A Week of PR’s

Well hello there! Sorry it’s been a while, it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve been ridiculously busy at school, work and in general  kicking ass and taking names. I know, I know.. I’m been cocky but I feel I’m allowed to brag a little since this week I got four PRs in Cleans, Jerks, Front Squats and Back Squats. I’ve had a couple people ask me if I am still doing the Oly Comp and all I can say is hell yeah, I am! It’s less than two weeks away and I am slightly terrified, but I signed up to push myself outside of my comfort zone and get a foot in the Oly Lifting Door, so here I am. I’m not expecting to do anything crazy as far as heavy weight goes, but I do feel like for me it’s finally all starting to come together. My squats are getting lower, my hips are thrusting faster (haha) and I’m getting my elbows up in record time (for me).

This past week I took advantage of the open gym at my CrossFit box and went in for two separate workouts on Sunday. The first one was just Cleans, trying to actually find my one rep max, front squats and presses. The previous time I did this I was at 103. That was one month ago. On Sunday I got 115 and was so close to 120! I came in later that day to attempt 120 again because I couldn’t get it out of my mind, but still couldn’t quite get it. I stepped away, did a WOD to take my frustration out and know that in a little bit more time that 120lb clean will be mine.

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I also PR’d with Front Squats with 105 (Yes I know its weird I can clean more than I front squat, that’s my main problem), finally was able to squat my body weight (140), which has been like a 7 month goal and this morning I got a 120lb Jerk. Now if I can just bring my clean up to 120, I will be all set for the comp!

I’m also going to take the plunge and invest in some real Oly Lifting shoes. My CF Coach had me try front squatting with 5 lb plates under my heels and it made a world of difference. I will definitely still work on stretching out my hammies so I don’t need that extra boost that the shoes provide, but until then I think the shoes will definitely help me and I’m looking for any help I can get before the comp.

Now, question for you. Up to this point, all my shoes are pink. I’m not quite sure how that happened, because I don’t own any pink clothing outside of gym items. Should I keep in the pink trend with my lifting shoes, or go for the black and whites?

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10 Things Lifting and CrossFit Taught Me About Myself

Edit:  I am shocked no one has pointed out this is actually 11 things and I messed up the numbering. I just noticed it and my Type A-ness is going crazy, so I had to put in a disclaimer: I can’t count. 

3 1/2 years ago I stumbled across a blog while looking for new vegetarian/vegan recipes.Throughout the years I kept reading as the blogger eventually admitted her vegan/vegetarian lifestyle had been hiding an eating disorder (I could relate), added meat to her diet, and started CrossFitting.

The blogger, Katelyn, published this vlog a little over a year ago. I remember watching her start to cry as she talked about how one day she wanted to compete in the CrossFit Games. I remember thinking “why the heck is she so emotional about lifting weights”? Coming from LA, my only association with females lifting was girls doing light leg press getting ready for bikini or figure contests, which was not something I had any interest in doing. Her emotion sparked a curiosity in me and I had to figure out what had driven my internet sister-from-another-mister to cry from happiness.

After 10 months of lifting on my own and recently joining CrossFit, I understand.  As psychotic as it may make me/her seem, I have definitely got teary eyed before thinking about how much it has changed my outlook on life. Neither running nor swimming have ignited the passion and confidence that lifting has. It’s an emotional process to turn insecurities into self empowerment.

So here are the 10 things I have learned since I started lifting and crossfitting.

1. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

My whole life I have had a fear of failure. I figured if I stayed on the side lines and never stuck my neck out to try something that I knew would be difficult, then I would never really fail. I figured not trying was better than failure. Boy, was I wrong. Trying until you reach failure (or can’t do it with proper form) is essential to lifting and CrossFit. Not sure if you can do it? Who cares, try it anyway. If you can’t, you can’t. The real failure is in never trying.

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2.  Buying a bigger pair of jeans is not a bad thing. 

For the first time since I was 19, I had to buy jeans in a bigger size.  I tried so long to keep that stupid number on the tag the same, watching as my jeans went from slightly baggy at 19 to plastered on as I aged. But squats and lunges helped my legs and butt grow so that they could no longer be contained in those same 19 year old sized jeans. And, I celebrated it. Bigger jeans means building muscle, which means I’m getting stronger and closer to reaching my goals.

