A Fat Girl’s Confession on Starting Crossfit

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you – no doubt – have seen my CrossFit photos lately. I want to take this opportunity to sincerely, genuinely apologize for inundating you with photos of me doing stuff that probably irritates, annoys, confuses or befuddles most of you (which I’m also about to do in this post).

Please understand, when you’ve been sitting on your arse for a year recovering from an autoimmune flair and adrenal fatigue and then get in the gym and deadlift 193lbs, you want to shout it from the rooftop and tell everyone you know. Especially after being morbidly obese for most of your life.

And who better to share it with than you – our dear readers – since we’re besties and all.

Crossfit Day 13 (193 DL) by PaleoParentsSee what I mean, this gratuitous photo bomb of my dead lift just manifested itself in this post!

For the 5% of you that are interested in all this CrossFit jazz, I want to answer the most common questions I’ve gotten so far. I appear to have become the Average Woman & Mother Mascot of the paleo-sphere (which I adore, thank you) and thus all the women who thought CrossFit wasn’t for them are now thinking “Wow, maybe I can do this too!” (which is awesome, by the way)

How do I know I’m ready to start CrossFit and where do I even start?

I have absolutely no idea how to tell you that you’re ready for CrossFit. I’m neither a doctor, a trainer, a nutritionist or any variation thereof. That said, I waited several months from when I was invited to start CrossFit to when I felt I was ready. When my autoimmune condition was flaring up, when my sleep was diregulated and my adrenals needed supplements from the fatigue I brought about after the stress of finishing our first book, it was NOT the time to tax my body with more (physical) stress. As you recall, I sincerely focused on healing my body through the autoimmune protocol and I actively de-stressed my life, sleeping more and committing to less. Eventually, I realized my body rhythms were normal, my energy was increased and my food intolerances on the autoimmune protocol were less drastic. That’s how I knew my body was ready. [if you’re having autoimmune issues, might I recommend my buddy Dr. Ballantyne of The Paleo Mom‘s upcoming book on how to heal your autoimmune conditions, The Paleo Aproach]

What I CAN tell you is that if it’s something you’re thinking about, you should research your local CrossFit boxes (you’ll learn that CrossFit is it’s own language) and find one that has good reviews. Make an appointment and then go talk to the coaches. Get a sense for their interest in your sleeping habits, your eating habits, your physical history. If they have no interest, find another gym that does.

I personally had the opportunity to join several CrossFit boxes in the area. I’m friends with several owners, actually. But I wanted to make sure that I joined the right gym that would be supportive of my individual needs. I found a woman-owned and woman-coached gym that talked to me extensively about the collar bone I broke in November as well as my eating habits. They understand I used to be obese, am metabolically broken and had been lacking any physical activity after recovering from stress and physical exhaustion last year. I also LOVE that I found a gym that isΒ strength & conditioning focused, that coaches men and women in Olympic Lifting as well as CrossFit – something I deeply admire after listening to Robb Wolf & Greg Everett for infinity.

I think the most important thing, for those of us are aren’t elite athletes, is that you find coaches who will on-ramp you slowly. You want more than 1 day to learn the proper forms of the long list of movements you’ll be performing. If you don’t take your time to learn to squat right then nearly everything you do in CrossFit will have your weight loaded incorrectly and you will likely injure yourself, not to mention your performance will suffer. I love that my coaches made me do a zillion squats before adding weight to it so that I’d have proper form when I actually did!

Crossfit Day 20 by @PaleoParents

How fit do I need to be before I start?

Dude, I showed up at my gymΒ with a not-yet-completely-healed fractured collar bone, a ginormous fear of passing out after an incident brought about by my own idiocracy a few weeks earlier and a complete lack of movement for over half of 2012. I was also bloated and carrying extra weight from some holiday indulgences. If I can start, so can you!

How do I prepare?

I learned the hard way that you must come slightly prepared for CrossFit. Here are some recommendations I suggest you follow before your first day – lack of preparation WILL elongate recovery. Trust me on this one.

