CrossFit is So Much More than Workouts and Meatheads

You all know I love CrossFit. Many of you think I am a bit coo coo for cocoa puffs about it. Many of you are intrigued by it. Many of you wish I would stop writing and posting about it. Many of you share my obsession with it. Many of you wish I would stop obsessing about it. The thing is though, CrossFit does so much for me beyond a workout. It is a mentality both in and out of the box. I did a Google search for “CrossFit inspiration” and so many memes popped up that immediately resonated with me. I want to share some of these with you as they really speak to why I, and so many others, CrossFit.

“I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say ‘because of you I didn’t give up.’” There is something about working out in the company of others. I know when I used to do my own solo thing at a gym, I often would cheat myself out of really pushing my limits. I did not even know what I was capable of as I worked out in a bubble.  I doubt I ever would have attempted even doing a pull-up or back squat more than 100 pounds. I had no inspiration to do it. I wanted to be fit and healthy, but I never really appreciated all the awesome, motivating shit fit people do. I got a taste of it when I had personal trainers and found running groups to hit the pavement with. Being around CrossFitters has turned me onto fitness on a whole other level. I have mad respect for athletes of all shapes and sizes because I now truly appreciate how hard it could be. I push myself now so much more than I ever have because of this community who motivate me to work hard. I also would like to think I do the same for other people. Think of how easy it is for someone who goes to a global gym or somewhere that they do not know anyone else working out. Think of how easy and how often it happens that people get discouraged and never go back. With CrossFit, we all have the potential to say a few inspiring, encouraging words to someone to make them want to come back. Working out does not have to be only a self-fulfilling kind of thing.  Make it about others too and what you can do for them.

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“Act like a lady. Lift like a boss.” For someone like myself who is petite, I never want to be perceived as fragile. Sure I appreciate chivalry and manners when it comes to things like holding the door open for me, but I sure as hell never want assistance getting my luggage off the carousel or down from the overhead because someone perceives it to be too heavy for me. There is a balance for me between being feminine (I do love make-up, nails and dresses) and not being delicate or helpless.

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CrossFit has made it cool for women to be able to lift heavy and not feel the need to hide it. CrossFit has become an accepted outlet for women to lift like a boss, and more importantly, has enabled us to feel proud of all the muscles we have to show for it. There is so much more acceptance for different body types, and I truly believe CrossFit has played a part in that. Fitness is not just about aspiring to be skinny anymore (and nothing against anyone who is). CrossFit is a showcase for strength (strong is the new sexy as we all know). I know I work damn hard for every muscle I have and so when I see that in anyone else, I have such respect for them. Gains require so much discipline, tenacity and an appetite for constant improvement.muscles.jpg

 

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” CrossFit brings accountability to everyone who sets foot in the box. (Yeah there are some who sandbag but then they wouldn’t fall into this category of doing the seemingly impossible). For most of us, it means doing those last few reps even if we feel like we have nothing left to give. It may mean it takes a few minutes longer than everyone else to finish the WOD. It may mean throwing a few extra pounds onto the barbell even if it causes us intense anxiety. CrossFit is a constant battle between doing what is comfortable and what sucks. Personally, I am elated and humbled every time I do something that seems scary to me (which is almost every day). 95 pound thrusters in a workout is not something I ever expected or strove to do. It sounds scary and impossible, yet I have done it many times. Doing the “impossible” is what keeps so many of us going. It has taught to us to expect the unexpected. It teaches us to not underestimate ourselves, and that is something that extends far beyond the box.

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CrossFit has taught me so much about myself and others, and I truly believe it has helped me in my personal life as well as professional. ( I have to refrain in meetings to not make CrossFit analogies  to my team as relevant as they are!) Think about your interactions, outside of a box or a gym even. How many times do you  witness people giving up before trying? Or how many times do you see people underestimate themselves? Or perhaps you watch a colleague get steamrolled because they have allowed others to perceive them as weak?  I swear, if people treated countless scenarios the same way they would tackle a hard workout, they may see different results. So whether or not CrossFit is your thing, please, embrace the mentality it offers as it translates in all we do in life. CrossFit builds strength, resolve, and courage in us not just at the box, but in all that we do. Crush life the same way you crush a workout. And on that note, I truly wish you a happy new year. Now, go get it 2017.