2. 1,200 calories should only get you through lunch.

Who came up with that 1,200 calorie number that is THE number to eat if you want to lose or maintain a low weight? After years of obsessively counting calories, I’ve finally forgotten how many calories are in a medium sized banana or 6 ounces of chicken. I’ve learned to listen to my body, understand the foundations of my cravings, and give my body the freedom to have what it needs. And that is a hell of a lot more than 1,200 calories.

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3.”Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent” – Coach Beau.

Practicing will make your actions stick, so make sure you are practicing right.

4. Alcohol isn’t the only thing that can make you feel invincible. 

The feeling of conquering the world that you get from achieving a goal in the gym is addicting.  Many people use liquid courage to feel confident enough to chat up the room or do something they couldn’t do sober. I was one of them. But I’ve found that a good workout can give me that same feeling, without the headache the next morning.

5. Sweating is okay.

As a former competitive swimmer, in a nice cold pool, I have always hated sweating. I tended to avoid things that made me sweat excessively.  After a heavy day of lifting, there are definitely sweat marks surrounding my spot on the floor and it makes me want to make a sweat angel each time.

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   6. Finishing last doesn’t make you a loser if you gave it your all.

 Even if I’m the last one to finish a workout, or the weakest, at least I challenged myself to try it.

7.  Partying isn’t always worth missing sleep.

Missing sleep makes it harder to reach my goals. While it’s always good to have a night out now and then, my 4 nights out a week are a thing of the past.  Most days, I’d rather bust my ass in the gym than bust a move on the dance floor.  Though, let’s be honest, if you’ve ever seen me on the dance floor, you know those squats come in handy.

Image8. Treat your body well and it will return the favor.

Don’t punish yourself by not eating or by working out when you are too tired. Treat your body with respect, love it, and it will accomplish anything you want.

9. The confidence will carry over to other aspects of your life.

The confidence I feel in the gym has helped me try things in real life I never had the courage to do, like interviewing for jobs I thought were well out of my reach, trying out for law school competitions or asking for a raise. I have become more confident in every aspect of my life, not just with my physical abilities.

Image10. Love your body, love your determination, love yourself. 

To quote ‘When Harry Met Sally’: “when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” I feel like over these past 10 months I have finally fallen in love with myself. Unconditionally. I’ve stopped doubting myself. I’ve stopped comparing myself to others. I’ve stopped punishing myself for any little thing I do wrong. I’ve finally become comfortable in my own skin. And I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life feeling this way.

Has working out changed how you feel about yourself ?
What is your favorite way to workout?

Into Thin Air – 2nd Highest Peak in the Lower 48

On Sunday I decided to go climb the second highest peak in the lower 48 states. A looming 14,443 feet, complete with snow, strong winds, and about a 24 degree temperature. Oh, and that nasty little thing called altitude sickness that decided to tag along for the ride. To say this was one of the mentally toughest physical activities to get through was an understatement.  I have never before in my life thought I could not physically finish something until this adventure. But, let’s start at the beginning.

My friend from training (who I went paddle boarding with) and two of my friends from Denver decided it would be a tough challenge to go hike a 14er (Colorado speak for mountains over 14,000ft) at the end of September, when it had already snowed up there. We thought it would be badass. And it was. Maybe a bit too badass for me. The hike was 9.2 miles round trip, with a 4,700 foot elevation gain. The 30-45 minutes were in the forest and, while steep, I could still catch my breathe through the panting. We emerged from the woods to see this:

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See those peaks? yeah, we had to go over those to get to one further on that we were going to. I definitely didn’t realize when I signed on that the hike would be this long, but I was still excited at this point. So, we trudged on. Once we got past that second tree line the wind picked up. Hard. And it did not stop. It was so strong and so cold that when it hit you head on it literally knocked your breathe out of you. Multiple times I felt like I was suffocating and had to turn my back to take some breathes. This may sound dramatic, but it was 100% real for me. I am VERY sensitive to altitude. For the first couple weeks after I moved to Boulder I would get winded walking up stairs, went to bed by 9:30 because I was so exhausted and would get major headaches.

