Go girl!

So after 3 months of cross-fitting, I can say that yesterday was a turning point—to all the crossfit skeptics out there who paint a picture of super toned body builders (most of them being male) who drink creatine shakes, I have got news for you.

Go girl!Yesterday, yours truly accomplished a small but meaningful crossfit feat—this girl beat the boys.

Now I will admit that those who know me know full and well how competitive I am—but yesterday was a turning point not only for my physical fitness but my mental toughness.

The moment I saw the WOD (workout of the day) on the board, my stomach started churning and I felt a little unsure of myself for really no reason at all—because after 3 months, while the workouts still kick your backside, the thought of them has become more a moment of embrace than fear—but the dreaded feeling of self-doubt started to takeover.

I sat there looking at my jump rope, my bar and my poker chips thinking –“just keep your own pace—focus on you and no one around you”—it was in that moment I remember that feeling of slipping into “the zone”, where the world becomes quiet and the surge of adrenaline kicks into high gear. I should also note that I am not some incredible athlete but rather a steady competitor.

When the countdown began, I took a deep breath and started the first round of burpees—after 3 rounds I started on the 200m run only to realize that I was in the lead—while the coach was yelling “come on April you’re beating him!”

I turned to look behind me and saw 2 of the guys just behind me on the run and I could feel myself pushing the limits mentally and physically. For the first time in months my mind and body worked together to muscle through what I thought was my upper limit. The cheers from the coaches and other classmates gave me that final surge of energy to kick through the last few minutes, making sure I conquered each burpee, front squat, body row, double under and 200m run.

As the WOD came to an end I realized I had finished ahead of everyone in the class and was secretly proud – proud of my ability to focus and stay on my own pace, but also realizing that I had finally gotten to a fitness level I could be proud of after 3 months of hard work.thumbcay7vqye1

The lesson: this isn’t just for the big burly men—the ladies can more than hold their own in crossfit. It’s time we stop creating our own barriers and just get out and try something new, because for most of us the only thing stopping us is our own self-doubt.

So ends my 1 week hiatus from blogging and more to come…

Cramping Cured by Chocolate—and banana

As I lay down after another tough crossfit workout, that all-too familiar cramping begins from my feet slowly creeping up to my calves. Now what? Reaching for a banana may not help you in this very moment, but it may certainly serve to prevent cramping if incorporated as part of your regular diet.

The banana’s sweet secret? Potassium.

Key Potassium Facts
Required daily intake: 4,700 milligrams (1 banana contains approximately 420 milligrams, or 10% of your daily intake)
Claim to Fame: this vitamin helps process and utilize carbohydrates; it is both an essential vitamin and electrolyte
Other Sources of Potassium: potatoes, oranges, spinach, tomatoes and avocadoes

Bananas curing muscle cramps is not a new concept/fad/treatment—however this tried and true treatment could use a little facelift—after all, while bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the US, according to the Centers of Disease Control, finding new and inventive ways to satisfy your daily potassium requirements can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are a few ideas…

Green Monster Chicken Sandwich
Cook time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

Chicken Sandwich Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
½ cup green pepper, dicedAvocado Mayo 1
3 tablespoons chives, finely diced
1 cup avocado mayo (see recipe below)
¼ cup pickles, diced (optional)

Avocado Mayo Ingredients:
1 avocado, very ripe and diced
2 tablespoons avocado oil, or olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt

Remove chicken breasts from package, pat dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat small amount (1-2 tablespoons) olive oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet. Place seasoned Avocado Mayo 2chicken breast in skillet and cook approximately 5 minutes each side, or until chicken registers 165 degrees F.

Let chicken cool and while cooling, prepare the mayo. Combine all mayo ingredients in a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth (1-2 minutes). Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and combine with mayo, green pepper, chives and even some pickles. Serve by itself, in a wrap, or on some freshly sliced bread and enjoy!

Banana Boat Treats
Cook time: 15 minutes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 2

2 medium to large-sized bananas
Choice of toppings (examples: mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, Reese’s pieces, butterscotch chips, whatever your fancy)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or heat your grill until it registers 350 degrees F

Using a paring knife, cut the banana (enough Banana Boatsto break the skin) length-wise down the banana peel. Pull the peel open and lightly cut slits in banana. Fill the banana boat with all the toppings you like.

Wrap the filled bananas in aluminum foil, being careful not to let them tip over (my first attempt – I had to refill my boats twice because they tipped a few times). Place bananas in oven or on grill for about 15 minutes, until marshmallows begin to melt and brown. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Onboarding Graduate – why haven’t you put yourself out there yet?

