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.

Be All In: Key Points for Success

Some time has passed since my last blog entry, and much has happened in the land of ‘Orangezilla’. The loss of my maternal grandmother and coping with that consumed much of my heart and mind; then simultaneously handling affairs while My Champ was away in Sweden for the IFMA World Muay Thai Championships. I was both busy and preoccupied. My number one way to deal with adversity: I get to  WORK!!

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The 2016 Coronation Triathlon took place this past Sunday, May 29th here in Edmonton, AB. I could not have asked for a better day! The weather conditions were perfect, and I was decently rested and fuelled to go. I had followed some carb loading guidelines My Champ had advised before he left, and I will say it totally worked! I had tons of energy to last the entire race, and zero crash. A family friend (an experienced triathlete) who was also taking part in the race had asked me if I had a goal in mind. I had told him based on my best training times, and estimating my transitions (from swimming, to biking, to running) I was hoping to finish around the 2 hour mark. He replied: “This is a tough course. And this being your first triathlon, if you finish in 2 hours, you won’t be making many friends!” He wasn’t trying to doubt me or be rude: he was simply preparing me for possibly falling short of my goal. I simply smiled and shrugged it off. He had never seen me train or race. He is also unaware of my competitive spirit. Instead of feeling discouraged by the comment, I thought to myself “just watch me.”

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My sprint to the finish

As mentioned, I had loads of energy throughout the race. The discipline I feared most, the bike, turned out to be the easiest. I realized just how effective my training was as I passed other cyclists, uphill. For the run I had enough gas in the tank to sprint to the finish line, welcomed by the cheers of my family and friends as well as total strangers. I handed in my time chip, and instantly looked up my time (results were posted immediately). I finished the race at 1 hour, 51 minutes!!! Not only that, but I place 3rd in my age category! As I type this I smile because not only did I beat my goal, but I shocked other seasoned athletes- including my family friend. That particular ‘shock value’ is priceless 🙂

Now that I’ve had several days to reflect on the success of the past weekend, I’ve thought about how I go about approaching each and every challenge. When I put my mind to something I definitely have an ‘all in’ approach. These are the five key points (I have found) to achieving success, in any challenge/goal:

  1. Be VisualImage (78)

    A goal needs to have a timeline: write that date down. You can choose to keep this goal/date/event private in a journal or in your phone; or you can make it public by posting it on social media. Either way, once it’s out there you’re accountable. Week by week write down your training schedule, your meals, your measurements, etc. to keep track of your progress.

  2. Check your ego at the door

    Image (81)Realize that when encountering a new challenge, you won’t be highly skilled right off the bat. Believe me, this one is HARD for me! As long as you allow yourself sufficient time for improvement, you WILL get there. Everyone has to start somewhere. As cliche as that sounds, take it from the girl that could barely ride her road bike 2 months before her race!

  3. Surround yourself with those that are better than you

    This ties in with the point above: accept that you are a student of your craft, and prepare yourself to LEARN. Join training groups, enlist a coach, allow yourself to be a sponge from those who are more skilled or have more experience. I independently joined both swim and bike groups that both respectively had some very skilled athletes. It was scary, it was intimidating: but I learned so much from both. It was all the more rewarding watching myself improve in the midst of such talented company.

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    My friend and seasoned triathlete Carlene, post-race

  4. Don’t cut corners

    You know the saying ‘hard work pays off’? Well just like how all your hard work will be evident on race/event day, so will it if you half-assed your preparation. Leave nothing to chance. Train hard, practice perfect, take in the proper nutrition, and you will NOT be disappointed with the results.

  5. Know your ‘why’

    Image (79)Last but not least, I feel this is the most important point of all. Many of us will have moments where we stop and think ‘why am I doing this?’ And we’re right to do so. But the ‘why’ has to be good enough in order to keep going. My ‘why’ is almost always to prove something to myself. It never has to do with anyone else. Your why can be anything at all: just keep in mind that it should be something related to your self-love and respect in the end.

    Why be all in? Why be so intense? Why do anything at all, if you can’t give your best… That’s my question 😉

Why I Never Want to be Like You

The worst thing I can be is the same as everybody else. I hate that.”- Arnold Schwarzenegger

While some might dispute me choosing to quote Arnold, fan or not, the man has done some great things in his lifetime. I use Mr. Schwarzenegger as an example because his rise to fame all stemmed from what was once an unusual anomaly: bodybuilding. It’s hard to believe now, as in recent times muscle is very much ‘in’ and desired. But back in Arnold’s heyday, it wasn’t so. It was considered freakish and strange: why would anyone want to look like that? Confident in his pursuit to be the best in the world at his craft, he did just that: and went on to succeed in many other storied achievements. He is now one of the most successful and powerful celebrities on the planet.

Many of the role models I look up to have at least one of two things in common: they overcame some type of adversity, and/or chose a road less traveled to attain success. There is no such thing as the ‘perfect journey’. In fact I find the more difficult the pursuit, the more inspiring the story.

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When I began competing in fitness, my start was not easy. Many people thought it was a strange choice of sport: hardly anyone was doing it. My coworkers would vocally accuse me of not eating enough, and exercising too much: even calling me obsessed, which I was. My mother was concerned that I was going to morph into this bodybuilder and render myself beyond recognition. It was hard for her to accept me not eating the same things at family dinners. I did lose a few friendships along the way, but also gained many others. As each season went by, I continued to get better and better, and my hard work was paying off. Others started to notice this wasn’t some onetime ‘fad’ I was partaking in: I was genuinely passionate about this lifestyle. I BELIEVED in it. Fast forward 7 years later, fitness competitions are everywhere! I’m sure everyone reading this can list 3 people they know competing in some type of bodybuilding category. It’s amazing to see. The sport has become ‘mainstream’!

