Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Everest Info, Nostalgia, and "Your Results May Vary"

Today, I've been a little nostalgic. It's been months since I've heard My Sailor's voice, so I went through some old videos from my Facebook page. There are a few that were shot by My Sailor back in December, and he talks to me a little bit on them. (Submariner's don't have phone contact.) The sound of his voice saying all the right supportive things was great. I hear he's working really hard while he's underway, and we're really looking forward to hitting the gym together when he gets back. Gotta see what these new bodies are capable of, right?

So, I know that he has access to the highlight real of stuff he's missed, so I watched that a few times today. (Here it is for those of you who missed that post - December - April).

The funny thing is, the lens I watch it through has changed. I see subtle-yet-drastic changes in my technique from those 30-35lb Turkish Get Ups with kettlebells, to the Turkish Get up with the bar and some weights...

And it's pretty obvious that there were some huge shifts in body composition between now and then...
But since I've completed the Olympic Lifting Coaching class, I see where some of my lifts have gotten better even from then.

Today, I was reminded again that there is muscle under all this skin. The hard work is paying off.

I'm quickly approaching the race I've been hoping to use to set a new record.  Instead of feeling a ton of pressure, I find I'm surprisingly quietly excited and at peace about it. Over 5000 people are running this same race. Part of me is dreading that fact. That's a lot of bodies to dodge in 5 kilometers. But the rest of me is excited about the prospect of PRing (translation - setting a Personal Record) under such challenging circumstances.

After all, I won't know if I'm capable of it until I give it my all.
There is a cliche of "Fake it Til You Make It".  Honestly, it helps.
Today, I wasn't sure if I could make a box jump. (Well, my rational mind knew I was capable, but the over-protective part of my brain said, "um... look at all the ways you could have an accident doing that?!") But, convincing myself that it was just a matter of effort, I kicked it into gear, and made the subsequent 70 box jumps just fine. 
After all, if I fell, help was near by and most things are fixable by modern medicine. Might as well try it and see what happens, right? (And "I fell doing box jumps" is a much better story than last summer's "I fell into a coffee table while attempting handstands, after 2 beers...")

I know that My Sailor has this video in his hot little hands - and I can't wait for him to see how far I've come.

While some couples play a "Who can lose more weight while we're deployed?" game, we never signed up for that rationale. It was understood when he left that I would do what I needed to do, and he would do what he needed to do. While we can encourage and support each other, we are each responsibile for ourselves in this arena. 
And he has come through - in a big way.
Instead of it being a "I can't wait to get home and eat myself stupid" situation, he's committed to staying healthy. Like me, he wants to keep the weight off, not just yo-yo between deployments. The trainer/coach in me lives for this kind of stuff! I love seeing people change their lives and to have it happen so close to home is yet another reminder I'm heading the right way.
Trust me, the results I've seen in myself aren't what I expected at all. I expected to lose 30 lbs in a few months and quit. That was my original "finish line" over a year ago.
Instead, I discovered a 45lb intoxicating bar... and all of it's friends.
And that hang over (you know, sore muscles) feels amazing.
The last time he saw me - I was the girl doing the first 2 kettle bell lifts (called Turkish Get Ups) in the video.
And now - just 4 short months later...
April 2014
The physical changes haven't been anything I could have imagined...


They've been better.
Every person puts on muscle differently.

But I have a feeling that the changes I didn't anticipate won't matter one bit when he gets home.

As for the race- Bring it, Everest.  Armed with my work out tracks (most of which are decidedly non-Disney), I'm ready to test my limits.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Uncommonly Lucky Girl, Her Bandwagoners, And A Word About Change

I'm uncommonly lucky.  While I've never won the lottery, nor most of the organized contests I've entered - I have the best luck on the planet when it counts.

I started this lucky streak before I was even born.
A brief recap - by most standards today, I shouldn't  have been born. My biological mother was a scared 15 year old girl, who claimed she was raped. (Hey - she was scared, 15, and hanging around with an older boy who wasn't her boyfriend - I 'get' it.) Getting little to no prenatal care, I was born, but not kicking and screaming. I was limp and blue.

Luckily, infant CPR took, and I recovered.

And, lucky for me, back then they didn't label wards of the state like they do today. If they had, the circumstances of my birth would have certainly labeled me as "high risk for developmental delays" and who knows where I would have ended up!

But - I was adopted by my parents (who had already adopted a little boy - my older brother). I won the parent lottery with these people. No matter what I did, no matter what my brother and I threw at them, they came prepared with their parental catcher's mitt.  They exposed me to the world of theater, Disney, Sci-fi, horseback riding, international travel, dance, music of all kinds. Thanks to my mom, I learned dedication. Thanks to my dad, I learned about calculated risk taking. And that's just to name a few things... And despite our significant differences, my brother is always the big guy I can turn to when the chips are really down. He shines in tough situations and truly has a heart of gold. Whoever sweeps him up will be lucky to have him as a partner.

As I'm reminded while we stumble through our own adoption adventure, so many foster/wards-of-the-state kids never get this lucky ...I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Blood may be thicker than water, but love is the strongest bond of all."

 Saying I've been lucky in love is a true no-brainer. My Sailor has never lost faith in me. Not when I married someone else (and that fell apart - one of the best learning experiences of my life). Not when I was in California and he was in Michigan and we hadn't even met face to face. Not when I was working full time and in theater, which meant often too busy to spend time with him. Not when I gave up theater. Not even when he saw my path turn to a completely different, yet completely natural direction (into the fitness/lifting/coaching aspect). At every turn, he's choosen to believe in me. That's no small feat and something I don't take for granted.

  Since getting into the fitness world deeper and deeper, most of my friendships have been affirmed, rather than the other way around. Yes, a few have fallen away, but I'm amazed at how many people are not only completely openly accepting (and even excited) to watch this turn my life has taken as a professional and an athlete. A majority of friends previously came from the fitness arena. Most think "Snatch" is a dirty word, not a lifting term. (Yes, I'm aware it's both, but you can bet I'm referring to the lift whenever it comes out of my mouth.) I'm really lucky because TheNurse is my bandwagoner for my upcoming competition.

