It’s getting real up in here

July 2013

July 2013

Whenever I go to the gym, run a race, or see people trying out new diets (ahem, “lifestyle changes”), I wonder what the impetus is.  Do these people Crossfit to lose weight? To get stronger (duh)? To work on their butts? Do my friends eat Paleo so that they can get leaner? Or maybe they are thinking about the long term health benefits of changing the way they eat.  I don’t really care what the answer is because it’s none of my business.  I just know that for me, exercise and nutrition have played so many different roles in my life and I am once again seeing their evolution now that I am a mother of three, just scrambling to keep my head above water many days.

The background on this somewhat totally rambling, TMI post is this: during pretty much every minute of my 20’s, I had an eating disorder.  I vascillated between bulimic and anorexic although I never looked thin like the celebrities and models whom everyone labels as anorexic.  I know exactly when/why it started in college, but that’s not something to get into here.  The only salient point is that I became bulimic for a number of reasons, one being that I loved food more than I loved myself. I loved the way donuts and ice cream and cookies made me feel. But then I hated gaining weight. So being the brilliant college student I was, I figured purging was a way to get the best of both worlds: eat a lot and not gain weight.  Oh wait. As any bulimic will tell you, you definitely do not lose weight with binging and purging.  In fact, you may (I did) gain weight. And you feel GROSS.  You also feel like you are deceiving so many people around you, including your loved ones.

Right before my senior year of college, I decided the bulimia thing wasn’t working for me.  I needed to find a different way to get control because bulimia made me feel out of control.  So I switched gears. I started counting calories and stopped drinking (Uh, I mean, I was only 20 so actually I made the decision not to start drinking when I turned 21 in the fall).  I lost a LOT of weight because I was swimming 4 hours a day, doing one hour on the ellipitical between practices, and subsisting off of chocolate chip scones, frozen yogurt, and salad.  I allowed myself 1300 calories per day but I was burning close to 4000. The weight melted off and I tipped the scales at 116 before the season started. I think my weight at weigh-in was 136 the year before. But I got a lot of positive reinforcement because I swam faster.  And my back fat was gone, so of course I was thrilled about that.

After graduation, I didn’t have all the hard core swimming to keep my weight in check.  So back to bulimia I went. My bulimia peaked while in law school.  The stress of studying and being away from my friends and family, the feeling of not being even close to the best but actually being below average when everything depended on your class rank… I just could not handle it. Things got so bad during law school that I considered taking a semester off to go to some really expensive recovery facility to deal with my eating issues. The cost was just too huge of a deterrent. I knew I was going to develop some serious health complications from my bulimia if I didn’t stop.  I decided I wanted to start running again to see if that would give me some of the self esteem I had lost after college.  I also thought it would help me lose all the weight I put on from my binges.

Picking up long distance running in 2005 was the first turning point in my eating disorder. I had something to focus on besides “where am I going to get my next meal… which will end up in the toilet?” I began to feel better about myself. I ran a half marathon after 6 months of training and was pleased that I ran under an 8:00 mile pace for my first half marathon.  A few months later I ran a half marathon around a 7:20/mile pace. My grades improved significantly.  The problem that lingered is that I continued to be bulimic, but it was more like “bulimic light.” As long as my training went well and I had a good run, or a good race, I didn’t rush out to buy ice cream and other junk.  But if I had a bad day or missed a run for some reason, I backslid into my old eating habits.

This pattern pretty much continued even after I became a real grownup, with obligations like law school debt, a car payment, and a mortgage. It wasn’t until I became pregnant with Super Girl that I had a wake up call.  I could not, I would not, do anything to harm this baby just because I was too ignorant or scared to deal with the underlying issues that contributed to my eating disorder.  I needed to make smart choices for myself and this child.  I continued eating biscuits and ice cream, but instead of just using it to stuff down my feelings and anxiety, I ate it to enjoy the way it tasted.  I ran during my pregnancy because it made me feel strong and empowered.  Yeah it burned calories too but I don’t think it’s a crime to run an extra mile because you had an extra scoop of Ben and Jerry’s.  Nobody is perfect.

I never really lost that focus on my weight and body image though.  I was determined not to gain more than 30 pounds and I “accomplished” that goal with Super Girl and Super Toddler.  The number on the scale was so important to me as it had been for years.  So even though I wasn’t bulimic anymore, I still cared so much about a silly number.  After I had them, I was frustrated my body didn’t just snap back to a version of me that never existed anyway.  Some Gisele Bundchen-esque figure with a 36 inch inseam and tiny waist.  I didn’t lose any sleep over it but I tried diets here and there hoping that I could get to my “ideal weight” of 130 pounds.  Never happened.

During this pregnancy, I really lost site of nutrition even though I was lifting and running a lot during the first two trimesters of the pregnancy.  I had so much anxiety because I didn’t know how we could handle three kids.  Also, I was worried I would have post partum depression again, as I did (really really badly) with Super Toddler.  So I ate my feelings, my old crutch.  I would joke with people about my Bojangles Baby, and I still do from time to time- okay, yesterday.  I rationalized that if I was working out that hard, I could eat whatever I wanted. I had been making that argument for YEARS.  I think it goes back to my swimming days in my teenage years when we quite literally could eat just about anything and never gain an ounce because we were burning so many calories each day.  But eating whatever I wanted wasn’t healthy for me or the baby.  And again, it was just a way I dealt with stress, as it always had been.

