Day 66: Killin It

Ok, I’m just gonna throw this out there. I killed it last night with my Jackie re-test. My goal was to take 10 seconds off my original time of 14:00, but I finished in 11:31 – a 2:29 difference, and I went from 3 bands to 2.5 bands for the pull-ups! That is a pretty huge difference to see in only one month. Maybe I counted my chickens a little early with this whole Paleo challenge thing!

We also re-measured and the measuring tape thinks I lost a full inch off each thigh. I really do not think this is a reality because my skinny jeans are still just as skinny as ever and I feel like losing an entire inch from each leg would make a dramatic difference in the way my clothes fit. But apart from that I did lose at least 1/2 inch from both my hips and waist, which is always good news. This winter I bought a really cute belt at a thrift store, of course without trying it on, and it was too small, but now not only can I wear it, I am on the 2nd belt hole! Like I said at the beginning of the challenge, I think that Month 2 of CrossFit was a great time to do a challenge like this as far as body composition is concerned, because I feel like my first month was spent mostly with my body in shock. However I have heard that it takes your body an average of about 4 months after starting a drastically new training routine before your muscles can figure out what’s going on and you performance is optimized during the workout. After seeing my improvements just in the past month, I am really excited to see what will keep happening!

Day 65: Color!

Whew. Took a little break from technology this weekend, and it felt great. Also took a little 3-day break from CrossFit, which also felt great. But tonight we are back at it to re-test Jackie (100-m row, 50 thrusters, and 30 pull-ups) and officially complete the Paleo challenge. I am interested to see if my time changes. TJ has already announced that everyone (most people re-tested on Sunday) improved their times, so I hope I’m not the curve breaker! I am optimistic because when we did Jackie last month I had done an 8-hour shift of ziplining the day before, leaving me with super tired shoulders. So hopefully my shoulders are ready to rock tonight. My time last month was 14:00 flat. I am hoping for a 10-second improvement or better. We’ll find out I guess.

But now that the Paleo challenge is over I am back to eating some very exciting foods that I have been missing – namely brown rice and Whatever Salad Dressing I Want. I know, I’m going wild over here. But it really was great to have some brown rice with my egg this morning and go out to lunch and order a salad with caesar dressing. I am trying to not totally undo any progress from the past month all at once. I even did pretty good this weekend with Memorial Day. I don’t think I really had any bad foods all weekend except for a beer and 2 glasses of wine (total, not all at once… I am a major lightweight, people).

Post-Color Run

The best part about this weekend was the Color Run! It’s a 5k race which takes place all over the country, but this one was held at City Park in Denver. At registration every racer is given a packet of powdered dye and a white t-shirt, and during the race at each kilometer (roughly) there is a station where volunteers throw powdered dye at you. So by the end of the race you are covered in dye, and then at the finish line there is a big party where everyone just spends about 30 minutes having a major dye fight. You don’t exactly run it for time (in fact there wasn’t even a clock) and it was so crowded that we had to do a lot of stopping and going, but it was just a super fun event.

Also I realized this weekend that the half marathon I’m supposed to do is less than 10 weeks away… so I really need to start doing some more serious running. I scheduled a 3-mile run with myself last night but ended up not exactly following through (that was where the 2 glasses of wine came in), so hopefully tomorrow I can go for an evening jog around the neighborhood and start building up my mileage. Do you run and do CrossFit? How do you balance training runs with CrossFit soreness?

Day 60: More Truths for CrossFit Beginners

I’ve definitely used this image before in this blog, but I love it, so here ya go.

2 months down, folks! I can’t believe I have been doing this for only 2 months, it feels like CrossFit has been a part of my life for way longer. I did a post like this at the end of Month 1 and I really had fun with it, so I thought I would do another one today! So here ya go, round 2 of Truths for Crossfit Beginners.

1. This was in my first post but is worth repeating because I hear about this all the time: The concept of getting in shape before starting CrossFit is ridiculous. You are going to get your butt handed to you no matter what. Just get in there and get going already.

2. Linking double-unders is a myth.

3. Despite the infinite number of ways to incorporate bacon and sweet potatoes into every meal, paleo is not for everyone.

4. If you can move all of your body parts with full range of motion the day after a WOD, you didn’t try hard enough.

5. Looking at a WOD and thinking Oh that won’t be so bad is the best way to guarantee that you are about to begin the hardest hour of your life.

