Why Do We Need to Always Explain Why?

 

I have recently been struck with a realization that we find ourselves feeling like we need to justify gaps in our own lives to other people. Similarly, we feel compelled to explain “why” to people when really, it just is not their concern. It is like if we deviate from a plan or from what other people expect of us (even what we expect of ourselves), we feel like we need to rationalize it. I do believe though that our culture, our society, has the capacity to overcome this.

I know, you are thinking, “Tell me more, Missy.” I was having a conversation recently with a friend who is looking for her next career move. She took some time off from her last job, and so I asked her, “What will you tell companies if they ask why there is a gap in your resume?” She said simply, “I will tell them I took some personal time. The end.”  I pondered this for a moment as my brain usually wants more concrete answers. As we chatted more, I fully understood and agreed with her point. Why does she owe anyone an explanation? We are so used to always having to tell people a story when in actuality, it is not any of their business. For someone who is smart, accomplished, competent, likeable, savvy, why does she owe to anyone to explain a mere gap on her resume? Because  the truth is, LIFE happened. And specifically what that means, well that is really nobody’s business.

Throughout my career, I have always been cognizant of not having a gap on my resume. The truth is, I took some time off to do short term jobs a few years after college (and working my first real job in finance) because well frankly, I was 25 years old. I was unsure what I wanted to do.  I was young. I was disenchanted. And I wanted time to figure out where to go and what to do next. But no way in hell was I going to tell any potential employer that. I was far too worried they would view me as someone who was not motivated or ambitious or worse yet, a total flaky scatterbrain. Instead, I stretched the truth a tad and said that I worked for a family business for a year.

I remember going to interviews with my standard story. “I was living in Pittsburgh and I really wanted to move back home to New Jersey. The timing worked out as our family business was in need of some extra help.” That always satisfied the interviewer, and I did get a “real’ job once again when I was ready.

Looking back, as this was probably around 2004, maybe at that time, it was still expected that no gap go unexplained. Today though, I would like to think that our culture has changed.  I do believe there is a higher acceptance of understanding that just because someone went off course does not mean they have less to offer. I wonder if I were to interview for a job tomorrow with a revised resume that does not reflect a year of working at a family business (and oh my, instead has a gap!) that I could be blunt and just say, “Well I was 25. I was not really loving my job anymore.  My boyfriend moved to West Virginia. I didn’t want to be in Pittsburgh anymore and so I moved back home.”  I would  be surprised if at this point in my life  that my 25 year old self would really work against me. I have a few years (ok fine shut up, more than a decade) of experience since then that would more than make up for it.

What if I actually gave no explanation of the gap and simply said, “I took some personal time off. The end.” Would anyone would even blink an eye? And really why should  it matter if someone takes time off at 25 or 35 or 55? People have their reasons, which there is no limit to what those reasons could be. It is their reasons, their stories. Why should getting a job depend on them providing personal details to a complete stranger? People’s character and ambition should speak for themselves and overcome a gap.

And it isn’t  just jobs where we have this expectation of having to explain ourselves. It goes beyond that. Look at dating.  How many times have you felt (or heard friends express) the dread of having to explain why you haven’t dated in FOREVER? Why do we feel compelled to rationalize our single lives? Maybe instead of blaming it on long work hours or the city you live in is just the WORST for dating., you simply just say, “It just hasn’t happened yet.”  That is the truth and so is saying, “Because I am awesome and have yet to meet someone as awesome as I am.” You get my point. We have such a tendency to feel like less of a person when we feel as if we fall short of expectations, and that simply should not be the case.

The gaps and “need’ to explain go on and on. Why did you take time off before going to college? Why did you wait 5 years after you got married before you had a baby? Why did you wait 4 years before you had your second baby? Why did you wait so long to get married?

The reality is people feel compelled to explain themselves or their situation because of the fear of being judged. And another reality is that, we all want to know “why” because we actually do want to judge, bad or good. We want to know WHY because we are trying to assess if there is something shady that we must uncover. Did you not work for a year because you nobody wanted to hire you? Have you not dated in a while because you are bat shit crazy?  Did you not go to the happy hour because you are trying to make some kind of statement?  My point is it all feels very cynical. We make judgments and assumptions based on very little information.