I watched the scale creep higher and higher each week.  When I delivered Super Girl, I had gained 38 pounds.  Wowzers.  I officially weighed more than Super Dad the last three weeks of my pregnancy.  And I delivered 3 weeks early.  So yeah, that’s kind of scary.  After having her, I have been focused on slowly getting back into my workouts because I was on bed rest for the last 6 weeks of the pregnancy.  But on the other hand, I would get so frustrated that the number on the scale has not just dropped by double digits every week.

I finally had an epiphany last week after Super Girl got on the scale three days in a row and asked me what her weight was.  She had been seeing me do it.  It broke my heart.  She wants to gain weight because she will be a “big girl,” but I don’t want the number to be something she obsesses over when she is old enough to care.  I don’t want her staring in the mirror examining her stomach or “Cabbage Patch Abs” as I call mine half-jokingly. I don’t want her to think that exercise is a means to an end of keeping her weight down or getting boys to like her.  I want her to feel empowered by sweating, the way I do every time I go on a run or finish a Crossfit workout.  When I was doing a WOD on Saturday, I felt strong even though it was only my second time back since Super Baby was born and I was lifting a lot less weight.  I felt hope for how much stronger I could get with each passing week.  I felt like my daughters would be proud of me not because of the number on the scale, or how my thighs don’t touch, or how much definition I hope to one day have on my stomach, but because I work out to be a better mom to them and a better wife and just a badass who loves herself.

I am not 100% comfortable with my body and I don’t know that I ever will be, but I’m getting there.  Being a mother has helped me realize that I can largely overcome the insecurities and issues that led to my eating disorder, because I would never ever wish that kind of torment on my children.  I just want them to see that eating and exercise do not have to be rewards or punishment, and that they can be strong and happy no matter what the number on the scale is. And that’s as real as it gets folks.

4 weeks

I just finished my fourth week of Crossfit so I thought it was time for an update.  In four weeks, I have done a lot of different exercises and there are also a lot I haven’t done because the workouts didn’t line up with my schedule.  So I am just going to run through my initial and current thoughts about the exercises I have done.

Pistol squat: First time through, I realized that my right leg is significantly stronger than my left, and I am also much more flexible on that side.  Like, I can actually perform a proper pistol squat on the right side, but the left leg I can just barely get to 90 degrees.  And my left butt cheek was really sore for three days afterward.  Second time through: same problem. Guess I need to head to yoga.

Pullups: A staple in almost every workout. I couldn’t do one unassisted pullup before starting crossfit and I am pretty sure I still can’t. I haven’t tried.  But, I can tell I am getting stronger because my assisted pullups are faster, and I can actually feel myself using my back muscles instead of just my arms.  As I get larger and larger in the coming months, I am fairly certain my increasing strength will be quickly outpaced by my changing center of gravity and the difficulty one encounters when doing a weighted pullup.  Guess this just means I will be able to kip 20 pullups in a row once I drop this baby. Said me, never.

Pushups:  So, I have been doing pushups wrong for the past 25 years (that’s right, I did pushups as a toddler). I had my arms all wide and flared out, but the Crossfit way is more of a tricep pushup.  Okay, so that’s a lot more difficult.  I could do about 3 of those pushups when I first started and I can do 10 now, so that’s progress.  I typically will just do a knee/”girl” pushup if it’s a workout with over 50 pushups total.  I’d rather have full range of motion than do a wimpy 2 inch unmodified pushup.

Tire Flips: Let’s just say, my back doesn’t like these.  I did them with Ironman champion (participant) Sherman Lee Criner for the first time last Thursday and it probably didn’t help that we were outside and I had running gloves on because it was an outdoor endurance workout and it was freezing.  Tonight, we did 4 sets of 6.  I did two sets then decided that I would have to substitute something else or just use a partner, because I am either going to throw my back out again or the baby is going to fall out.  We don’t see tire flips that often- two workouts in the four weeks I have been there- so I’m not really concerned.

Kettle Bell Swings: I pretty much kick ass at these.  The first time we did them in a workout, the Rx called for 16 kg bells.  That 16 KILOGRAMS, as in 35 pounds.  When I have previously done kettle bell swings, I used a 20 pound or maybe 25 pound bell.  16 kg is a big jump in weight, but after two workouts I felt comfortable with the weight and now if I see kettle bell swings, I get excited. It’s pretty much the only exercise that I don’t have questions about my form.

Power clean and hang clean: I pretty much suck at these.  I have zero flexibility in my shoulders and elbows.  So when I go up from the power position and have to whip my elbows around to rack the bar on my shoulders, it takes like 15 minutes.  Not really, but it’s definitely not awesome.  My max has improved but I think that is largely due to improving my form (marginally) and using my legs instead of my arms.