 I first met TheNurse before she was a nurse. She was the receptionist at an office where we both worked. Eventually, life changed for her and she moved away and went to nursing school. Succeeding in one of the toughest arenas there is in medicine (post-operative critical cardiac care), she's one of the brightest gals I've ever met. In fact, for a while I was pretty sure she was the daughter my mom was meant to have. (I'm breaking the family legacy of women going into medicine - specifically nursing.)

Though we bonded through difficult circumstances, we continue to meet up about once a year... and usually in Disneyland.

This year, I'm headed to Florida (more specifically - Disney World) for the Expedition Everest Challenge race. It's my first RunDisney event, and I'm hoping to PR during it. I was also planning on flying solo to Florida to the event. I'm no stranger to traveling on my own (as the airport WOD proves) so it's not too crazy to think I'd enjoy a weekend of down time in Disney World while My Sailor is out Finding Nemo on his submarine.   But I figured it would be a great chance for a girl's trip too. So I called a few gals and most couldn't go. No big deal. TheNurse could though! YES! So now our Disney trip for the year is more than covered!

BUT.... My idea of a 'vacation' has changed.

Sure, this trip will be a blast. There will be drinks to be had, fun to be had, early mornings, late nights, and probably a bit too much money spent. But there will also be a couple of trips to the gym.  I have a competition coming up shortly after the Everest Challenge, and I really can't (and honestly, don't want to) take a week break from my training.

This is where I'm lucky again. TheNurse used to be a part time trainer herself and has a degree in Kineseology. (Remember when I said she was bright? I wasn't kidding!) She has a great natural understanding of movement and has a childhood athletic background to tap into. When I broke the news to her that I'd be renting a car so I could get to a gym with a Oly Bar (Translation: Olympic Lifting Bar), she didn't bat an eye. In fact, she's excited to work out with me!  Now, I'm just as excited about planning our Partner WODs as I am about planning our dining reservations.

It's clear that she was meant to be my travel companion on this adventure.

Usually, my Disney World plans would center around when I can get my first Dole Whip...

Now? I'm Googeling gym locations and planning on hitting up a grocery store so I can stay stocked on the fuel I need during my stay. (Fun is so much more, well, fun, when you feel good!)

I still plan on having a Dole Whip...but I'll be sharing it.

These are not tiny lifestyle changes (though they started that way, creeping in one by one and integrating themselves into my every day life). It can be scary to know if there will be support for them. But plowing ahead on faith that the support will be there when I need it has served me well. It's really helped solidify those deeper relationships -no matter the distance.

And... if I'm honest, I am looking forward to that post-race gathering I'm planning upon my return to Washington.  I've met some amazing people through the fitness world here in Washington. It's actually afforded me more friendships that have stuck around than theater. It's a unique community I'm happy to be part of.

Even though I spend a lot of time flying solo, all in all, I'm pretty darn lucky.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Case of Nervous Race Horse Syndrome

If you've spent any time around horses, you've heard it.

The stamping and pawing of the hoof against the ground when a horse gets anxious. The ears go back. The heads lowers. The flanks tighten underneath the warm hide. The mane ruffles. The horse seems to pace a bit, as if unable to settle upon a single mood. Nervous. Anxious. Lively. Engaged. Dangerously irritable. Perhaps even a bit fearful of what the next moment holds...

The anxiety is almost palpable - somewhere between the smell of animal and the salty sweetness of sweat on the verge of being shed.

I tried to sleep off. I woke up in the morning with the same feeling, so I started to talk about it. I picked the right sounding board. Afterall, I'd been sleeping on it for a few days now. I'd mentioned it in my blog and other places, but never really explored the possibility or how to approach it.

You see, in my travels to California, it became crystal clear that I downsized, significantly.

I out ate my brother and my mom at every meal, and we ate just about every meal out.

I made sure I got my pre-workout and recovery drinks in.

I drank more alcohol than I normally do. I also drank a lot of water though.

I trained myself and others, all in an effort to maintain my strength and further my abilities as a coach (and loved nearly every second of both).

So when I was feeling run down after a recovery run on my travel day, and my squats didn't feel right, I started to worry. Was I losing strength? Was I losing muscle somehow?

And then the crazy REALLY kicked in. It's amazing how loud that little voice everyone has can seem sometimes. You know, the one that chooses the weakest moment grab your doubts and inflate them like balloons.

"Maybe I'm not eating enough of the right things?" "Maybe I should go back to logging all my food?" "Maybe I'm not actually going to be able to do this?" "Maybe this is just the beginning of some bigger health problem. Do I have cancer? Healthy people inexplicably lose weight when they have cancer..."

See what I mean about crazy?

Thankfully I have a great team around me. So I took my concerns to two places: A friend of mine who's father used to do weight lifting - to see if he had some easy tweaks I wasn't aware of, and a nutritionist buddy of mine - who is a true kindred spirits in the 'maintainable lifestyle' approach and who understands Paleo eating.

Both were helpful.  My friend provided me with some extra protein that I have on hand now, and my nutritionist buddy gave me some great ways to find out if I'm likely losing muscle instead of body fat. Most of the trips involved a tape measure.

Since I couldn't find mine, I opted to bust out the bi-monthly swim suit and snap a few photos instead.

See, I lost about 5lbs on my trip to California. Dropping five pounds in six days is a LOT for me. And feeling tired and run down... well... that's not the type of weight I want to drop.

Thank God for photogenic evidence...

With the Powerlifting Competition coming up, I've been pretty much focused on keeping up my strength, and with a 5k right around the corner that I'm hoping to PR in, I really needed a reality check. 

And I got it - partly from the photos, and partly from the work out.

Today's time with Trainer Guy included introducing low bar back squats into the routine. I love learning something new and I expected this to feel like starting over at square one.  Admittedly, I've felt a little frustrated with my progress in the gym lately (though I'm not sure why- I've been preforming pretty well...probably just being my own worst critic).  But today's workout helped me further prove that I'm coming right along. Those low bar back squats? I got up to 190+lbs... more than once. Which means I was less than 10 pounds away from REPPING MY BODY WEIGHT! I've never actually done more than 1 lift of my body weight or more in a row. Weighing less is paying off in that respect, but it was also a sign that, indeed, my strength IS keeping up.

