Last we left off our story, our heroine had decided that she was wanted to be strong. She wrote that post, walked into a local strength gym the next day, looked her coaches in the eyes and said Whatever I have to do to start training Strong(wo)Man, I want to start. Today. And so she did…
What I love about the box where I train is that it is Strength & Conditioning gym. It’s not just a CrossFit box. They have award-winning Olympic lifters that train there for their Olympic lifting coaching, of course they have CrossFit with great coaches, but the very unique thing they have is The Edge 2.0, the StrongMan component of the box – which I am now a part of!
What & Why: StrongMan
I remember starting CrossFit and asking the owner what all the crazy stuff in the back of the gym was… and why the huge dudes mostly sat around in chairs drinking water and eating protein. We both giggled and she explained that it was for StrongMan and that they train differently. Already feeling overwhelmed, I didn’t really think much more of it until months later when I came to really respect and enjoy working out with a specific CrossFit coach.
Every time I did a WOD with Mike I found he pushed me to do something I was afraid of, did something that was exciting and made me feel powerful, or was able to explain form or movement to a way that helped me better understand and improve. But, it was when I worked out with Mike’s girlfriend, Caroline, that I realized StrongMan (which they both train for) wasn’t just for men. She pushed me to try harder and lift heavier – telling me if she can do it, then certainly I can, too. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
With all the positive encouragement, I began loving every WOD that had a strength component. I looked forward to lifting heavy things… so it was a natural progression that when I decided to officially train more often and more seriously that I would add the extra days of the week as StrongMan days. I wasn’t sure what that would lead to long-term, but I knew I loved the powerlifting movements paired with fun toys, like tires and sledgehammers.
Turns out, I not only enjoy it – but with dedication to sleeping more, eating right and more training I’m getting good at it too. If you follow me on Instagram you know I often post photos when I hit new personal records (PRs). Here are some of the ones I’m really excited about (note: progress represented by about 1 month for them all except Thruster which I didn’t record earlier):
pre-commitment Jul 8, 2013 – 3×3 143lbs
post-commitment Aug 5, 2013 – 3×3 173lbs
pre-commitment Jul 21, 2013 – 1RM 235lbs
post-commitment Aug 4, 2013 – 1RM 253lbs
pre-commitment Jul 22, 2013 – 3×3 123lbs
post-commitment Aug 2, 2013 – 3×3 143lbs
pre-commitment Apr 24, 2013 – 1RM 95lbs
post-commitment Aug 19, 2013 – 1RM 135lbs
So, how am I managing to fit all this in? My schedule is as follows:
- Monday: 5:30pm CrossFit (leave work at 5pm, home by 6:45, eat dinner with the boys)
- Tuesday: 6:30pm StrongMan (leave work at 6pm, call boys and say good night on way to gym, stay late at gym)
- Wednesday: 5:30pm CrossFit (leave work at 5pm, home by 6:45, eat dinner with the boys)
- Thursday: : 6:30pm StrongMan (leave work at 6pm, call boys and say good night on way to gym, stay late at gym)
- Friday: Open Gym/Rest Day (go as a family and catch-up on a day we may have missed or else take a rest day)
- Saturday: 9am CrossFit (the kids have (9:30am CrossFit)
- Sunday: noon StrongMan (usually bring Cole & Finn and we have a Mom & son “date” after)
It was quite an adjustment to lose the Tues/Thur with the boys. But we talked with them about how I wanted to work out more, be healthier and get stronger. When I ask them if they’d rather me come home or work out and get stronger they almost always say, “Let’s just FaceTime, we’ll see you later!” I realize that not everyone has a fantastic partner in their life who is willing and able to take on kid duties the way Matt does – but, I do… I’m lucky. And he gets his own time during the week to use how he sees fit now that the boys are all in school, even Wes who goes a few hours 2 days a week.
Another way I make time for working out is doing it with family and friends. Specifically, I love that on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons our box has “open gym” and I get to spend hours on strength, taking lots of rests and recovery time in between sets. I especially love that our gym is uniquely open at those times so it’s easy to convince awesome friends to come train with me on those days! Side note: I met my friend Courtney pictured below at the local farmer’s market about a year and a half ago. She was having some health struggles and I convinced her to go paleo for 30 days… and she’s been paleo since. To return the favor, when she started rocking CrossFit over a year ago I got jealous and was inspired to start too. Then she recently placed in an Olympic lifting competition a few months ago, and inspired me to want to compete too. How awesome that our friendship helped one another get healthier and stronger!