Dear PopSugar

Dear PopSugar,

I have followed and adored you for quite some time now, and I have enjoyed the frequent tips for fitness and nutrition. I fear though, that my respect for you has wavered after reading a recent article you posted entitled “The Top 4 Workouts to Avoid if You’re Trying to Lose Weight.” (link here ) I was astonished and admittedly maddened just a few sentences in and all the way to the end. As someone who considers herself to be healthy, fit and active, I simply could not disagree more with what was written. I am not a trainer, a nutritionist nor am I a doctor, so I will not be an expert on any physiological argument. I write to you though not out of anger or spite but to well, put it eloquently, call bull shit on this article. 

Too many of the points made are straight up blanket statements. The glaring message, starting with the first reference being in the title, blatantly says these workouts will not be effective in losing weight. Does that mean that there is not one single person who would not be a candidate to shed pounds on any of the 4 offending workouts (CrossFit, Yoga, Indoor Cycling and Cardio)? I am sure you do not truly believe that to be true yet that is more or less the message of your article. There are tons of success stories out there of people who did lose weight through these workouts. Not to mention, any combination of these workouts actually do complement each other. Also not mentioned, all these workouts have the ability to be catered to anyone’s fitness level and weight loss plan.

Ok, right, let’s really get into it. CrossFit, my love, was at the top of the list. PopSugar, here is what you wrote about CrossFit (and I quote): 

“CrossFit is number one on the hit list,” Rowley said in an email. “The risk-to-results ratio just isn’t there. If you’re just beginning your weight-loss journey, you likely won’t have the strength to get an effective workout without injuring yourself. It’s very popular, and I can see how fun and challenging it is,” he noted. “But the way the exercises are done is very dangerous, especially for someone not in tiptop shape.” 

 Remember, I am keeping science out of this. I will say that the arguments against CrossFit imply that only people in tiptop shape should ever attempt it. If this were the case, that CrossFit caters to more elite or advanced athletes, then well the franchise would be out of business. The athleticism and level of CrossFitters span the gamut. Not everyone that is new to CrossFit is a former collegiate athlete. There is a very prevalent population who begin after years or even a lifetime of being sedentary. Everyone has to start somewhere, just like any other sport or activity. People do not run for 26.2 miles the first time they put on their trainers (unless their name is Forest Gump) nor does someone perform an advanced movement like a muscle up in the first metcon (but oh that would be bloody amazing if they did!). The movements and exercises done in CrossFit are extremely flexible and scalable, hence the beauty of this phenomena. A beginner can very easily modify a workout to their level and still burn calories (which as a non -scientist, I am still confident that translates to losing weight).

For someone who has been inactive, they can very well perform very basic, NOT DANGEROUS movements putting them well on their way in their weight loss journey. (Air squats, short distance running/jogging, rowing, burpees, scaled push-ups, minimal weight push presses, box step-ups, sit-ups, jumping pull-ups, jump roping. Shall I go on?) 

 Ok then, moving on to the Rowley’s next offender: yoga. Mr. Rowley says:

 Rowley explained that yoga “has a lot of benefits, but losing weight is not one of them.” Although you’ll gain strength and tone up, if you’re aiming to shed pounds, “you want to work as much of your body as possible to lose weight and to stimulate your metabolism,” and Rowley said yoga is not the most effective way to do so.” 

I have tried yoga enough times to know that instructors strategically target all muscle groups, which to me require much strength, which burns calories, which leads to weight loss. Also, as a non-scientist of course, toning up  (as Rowley did state is a benefit of yoga) means turning fat into muscle which essentially is weight loss (or at least decreasing body fat).

