Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Take on CrossFit from a Wonderful Guest Blogger

One of the first blogs I followed when I joined this community was called I Miss My Collar Bone, written by a CrossFit woman doing things I could only dream of (ahem, 205lb back squat). She is always an interesting read and has posted many a link that I've found informative on both fitness and nutrition. On top of doing CrossFit, she also eats a Paleo diet and has seen incredible results with it, including the disappearance of her allergies. Over time I came to realize that this CrossFit champ was still a CrossFit champ, but she is also human and like everyone else's, her journey had a beginning. I worked up my courage and asked her if she would do a guest spot here, talking about how she got into CrossFit and her commitment to the Paleo diet. And she agreed! So, without further ado, I give you Violet of I Miss My Collar Bone:

This is my first guest post, and I'm so flattered/honored that someone wanted ME to come to THEIR blog and babble on about things that I care about.  Seriously, flattered.  Ms. Desperate Student asked me to write a post on how I got into CrossFit.  As regular readers of her blog, you know she's very much into it and kicking ass.  I know first hand how intimidating CrossFit can seem, yet it keeps gaining notoriety in blogs and in the fitness world like mad.  It's principles are even being used on this season's Biggest Loser by trainer Bob- he loves CrossFit, and for that I love him.  Anyway, back to me.

First off, let me give you a brief history of my exercise patterns before I began CrossFit.  I rowed crew for 3 years in High School.  This was probably the best fitness foundation I ever could have given myself, without knowing it until years later.  Crew coaches pushed us to crazy limits, and I did things with my body that my mind never wanted to do.  We learned how to be comfortable in a gym- squatting from the rack, back extensions, free weights, bench press, etc.  I loved the camaraderie that comes with knowing exactly what each person is going through, and seeing people break through personal barriers, as well as breaking through your own.  Its amazing and awe inspiring.  I was in damn good shape, but didn't realize it.  I didn't participate in crew my senior year in high school, and proceeded to get 'soft' and overweight.  

In college, I found my way to the on campus gym, and eventually took up running.  I dropped a lot of weight, and was pretty happy running 8 minute miles and doing crunches.  I knew I was in shape, but didn't realize how small I was until I wasn't anymore.  

After college, I began my love/hate relationship with running, couple that with a desk job, lack of insulin sensitivity (possible metabolic syndrome or damn close) and  consequently my body suffered big time.  I would go through kicks of running for weeks at a time, get through to the point where I started to like it again, and then stop for weeks.  The cycle repeated itself.  I couldn't stick to anything for longer then a month or so.  I belonged to many gyms, would sign up for 5K races to "train" for, and could never get it together.  It almost seemed like the more I ran and hit the elliptical, the fatter I got.  However, no matter how fat I got, I could always run 3 miles.  Sometimes it would take me 40 minutes, but I could do it.  

I finally reached a weight that was unbearable for me- I believe the exact "ah-hah" moment was when I realized I only weighed 6 pounds less than my 7-foot tall boyfriend (he's really skinny, but still).  I somehow got talked into starting a blog, I thought for accountability purposes, it would be exactly what I needed.  It turned out to be so much more.  I realized there was a whole weightloss/fitness blogging community out there with all sorts of people struggling to do the same thing as me.  I quickly found favorites, and began following.  I learned new tips, saw what other people were up to, and it was from this community that I first learned of CrossFit and the Paleo diet.    

"honestly, who can say anything bad about a diet in which you eat real food- meat, vegetables, some fruit, nuts, and healthy fats?"

Someone had linked to a blog post of amazing transformation on the Paleo Diet- unfortunately, that blog has been taken down, but it is similar to THIS.  I began to do a lot of research on the Paleo diet, bought a few books, and it made so much sense to me.  I searched high and low for some criticism, or anything that would tell me it was just a stupid money seeking fad diet.  But I couldn't find anything.  Honestly, who can say anything bad about a diet in which you eat real food- meat, vegetables, some fruit, nuts, and healthy fats?  The people that had made the decision to go Paleo were almost fanatical about how great they felt, how it changed their life, yadda yadda.  Not only were these people fanatical about their new diet, but this "CrossFit" thing kept popping up.  I googled CrossFit, and I'll admit, I was extremely intrigued.  I wanted to be able to do those things.  Those people looked crazy, but in the kind of way I wanted to be crazy. 

"the one thing I hadn't tried? a diet where I gave up processed foods and sugar"

Here's the weird thing, maybe?  I felt like I wasn't ready to just walk into a CrossFit and try it.  I felt I need to get into 'shape' first.  I only realize now how crazy that is because no one is ever in shape for CrossFit (I've seen professional athletes walk into my gym and get smoked by a workout that I find to be average).  So, to prepare for my trying CrossFit, I was contemplating trying Paleo to shed some extra pounds and see what all the hype was.  I'm the biggest skeptic you'll ever meet, not to mention I had tried nearly every method of weight loss out there.  The one thing I hadn't tried?  A diet where I gave up processed foods and sugar.  I loved my bread and sweets too much.  I always just restricted my intake of meat and vegetables to allow for the intake of bread or other things.  The reoccurring theme from all the research was the same- just try it for 30 days.  That's all.  If you don't feel any different, go back to what you were doing.  30 days?  I could do that.  What did I have to lose?  Thirty days turned into 3 months. Three months turned into 1.5 years.  I felt so amazing after my first 10 days going Paleo, there was no going back for me.  I began my Paleo experiment in June 2010, and I joined CrossFit in September 2010.  