But we kept going, with my companions being very kind and taking frequent breaks when I needed them to turn my oxygen deprive hyperventilating back to normal panting.

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Photo Credit Kristin Burkholder

Around 12,500ft I started feeling nauseous. We stopped to eat and I forced myself to take a bite of a Lara bar, but my mouth would not physically chew it. I ended up spitting it out and just drinking lots of water. If I ever do something like this again, I will definitely bring chicken broth so that I can drink my nutrition and have it heat me up. A couple passed us and we asked, pointing at a peak above us, if that was the summit. The woman shook her head and said that was a “fake summit” (one that appears to be the top, but is followed by others behind it) and that there were 3-4 more fake summits to go.

The guy saw the look on my face at this point and said “Just go 10 more steps. Anyone can do 10 more steps. Then, try to do another 10.” I literally repeated this in my head the whole rest of the way.

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Photo Credit Kristin Burkholder

We got to 14,000 feet, with only 400 feet more and I nearly quit. I stopped, sat on the ground, trying to stop my head from spinning and resisting the urge to start dry heaving. I had a conversation with myself in my head about how I was feeling crappy now, but that in about 6 hours I would be home in bed, cuddled up with my dog,  feeling perfectly healthy and would be super pissed off at myself if I had not gone to the top. This was only temporary. With some encouragement from my friends, one of whom was also not feeling so hot at this point, I kept going. And I’m glad I did, because the view at the top was unbelievable. Just like everyone had promised.

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I’m pretty sure we only stayed up there about 5 minutes, as it was sub 24 degrees and super windy. Just long enough to snap some pictures and start back down.

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The hike down was really fun for me. Going down fake summits is far more fun than going up them, complete with sliding on the ice/snow (as my friend did, on her butt, for a good portion of the way. She had also had some Fireball at the top, which probably made it even more delightful for her ❤ ). With each little bit I felt better and better, and by the time we reached the trees again I was back to myself. And starving.

Overall, I am still very happy I did it. It was definitely a rush.  I don’t think I could have done it without the support of my friends, talking me through it and being willing to stop whenever I needed to.  I’m already planning to do another one next year with the same people… though maybe we will go a bit earlier, so as to avoid the snow and the super cold wind.

On the drive back home my friend asked why people climb 14ers. A lot of people respond with “because they are there”. My friend said because it reminds her that the world is far more beautiful than her everyday life. While valid, that’s not my reason. There are hikes that are just as physically challenging, as far as steepness, that are at much lower elevation and would provide a great workout and time spent in beautiful nature. For me, the reason I have done 14ers is because it’s good to challenge yourself mentally like that sometimes, to push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of in a situation where you can’t just slow down or stop to make it easier (like on a run). Obviously, do that within a safe limit, with the ultimate ability to leave (turn around and walk down) if you really need to.

But sometimes, you need to have that inner battle with yourself to see what you are capable of overcoming.

Hope you all had a great weekend, filled with fun, laughs and love.

Oly Lifting Comp – Training Phase 1 (Partial Workouts Included)

I hope everyone is having a lovely Saturday and enjoying the slowly emerging fall weather. It makes me want to carve pumpkins and go to haunted houses :). To procrastinate the ridiculous amount of reading and homework I have to get done today, I decided to give you guys an updated on how my training is going for my Oly LIfting Comp.

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I just finished my hypertrophy (muscle building) phase. It lasted for a total of four weeks, with three weeks of building, then one week of unloading to allow my central nervous system to recover.  During this phase, I did one of two complexes that are designed to build muscle in each of my training sessions. All of the exercises are done back to back, no rest in between, with a weight that you can maintain throughout. My weight was 65lbs and I was dying by the last exercise each time. These exercises contain Front Squats, as those are an important aspect of the clean and will aid in snatches, Jerks/Thrusters/Push Press to build shoulder and back muscles to help in clean and snatch, Front Loaded Reverse Lunges to, once again help with the front squat aspect of cleans and build up my booty, and rows to increase muscle in my back.

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Each of these complexes/all my training workouts are designed by Rise Up Fitness.

 Complex 1.                                                                       Complex 2.

