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 😉

My Life, Enriched

 

“Life is about making an impact, not making an income.” – Kevin Kruse

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The week after getting back from my (much needed) personal holiday in Phoenix, AZ I got doing some reflecting. On my trip I had celebrated my 33rd birthday with my Mom, whom I’m incredibly close with. We made the trip up to the Grand Canyon, and it was spectacular. Witnessing one of the Wonders of the World can really make you pause. In the past I used to dread my birthday. I think as I was getting older, I started to become more and more disappointed that I didn’t achieve certain milestones within the time-frame I envisioned. My expectations weren’t necessarily unrealistic: I wanted to have all my kids by the time I was 30; have my own house; and I thought I’d be married by now. Not unrealistic, but… these are not things one can feasibly control. Control. That’s me- and also a huge part of the problem.

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I can honestly say that this was the first year that all those thoughts and feelings of failed expectations and disappointment stopped. Maybe it was the help of the Canyon; maybe it was a little bit of added maturity. As I drove home from a belated birthday dinner with my girlfriend last week, I made some positive affirmations:

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  • I am 33 years old, and in perfect health
  • I am in a loving relationship where I am respected and cared for
  • I have a steady career in nursing and am able to provide for myself and my partner
  • I have a supportive family that always has my back on every pursuit I embark upon
  • I have a small, but solid group of girlfriends whom I can trust with my life, and share mutual respect for
  • Each and every day I am reminded (via social media) the impact my sharing my goals and experiences have positively influenced someone else

Image (77)Each of these affirmations… priceless. All of the above listed have been earned by hard work, respect, and love. The things in life that are priceless are also irreplaceable. I see a lot of people posting pics of mansions, sports cars, watches, purses that cost more than my pay check- hash tagging “life goals”. Really though?? I definitely enjoy the finer things in life, but I can tell you fancy, lavish items won’t bring you happiness. Money can make certain things a little easier, but not necessarily happier. Some of the most miserable people I have met seem to put the most emphasis on ‘things’. I have seen people have more than enough money to last twice their lifetime, but in the end it didn’t buy them their health.

I am by no means what you would call a ‘rich girl’: I work a shift work job that has an salary cap on income; I live in a modest townhouse (which I am proud to be the owner of) with basic furniture and decor; I drive a Ford SUV, but it’s reliable and doesn’t cost a mint to repair; I look for deals on groceries where I can get them. BUT I can tell you that I have a life that is EN-riched with quality friends, family, and more experiences than I ever thought that I would have- even at my age. I could not have predicted a life more full, or to be more proud of. So many of us fixate on what isn’t there. Once we stop and see what IS there, life is actually pretty amazing. One your very last day, think of who and what would be there: that is your legacy <3

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Triathlon Training: My Journey… So Far!

When I started this blog site, I intended to have a ‘fitness’ category to share with you some of my favorite training exercises/moves. Should the demand present itself, I still may do that- but my training has DRASTICALLY changed since this site’s start date! For the past 2.5 months my training has been solely catered towards preparing for my very first triathlon race, May 29th. Since I’m just over the half way mark of my 16 week training, I thought I’d share with you how it’s all going so far!

 

Weight Training

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Although I have been weight training for years, this area has had to change the most and was the hardest for me to wrap my head around. I’m used to weight training about 5x/week, and high-volume sessions at that. I am now weight training twice a week, and all movements are strictly for strength and mobility purposes. The exercises I perform were recommended to me by My Champ (functional trainer extraordinaire and kinesiologist 😉 ) and are designed to make me more efficient in my swim, bike and run. My routines currently looks like this:

Routine #1

Plyo Rudiments (Jumping forward/backwards/lateral; recruiting leg muscles from only below the knee)- 3 sets of 6, each direction

Front Squats: 3:2:1 second tempo; 4 sets of 5 reps

Conventional deadlifts: 3 sets of 6 reps

T-Y-I raises (laying on a bench, 5 lb dumbbells in each hand: Ts- rear flyes; Ys- extending arms out and forward; Is- extending arms forward at eye-level, fluttering weights as quick as possible for 10 seconds total): 10 reps; 10 reps; 10 seconds

Nordic Curls: kneeling on a foam roller with heels secured, lowering your upper body towards the floor, and back up again (like an eccentric leg curl); 3 sets of 6 reps

Routine #2

Plyo Rudiments (same as above, plus A-skips)- 3 sets of 6, each direction

Front Squats: 4 sets of 5 reps, max weight

Bent Over Barbell Rows: 2 second iso-hold- 4 sets of 8 reps

Pull-ups (bodyweight): 4 set of 8, or until failure

Strict Press (Standing barbell press): 4 sets of 8 reps

 

