Realization: My Workouts Should Not Drive Me to Drink!

To be fair, it isn’t really my workouts that are driving me to drink. It is my three year old.

I’ll back up a little.

While the weather was warm, having a porch gym has served me well. I could lift on the porch while my kiddo played outside. If it took me an hour or two to get my warm up, lifting, and mobility and recovery work in, that was usually fine. My kid would play, eat snacks, and generally entertain himself.

Now though, it’s winter in New England. The gym has moved into my living room. My husband is injured and can’t play with my kid as much, and it’s too cold to get out much at all. Basically, my three year old is bored, and in mama-obsessed mood. He wants a lot of attention from me. And yes, he gets out of the house. He goes to his babysitter a couple days per week where he plays with other kids and goes on outings, and I take him to gymnastics class and swim class and the library and the grocery store and…’s still not enough. Especially since my husband and I were sick for a couple weeks on top of everything. My three year old is bored.

I’ve been trying to get back into my routine of lifting 3 times per week, for 1-2 hours start to finish.

Yesterday, I really had trouble getting going. I didn’t really want to lift. I wanted to go for a walk. It was sunny outside, and 27 degrees, which was the warmest it had been all day. I didn’t listen to myself though. I didn’t want to throw off my lifting schedule. In truth, it made me a little nervous to do it. So, I decided to lift instead.

Within the first sets, I noticed I felt irritable. I tried to get my kiddo to go upstairs and play with my  husband. No dice. He spent the whole workout running laps around the living room and trying to climb all over me between sets.

At one point, I decided to try a bench press. One of my coaches at barbell club had shown me how to do it the way the powerlifters do it. I got my rack out, figured out the height adjustments for benching, figured out where to place the bench in my set up. I got myself in position and ready to do a bench press.  I was about to lift the barbell off the rack.

And then something soft hit me. My kid had taken a sock and launched it at me, slingshot style.

I sternly told him that it was not safe to throw things at me while I am lifting, and carried him upstairs to my husband.

He still made his way back downstairs before the end of the workout, and climbed on me while I was stretching. And climbed on me for a while afterwards. He hadn’t napped. I made plans to go buy wine and cook some macaroni and cheese as soon as I put him to bed. Comfort and decompressing was needed.  As I was cooking dinner, I realized “I should have just gone for the walk I wanted to. I’d probably be in a much better mood right now!” I had a great time watching the Bachelor and felt better when I went to sleep.

And then it hit me….this isn’t working for me right now. I shouldn’t finish my workouts so stressed out that I need to decompress from them. And right now my kiddo is making that a reality.

The positive side is, having equipment at home gives me loads of flexibility to make changes! What if I tried something different? I’ve been wanting to try more powerlifting again (after taking a break for a while to focus on Olympic weightlifting). What if I just committed to one exercise every morning? I could do a Wendler style 5/3/1 program or a Stronglifts 5×5 model. I could make a schedule, for example: Monday deadlifts, Tuesday bench press, Wednesday squats, Thursday overhead press, Friday Pendlay rows. Each morning I could spend less than half an hour on a lift. While my kid ate breakfast. I’d be able to crank it out and be done before he started driving me batshit crazy. I could do it even on the three days of week that I go to work. On days I stay home I wouldn’t be too tired afterwards to do all the extra stuff that is on me to do while my husband is injured. I could maintain and even increase my strength. I could maybe do an Olympic lift on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday if I feel up to it if my kid is entertained, but I could take a break from focusing on them.

And I would be able to take a walk in the afternoon if the weather is nice enough that I actually want to.

So, this morning I came downstairs and did some sets Pendlay rows as my kid ate breakfast. And wrote this post. It feels strange to just do one exercise and still have this much energy after a workout.  And it feels nice to be done with a workout and not be ready to drink. Let’s see how this goes!

A New Year, A New Spreadsheet, And 2 New PRs!

I only added a couple new habits to my list this month, so today should have felt like any other day, and not like a whole new year. However, I’ve been out of my usual routine, due to my husband’s injury, and our entire family including myself getting sick while I was on vacation from work . So today felt almost like I was starting something new, even though I was just getting back to my normal routine.

Today I tested my maximums in the back squat, shoulder press, and deadlift, because that’s what the rest of the CrossFit box had done this week while I was out sick. I didn’t want to be left out of the barbell fun.