8 Cleans                                                        8 Total Split jerks (4 with each leg forward)

8 Front Squats                                         16  Front Loaded Reverse Lunge (8 with each leg)

8 Push Press                                                     8 Thrusters (full squat to push press)

8 Back Squats                                                                 8 Bent over Rows

8 Deadlifts

Each of these complexes is repeated three times. In between the complexes I typically did things such as kettle bell swings (to improve my explosiveness/the hip thrust needed with each olympic lift), farmer walks, jump squats (once again, to improve explosiveness/getting under the bar) etc. These are not my total workout, obviously, but were the one consistent aspect of my workout during those three weeks.

I am now onto the Strength Training phase, which includes less reps and higher weight. Even though I am nowhere near how I want to be on my cleans, I decided to give you guys a video of it anyway.

Things I need to work on:

1) getting under the bar/dropping down more quickly. This is really hard for me. I have a long way to go with my long legs and I’m not that flexible. Any tips on improving this would be appreciated 🙂

2) getting my elbows up faster

3) Getting the double knee bend – aka once the bar is over my knees they need to go back to being bent, not straight as they are now

4) Getting down under my jerk more/putting my shoulders back more once in full jerk position.

This is at 103lbs. I know that if I can only figure out how to drop down under the bar more I will be able to go so much heavier, so this is pretty much muscling it up. It’s a lot of small complex motions that requires a lot of coordination and work.  I’ve got 7 weeks to figure it out!

Double Trouble: Tips for training for a Lifting Comp and 15K at the same time.

I’ve learned three things about myself over the past couple months. (1) That I have way too many fitness/sport related things I want to try (2) That I have a tendency to spread myself thin and (3) that I’m stubborn. From running to lifting to swimming to hiking to climbing, the list of things I desperately want to get good at goes on and on. Currently I am training for my Oly Lifting Comp on November 16th and the Denver Hot Chocolate 15k on October 6th. Two events that require very different training methods and conflicting body types, all while trying not to flunk out of law school, keep my friends, and succeed at work.

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I’ve been having a hard time balancing training. Days after I lift, my legs are too sore to run.  If I devote too much time to running, I start leaning out and don’t make gains in the lifting.  While it’s not an ideal situation at all, I’ve finally managed to strike a small balance with these tips to get through double training:

1) Get enough sleep. I get made fun of for never doing anything in the evenings past 9, but I have actually come to love this lifestyle and rarely feel like I’m missing out on anything. (Hi, I’m secretly 60).  It gives me time to go to dinner/movie/happy hour with friends, while still getting home to be in bed by 10:30. Sleep is necessary to build muscle and will also reduce bad food cravings during the day. It also keeps me from drinking a lot, which leads me to point 2.

2) Don’t drink alcohol more than once a week.  Alcohol keeps you from making gains by dehydrating you (bad for muscle growth), lowering testosterone (bad for muscle growth), and slows down protein synthesis. Depending on how much you consume, it can also make you feel like you are going to die the next day, which is not conducive to training. As I have mentioned before, my body type is not one that naturally puts on muscle. So I want to prevent anything from getting in the way of my muscle growth. (My boyfriend jokes that I am always bulking, because I chow down on food in hopes it will help me grow).

3) Drink at least a gallon of water a day. Water aids in protein synthesis and helps your muscles recover.

4) Don’t get frustrated if you aren’t improving as fast as you want to.  This one is particularly hard for me. I want to be good at everything and improve on things right away(who doesn’t??). I have to keep remind myself patience is a virtue and if I keep going the gains will come.

5) Do short, but faster runs more often. I know I have the muscle to get me through a 15K, but it’s really the cardio aspect I need work on. I’ve been trying to squeeze in shorter (3 miles), but faster runs to build up my lung capacity without cutting into study time, work and without making my legs too sore to lift. So far it’s been working to improve my long runs I do once a week.

6) Find people with similar goals. It can get lonely if all your free time is devoted to activities you do on your own. Try to find people to run/lift with who can help push you through the times you want to give up and who understand the discipline you need to have to succeed. They also can understand that aspect of your humor and provide a lot of laughs to get you through training.