Swimming

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This has been a major focus of mine since the very beginning. For those of you that don’t know, a triathlon consists of the three disciplines: swimming, biking, and running- in that exact order. In my opinion swimming is the most physically taxing out of all 3. I’m willing to bet this is also why it’s the shortest distance component of the race 😉 For this race in particular, I’m to complete a 1000 meter swim (a standard distance is 1500 m). At least once a week I attend swim practice at the Kinsmen (a fitness facility here in Edmonton), and then at least once, if not twice more I swim train on my own time. The swim practice is where I have a coach that offers me suggestions on my technique as well as what  distances I should be hitting at a certain point in my training. Even if I only gain 1-2 pointers from this man each week, he has been very helpful in guiding me thus far. Every time I go to practice I am reminded of just how hard I have to PUSH IT. At this point in my training my goal is to swim well over my required 1000 m, and hit at least 2000 m if not 2500 m so the my endurance is up to snuff. So far I can complete 800 m non-stop without issue. 2 months ago I could only complete 400 m non-stop and would be completely gassed at the end!

 

Biking

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This is the discipline that is TERRIFYING to me! Ok, look- I CAN bike. The thing is, prior to accepting this challenge of a triathlon I had only ever ridden a mountain bike. A road bike fits and feels very different. Road bikes are extremely light in weight, with very skinny, narrow tires- and the seat sits incredibly high. They are 100% built for speed, NOT comfort. While I practiced several times on my road bike through the winter in my house on the trainer (a device that holds the bike stationary so you can ‘ride’ it), but getting on top a moving, high-seated bike is something else! 2 weeks ago my girlfriend and I took our bikes out for their first ride of the pavement. It took me about 10 minutes just to leave the parking lot!! It was extremely difficult and awkward for me to get on top of the seat, with the bike moving, and pedal. The seat felt a little too high for my short legs (although I’m 5’8″, I’m all torso) and I was feeling unsafe. I went back to the shop and got them to lower the seat a bit for me. I am going to give it a few weeks of getting used to, then go back when I feel I can confidently raise it again. Until then, I am only riding flat routes at the moment- I can’t quite imagine heading down a steep hill in such a top-heavy position! I plan on concentrating more and more on this as it’s currently an obvious weakness. The bike component of a triathlon is a very important discipline as it’s the longest distance of the race, and the area you can make up for the most amount of time.

 

Running

This is the area I have been most confident in all along, and that remains so. I’ve considered myself a runner for almost half my life. Even though I feel running is my best asset, I am still diligently preparing for this component at least twice a week. I am concentrating on building my distances, and purposely training tired. “Brick Training” is a method triathletes use to prepare for their multi-discipline sport. A brick either involves a run, bike, then a run again; in my case I will perform a bike, then a run directly following. I will do this once a week. It is a great way to give yourself a sense of performing the race if you will. Now that spring is here to stay, I plan on doing more conditioning drills outside such as running hills to bring up my strength even more for race day. The longest distance I’ve hit thus far was 10.5 km; I don’t require practicing much farther in distance as the running component of my race is 8 km.

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In summary, I am thoroughly enjoy my training and all the variety that is involved. As my distances increase each week, the rest of my life gets a little busier as more time is required to train. Although I am seeing great improvements each week, there a still parts that really scare me! The transition from the swim to the bike worries me some: the equilibrium change of swimming then getting out the pool onto a high-seated bike is very daunting to me. I’ve heard stories of people crashing in to one another, spilling their bikes… but hey, I guess they all lived to tell about it, right?! 6 more weeks until go-time… time to stifle that fear 😉

 

Event: Coronation Triathlon, May 29th, 2016; Edmonton AB

Swim: 800 m; Bike: 26 km; Run: 8 km

Goal time: 2 hrs, 15 min

 

 

Quitting is Immature

A couple months ago I was training with My Champ (a VERY rare occasion) and he noticed I was getting frustrated. He was teaching me some new lifts, and also (trying to) help me with my current technique on a few things. He called me out on my anger: “You can’t get mad just because you’re not good at something. You can’t just give up because you’re not immediately perfect (at this).” Man, is he good. Those who do not know me well may think I am good at most things- the truth is, I am NOT and the things I excel at took much time and effort before I mastered them.

I used this example to get through a tough day I had at work this past week. I won’t divulge into the specifics of what went on, but my confidence was suffering greatly at my job. I’m taking on a lot of new responsibilities in one of my roles at the hospital, and though I’ve been at this for a while there are days where I feel I’m just not good enough. Funny thing is, I had been having a great few weeks of training, and my personal life has never been better. Something had to shift, I suppose. I confided in a couple of colleagues regarding my concerns in my performance, and I’m so glad I did. Both individuals gave me the reassurance I needed: questioning yourself sometimes shows how much you CARE, and I am NORMAL!! Who doesn’t question themselves from time to time? Being over-confident can definitely backfire, especially in my line of work. No one is completely flawless. We should always be thinking of ways to self-improve or be better in our daily tasks. We (and by this I mean me) should also forgive ourselves and understand that we are human and can’t always be perfect.

