What’s In My Gym Bag?

Since starting CrossFit, I’ve managed to acquired a bunch of new swag. My gym bag is full of some gear that I definitely could not do without – and I want to share some of it with you!

Because CrossFit is made up of so many different movements and skills, it’s important to make sure that your body is taken care of – especially when a workout includes a high rep scheme or heavy lifts.

I was hesitant at first to just go out and buy gear, primarily because I hate buying things just to be a cool kid. I want to know that if I’m buying gear, it’s because I know it’s something I need, that will protect me in some way, or support my performance. For example: I have yet to buy olympic lifting shoes. These shoes are specially designed to assist ankle mobility and help athletes lift heavier weights by allowing their bodies to get into optimal position. Knowing that my ankle mobility is pretty good and that I’m still very much learning and improving in my olympic lifts, I don’t feel like it’s necessary that I drop $200-$300 on shoes just to look good.

After a few weeks, though, I did some evaluating and determined that there was one thing I could definitely use: grips. The volume of pull-ups, toes to bar, hollow holds, and other bar work that we do results in some gnarly calluses and puts me at risk of ripping my hands. Anyone who has done gymnastics knows just how AWFUL hand rips can be. They are the literal worst. Clay and I did a lot of research (the CrossFit market is flooded with products… not all of which legit), and found Victory Grips. These are designed by a former gymnast, are durable, provide great hand coverage, and are really easy to break in. Since using them, my hands haven’t ripped once. I started out with their leather grips, which I liked, but didn’t do well with the bars in our gym, and have since switched to the stealth grips (pictured), which are synthetic. I love them.

For Christmas, Clay filled out the rest of my gym bag needs. He hooked me up with a weight belt – something I’ve wanted for a while, but like Oly shoes, I didn’t want to use it as a crutch for bad weightlifting form. Belts provide more core stability when lifting heavy loads – but if you don’t take the time to learn how to brace your abdominals and low back properly, even a belt isn’t going to help you. I use mine when lifting heavy or when the volume of a workout is pretty high and I’ve found that it’s helped make me even more aware of keeping my midline tight and consciously working to protect my back.

While I wish I looked as badass Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, I do have those knee sleeves she’s wearing, so that’s close enough for now. Clay also grabbed me these Rehband knee sleeves for Christmas and I’m really glad he did. Now, I’ve never had knee problems, thankfully, but in the past year or so I’ve noticed that my knees crack and pop a lot more than they used to. I also find that they get sore a lot easier – which is probably the result of me becoming decrepit. These sleeves are made of some sturdy neoprene offer compression and support when I’m lifting heavy. We found new 1 rep maxes last week for our squat cleans and hang snatches… I was definitely glad I had my sleeves on when I pulled 205 from the floor and caught it in a front squat!

I generally try to be judicious about what gear I buy – I want to make sure that the equipment I’m spending money on is going to help me improve as an athlete and ensure that my body is protected and can stay in the game for the long haul. Each of these items has so far proven to do just that.

January Wellness Challenge Wrap-Up

Okay. I know everyone on the internet has been convinced that January was the longest month in the history of ever…. and while I can kind of agree, it’s also hard to believe that February is already here. Like, what?

Anyways. During the 74-day eternity that was apparently January, Clay and I participated in a wellness challenge put on by our gym. This week, we wrapped up the challenge (Clay had a few more pull-ups to complete to get his full 500 for the month), and I think it’s safe to say that we are definitely better for having participated.

Our week four goals were centered around mental health and mindfulness. I generally try to be pretty good at taking time for myself and making sure my head is right, but this time of year always, always, stresses me out. At work, we’re preparing for our annual conference and there are so many balls in the air that it inevitably feels like one (or more) will drop and things will explode or catch on fire or collapse.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get my drift.

I’m also heading into the time of year when Clay is gone for a month-and-a-half for work, which isn’t so much stressful as it is a bummer.

All of this is a long way of saying spending a week focused on destressing and self-care was a good thing.

Week Four – Mental Health and Mindfulness

  • Complete a de-stress activity at least twice this week. I make time to read every day and it’s my chance to slow down, turn my work-brain off, and just relax for a bit. Some days, I relax so much that I fall asleep in the middle of a chapter. Other days, I stay up too late and finish a book. Either way, I enjoy taking the time to quiet my thoughts.
  • Write down one thing or person you are grateful for each day of the week. This was easy – I have a lot to be grateful for.
  • Eliminate the words “I can’t” or “never” from your vocabulary for one week at the gym (1 burpee penalty for each time you say either). Fortunately, I have a pretty positive attitude in the gym. I try my best to approach each workout with the mindset that I can do what’s put in front of us. It might hurt, it will definitely be hard, but I can do it. Being aware of not using the words “I can’t” or “never” just made me more determined to push and challenge myself instead of worrying about what other people were doing.
  • Be in the moment. Turn off the phone during dinner for the entire week and engage the people you are with. Clay and I are notorious for spending dinner and the remainder of our evenings with our noses in our phones. Reading Reddit, catching up on social media, reading articles, general mindless blather, etc. Putting our phones down while we ate dinner last week was a nice change. It didn’t help me eat any slower, but it did allow us to have more conversation time, which is never a bad thing.