The other part of the workout that really gave me a good reality check was the Hanging Leg Raises portion. Now that I fixed my too-narrow grip problem and engaged my shoulders, they feel strong and they look strong. And - I'll admit to a moment of vanity in the mirror. I love the way my arms look when I'm doing these types of movements. Even though I weigh less, I'm by no means a "small" woman. I'm still just barely under 200lbs, and, well, I'm not going to get any shorter.  I'm a sturdy build. Always have been and always will be.  My arms look well capable of dealing with the weight. My gymnastic moves are getting stronger.

While grabbing my bag after cool down and heading back to into the world, I spotted Trainer Guy with his next client and I smiled to myself as I watched him demonstrate cleans and front squats for her.

I remembered when that was me....

I hope I never forget what that felt like.

By the same token, that anxious feeling is worth remembering as well. Though I'm capable of much more now than I was this time last year, I never want to forget that sometimes it takes a few good coaches - and a hot sweaty race - to calm a race nervous steed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Unofficial Progress Photos: 5 years, 20 pounds, and A Few Tunes Later...

Nov 2009
 In 2009, I went to Disney World with my best gal pal, Sistah' Girl.
We were celebrating being around 180 pounds. We had used Medifast to get that far - weighing and measuring,  counting every calorie and carb, etc.

While I was 'thinner', I wasn't exactly what I would consider "fit" by any stretch of the imagination. If you'd asked me to run a mile, I probably would have passed out. I averaged 1000-1200 calories per day. My hair fell out in near handfuls and was dry and brittle. My feet and ankles still hurt on a daily basis.

I didn't have a single bruise from weight lifting, or a single rug burn from indoor soccer. I had no idea what 'weight lifting' really was. I could do machines, but who needed that?! Putting on muscle made me gain 'weight'! It was all a numbers game after all, right? The lower my weight, the healthier I am, right? (If you answered, "Yes": Do not pass 'go.' Do not collect $200. Go directly to jail.)

But I was lighter, and those khaki shorts were still uncomfortably snug. My shirt covered the 'muffin top' and the indentation they left on my waist and other parts of my anatomy was painful by the end of the day. But I was thrilled to be in a size 16.

In 2011, I went to Disneyworld with My Sailor and his family. I packed those same shorts.

This time, 1/2 way through the trip, I couldn't even button or zip them without fear of them exploding or tearing... so I had to make a detour to Walmart to buy another pair of shorts, several sizes larger, despite only gaining 20lbs.
Feb 2013
In 2013, I took a last-minute vacation with My Sailor to Florida. Since it was last minute, and I had just started training a few weeks before, I didn't have time (or money) to buy new clothes. So these same shorts from 2009 made it into my bag. Again, they were uncomfortably snug. Thanks to my training, I was able to button them, despite weighing in about 40 pounds more than I did in 2009. This was around 220lbs.  I gained 8 pounds on this trip as well, despite adding in daily minor work outs to my trip schedule. Obviously something was just starting to click into place... but regardless -

these shorts always make it into my travel bag.

I'm not sure why. They don't stretch and the color isn't terribly flattering and, as you can see, they have track record of fitting poorly.

This trip was no exception. Today, the temps hit 80 degrees, so it was time to break out the dreaded ill-fitting shorts yet again.

I expected them to be tight and uncomfortable. After all, I'm still about 200lbs. Though I'm eating right (with the exception of a little extra alcohol) and working out, I'm also traveling, so I expect things to bloat a bit. I haven't weighed myself while I'm gone - and don't plan to do another weigh in until I get back (or possibly even until May, after the 5k and my Florida trip). So, being 20 pounds heavier than when these shorts were first 'uncomfortably snug', I expected them to react the same way this time...
What I didn't expect
was not to need the button or the zipper.
I've been pulling them up to get them to stay on my hips all day.
Last summer I wore skirts when it was warm to avoid the shorts issue all together. 
Turns out this year, I might just wear shorts after all.

I went to get my hair cut, after a year of not seeing my stylist. She noticed how remarkably healthy my hair looked and felt. She asked what I was doing differently.

I cracked some joke about, "I eat bacon every day."  It opened the door for the discussion that I choose to eat close to the source whenever possible, and I eliminated grain (aside from the occasional beer) and corn from my intake.  I eat more fats, both from things like avocados and usually one source of saturated fat per day (like uncured, nitrate free, local-when-possible bacon). I no longer weigh or measure out my food.  The things I eat are down right difficult to overdue. I eat when I'm hungry. I don't when I'm not. I don't really get 'the munchies' anymore. I'm either hungry or I'm not. Not a whole lot of 'I want something to crunch on' anymore (which was challenging on Medifast- a largely liquid diet).

Now that said, I got some unfortunate news yesterday. There has been a lot of good happening here lately and it seems it's going to take My Sailor longer than expected to be able to join the party. It was pretty apparent that I needed to blow off steam. Normally, that would mean I'd just go blare some rap music and head to the gym to sweat it out, but that wasn't an available (or intelligent) option this time.  My back was still recovering from some messy, heavy deadlifts the day before, and I'd already run nearly two miles as part of my 'recovery'. As if that wasn't reason enough (and, honestly, in my irrational state, it wasn't) to forgo working out further,  most gyms were closing early due to the holiday (Easter) and my gym clothes were in the laundry.

So what's a girl to do to blow off some steam?

Call up Mud (who shall hereby be known as Justice) and go singing!
In case you didn't realize this, we met doing a musical theater production. We actually didn't hit it off right away, but eventually grew to become pretty good friends. He was a life saver for me and Clydas as I recovered from surgery back in 2010ish, and he's always been a great, fun, positive energy to be around. He's a talented dancer, singer, and karoeke dj in his own right. (He also Dj'd my wedding a few years back.)  Our first duet was for a birthday celebration for a local (now passed away) theater owner. Justice was nervous about singing Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up". So, 15 minutes before his stage time, I coached him through some of it. Still nervous, he asked me sing with him during the performance. I knew the song and agreed. Something magical happened on stage and it sounded amazing. Lightening in a bottle. Since then, we continue to enjoy rocking out some fun duets.