From the little I do know about yoga, I am comfortable saying that the practice of it centers on the idea of balancing ourselves both physically and mentally. It quiets the mind which again, in my humble opinion, is the biggest obstacle in losing weight. It is more than the time you put it in at a gym or a class. I dare say that the practice of yoga can really reshape someone’s thinking which leads to making better choices about health and diet. 

So even for the sake of argument (as Riley makes) that yoga  is not the best method in which to stimulate metabolism, he would be hard pressed to argue that people do not carry the core of yoga with them in all that they do resulting in smarter choices. 

 The third on Rowley’s no fly list is cycling. His logic is much the same as that of CrossFit. PopSugar, I quote: 

 ” While indoor cycling classes are great for exercise veterans, Rowley said, “they can get out of control as well,” and the format of the classes can put you at risk for injury. “The rooms can get too hot, the movements can be too aggressive for some…” 

 Firstly, I want to know what  Rowley defines as an “exercise veteran” and should anyone who is not in said category, limit themselves to only the very basic movement that has been around since the beginning of time, walking? Anyways, I digress. Much like CrossFit, cycling is scalable. There is a little thing on every bike called a resistance knob which enables people  to have control over their movements so that they do not “get out of control” (which I also find this bit to be vague and would genuinely love to know more on that point). I have been taking cycling classes for close to a decade and have met numerous people in them who have great success stories of losing weight by cycling. With my small science lens, I do know cycling can demand a lot of output from your body which again, equals burning calories (leading to weight loss).

 Lastly, Rowley frowns upon cardio only workouts to lose weight. He claims that:

“Cardio will help burn calories but often can make you hungry, leading to excessive calorie-consuming after workouts.” 

 This may just be my favorite worst perspective in this article. PopSugar, in the closing of your article you advocate for resistance training, which Rowley defines as weight lifting. I am just as hungry after an all cardio workout (like running or stair climbing) as I am following a weight lifting session (which I do in CrossFit may I add). I chose though to not come home and devour an entire pizza or a box of Girl Scout cookies. So, what I am trying to say is that increased hunger is  not specific to cardio (or indoor cycling) workouts, and with that increased hunger comes discipline to make smart food choices. (If someone who is trying to lose weight is not proactively planning out meals and snacks, then perhaps they are not even that committed to losing weight. That is a whole other topic in and of itself). Anyways, discipline and self-control can prevail. That is key to losing weight no matter what the preferred method is. Ruling out cardio-only routines to lose weight is absolutely ill-advised. 

 PopSugar, you are blessed with a platform to promote healthy living to many viewers and followers. I expect more from you than what this article has provided: blanket statements. I walked away believing that YOU are advocating that there is only one approved way to lose weight (resistance training).  Right, because there is always only ever one way to get from Point A to Point B. Weight loss is just that cut and dry. People should not experiment and find out for themselves what works for their bodies. I am having difficulties suppressing my NJ sarcasm because I am so passionate about exercise and fitness. I revel in the idea that there is so much variety out there, and I want to promote all the 4 aforementioned workouts as great ways to explore for weight loss. 

 Sincerely,

Missy

Friendly Public Service Announcements for the Holidays

With the holiday season in full swing, that means we are all indulging in a few extra cookies, attending ugly sweater parties and jamming out to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”. It is a joyous time of year for sure in which we are all perfect angels who spread nothing but cheer. <Insert sarcastic emoji here>

While the holidays do truly inspire us to be kind, decent humans, it also can bring out the worst in us. It is not possible  to go to a mall right not without either fighting for a parking spot or swearing up a  storm. If you have ever had the honor of flying this time of year, you will see the worst specimens imaginable in full force. You know the ones. They bum rush you to get on the plane. They smack you with their bags as they board. They put their laptops and jackets in the overhead leaving you no room to stow your efficiently packed tiny as tiny can be roller board (in which you have sacrificed wardrobe options to wear two pairs of leggings and 1 pair of jeans with the same 4 shirts for a week’s visit. Ok fine, this is me every Thanksgiving break, and yes I am bitter over it. I digress though).

In the interest of diffusing the holiday stress and staying kind, check out the following.