And the ironic thing is, often when we have these gaps or chose to go against the grain, contrary to popular belief, we come back from them as better humans. We often learn so much about ourselves and about others that we never would  have gained had we stayed on a straight path. We gain knowledge and insight, even if the gap or break we took was due to something tragic or sad, we come back stronger and better. I encourage people to stop viewing gaps as something damaging. Start looking at them with respect and admiration.  Start appreciating what they can do for a person, for a soul. There is something to be said for life experience when we deviate from the expected.

 

When Your Car Breaks Down, Who Will You Call?

Friendships morph, grow and even dissipate over the years. Sometimes you struggle trying to stay connected to friends who are in different places in life, may it be marriage, parenthood or even geographically different.  Sometimes you have friends that you outgrow and sometimes even friends where you feel like you are trying to catch up to. Friendships can prevail though through all sorts of circumstances, ups and downs and changes. What is important to you when it comes to true friends? After 30 plus years, I have figured out what the definition of a true friend is to me. And yes, I am about to share that with you.

Let’s start with the fundamentals that have become my guiding principles. Being a true friend would be describing me as, “That’s Missy. The sassy, petite girl who works her ass off at the gym, is an amazing writer and the best aunt ever. And I am damn proud to know her.” Being a true friend is wanting to spend time together whether it is just the two of us or 20 of us. Being a true friend is accepting me as I am. Being a true friend is complimenting, encouraging, supporting and reinforcing  all the great things about me. Being a true friend is not taking one single bad experience and making a determination of my character. Being a true friend means listening, not just to what I say but to what I don’t say. Being a true friend means you know me so well that you can instinctively pick up on when something is not right with me. Being a true friend means knowing  that I brighten when I talk about my nieces and nephews, that fitness is a passion and that despite my own set of challenges, I have persevered.

I often think of who my true friends are in terms of putting together a guest list for my future fictitious wedding. The ones who make the cut are the ones that I know I will still be friends with 5 years and beyond from now. When I look back at big day’s photos, I want to see my friends who are still a part of my life. I do not want to invite people just to fill seats. I want friends who I am connected to. My true friendships have reciprocity of authentic and genuine love and respect.

Being a true friend is about the details and the little things. They show that you know what I need and when I need it. They show you know the little things about me that perhaps other people don’t. You do all of them with no judgment (and often a lot of humor). Being a true friend is sending flowers after my first CrossFit competition. Being a true friend is killing gigantic terrifying water bugs for me. Being a true friend is sending me a card for no occasion other than because you were thinking of me. Being a true friend is being my responsible adult after surgery and standing outside my first shower post-surgery to make sure I don’t have a “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” kind of situation.

Being a true friend is believing in the old saying “when you love someone set them free.” It takes a strong person to let a friend “break up “ with you so that they can work on themselves. It happens a lot where we need time to figure things out and reevaluate friendships. Sometimes in these breaks we learn that perhaps the friendship is not what we thought or wanted. But it also happens that we are reminded of all the reasons why we value that friendship. It shows character in both friends in the equation. It takes character to say “you know, I miss you and I want to reconnect.” It takes character for the other friend to understand their friend so well that they are willing to give that friendship a second chance.

Being a true friend does not mean I need to hear from you or see you every single day. I know who my true friends are and that when they do think of me, it is with fondness and love. It also means understanding that friendships go through ebbs and flows, and when there is an ebb, it does not mean you are any less important to me. Any one person only has capacity for so much at any one time. People’s priorities shift and ebbs are not necessarily a reflection that you are valued any less. Being a true friend means that you can handle those uncomfortable moments where someone is going to call you out on your shit and that you can get past differences that only make the friendship stronger. Being a true friend means understanding and respecting boundaries. (post on that here). Being a true friend means you can go five days or five years from the last time you saw each other, and it is like no time has passed at all.

