I debated doing a post that was basically a plug for CrossFit. However, it has become a major part of my life these past 2 years and I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t devote as least a few paragraphs to my major extra-curricular.
Ever since I grew out of little pink dresses and white tights and saddle shoes (okay I still like pink dresses), I have been a girl who happily dons a coat of sweat while enjoying some sport or activity. In high school I was captain of the high school basketball and volleyball teams, I dabbled in softball, ran around like crazy (but slowly), in college I finally decided I liked tennis, I discovered boxing, MMA and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, I joined the crew team, I lived in the gym.
In college, I also rode that roller-coaster of weight gain/loss. Of course I was at my healthiest when I was exercising regularly (and happily) and cutting back on the grains and sugars.
When I moved to Virginia I came with a new car: a Honda Fit (his name is Paolo). Fitting, right (pun intended).
When I moved to Virginia, I had fallen out of a regular gym routine, was not on a sports team, and ate pretty much vegetarian (the occasional chicken and tuna made its way into my belly every now and then). I wasn’t in the best shape I’ve seen, needless to say. I wore a 10/12 and had some ‘curves’ (aka pudge). Folks, I have to admit this: I power-walked. Yes, I did. Almost daily, in fact, for 3 miles. I was fast, too! Every now and then I would run a mile or use some free weights at the gym. Sometimes row, sometimes use the punching bags in the combat room and even do some shadow boxing. It was sporadic at best (except for the power walking). I did take a pole-dancing class for a couple months and that was tons of fun and really did make you use upper body strength. I kept up my salsa and Argentine tango dancing (cardio, skill, grace, balance — don’t knock it, folks!). But I needed more. My body was screaming at me.
Then I discovered CrossFit and a Paleo/Primal lifestyle. What is CrossFit? Well, this video asks and answers that exact question: My very first introductory class consisted of a very modified workout of partner med-ball slams, partner med-ball sit-ups, and a lot of walking lunges. I couldn’t walk when this mini met-con was done. No joke, folks: I. Could. Not. Walk. After this first experience into the world of secret acronyms and workouts named after girls and everyone high-fiving after it’s all over, I immediately emailed the owner and said “sign me up”. I’ve never looked back since.
CrossFit is more than just a way of working out. It’s more than just ‘a gym’. It’s a community around the world of people with different fitness goals and backgrounds, all pushing through a tough workout together, all helping each other get their first pull-up, all encouraging you to get a new PR on a heavy lift. I’ve been to multiple CrossFit gyms around the USA and even in England, and I can’t say enough how welcome I felt at all of them. When you’re CrossFit, you’re family. It’s been the best gym experience I’ve had since leaving the world of competitive team sports (actually I just recently competed with my Affiliate TEAM at the CrossFit Mid-Atlantic Regional Competition, so I suppose I still do take part in competitive team sports). The best part is, in the gym, you’re most competitive with yourself. You’re constantly improving: strength, agility, speed, flexibility. It’s for all ages and levels of fitness, too. My parents have been CrossFitting for over a year now and I can’t even come close to describing what a difference I’ve seen in them. They’re more alive, somehow.
CrossFit usually comes with some nutritional preachery (yes I made up a word, it happens often). Zone, Paleo, Primal… Well. I jumped on the Paleo bandwagon, quickly changed it to Primal (which is basically Paleo but allows for dairy) and I really can’t see me going back. What is Paleo? In short: lean meats, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, some starch. Absolutely no sugar. Stay away from processed foods. Stay away not just from gluten but pretty much all grains. Yes you can cheat every now and then.
I thought I ate healthy before since I generally stuck to the outsides of the supermarket and tried to limit any processed foods. But boy did I notice a change right away when I cut out the grains (yes pasta, pizza, bread — it all must go) and sugars (…except dark chocolate. This must always stay). I had more energy, I felt fuller faster (a nice side effect of eating much more protein and fat mostly by way of animal products but also nuts and avocados), I gained strength faster and leaned out pretty quickly. The only downside was that my boobs shrank a little (or was it my back fat?) and I had to buy new clothes since I had dropped about 2 sizes. I didn’t lose much weight overall, simply lowered my body fat percentage and gained a lot of muscle. I also became MUCH more creative in the kitchen, I gotta say. Some fabulous websites that helped get me going are: paleoblocks.blogspot.com, primal-palate-com, elanaspantry.com (dessert!!!), marianutrition.blogspot.com, marksdailyapple.com, whole9life.com, and many more.
I’ve been on this CrossFit/Paleo kick for almost a full 2 years now. I am a trainer at my local Affiliate, I’ve competed in numerous competitions (so much fun, and the people! Oh the people!), I’ve turned my nutrition onto a steady path of a healthy me, and I’m still reaching for goals in the gym. I like to think the changes and growth I’ve seen in the gym and my diet can be a nice metaphor for the rest of my life. It certainly can show dedication to self-improvement — a dedication I will do my best to apply towards my dissertation!!!
Current stats, you ask?
Back Squat: 243#
Shoulder Press: 105#
Bench Press: 131#
Overhead Squat: 155#
Front Squat: 195#
Clean & Jerk: 165#; Snatch: 130#
2k row: 8:07;
1k row: 3:54;
500m row: 1:46
5k run: 23:02
But enough of that. I still have many things to improve upon and more strength to gain. More skills to learn. There is always something yet new to learn. This applies everywhere.
So ask your doctor if getting off your ass is good for you. Chances are she’ll say ‘yes’. Feed your brain, feed your body, feed your soul, and above all else: find time for laughter and joy. …And maybe pick up a barbell next time you go to the gym.