Friday, April 8, 2016

"I don't care about the weight on the scale - what's the weight on the bar?!"

So, as promised Blogland, this week I got to work with some new stuff - despite being a little sick.
I apparently got this annoying sort of head cold thing that hit me hard for like 24 hours, but was just a nagging stuffy sinus and such for a few days before and after. Happy to report I feel pretty much 100% again, going into this weekend (YAY!).

After spending Sunday recuperating from the powerlifting meet and trying to ward off the pending sickness with a lot of hot tea and good food, Monday meant I was back at it!

We officially started the Couch to 5K program. WOO! For me, I should probably put an (again) at the end of that sentence, but really just semantics, right?

Holly (who's fault this round of C25K is), Stacey and I got together and prepared for battle. Day 1 always seems like the hardest to me, as you're filled with "the unknown"... like, you don't know what it's going to be like, if you can do it, etc. etc.etc.... just question marks. But, I told myself that I should STFU, as at least I'd done this before and more or less knew what to expect (and knew I could do it), whereas Holly was on her first round of this program EVER. She was the only one who got to be nervous on Day 1.

Despite "waiting until Spring" to start our C25K, April 4th graced us with 32 degree temperatures, snow in the air, and ice on the ground. This is not the ideal way I'd introduce a budding runner to running... but, at least it'd all be better from there?

Day 1: 32 degrees and icy! DONE!
I was set up to be the "pacer" for this running expedition, who'd note the walk and jog segments. That's a big responsibility people. Try not to run to fast, don't run too slow, geesh. Since it was Day 1, I went at a real easy 13ish minute pace, so everyone could figure out where we were at. I'm happy to report that (despite dodging ice puddles), I was easily able to complete the minute intervals of running that Day 1 required. Perhaps all my worrying about being so huge and running were unfounded?

Stacey, our entertainment for the run, kept us all laughing and amused, while we got through the work. Holly - our newbie - completed D1 like a boss, with no complaints, no real struggles, and all smiles at the end (maybe I didn't run fast enough!?). Mission accomplished!


I took it easy on CrossFit this week, as my body/breathing just weren't up to speed, but Holly and I then caught at Zumba class on Wednesday.

I admit... I phoned that one in HARD. I thought I felt okay going into it, but as soon as we started moving, my body was like EFFFF this. I had no ooomph, definitely no jumpy-jumpy's, and zero sass. I gave it all I had at that moment... which was probably like 50% of normal. I still got the blood moving a little bit for like 55 minutes, broke a little bit of a sweat... but man, that was rough. Sometimes, Blogland, it's just about showing up and going through the motions.
I definitely went home, hydrated a lot, and then went to bed super early. Always listen to your body!!!


I woke up Thursday morning feeling 100% better. Nothing like a good sleep (and a lot of tea with honey) to get you fixed up.

Holly modeling "monsoon wear"
Still took it easy and skipped bootcamp and such, but Thursday was slated for Day 2 of C25k, so I dutifully spandexed up for an easy romp through the cool weather. It was only drizzling on and off when we started, so all seemed well. I generally find it pleasant running in the rain, as did Holly and Stacy, so it seemed like it was going to be a good day.

D2 is the same workout as D1, so there were a lot less nerves going into this one. We'd all done day 1, we just needed to do it again! Inadvertently, I set a bit of a faster pace (around a 12 min/mile) this time, driven on by the rain I think. Nonetheless, my partners in crime kept right up and we completed our session without incidents or complaints, under a slightly rainy and grey sky.

Where we run is about 1/4 mile walk away from Holly's house. We had literally reached the end of our path, could see her house a 1/4 mile in the distance.... and the sky opened up.
This is my, "shit, it's sleeting!" face
Wk 1, Day 2: DONE! (with the pelting rain in the back...)
The rain (now cold) was driving down and blowing nearly sideways, soaking us through, in a matter of seconds. As we rushed for cover (Holly said, "I think I've got one more run interval in me!!"), it began to solidify and pelt us with sleet? hail? That was... not comfortable.  Seriously, at risk of sounding cliche, it was coming down in BUCKETS. The jacket that was "water resistant" enough to keep out the light rain we'd be running through, suddenly took on water like the Titanic, soaking me to the skin.
Thankfully, Holly's mom pulled up in her car to rescue us! YAY!
We were definitely wet, and getting cold... but Wk 1, Day 2 - DONE!

 Tomorrow, we take on Day 3 to finish out our first week and I couldn't be happier. It feels really good to be out running again (Dare I say, I missed it?). It is also nowhere near as awful feeling as I thought it was going to be at this weight. Just goes to show you people, you can run/get fit/workout at whatever weight you want, as long as you pick the right plan. So far, C25K has been really accessible and the intervals gradually get longer, so you have plenty of time to adjust. Assuming I stay on plan, we should finish up around mid-June and start prepping for a 5K race milestone! (MORE MEDALS!!!!!! AND T-SHIRTS!!!!)


After a mild week, with just a little C25K, today it was back at it, with a training session with Robyn.
First off, let's talk about the important things. I got to me the newest addition to the gym - Spealler - a 7 wk old lab puppy.


Sparing you most of the gushy details, I definitely smushed his face, rubbed his belly and laughed at his silly puppy run. This little goober will definitely not be short of adoring fans, as I'm pretty sure I saw every person there stop to pet him. #GymDogs are the best. Instant mood-boost for the day!

Continuing on our quest to wreck my shoulders (and maybe make me less t-rex-y), Robyn started us out with some ascending weight complexes.... Push Press, Push Jerk, Split Jerk. Worked up to a solid 130-ish, I believe (limited by the push press), but it was not without stupid moments. I swear, my brain was on short circuit today. Definitely had to concentrate hard to clean up my Split Jerk, which is not an intuitive movement for me. Dear Right Foot, I really need to step BACK with you, before good 'ol Left Foot jumps the gun and steps to center first. Geesh.
Nonetheless, it felt good to be pushing around some weight again (even if it was overhead...). My shoulders and back muscles definitely feel as though we did something....