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I also have recognized what being a true friend does NOT mean. Being a true friend is not based on the superficial. It does not mean first describing me as “you know, the cute girl with the great ass” (although to be fair, if you ever want to tell me anything along those lines,  I certainly will not stop you). It is not waiting to accept or decline an invitation until all other invitations are in.  It is not trying to “fix” me when I am not asking to be fixed. It is not spending time together in an opportunistic way. Being a true friend is not putting me down or making me feel less of myself. It is not making a judgment based on a single event. Being a true friend is not doing all the talking and never asking a question. Being a true friend does not mean that you necessarily know what my favorite color is or where I went to college or what kind of a car I drive.

When I look through pictures and photo albums (yes I really do have printed photos), I see so many people in them, most of who I do not necessarily even keep in touch with. Some I look at with disdain, some I look at fondly. Some I look at and I am reminded of a lifelong connection to. They are the ones who stand out to me. They are the ones I have met unexpectedly. They are true friends I have met in kindergarten, in college, at jobs, at the gym, at CrossFit, at running clubs, on vacations. Some I have instantly connected with. Some friendships have formed over time. No matter though how I met them, when I met them or where I met them,  they are my true friends because they all have hearts that are nothing but kind, pure, and just plain goodness. They have seen me at my best, and they have seen me at my worst. They are my true friends because they are the ones I want at my side. They are my history, my present and my future. They are the ones that like my nieces and nephews, make my eyes light up when I think about them. They are the ones that can make me laugh, make me think, make me humble, make me… Me.

5 Rash Trump Quotes that Get Under My Skin as a CrossFitter

 

Not even two weeks into the new administration and it is IMPOSSIBLE to escape hearing about everything the new “president” is taking away from us. He is, as many say, bad reality television at its finest.  And like so many of us, my heart breaks a little more every time I see or hear some outlandish article or post about him. I personally need a little comic relief from this reality we are in. In an effort to (obviously) poke fun at some of the most incredulous quotes and stupid, irresponsible comments that have come out of his mouth, I want to parallel it to why none of it would ever fly if it was said in respect to CrossFit

*Disclaimer: The quotes I am using in this post are in and of themselves in their intended context completely ridiculous, and I am by no means minimizing the reality we are in. For me, applying it to another subject (CrossFit which is near and dear to my heart) is like my own weird therapy for dealing with this twilight zone we seem to be living in.

  1. “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”  (Twitter, 12/31/16).

    Aside from the obvious lack of sportsmanship, CrossFitters do not understand the concept of “enemies” or “lost”.  People who hate on us, sure they are misinformed, but we would never consider them enemies. In fact, we would never turn them away should they one day reconsider and want to try CrossFit. We having nothing but mad respect for everyone whether they CrossFit or not.

    Losing? No such thing in CrossFit. Even those who “lose’ a competition or are not at the top of the white board, they still win. CrossFit is a constant journey and regardless how someone does today, they are better than yesterday.  Not to mention, CrossFitters know what to do if they do feel like they did not quite hit their goals: they work harder. They fight back, not for spite but for themselves.

 

  1. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.” (campaign speech, 6/15/15)

    Well then, I guess I workout alongside drug lords, criminals and rapists. Gosh, I need to go find another place to CrossFit because surely every person who comes to California from Mexico is a criminal. They never inspire, work hard, show humility or any trait of a good humanitarian. Get real, Trump.  For the better, they are every much a part of CrossFit as anyone else.

  1. “That’s one of the nice things. I mean, part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich. So if I need $600 million, I can put $600 million myself. That’s a huge advantage. I must tell you, that’s a huge advantage over the other candidates.” (ABC news, 3/17/11)

    Does money get people further in life? That is highly debatable.  Is that even what lead to his presidential win?  Perhaps it factored in, but I digress.  When it comes to CrossFit, money definitely has nothing to do with how succesful an athlete is when it comes to hitting a PR or improving your Fran time. Not to mention, the funny thing is nobody gives a crap about what the person next to them squatting does for a living or how much their annual income is. Everyone is equal when they walk into a box. All CrossFitters want to see is hard work and a good a­­ttitude (ok and muscles). That is beauty. Period.