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Refining Goals, Saving Money

This weekend I decided to skip barbell club and go on a trail walk instead with my local chapter of Hike it Baby.  Now that the weather is cooling off, I’m enjoying being outside again, and finally gathering some steam for my walking habit. I love going to barbell club, but I know my hiking options will be more limited all winter.  Kiddo and I enjoyed the walk! And thanks to the porch gym equipment, I was still able to get my weightlifting in later. I’m very grateful to have that flexibility. Between the hike and weightlifting, kiddo and I spent a lot of hours outside on Saturday and we both loved it! One hazard of training with a kiddo: he dropped a .5kg change plate between two of the porch floor boards. Barbell math just got a lot harder! Oh well.

Earlier this week I wrote about stumbles while developing habits. I’ve been thinking about another habit that was on my list. Or rather, it wasn’t a habit, it was a goal. The goal was to save $12,000 this year, thereby finishing our family’s emergency fund (we started the year with around $2200 in this fund). This is baby step 3 in the Dave Ramsey baby steps.

Well, we were making some progress towards this goal…..and then we needed to replace our car. That setback really took the wind out of my sails on this one, and the fund has been stagnating ever since, nowhere near the goal for the end of the year.

So, I’m tweaking this goal. As I talked about in the stumbles post, there have been other goals (walking, bedtime) that needed to be changed a bit in order for me to really take off and develop the habits. I’ve decided to make it a habit-based goal like all the others, instead of an outcome-based goal. Instead of saying “get to $12,000 in the account by the end of the year,” I’m now saying “deposit $10 or more in the emergency fund, at least 15 times by the end of the year.” This will help with developing the habit of saving. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is more than I am currently saving, and once I develop that habit, I can look into saving more aggressively.

Shana Tova, all!


Active Listening and Active Rest

This has been an active rest/recovery week for me. Last week I was pretty tired a lot, and on Saturday I went to barbell club and was missing pretty much every lift. The training program I was using was on a competition mesocycle with lots of heavy singles. That wasn’t really what I needed at all – I still have so much technique development to do.

My coach looked at my program last weekend and agreed that it was way too much volume. He put together a new one for me to follow. I went to start it on Tuesday and my body basically laughed at me.  I knew then that I needed a few days off to recover. Even though I haven’t done any squats this week, my legs still felt like I had. I’ve been feeling a little run down in general too. Kiddo and I both have a slight cough – I think we might be having some allergy symptoms. Appetite-wise, nothing sounds good. I’m  having zero desire to cook anything. My CSA veggies are looking sad in the fridge.

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Balancing Priorities (Weightlifting, parenting, and enjoying the process)

Earlier this week I visited a new gym where I am considering training this winter when it gets too cold for the porch gym.  Even though it’s a bit of a drive from my home, I was tempted to try it out, because of the weightlifting expertise of the coaches. After trying it out though, I decided to hold off on joining,  for a couple reasons: parenting, and enjoyment of training. Both of these are high priorities for me, so it is important for me to balance these priorities with my weightlifting training.

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Overthinking: Kid-Friendly Alternatives to the Porch Gym

Now that my health is getting back on track, and my hormone cycles are regulating, I’m starting to notice some patterns. I’ve been feeling down the past couple days, and noticing that I felt down almost exactly one month ago as well.  Right around this particular time in my cycle, my body image is low, and the weights feel heavy.  A friend shared this article with me a few months ago, and I’ve been noticing this trend in myself too (hello luteal phase!). Things in my life also seem to weigh heavier on my mind. It’s good that I am noticing these patterns, so I can recognize when things are weighing heavier than they normally would.

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De-load Week Deep Thoughts

Today I noticed that “I don’t feel like it” feelings were kicking in. I didn’t sleep well last night and I didn’t really feel like training when I got up. I did it anyway, because I’m following a training program and if I missed a day, I’d miss the particular work that was scheduled for today too. It was a light, short workout (still on a deload week), and I was glad I did it. Take away lesson: training programs are good. Habits are good, too.  Speaking of habits, I am over three quarters of the way to finishing the goal I set this year to do 150 strength workouts! Yay me! It’s August and I’m still going strong on the New Years goal I set. That is huge, right?

Later this week I will begin the final mesocycle of the 12 week training cycle I am doing. This one is different – it’s a competition prep mesocycle. I don’t actually have a competition in four weeks, but it will be good to get a feel for what the training would be like. I’m actually nervous about the volume and time that may be involved. I’m not sure if I will be able to put in the time required, as the workouts are long and I have a kiddo whining at me. I’m also not sure how my body will respond and recover from the increased volume. I’m planning to try the first couple weeks and see how it goes. Feel the fear and do it anyway! I’m trying to remember what it was like 10 years ago when I trained for my first marathon, and we were getting close to the race and the runs were long. I think I took a lot of naps. That’s all I remember.