Never one to leave me without a healthy dose of Cardio for the day, Robyn threw in a 14 min AMRAP:
Wall Balls (14#)
Sit Ups
Jump rope

So, what that means is Round 1 was 30 WB, 30 Sit ups, 90 Jump rope... then 20 WB, 20 sit ups, 60 jump rope, etc.

This was..... unpleasant.

I should clarify. Wall Balls SUCK for me. Not because they are hard from a muscle standpoint (my legs are perfectly capable of squatting 14# and exploding up to toss it)... but DAMN if I am completely unable to breathe doing them.

I started out with an optimistic set of 15 out of 30, took a few deep breaths - still feelin' good! - and closed out those wall balls with another solid set of 15. Yeah. Nailed it.

You know what I found is really hard to do, when you can't breathe? Sit Ups. Followed by Jump ropes (although, I only tripped once, and did all of my sets as I planned to!).

As we entered the second round of wall balls ("Only" 20, right?!), I began to feel as though this is how I was going to die. I had set out to attack two sets of 10, when that quickly became a pipe dream. By 2 sets of 10, I clearly meant hope for 4 sets of 5 and Try Not To Die. When  jump rope is going to be your "rest time" you know it's going to be a rough one.

Round 3, I did a little celebration! Only 10-10-30 and then I would be done!! That breathed a little more life into my efforts.... only to realize that the clock was still going, and I definitely had a few minutes left. *long string of expletives*

Somehow, my mind had managed to deal with this workout by thinking that we'd just be DONE after we did 30-20-10..... but suddenly, here we were... back around at 30.

SURE my lungs were about to explode, I stepped up to do 30 more wall balls. They were not pretty, folks. Or fast. Or coordinated. BUT... they got done.
Miraculously, I even manged to get 12 deep into my next round of sit ups.

Thankfully, the clock saved me and I starfished HARD after this one.

My quads would like to keep reminding me that we did 90 wall balls today, and they're not happy about it. Meanwhile, my shoulder and back muscles feel like chiming in their two cents as well. Oh boy. Tomorrow might be reallll rough.

Tomorrow though, is wk 1, day THREE of our running program. The last run, before we can say we successfully completed Wk 1. WOO.

Sunday, it's back to Hatching out my Squats. It's definitely going to get interesting this time around with some bigger weight on the bar.... but, Hatch says I can, so I will.

With that, I'm off to find some food and perhaps a bit of foam rolling.... (I'm coming for you, Quads!)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

"...The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. " Henry Rollins

Louis Cyr - Strongman
So this, Blogland, is my great great grandfather, Louis Cyr.
Louis Cyr was a French Canadian strongman, (still) holding the title of "The Strongest Man in Recorded History."
He did had a long and interesting career, with feats like lifting a fully grown horse off the ground, or lifting a 220# barbell with one hand, or lifting 1,075kg (that's literally like a ton) on his back. He even became a circus performer with his wife!
(Other pretty awesome notes, here...)

In my family, we've always joked that we've got some weird mutant muscle genes, as my mother's whole side of the family had some weird predispositions to being strong. My grandmother - at 94 years old - was still picking up her chair (a sturdy reclining wingback) and moving it around the room. At 93, we finally convinced her to stop trying to flip her mattress by herself... Although, who knows, maybe it's just scrappy french-canadian farm family genes. Women gotta get shit done, weight/strength be damned?

In any case, I always found this to be an amusing part of my lineage (I mean, geesh, he's got multiple statues of himself erected in Quebec!).  Yesterday, though, I finally really "connected" with my heritage a bit and competed in my FIRST Power lifting Competition.

The lead-up to it was pretty awful. I mean, obsessing about how much like a sausage you're going to look like in your singlet, plus the concept of having a ton of people stare at you (in your singlet)... plus the phobia of missing a lift or something like that.... It is all very abstract and terrifying if you've never done it before, so I was decidedly nervous. Thankfully, not only was I going to have a buddy - my stellar nutritionist and gym-buddy Charity was also competing - but it sounded like we'd have a cheering section from the gym, too! My Man was coming to spectate and support, as well, so I figured that no matter what happened, I'd be in good company to deal with it.

We arrived at Burlington CrossFit just after 11am, to a room full of people. I was shocked at how many people came out for a power lifting meeting. Not just competitors, but spectators! Apparently, watching people lift things up and put them down is interesting stuff.

As I was getting checked in, I was suddenly asked a ton of questions - what were my opening weights, in kilograms? Oh lord. Thank you for the handy conversion chart on the table. I stuck with the plan - Opening Squat Weight at 286# and Opening Deadlift Weight at 320#. Then, off to find my squat-rack height. Funny enough, the resident heavy-lifter and squat rack master was a dude that I went to school with. He'd also be the squat spotter for the day (more about that later..), but just funny to see a "familiar" face. I've been a spectator at highland games and MMA fights where he's competed, so it was interesting to run into him in yet another burly sort of sport.

Warming up - 225#
All checked in and ready to go, the day was going to start with squats, so Charity and I got around to warming up a bit. I'd been called to Boston for work for the previous two days and was a little worried my legs would be unhappy from sitting in the car so much, but the warm up went well and everything felt like it was working as planned.

When lifting began, the energy became really electric. All the women would go first, as there was only maybe 8 or 9 of us. (C'mon ladies! Where are the rest of you?!)

The squat rack was in the center front of the room, with competitors and spectators forming a ring around the edges. We were announced 3 at a time, so you'd have plenty of time to take deep breaths and get ready to go. The announcer struggled with my name ALL DAY (story of my life), but was a pretty cool guy that really made everyone feel welcome.

When there's only like 8 women ahead of you, it becomes your turn really quickly. Suddenly, it was my turn (ohshitohshitohshitohshit).