This month has been a good one, in spite of the stress of work and other nonsense – doing this challenge has helped bring that into focus. I think many of the activities we participated in are actually going to be positive habit-forming experiences. 33 days without alcohol (so far) and 8:00 pm bedtimes have been really, really great. I’m hoping that we continue to see improvement over the next two months, too, as we enter into a less regulated schedule and a busier period of work for both of us.

Happy February!

Wellness Challenge Check-In

Week three of my gym’s Wellness Challenge is well under way. I thought I’d pop on in to give a quick update on how things are going and what’s on the docket for this third week.

Over the weekend, Clay and I made big progress on our goal to row a marathon this month. Between Saturday and Sunday, we cranked out 16,000 meters. That worked out to be just under an hour and a half on the rower.

Surprisingly, my butt wasn’t as tired as I thought it would be.

Week Three’s theme is Recovery and Mobility – two things that I think EVERY athlete can work on. Particularly the recovery part. It’s easy to underestimate how valuable rest is in order to reach our performance goals.

Week Three – Recovery and Mobility

  • Attend the Airrosti Mobility Seminar – we’ll be attending this seminar next week and I’m looking forward to hearing what tips and tricks there are to helping my body move and recover better.
  • Complete a ROMWOD session at least three times this week – ROMWOD, or Range OMotion WOD, is a company that provides mobility and recovery workouts daily to subscribers. I haven’t ponied up for a subscription to this in the past, but I’m looking forward to using the free week-long trial to test it out.
  • Sleep a minimum of 8 hours per night for one week – this goes hand in hand with my goal for the year of prioritizing sleep overall. I can’t guarantee that I will actually stay asleep for 8 hours every night, but I can ensure that I am in bed with plenty of time to settle down with a book and fall asleep and *hopefully* sleep through the night. Unless it’s a night like last night, where I have choir rehearsal and I don’t even get home until an hour and half after my bedtime. Uff da.
  • Choose one day this week for active recovery – I don’t do enough active recovery. Typically, my rest days result in couch time after work. Which, while important, really only serve to help my muscles get stiff. This week, I’m going to get some yoga in – one of my favorite ways to recover.

There you have it. Week three. On its way. Thank goodness for Melatonin.

January Wellness Challenge

I’m not usually one for resolution-ing in the gym. I have fitness goals for the year, don’t get me wrong, we all know about those. But I don’t typically buy in to the #newyearnewme thing.

This year, however, I decided to jump on board with something that my gym is doing – a month-long wellness challenge. Over the course of four weeks, participants are asked to complete at least four of the listed challenges and each week has a different theme.

What I love most about this particular wellness challenge is how holistic it is. Yes, there are fitness-related items (complete 500 push-ups or pull-ups in the month, row a marathon by the end of the month, etc.), but there are also items related to mindfulness, nutrition, recovery, mobility and even water intake!

Clay and I both wanted to get more involved in the community at our gym as well as take the opportunity to improve our overall performance in workouts. We’re more than a week in and so far, so good! I’ll be checking in a couple more times this month to update you on our progress, but here’s a rundown of what we’ve done (or pledged to do) so far:

Week One – Performance

  • Row a marathon (42,000m) in the month
  • Track workouts for a week (we use the myWOD app)
  • Set two performance goals and share with a coach – mine are to improve my overall gymnastics skills with the endgame being to be able to do muscle-ups, and to be able to string together big sets of doubleunders.
  • Partner skill work – Clay and I stayed after class a few times to work on our doubleunders.
  • 500 push-ups in the month. So far, i’ve completed 204/500!

Week Two – Nutrition

  • Eliminate one of the following items for the entire month and keep a journal to describe how are feeling: Alcohol, sugar, soda, dairy, gluten. We chose to eliminate alcohol – and Clay is actually attempting to eliminate it for the whole year. I will probably do the same, as I just don’t feel my best when I drink and my body doesn’t recover well at all.
  • Consume half your body weight in ounces of water per day for the week (e.g. you weigh 150#, you would consume 75 ounces of water.). Do not exceed 100 ounces per day.
  • Prepare or cook all of your meals this week. No fast food or prepared foods.
  • Track and record your food intake for one week and share it with a coach. I use MyFitnessPal regularly, so this one is pretty easy for me. I am trying to be more accurate in my logging, though.