  1. “The only card [Hillary Clinton] has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else to offer and frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

    Ok let’s talk about the woman’s card at CrossFit. Well in actuality it does not apply. CrossFit women hustle in every aspect of their lives, from training to working to being a mother to being a daughter to being a friend and everything in between. We do not come into the box expecting coaches to take it easy on us or train us simply because we are women.  They train us because we give a shit about our health and fitness. CrossFit women do not gain respect simply by setting foot inside a box either. We gain it by working our “women’s card” asses off, not by charity or pity.

 

  1. “How do you define leadership? I mean, leadership is a very strange word because, you know, some people have it, some people don’t and nobody knows why.” — “Larry King Live,” 1999

    Really, nobody knows why? Leadership is not mythical. It is not hard to grasp. It is not a mystery. There is no formula for leaders. It is not a gene you are born with or not. Leaders are leaders because they display integrity, honesty, transparency, humility, positivity. Leaders have foresight, kindness, compassion. They inspire. The list goes on. In CrossFit, it is no different. Leadership is not an “either you got it or not” kind of a thing. It is actually quite easy to define, emulate and identify. Look for the athletes who give it their all. Look for the ones who are cheering on their boxmates. Look for the coaches telling discouraged athletes, “Yes you can!” Look for the members who come in smiling, ready to face whatever is about to be thrown their way

 

I am sure if Trump were ever to read this post he would dismiss it as CrossFitters being­­­­­ “bad press”. If being bad press means being able to back squat more than his bodyweight, I will take it. If being bad press means being part of a united community, I will take it. If being bad press means being the best version of ourselves, I will take it. Trump can say whatever ridiculous things he wants to (and I am sure there will be no shortage in the years to come). We all have first amendment rights. The difference between him and a good CrossFit citizen is, we wouldn’t simply because we just do not think at all like him. We chOose to focus on being open to everyone and everything. That is what makes CrossFit so great. It is diverse in every way from the people to the programming to our abilities. We seek to inspire people, not divide them.

Working Out: Take the Good, Take the Bad

We tend to be our own worst critics. I know I am far too hard on myself far too often, whether it be at work, at the box or various other settings. This past Friday’s workout for me was no exception. My attempt at the prescribed strength portion was a total disaster (in my brain) and went far from how I envisioned. To give you context, it was an EMOM 10 (Every Minute on the Minute) where the odd minutes were 10 deadlifts (each round going up in weight till you had a challenging weight) and the even minutes were to be 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups. Let’s just say after round 3 of deadlifts, in which I could complete only 5 in that round, I had to go down in weight the last two rounds, might I add at which I was barely successful. As for the pull-up portion, it was like one of those bad dreams where you are so paralyzed, you cannot move. I spent a lot of time just hanging from the bar with virtually no range of motion or strength to actually swing. My plan was to do about 4-5 reps of chest-to-bar and then finish each round with regular kipping or butterfly pull-ups. Needless to say that plan went to shit in the 2nd round. I could barely even do kipping pull-ups, let alone butterfly or chest-to-bar!  I found stringing a mere 2 together was near impossible, which is not typical for me.

By the time I got to the METCON itself, I felt totally defeated and would have like to have snuck out unnoticed (which is not possible when you are just 1 of 2 people in class). Anyways, I managed to motivate to do it with my only goal of just being happy to move.

It was anything but an inspiring experience for me. As someone who works out most mornings, typically, my accomplishments at the box can really set the tone for the day. For the most part, my mornings go well and it keeps me in a positive space for the rest of the day. Of course, when I have bad workouts, just like I did last Friday, I was a total moody crank all day. I had to really to put my head back on straight that day, give myself a kick in the ass and put it into a different perspective other than my feeling like a total weak failure.  Once I did that, I reminded myself of a few really important things.

  1. I will not be on top of my game for every single workout. And that is ok. Having an off day where I cannot lift as heavy as I did even the week before or where I cannot string more than 2 pull-ups together does not measure my strength or capability. It is one day out of many.
  1. Working out is a process. One day’s workout is almost like a continuation from the days before. If you have a day where you go really hard and defy what seems possible to you, it is normal to function at a lower (albeit less inspiring) level the next day. For me (and probably many of you) I just cannot be a bad ass every day.
  1. There are ENDLESS factors that will negatively affect a workout. Here are the ones I encountered in Friday’s debacle of a workout.Germs! If you are starting to get sick (which if you are do yourself and everyone else a favor and STAY HOME!) or at the tail end of being sick, your body is expending a lot of energy fighting off those little jerks. Naturally you will have less energy to invest into working out. I had been sick the week before (well up until Monday), and I may have done too much too soon.

