The Blog

Am I doing Crossfit?

Once again, it has been some time since I have last posted here on my site… face palm. I will say it has been a productive 4 months: I have been putting many steady hours at the hospital, and also had my first out of country trip to Mexico with My Champ in early December. Come to think of it, things have been pretty non-stop since our return! Busy is a good problem to have, in my opinion. A busy life is a full life 🙂

The last physical venture I had written about was my Spartan Super race I ran in September. Naturally, coming off that race led me to wanting to challenge myself even more. Preparing for the Spartan in conjunction with my endurance training for my triathlon races was an eye-opener. There were both strengths and deficits that became evident. The strengths: I had decent muscular endurance and a fairly efficient ability to recover; the deficits: I had lost a lot of strength (mainly upper body) and my physical skills were very limited. Since I desire to be as rounded an athlete as possible, I had to change that.

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Katrin Davidsdottir of Iceland

For just about a year, I had been following the sport of Crossfit under the radar. I began following the likes of Katrin Davidsdottir (current Crossfit champ of the World, ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’), as well as several other professional athletes under the Crossfit umbrella. Inspiring doesn’t even come close to describing what these athletes are capable of. I watched a lot of YouTube on the sport, and as mentioned in another blog- the documentary “The Fittest on Earth” helped fuel my urge to finally participate/train in such a way.

What is Crossfit?

The sport of Crossfit was founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman, and is defined as a strength and conditioning program of constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains (1). An individual’s ‘fitness’ is measured by work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Individuals train often by taking classes at Crossfit affiliate gyms, also known as ‘boxes’. Classes are usually structured about 1 hour in length, including warm-up, skill development, followed by a circuit/workout of the day or ‘WOD’. Performance on each WOD is scored (ie. the amount of repetitions, rounds, or time performed) to encourage competition and to track progress. Over time, one can objectively measure their level of fitness based on the progress of their scores and even by comparison to others within their box or even in competition. According to Greg Glassman: “Crossfit is not a specialized fitness program, but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of 10 recognized fitness domains”(2). The 10 fitness domains include:

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance
  2. Stamina
  3. Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Power
  6. Speed
  7. Coordination
  8. Agility
  9. Balance
  10. Accuracy

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    Samantha Briggs: 2013 Crossfit Games Champion and decorated triathlete/duathlete

Displaying some sort of skill in each of these domains makes one a complete, rounded athlete: excelling at each of them is the elusive goal in becoming the ultimate athlete. Sounds rather daunting, doesn’t it? On the flip side, I do believe that is the draw: to test one’s physical fitness in every was possible. Call me crazy, but the idea of being constantly challenged physically, really excites me. I knew the more I read up on the sport, the more videos I watched, the more WODs I attempted (thanks, Crossfit.com!) I knew I wanted to join a Crossfit affiliate to supplement my training.

Something New

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At SPARK Sport Conditioning: Oct. 2016

The sport of Crossfit is actually huge in the United States and all over the world (over 13,000 boxes and counting); and it is showing substantial popularity here in my hometown of Edmonton, AB. A few friends and acquaintances suggested their boxes to me, but it was SPARK Sport Conditioning that I fell in love with. The main reason was the quality of everything: the facility, the coaches, the people, and the expected quality of performance. There is a negative stigma that many have towards the concept of Crossfit. Many feel there is a great risk for injury having individuals who are beginners with little or improper instruction performing complex movements/lifts at an accelerated rate. I did not get that sense at all at SPARK. I can say from my own experience, as well as watching the coaches interactions with others- that they take great care in ensuring proper form is executed.  I will say that my background in weightlifting and sports has helped me progress at an accelerated rate. Witnessing other athletes from all walks of life attempt and excel at each WOD is so motivating and inspiring. SPARK’s positive environment and focus on quality have made me feel right at home.

What I love most about training Crossfit is the variety: you are always training a different skill, and the variety of workouts are limitless. You are constantly keeping your body guessing. Examples of equipment used in a Crossfit box/workout:

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  • Barbells
  • Dumbbells
  • Gymnastics rings
  • Pull-up bars
  • Jump ropes
  • Kettle bells
  • Medicine balls
  • Plyo boxes
  • Rowing machines

One item that you will NOT find in a Crossfit gym/box that you would commonly see in every other gym: a mirror. That’s right. Unless you are in the bathroom, you will not find a single mirror on the workout floor. GASP- no mirror??? How will you ever check your form, make sure you’re doing it right; how will you ever capture that perfect post-pump selfie?? My sarcasm is to prove a point: the mirror is NOT necessary to the purpose of your workout. You are encouraged to learn to FEEL when your form is on point; and actually, following your form in a mirror can lead to improper form (often due to head direction, and following a moving target). Your purpose for your workout has zero to do with how you look, but how you PERFORM. Your success is measured not from the subjectivity of your appearance, but instead objectively measured by the weight, time, and repetitions the task is executed. Something new, right? That is what made me fall in love with this training the most.  Ever since coming off the fitness competition scene, this is the very thing I have been looking for to switch my focus. Not looks, but performance, strength, skill. It’s a much healthier, tangible way to measure my fitness- my success.