So far, so good! We’re chugging along on our month-long items (we have MANY more meters to row still), and we’ve set our goals. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish in the next couple of weeks!

 

Goals on Goals on Goals

Here we are again. Somehow, the end of the year is here and a new one is upon us – I’m not sure where 2017 went. In some ways, this year has been the BEST and in other ways, 2017 can go die in a fire. Probably right up there with 2016 in the realm of “eff you”. Here’s hoping 2018 has its shit together. Fingers crossed.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed my 2017 goals and checked in on my progress on each one. I was doing pretty well on some and needed to keep working on others. Consequently, my 2018 goals will probably seem pretty similar.

1. Make Sleep a Priority

While I’ve gotten more sleep over the past year, I’m still not great at prioritizing sleep the way I should. As I get older, I notice more acutely how much slower my body is to recover – and I think sleep plays a big part in that. If I’m not sleeping well, I stay fatigued and sore much longer, and I’m just not motivated to do much of anything. Sometimes, making sleep a priority means that I don’t stay up late to watch football, or go out on the weekends very often – both of these go hand in hand with drinking a LOT less alcohol. Drinking less (I rarely drink at all anymore) also helps me sleep. Wine doesn’t put me to bed the way it used to… it mostly just makes me feel like butt when I wake up. So, in 2018, I shall sleep more and drink less!

2. Weekend Water

Karen Walker is generally #goalz, but swap the vodka for water

Generally, I’m very good at drinking water throughout the day. I keep a water bottle on my desk at work and I’m constantly getting up to fill it during the day. At home, we drink lots of sparkling water, but on the weekends, when I’m not working, I don’t drink nearly enough. I did get a fancy new water bottle for Christmas, though, so I’ve tried to be more diligent about using it throughout the evenings and the hours when I’m not working. I’m along with Jenn for the ride of upping water intake.

3. Read *At Least* 15 Books

Last year, I said I wanted to read 30 books. HAHAHAHA. I got through 12 books this year – which is significantly more than I read in 2016, but not even halfway to my goal of 30. So, for 2018, I want to hit the 15 book mark, and if I can go beyond it, then great! I’m always looking for recommendations, too, so hit me up. I got Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened,” Joe Biden’s “Promise Me, Dad,” and Carrie Fisher’s “The Princess Diarist” for Christmas, so I’ll be starting with those. I’ll probably cry through two of the three. Whatever.

4. Practice CrossFit Skills More Regularly

Since starting CrossFit this summer, I’ve learned so many new skills and have improved my movements in a lot of other areas. I can do double-unders now, I can snatch, I can clean almost 200 pounds… but there are many movements I am not proficient in. In 2018, I’d like to work on my ring work (dips, muscle ups), bar work (chest to bar pull-ups, muscle ups), and handstands. Basically all of the gymnastics things. Strength-wise, I’d love to hit new PRs on all of my lifts – which just means lots of reps. I want to try to make it to open gym to work on this skills and hopefully improve as an athlete.

5. Move More – Scroll Less

I spend a lot of time on social media. Like, a lot. Between work (I manage social media there) and home (my evenings often involve Netflix and Instagram scrolling), it’s kind of an all day thing. Now, I’m not here to be all “social media is a poison and it’s rotting our brains” because I think that’s patently untrue. I think social media is great. It offers an incredible platform for people to connect and engage all over the world. It allows us to meet new people and stay in touch with family and friends. But, if we’re not careful, it can be a trap – whether that be politics or body image or otherwise. Mostly, this goal is just to be more cognizant of how many times I’m picking my phone up or sitting and scrolling instead of going out for  walk or finding something to do around the house. Just trying to be more aware and bring more balance  and presence to this area of my life.

Obviously, these goals aren’t time-stamped, and they certainly don’t have an expiration date. My next steps are just to keep on trucking and make a little bit of progress every day. I would like to keep a small journal, just to help keep track of some of the measurable items and to help remind myself of these goals throughout the year.

How do you set goals for yourself? Do you buy in to New Year’s resolutions?

 

December Travel Workouts

This weekend was rough. I don’t know about you people, but there was a lot of football disappointment this weekend in my house. Between the Badgers losing to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship – for those curious, Clay and I are still speaking, even though he cheers for the Buckeyes – and Clay’s Cleveland Browns losing another heartbreaker (and Ohio State not making it into the College Football Playoff), there’s been a lot of frustrated sighing.

This time of year may be the most wonderful, but it’s also the most stressful when it comes to sports. Uff da.