  1. Crossfit Day 2 by PaleoParentsMentally, relax. Clear your head. Leave the world behind. What happens at CrossFit stays there. Your sweat (and maybe even blood) build the foundation of your relationship with the coaches and friends you’ll make. Do not allow yourself to be distracted – focus on you, your strength and the perseverance and accomplishment you will have after completing each session.
  2. Get yourself some good shoes. After a data collection through Facebook, the most recommended shoes are Reebok Oly’s (a hybrid shoe for CrossFit and lifting), Reebok Nano 2.0, New Balance Minimus Trail (WT20), Inov-8 195 and Inov-8 260. I’m using my Vibram 5 Fingers until No Spend Month is over, then I’ll get Oly’s to hopefully help my squat and lifting performance!
    Bonus to not wearing toe shoes: wearing my Paleo knee-highs from NomNomPaleo, WellFed and BalancedBites! I need to get some from CivilizedCaveman too…
  3. Invest in a container of the best cheap stuff on earth, Epsom Salt. I had NO idea how awesome epsom salt soak baths were until I started taking them. As someone with a history of sugar over-consumption and insulin resistance, magnesium deficiencies are common. So by taking a relaxing soak I’m helping my muscles heal and my magnesium levels!
  4. Invest in good workout clothes. You can’t wear baggy pants or sports bras that don’t actually support you. Between the jumping, climbing and crawling on the floor, skin-hugging and supportive clothes are a must! I’ve been layering on the Athleta and this fantastic Panache Wired Sports Bra and the results have made my workouts much more comfortable. Fellow busty friend Vanessa from Healthy Living How To told me the Ta Ta Tamer from Luluemon is also awesome (although my fat girl experience is that Luluemon clothes have not been found to fit or be flattering, but Athleta is dreamy).
  5. Last but NOT least, properly nourish your body before and after a workout! My first couple sessions I was too afraid to eat carbohydrates afterwords and my recovery was AWFUL. A different session I didn’t eat a good lunch or snack before a 5:30PM session and I barely lasted through the WOD. I talked to my coaches and learned about the metabolic differences before and after a workout. I’ve learned that I must eat a protein, fat and significant carbohydrate post-workout and ensure good nutrition before hand! Here’s an article I found to get you started – I plan to have another post eventually with more information on the topic and some of our recipes for balanced PWO snacks. Also, now’s not the time to stop taking your FCLO.

Crossfit Day 3 by PaleoParents

Have you changed your diet?

Yes, on the days I work out I eat more carbohydrates. I go from about 75g/day to about 100g/day and I focus most of the carb consumption pre- and post-work out. This is easy since I work out in the evenings 2 out of the 3 days a week, and I simply add extra carbs to dinner – which are the ideal time to eat them anyway.

Crossfit Day 6 by PaleoParentsI also sleep a lot more.

As a working mother of 3, how do you find the time?

I make time. I work out Monday and Wednesday at 5:30pm. That means I leave work a little early, but not so much that it’s a big deal. It means I arrive home a little late for dinner, but not so much that it’s a big deal. Then on Saturday mornings I work out. The boys are all a bunch of lazy bones on weekend mornings anyway, so they hardly realize I’ve gone. I also invite the older two when I go, since they like to climb ropes and practice muscle-ups.

Matt also has started CrossFit and he goes the two days a week both boys are in their co-op preschool as well as Sunday mornings, when again, the boys don’t even realize he’s gone because they’re busy being lazy.

This routine has afforded us much of our normal life… if we can do it while writing a 2nd cookbook, producing a podcast, running this blog, keeping 3 kids alive and managing my full-time job – you can do it too!

I’m scared, tell me what it’s really like!

I wouldn’t be taking and obnoxiously posting all these pictures everywhere on the internet if I wasn’t genuinely, sincerely loving going! I don’t know that I’d be that excited if it weren’t for my awesome trainers, so make sure you find people you want to get sweaty with β™₯

Crossfit Day 5 by PaleoParentsCrossfit Day 7 by PaleoParents Crossfit Day 11 by PaleoParents

Crossfit Day 17 by PaleoParents

I’m especially impressed with the arrival of my collar bone and developing muscles!
(check out my B&A pictures of a developing booty after just a couple weeks)

[edited to add, this funny article was pointed out to me and covers a few things I didn’t since it wasn’t really my angle – but it is great info!]

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  • Janelle Seymour

    I love that you posted this! When I did Crossfit (about 1 1/2 years ago) my recovery was so. long. I’m going to save this post for when I’m ready to go back!