6. Progenex is worth the money.

7. I am borrowing this point from the wonderful blog of another woman who goes to Crossfit Jai because I think it’s great: “If you go to a CF gym that makes you feel bad about your fitness level RUN far FAR away!” CrossFit should be a supportive community that makes you want to be a better athlete and a better person. Not a place where you feel judged by your stinky gym shorts or inability to do a single pull-up (by the way I am guilty of both of those things).

8. In many situations, putting chalk on your hands does actually make you stronger.

9. There are 2 types of CrossFit athletes: Those who have cried after a WOD, and those who haven’t cried after a WOD yet.

10. It is not about whether or not you can do something, because you can do anything. It’s about what it is going to take to get you there, and whether or not you’re willing to believe in yourself enough to get started.

Ok, your turn, you CrossFit savvy folks! What did I miss?

Day 59: A Paleo Recap

Editor’s Note: I am not a vegetarian, nor do I ever plan to be, but eating a Paleolithic amount of meat has proven to be a dilemma for me. Do you eat Paleo? I would really love some feedback on what you and those you cook for think about such a high level of meat consumption. Also, if you have any good meat-free Paleo recipes I would really like to hear about them.

Our gym is in the final week of the Paleo challenge, and I have been eating (mostly) Paleo now for almost a month. I have lost a few pounds, but it’s comparable to what I lost in my 1st month of CrossFit without eating Paleo, so it’s hard to say what role the diet has played in that. I haven’t noticed that I’ve been sleeping better or WODing harder or recovering faster. In general, I’m really not sure that Paleo has “done it” for me.

To be fair, I have not been a total Paleo purist this month. But I will say that in the past 25 days I have eaten just 1 piece of bread as a last resort to calm an upset stomach, zero cheese except for the box of mac & cheese I ate that one night, and have drastically cut back my beer intake from 5-10 beers a week down to 1-2 at the most. I haven’t had one cookie, piece of candy, or a single cup of coffee. I have, however, eaten at least 7 POUNDS of cashews. Also probably 10-15 sweet potatoes, the equivalent of several chickens, at least one pig’s worth of bacon, and dozens of eggs. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have eaten more beef in the past month than I had in the past year combined.

And I think that’s the issue. I just don’t feel good when I eat that much animal. I know I’ve said this before, but pre-Paleo I would only eat meat 2-3 times a week, and it was usually chicken. On other nights I would eat whole grain pasta, veggie stir fry with brown rice, or veggie tacos on corn tortillas. I tried this week to come up with some meals that are Paleo but don’t have any meat in them, but it’s hard to get very much protein since traditional non-meat protein options (beans and dairy) aren’t allowed. Some vegetables, like asparagus and brussel sprouts, are relatively high in protein for being a vegetable, but still only offer around 3g of protein per serving. Compare that to at least 7g of protein in a serving of beef, or 6.5g of protein in an egg, and I’m just not sure I could fit enough vegetables in my body to provide the protein that I need to adequately rebuild my muscles after CrossFit.

I also can’t really ignore the environmental impacts of eating that much meat. Even grass-fed farms, despite their desire to return to a more natural way of farming, aren’t infinitely sustainable. I understand that grass-fed is better for the animal and the meat is better for us, but I have been thinking a lot about an Op-Ed I read from the New York Times on April 12th that said, “If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs).” It also talks about the fact that grazing cows and chickens release considerably more methane than those that are grain-fed. The problem, ultimately, is not the way that the animals are raised, but the sheer volume of meat that is being produced. Kind of hard to want to eat meat 3x/day when you think about even the possibility of those statistics being true. (If you are interested in these issues, I would highly recommend the article, which can be found here.)

There are a lot of things I like about Paleo. I have learned a lot about the sneaky places that sugar hides, learned that I don’t need to top everything with cheese or eat it on a bed of grains, and I have never been so hydrated in my life. I have learned a lot from just the exercise of paying close attention to what I eat. I have read and heard a lot of evidence that has convinced me to really cut back on the amount of gluten that I allow into my system.