New Squat PR: 314.6 pounds! 
I got called up to the rack ("bar is loaded!") and tried to zone out and just take my time to set myself up, just like any other day in the gym.  You certainly do not feel "alone" during this process, because outside of the head judge/announcer staring at you, and the ring of spectators, you also have two burly dudes to either side of you, ready to help catch the bar if you need help, and the rear spotter, all up in your business behind you - just in case. Oddly, it does feel pretty safe, because you never have to worry about getting out of the way or anything, if you can't make it/need to dump it. With a few deep breaths and good thoughts to calm my nerves (I needed to remind myself that you can't lift heavy if your knees are shaking......), I stood it up out of the rack and got the SQUAT! command. Dowwwnnnnnnn..... and Up! No problem. Back in the rack.  Goal Achieved! My major goal coming into this was to just show up and get some numbers on the board. Even if I missed the rest of my lifts, I was going to be okay.  Another couple of rounds and I successfully hit my second lift (303 pounds) and went up to the table to declare what my last lift would be..... oh man. What to do!? I was in totally uncharted territory at this point. 305 was the heaviest I'd ever successfully managed in the gym, although I *almost* stood up 315 the other day... so, what the hell?, I thought. I put my last lift in for 314.6 (kilogram conversions are annoyingly often not round numbers, I found.).

Two lifts on the board, solid lift at just over three hundred pounds, and I was happy, no matter how this last lift went. Although.... being a hugely competitive sort, I wanted to get it. It would mean a new personal record for me, and put me at decidedly the highest women's squat of the day by solidly 40 pounds, I think. Granted, it's probably more impressive when a 125# lady squats 250#, as it's like 2x her body weight... but, still moving 315 up and down would be a pretty solid performance.
AND... awesomely, it worked. And it wasn't bad! I didn't have to fight to get it up. I was working, for sure, but I never got stuck. SUCCESSSSsssss! (Could I have done more? Ooo. Next time.)

Now, with like 2 flights of 10 men (or something like that) to go, then bench presses for men and women, there would be plenty of time for me to rest up, stretch and get ready again before dead lift time. I took the opportunity to eat a protein bar and drink a bunch of water, while watching all the other competitors (note to self: Powerlifting meets are a LONG DAY. Bring more snacks.).
I watched Charity kill her bench presses (my arms were crying, just watching that...) and sat in awe while some of these dudes benched 300 pounds. NUTS I tell you.
That said, I definitely need to get practicing my bench, so that in November I can do a full powerlift (Bench, squat and deadlift).

Finally, the day wore on, and it was dead lift time! Dead lifts may be my favorite (although they're close with squats... just depends on the day..), so I was ready to go for this one. I'd worked through the jitters that morning, and felt a lot more comfortable in the gym.

My opener was a successful and easy 320 pounds. It seems that what Charity told me is true - the dead lifts feel just a little lighter at the meet. Maybe it's the bar (it's more bendy?), maybe it's the grippiness... maybe just the adrenaline you have... but it went up pretty easily.  So, I was right on track with the plan: my second lift would be my former max lift - 340 (although in kilograms, I ended up at like 342 or something like that). That one stood up also pretty smoothly.... uh oh. NOW WHAT? Again, uncharted territory... I didn't want to pick a number I was going to fail, but legitimately had no idea what my capability might be. As I was agonizing over the conversion chart, Charity came running up to me, telling me that was way too easy and I needed to add at least 20 pounds to the bar. Uhm WHAT? my brain said.... but, again... What the hell? right?

I set my third lift to be 358.2 pounds (the closest conversion I could see to 360), and then I went back to my place in the crowd to quietly freak out and watch the other ladies lift, until it was my turn again.

"Bar is loaded!" sounded the announcer, and I stepped up to the bar. Lifting crowds become oddly similar to golf crowds, as they go -completely silent- until you start lifting. I was a little worried about this one, but was feeling strong, so I took a few deep breaths, sat back into my hamstrings and just let it rip.

358.2 pounds for a new PR Deadlift!
This one fought me a little bit - I believe the lingo is that it was a little "hitch-y" - but nonetheless, I got that bad boy stood the eff up. Knees locked, shoulders behind bar, good form. Commence a jersey fist pump celebration. WOO.
I was definitely proud of that one. That is a new PR by 18.2 pounds. YEAAHHH buddy.

I couldn't be happier on finishing that last dead lift. Seriously.

My first meet, I survived the singlet-wearing AND got two new personal records (by significant amounts - 10 pound PR on my back squat and 18. 2 on the deadlift!). You really can't ask for more than that.

I thought I was going to have pulled the heaviest squat and deadlift (for women) for the day, then this woman - Kim - walked out of the crowd. Kim hadn't squatted as heavy as I had, and her opening dead lifts were lighter than mine, so I assumed (very wrongly) that I would out dead-lift her.

Well. Kim walked up to that bar and pulled 385.6 pounds, like it was nothing.

Hot. Damn. You go, girl!

I got the chance to congratulate Kim after, to hear that her goal is to come back in November with a 400 pound dead lift. YIKES.  Looks like I've got a new goal to chase! ;-)

Dead lifts (because of the sheer amount of weight) seem to be the fan-favorite. The men's dead lifts got ridiculously heavy. I got to watch a 17 year old absolutely CRUSH at 600 pound dead lift, to set a new state or national (not sure) record for his age group. Let me tell you - the crowd gets pretty psyched up to see lifts like that happen. I know all the fellow lifters were "lifting" along with him, chanting "up up up!!!" as we watched it sloowly come to height.

As the day wrapped up, I gotta give it to the organizers. Awards were ready and lifts tallied, less than 5 minutes after the last lift of the day.

Charity grabbed a trophy for an age-group first place (Happy Birthday!), and *drumroll* I ALSO got a first-in-my-age-group trophy!
... now, I will say, I'm pretty sure there was no one else in my age group... but. Screw it. LOL.
I'm choosing to use this trophy to commemorate:
1) conquering my fear of the singlet
2) crushing all my lifts that day and
3) Putting up the biggest women's squat for the day. BOOM.
April 2, 2016: Vermont Powerlifting, Age Group Champion 30-34

So, BlogLand, what have we learned here?