Zercher Squats and Axle Deadlifts: much harder than they look
This Hersafell Stone is a BEAST… I want to lift it off the ground and carry it 120ft before Thanksgiving
Joining StrongMan has allowed me to change my relationship with people at the gym. I feel like instead of the hey-how-are-ya chit chat I had with CrossFitters in between heaving breaths I now have an opportunity to chat and enjoy the company of like-minded individuals as I train StrongMan. We follow each other on Instagram and give virtual high-fives on Facebook if we’re not there to witness each other’s big PR moments. I now call several people at the box friends and look forward to seeing them, catching up with them personally on Facebook or even celebrating my upcoming birthday with them!
Committing to train more often and with vigor has also been great for those around me… I make everyone do it with me! It’s been incredibly hard this summer since we somehow insanely made plans to travel for 8 out of 9 weekends in a row. But I convinced Aimee and Bill & Hayley to join me for a WOD in Pork Belly Fitness (their garage gym) while we were in Pittsburgh. And I got Matt and Cole to WOD with me while we were in Raystown, PA glamping. When you’re excited and enthusiastic about something, it helps others be excited too!
Things I’ve Learned
1) I’ve learned that working out doesn’t have to be this burden that overwhelms you and makes you feel like you “have” to do something… and then it’s a riot in your brain to what excuse you can come up with to get out of going. Instead, I’ve found that after a stressful day a good sweaty session lifting heavy things is a much better thing to do than coming home and have a glass of wine or gin & kombucha.
2) Committing to get stronger and train with intention has set my mind straight about eating right not just for health but also for performance – I’ve only had two times in 45 days where I’ve enjoyed things outside the perfect paleo template, both intentional, and I can definitely see a difference in my body composition as well as strides in strength as a result. I still haven’t really lost weight, so I’m going to think about looking into things like Carb Cycling, Paleo Zone, or other things athletes do to help themselves lean out and maintain performance. Because [crazy talk] I have to start thinking of myself as an athlete now! However, given that I am losing inches and gaining strength and have a history with disordered eating I will approach it all with great caution.
Note: this is after working a full day, CrossFitting and then blogging this very post on the treadmill desk!
3) Also learned: My grip strength sucks. StrongMan adds a new muscle group I hadn’t used before with CrossFit: my hands. From wide handle farmer’s carry to the axle bar, my hands are learning how to hold and maintain strength as I lift heaving things without being able to hook grip them. To work on this I’ve started to always work with a standard (men’s) bar in CrossFit which has a wider handle and also doing specific grip-strength activities.
4) Supposedly I have a good squat. I’ma try and exploit that. Not sure how… it’s still an underwear gnomes plan at this point.
5) All my original rules of starting CrossFit still apply, but I’ll add a new one: good mascara is a must. You need solid lashes to keep that dripping sweat out of your eyes!
6) Also, I love my new shoulders.
This is the silly tough-girl face I’m working on… whatcha think?
Not without Challenges
Digestion is crucial. When I first started I had some hormone issues that resulted in my inability to sleep soundly and digestive distress. I consulted with my expert friends in the health & nutrition field who gave me lots of great advice. Some of which was to stop working out so much (I curtailed my metcon activity and focused more on strength as a result) and to get in more Vitamin C (naturally in fruit) and magnesium. I also personally applied the method of increasing my veggies with my meals, since without a gallbladder my body is very sensitive to protein and fat. I found that within just 48 hours of this plan my digestion and sleep were resolved and I can say it’s been over 30 days now without any further concerns!
I will admit, I did have one set back a few weeks ago. I overtrained; I got hurt. I PR’d a few days in a row, knew I should take a rest day, but came in anyway and pushed too hard, achieving another PR. As I was lifting that 260lb bar, I felt my body telling me to slow down and take it easier and lighter, but I didn’t listen. As a result I had some back muscle pain and spasms for about a week, delaying and regressing my training much more than if I’d taken it easy that night. I’ve learned to take a rest day when I feel I need it and to really remember that training for a competition is a marathon, not a sprint.
Yes, I said competition. With all this new found love of the sport I want to commit to it in the only way I know how – competition. So, when I approached my coaches about competition I said I’m open to whatever you guys think, you know me and my abilities best – let me know if there’s a competition in 2014 you think I’d be decent at, and I’m in! Turns out, there’s a StrongWOMAN competition being hosted by my box in December 2013. It’s REALLY rare to have a women-only competition like that, especially hosted at my own gym, there’s no way I can’t not participate. But the date was MUCH sooner than I was expecting.
It’s been a great motivator for me to have goals. My personal goals are:
- 300lb deadlift and 250lb back squat by 2014
- being able to pull a truck (Mike says I could likely do this now but my goal is by 2014)
- pick up the Husafell stone from the ground by Thanksgiving
- I want to handstand without a wall SO badly and am getting VERY close, my goal is to have that party trick for my 32nd birthday party on Sept 14th – eek!
All of these goals and dates are coming up quickly! All the more reason to be serious about food, sleep, training and proper rest. Off to bed for some muscle recover, so I can start all over again tomorrow ♥