I actually am interested in competing now. When I first started training at the Barbell Club at my local CrossFit affiliate, and they told me that competing once a year was somewhat expected of most members, I got super intimidated and wrote back that I was not sure if I wanted to compete. Now, I’m getting into the culture and starting to understand the sport more and I think I might! A friend of mine competed in the Bay State games this year and I watched the video footage after the fact, so I could see her performance. And I was surprised to see that I would not be lifting the lightest weight in my weight class! Maybe I could do this. I don’t know that I’ll win any medals, but feeling like I would come in “not last” is a good feeling. Of course, those who come in last are still putting in a great effort too! I don’t mean to put them down in any way. Hopefully you get my intention when you read this. I was just surprised because I assumed that all the lifters would be lifting more than me, because I am so new to the sport is all.

In other news, I was actually successful at packing a lunch for work today!



Why I Stopped Aspiring to an Athletic Physique

I have a long history of aspiring to an athletic body type.

When I was in high school I bought a book called “The NYC Ballet Workout: Fifty Stretches and Exercises Anyone Can Do For a Strong, Graceful, and Sculpted Body.”

That’s good marketing, isn’t it? As a vulnerable person, I believed it. Until I got discouraged and somehow forgot about the book and moved on to something else. I don’t remember what became of the effort to look more like a ballet dancer. Nothing dramatic or memorable, and obviously it didn’t work.

Then there were the various women’s bodybuilding books. Then the yoga. And the two marathons. And the frustration that came with not having a “runner’s body.” Surely if I persisted and kept at it long enough, I might look like those distance runners?

Then one day in 2011, I watched a video of a talk by Tom Naughton, Science for Smart People. In this talk, Naughton uses an example of correlation that involves athletes bodies (skip to 24:45 in the video). He talks how, if  “everyone knows running makes you thin,” because marathon runners tend to be thin, does that mean that “playing basketball makes you tall, because elite basketball players tend to be tall?” No. As Naughton says “Basketball players are tall because being tall makes you more likely to succeed at basketball, and the fact that competitive runners are thin doesn’t tell us anything, except perhaps that being thin makes it more likely that you will take up running.”

This sounds like the simplest concept in the world, but that fact that it blew my mind is…well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about THAT.

I did have one more instance since then when I fell for the whole “if I do x, I will look like people who are successful at x.” I did CrossFit for about 5 months in 2011 and early 2012. I really admired the bodies of some of the other athletes in the gym, even more than any other kind of “athletic body” I had seen before. And once again, I felt hopeful that *this* would be the thing that would change my body.

I stopped CrossFit when I was four months pregnant and exhausted.  So I didn’t have a chance to draw any conclusions about the effects consistent CrossFit would have had on my appearance.

But eventually it sunk in. I took a few years off of athletic pursuits when I had my son. I suppose my brain had time to process everything I had learned so far.

Earlier this year, when I set a goal to do weight training, 150 times, I remembered how much I enjoyed CrossFit, so I took a CrossFit approach to my programming. But CrossFit involves Olympic weightlifting, I knew I needed some coaching, as the Olympic lifts are highly technical. So, I went on USA Weightlifting’s website to find a local weightlifting club. It turned out that the weightlifting club local to me was at a CrossFit affiliate.

This time, when I walked into the CrossFit affiliate and saw some beautiful, athletic looking women,  I didn’t think to myself ” I’ll bet I could look like that if I worked hard at CrossFit.” I knew that, odds were, those women weren’t coming from the same place I was. They had different genetics and circumstances. They almost certainly did not walk into the gym on their first day looking like I did. Now, I’m not making any judgments about whose body looked “better” or “worse” on their first day; I’m simply acknowledging that we all looked different. And therefore, if I worked hard at CrossFit, I wouldn’t look like The Really Cut CrossFit Chick in My Gym Who I Just Met. I would look however *I* would look if I worked hard at CrossFit….whatever that means for my particular body and genetics.

To confirm my thoughts on the matter, I asked The Really Cut CrossFit Chick in My Gym Who I Just Met how long she had been doing CrossFit, and if she had played any sports prior. She said she ran track all through high school and college. My suspicions were confirmed that we did NOT walk through the door on our first days looking the same. I knew a big shift had taken place in my mind, because I wasn’t judging or comparing the other women’s bodies to mine, or mine to theirs. I simply noticed that we were all different, and I go there every week to do my work, and I don’t stress over how my body compares.