I'm incredibly lucky to be surrounded by incredibly talented people.

Now that he's learning some lifting from me, we have another fun thing in common. 
While I love the gym, it was a blast to get back to some tunes. We only sang a few, as the bar got crowded after about an hour. I started out with an old favorite rock song,  "Bring Me To Life", and we followed it up with a few duets we've never done before, "Just Give Me A Reason", and a number he's working on as a rapper.

I was more than happy to crank out some back-up vocals for my buddy - and he was kind enough to bail me out on a song I've never actually sung before. Nothing like a dark and bar full of Marines as a cheering squad. 
In case you're curious - this is how the pros do it... Empire State of Mind - Jay Z and Alicia Keys

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Funny Faces, Functional Muscle, Wild Fires, and Unexpected Illness

Me - On My 2nd Birthday. Pretty sure I still make that face...
In so many ways, I love my short trips to California. I enjoy helping out my family and visit some friends, even when the circumstances are far from joyous. It's always a welcomed change of pace to get some vitamin D (sunshine) and having a nice long stroll down memory lane.

Yesterday was my 2nd day with Mud in the gym. It was a great day. I'm really loving working with him and seeing him progress so quickly as he learns different moves. He is a talented dancer and performer and we've known each other over 4 years. But we've NEVER worked out together until this week. Once he learned I had my Olympic Weight Lifting Coaching certification, he was all over meeting up and working out. And honestly, it's been a true highlight of this trip.

It's been an amazing experience. I've always valued the attitude he comes into life with. It resonates with an open willingness to learn. He believes (as I do) that there is something to learn from everyone we meet; it's just a matter of staying open to it, paying attention, and listening for it. Sure, he learned a lot regarding form and lifting, but I also learned things from watching him go through the process.

It doesn't get much better than that in the gym. He lost some confidence after an invasive surgery on both legs, but he's worked his way through it and is impressively continuing to push onward. I'm a little disappointed that I won't be able to see his progress moving forward, though I've committed him to sending me videos so we can discuss tweaks along the way.

That's kind of where the wildfire started. As I was having coffee with my mom later in the day, her gym buddy texted her and wanted to 'see' some of my moves - even though they hadn't been to the gym together in weeks, and she's never met me, seen my videos, read my blog/articles.  I was completely flattered.After a few minutes, it turned into that she wanted to learn some of my moves. I'm practically giddy at the prospect of working with someone I've never actually met before. I absolutely love seeing people do what they don't think they are capable of.  It's exciting for people to seek out connecting with me.  I'm still in the 'auditioning' process of this whole thing, but whether or not I'm able to train at the YMCA, this life isn't going anywhere. It's pretty clear I'm on the right path (kinda makes me wonder why I didn't discover it earlier!).

Once I finished training with Mud (and finished my own training program as well), I ended up going over to my brother's house to help him build some shelves and move some pretty heavy boxes. My back was sore from some heavy deadlifts earlier in the day, so I made sure I squatted and put my Atlas lifting know how to work.

Stance wide. Squat deep. Arms around item close to body. Hug. Get to thighs. Stand and raise to chest.

I laughed to myself as I trucked through hauling boxes and bags and other awkward items, remembering my Strongman Training and Trainer Guy's mantra of building 'functional muscle.' All the skills I've learned have easily translated into everyday life stuff. (But beware! As soon as people know you lift, you're expected to be the best mover on the planet!)

This isn't the first time my lifting skills have come in handy. I can't wait to see what kind of things Mud discovers. I wonder what kind of things Mom's gym buddy (and maybe even Mom) will come away with.

The Gym has been the highlight of my time here. It's made me a bit homesick for my Washington stomping group, with my training friends. Irrational? Probably.

But no matter how you slice it, functional muscle can be used in the real world. And that's incredibly rewarding.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

'If Sh!t Happens, So Does Awesome' Or 'I Get It Now'

I finally made it, safe and sound, to my home town after a night in the San Fransisco International Airport.  Turns out my cousins were sick, so I ended up passing the time flying solo. I blasted out a relevant article for the Tabata Times (entitled "You CAN Take It With You..."), made up a quick WOD, which I did in the terminal at around 1am.

Yup - that's right. I worked out... in an airport... at 1 am...

I had hoped it would tucker me out and force me to sleep, even though it was just a short one, but it didn't.  Suspecting that it would show up on youtube as a gag reel at some point, I made my own montage about it.

But that's not really the exciting part.

After I got home and claimed a well earned Sublimely Self Righteous on tap (living near Stone Brewery has it's perks), I didn't last long before heading to bed. I was passing out by 8pm.

But I was up well before the alarm!

Rested and happy, I couldn't wait to get to the gym and hammer out my stuff, as well as help my friend Mud (a performance pal and previous roommate) get an introduction to some of my favorite lifts.  His goal was to get a Turkish Get Up.

Being that he was a dancer, he was a quick study, but he also had just finished rehabbing from a serious leg surgery, so it was a great experience for me in dealing with a recovering-yet-chomping-at-the-big athlete. Since he used to dance, he has good muscle memory and a good understanding of general body mechanics. Despite his injury and slow rehab, he has significant strength, so it's really just a matter of putting it to use tweaking and teaching forms. I made some alterations to my plan as I went along and generally felt pretty confident in working one on one with him. We spent 3 glorious hours and got a lot  done. He really wishes I could stick around so he could hire me 3xweek for 3 months to see how far he can get. I'm taking that as a good sign.

The best part was watching him have those light bulb moments when the movement clicked into place. Sometimes it's quick. Sometimes it was by degrees with a bit of coaching along the way. He did a really great job and I came out on Cloud Nine watching him reach heights he didn't know he was capable of. If this is what Trainer Guy gets to feel every day, well, I get it now.  What an incredibly rewarding profession. Where do I sign?!

But that isn't the only awesome that happened today -
   I learned that My Sailor has been absolutely rocking his fitness as well - not an entirely easy feat in his circumstances. I wish I had pictures to share, but alas, there are no cameras 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, but it's clearly going to be a little extra amazing to reunite.
It brings me a great deal of peace to know that My Sailor is 110% in the trenches with me, even though we haven't been able to have even a single conversation in months.  (Submarine life is not for the highly dependent personalities.)