    • Matt doesn’t recover the same way I do and it’s worse for him! πŸ˜‰

  • Trini

    Thank you for sharing, I’ve been debating starting crossfit, since I am not in peak physical condition. I’m inspired to try it now!

  • I would love to do cross fit. The only way I could do it where I live is to go to the gym where I have a membership (pricey) and then pay for at least two sessions a week with the high end personal trainer (even pricier). Maybe this is something I work on fitting into my budget in the future.

  • There are lots of sites online with crossfit-type workouts you can do at home or in your own gym. I’d recommend working with a personal trainer at least once a month to ensure your form is correct if you decide to do any weight training/lifting πŸ™‚

  • Megan

    Seeing this post about two months ago gave me the push I needed to checkout crossfit. Thanks for your inspiration Stacey! I am now going about 3x a week and I love it! Keep posting!

    • I heart this infinity, thanks for letting me know! <3

  • I’m going to go out on a limb and say you are pretty much entitled to plaster your CF accomplishments all over the internet. Go. Do it! That rocks! If people are annoyed, oh well. I have been in and out of CF for the past 3-4 years, struggling with much of the same stuff around food and body, and emotions. I am never going to be an elite athlete, I’m just a mom who is sick of being sick. I work crazy hours too, and I get it. I think there needs to be more of us sharing our clean eating and exercise journey, and especially success. You are inspiring me to get back to it, but to also not rush and keep working on the healing I need to do right now.

  • Mary

    One of the best Crossfit blog posts I’ve ever read. I’ll be sure to spread this one around!

  • MopoCurls

    Love, love the nap picture with your son. I miss those days….sigh.

  • amazonwoman

    Very inspiring! I love reading about CrossFit journy’s of others. I started CrossFit a couple of weeks ago by doing an OnRamp class. I’m overweight with a lot of weight to lose. I have been sort of athletic all my life (but never like crossfit). Finally last Friday, I didn’t want to die after my class. I was vocal that the normal WOD was just too much. I felt really good afterwards. Tomorrow is my first non OnRamp class. Happy to run across this post.

  • Sandi

    Love it! I am not doing Crossfit but tabata and sometimes Warrior X-fit at home. Also taking classes to get my black belt 3x a week sometimes more. I am the biggest girl in my classes every single time. I could care less. On bag work last week I had the highest number of rotations every single exercise in a room full of men. We can be big, beautiful and kick butt! You go girl!

  • Melanie Stokes

    Thank you so much for writing this post!! I have recently been inspired by your Crossfit pictures and stories that my friends post on Facebook. I decided to take the plunge and sigh up for a beginner’s course at Crossfit Central in Austin, Texas. My first class is tomorrow morning and I am more than a little nervous!! This post gave me some great insight and made me realize that it is totally okay that I am nervous!! Thanks and keep up the good work and the inspiration! =)

  • Leslie

    Great article! I just stumbled across it but plan to check out your blog more. I tried Crossfit here and was not impressed with the coaches. I felt like I was allowed to be behind the others’ progress but I would sort of be ignored until I caught up. I live in a “beautiful people” college city though. :-/ I’m interested in giving it another go later on after reading of your experience.

  • lindsey.lynch16@gmail.com

    I have been really intrigued about the whole CrossFit thing but, I think I might have to wait until after my marathon in October. I have been having some foot strains lately so I don’t want to add another kind of workout at this time while I am having issues already. I just got your 2nd book in the mail this week and am loving it! I have been really contemplating getting a smoker (and that is something I never thought in a million years I would say!).

  • rf

    love you blog

  • Miss_Ann_thrope

    <3 Stacy <3

    Currently working on getting to a starting point to start cross-fit. Thanks so much!

  • KM

    I’m extremely interested in CrossFit and even went to my first (beginner’s) CrossFit meet the other day, but couldn’t help but be a little…I don’t know if intimidated is the word, but we’ll go with that…by the pep talk we were given. Basically, the owner told us nobody needs to be a hero, to stop if you can’t do more reps, but also to prepare ourselves to vomit because most people do. And if you do, you get a free tshirt if you do it while in the box, like a badge of honor I guess. I love the idea of CF, and I want to go and get my butt kicked, but not to the point of yarfing in the middle of the WOD. Have you had any issues with this?