Back and front squats: I prefer this type of lifting to the cleans.  It helps that my legs are like tree trunks.  The previous back issue has had me hesitant to lift too much, and fear of the baby falling out at some point also keeps me from going beast mode on my lifts.  I have just been working on form and again, have had a good improvement in my max.  I will probably not lift too much more in the coming months simply because I want to protect my back (and my front).

Push press, thrusters, snatches, other upper extremity movements: Nothing too exciting here. Have done them in the past to some degree so it’s just been a matter of moving up from 15 lb to 20 lb to 25 lb dumbbells or increasing load on the bar if the workout doesn’t call for dumbbells. But also I am protective of my right shoulder with these overhead movements.

Box jumps:  I have always been awful at these because I have about a 16 inch inseam.  I will probably switch to step-ups in a month or so, for safety reasons.

Turkish Getup- These aren’t so bad.  I have only done them twice.  Granted, maybe I didn’t loathe them as much as most people because I only used a 10 pound dumbbell instead of an 8 kg kettlebell.  Again, I’m working on my form here.  Also, getting up from the ground is not going to get any easier as the months progress.

HSPU (hand stand pushups): Haven’t done them.  Never will, unless I get a shoulder replacement.

Farmer’s walk: Who invented these things?  Can someone explain the purpose?  Walking 40 meters with a pair of 24 kg kettlebells just seems like an exercise in who has the strongest hands?  Oh, I guess that explains the purpose- to increase grip strength? And to help me understand how Jessica Simpson felt walking around when she was 40 weeks pregnant with her first child?

Rowing: I enjoy rowing because of the endurance aspect.  I am not very tall so I feel like this is a disadvantage, but I can still generate some decent power and don’t get winded too easily. Haven’t seen much of a change because I have only rowed a few times.

Sled push: I am not terrible at these.  Again, tree trunk legs.  Also, low center of gravity.

Burpees: Love burpees, always have.

Double unders: Not happening.  Y’all, I can barely skip rope.  I think my record is 52 skips in a row without getting tangled in the rope.  It is SO sad.  I need serious help.  Like a Sylvan Learning Center for jump roping.

Wall balls: First time, I thought “this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.”  The target was at least four feet higher than where I was hitting the wall.  The second time I thought “this is the second worst thing to ever happen to me.”  The target was at least three feet higher than where I was hitting the wall.  The third time I thought “this sucks, but it doesn’t make the top 10 worst things to ever happen to me list.”  I got within a foot of the target, I think.

Other things I have never done: muscle ups and rope climb.  I can assure you that there is NO CHANCE I will complete a muscle up in the next two years.  My goal is to do two unassisted pullups before 2015.  I am pretty sure you have to be able to do more than 2 unassisted pullups to do  a muscle up, so I will push that goal to something I want to accomplish before 2017. Rope climb- not doing this one until after the baby comes out.

There are other exercises I am leaving out but whatever, my hands are too tired from doing those damned farmer’s walks tonight.  Other random thoughts: much to my sister-in-law’s satisfaction when she accompanied me to a workout last week, most of the women do NOT wear sports bras and booty shorts.  Only the women that I see doing the “advanced team/elite” workouts at 6am wear this attire, as well as knee socks.  If I had those abs, butts, and back definition, I would wear the same thing.  Speaking of the elite team that has their own special club and workouts, this one chick can throw a 16kg kettlebell over her head, one-armed like it is a bottle of yoohoo.  I think she overhead squats my current body weight. Which by the way, has increased significantly over the past four weeks. Please someone tell me it is because I am getting shredded and have way more muscle mass than I did in October.  I find this highly unlikely given that I have not changed my diet other than substituting salsa eggs and oatmeal for my morning Bojangles.

Okay, enough rambling.  What are your favorite Crossfit workouts or exercises?  What do you least look forward to?

Random first trimester musings

Hopefully I have just finished running my first 10k since June.  And hopefully I didn’t run slower than I have been on my training runs.  Either way, I am just glad to be racing again!  Here is another look into my earlier pregnancy days…

*originally written on 9/13*

We have our first ultrasound in 12 days, and let me tell you three things I am thinking right now:

1) Why didn’t anybody tell me how humongous you get so quickly the third time around?

2) I REALLY hope there are not two or three babies in there, because I think I look like I am 16 weeks pregnant with triplets!

3) I already feel like I have been knocked up for four months. Why couldn’t I have been one of those women on “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” that has a perfectly healthy baby on the toilet at 38 weeks?

In other news, I am still feeling well (knock on wood). I was pretty nauseous at this point with both Super Girl and Super Toddler. Maybe my brain knows I don’t have time to be sick, so it’s telling my stomach to suck it up? That said, I am SUPER exhausted. I would much rather take a nap than go run at the end of the day, so I have been trying to work out in the morning since I am sleeping like crap anyway. I don’t remember being this tired before, maybe it’s because I have never had to be pregnant while raising two other kids? Although Super Dad does basically everything way more than most dads.