  Anyway, for all the 'emo-coaster' this trip has been, its been so rewarding to throw my special brand of crazy into the mix and see it benefit someone towards reaching their goals.

In fact, in about 6 hours, I'll be back at the gym seeing what he remembers and what other heights he can reach.

  Oh - and as a side note on the 'awesome' scale - I finally got my hair cut. It's only been a year... One of the ways I save for training is by forgoing salons. I'm so grateful for my stylist friend down here for working me in and making the mane more manageable.

No matter how 'adventurous' my trip here was, at least as much awesome has happened to make up for it - and then some.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stories from the Road &The Highlight Reel

Today was a day that I never anticipated...

I got done with my desk job around 3am and was sound asleep by 4am with the intention to sleep until 9am. The dogs didn't fee the same way. Odin and Clydas were up around 7am, resulting in lots of broken sleep from there on out.

I was thinking about possibly NOT going to the gym. Afterall, I had yet to pack for my trip to California. I could certainly fill the time with something else.

But then one of my favorite workout jams (Fort Minor's "Hall Of Fame" ) came on and I just couldn't resist. (See? I have my moments when I'm not sure if 'should' go or not too.)

So I went.

I kept it pretty simple today - just rocking out some intervals without lifting. The weight room was busy and I didn't have time to wait on anyone. So I took over the rower and the track instead.

About a week ago, I did some rowing intervals with The Lady in Grey.  We did 8 intervals of  30seconds each. My max I hit ONCE during those 8 tries. It was 145 meters/30seconds.   Today,  I expected the results to be the same.. well... they weren't...

 In fact, I hit this new PR of 147m/30seconds THREE times during my 8 intervals! (At that point, I was reaching for 150, but maybe next time).

Then I decided to try my luck on the track. My previous PR was 48seconds/200m.  I'd been trying to beat it for a while, but so far no, no dice.

Then today, it happened...

First 22 was 44seconds
Second was 47seconds
Third was 45 seconds

It's going to be hell to break the 40's but its amazing to see what I'm capable of now. And on my own! I remember, my 2nd week with Trainer Guy, he put me through a sprint interval test. I remember longing for death not long into that work out. And now I'm doing them one my own?!  And I'm setting new records with them?!

I hope I never forget where I came from. Recently, someone who has only known me a few months watched the Highlight Reel I made to send to My Sailor.  (In case you're just tuning in, I'm married to a US Navy Submariner - who just happens to currently be deployed.) From the backgrounds, you can see where I added in crossfit, various competitions, and other gyms I've trained in while on the road. It's been a year plus of amazing momentum that I can't wait to pass on. The more I get involved, the hungrier I am for it. 

I never want to forget how much it hurt, and how hard it was to push through those walls. I truly believe that will serve me well in the future.

The day pretty much went downhill from there. Luckily I'd hammered all my stress out at the gym. I've had nothing but problem solving ahead of me.

I came home to Odin having destroyed my 2nd foam roller and having had an accident in the house. As I was cleaning everything up and packing my bag, my ride to the airport let me know she had a flat tire and had to get it fixed.

So that meant I was driving down there and paying for parking. Luckily, I'm pretty good with budgeting, so I was prepared for the unexpected (and significant) expense.

On my way to the airport I ran into 2 massive traffic snarls.

One was caused by people stopping for a family of ducks trying to cross the road...

No, I'm not kidding...

So I got out of the car and shuffled the ducks out of traffic.

Problem Solved.

But I still arrived at the airport too late.

So I talked to the ticket counter gal. They can't get me to San Diego tonight, so they are getting me to San Fransisco, then on the first flight out to San Diego in the morning.

I'm not entirely uncomfortable with any of it. I have relatives in San Fransisco that I can have dinner with.

That should be exceptionally fun.

They haven't seen me since pre-training days. There aren't many people who can say that, so I'm kinda looking forward to their reaction, so this should be a grand time, even if it all translates into an overnight in an airport terminal (though I'm still aiming to bum some carpet space in their apartment).

All that said, my constant companion managed to make it through security this time! That is, my speed rope! It's the easiest workout tool in my arsenal of awesome.

With all of this newly freed time on my hands... I wouldn't be surprised if I find my double unders during this trip...

And if I do end up crashing at the airport terminal... I wonder if the cleaning crew has seen anything stranger than someone doing hand stands and jump rope...

Sunday, April 13, 2014


"Are you...?  I think I follow your blog."
It's one of my favorite things to hear at the gym.
Meeting folks who have seen me on the blog, read my contributions to the Tabata Times, or who have just seen me hammer out a workout at the gym is always a day-brightener, even if I have my 'game face' on and am rocking out to some tunes while cranking out a self-imposed-torture-toward-awesome.

It never gets tiresome hearing that this blog helped encouraged someone or let them know that it's possible to gain confidence and freedom through hard work and a solid commitment.

In fact, it only helps me hone my focus.

Time warp back to 2010 -
I had signed up for my first out-of-state racing event, the SheRox Triathlon in Tempe.
That's me on the far left.
My goal was just to finish - and not to finish last. At the time, I was carrying around a tumor the size of a golf ball where one of my ovaries should have been. Ovarian cancer hadn't been ruled out - and I knew the dismal survival rate of ovarian cancer.  By the time they find it, it's usually much too late.  I had channeled all the agony of uncertainty into my training, but it was lacking structure.
All that said, goal achieved. I survived the tri (and the subsequent removal surgery which snagged the tumor out just in time).

I'm still proud of that race, even though I'm a far cry from it today.

Now, my goals are a bit more...focused.
'Survival' is assured.
Structure is achieved, both with and without Trainer Guy's expertise.
Fear is still alive and well....
Final WOD in my first crossfit throwdown
but it doesn't own me anymore.
 (Yes, it's a relief to be cancer-free. But that's not the kind of fear I'm talking about here.)
I understand the nature of competition in a whole different way than I did then.
'Competition' makes me better.
It makes me earn and appreciate what I have, and how far I've come.