    • Personally, I’ve never seen anyone puke in the gym. I don’t think that’s very common and unless you’re hyperemetic in general, I don’t think it’s any kind of badge of honor to strive for.

  • Jessica Scholtz

    I love watching your Crossfit journey! Really wish I could have taken to Crossfit like everyone else. Alas, I’m a yoga & Jiu Jitsu girl. HOWEVER, you’re getting me motivated to try it out again.
    Keep up the amazing work!

  • Kristina

    I am about to start CrossFit next week and let me tell you, your pictures and blog totally inspire me. I have been a Paleo eater for the last two years and I love the way I feel when I stick to my diet. I have been a life long fat girl and I just can’t wait to buckle down on my Paleo and follow in your footsteps with CrossFit. Thanks for all the motivation…keep the pictures and stories coming I LOVE THEM!

  • Dana

    Thank goodness. This post is very helpful. I was in the Army from ’92-95 and while CrossFit sounded fascinating I couldn’t get the old basic-training flashbacks out of my head, and I finally had to google whether fat people can start at CrossFit because it just didn’t seem right to me (as in, it didn’t fit, not as in I thought it was morally wrong or something). I’m glad they accept people from all walks of life–I mean, how are we supposed to get any better otherwise?

  • Casey

    Stacy – seriously you are an inspiration! life long fat girl and dying for health. I have been an athlete my whole life but terrified of starting crossfit simply because my weight. I starting looking at gyms and pictures of members, etc. Not a single person was out of shape and I began to think… yeah I cannot start this right away and then I googled “can an overweight person do crossfit?” and your blog came up. Funny enough I live in your area and was looking for the right gym, and wanted that right fit. I am going to talk to your gym (i like that it is ran by women). I was nervous of being surrounded by a bunch of meat heads. So, thank you for putting yourself out there. It means more than you will ever know to many women. Good luck on your continuing health.

    • Casey, hope to see you there! Maybe tomorrow morning for the 9am WOD?

  • S.M.

    I started Crossfit two months ago, and it’s absolutely amazing. I go 4-5x a week, and my legs look like they’re a marble statue <3 I was sooo nervous to go my first time, but when I went and saw how everyone was so chill and super supportive, I kept going. So glad I did. They're like my second family!
    PS I also love your blog! Super motivational to change my (naughty) eating habits (aka one too many oreos… aren't those paleo? πŸ˜‰ )

  • Susan

    Way to go! I just started crossfit and I am so happy I found your blog. I have a full time job and three children also and I want to be fit and have more energy. I look forward to following you on your journey πŸ™‚

  • Julee

    Just started crossfit today. I can see where I need to wear tighter clothes LOL I am glad I came across your post (wish it would have been a few weeks ago), my shoes were already the nb minimus, so score there, and tighter fitting tops came in today. I will have to take in the pants because they have hard time staying up. Don’t know where I thought looser was better, doh.

  • Em

    I have leaky gut/food sensitivies to several grains. My functional med Dr. has me on diet with no grains for 6 weeks, with rice added after that. I am so hungry! How to add extra calories to stay full? Also, should tissue sample be taken to examine exact damage caused to intestines to have baseline?

    • There are plenty of healthy, and satiating calories that you can find in healthy fats, like avocados, coconut, olives, grassfed beef, pastured meats, and starchy carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes and plantains. If you are interested in learning more about paleo, we suggest our ebook, 3 Phase Paleo. Learning about grain free eating takes a little more explanation than we can do in a response comment, so we created our ebook to answer these types of questions. You can find it here: http://3phasepaleo.com – as to the other question about tissue samples, we are not doctors, so we can’t advise you on that particular matter. Best to stick to the advice of your doctor.

  • maheen

    I want to start but im scared…..idk if ill worry about how people look at me or think of me…idk

    • No one will look at you with any judgment. There are all types of people that go to crossfit. Yes, there are people who are very fit, but there are just regular people that go that are just trying to improve their health one step at a time. Your coaches will take good care of you and the hardest part is just walking in the door for the first class. After your first few classes you will feel more at ease and learn that it is a community of people working towards a common goal. It’s very supportive and positive. Just give it a try!

  • Keith Landers

    Awesome Article – Thanks o much for writing, very, very inspiring…