When I realized that focusing on Olympic weightlifting exclusively felt better to me in my present health and circumstances, I was able to let go of CrossFit pretty easily. I knew that CrossFit wasn’t going to do anything magical to my body. My body would be limited by my own strengths and weaknesses, and while I could certainly work on weaknesses if I chose, it wasn’t going to do anything magical to my body… I would be happier if I set myself up for realistic expectations. I work on Olympic weightlifting because it’s a fun challenge and it makes my body FEEL good. Whereas I ran because I thought it would change the way I LOOKED.

I’m not at all suggesting that people should only do sports that they are genetically suited for. I’m suggesting that if your underlying reason for participating in a certain activity is to change your body type, you will probably be disappointed, unless your genetics happen to be inclined towards that body type anyway. If your underlying reason, however, is having fun and feeling good… will probably have a rewarding experience, regardless of whether your body changes. Like these women.

It is my hope that by sharing this perspective, that other women who hold the same beliefs I did will open their minds a bit, allowing them to choose activities they enjoy over the ones that they hope will change them. If you are feeling discouraged with your choice of activity, it’s nothing wrong with your body – find something else that feels great to do!

Today I Finished!

Some days, just finishing what you set out to do feels like a victory.  Today was one of those days when, early in my training session, I wasn’t sure whether my body would cooperate. On Thursday, my body flat out didn’t seem to want to do cleans. Technique wasn’t happening. My left elbow was screaming at me and I was getting easily distracted and frustrated. I couldn’t seem to focus with my kid whining and screaming and I just got angry and then didn’t seem to recover from that, mentally. I skipped to front squats and then called it a day.

Since I was nervous following Thursday’s bad day and feeling unsure of my clean technique, I watched some technique videos as a refresher before I left for Barbell Club. Olympic weightlifting is so complex. You can work your technique for years. Every time you watch a video, you find a different aspect of your technique to focus on. This morning I went back to basics. I watched this video and determined I needed to really focus today on catching the bar in the rack position. This would protect my elbows and wrists. I also knew I needed to focus on my speed in dropping under the bar. So, I decided to work on all my lifts from the hang position. One of the reasons I have some trouble with dropping under the bar (aside from just being new to weightlifting) is that my pulling strength off the floor is very good relative to my speed under the bar and catching the bar in the correct positions…..which are not (yet) so good. So, when I pull the bar off the floor, I pull it so high that I have to catch it in the power position or even standing, because I don’t get under it fast enough before it flies over my head. Starting from the hang position would eliminate some of that momentum and give me time to practice dropping under the bar and catching it lower. (By the way, I’m not a coach, obviously. So before you take me too seriously, read the fine print.).

Yesterday I had undereaten during the day, overeaten at night, gone to bed late, didn’t sleep well, and was woken up early this morning by my Rooster Toddler. There was no fruit left in my house so my breakfast was heavier than I would have liked it to be before training. My left arm felt tight and sore all the way through – shoulder, elbow and forearm. So, earlier in my training today my body felt like garbage. I sat down to recover after every set. At one point I felt a bit nauseous (breakfast too heavy) and I was just hoping I’d get through it without vomiting. I remembered what my coach had said on Thursday though, that it wasn’t always going to feel great. And I remembered when back in my marathon days (10 years ago!) that there were some training runs when you just wanted it to be over as soon as possible. I told myself that was okay. Even if I love what I’m doing, not every day has to feel great.

I am glad I was able to stick it out today. Working out at Barbell Club without a screaming toddler underfoot made a big difference in my focus. I worked all my lifts from the hang position and focused on shrugging under the bar and catching it in a good front rack position and I was mostly successful. The practice was really helpful, even though my body didn’t feel great. I was able to do all the lifts at the weights prescribed in my program. And once I got towards the end of my clean and jerks, I knew I wasn’t going to throw up and I started to feel better. I did all my back squats and presses. I got through it and was happy to have finished because it was productive training for me. I felt better at the end than I did at the beginning. So, I felt victorious, even though it wasn’t my best day or a PR. I finished what I started, I didn’t get discouraged, and I used the opportunity to pattern good technique.

I was definitely ready for an afternoon nap, and even though Rooster Toddler didn’t take one, I enjoyed mine!