Well, it was a good chance to again remind myself to keep taking risks and pushing limits. I feel like I'm doing pretty good so far this year, and it's only April! YEAH.

I have to say though, I found this to be a pretty cool experience. This was legitimately the first time in my life that I've been involved with some sort of "athletic" competition and didn't feel huge and out of place. I've competed in a lot of things - horseback riding, running, obstacle racing, crossfit, etc. - and no matter how well I may do in the scheme of things, I always feel like the biggest chick in the room, or wildly "robust" among long, lean people. I'm just not made that way. Even at my fittest a few years back, running half marathons, I'd be running along side 120 pound chicks that had legs as big around as my arm. I'm telling you BlogLand, it gives you a little bit of complex.

But yesterday, at the power lifting comp, I never felt that way, ever. There were a lot of big people - and I mean big in a variety of ways, tall, muscular, athletic, chunky, etc. - but they were all moving some big weight. If you were there, making an effort, they were right behind you and supportive. After standing up my 314.6 back squat, I got applause and a hearty round of congratulatory "nice lift!" that I never expected. This is a "skill" that comes somewhat easily to me, but it was really cool to be in a room full of people who didn't diminish that skill, or underestimate me, just because I was squishy around the middle. I like these people. :-)

After a pretty intense few months - finishing up my Hatch squat program, completing all the WODS for The Open and gearing up for this competition, it's nice to be returning to my regularly scheduled programming, so to speak.

Tomorrow, I start Week 1, Day 1 of the Couch to 5K program with Holly. This week, I'll get back into the "routine" - restarting Hatch with some bigger weights, getting back to bootcamp a couple times a week and personal training with Robyn (where I fear she's going to go on a mission to wreck my arms.). No particular "big" things on the horizon, other than long term goal of revisiting this Powerlifting comp in November.

Now, I simply wait for/enjoy the arrival of Spring (Dear VT Weather, WHY did you snow today? WTF.), get back to training, and see what happens next!

Friday, April 1, 2016

'If you're bored with life - you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things - you don't have enough goals." - Lou Holtz

Well, Blogland... What's NEXT?!

The CrossFit Open is over, Spring is (almost...) upon us and it's exciting to think of what's coming up!

First, in less than 48 hours, I'll be competing in my first Powerlifting meet! I'm only doing two events - back squat and deadlift - instead of a full set, because I wasn't feeling totally confident in my bench press (Goal for the next meet: Do all three!). In retrospect, I should've just done it and it would've been fine, but eh, playing it safe for the first one is fine. My biggest goal was to just get there, deal with the fact I'd have to wear a singlet in person, and compete.

I'm feeling pretty good about it, overall - I've got a plan for my lifts (BS: 285, 305, 310 or 315... Deadlift: 320, 340, 350!), and I'm confident that I can do what I need to do. I have no expectations on the outcome of this meet, as the goal is just to go and DO IT.  My opening lifts are "safe" for me, so I know I'll have a score (and a decent one!) even if I only get that first lift. So... it's all gravy after that!
The biggest challenge will be rocking out with my spandex singlet.... whooa boy. For a fat kid, strutting around in a form fitting, not so flattering unitard outfit, while being judged.... yikes. Just YIKES.

BUT, I am reminding myself that I have done way harder things, and I have a lot to be proud of. Yeah, I'm wearing a spare tire around my middle, yes, I've got a little more jiggle everywhere than I'd like.... But! BUT! I have some #thickthighs that can squat 300#, which is what is on display this weekend - not my midsection! Plus, I have to say, while there are a lot of very trim and fit people in the powerlifting community, there are many of us more "thick" individuals who have found their strength in picking up heavy shit. I won't be alone with my jiggly middle!

That said, I've got big plans for the horizon, to continue on the journey back to a more comfortable weight. I feel like I've turned a new leaf (thank you, Spring!), because I'm actually just excited to do new things, not just looking at it as something I "need" to do to get weightloss.

For example, after my powerlifting comp, I'll be (re) starting the Couch to 5K program and get back in my running groove (I actually really miss it). I have to thank my BFF Holly for this one. She's been on her own journey, but expressed interest in trying to learn to run.... and she wanted me to do it with her. How can you say no to that? If she's willing to go out on a limb and try something she's never tried that's going to be hard, how can I not do it with her? So, I'm excited. On Monday, we do our first Week 1, Day 1. My wonderful man, Hans, is also going to join in on the fun (although he'll be doing it all over the east coast, while he travels for work). Last, but certainly not least, we've even got my long-time Battle Buddy, Stacey to get going again with us. Sounds like a party to me! One accounta-buddy is good... 3 Accounta-buddies are better!

I admit, I'm a little afraid of re-starting C25K. The first time I learned to run, I was about 40-50 pounds lighter than I am now (Wow. that hurts to write down.).... but at the same time, I wasn't as "fit" as I am now (Yes, it's possible to be super heavy and still have a decent amount of fitness). In the light of full disclosure, I'm terrified that I'm going to fail because I'm so heavy. I'm afraid that I won't be able to even do Day 1. I'm afraid that it's going to hurt, because my knees are shitty, etc..... BUT... I have at least learned over the last 4 years or so that you just can't let the fear stop you. You can't wait until a "better" time. There's never a better time, you're never going to be less afraid until you jump in. That's why I did the CrossFit Open this year. That's why I'm headed to Powerlifting. Yes, I'm bigger, but so effing what. I'm doing these things - are you?

AND... (more fun things!) my awesome gym just announced that it's Rowing month! Oddly, I actually kind of like rowing. So, I'm definitely looking forward to the little extra focus and motivation and team spirit to log a few extra meters every time I'm at the gym. I wonder how much I can row in a month??
I think it will complement lifting days and boot camp days just great!

Maybe it's just the spring weather, or the increased light, but I'm definitely feeling more optimistic about moving forward, than I was over the winter (it was a tough winter this winter).


Monday, March 28, 2016

"Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our true potential." -Winston Churchill

Blogland, I'm happy to report that I finished the 2016 CrossFit Open this weekend, by surviving the last workout - 16.5. 