I have to remind myself sometimes that I will never ‘know it all’ and I am going to screw up. That’s life. The world of health care and management is constantly changing and evolving, and I will always have to adapt. Getting back to the example I gave with My Champ: I can’t just give up when something is hard. That gets me nowhere, if not backwards. Can you imagine what our lives would be like if we quit because we weren’t automatically ‘perfect’? We would never learn how to walk: we would all be crawling; none of us would learn to ride our bikes because we fell; we would remain illiterate; we would refer to spaghetti only as ‘noodles’ because we kept saying ‘pisghettie’ instead. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Life takes effort and practice. I do tend to relate many life experiences to training, because the challenges we face physically are a metaphor to the obstacles we face in the outside world. Life, like lifting or running, doesn’t get easier- you just get better. Don’t ever quit; humble yourself, and grow to be better than before.

Win, Love, or Draw

This past week and weekend was challenging, yet successful. Those of you that know me personally or follow via social media may have seen My Champ honouring his namesake, as he won his Muay Thai fight that he headlined in Calgary. I am so incredibly proud, though I was very confident he would take it. I succeeded in my own personal goals with my triathlon training as well. This was my ‘peak volume’ week where I pushed myself beyond my own perceived limits. While we were out celebrating My Champ’s win, I was inspired to write this piece on what it is to truly love and support an elite athlete.

When My Champ and I began dating he knew what he was getting into. We were friends first, and he was well aware that I was heavy into my sport of Figure at a National level. He never once questioned the amount I had to train, the time I spent on my meal prep, the attention I may have received from both men and women, and never mind the mood swings! He not only accepted, but understood all of that.  He too had dreams of his own. He was finishing his kinesiology degree, working as a trainer on top of that, and was just kicking off his Muay Thai career. If there was any common ground we shared at all, it was that we were ambitious as hell and would do whatever it takes to get what/where we wanted. Nothing has changed.

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A rare site: all dressed up and out of our fitness attire at My Champ’s Christmas party this past December

In recent times, my goals have shifted. I decided to walk away from the figure stage, and was happy to slow down- to a point. Even My Champ knew that would only go on for so long. I needed a new goal, a new challenge as I am happiest when I’m working towards something. This man is a far cry from past suitors. Most would have given anything for me to slow down, and be ecstatic at my decision to do so. But since he has my best interests at heart, he knows the busier I am, the happier I am.

So now since he has me figured out (to a degree 😉 ) I am now learning what it means to support him. Friday was the 4th fight I have been present for, but probably the 7th or 8th training camp I’ve experienced with him. Support means different things for people. For me, it’s being there for everything. I do need praise and encouragement. I need a shoulder to cry on and the odd pep talk every now and then. For My Champ, support means SPACE. Training camps involve 5 if not 6 nights a week at home alone when he’s still at training. When he gets home, he just wants to eat and go to bed. Fridays or Sundays are when I see him the most, but he’s still training on those days. He has something going on every single day of the week. He works long hours, and trains with more dedication than anyone I know. When he has a fight coming up, nothing keeps him from training.

The day before and the day of his fight, I actually keep my communication with him to a minimum. This is not easy. Even if I see him at the venue, I only come to him if he waves me over. All of me wants to text/talk to him every hour on the hour, but that’s not of use to him. That’s just it: it’s about HIM. This is his time. When I was competing it was about what I wanted- that’s why I get it. I need to not be an extra distraction for the head space he needs to be in to execute the best possible performance. I respect that, and I respect him.

I am by no stretch an expert on relationships, though I have experienced plenty of trial and errors. If there’s anything I can take away from what I have with My Champ is the tremendous amount of mutual respect we have for one another. That is so key- I now realize that was lacking in my past. I’m not here to throw ex-boyfriends under the bus, it definitely goes both ways: it’s give and take. There were times that I was either too proud or didn’t actually respect the person I was dating; there were times where I felt like I was being put down so I couldn’t continue to grow.

In love, there should be no competition as there is no ‘winner’. You are on the same team, in my eyes. You are there to challenge one another, to make each other better. Believe in their dreams as much as they do themselves. If that’s hard to accept or wrap your head around, take a look inside as to why that is. It may have nothing to do with them; maybe it’s some reservations you have on your own. Being able to look at your significant other with a sense of pride is the ultimate. You’re as good as the company you keep.

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Proud as can be xo