7) Stretching.  Foam roll. Foam roll. Foam roll. Don’t just sit and grab your toes. That’s like taking a knot in a shoe lace and pulling it tighter. Foam Rolling/Active Stretching helps untangle those muscle knots for faster recovery.

8) Supplements.  I don’t usually use supplements, I don’t even really use protein powder. However, today I bought BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids) for the first time. They are supposed to help muscle recovery. We will see how those go and I’ll let you know.

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So those are my tips to how I’m getting through this strange period of pushing and pulling at my  body in hopes of not having to cut one of the things I love out of my life. I truly get so much pleasure from both lifting and running that I can’t imagine not doing both. I don’t want to get to my competition knowing I could have given it more and wasn’t disciplined enough to reach my full potential. It’s just a matter of training smart, not doing things that will harm my progress (staying up late or partying) but giving myself enough of a break so I don’t get burnt out. It’s a fine line to walk, but I’m slowly starting to find my balance.

Let’s Talk about Miley’s Ass

Today is my birthday, I’m feeling a little old and over the hill, so I thought – “what better way to metaphorically tell these youngin’s to get off my lawn then by chiming in too late to comment on people’s reaction to Miley Cyrus’s butt “? I figure if it’ still on the front page of CNN (…) then I have the right to still mention it on here.

I know you all know what I’m talking about, Miley’s now infamous performance at the VMAs where she appeared in a nude skin tight bikini and humped the air with a foam finger. I’m not going to get into the debate about what her performance represented for feminism etc. I have plenty to say on that, but this is a healthy living/fitness blog. What I am going to talk about is the fall out of prancing around in that barely there bikini.  I woke up the next morning to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the blog world posting things like this:

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with the caption “At least GaGa squats” and this…

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Now my questions is.. Why? Why did countless WOMEN post these pictures solely to shame and criticize another woman’s body? In a world where 24 million America’s are affected by eating disorders, and more money is spent researching boob jobs/viagra than on Alzheimer’s, do we really need to put more focus on image? I’m not perfect, I definitely laughed when I saw this.. but then I took a minute to think about what type of message I was endorsing. Women especially should be congratulating each other, cheering each other on, and helping each other fight the negative media images, not supporting them.

Now I don’t necessarily think that Miley really needed “support” and “cheering on” for her performance, I don’t think I’ve seen a lazier performance in my life. HOWEVER, I do not think that it warrants images of her butt being plastered around the internet only furthering the unrealistic ideal image of what a woman’s body should look like, and enforcing the notion that if it doesn’t look like that then she has the right to be publicly scorned.

I know people might say “it’s her job to look perfect” and I say you are wrong. It is her job to perform, to sing, to dance. But to have a tight ass? I don’t think that’s listed in her contract.

Do you agree/disagree? Why?

Outdoor Stair Master

Yesterday afternoon I got a call at work from my boyfriend asking if I wanted to go trail running after work. I have begged him to go trail running with me for ages, so I was super excited and immediately said yes, even though I had already lifted that morning.

I always forget that it stays late till at least 8 o’clock during the summer, leaving plenty of time for outdoor activities after work.  We headed to Mt. Sanitas in Boulder, excited to run some trails.

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We probably should have read a description, as what we encountered was more like an outdoor stair master.

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We ran any part that didn’t have stairs, but the stairs were too high/un even to fully run up. Even without running, it hurt my poor sore legs. I definitely had to put my head down and power through towards the end, but we made it to the top in just under 26 minutes.

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And it was all worth it for the great view of our beautiful city.

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We ran down the other side, which is a little longer but far less steep. We made it back just as some dark clouds were rolling in and lightning was dancing in the sky around the mountains. It was a great way to end a stressful day, getting out into the wilderness, pushing any worries out of my mind and focusing solely on forcing my body to its limits.

I strike, you strike, all beginners heel strike

Have you ever heard the term “Heel Strike”? It is when your heel touches the ground first when you run. In a recent study, 890 of 903 novice runners were heel strikers. That means if you are reading this and you haven’t worked to correct your form, you are most likely a heel striker.