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Body confidence: Feb. 2nd, 2017

Ever since implementing Crossfit-style training into my regimine (about twice/week) I have gained confidence and a new passion for my training. My aerobic capacity has increased in each discipline for my triathlon training- particularly in my swim. The aesthetic results are the icing on the cake. I have an increased metabolism, and my clothes are fitting me as though I’ve been dieting. The truth is, the better and stronger I feel, the better I want to fuel my body; the better I fuel my body, the better I perform. Everything just keeps getting… better. To answer the question of this title, the answer is ‘yes’. I can’t wait to unlock some of my undiscovered physical potential.

“What’s the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” – John Green, American author, YouTube video blogger, and historian (3)

“Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else.  It’s the ache in your lungs, the burning in your legs and the voice inside you that yells, ‘I can’t.’ But you do not listen.  You just push harder.  Then you hear that voice fade away and start to whisper, ‘I can.’ That’s the moment you discover that the person you thought you were is not a match for the person you really are.” – Author Unknown (3)

 

Citation

1. Glassman, Greg. “Understanding CrossFit” (PDF). The CrossFit Journal. Retrieved 20 February 2017.

2. Shugart, Chris (November 4, 2008). “The Truth About CrossFit”. Testosterone Muscle.

3. 50 Inspirational Quotes for Crossfitters. https://www.boxrox.com/50-inspirational-quotes-crossfitters/. Retrieved 20 February, 2017.

How I Fell in Love with Bodybuilding

Friday nights are usually reserved for ‘quality time’ for My Champ and I. 9 out of 10 times this usually involves watching something on Netflix. This past Friday I had suggested we watch ‘Pumping Iron’.  For those of you that don’t know, Pumping Iron was documentary-style film made in 1975 showcasing the then-bizarre world of bodybuilding. The film’s main star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the highlight featured as he was in preparation for his 6th Mr. Olympia win in Pretoria, South Africa. He was then, and arguably still is the most famous bodybuilder in the world. This was My Champ’s first time seeing the film, and likely my 6th or 7th. It still gives me goosebumps when I watch it.

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I still have the copy 🙂

Growing up in my childhood home, my bedroom had this very large bookshelf. My parents kept many of the family photo albums and cherished books in this shelf. I distinctly remember being about 10 years old, and snooping in the section of the shelf where the books were kept. There I found my Dad’s copy of the 1977 version ARNOLD: The Education of a Bodybuilder. I flipped through the pages in complete awe. I loved how muscles looked! Although I knew absolutely nothing about bodybuilding in my tender youth, I knew that Arnold had quite the aesthetically pleasing physique. The attraction was not of a sexual nature, but more of a keen interest and admiration in how one could transform their body in such a way. Not only was I impressed with his appearance, I also became intrigued with the information provided regarding exercise and nutrition. Though there have been many changes to what constitutes a ‘proper’ bodybuilding diet over the years, it was obvious that to look like a beast you would have to eat and train like one! Even today (as I still have the copy in my possession) I admire the confident, no-bullshit approach Arnold had toward his craft. In order to be the best, you have believe you are the best: feed yourself with the best, train with the best, practice the best, sleep the best, always question ways you can be BETTER. I believe this applies to anyone and everyone trying to get ahead in life, no matter the goal.

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Love me some Madge

It was around this same point in time that I also became infatuated with Madonna. For a female singer/actress, the girl was RIPPED! I actually remember watching one of her music videos while my cousin was baby-sitting me, and I uttered “I want to look like that when I grow up.” Sure, Madonna has done some things in her past that are maybe questionable for a young girl to view her as a role model- but the impact she had on me as a confident, strong, independent female was huge. She was fierce. She was intimidating. I just remember loving the flow of the muscles in her arms: the visible delts, the separation of biceps, the veins in her forearms… I wanted all that. I loved that she made no secret that her appearance took much discipline through diet and training.