A debrief on the last 2 weeks…

• 6 onboarding classes
• 80 wall balls
• 300 jump ropes
• 60 box jumps
• Too many squats to count…

…But in the end, this newbie finally graduated from the first step in the crossfit journey. And what do I have to show for it? Well at the moment, my victory consists of tired legs, but the overall payoff, even in only 6 classes, looks a little something like this:

• Increased energy and focus at work
• Fostering new friendships
• Noticeable improvement in flexibility and mobility
• Consistently left work at or before 5:00pm 3 nights a week
• Improved work-life balance

Personal-Achievement-PrinciplesNow I will be the first to admit that these improvements are not something specific to crossfit, but they can be achieved with any extracurricular activity that sparks your inner passion. Maybe that passion is cooking, maybe it’s yoga, maybe it’s pottery and heck during some weeks, maybe your passion is just plain old silence. The moral of the story—if you were like me—chained to your desk/iPhone/laptop—it’s time to do some sampling and get yourself out there—this should be the year you take back fun and try something new.

What’s the harm in trying something new? And why worry about what others may think or say? What I have noticed over the last week is that my choice in extracurricular activities has sparked a number of comments, jokes and inquiries over, but in the end many of my friends and coworkers have been more than supportive.

Reward Yourself
After putting myself out there, I thought, what about a few small rewards—so why not finda few new items to keep that spark alive?

1. Crazy about capris
After swinging by the outlets last weekend—these Reebok capris made their way into my bag Caprisand who doesn’t enjoy a little wimsy in their workout attire? Even if crossfit isn’t your shtick, you still may want check out your local Reebok outlet, as these capris were only $17 (with the help of the AAA card, which I never used before and never saw any use in until recently)

Can’t get to an outlet? Why not cruise the following sites for your own flair:
Reebok: http://www.reebok.com/us/women-pants-apparel
Amazon: http://smile.amazon.com/Reebok-Womens-Print-Capri-Pragmatic/dp/B00KG7TJRW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1426730020&sr=8-2&keywords=reebok%2520capri

2. Tank top for warmer weather runs

Tank top 2Thanks to the help of Pinterest, I found the tank top below—I have always gravitated to and enjoyed running; however, being a fair-weather fan, it’s a hobby I enjoy when the outside temperature registers at a minimum of 50 degrees Fahrenheit
Reasons to take a look: in addition to the handy iPod pocket, it also boasts a no chafe, no rid-up design

Disclaimer: This company is still quite new and only recently secured a manufacturer for their popular tank top with pocket and sports bar with pocket—but having worn it for a few runs (on the treadmill because it’s only about 25 degrees here this week)—I will say it is a piece worth waiting for.

Where to find it: https://www.graciesgearandtraining.com/store/gracies-gear-long-tank/

The Proof is in the PVC

So you have started a journey down the crossfit road—and you get the hang of box jumps, wall-balls, and even double unders—but then your trainer breaks out the barbell and your knees begin to shake.  (Note: for demos and links, locate the orange text throughout the post)

But who would have thought the trick to mastering some of the toughest crossfit moves is PVCPVC Pipes piping or even a broomstick? I would venture to guess that these household objects probably don’t immediately come to mind when many think about a typical crossfit routine.

Over the past week, I have completed 4 classes as part of my initial crossfit onboarding—my trainer has broken down, demonstrated and critiqued several routines involving the infamous barbell. At the heart of each exercise is a 2 minute practice with a 6 foot PVC pipe—not-so glamourous and slightly humbling, but extremely helpful to master the movement before using the real deal. And for the gentlemen out there—this technique was something each trainer required both men and women in the onboarding group to do before moving up to the bar.

This PVC was even used to stretch before some of the tougher workouts and helped to build my confidence with the actual barbell, because at the end of the day, the goal is to learn the move without dropping the bar and weights on your head. Don’t have a 6 foot PVC pipe lying around the house? Why not try a broomstick or mop, so long as they’re clean?

Interested in giving it a try and not entirely sure where to start? Why not try these videos from Reebok and other crossfit trainers?
1. Reebok Sumo Deadlift
2. Reebok Overhead Squat
3. PVC Stretches

After 4 days of onboarding I also learned that when it comes to shoes, the type of sneaker does actually matter—at least for lifting.

Newbies generally don’t have to worry about outfitting yourself head to toe in crossfit gear—so if you’re a runner who’s looking to branch out with crossfit, your Asics or Nikes will work perfectly fine for most of the crossfit workouts. However, I did see a difference when it came to lifting.