Though I've played team sports for years, it's different. When the team wins or loses, you win or lose as a team. Cross training, racing, and weight lifting are largely independent sports. While I have an amazing team of supporters behind me (and a coach that rivals Yoda), there is a difference between being part of an ensemble, and taking the stage solo.
Now, I'm a veteran performer. I don't exactly get 'stage fright'. 
But, when it comes to competition time, no one is immune to that little voice that whispers  "I can't," or "What if I fall/fail?"
Today was a great example of that. I was the last one to finish up the WOD in my crossfit class. I had opted for heavier weights than the rest of the women. I wasn't entirely sure if I was capable of doing the required rounds with it, but I knew that selling myself short would be nearly criminal in this arena.  Especially since shucking weights is sort of my thing. I'm a big girl. It's gratifying to pick up heavy things!
That said -

 It would have been easy to throw in the towel and call it a day before all 5 rounds were up. After all, I was a bit slower.  I was fighting nausea (and that 'I wanna quit' voice was making me mildly regret the heavy weight choices).
But, louder than that little voice that wanted to justify quitting
was one crystal clear fact -

The only person I'd be cheating is the one staring back at me in the mirror -

She deserves better than that.
She's worked hard for every bit of progress so far, whether it be financial sacrifices, scheduling changes, or sheer sweat and pain. She's been ripped off enough in life. She doesn't need my help in that department. But she does deserve to harness the power she's capable of. So I pushed on.
 I finished.

True, there is a time to know when to throw in the towel to avoid injury - or when puking or passing out is evident. But in the end, no one can give you what you're not willing to give yourself.

The world isn't a 'fair' place.  If you haven't felt 'cheated' at some point in your life, you might want to check and see if you have a pulse.
It's amazing what's possible when we stop cheating ourselves.

For me, the girl in the mirror deserves to set lofty goals, and she's worth the work necessary to reach them.

Whether it's finishing a challenging work out adhereing to my "No PPQ" (No Puking, Passing Out, or Quitting) mantra, or PRing a new lift or run time - she's worth it. The body, weight, and other goals will comes along for the ride, if the aim is right.
So I'm narrowing my focus.
I'm looking forward to training in California and Florida in the next few weeks.
I'm looking forward to pushing hard with my friends in those areas of the world.
I'm moving into these trips with a plan of attack that I'm confident will work towards my goals.

So what are some of those 'lofty' goals? 
PR the 5k portion of the Expedition Everest Challenge on May 3rd.

Gold status for the Bar Bender Power Lifting Competition on May 18th.

Stay tuned to see if I reach them. (More to come as I train my way through 2 trips!)
Either way, there is only one route to awesome.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kyndall - 'For Time'

This blog is usually all about me. But today it's all about Kyndall.

Remember that cute little girl in the Minnie Mouse dress I wrote about some time ago? Her family continues to inspire and amaze me as they move further into addressing Kyndall's needs to try to buy more time and more quality of life.

No child should have a disease named after them - but this one does.

The fighting spirit of this family touches me on a level I can't possibly describe. They are some of my touchstones. There are times when I don't think I can handle anything else and I'm overloaded. But I think of all they fight against every day. I think of how they steal moments of joy where they can make them. I see their priority set and how they pull together through all of this, though, like any family, they've had their moments. They aren't super human - but human in the best ways. Family in the best ways.

So in honor of Kyndall's battle for more time, here's Kyndall's WOD.

It doesn't matter if it takes you over an hour, or under 10 minutes - Leave a comment with your time and share a little bit of this fighter's fighting spirit.

No gym access? No excuses. This is all body weight stuff. No special equipment required.

5 Rounds
11 Burpees
29 sit ups

20 squats
15 second plank

For Time

 *If you find your time is NOT showing up for some reason, please email the list or a photo of the whiteboard to jdhumenay@gmail.com and I'll be sure it gets added to the list.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"And For My Next Trick...."

Today, my Sweetheart jeans from Old Navy found a new home. They still have plenty of wear left in them.  While they still 'kinda' fit across the thighs, it's safe to say they need a new home. The gal who took them off my hands is getting into her health journey in a big way. I know how annoying (and awesome) it can be to have to buy new clothes frequently as the first chunk of inches fall off. I have been very grateful for my friend's pants as they 'grew out of them' (by getting smaller), so it was nice to pay it forward a bit.
That said... I realized that there was a time when my waist was as wide as my shoulders! 

It's hard to believe my shoulders and my waist had this kind of ratio. I didn't get into this hoping to specifically reduce this ratio, but it's been fun to discover changes that occur along the path to getting stronger.  I'll always have a broad upper body. It's just my genes. That's not a complaint exactly. I really didn't need shoulder pads in the 1980's...though I'm pretty sure I wore them anyway...but I digress...

Event calendars for April and May are filling up fast! Next week, I go to California to visit my family. I'll have a week back on schedule here in WA, but then I'll be off to Florida for a the Expedition Everest Challenge. Then I'll be back in WA for a week before my local YMCA's Power Lifting Competition. Also, in May, I should be starting to take on some clients of my own for training, as well as probably setting up a summer "Death By Deck"  small group at the house...

What that ambitious schedule really translates into is keeping up on training and eating while traveling - both which I've made arrangements to do, as well as making sure I stay patient with myself during this transition. I'm not sure if Training will fall into line as full time gig right now (though it would be awesome if it did), so I'm not resigning my desk job just yet, but it's a possibility that it could happen later this year.

My aim for the competitions aren't to place first. They are to go, compete against my own bests, and see what happens. I can't control my competition. I can only control myself. It's me against me, really.

It's been a challenge to see my way through this without the input of My Sailor.  While I miss him a lot, I can't help but choose to believe he continues to be proud and supportive of me from afar. The only other option is to drive myself crazy with 'What if's' and that never got anyone anywhere.

Some risks are just worth taking.

Truth be told, I've always wanted to make a positive impact in the world in a big way.  Sharing the freedom, strength and confidence I've found with others sounds like a perfect fit to me. I just never saw it coming. From a coder working behind a desk making rich doctor's richer, to an author, coach, and motivator is quite a big change!