Competing all those years has brought me many opportunities; and the opportunities continue to present themselves. Even though I have hung up my clear platform heels, I am still very much living the fit life. That will never stop. I am so passionate about living and sharing this lifestyle that I created this very site you are on. So what is my point? There is something to be said for being true to yourself. Be unique. If there is something out there you want to do and can’t stop thinking about it: DO IT. There will always be naysayers. Even some of the closest people to you will question your decisions. You need to take a stand. Follow your instincts. Work hard on your craft and prove what you already know to be true. The more you stick to your guns and stay true to your goals and your plan, others will start to notice. They will start to see different. People are afraid of what they do not understand. It only needs to make sense to YOU. And who knows, maybe one day those very same people that questioned your aspirations will be telling others how they know you… 😉

 

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Know When It’s Time to Walk Away

“…after a while you learn that even the sunshine burns if you get too much.” – Veronica A. Shoffstall, After a while

July 5th, 2014: my last figure competition. My hometown of Edmonton, Alberta was the host city of the CBBF Figure Nationals (an IFBB pro card qualifier) and I could not be more pumped to be on stage in front of so many familiar faces. This would be my 9th show in 5 years, and my 5th national-level competition. With all the excitement and expectations leading up to it, I had no idea it would be my last.

It had been a difficult prep, as I had developed bronchitis about 7 weeks out forcing me to put everything to a halt for several days. Nevertheless I pulled through, and was coming in my best condition to date. I had never been so lean; I had never felt so calm; I never felt more confident in all my life. Even with hiccups like my suit being denied at height-ins, I was totally unfazed. I didn’t care if they wanted me in a garbage bag: I knew my physique was 100% my very best.

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My girlfriend and fellow competitor Paije and I on our way to prejudging

The day of the competition I was as calm as pond water. The entire day I was so chill. I knew it was going to be a very long day, with 400+ competitors registered, it was the largest national show the CBBF had ever seen (at that point). I laid up backstage for 8 some- odd hours before going on stage for prejudging, still totally unfazed. My coach said I had done well- the one critique was to get another layer of spray tan before the night show as I looked a lot lighter next to the other girls. Because I don’t tan my skin with sun/sun beds (for health reasons) I have a trickier time achieving that desired competition-dark look. I took my coach’s advice, and was ready to rock the night show.

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Showcasing my front post at the night show

The night show is where they announce how the judges placed the athletes from prejudging: the awards ceremony, if you will. I felt the expectations on me were pretty high: I had placed 3rd in 2011; 2nd in 2012; and 2nd in 2013. So naturally, one would feel since they are coming in as their best ever, first place would be the next step. I did not feel this was a cocky or arrogant way to be- I EARNED this belief. I worked myself (literally) to the bone for this. They had me up on stage in the night show as one of the top 5. Then they called the top 3. My name wasn’t called. You know how on sitcoms when unexpected moments occur, they play that record-scratch sound?? Well that’s what I’d heard in my head. I actually felt like I heard dead silence after that. I heard nothing. I kept smiling (though in hindsight it was probably the fakest smile ever) and walked off stage. Some of my close friends who were also competing then saw me, shocked. I said nothing. I knew, as hot-tempered as I can be, I needed to say absolutely nothing until I saw my family. And actually, that’s all I do remember saying- over and over: “I just need to find my family.”

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My brother, my Mom, Me, and my Dad- the dinner the day after my last show: July 6th, 2014

I have competed all over Canada, and my family has been there for each and every show. Toronto, Saskatoon, Vancouver (twice)- they were there. This is rare in the bodybuilding world. I am aware I had tremendous support as a fitness competitor- in a sport where many family and friends do not understand (or want to). My heart instantly went to them. It was 12:50 am when I got off stage. I know, because I remember looking at my phone. Once I finally found all of them, seeing their tired, weary, forced smiles on their faces- I said ENOUGH. I sank inside. My coach was there too- and gave me the advice to just take a break, to “reset” I believe he said, and just enjoy life for a little bit.

And so I did. I vowed I would take at least a whole year off from competing and then see how I feel. In that time I did some deep soul-searching. Was competing actually making me happy, or was it just about having a goal? It was becoming apparent after the last few shows I had always had this ’empty’ feeling post-show. I was actually my happiest just training, preparing for something. The sport of figure was also beginning to change. The girls were getting bigger, harder, almost (forgive me) harsher looking- the ones that were placing high. To each their own, I did not want to have to resort to this type of look just to win a trophy. After much introspection, I knew this was no long my path.

About mid-way through my fitness career I often got asked: “how long do you plan on doing this for?” I would always answer “until I stop enjoying it.” And that’s exactly what happened. Each season I was becoming more and more consumed with how I would place, and I was no longer enjoying the process. If I didn’t get the placing/outcome I wanted, I would go through a period of private bitterness and self-pity before picking myself up and thinking about the next show. It was a perpetual cycle. And although I’m flattered that others see me as this fitness competitor, I wanted to show so badly that I am so much more.

Fast-forward to present day 2016 and I am now at peace with my transition. My boyfriend is a top-ranked Muay Thai fighter, and I love that the spotlight gets to be on him. We bought a house last May, and I am so proud to be a homeowner. I am now preparing for a full Olympic-distance Triathlon May 29th, and the new training I have to implement is new, exciting, and challenging! It truly brings out my inner athlete.

Don’t ever let something define you. I say this because I believe each and every person should be so much more than one thing. If you’re following your passion and your dream, and it fulfills your life and your soul- hell yes, keep going! But consider the ‘why’- why are you doing it. If you can’t think of the answer, and you’re just plugging away and going through the motions- that is NOT joy.  So what IS your why? Give it some thought. Learn, grow, and know when it’s time to move on.