    Diet. When you think about why Paleo and other similar diets are appealing and have become so popular is because they teach us the right things to put in our bodies. They show us how we feel based on what we eat and drink (well really what we don’t drink).  The point being that what we put into our body can either fuel us or deplete us. For me, as I typically work out at 6 am, my dinner the night before powers me for what I will be doing the next morning. Before last Friday’s humbling workout, my dinner consisted of a salad and a vegan protein bar (I was too lazy to actually cook something that would have been more substantial). That was another strike against me.

    For us ladies, PMS. OMG TMI! Get over it, boys. This really is a thing. Every woman is different but I know I have experienced having far less energy a certain time of the month as have many other women I know. (Ladies, back me up here!) Even if I get the same amount of sleep or recovery, sometimes it will just not win when PMS is involved.

    Why am I including this is my short list of factors you ask? Because it makes the point that sometimes the logic for a subpar workout is not always entirely obvious. It also reiterates that our bodies are crazy complex things, and sometimes they may be off balance so to speak. (And if you want more scientific explanations, click http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/4-ways-your-mentrual-cycle-affects-your-workouts.html).

    Age. It’s a hard cold fact. I require more recovery and maintenance on my body (which is why I permanently have a foam roller and yoga mat sprawled out on my living room floor. It’s part of the décor really. It is also how I justify the increasing frequency in which I get massages). I feel like a car sometimes, like how many more miles do I have left in me to keep functioning at this level? Ok, sorry I digress. That could be a whole other post in itself.

4.   The most important and all-encompassing reminder though is this: I need to be far less hard on myself. I felt like my body betrayed me, despite that I understood why. My nature in general is that I fixate and torture myself over negative things I do or do not do far more than I celebrate or pride myself in all great things I do accomplish. Two days prior, I had a workout that was one of the hardest I ever did. I  felt like I was about 3 reps away from dying, which also means I I felt extremely gratified. I felt even more gratified considering the same workout had been programmed a year ago, which I had to severely scale as it was about 3 weeks after  knee surgery . So if I am going to be fair to myself, I should celebrate my success just as much as I obsessively analyzed Friday’s.  In that spirit, let me share with you what I did on January 5th 2016:

100 Step Ups (which were onto 1 or 2 plates at most)
30 Hang Cleans (no squats) at 65#
20 GHD sit ups
6 Rope Climbs
20 Alternating Hang Snatch with 20# dumbbell
30 ‘Push’ Press at 55# (by press, this would have been more of a slight dip)
100 Step Ups

Below is what I accomplished this past Wednesday, January 11th 2017:

100 Double Unders
30 Squat Cleans at 105#
20 GHD sit ups
6 Rope Climbs
20 Alternating Dumbbell Snatch at 40#
30 Thrusters at 95#
100 Double Un­­ders

To keep things in perspective,  I have every right to be damn proud of what I accomplished a week ago. I mean hello, I should be happy I can even do that many squats at that weight considering a year ago I could not squat at all.  I should focus on the gains. Thrusting 95 pounds a year ago (or really ever) would have been unheard of. I should be cheering as loudly about that instead of boo-hoo’ing over my failed deadlifts and pathetic pull-ups. Really, I need to celebrate the positives and let the negatives go. I need to reset and not be so hard on myself.

I fear I have gone off track a bit with the post (but at last this is insight into how my crazy obsessive brain works).  What I am trying to say is this. Take the bad days with the good ones. Sure, it’s totally ok, advisable even, to put some thought to understand what went wrong (there are always take aways that keep us improving), but do not let them define you. Keep moving on and remember, every time you step foot into the box (or yoga studio or boxing class or whatever your drug of choice is), you are winning regardless if it is not your best performance.

 

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

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.

squat lifecycle.jpg

  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).