I guess it’s also stressful because somehow my schedule for the next two weeks is non-stop. Between work travel and personal travel, I’m going to be spending just as many days away from home as I will be at home. Consequently, I know I’m going to be tired and it’s going to be difficult to get to my gym. Or any gym. That is, unless I make it happen. Typically, when I travel, I try to figure out ahead of time if there will be a gym of some kind available to me where I’m staying. My first trip this week will be to Las Vegas and I’m certain there will be a hotel gym – but there’s no guarantee I’ll have a variety of equipment to use.

In situations like this, I try to put together workouts that are simple body-weight movements that can be adapted to use weights or other equipment if available, but can easily be completed with nothing extra.

Thursday evening, after my meeting, I’ll probably try to find a half an hour to get this little burner in:

In 20 Minutes, do as many reps as possible of:

5 Pull Ups

10 Push Ups

15 Air Squats

If there isn’t a pull-up bar available, I’ll probably change this to 5 sit ups, 10 push ups, 15 air squats.It’s a pretty straightforward workout, no special or high skill movements… just straight conditioning and going balls out for 20 minutes. Similarly, this weekend, we’ll be in Cleveland to watch football (Go Pack Go!), and will have to see what the hotel gym has to offer and see if I can hit this one:

As many reps as possible in 15 Minutes:

50 DB Snatches (50/35)

40 Burpees

30 Pull Ups

20 Hand Release Push Ups

10 Jumping Air Squats

The following weekend, we’ll be in Florida visiting family. One of the cool things about CrossFit is that we can drop in at pretty much any gym anywhere. That’s our plan while we’re in Orlando… drop in to a couple gyms in the area, join in a WOD and call it a day. The CrossFit community is really awesome like that – and certainly makes some travel easier if you’re trying to get workouts in. For some folks, vacation means no workouts – and sometimes that’s me, too. When I’m on vacation, I try to listen to my body and do what feels right… workouts or not.

While this month may be starting out a little crazy, I am looking forward to some travel, getting to see my favorite football team play, and enjoying some warmer weather… and finding the gym when things allow. December might be stressful, but I’m not stressing about working out – I’ll do what I can, when I can, and the rest is whatever.

Do you workout when you travel? What are some of your preferred methods of breaking a sweat while on the road?

Finally. CrossFit.

I’ve been reading fitness blogs for the past five years or so. Running, mostly, obviously. But, way back in 2012, I also stumbled across a few blogs that kept talking about CrossFit: sharing workouts, talking about weightlifting, looking totally jacked and badass and strong. As an athlete, I was immediately intrigued by these workouts. They incorporated so many movements and skills that it seemed impossible to get bored.

I immediately started looking for CrossFit gyms near me – unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to pay for a membership. So, I put it off. I continued lifting weights and running and following CrossFit from afar. Trying some of the workouts here and there, but that was about it.

This continued until, finally, this past July, I bit the bullet. Clay was on board, too. I’d suckered him in to watching a couple documentaries about it (on Netflix, The Fittest on Earth), and a whole bunch of YouTube videos of past Games’ events and competitions and he was sold.

We’ve been going consistently since July – and consequently my entire fitness mindset has changed. I wrote a little bit about it in my last post, specifically as it related to my diet. I feel like I’ve been able to stop worrying so damn much about what my body looks like (it’s so hard to escape that mindset) and just focus on working hard in class and fueling my body appropriately.

CrossFit catches a lot of flack for being a fad or being too dangerous – none of which I think is true. CrossFit is simply defined as “increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” Functional movements performed at high intensity, from varying fitness modalities, such as running, olympic lifting, gymnastics, rowing, biking and more. Pretty straightforward. What I like best about it, is that any CrossFit workout can be scaled to fit an athlete’s skill level – literally anyone can do CrossFit. Whether you’re a collegiate athlete in peak shape, or you’re a 70 year old who just wants to be able to bend down to pick something up off the floor, CrossFit could be for you.

I love being challenged every day when I go to the gym. Granted, I sometimes read the workout and crap my pants for half a second thinking about how smoked I’m going to be afterward. But. I still enjoy the feeling of being humbled by something as simple as box jumps. Or rope climbs. Or, as we did on Saturday, a 5K row paired with a gnarly barbell complex.

I’ve learned a ton of new skills since starting CrossFit – and improved many others. I’ve surprised myself. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve been nervous. I’ve overcome fears.

All in the confines of a gym, surrounded by other sweaty people going through the same progressions I am.

I still have so much to learn, so many skills to develop and improve – but I’m so glad I’ve finally made myself CrossFit legit. There is just so much opportunity for growth and I can’t wait to see where this takes me.