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However, this is not one of those cases where the majority rules. A New York Times Article wrote about a Harvard Study that compared heel strike runners to fore front runners and tracked their injuries. The study found that the amount of injuries in the heel strike runners was twofold greater than in the fore foot runners. Not to say the fore foot runners didn’t have any injuries, they did, but they had 50% less.

Now, the article does state that if you run a lot and have never had any injuries then it’s not necessary to change your stride. If, however, you have repeated shin splints, hamstring injuries, plantar fasciitis, or other hip related pains you might want to try to change up your gait to see if it reduces injury for you. I am by no means saying one is better than the other, as some studies didn’t show as big of a difference, but it’s a good thing to experiment with and see which one feels better for you. Another useful article on tips for running form can be found here

I also just found out the results of the Fourth of July 5K, which placed me at 4th in my age group and 13th female overall. While I am still disappointed because I knew I could have done better, it’s always good to have a reminder not to be too hard on yourself and give your body a little credit for what it accomplishes, even if it’s not what you wanted.

I think it’s time to sign up for another half….

Earning My Independence (5K Race)

I hope everyone had a fun, safe and indulgent Fourth of July Weekend. I feel like I’ve been go-go-going for the past month so it was nice to be able to have time to sit back, relax and just breathe for a couple days. But not before I earned it…

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I got up at 6:30 on the 4th of July to run a 5K at the Boulder Reservoir to “Earn my Independence”. I had asked my friend, who just happens to be an MMA fighter and is in great shape, to run it with me expecting him to say no and for me to give an “eh, I tried but no one would do it with me” type excuse. To my surprise he was really into it (mainly for the tank top), so I had to haul my butt out of bed bright and early.

This race wasn’t the best. I had never run a 5K race before and definitely didn’t run smart. Since I was running with a friend, I didn’t bring any type of garmin/pace tracker. I made the mistake of trying to keep up with my friend and went out way too fast. Based on his finishing time, I’m guessing the first mile was about 7:10, which is not really my pace right now, even for a 5K. I told him to go ahead and leave me and then proceeded to die the next 2.2 miles. I think I was more happy to see the finish line for this race than for any half marathon I have done, which is pretty pathetic.

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Once again, it made me realize just how out of  running shape I have gotten (well really, poor shape I have stayed in since my ankle injury). Runner Ritsa talked about it as well, but it’s really hard to balance lifting and trying to build muscle with getting the miles in you need to stay in good running shape. I’m still trying to find a good balance. I ran every day this weekend, trying to get back in the habit. I plan on running some, even if it’s just two miles, every day from now on (except rest days).

I also spent a lot of time with friends this weekend, including a BBQ on the Fourth at my boyfriend’s client’s house,. They have horses, so we had to do some late night horse whispering after the fireworks…

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I also spent lots of time by the pool, at the farmer’s market and watching the UFC fights on Saturday with some of my besties.

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Hope everyone had a great weekend and is ready to get back into it!

Anyone else find it hard to balance all the different types of fitness you want to do (running and lifting for example)? How do you  find the time and energy to do it all?

CrossFit 151 Adventures

Today was humbling. One of those days that brings you down a notch and makes you realize you need to work harder.

I’m in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the weekend visiting my boyfriend’s family. One of his good friends, Zach, opened a big Crossfit Gym in Marion, Iowa that I’ve been hearing about for a year and was excited to check out.

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Zach wanted to try out a new WOD today that he had created to get an idea for its difficulty and how long it would take. His girlfriend, who had the body of Andrea Ager and was totally intimidating, and I were the female testers.

We had to run 25 yards, grab a 10lb plate, run back put it on a bar, repeat and then front lunge the now 75lb bar 10yds, do 10 cleans, lunge 10yds, do 10 thrusters then lunge 10 yards, drop the bar and sprint 100yds.

I. Was. Sweating. And that was just the warmup. The strength and conditioning coach from drake university, a friend of my boyfriends, popped over to join us. We spent 30 min working on snatch and overhead squat form. Then we did another WOD because….why not?

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I did 5 rounds with assisted pull-ups and adjusted snatch weight. I was shaking by the time I got through. Definitely a humbling experience to be around such in have and strong people. Definitely another motivator to get in the gym and kick my ass every time to hopefully one day reach that level.

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