16.5 was announced on Thursday night, and I was glued to the live announcement. I felt really good coming off of 16.4 (ALL THE DEADLIFTS!) and was hoping for another WOD that I would be able to do as prescribed (Rx). What I got.... was not exactly what I wished for. 

16.5 was announced as:
(reps) 21-18-15-12-9-6-3


at 95# (m)/ 65# (f)

My immediate reaction was, "NOoooooooooooooooOOOOOoooo!!!" due to the extreme dislike I have of burpees. I do, in fact, recognize their training value, but literally, there is no single exercise that makes me want to die more, or faster, than burpees. I had a brief moment of triumph when I realized I could do it Rx (got my wish!) because I know I can do 65# thrusters... and realistically, why wouldn't you go RX, if there's no "scale" for the burpee? You're going to die either way, might as well get more "points" for going RX?

Then, I watched the pro athletes tackle it.... 8 minutes and change was the fastest time... which meant mine was going to be a grueling workout of 25 minutes, I guessed. Oh. Shit.

The feeling in my house after that was not one of calm readiness.... my track record with burpees sucks pretty bad, and I just envisioned myself flopping around on the floor through like 84 of them. I was not beaming with positivity. Further, my Inner Fat Kid had a freak out about how that was going to work on competition day.... I knew I'd take SOOOOOO much longer than everyone else, I just saw the scene in my head.... everyone else done, and waiting on stupid slow Aja to drag herself out of another burpee... Needless to say, I was not looking forward to it. 

I had a little strategy talk with Robyn and a pep talk from my long-time GT... and tried to get my head in the right space. What that turned into was approximately 36 hours of me arguing with myself in my head. Well, emotional side would freak out, rational side would try and outline the plan... and back and forth and back and forth. 

Friday afternoon arrived, and I was in a better headspace... or maybe just a "determined" one? Or a resigned one? Like, I'm going to do my best... and whatever happens, happens. 

Off to the gym I went. 

I got to judge and watch a couple of rounds of people tackling this ugly wod, and it was good (for my mental state) to see that EVERYONE was struggling hard with it. To varying levels of miserableness, but everyone seemed to be hugging the floor, starfishing or sitting like they had just died, after the workout. The end of the workout burpees for everyone were universally not pretty either. I knew mine were going to be.... rough.... but it was comforting to see even the fittest people dragging through those last sets. 

Then suddenly, it was my turn. 
3....2.....1.... GO. 

The initial round of Thrusters (and really, all subsequent rounds of thrusters...) were no problem. I broke it in half, just for good pacing, and I think I broke the 18, 15 and 12 up in half or sets of 5, too, just to pace. 
The burpees were another story. I tried so hard to keep an even pace.... but that looked like 1 burpee... 2 burpee... (maybe) 3 burpee... stand and huff and puff. Repeat. It was not good. Although, realistically people, I'm peeling 300# off the floor with every burpee. I bet if you put that kind of weight on a fit person, they'd look pretty rough doing them, too. 

It was a relief every time I got back to the Thrusters - they were my break, where I could kind of catch my breath (...said no one ever... except for me?).  65# thruster was more than manageable for me, so I was able to pace these nicely and breath -which was a pleasant change from BurpeeLand.
Somehow, those thrusters seemed to go by SO quickly though. It felt like all I was doing in this damn WOD was burpees. More burpees. Burpees again. 
Every time I'd hit the floor for a burpee, a refreshing cold breeze from the door would wash over my face and it was so incredibly tempting just to stay there, face down on the floor. But I had to keep getting up. Uuugh burpees. 
Over the bar!
By some miracle, I hit the single digits. 9 reps. 9 burpees sounds less bad too. Just keep going. 
At this point, the entire rest of my heat had finished. I had some staunch supporters around me, screaming encouragement. 

Denise (the queen of enthusiasm) at one point reminded me what my bracelet said - "Unbreakable."

Just what I needed to hear in the moment. My unbreakable bracelet is a Spartan Race bracelet that always reminds me I've done harder things.... like, 160 burpees, in sets of 30, admist 30 obstacles while hiking 14+ miles for the VT Spartan Beast a few years ago. If I can do that... I can surely keep moving until I finish these damn burpees.  
 On and on I went. All fears realized, I was the last one, everyone was waiting on. And yet... my CFW community was not exuding judgement, but just a lot of cheers, encouragement and support, that really helped me get through those last burpees. I wanted to stop and just lay there, SO badly... but how can you stop, when you have the support of all those people pouring in at you? 
"The Starfish"
I finished, with a whopping 30 min, 16 sec. Definitely not what I was hoping for, but I got it done, regardless. I didn't cry, I didn't die..... I DID starfish for like 5 minutes after, like a champ.... 

And with that... the 2016 CrossFit Open was over. 

What a ride. To recap:
16.1: Where we lunged, burpee'd and did some variety of pullups. 
16.2:  Toes to Bar, jump rope (uughh!) and Squat cleans
16.3: 7 minutes of power snatches and me throwing myself at the bar to get a Chest to Bar pull up. 
16.4: All the deadlifts!! (and some wall balls, rowing, and HSPU)
16.5: Thrusters and Burpees. 

So, I sweated (a lot.), I cried (a little), and I learned an immense amount. It was really cool to do the open with CFW and meet a lot of the members that I otherwise might not, as well as suffer together on things that we wondered if we could even survive. 

I also got to see that I did have some "value" as a crossfitter, even if it wasn't in burpees. LOL. Just because I can't burpee to save my life, I'm proud to say that I crushed every movement that came up with a barbell. 16.4 was a GREAT WOD for me.... where many other people struggled really hard. 

The lesson? The Open is there to test you. I learned quite a bit about what I was good at, what I definitely still needed to work on, and was able to put it in a much bigger perspective. I also learned quite a bit about my headspace coming into some of these events, and what I need to work on there.... Yeah, I cried in 16.3, for example.... but out of frustration because I couldn't. quite. get there. BUT... now I have a goal for next year - fix the Upper bod and get some "ups". 