Many people have celebrity heroes from their childhood, and mine were Arnold and Madonna. So I guess it makes sense that I would eventually fall into the world of bodybuilding and fitness. I knew I’d never be a model for Vogue or Elle, but I knew in my heart I had what it took to be a fitness competitor. It was my desire, my passion, my everything to pursue the sport I grew up admiring. And although I’m not being displayed on a stage anymore, I’m still very much all about challenging myself to my absolute physical limits. Everyone has a ‘why’ as to how they started, and it’s important to always remember what that ‘why’ is. Keep going, because truly anything is possible 😉

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Purposeful Training: A Wake-Up Call on ‘Body Image’

*Images courtesy of Taylor Oakes for BodyRock.tv

As previously mentioned in last week’s blog (‘Know When It’s Time to Walk Away’) I have began training for my first-ever, full triathlon. How might a former figure competitor, gym rat, circuit-training queen come to will this upon herself?? A good girlfriend of mine messaged me and asked if I’d be up for the challenge: and like the yes-girl I am, I said ‘hell yes!!’ I actually even one-upped myself (because I’m such an arrogant brat; please note the sarcasm) and thought that a sprint distance would be too ‘easy’, and decided to go for the full distance. I am admittedly a strong runner, and since I have 16 weeks total to prepare I would just train harder at the swimming and biking. Right?!?

For those of you that don’t know, a sprint-distance triathlon is as follows: a 500 m swim; 13 km bike; 4 km run. A standard distance is double that. I am in the midst of preparing for a 1 km swim; 26 km bike; 8 km run. And it is humbling as hell.

I will share with you all my experience the first day I went for swim practice. I met with up with a friend (different friend from the one who challenged me, but also does triathlons) at the Sports Centre she trains out of, as she wanted to introduce me to her coach. She had mentioned something about having second thoughts meeting up with me, the former fitness competitor, and wearing our swimsuits: barefaced in front of each other. I laughed it off and assured her I was by no means in ‘shredded’ condition to make her feel in such a way. Come to think of it, the old-Lindsay would be far more self-conscious being in a bathing suit anything less than shoot shape herself. Weird. That didn’t happen this time.

In the women’s change room I made quick glances at noting the varied ages in the women getting ready for practice. I was most likely the youngest, if not second-youngest there. Some women were old enough to be my mother, but most were within 5-15 years my senior. Not once did I catch a glimpse of their bodies- again, weird. Women- we check each other out. It’s biological. Not in a sexual kind of way, but it’s in our nature to sort of size each other up. It’s not meant to be negative. We’re just scoping out the healthy competition!

As I walked out on to the pool deck I saw some of the others already starting their swim. They were all very well seasoned I’d say: everyone doing turnover turns (a fast way of turning around underwater while lane swimming) and swimming at rather brisk paces. The lanes were set up for 25 m-length lanes. I got in that pool water and went for it. There and back, not so bad… except I was gasping for air! The coach had noticed my efforts and stopped to chat with me. He asked me how my breathing felt; I said “it’s pretty hard.” He said it would take me approximately 6 weeks of going at least 2-3 times/week to normalize my breathing. He also said that since I have more muscle mass than average, I would have a harder time getting adequate oxygen to my tissues. Man-this is going to be MUCH more challenging than I thought! I admitted to him that I hadn’t swam like this in 20 years- a whole lifetime ago. It was very apparent I had my work cut out for me. All the other men and women in the pool were blowing me away. It was incredible watch: individuals of all ages exploding with raw athleticism. I felt a fire light inside.

 

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Exiting the pool, it was only then that I became aware of the varied body types we all had. I was by far the tallest and most muscular- and I was also one of the slowest. I felt a pit in my stomach: my aesthetics did not serve me here. They mean nothing now. It doesn’t matter how ‘jacked’ my shoulders are: women that are half my size/stature are LAPPING me! As I showered, I thought “how am I going to adjust to this new training? Swim, 2-3 TIMES a week?? Plus biking… plus running..” I then realized that I am no longer in the business to volume-train or train for hypertrophy (muscle growth). I am strictly to prepare for the task at hand: the Coronation Triathlon, May 29th. If there is any sort of strength I am bringing to the table, it is my work ethic.

It has now been about 2.5 weeks since I fully committed to this new conquest, and so much has had to change: my training, my nutrition (I’ll get to those topics in future blogs) and most importantly my outlook. Training with a purpose gives me such a greater respect for the human body- and MY body in particular. Sure, I am a little ‘softer’ now than I would normally like. But I am the strongest I’ve been in years. I want to nourish my body as best I can. It’s about performing to my full capacity, and improving upon that. I can tell the other women in the swim group aren’t scoffing at their flaws: they’re complimenting one another on their swim, when is there next meet, oh and the new banana bread recipe they tried last night- without guilt. It’s a new culture, a positive one.

It has been said many times that it’s good to get out of your comfort zone, and I can tell you I have done just that. I have already said to myself a couple times: “what have I gotten myself into?” But I also know that’s exactly why I should be doing it. Being uncomfortable gets you to grow as person, I have found. I have a new focus, a new purpose, and a much healthier view of my own body, just the way it is. Stay tuned 🙂

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