One that is long overdue...

Monday, April 7, 2014

200 Pounds Of Contagion

 (Click here for a little Motivational blog before you read on.)
No Personal Records in the gym to write about today.  Nothing too legendary going on there - but lots of fine tuning happening. And I mean a LOT.  The Snatch lifts are not my favorite things to do. In fact, I think they are ranking right up there with burpees currently. The detail involved is really challenging to get perfect. I'm learning a lot about body shape and the challenges of having a long torso and long legs and being a lifter. Luckily, I'm in good company. In those ways, Trainer Guy has a similiar build - so sometimes his tips and tricks translate well. (And if they don't, the Scottish Yoda is usually clever enough to find a different approach.)

That said, I have been noticing some big changes in the mirror and, oddly enough, in my clothes as well. T shirts that were snug on me 2 weeks ago, are suddenly baggy. AndiGirl reminded me, "Soon you'll have abs!" It's made me pay a little more attention to the changes going on in my core.

Here's the thing - I have been doing LESS conventional 'ab' exercises sit ups than ever before, but there is definitely some definition slowly making it's way through the fluff.  I have been doing handstands, hanging knee raises, and lots of overhead squats and goodies like that.  It's all a cumulative effect and paying off.

Oh - and I've been eating like a freaking horse. Staying to Paleo type stuff isn't hard, but I eat a lot. It seems like I go from zero to 'OMG-I'm-Going-to-Go-Cannibal-if-I-Don't-Eat-Right-Now!"

So, with all of this going on, I was wondering if my metabolism is really firing up or what. I decided to get on the scale.

Now, I want to be clear. I didn't stress out about it, or 'pre-plan' my weigh-in. This weekend, I enjoyed myself. I went to happy hour for Sunshine's birthday on Friday night where I had 2 glasses of wine, some delicious skewers, and most of a piece of flourless chocolate cake. While the weekend had me spending a lot of time under the bar, it wasn't as puke-worthy as my usual weekend workouts, and Trainer Guy shared chocolate...I did a short run on Sunday with Odin. Though running with a distractable Great Pyr should probably be classified as resistance exercise,  I didn't play soccer.  I went out to dinner with a friend and had a Guiness (on tap... yum!), steak, and dessert (flourless chocolate cake again -the first one was better but 2 in a weekend is a lot for me). So I was actually expecting it to say the same it has in a while, if not a little higher for all the eating out.

A year or so ago, I'd be getting ready to get down on myself. I'd be ready to feel bad about the 'damage' I did over the weekend.

I just plopped the scale into place and stepped on it out of curiosity. I looked at the wall as I stepped onto it. No matter what it said, I'm healthy and more fit than I've ever been and it's amazing. 'Weight' is not necessarily a measure of fitness or good health, right?  If you're following my blog, you've likely already wrapped your brain around the fact that 'weight' and 'fat' are two different things.

To my surprise, the scale showed 200 on the nose this time...

Huh... interesting.

The last time I was 200 pounds - I looked very different.

2011 me. 200 lbs.

My hips were MUCH wider. My feet still hurt pretty much all the time, and I was watching (and logging) every little thing I ate. I would stress out about sodium content, carb content. I was eating things like Lean Cuisines and Healthy Choice Soups.  I'm not sure what my measurements were, but they are a far cry from where I wanted to be. I wasn't necessarily unhappy with my weight at 200lbs, but I still felt like I had a long way to go. And honestly, I highly doubted it would be attainable anyway. While it was progress, it was a 'short term' goal. I wanted to do what so many other military spouses do. I wanted 'lose weight' while My Sailor was deployed to 'surprise' him with my new hot look when he came home.

 I had no plan (or, if I'm completely honest, intention) of action to that included continuing. I was working out just by running (which resulted in a stress fracture in my foot during my first Washington State 5k) and getting on an elliptical (which hurt my feet, knees, ankles, lower back, etc.) 

Again, to say I was 'unhappy' at 200lbs isn't exactly true. I was pretty proud of my curvy hourglass figure. I felt 'capable' of most of the things I wanted to do, and that was enough for me - then. Admittedly, my standards were pretty low by comparison to what I consider myself capable of now. Then -  I just wanted to look good in that dress. That's it. I could zip it, so I was pretty happy with it, even though it's clearly tight enough (in the flared portion) to see the rolls of fluff.

I thought I was resigned to having 'wide hips' forever. And yes, genetically speaking, the hips will only get so narrow. Just like my rib cage. I'm pretty much as small on the upper part of the rib cage as I am going to get, short of breaking bones and rearranging organs. (NO THANKS!) 

2011-Me I would have thrown a party about hitting 'one-derland'.  Now, I'm actually surprised to see it approaching so fast. Now, I'm focusing even more on my nutrition and workouts and lifts to ensure that the muscle is carving away the fat, rather than the muscle wasting away just to make the scale drop.

The scale drop is just a by-product of everything else. I'm fully aware that it could be higher (or lower) on any given day, for a million different reasons. The longer I keep on this journey, the more it's a habit to be good to my body, rather than to be into it.

So- what does 200lbs look like on me today?

Less hips. Less chest. More 'tough', less 'fluff'. 
And, instead of breaking my feet trying to get them to conform into the wrong shoes, I run in simple Innov8's. Instead of killing myself logging every tiny morsel that goes into my mouth, I've moved to eating clean, when I'm hungry, and I've gone grain free (aside from the occasional beer).

 Instead of being super excited by being on the verge of 'one-derland' on the scale, I'm super excited to be strong enough to front squat this... more than once...
The main reason why I'm excited about a drop on the scale coming is that it makes the ratios of lifting to body weight is meeting up in the middle.

Here's how the math rolls out:

My last measured 1 rep max in the back squat was 215lbs.
At the time, that was about 102% of my body weight.
Now -
That same max would mean that I can lift about 108% of my body weight.

Just the thought of being able to lift more than I weigh still seems unreal. Mind blown.  Even as I get stronger, it's hard to not marvel at what my body is capable of (and shake my head and grin at how I managed to underestimate it for so long).