The biggest lesson? In my head, I'm the failing fat kid who struggles every. single. time. with the workout, looking totally stupid in comparison to all the fit and fancy people who frequent my crossfit gym. 

The reality? Everyone struggles at CrossFit, in their own ways, to become better and stronger. We're all fighting the inner demons, and we all hate burpees. LOL. On a serious note though, despite being the biggest person at my gym and competing in the open, I never ONCE felt like I didn't belong - which was one of my fears... that I'd feel out of place. Apparently, my sacrifices of sweat to the gym mat god, were just as valuable as everyone else's. 

If you're wondering if you should do the open next year, you should. Even if you're last on the leaderboard (I'm NOT LAST!!! YESS!!! #Goalachieved), you're still ahead of everyone who was too afraid to try. 

Besides, I did it... what's your excuse?

(And with that, tomorrow I'm testing out my maxes in squat and deadlift with Robyn, so we can get ready for my powerlifting meet on Saturday! YES! )

UPDATE: Here's the leaderboard for CrossFit Waterbury... I'm not LAST!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"When you look in the mirror and see no change, and still keep faith, knowing that in time you will get there if you stay focused and on track, that's the different between those who succeed and those who fail."


It's been a busy couple of days and my body is definitely feeling each and every thing I've done! In some ways, it's kind of awesome to be stiff and sore, as you definitely know you did something.

Monday was personal training day with Robyn. Nothing like a tailored torture session to start your week! Apparently, with my recent struggles in The Open, my arms and upper body have hit Robyn's radar in a BIG way. Today was ALLLL about destroying my upper body.

After this weekend's leg-busting Open workout, I definitely needed some stretching/mobility (I was sooo stiff on Sunday that I even resorted to 30 min of easy yoga!). We did some usual stretching, and the moved to the Lacrosse Ball from Hell to get into my hamstrings and glutes. Although I totally get the benefits of lacrosse ball rolling/massaging, let me just say... OWWWW. Today, like 48 hours later, I feel like I have butt-bruises to prove I rolled my glutes - but no visible bruise to prove it! LOL

Then... we get to work. Bench Presses!
A traditional 5x5 at 113# - which is definitely a challenging weight for me to do that many sets of. However, I guess that is exactly why we're doing it! It still involves a barbell - even if I had to lift it with my arms! - so I was happy.

After that, onto the rough part - CARDIO ARMS. 10 min AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of:
12 jumping pull ups
10 air squats
8 push ups (on a box)

So, that seems super simple, right? Yeah, so after challenging bench presses, it was a a difficult mental challenge, being a couple of things I realllly am not a fan of.
Jumping pull ups were not so bad, air squats were totally no problem (and actually helped stretch out my stiff back from the weekend!), but MAN those push ups.

Push ups super suck for me. SUPER SUCK. T-Rex hates push ups! Admittedly, I hate them because I struggle so hard with them, this workout was no exception. Robyn tells me I actually got through them on a shorter box than I'd usually use (so.. progress!). Nonetheless, with these things, it's like every.single.rep is a fight. Thankfully, I was only doing 8 at a time.
There were definitely moments where my arms just failed and no push up was happening. I went down but couldn't push back up. One time I was half up and they just quit and I fell forward on my knees.... It was a messy bunch. Certainly not the cleanest "down and up" push ups I envision in my head. BUT... got it done.

I know I got it done, because today, moving my arms in any way hurts. My "push" muscles - like the tops of your pecs and delts? - are totally upset with me right now. I'm employing the ibuprofen and a lot of water strategy and crossing my fingers that tomorrow is better, not worse!

On to today and it was time to buck up, stop procrastinating and start my next round of squatting. My powerlifting comp (!!!!) is in just a couple of weeks, so it's no time to slack off.
I put my new 1RM numbers into the Hatch Squat calculator.... then I die a little bit. The new numbers looked SO BIG.

The Day 1 opening was 187# for 10 reps. Good lord. While I know I can lift that, doing reps there - to START - is definitely a daunting task. However, this squat program didn't fail me before, so I put my #faithinHatch and got to work.

I will confess that the last few days I did Hatch squats of the last round, I was working, but not dying and sweating. I certainly can not say that this was the case today! The first 10 wasn't so bad... but then I had some descending sets in between, working up to a set of 4 at 247#. (It bears noting that last round's 1RM was 253#.. soo... ).
After those back squats, there was only one more thing to do - front squats! Equally as challenging, I had 4 sets of 5 to go at some pretty decent weights.
Sweat was dripping off and I definitely found that I needed to take some more time in between sets than I usually would.
I got it done, but WHEW. Apparently, these are the weights I *should* be doing, since I was working at a more challenging level.

THEN, just because I'm a glutton for punishment and need some more challenges, Robyn gave me the task of row intervals.
Row intervals after squats are.... interesting.
My task was pretty simple:
6 x 250m, with 1 minute rest in between.
I'm pretty proud of how I did on that - it looks like I actually improved over the intervals. Partially, that may have been because I knew I was getting "done" so I didn't need to save anything for the next interval, but also because I was recovering pretty decently in my minute in between. Nice! I can safely say that a year ago I couldn't have stacked these workouts, let alone just do either one of them.

After surviving that, I definitely had some jelly legs! I was not quick to switch my shoes and get in my car. LOL

With that, I have had the massive temptation to EAT ALL THE THINGS. Heavy lifting days sometimes do that to me, but I'm really trying to be good. I hit all my macros perfectly today, so I'm trying not to go nuts and rummage around my kitchen.
That particular challenge is harder than anything I've done in the gym. Argh.

SO. Instead of eating everything in my kitchen, I've decided to write to you, BlogLand! (One good choice at a time!)

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"The Question isn't 'can you?' It's 'will you?'"

Blogland, I admit... I (tried to) bend down to put pants on this morning, groaned like crazy and then seriously considered whether I *needed* pants today.