  1. There is no need to be an asshole, even if someone else is being one first. We know there are a lot of horrible drivers out there (especially in LA) but there is no need to join them. There is no need to run people down in malls because they aren’t walking fast enough. I know, a lot of them are texting and walking and it is SO ANNOYING, but regardless, use your manners. The lines will be outlandish (so accept it) and you may not get to that last pair of boots in time. It is ok. (If that last marble rye is taken by a sweet old lady, let her have it. #Seinfeld).
  2. Don’t assume that people who are not into the holidays are Scrooges. For some people, the holidays drudge up unpleasant associations or feelings of sadness. You never know what someone else is going through. Maybe they lost a loved one or are going through a financial hardship. Show them kindness and compassion rather than outrage that they do not want to partake in the office potluck.
  3. Be extra kind to others. This time of year, we are inspired by the holiday spirit. We leave a little extra when we tip our servers. We bond more with our teams at work. We donate toys to children in need. We serve food to the homeless. We send children to sing cute and endearing songs to the elderly in nursing homes. These are all lovely and remind us of how great humanity can be, but why do we tend to do this only during the holidays? There are just as many people in need in August and February as there are in December.
  4. Gifts do not need to be extravagant. I used to ask for things like jewelry, designer clothes and fancy vacations (for the record, i never got them). These days, I am delighted by things that keep on giving, like the abdominal mat I received through a Secret Santa. I rather work on getting great abs than sport a stupidly expensive sweater. Try getting people practical things that ­­­may not get themselves but once they have them, they can’t imagine life without them. (Note, gentleman, by practical, I do not mean get your girlfriend jumper cables). Not that I am trying to sway anyone but…a CrossFit fundies membership for a newbie would be a great present. Just sayin’.
  5. Gifts do not need to be tangible. I know, we all love the suspense and excitement of unwrapping presents but there are so many other things that are just as thoughtful that we can give. Make a friend date to workout. Take your sister ice skating. Take your mom to the movies.  We do not always need to break the bank to tell someone we care. Give experiences instead.

I truly love this time of year. I love those few extra days off from work. I love being able to unwind. I love the excuse holidays bring to get together and reconnect with friends and family. I love being able to watch Elf on television at any given time. I love the spirit that it can invoke in all of us. I do not love the negativity though that it can also invoke. So please please please. Go forth and follow these 5 really easy, basic things and I promise that you will spread the essence of holiday cheer.

Do’s and Don’ts of Injury Recovery

Thursday December 8, 2016 marked one year since I had Arthroscopic knee surgery to fix a pesky meniscus tear I had. I have come so far since that day, and besides being damn proud of the work and results, it has reminded me of the do’s and don’ts of injury recovery.

  1. Do visualize and envision what you want. With injury it is all too easy to be discouraged because of setbacks and pain. I had many moments where I seriously questioned if I would ever get back to doing CrossFit and running and kickboxing and all the other crazy shit I love. I often would be frustrated as all get out and found myself thinking perhaps I ought to trade it it all in for knitting and bring back step aerobics. It sounds ridiculous ;and once I realized that, I started picturing myself hitting my goals. (I even had a dream once of doing CrossFit. Ok maybe two dreams. Who am I kidding? I lost count).  I stopped resigning to what I could not do, and allowed myself to fantasize about what was yet to come. And guess what, over time, those dreams and fantasies became reality.
  2. Do not do too much too soon. All injuries are different and recovery times vary. Regardless, it is important to recognize that one good day does not mean throw caution to the wind and go all out. Recovery requires a whole lot of patience and self restraint. I learned this when I started squatting too soon. I had maybe a week or so where all felt great. Then, before I knew. it, the knee pain came back , and I was frustrated once again. I am by no means a doctor or physical therapist or even someone who is proficient in anatomy. I just know that recovery means we need to ease our bodies back into things. Surgery in particular (as in my case) is essentially trauma to the body. We need to be kind to our bodies and respect the healing process.
  3. Do celebrate the small wins along the way. As mentioned above, you can’t do too much too soon. You can’t be frustrated that you aren’t lifting the same weight you used to. Give yourself time, and celebrate all the milestones along the way. Granted these milestones are things you may have scoffed at back in your hay day, but you don’t get somewhere in one leap and bound. It takes many. I never thought I would smile ear to ear just from doing a little old air squat, but guess what? I did. It’s a big deal.
  4. Do not expect big wins overnight . Small wins lead to big wins. Here is an example of my reconciliation and reunion with squats.
  • I had knee surgery on December 8th.
  • On March 10th I was doing  air squats at about a quarter of full depth.
  • On May 20th I did my first full depth back squats at lighter weight (75 pounds and to put that into perspective, my 1 rep max prior to surgery was 200 pounds).
  • On July 15th following a squat cycle, I hit a certifiable full depth back squat at 190 pounds (only 10 pounds shy of my PR).
  • On October 31, after another squat cycle, I  hit a 195 pound back squat (only 5 pounds shy of my PR).

