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Posted on Aug 23, 2012 in Working Out | 45 comments

Introduction to CrossFit

My body.

It hurts.

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Yes folks, last night I had my very first taste of CrossFit in all its glory. Admittedly, I’ve wanted to see what CrossFit is all about for a while. Goodness knows I read about it on enough blogs, and everyone I know who does do it seems to be OBSESSED with it. After I posted my first HLS Recap explaining how I didn’t get a chance to participate in the CrossFit workout because of the timing of my presentation, blog reader Kiera emailed me and invited me to come check out the box where she does CrossFit: CrossFit Annandale.

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I have to say, after just one session I can already kind of tell why people are seriously drinking the CrossFit kool-aid. My entire body is sore today, but it’s in an I-feel-like-a-badass kind of way (though going to the bathroom is not really fun after all those squats and lunges, I tell you what). Granted, I did feel just a tiny bit throwy-uppy near the end of the WOD (Workout of the Day), but I can definitely say that I survived, and I even — gasp! — kind of had fun! What?

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So, let’s talk specifics. I went to attend the 7:00 PM class last night (the first one is free!) and got there a little early to check things out and speak with the owner, Jeremy. I got to see the end of the previous class finishing up the WOD, and when they had all cleared out, we jumped right in! Each hour-long workout is structured into three parts: warm up, skill/strength training, and finally the WOD. CrossFit Annandale does have two nights a week where they offer a WOD-only workout, too, for those who may be more crunched for time but still want to be able to “get after it” (that’s a CF saying, right? Ahahahaha).

We started out with a warm-up that consisted of about 3 minutes of various plank exercises. So obviously, considering my core strength (read: none), this entailed me holding a plank for about 8 seconds at a time, crumpling to my knees, then trying again. But hey, it’s about the effort, right? And it certainly got me warmed up in a jiffy.

After that, we moved into the strength/skill part of the class. We partnered up (I immediately grabbed ahold of Kiera, haha) and we alternated between sets of 5 front squats with a weighted bar (I did a 35 lb bar with 10 extra pounds on it, so 45 total), and 10 dumbbell external rotations, which I did with a 5 lb weight. Since I was still getting used to the moves and am totally new at this, Coach Jeremy said it was fine for me to keep my weight light. I had absolutely no problem with this.

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I need to work on keeping my elbows up, I know, but hey, I’m a n00b! I’m learning. 😉

I have some occasional issues with my left wrist (my dainty blogger’s wrists, ahaha), and after three sets with the bar pulling my wrist back, I knew I needed to change it up. Jeremy showed me a way to complete the set by holding an upside-down kettlebell instead, which kept my wrists straight. I had go to down to a 35 lb weight though, since 45 pounds on a bar and 45 pounds crammed into a kettlebell definitely feel different!

After we completed our last set, it was time for the WOD. Yesterday’s WOD was as follows:

1. Row 1000 meters.
2. 20 overhead walking lunges with 25/45 lbs (women/men)
3. 30 burpees

Because at this point I was already pathetic-looking (not to mention mega-sweaty), the supernice coaches modified the WOD for me. I rowed 500 meters, did the 20 walking lunges with a 10 lb overhead weight, and did 15 burpees. And still, even in exerting half the effort as the other people who were there, I still teetered on the “Am I going to throw up?” line for a little bit, hahaha. Guess I haven’t been working out as hard as I thought lately, eh?

There are only three rowing machines and there were at least 10 of us in the class, so we went in heats. I watched the first two heats go before jumping in. Extremely unflattering photo barrage in 3… 2… 1…

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Newflash: I already hate burpees. I got through the rowing and the overhead lunges fairly quickly, but the thought of having to crouch, then flatten, then crouch, then jump (and clap!) afterward made me literally nauseous. I got through one burpee before I had to sit down and take a breather. After a little water (and a little whining), however, I finished the rest of them. My total time for my modified WOD was 9 minutes and 10 seconds.

So there you have it! The workout was definitely rough, even modified for a beginner like me, but it also was a lot of fun. I know, “rough but fun” sounds a little oxymoronic, but it’s true! The other attendees and the coaches were all crazy friendly, and spent a lot of time with each individual person: correcting our form, encouraging us, joking around, etc. I can understand why people enjoy CrossFit so much — it’s a very communal workout, and socialization automatically makes things more fun (and lessened the intimidation factor by about 1000 for me).

Once my muscles stop screaming every time I sit or stand or turn or walk or reach for something or, you know, do anything at all, I will definitely be going back. I know I don’t have the best track record with sticking with one particular kind of exercise, but who knows? People must be fanatical about CrossFit for a reason, right? It’ll be interesting to see how my own relationship with exercise, as well as with my body in general, changes as I continue. I’m really not used to such epic strength training, even when I was doing weight training at the gym, so I feel like this will either do wonders for my weight loss, or throw my body into a state of total and utter chaos. Either way, I’m excited to see how it goes!

Do you do CrossFit? Have you thought about it, if you don’t?

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Posted on Jun 4, 2012 in Working Out | 21 comments

What I’m Doing at the Gym

A week or so ago I received the following tweet:

While I assured her it was absolutely not a dumb question, and gave her the 140-character-limit version of my gym routine, but it occurred to me that some of you might also be interested in hearing about what I’ve been doing during my sweat sessions lately. I knew ahead of time that after the relay, I would be putting running by the wayside (for now) and concentrating on other, more currently interesting means of fitness. In addition to videos and workouts at home, right now that means a big emphasis on strength training!

So when I joined my gym as part of my Lenten resolution to bring an end to my lackadaisical and sporadic attempts at exercising regularly, I also signed up for three personal training sessions to help me get an idea of what moves to do, and how to maintain good form with them. I really wish I had the budget right now to continue with personal training, because it was so immensely helpful! Fortunately, my trainer, Jordan, and I established a great rapport from the get-go, so he still stops by occasionally to see how I’m doing and give me pointers. I pretty much follow variations of all the moves that he had me do during those initial sessions.

I’m at the gym at least twice a week, either attending a cardio class (there’s this Dance Cardio-X class that is SO ridiculous and SO much fun) or doing strength training. I’m lucky enough to have found an awesome workout buddy, Kate. The stars aligned when I met her at a party (through Sean, actually) and she told me she was a fellow Falls Churcher and was thinking about signing up at the same gym as me. Having someone that I’m accountable to meet with, whether it’s a friend or a personal trainer, has been integral in helping me establish a regular routine.

Generally, my weight lifting routines consist of a combination made from some of the following free-weight moves: bicep curls, tricep curls, walking lunges, squats, crunches, leg lifts, shoulder lifts (I’m not sure of the official name, but it’s where you have a weight in each hand, fully extend your arms, and pull them up the side, in to the front, back out to the side, then down), barbell curls, the move where you put one leg up on a bench and use that side’s same arm to pull up a weight (targeting your back muscles), etc. I generally do 3 sets of 10 reps each, though I’m very bad at not losing count, haha. It’s nothing groundbreaking, for sure, and as of yet I don’t have specific workouts that I follow each time (though perhaps that will develop as I put more planning into my strength training, haha).

I usually start out with a couple of minutes on the elliptical or treadmill just to loosen up, and I also will generally throw just a couple of weight machines into the mix as well. My favorite is the leg press, but I also will do a couple of the arm and shoulder machines as well. The free weights I use are generally 10 or 15 lbs if they’re dumbbells, or 20 or 30 pounds if it’s a barbell. On the machines, for arms/shoulders/back the weight is usually somewhere within the 40 – 50 lb. range, and for legs it’s usually within the 75 – 115 lb. range.

Anyway, that’s about all there is to it! There’s still a lot I have yet to try out (I’d like to learn how to use kettlebells and resistance bands better) but for now I’m enjoying feeling like I’m getting just the slightest bit of definition in my still rather floppy appendages, hahaha. If any of you have questions about my gym routine, or if you have any tips to offer, I welcome both! I’m definitely still new to strength training in general, but I love how it makes me feel like I’ve worked hard without feeling like I want to die, the way straight-up cardio does. And for those of you who were utterly bored with this post, I have a delicious recipe coming your way tomorrow!

What’s your favorite strength training move?

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Posted on Mar 14, 2012 in Dear Diary, Weigh Ins, Weight Loss, Working Out | 47 comments

Retreat (Weigh-in)

I have something to say, and you’re probably not going to like it. Hell, I don’t like it. But, it has to be said.

Despite all my best intentions, I will not be running the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run on April 1st. I will still be running that day (there is also a 5K that I will be bumping down to), but not in the way that I had initially planned. I know that long ago I said that my ultimate running goal would be completing a 10 miler — this 10 miler, in fact — but the fact of the matter is that I have not been training for it. At all. And I need to own up to that.

It’s embarrassing as hell for me to admit, and it makes me feel like I’m letting you down (and letting myself down too, but you already know I’m usually okay with that). I guess this is the problem when you make declarative statements about your fitness intentions to the entire interwebs, eh? As much as I would love to be able to justify this with an injury, or sickness, or some other totally believable excuse, I can’t. I simply haven’t trained, and more than that, I just don’t have any desire to build my running endurance back up that much right now. Knowing me and my fickle, fickle self, this might change. And in a month I might be saying I’m going to train for a half-marathon — who knows? What I know right now is that I am not going to be able to just up and run 10 miles in 3 weeks.

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Sure, I’ve been running a few miles here and there as part of my greater commitment to exercise. But racking up two or three miles on the treadmill once a week does not an endurance runner make. Instead, I’ve been strength training and doing group classes and at-home videos and am actually starting to enjoy integrating exercise into my regular routine. I KNOW. Who am I? I wouldn’t say that I’m a devoted lover of sweating yet, but I can say that what I have been doing for the past couple of weeks seems to be working. So I figure I can continue to ride this wave of general working out, almost-kinda-sorta liking it sometimes… or I can force myself to huff and puff for long distances, and be miserable.

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When I began this blog, and started discovering the myriad of wonderful healthy living blogs that exist out there, I thought I needed to be a runner. After all, it seems like 90% of the bloggers in my Google Reader are runners. Not to mention the fact that I continue to read and be told that cardio is what helps you lose weight, and running is a pretty obvious form of cardio. So I gave it a try, and while it was hard in the beginning to even get through a full mile (I don’t care if it makes me sound pathetic, I still think that a mile is LONG!), I eventually worked my way up. I ran my first 5K, then a 5 Miler, and then I even completed a 15K!

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I am so proud of myself for hitting these milestones, and experimenting with running did help me discover how much fun participating in RACES is, even if I still find the running part pretty miserable. But I’m finally at the point where I think I need to stop trying to make this happen just because it’s what I think I should be doing. I want to do things that I want to do, not things that I think I should want to do. Because when I try to force myself into doing something, it usually ends up backfiring. And that applies to making myself hate exercise as well as to my weight loss in general. Does that make any sense at all?

I am in no way saying I’m going to stop running completely. After all, I still have the Reach the Beach Relay in May, and I am legitimately looking forward to it and will continue training for it (my longest leg should hopefully be no more than 5 miles). But I am going to stop focusing on ZOMGDISTANCE! so much. I enjoy running 5K races. While the half- and full-marathoners out there may scoff at a mere 3.1 miles, I consider it a good, challenging distance for myself. So come April 1st, I will be running the Cherry Blossom 5K, and I will try very hard to focus on it as a victory, instead of feeling like a flake about the 10 Miler.

Whew. So, there you have it. I hope that none of you will look down on me too harshly for changing my mind like this. I have openly admitted many times to being wishy-washy when it comes to exercise, but I hope you can see that this really isn’t about making an excuse or copping out. This is about the larger picture. It’s about me actually, actively wanting to continue getting healthy and fit. So I may be retreating from the 10 Miler, but only in order to strengthen my resolve as I move forward. And speaking of moving forward…

Starting Weight: 246 lbs
Last Weigh-in: 190.0 lbs
This Weigh-in: 189.0 lbs
Difference: -1.0 lbs

Ohhhhh hey, 180s! It’s nice to be back! Clearly, I am ecstatic that I have an entire pound’s loss to show this week, which pushes me firmly back into the good ol’, pre-holiday 180s. I feel like it just helps justify everything I just said with regard to the way I’m working out, y’know, working out (heh). Given last week’s wompy 0.1 loss and all the bad eating out that I’ve been doing lately, I wasn’t expecting much. But after so many weeks of half- and quarter-pound losses (if that!), not to mention the gains — Heaven forbid! — I am doing my superhappydance. So hey, at least we get to end on a positive note!

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Posted on Mar 8, 2012 in Weigh Ins, Weight Loss | 18 comments

NSVs (Weigh-in)

NSV, in the weight-loss world, is an acronym that stands for “non-scale victory”. This is a term that I was not familiar with prior to starting this li’l ol’ blog here, but is something that I have come to appreciate more and more as my journey has gone on. See, in the beginning, it is ALL about the numbers. When you’re significantly overweight, and make an honest effort to start turning your health around, the weight starts to come off so quickly that it’s all you can do not to scream your losses from the rooftop (or in my case, proclaim them to the entire internet. Which is what I did do. Heh.) But as your progress slows, and it gets harder and harder to shed each full pound, you have to start looking to other things to validate your journey. And if you don’t have measures besides the scale to mark your progress (because yes, you ARE making progress!), it will break you. And believe, it is already all too easy to give up.

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My first NSVs all had to do with clothing. After all, aside from the digits on the scale, the number on the tag at the back of your jeans is probably the one that holds the most weight, right? (Pun intended.) Even when my weight loss for the month would only add up to a few pounds in total, I might have been able to jump down a dress size that month, or had to have my bra size remeasured. Of course, these kinds of number-centric victories have a shelf-life too. There are only so many sizes you can drop before things slow down, just like the scale does. So while I still thoroughly enjoy being able to pull items off the rack that don’t have an “X” on their size label, since getting down to a size 12/L, things haven’t really budged too much in that department (thankfully they haven’t gone in the other direction either though!). Still, it’s a (slightly bittersweet) victory in and of itself just to be able to bag up the clothing that no longer fits and haul it off to Goodwill!

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So as someone who has only been able to validate my health progress by way of numbers, imagine my surprise to realize that I’m actually starting to put stock in non-numerical measures. Things that are actually more related to my — gasp! — fitness, than my weight or clothing size. Things like being able to walk up the three flights of stairs from the parking garage at work without gasping for air anymore. And being able to successfully complete a full cycle of 40-lb chest presses without dropping the barbell into my throat, or sets of walking lunges without falling over. And at the risk of sounding even more superficial than I normally do, I consider self-esteem boosters like catching a guy checking you out as definite NSVs. After all, the Gretchen of Old never used to get that kind of attention, so why not consider it a mark of weight loss success? Numbers are still important, of course. They are a literal measure of progress. But they are not the be-all and end-all of weight loss, and they are certainly not the sole determination of my success.

And with all of that said, let’s take a look at how I measured up (ha!) this week, shall we?

Starting Weight: 246 lbs
Last Weigh-in: 190.1 lbs
This Weigh-in: 190.0 lbs
Difference: -0.1 lbs

See, now this is a perfect example of a weigh-in that I probably should be frustrated at. I mean, seriously? 0.1? Not even allowing me to (re)see a number that starts with a 1-8? Shockingly, I am not upset by this. I’m starting to learn that my body’s pattern is not to drop weight super consistently every single week, and now that I’ve accepted that, only the gains really get to me. I’m really starting to come around to the idea that maintaining for a week or two, in my opinion, is not a bad thing. My overall goal is still weight loss, after all, and after the past 60 — now 56 — pounds lost, I’ve really come around to that. Hopefully that doesn’t sound like justification or an excuse. I honestly don’t mean it that way! I’m just trying to keep that positive attitude going. After all, as I’ve been saying, it’s that negativity and single-minded focus on the numbers on the scale that led to my weight loss downfall over and over in past attempts. It’s only this time, when I’ve started trying to see beyond my actual weight, that I’ve been able to keep going (counter-intuitive, isn’t it?). Through months of plateaus, through more than my fair share of dips in motivation, through all my wishy-washy, ho-hum weigh-ins, I am still fighting the good fight — and am armed to the teeth with NSVs to help me out along the way. 🙂

What’s your favorite kind of NSV? Clothing-related? Fitness-related? Self-esteem-related?

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Posted on Mar 7, 2012 in Working Out | 30 comments

Workout Motivation

Yesterday marked my last of three personal training sessions that I purchased when I joined a gym as part of my Lenten resolution. I have actually really enjoyed strength training with my trainer, Jordan, and am a little bit worried about putting in the same effort on my own. There’s no internal argument when I have someone there telling me what to do — I just, I dunno, do it. Ideally, I think I would honestly prefer to work out with a trainer on a permanent, regular basis, but monetarily that’s not very practical for me at this time.

I do know that I want to keep going with weight training, however, because I am actually enjoying it more than I expected. I wouldn’t say I like it, but I decidedly don’t hate it (yet), which is a big step for me! Alas, it will be up to me to (try to) remember all the exercises that Jordan has taught me, and to devise a few workout sets of my own to keep going. I suppose I’ll also be joining the ranks of people who scour the internet for workout plans and inspiration, too. And whaddya know, I’ve already found a few that I am more than happy to get on board with!

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Theodora‘s company recently sent me a workout plan that was developed by Lisa Wheeler, the Fitness Program Director of DailyBurn. This workout is specifically inspired by The Hunger Games. I know how cheesy it sounds, but honestly the simple act of combining something that I don’t like (exercise) with something that I love (Hunger Games, durr) makes the whole idea of actually, y’know, doing it more exciting. Honestly, I should probably capitalize on this excitement most by taking a full-on archery class (resistance training, whoop whoop!) but we’ll go with what we got for now, haha. And what we got is a free workout that you don’t even need a gym to be able to do!

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ARMS
Exercise: Single Arm Row with Rotation
Equipment: Resistance Band
Description: A single arm row simulates the upper body action in archery by drawing one elbow back (engaging the deep muscles of the back) and slightly rotating the torso. Hook tubing around a stable pole or door jam and place both handles in your right hand. Step back until the tubing has some tension. Pick up your right foot and balance on your left and then begin to pull the tubing back, right hand moving towards right hip. Add a slight rotation to the right, opening up the shoulder.

ABS AND CORE
Exercise: Bear Squat
Equipment: none, just your body weight
Description: The bear squat combines a full plank, which is fantastic for the core, and an explosive leg press. Begin in plank then bend your knees and send your hips back over your heels keeping the knees off the floor (spine is flexed and arms are extended). With a powerful push from your legs, extend back out to plank and hold.

LEG STRENGTH
Exercise: Curtsy Squat Side Lunge
Equipment: Dumbbells
Description: To truly develop strong legs that are functional for running, jumping, leaping and carrying heavy loads, you must train them in all directions. Holding heavy dumbbells in each hand begin with feet together. Step out to the side with your right leg, keeping your left leg straight. Hinge forward slightly but keep chest lifted with the dumbbells on either side of your right leg. Push off your right foot and immediately step back and cross behind the left leg, bending both knees into a curtsy squat.

AGILITY
Exercise: Quick Feet Drill
Equipment: none, just your body weight
Description: To be quick on your feet and have the agility to change direction quickly, you must train the muscles to fire rapidly and with power. This drill is about quickness and endurance and really elevates your heart rate. Begin in the athletic ready stance (feet a little wider than shoulder width with knees slightly bent and a slight hinge forward from the hips) with arms out the side, palms forward. Start moving your feet as fast as you can as if running keeping the feet close to the ground. Keeping your shoulders and torso stable, randomly twist your hips (knees and feet as well!) to the right and quickly back to the center. Repeat to the left continuing to keep your feet moving as quickly as possible.

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As you can see, these aren’t exactly as simple or easy as your basic bicep curl. They are much more complex exercise moves that most definitely fall under the category of a “full body workout”. Each move seems to challenge your stability and balance along with the body part they are targeting – more bang for your workout buck! I’m happy because at least for OMGRIGHTNOW, I have some new moves to test out as I figure out how I work solo in the weight room. My legs are crazy sore (again, sigh) from my training session yesterday, but you can bet I’ll be attempting the faux-archery Arm Row exercise tonight!

How do you do your gym workouts? Do you need a gym buddy? Personal trainer? A workout ripped from the pages of a magazine or printed off of a website?

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