Since my house is a one-level ranch with a glass door that basically allows you to see the whole house if you come to the door, I did what a responsible adult would do in my situation - I quested for the Ibuprofen, then spent 30 min on the foam roller (in the privacy of my office), before revisiting the option of bending down to put on pants.

"What's the big deal about pants, today, Aja?" you say? Well... I did the CrossFit Open WOD 16.4 yesterday. Let me explain.

The prescribed (RX) WOD 16.4 was:

13-min. AMRAP:
55 deadlifts
55 wall-ball shots
55-calorie row
55 handstand push-ups
M 225 lb. / 20-lb. ball
F  155 lb. / 14-lb. ball
Scaled version was basically the same with a much lighter weight and hand-release push ups instead of HSPUs. 
So, when I read the workout for this week, I did a little happy dance. Last week's WOD was... less than fun for me, so I was REALLY really really (Really!) hoping for something I could do a little better at. Boom! This was it! Deadlifts are my jam, yo.
I watched the Elite athletes do the demo to get a sense of how long this workout was "supposed" to take. In the demo I watched, neither athlete finished the 55 HSPUs. So, I figured, it was unlikely I'd GET to the HSPUs in 13 min.... in which case.... I might be able to do it prescribed!! 
I took a moment to ponder that, realistically. I admit, that was a bit of a scary thought. When you're the fat kid in class, you sort of get used to the fact that you're always going to need to take the "regular" workout down a notch, or there's going to be something you couldn't do, etc. In this case, the deadlifts would be like 45% of my 1 rep max (which is relatively light), wall balls were at the weight I typically use in workouts and rowing is rowing, and something I'm not bad at. So... dare I do it? DARE I GO RX?!?!! EEEEEE!!! The HSPU's never really factored in to my decision making, because I was relatively sure I'd never even get to that point. Even if I did, there would be plenty of people that would get there, throw themselves at the wall for a while, and never get one anyway - I'd be in good company. Let's. Do. This.
With a renewed positive attitude, a little bit of nerves (RX, really?!), and a whole lot of excitement (who doesn't like picking things up and putting them down again!?), I hit the gym. I was feeling ready to rumble. Granted... 55 reps did seem like an awful lot of everything, but if I just kept moving, I should be good..... (famous last words?). 
(This is my pre-WOD, "I like Deadlifts!" face)
I made sure to stretch and do a decent warm up, as it was going to be a long fight of a workout. Certainly not one I wanted to go into "cold", as cold muscles and that many deadlifts would not be a great plan. In my "old age" I have finally learned that I am, in fact, not invincible, that injuries suck and that preventative measures are always the right answer. In retrospect, I wish I would've taken it one step further and worn my supportive knee sleeves for this many reps (deadlifts, plus wall balls, plus rowing.. that's a lot of knee action!), as they're feeling a bit tired today. 
So, bar loaded up to the RX weight of 155#, I chalked up my hands a bit, shook out my nerves and went to my happy place in my head. I could do this, I knew that, just had to keep my head in the game. About 30 seconds before I was about to start, one of my fellow CFW athletes came over to me and told me that he "love watching me deadlift" just because it always seemed featherweight to me. What a compliment! From there, my brain had funny images of Ronnie Coleman stepping up to his weights with his iconic "Yeahhhh buddy! LIGHTWEIGHT!" (If you're not familiar: Nothing like a good laugh to get you into the right frame of mind for some lifting!
3...2....1.... GO!
I pick things Up..... 
And so the grind began. Pick things up, put them down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 
...and I put them down...
I opened with a set of 10, as the deadlift was a comfortable weight for me, but decided to be smart (for the sake of my grip) and do sets of 5 after that. 5 reps, drop. 3 breaths. 5 reps, drop. 3 breaths. I got into a pretty good rhythm and was able to sustain it relatively easily for the whole 55 lifts.  I say "relatively" as 55 deadlifts just isn't "easy" for anyone - it's absolutely a mental game. Somewhere around 30, your brain is like... uhmmmm.... done now. But you have to override that and just keep moving. 
55 deadlifts down, and I was one of the first of my heat over to the wall balls - that means I'd made good time on the lifts, despite doing the heavier RX weight. Yes! I was off to a good start. 
My first 5-10 wall balls were REAL rough. You know what your legs do not want to do after doing a shit ton of deadlifts? They definitely do not want to squat down with any sort of precision. They also do not want to stand up "explosively" to launch a ball to a 9ft target. Nonetheless, after 10 or so really ugly, wobbly ones, my legs seem have recovered a bit and were ready to get in the game. 
However, my lungs decided that they were then on protest. Cardio is always a weakness for me, but god damn those wall balls really jack up your heart rate fast. Although, like with the deadlifts, I decided that a consistent rep scheme would help keep me on track. 5 was the plan. Throw 5, take a breather, throw 5, and just keep going until I was done. 
Wall Balls on Wobbly Legs...
25-30 wall balls in, I felt my self start to sink a bit. My "couple of breaths" between sets was starting to get a little too long. Thankfully, not only did I have Awesome Jane as my judge, I had Coach Robyn cheering me on as well - and doling out some tough love along the way. She apparently noticed the "Wall balls Suck and I can't breathe" face happening, and me slowing down, so she started counting down my "breathers".... 5 reps, then she would count down my 5 seconds of breath, then PICK UP THE BALL.  This helped, big time. I don't know about you, BlogLand, but I go near braindead during hard workouts, so if someone is yelling basic instructions to me, it's a lot easier to follow them than to think of anything else. So, down and up and pick up the ball and throw it, and repeat. 
Clawed my way to 40 lung-busting wall balls and was REALLY wanting to be done. Judge Jane announces I've got 10 left. In my WOD-haze, I think to myself, I really want to be done, and 10 wall balls is not going to kill me, or explode my lungs. Let's be done with this. 
Just like that, I finished out my wall balls in one solid set of 10, digging deep into my legs and lungs for the energy to push through them. 
There was no more satisfying moment than when that 14# ball hit the ground that last time. Ahh... DONE.
Well... done-ish. Now - still doing pretty good on time, despite being a little slower on WB's - onto the rower. 
It almost felt good to sit on the rower after all that, right up until I had to start working. I got a few good pulls in, and my body was like fuuuuuuckkkkk this (pardon my language). I was trying to keep it at a solid 900-1000 cal/hour pace, but there was a moment (I believe many would call this, Hitting the Wall..), where I had like nothing... dropped to like an 750-800cal/hour pace and wondered how I was going to finish this. 
Then, something kind of awesome happened. Judge Jane yelled at me that it was "just a MENTAL GAME". I'm not sure why, but that kind of clicked for me. I'd never died in a workout yet, even though I've felt like it. I've also gotten through a lot of crappier, longer things (Vermont Spartan Beast, I'm looking at you...). I just had to keep moving. 
Digging some energy out of my pinky toes, or wherever that last thread of it was stored, I got back into the rhythm of the row. I needed big powerful leg strokes to get the most calories out of it, but my legs felt particularly done. Thankfully, fellow awesome-CFW'er, Celia appeared over my shoulder and reminded me - LEGS!!! LEGSS!!! PUSH THROUGH YOUR HEELS!!!  Again, waaaay easier to follow directions than think for yourself at a time like this. 
Just something like 90 seconds to go, and I was back in a steady rhythm. Celia kept setting goals for me - Now let's get to 30 calories, GREAT! Let's get to 38!  - and kept pushing me further. I was soooooo close to finishing that 55 calories. 
The 30 second mark was called and I wasn't there yet. I didn't want to finish, thinking I could've done more, so I rallied with everything, and rowed as hard as I could for 20 more seconds. 
"The Starfish"
Time was called, and I'd officially clocked 39 calories... and then watched that damn rower flip over to 40, immediately after. D'oh!
After my little sprint to finish, I was allll done after this wod. I sort of stood-tumbled off the rower and into a great star-fish position, as I was 100% sure my legs were no good for standing up at that moment. 
But - I'm happy. There's always those moments you think of that, "If I'd just..." or "If I had not breathed so long there..." where you think you might've gone a little farther, but I'm totally happy with how this went. 
Proof, I did it RX!!
Not only did I go RX - which was an important milestone for me - it looks like I've ended up in the bottom of the Middle of the pack (45th-ish percentile) - of other people that went RX. That is a really great accomplishment for me. People that do RX are fit! and can do things like HSPU!... so, being the bottom of the middle of that pack is a great achievement. 
Also, I know I could not have done this workout a year ago. I am 100% certain of that. The deadlifts would've gotten done, but painfully slow, the wall balls would've killed me, and I may not have even made it to the rower. So, despite the fact I'm no where near where I want and need to be, I'm making some progress forward. 
It's a good day, BlogLand. 
... despite the fact that I can't bend over, squat down or really move in any way, today. :-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