You can see by this timeline, it took me months and intervals to make strides. I did not regain my abilities a month or even two months after surgery.  You also are safe to assume that to my point above this, every one of these milestones was just as rewarding to me as those first air squats I took. I also have faith and trust that one day i will hit a 200 pound back squat again, but I am not focused or worried as to when. As long as I get there safely, that is all that matters.

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  1. Do reevaluate the way you had been training prior to injury. For me, as my surgery was (knock on wood) the last of a string of injuries, I was over injuries. (That is putting it mildly. I was actually heart broken-sick and tired-ready to disown my body-kind of over it).  I had to really take a long hard look at the way I trained to find out WHY was I getting injured consistently. I found that I was not always smart about the way I trained. I would do a 280 stair climb three  consecutive times (for those in LA, Baldwin Hills was my spot) and then go to CrossFit and do a WOD where I had to use a lot of leg muscles that were already fatigued and beat up. I often sacrificed form to hit a heavier weight. I knew I had to train differently as I recovered that was also sustainable long term. Which leads me to the next “Do”.
  2. Do put programming as your first priority. In reevaluating my injury history, I concluded that smart programming was my absolute #1 priority in how I should train.  This lead me (actually prior to surgery as I had knee pain for months before I sought medical help for it) to making the tough decision to switch CrossFit boxes. I chose to go where the programming was insanely good, and where I knew people to have made some ridiculously impressive gains. It also lead me after surgery to stay with Physical Therapy longer than perhaps most people would. I feared going back into the real world on my own and falling back into my old habits. So by switching where I trained and with different coaches/trainers, I enrolled myself on a healthy journey. *Shout out to both Adan and BJ, my coach and trainer respectively, that I do not know how you do what you do with programming,but I am forever grateful for it.
  3. Do put in the time smartly and the results will come.  This is not even necessarily specific to injury recovery but is worth mentioning. With learning to squat again, I did not just attempt squats and do squats all live long day. I had to do many other things to get there, like balancing exercises and strength work (and mobility! Oh how I heart mobility.) There is a tendency to JUST practice the one lift or one skill in order to hit our self imposed goals. Take pull-ups for another example. You can’t expect to just walk up to the bar every day until that one magical day that you can achieve a pull- up. You have to put in time working on engaging the right muscles (note earlier comment, I  am not anatomy expert.  I am inclined to say engage lats and scapula) and shoulder strength to slowly build up to a pull-up. 

     

    A year after surgery, I do admittedly find my life to be of two eras: pre-surgery and post-surgery.  It really is because of all the changes to my training and mindset that I differentiate “then” with “now”. Because of these do’ and don’ts that I do religiously live by, they serve as both a reality check as well as a benchmark. I never want to take for granted being healthy nor do I want to ever minimize all the work I do every time I train. I am undoubtedly at my all time strongest (and getting stronger). I am doing workouts now (even many at RX) that I would not have been capable of prior to being injured. I say this not to be a braggard but rather it truly is my wish for all of you to adopt them so you can continue to train smart and to continue showcasing everything great about fitness (particularly CrossFit).