As those ratios increase, I become more of a force to be reckoned with when it comes to lifting competitions. But competitions aside, getting stronger and stronger translates into other places in my life. I find myself slowly willing to take more and more risks. My priorities are changing and lining up in a different (and honestly, healthier long term) area.

The crazy thing about happiness and security is that it's contagious.

So, are you feeling it yet?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bruises, Blunders, and Epic Fails

I was giddy to report to my Mom that I'd signed up to become a Certified Olympic Weightlifting Coach AND that my article for the Tabata Times was resounding with so many people, she was among the first to congratulate me. However, ever the pragmatist, she reminded me to stay humble.  She knows this has been a big year for me personally, with My First Crossfit Throwdown now behind me and some other massive pieces of progress (like 150lb front squats and getting smoother and stronger on Turkish Get Ups and Jerks than I've ever been).

 In fact, one of the great things about lifting and cross training is that it's really 'me vs me'. One of my favorite motivational sayings is, "Train like you're stronger, faster, evil twin is trying to kill you."  (In my defense, I've seen a lot of bad horror movies which helps fuel the imagination on this one.)

I talked with Trainer Guy to see if we could come up with some of my better Flat-On-My-Arse moments. None were caught on video, unfortunately, but today alone (as part of the Olympic Lifting Coaching course), I managed to hit myself in the nose, chin, boobs and belly with the bar. (Okay, so it's a little nerve wracking. Awesome, but nerve wracking.)  While I don't consider myself remarkably clumsy, I have practically dropped bars on my chest before. In fact, I think I remember poor lefty pretty good and joking with Trainer Guy that they are just made of fat anyway - they bounce back. 

So I started paging through some of my more epic bruises during the past year of training... Interestingly enough, they all from successes (and lessons successfully learned).

For example....

Jan 2014 - Just a little 'kiss' from throwing the bar into my rack solidly.
Feb. 2014 - Knocking out some Burpee Hanging Leg Raises.

October 2013 - Playing Goalie during Indoor soccer. (Needed a Tetanus shot to get this one to heal.) For the record - I stopped the goal. Totally worth it.

July 2012 - 1 Epic Fail (Knee - see below). Forearm = Successful Atlas Lift Training
Same day as above - Successful 110lb Farmer's Carries w/ Dumbbells.
Upper left arm - same day as above - successful Atlas Lift Training
July 2013 - Right arm - successful Atlas Lift Training.
August 2013 - Right Arm - Post Strongman (Click Here to See the run down of that event)
August 2013 - Left Arm - Post Strongman (Yes, I was wearing sleeves!)
Jan. 2014 - Maybe went a little hard on the knee-to-touch weighted lunges...

LOTS of lifting! No aspirations of being a hand model here!

Humility is rarely an issue for me. While that could be a testament to the way I was raised, it's also a product of the various arenas I've always competed in, whether it's musical, theatrical, written, or weight/fitness oriented.  Rejection and failure is part of the journey. Which is the whole point to this blog. It ain't all sunshine, sweat, and roses.... er.. deoderant.

   Every time I walk into a gym - whether it's a YMCA, 24-Hour Fitness, or a Crossfit Box, there is someone, stronger, faster, more talented, or with better technique than me. Staying humble? Not really a problem.

Ice Pack to the skull? Yeah - that counts as 'epic'.
As excited as I am to share my success, that doesn't mean I haven't had a few epic failures.  Now, I'm not talking about the rare bail out from a lift that wasn't in sync. Those have happened - and not on camera, though they are thankfully rare. Trainer Guy keeps a watchful eye on things and has a great feel for when to build and when to call it a day. Me? If left to my own devices, I tend to push until failure. (I'm getting much better about this, but last year that was definitely some trial and error.)

One night, after passing some time (and a beer or two) with some friends, I went home to relax. And that's when I had this amazing idea...

You see, I'd been working on getting a kick up handstand for a few weeks, and felt like I should have it. I was sitting on the couch getting bored (it happens -rarely, but it happens... and it's dangerous).

That's when I had this genius idea to try a handstand. I figured if I'd have the perfect space - if only the dog would move...

So I moved Odin's bed aside, leaving me with plenty of carpeted space. Sounds like a good idea, right?

After several failed attempts to kick up. I decided to do a wall walk and get close to the wall... and then slowly take my feet off the wall one at a time...

The first experimental foot came off the door. It seemed like a success. I was sure I could do this. I was vertical and holding steady. If only I could get my other foot off the door and stay vertical.

No, this isn't where someone opens the door.

I pushed off with the remaining toes just for a split second.

I didn't fall. That bolstered my confidence. So tried to bounce my foot off the door a little to further test the theory. I was convinced if I could just get my feet even... so I pushed a little harder off the door in a final attempt to match them up.

The shoved proved too much. My elbows buckled and sent me tumbling into the living room.

See that dark square thing at the bottom of the photo? That's the Mango Wood Coffee table. It's sturdy...very.

First, my head hit the leg on the corner with the full (then 220lbs) of me behind it. Then, while I was dizzily inspecting the carpet, my knee came down on top of the table, taking that last of the inertia with it....
Seriously - it was the stuff that viral Youtube videos are made of...

By noon the next day, I realized I was having trouble thinking clearly. The world felt very slow. So I called my doctor - who sent me to urgent care. When I got there and began attempted filling out the forms, their radiology department closed. They sent me to the ER. I made it there (with the help of some guardian angels, as My Sailor was deployed during this time, and I had to drive myself).  When I got there, I was immediately bawling (very out of character for me) and was pretty quickly diagnosed with a concussion. I was sent home... eventually....after I explained to about 6 different people that I wasn't being abused since I was bruised up from other training I was doing. In their defense, it could have been reasonable that foul play may have been afoot.

(Luckily, the knee didn't hurt too much. While it's likely a permanent injury, it doesn't hurt or inhibit mobility at all.)

Each bruise taught me a valuable lesson though! I no longer take any sort of blood thinning product while training! If I'm sore, I drink some coconut water, have a hot bath, and tough it out. (During training for the Strongman, I was taking ibuprofen nearly every day.) Everything heals faster when I'm not avoiding the pain. Oh - and for the soccer road rash? Problem fixed. I bought pants for when I play goalie.