"If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you... "

Well, BlogLand, it has been a few days since The Incident, so it was time to get back into the gym and back to work.

Yesterday was a personal training session with Robyn - oddly, one of my favorite points of the week, despite the customized torture she puts me through. Torture is one thing, but CUSTOM torture, geared toward your weaknesses, to make it extra awesome, is a whole new ball game. This was one of those days....

In the wake of the 16.3 hell of just not having enough pull in my back/arms or enough jump in my legs to nail those Chest to Bar jumping pull ups, Robyn decided we have a new project.

Our training session, (after a warm up, of course!) opened with 4x10 ascending weight barbell rows. Lats, you can hide no longer.
I worked up to a 103# barbell row for 10 reps, which was definitely working my back in ways it was not used to. It's funny to reflect that 103# barbell wouldn't even be a warm-up for my legs, but it was most certainly causing me to break a sweat in this movement!

After that, Robyn decided to hone in on another pain point of mine - CARDIO.

Cardio is hard when you're heavier than you should be. End of story. It can get better, but it's never going to be "good".  Needless to say, I do not particularly enjoy it, but I recognize the benefits of getting better at it... so, on we go!

16 Min, as many rounds as possible:
:40 of Rowing (for calories)
50 Single under Jump ropes
:30 of Assault Bike (for calories)
1 Min Rest. 

So basically, you have 20 seconds of rest after rowing to complete that minute, you have whatever time on the minute you have when you finished jump rope, and 30 seconds after assault bike (which actually blends to be a total of 90 sec, with the minute of rest directly after).
The idea is to be consistent from round to round with the calories you're getting on the rower and the bike.

Doesn't seem TOO bad, right?

Well, I survived and mostly in one piece, but that Assault bike really sucks it out of you. Apparently, it gets harder, the harder you go - so it's not just in my head, when it feels like that!

Rowing is a strong area for me (go Legs!) so that was a good way to start... jump rope is decidedly not my favorite, but it's better than the bike.... BUT, if I could survive the bike, I could get a whole minute's rest (which was the shortest minute ever).

All things considered, I was a sweaty, starfish-ing mess after that, but got it done without too much issue (outside of a little whining about jump rope..).

For a little extra fun, we did tabata situps into planks...
So, 20 seconds of situps, DIRECTLY into 20 seconds of plank, with 20 seconds rest.
Like a MILLION times (I'm sure of it.)... or like, 4 minutes. Whatever.
There was much groaning, but again, I lived to tell the tale.

Today, my back was not really excited about me brushing my hair (do you know you use your lats for that?!), although, rolling out of bed was way better than expected (Yay, Abs!).

Given the amount of squatting and such I've been doing (works your core), plus the additional core-specific stuff, I've decided I must have an amazing set of Abs under that spare tire, somewhere!! We shall unveil them, someday...

Today was supposed to be Squat day, but I have this bad feeling like I'm coming down with the stomach bug my Mom had. uuuughh... pleeeaaassse no. Or if it's going to happen, let's get it out of the way quickly.

I'm supposed to go to Zumba tonight, for a little extra cardio in my life, but I'm leaving that one with a question mark as well.... stomach is TBD. Blehhh. Cue the crackers.

On that note, I'll leave you with this little gem, that I feel really encapsulates my thoughts: