Happy 2nd CF-iversary to ME

This week was my second anniversary of starting CrossFit. Two years!!! I spent a little bit of time today contemplating how life has changed since I dragged my chunky self into that gym two years ago, fell in love with muscle pain, and then decided to stay to annoy Rob and Laura for infinity. Two months after I started, Tim did too, and our entire family is healthier and happier now. (As a super bonus, we have also been lucky to find a community of people who are fun and supportive and makes even the hardest workouts fun–and many of whom have turned into extremely close friends.)

Recently, a gym friend, Kim, correctly cited that the scariest phrase in the English language is “Rob Gerdes has tagged you in a photo.” Rob has been taking photos of me for two years, and while some of them are horrifying, I’m glad I can take a little tour backwards in time and realize that I’ve come a long way. Let’s behold some really scary “befores” and slightly better “afters”–shall we? *closes eyes and cringes a little*

IMG_8450 IMG_8451 IMG_8452I still have a super long way to go, even after two years. I still am not remotely athletic, I still am the slowest person in most of the classes I go to, my PR weights when they happen are a fraction of other people’s, and I am never going to win a race (unless it’s who can take the best Saturday afternoon nap, I have that one IN THE BAG)–but you know what? I’m a million times better than I was before. When I’m disappointed that I can’t do something well in a WOD, I tell myself–you’d kick Melissa 2012′s ass. And that is the progress I should continue to expect. As long as Melissa 2.0 is better than Old Melissa, that’s what counts the most.

14 weeks with Baby B!

14 weeks along with Baby B!

This year will be a really unusual one, since I am now 14 weeks pregnant and will spend most of 2014 either growing a baby or addressing the aftermath of the horror show body resulting from growing a baby. Rob and Laura were two of the first people I told we were thinking about doing this surrogate mom thing, and I’m lucky that they’ve been super supportive and understanding that it’s been much harder than I thought it would be to work out while growing a human (like whoa harder.)

I’m really looking forward to what the next 12 months of my CrossFit life will bring–it’s going to be interesting, to say the least. I’m grateful to Rob and Laura and to my other CFSM coaches like Amy and Mikey, who are all so genuinely caring and kind and who make me happy to drag myself to the gym each day. A million thank yous would not be enough! And happy CF-iversary to MEEEEEE!!

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Melissa Gets Inspired by the CrossFit Games: The Half Half Marathon Row

Sunday night, with an event called The Cinco, the annual CrossFit Games ended. Each year since the Games started, the challenges that the athletes participating in have gotten increasingly insane–it was really great fun to watch these incredibly fit people struggle with the events that were set forth for them by people I’m starting to wonder are really those in charge of the Hunger Games.

One of these really crazy events was announced to the stunned silent Games athletes at a dinner the night before the opening. Typically, the start of the Games has had a running event, so when the Games director announced that the athletes would have a half marathon, no one was much surprised. Then he said–a half marathon…ROW. The equivalent of a 13.1 mile half marathon run done on a rowing machine is 21,097 meters.

We row a lot as a part of our normal CrossFit workouts–we often warm up with a 500 meter row as the first thing we do as a workout begins (a mathlete could tell you that this is 2.3% of a half marathon row.) The longest distance I’ve ever rowed in a single sequence is 2,000 meters–and we often have 1,000 meter rows as a part of our WODs, which is a tough workout, and one I’m glad to finish. During the winter, when running is difficult or flat-out impossible, we row constantly, and more than anything it’s intensely boring. No scenery to look at, and only a screen that painfully outlines–in 1 meter and one second increments–how much more work you need to get done. I have to play mind games with myself to get through rowing workouts–don’t look at the screen until you’ve done 25 pulls, make sure your strokes per minute never goes under 27, make your 500 split under 2:05, etc. But it’s rough, generally.

When they announced that these athletes would row 21,097 meters, I decided two things:

a) that sounds absolutely awful

b) I want to try it.

The CF Games athletes are elite, fit people who train every single day, often for hours, and are in peak physical condition. I am none of the things in the sentence I just typed. However, the beauty of CrossFit is that it is “infinitely scalable,” which means you can take any exercise and make it work for your abilities. A realistic scale for me to tackle when the CF Games athletes were doing a 21,097 meter row is half of that–so I settled on rowing what I called the Half Half: 21,097 divided by two…10,098.5 meters. (Please note: I am aware that this would be a Quarter Marathon, but that is not more fun to say than a Half Half.) On Saturday, I told my coach Rob and a gym friend, Marc, what I was thinking about doing. Rob: “That would be cool.” Marc: “That sounds terrible.”

The BEFORE photo...

The BEFORE photo…

So on Sunday morning, I found myself pulling down my favorite rower, putting on my headphones, and settling in for the long haul. I set the rower to count down from 10,099 meters–while my coach Laura had said she wanted to see me do a teeny half pull at the end to get to the 10,098.5–I said, nope, I’m an overachiever–I’m ROUNDING UP TO 10,099, BABY. I covered up the rower display so I wouldn’t go bonkers looking at every meter counting down and…I started. And then, after four pulls, I stopped. Don’t worry, gentle readers, I just needed to take off my sweatshirt (it’s been unseasonably cold here. July, whatevs.) Laura heard the rower stop, came around the corner and said, “You’ve stopped ALREADY??” I assured her I hadn’t given up quite that quickly (but in my head thought, when is it that I really will want to quit? After 15 minutes? 5? 4,000 meters?)

I listened to my headphones. I watched one of the gym dogs, Hank, go to town on a tennis ball, rendering it unrecognizable as something that used to be useful as a sporting implement. I watched the wall. I learned how to row one handed for a few pulls so I could take a few sips of my iced coffee. I contemplated the universe. I watched as one of my earrings fell out and rolled across the floor, and wondered how long it would be before Hank had it for a snack. I chatted with Laura while she cleaned. I watched Hank decide that the Swiffer WetJet was the scariest thing he’d ever seen and bark at it as if it were an alien attacker. (Without Hank, this row would have been really uneventful.) And I kept rowing.

IMG_5630The meters clicked by. I kept pulling. Legs extend, arms pull, arms return, legs bend, rinse, repeat. Over and over, hundreds of times. And then there were 1000 meters to go. That was the longest 1000 meters I’ve ever rowed. I wanted to get the Half Half done in under 50 minutes–I tried valiantly to make that happen, but when the meters clicked to zero, the clock told me I had been rowing for 50 minutes, 42.1 seconds. Even though I made it a little past my goal time, I was happy that I had finished it, and accomplished something that was really hard, and that I wouldn’t have ever imagined I’d do.

And now I have to go plan the next ridiculous challenge. (PS I’m still running every day.)

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THE ONE MILE PROJECT (AKA: “It Sucks Being Proactive About Your Own Fitness”)

The couple that runs together...

The couple that runs together…well I don’t know. The hubs and me at my first ever 5K.

If you have even a passing knowledge of me, or have read anything I’ve written here even one time, you’ll know I am not a big fan of running. I’m now on my second “Running Sucks” t-shirt (good news, my first one is too big!) I do not understand, for one millisecond, the elusive concept of a runner’s high. The only high I get running is the one where I’m two feet from the door to the gym when I know it’s almost over.

The other day, I was trying to explain to my friend Mikey the extent of my dislike of running. It went something like this:

Me: “I don’t think you understand how much I hate running.”

Mikey: “It’s not really that bad, is it?”

Me: “Mikey, I hate it so much I am miserable by the time I get to the top of the hill on the 400 warmup.”

Mikey: (pause) “That’s not even a hill. It’s barely a GRADE.”

Me: ” I KNOW, THAT’S THE POINT! I AM SO BAD AT RUNNING IT FEELS LIKE A HILL.” (note: I lied, it feels like a mountain)

When I think about the things I’ve improved since I started at the gym, running is way down the list. I keep thinking that as I continue to lose weight and get stronger, that running will get better/easier–but it just never really does. I am BETTER than I was a year ago–I used to walk on pretty much any run during a WOD, now I run consistently, even on WODs where there are multiple runs–but it still is an activity that I find almost unbearable, and wish every single step that it was over.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided this had to change. While I will never, ever LIKE running, I decided I had to do something to hate it less. And the only way to get better at something is–to do it a lot. To practice, to hone skills. And the only way to do that with running is—to run. So, I started the One Mile Project. I have to run a mile a day. Period.

I gave myself some rules to keep in check:

  1. One mile a day. Rain or shine. Treadmill if I’m traveling at a hotel.
  2. One day off a week (I usually pick Sunday, which is a regular rest day from the gym.)
  3. If I miss a day (work travel sometimes makes this necessary), I do double the next day.
  4. No walking. Tough it out even if it’s 90 degrees and I’ve just finished the normal gym WOD and I want to pass out on Rt. 42. I have to remind myself: Suck it up, buttercup. It’s just a mile.

I have many friends who are distance runners (including a friend who is an ultramarathoner), and my dad and brother are multiple marathon finishers. I realize one mile may sound laughable to almost everyone, but for me, this is a major accomplishment. Every step for me is a struggle to get better. My strength and endurance have gotten so much better since I started CrossFit–now it’s time to improve my running. I will start with a mile, and maybe I increase to two, or three.

I’ve talked about the One Mile Project to people at the gym, and one day as I was whining a bit (imagine) about having to do the mile post-WOD, my friend Dusty said, “Yeah, it really sucks being proactive about your fitness.” I think about that one sentence a lot when I’m cruising down the stretch of Route 42 in Burnsville–I’m doing something to improve an aspect of my fitness that isn’t clicking yet. And it’s getting better. I don’t LIKE it any better, but I will tell you–it doesn’t feel as terrible as it used to feel. Every day, I feel stronger, and feel better for longer (“today I didn’t want to cry until the fire hydrant. Hooray!” etc.)

(Know what else? It’s working. I’ve PR’d my mile three times in a row, including yesterday, when I shaved off 13 seconds. Stay tuned. This practice bullshi* may actually DO SOMETHING GOOD.)

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Stream of Consciousness June 2013

  • There are (cliches coming, beware) peaks and valleys in any journey. No less on a fitness journey (or my fitness journey.) I’m in a valley. My peak was at my Avon Walk in May, I wish I could rewind time a month and make a different turn in the road.
  • Why have I not written anything here since February? So many things have happened on Aforementioned Journey.
  • My friend Laura and I joke about the number of times the word “journey” is used on The Biggest Loser. We created a drinking game. So far, dear readers, you can drink five times. Drink is your choice.
  • My valley is puzzling since I’m still extremely motivated to continue getting better. I don’t know what is causing me to be more lax than I should be on my eating, which has been pretty disciplined in the last year, with limited exceptions.
  • It’s more puzzling since I’ve been frustrated lately in the gym–feel like I’m not getting any better at certain things, and I have conscious moments where I say, if you were being more disciplined at the food side, your exercise side would be better. While I will never be a great athlete or even a mediocre one, I want to be BETTER.
  • I have a major, major problem with “comparison disease.” I look at other people in the gym, or even worse–people on the internet (CrossFit Facebook pages, etc.) with great stories–and go, huh, why am I not “x,y,z”–I need to continuously remind myself that I have to take things at my own pace. I struggle with this and have to actively manage my own brain. I wish so much this were different but it’s not, and that’s me.
  • It is summer. In summer you go “let’s get ice cream” or “another chardonnay, please.” I need to find another outlet for summer fun other than off-plan food and drink.
  • Sometimes you see a photo that makes you go “you’ve come SO FAR.” Sometimes, you see a photo and go, “God, you still have a long way to go, sister.”
  • Traveling makes diet and exercise infinitely harder. Some days I think I’m strong for being able to do it on the road and sometimes I just want to cave. Sometimes I do cave.
  • I wish I could be less neurotic about all this stuff. But I can’t. Part of cataloging this journey (drink) is honesty. I’m neurotic about my weight, my progress, my gym performance, what people think, etc. etc.
  • I idly wonder what I will be feeling/doing/looking like a year from now. I think about a  year ago and what I looked like/felt like and know I’m totally different, but still have a long way to go. I wonder in a year what I will be writing/feeling/looking.
  • Did I get this ridiculousness out of my system? I hope so. Onward.
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One Year CF-iversary

According to my workout record book it was one year ago today that I dragged my 36 year old, ball of goo, out of shape, tired body into a industrial park in Burnsville, Minnesota, and said hello to a man named Rob Gerdes and his dog Teeko. (It would be a couple of weeks before I met Laura, the other half of CrossFit South Metro.) My life hasn’t been the same since.

My friend Ann started CrossFit about 18 months before I did, and I saw her transform–I only get to see her every few months, but each time I would see her I was amazed at how different she looked. She would tell me that she was weightlifting and doing pull-ups–but all I heard was a list of things there was no way I could ever do and I kept going to walk on the treadmill (umm, like maybe once a week. OK, once every two weeks.) At some point I started to notice online updates from my friend Jim, checking into his CrossFit gym. Two people I adore and trust, in two different places in the US, were both telling me the same thing. I have no recollection of what made me finally cast the die to make the appointment to go to my first class. I only regret it took so many months to listen to Ann and Jim.

I am super proud of the things that I have accomplished after a year of work with Rob and Laura and a total revamping of my eating habits with their guidance (this is far from an exhaustive list):

*I am down 3 clothes sizes and three dozen inches
*I like putting weights on bars and lifting them over my head repeatedly, who knew?
*I once knocked over a chalk bucket twice in one workout and ran my bar into the pull-up structure on the same day
*I love swinging heavy kettlebells and I have never once accidentally let go and hit someone
*I haven’t ever drawn blood on a box jump, and I am very uncoordinated
*I look up Russian weightlifting videos on the Internet to learn things
*I would rather meet Rich Froning than most movie stars
*I’ve cried in the gym on multiple occasions (I probably shouldn’t be proud of this)
*I run ON PURPOSE and not because I’m being chased
*My hands are calloused from pull-ups
*I have muscles in a million places that were previously the composition consistency of turkey gravy or grape jelly

All of that aside, I realized this week the best thing that my year of learning from Rob and Laura has given me is the simplest thing of all. I like myself now. I am a wholly different woman than I was in February 2012, and I really like the person I am today–not just what I see in the mirror superficially but also how I think and what I do each day, and the choices that I make. I am a happier and better and healthier person because of what I’ve learned from Rob and Laura and through the encouragement and friendship of all the other amazing people at the gym with whom we spend so much time each week.

I’m insanely happy to be celebrating my first CF-iversary. Sadly, I was traveling today and couldn’t do the workout in MN but instead I made a playlist of some of Rob’s favorite workout songs and hit the treadmill to run until the playlist was done shuffling. Serendipitously and quite fittingly, the last song on shuffle was gym standard Call Me Maybe. The perfect ending to a year. Happy anniversary, Gerdi. A million thank yous wouldn’t be enough.

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Melissa’s Whole30 Top 11 List

I am thrilled to have several friends who have started Whole30 this month, including two who started today. I wrote a list of 11 important things about starting this month-long experiment in extraordinarily clean eating. I hope this helps anyone thinking about starting Whole30–it’s challenging but one of the best things I did health-wise in 2012. Image

1. If I can do this, anyone can do this. Period. If there were a contest for who loves bad food most on earth, I’d be in the top 10 easily. And I have done this, and I now feel so good all the time–except when I cheat on my diet, when I feel like crap and want to go back to eating better. If. I. Can. Do. It. Anyone. Can. 

2. You must, must, must power through the first week. The first two days aren’t bad, but then you will likely have a rough time for the balance of the first week, especially if you’re starting from scratch going from eating anything to very strict rules. It isn’t fun. You’re going to want to quit. You’re going to want to eat a pizza. But you can’t let it get the better of you. Find something on plan that you can eat to make your mouth happy. Eat almonds, or half an avocado with lime juice and sea salt, or some sugar snap peas, or an apple with almond butter–something on plan that you like. Just don’t cave in the first week. If you power through you will come out the other side and feel like a new person. You have to trust me on this. 

 3. View food as fuel. Food can be fun, and food is a part of celebrations and good times, but ultimately, food is fuel to get you through a day. When you view it that way, instead of as a reward or something to soothe you on a bad day, it’s easier. Food’s job is to make sure you can do what you need to do in a day. That’s it. It’s a huge mental switch that it took me a long time to figure out but once I did it was literally life-changing for me. 

4. Be prepared. The easiest way to get derailed is to not have stuff on hand to eat and to then end up super hungry with no Whole30 options. Always have something on hand to eat for your next meal or snack so you don’t end up starving and looking for something simple which usually means a road to going off plan. 

5. You’ll miss wine. There’s no way around this one. BUT, you do realize that it adds a lot of calories to your life and it’s only 30 days. And you’ll sleep better without it. 

6. Spices are your friend. There are some spice blends that have whole30 bad stuff in there, so read labels, but most spices are perfect and add so much flavor. Tobasco on scrambled eggs, Old Bay on salmon, spice rubs on beef and chicken, sage/thyme/garlic/pepper on brussels sprouts. Spices make things fantastic. If you make bland protein, Whole30 will be very boring, and there is no reason for it to be. 

7. You don’t always have to eat breakfast food for breakfast, especially if like me, you don’t particularly enjoy eggs. I often eat salmon and veggies for breakfast, or leftovers from dinner the night before. There is no law that you have to have eggs and sausage for breakfast. 

8. Check labels incessantly. The biggest surprise when I started this was how much crap is in almost everything. Laura had a hard time finding nuts without sugars or other additives. I couldn’t find tuna without soy in it until I went to three places. There’s sugar in almost everything. Just read labels. 

9. My favorite items that keep me going: Primal Pacs (www.primalpacs.com); La Croix sparkling water (grapefruit is my favorite and you can use its French name “pamplemousse” which is on the front and then feel very fancy); 100 calorie Emerald almond packs; apples with almond butter from our natural foods store (a lot of almond butters on the shelf have sugar, but the natural foods store near us has a machine that makes almond butter with ONLY almonds as ingredients, perfect); Go-Go Squeeze applesauces–they’re made for kids but they’re lovely (apple strawberry is my favorite); green tea for evenings when you’d normally drink wine.

10. Phone a friend. Sometimes you just need someone to talk you out of a bad decision. Do Whole30 (or any other eating plan you’re trying which is hard) with a friend, or have a friend who is familiar with what you’re doing and supports you, to help you through rough patches. 

11. It’s only 30 days. 30 days! That’s like nothing. You’ll feel amazing when you’re done, either because you found a new way to eat (and probably lost a chunk of weight) or because it’s over, one of the two, and I hope it’s because of the former and not the latter. :)

 

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Meet my friend Mike

One of the absolute best things, hands down, about my CrossFit journey has been meeting super fit people that inspire me to be better every single day. Rarely do these people’s endeavors get memorialized on video, but there was one notable exception this week.

I’d like to introduce you to my friend Mike. I get to work out with Mike several times a month, and he is made of awesomesauce and super inspirational to me. As one example: recently in a WOD we had two minutes to do our max number of push-ups. Mike did FOUR TIMES as many as I did. Four. Times. I want to do better when I see what guys like Mike can do.

So this week, on Monday, Mike had a really, really good day. He finished his final exam for his undergraduate degree (high five!) and then he went to our beloved CrossFit South Metro for that day’s workout, where we were asked to do the max height box jump our little legs could handle. And this, this video of fantastic–is what Mike did. Thanks for making the rest of us want to jump higher!

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