When you have the barbell with weights above your head, the one thing you want is a stable base—something you may not necessarily feel with running shoes, due to the cushioning in the sole. Instead, there are weight-lifting shoes that will help to stabilize you and surprisingly, you don’t have to spend all that much on them.

Crossfit ShoesI happened to stumbled upon a 2 for the price of 1 sale at the Reebok outlet outside of Boston and ended up with the 2 pairs of crossfit shoes shown to the left—the orange ones for lifting and the electric blue ones for all other exercises (i.e. wall balls, double unders, etc.).

Here are some other options to try if you are in the market:
1. For the Amazon Prime members out there
2. Some great sales and deals on East Bay’s site

As I drove home from crossfit last night—after a long week at work—I realized I actually had much more energy than the week before and while the temperatures are warming up and the snow is melting, I have to think one of the major contributors to this new found energy has to be crossfit.

And after reflecting on this last week, I am slowly starting to understand why this fitness method has taken off and why there are some strong believers out there—

It’s easy to make the time – only 50-55 minutes, warm-up to finish

The trainers and members are beyond supportive – everyone encourages each other and I can’t remember getting more high-fives in my entire life

You can do the moves – with proper onboarding, even the most novice of folks can muscle through 14 straight minutes of rotations consisting of 50 double unders, 10 box jumps and 10 burpees (note—this was the onboarding WOD as part of yesterday’s workout and trust me it’s as tough as you want to make it for yourself)

It’s my excuse to leave work at a decent hour – I have consistently left at 5pm on crossfit days, which has been liberating and helped to foster a more balanced feeling at the end of a hectic work day for this workaholic

Here’s to week 2—only one more week until I can enter the regular classes!

To crossfit or not to crossfit

Life is about taking chances and putting yourself out there—I know I’m a little late to the game, but the question I’ll be asking myself over the next few weeks—to crossfit or not to crossfit?

crossfitWe are all abundantly aware of some the cultural stereotypes around this latest fitness craze, everything from the “cultish” following to the strange names for workouts (i.e. Hero, Murph, and Fran)—but you may be surprised to hear:

1. Crossfit is actually more popular amongst women—approximately 60% of the crossfitters out there are women
2. Crossfit will not bulk you up like a body builder—well for the ladies out there, it’s near impossible unless you start supplementing with testosterone
3. Crossfit is not as pricey as you think—prices range based on your location and box (the term for the gym)—the reality is that it allows for near-one-on-one training (generally a 8-10 to 1 ratio, students to trainers) and it is much cheaper than person training, which can run upwards of $350 per month

I currently live in a divided household—divided in our respective calorie-burning methodologies. The difference—I’m a yoga, treadmill, former collegiate athlete kind of gal, as opposed to my significant other who is a weight lifting, adult-league soccer and gym rat kind of guy—until he started down the crossfit path a little over 3 months ago.

After seeing 3 months of significant progress in my boyfriend’s physical appearance and reading all sorts of articles – I decided to take the leap and see what the fuss was all about. Now we are not talking the full blown $150 per month experience, but I’ve started the 2-week crossfit introductory course—which not only introduces you to the crossfit routine, but ensures that each participant is safely performing each workout in order to prevent the stereotypical crossfit injuries.

Keep in mind that any credible crossfit establishment will take the time to instruct, observe and critique your form to ensure you do not cause serious harm to yourself. They won’t be able to help you with the soreness you feel the morning after—everything below my hair hurt after the first workout—but they will provide valuable advice on surviving and perfecting each workout of the day (known as a WOD).

What I have found in only a short period of time—the folks at crossfit are some of the most positive and supportive individuals I have ever worked out with. I felt welcomed in the first few minutes and supported throughout the entire 55 minute workout.

I can see how this outlet may be misconstrued as cultish, however, after being on the yoga bandwagon for the last 7 years, I can easily say that all the yogis out there could be accused of fostering a similar environment—but let’s face it—there’s nothing cultish about individuals who are there to better their bodies and build meaningful friendships with one another.

My goal over the next 2 weeks is immerse myself in the WODs every other day, learning everything from burpees to filthy fifties to snatches—all terms that still carry a scary connotation, but I’ve been assured that these military-like terms are all moves achiecrossfit 2vable by even the most novice of crossfit newbies.

So here goes nothing! I’m eager to see what the next few weeks bring in terms of progress, aches, meeting new people and trying to push myself harder than any workout before—well I’m not sure it’ll necessarily compare to some of the lacrosse workouts in college but we’ll see!

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