But when I think about eating healthy, the first word that comes to my mind is “moderation.” I have never been one to believe in completely depriving or saturating your diet with any one thing, or that there is any single trick that will suddenly make you healthier and skinnier. I plan on continuing to eat meat, just not so much of it. I also plan on re-introducing brown rice, beans, goat cheese, and even some regular potatoes into my diet. And I don’t plan on eating cashews again for a while.

Day 58: Tears

I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. Is it possible to get whiplash from a jerk press? Ok, how about from 49 of them?

Last night’s WOD was 7 rounds of 7 jerk presses, 200 m run, then 7 front squats. My bar weighed 65 lbs. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t even link the first set of jerk presses, and it really only went downhill from there.

By the end I was only able to do 1, maybe 2 jerk presses at a time, and 3 or 4 squats between rests. I was running almost entirely with my eyes closed just to concentrate on moving my feet (a dangerous activity due to the constant presence of small children riding tandem on scooters at the end of the block where our 200m turnaround is). At the end of the 5th round, I dropped the bar and left for the run with tears in my eyes, and by the end of the 7th round, with TJ and the BF standing next to me coaxing me to pick the bar up just one more time, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I was at muscle failure 2 reps before the end of the set. I ended up counting a 3/4 press and a 1/2 press together to create my 5th rep. When I did finally somehow make it through the last 2 reps, I dropped the bar, walked outside, and started crying.

I am not a crier. I get a little choked up occasionally, but it usually takes a significant personal tragedy before I actually cry. But last night it just felt like my body was out of options. It was a feeling I have definitely never experienced before, where all my resources were totally exhausted and my defenses were totally gone. I have had some really hard WODs in the past few weeks, but last night’s was the first where I was staring down the final set and thinking I don’t know if I can physically do this. It was beyond pushing myself and beyond convincing myself to go for it. And it apparently took every ounce of emotional stability I had in my body to get through it.

Even though I finished feeling like I had definitely accomplished something significant, it also made me think: When do you reach a point where you have to say “This is too much”?

Day 57: Climbing

Yesterday I woke up a follower, and went to bed a leader.

Which is a very dramatic (coined by TJ) way of saying that yesterday I did my first lead climb!

For those of you unfamiliar with climbing, you can check out Wikipedia’s definition of lead climbing here. In a nutshell, lead climbing is not necessarily harder than top-rope climbing, but it’s much scarier and has higher consequences if you fall. Which is why, even though I’ve been climbing for 2 years, I had never led before. And I was pretty freaked out about it – TJ was quick to point out that my hands were shaking as his girlfriend took a photo of me right before I started the climb. The first few moves were the hardest, but once I got out of my head I found that it really was actually a great experience. As is the case with most new experiences, as soon as you stop over-thinking it there is actually room to enjoy the ride! And it was great, feeling like I was more in control of my experience and wasn’t relying on my belayer to pull me up the climb. A totally new feeling of responsibility and even independence, all from one short, easy (5.4) sport climb. Even though it was one of the easier routes in the canyon, your first lead is a big moment in your climbing career, and I’m proud to say that I can now call myself a lead climber!

Really excessive amounts of excitement

Yesterday was also the first climbing that we had done since starting CrossFit! It’s hard to say whether or not I really felt stronger because we rarely have climbed the type of routes we were on yesterday (The Boyfriend especially is mostly a desert climber, which is a very different type of rock and a very different type of climbing), but I definitely felt more confident about being able to –here’s that phrase again– push my limits. I know that if we hadn’t been doing CrossFit for the past several weeks, I definitely would not have had the confidence, physically or mentally, to get out and lead my first climb on our first real day out of the season.

Yesterday was another great example of moving toward my ultimate goal (with CrossFit but also just life in general), which is to be able to get out and be a better climber, hiker, rafter, and all-around active person. Playing outside is my passion but I felt like I had reached a plateau with my skill level and, honestly, my level of ambition and motivation. But yesterday proved that CrossFit is definitely helping me move past those limitations and push me into the next season of my life as an active person – hopefully one that will involve many more lead climbs.

Oh, and yesterday after climbing, TJ’s girlfriend Lindsay I went to an African dance class in Boulder, which was made up of equal parts flailing and sweating. I had taken African dance before, but not for several years, and it was HARD! But also super fun. I mean, what’s not to love about having a man named Maputo tell you, in a very thick Ghanaian accent, that in order to correct your dance form, you “just need to drop it like it’s hot!”