on my own. Just to push myself to my limits, outside of my comfort zone, and know that at the end of the day, it’s just me and what I can do. I didn’t want to pick a deadline for this one because it’s hard to know when/where the right comp will come up.

Handstand walk: I’ve been working towards freestanding handstands for awhile now, and I’m getting close. It’s another thing I’m just chipping away at. I don’t desperately need to HS walk (it’s not like I’m headed for regionals, and it doesn’t exactly come up in WODs all that often)…it’s just another thing I want to be able to do.

The last two goals are leftover from last year: Deadlifting 300 pounds and RX Fran. I’m hoping the goal of fixing bad habits helps my DL dreams come true. I PR’ed in January at 285, and tried 300 a couple times. I know I’m close. I’ve just gotta fix all those nagging issues, and I’ve got this.

RX Fran. I am finally at the point where I actually believe I can do it (I didn’t for the longest time). If you told me tomorrow that I had to do an RX Fran, I could. It would be painfully slow, but I could finish. But my coach and I have agreed that it’s better to wait until I’m more competent at kipping to pull it off. The last thing I want to do is to do Fran for the sake of it and end up hurting myself.

So those are my 2016 goals in a nutshell. Of course, there are tons more numbers I want to hit, and things I want to accomplish. I could easily make a list twice as long. But you have to start somewhere, so that’s where I’m going for now.

Now, a few words on the Open…

As previously mentioned, I requested Open Prep from my coach. It’s consisted of little WODs and tests like 50 wall balls/box jumps/burpee box jumps for time…or 4 minutes max burpees/wall balls/etc. The WODs I’ve been doing have been designed to tire me out but try to keep good form. To say they’ve been kicking my butt is an understatement. I’ve also had a ton of gymnastics work (hello, my perennial weakness).

My coach told me he thought a C2B pull-up and possibly even a HSPU during the Open were possible. I felt like he was crazy for saying that. But I also thought he was crazy last year when he had me re-testing strict pull-ups every week, then I got my first one…so who knows? C2B feels possible, maybe…but the HSPU seem illusive.

So how am I feeling going into my second CrossFit Open? I’d be lying if I said totally awesome. I’ve had some max lift days not go great. And my DUs feel like they’re all over the place. And I honestly just wish I was better at a lot of things.

I think part of the problem is my CrossFit philosophy (I should work on changing that this year): Assume that you suck at everything and then it’s a nice surprise when you don’t. This is honestly how I feel. The problem now though, is that I don’t suck at everything. I work my butt off every day.

Going into something feeling like I might actually succeed or have a shot is a foreign feeling to me. And it’s scary. It’s scarier for me to think I’m good at something, because I’ve always just hidden behind the excuse of “I can’t.” Plus I think the fact that it’s my second Open, and I know how hard I’ve worked and how far I’ve come, I’m putting a lot more pressure on myself. Pressure to beat myself, to be better than last year.

This is when I have to chill, slow down, and remind myself of one of the most important lessons learned last year during the Open: we’re doing this for fun. I remind myself of this often, not just during Open season. CrossFit is a hobby, as such, it should be something enjoyable.

Also, deep breath, relax. You’ve got this. You’ve put in the hard work. Shake off the bad days. Don’t let them define you. Because, at the end of the day, Open WODs are just another workout.

So, CrossFit Open 2016: You simultaneously excite, inspire, and terrify me. Whether or not I’m ready, here you are.

Given my current posting track record, don’t expect the weekly check-ins like last year. But I will pop in now and then to chat about how things are going. And one way or another, we’ll all crush our goals and get through the Open together. And life will go on, C2B, HSPU, or not. We will all live to CrossFit another day.

 

 

 

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!

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).

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…? 😉