"I woke up after day 3 and could barely walk.  I took a few days off for rest, but I could already tell I found something I was going to love"

I showed up to the gym on the first day, and was blown away by the lack of equipment in the gym.  A system of pull-up bars, a few kettlebells, boxes, 2 rowers, some bars, weight plates, and medicine balls?  That's it?  I looked over to these two girls, both with their shirts off, one had a visible 6-pack and they were loading crazy amounts of weight onto bars and pulling it from the floor to over their heads as a trainer yelled motivating things at them.  They would drop the weighted bars and cuss, and they were covered in sweat.  Another trainer pulled me aside and said he was going to put me through a quick workout to see where I was at.  Man I was nervous.  He asked me to do a few air squats.  He complimented my form, and then taught me how to do kettlebell swings.  My first workout was 3 rounds of: row 500 meters (easy because of my crew background!) 25 kettlebell swings (25 lb) and 15 push-ups (on knees).  I think it took me around 12 or 13 minutes to complete.  I was spent.  No amount of running made me feel that way.  I caught my breath and asked "what's next?"  He laughed and said, "that's it.  We train for intensity, not time."  I came back the next day, and my workout was around 7 minutes (burpees and box jumps?).  It was hard, but still, I couldn't get over the short time span.  I woke up after day 3 and could barely walk.  I took a few days off for rest, but I could already tell I found something I was going to love.

During the three months I was eating Paleo but not Crossfitting, I would run occasionally.  I had a 3.1 mile loop that I liked a bunch.  At my heaviest, it would take me 40 minutes.  After I went Paleo and lost 15 pounds, I ran it in 35 minutes.  I was super happy.  Once I started CrossFit, I stopped running.  I only did the workouts they wrote on the board.  I went 5 or more days a week.  Progress was easily measured- I kept lifting heavier things and getting faster at movements.  After about 6 weeks of doing CrossFit, I had a 7K I was running.  I realized I hadn't done any prep for it.  Being the procrastinator I am, I set out for a nice 3.1 mile loop a few days before the race.  I ran the loop in 31:30.  I could not wrap my head around the fact that I hadn't run in weeks, and I knocked 3.5 minutes off my last time.  The next day at the gym, I told my trainer about what happened, and there was not even a shred of surprise on his face.  He simply said "there are many fitness myths out there that you will see CrossFit busts.  Looks like the first one you discovered is that running more doesn't make you faster."  The 7K a few days later was a breeze.  I was sold.

"being fit is not about a number on a scale, its about how many different things your body can do, and how well it can do them"

Lightbulbs began going off everywhere in my head.  Suddenly, everything was making sense.  I had been doing it all wrong before.  I didn't need to spend hours on cardio machines, I needed to up my intensity.  I didn't need to worry about how many calories I was consuming, I needed to worry about where they were coming from.  Lifting heavy weights isn't going to make me bulky, its going to make me functional.  Being fit is not about a number on a scale, its about how many different things your body can do, and how well it can do them.  

"to say that Paleo/CrossFit changed my life is an understatement"

Since going Paleo and consequently joining CrossFit more things have changed in my life/outlook/body then I ever could have imagined.  To say that Paleo/CrossFit changed my life is an understatement.  CrossFit suddenly was applicable to everything I did- it made doing the laundry easier, it makes my life easier.  I feel like I'm changing my body from the inside out.  Its a slow process, but I know I'm doing it right, and doing something that is going to last.   

A few things of note:
Since June 2010, I've lost 30 pounds (and I can be confident that nearly all of that is fat because of my diet, not just 1/2 fat like traditional eat less move more dieting)
I've dropped 3 pant sizes
I have visible biceps/triceps
Allergies disappeared
Clear skin/shiny hair
Zero carb cravings

CrossFit improvements (First few months/Now):
struggle with 10 push-ups on my knees/15-20 at time on my toes
>10 sec hang from bar/ 1 minute plus hang
185# deadlift/235# deadlift
185# back squat/205# back squat
75# push press/115# push press
35min 5K/30min 5K
30 second plank hold/2min plank hold
12" box jumps/20" box jumps
modified handstands w feet on box/handstands against wall
toes to bar-couldn't get toes above hip level/can perform a few toes to bar with toes actually touching bar
65# clean/115# clean

"my goals focus around things I want my body to be able to do"

Currently I'm working like mad to get myself to do an unassisted pull-up.  My goals focus around things I want my body to be able to do.  I want a 300# deadlift.  I want to be able to do multiple pull-ups, jump on a 30" box, free standing handstands, and one day- muscle ups.  I just recently started refining my diet and taking fish oil/amino acid supplements.  I have no idea what a goal weight is for me, I just want to be able to do every workout how its written (no modifications) and as fast as I possibly can.  I have every bit of confidence I'll get there one day, and one day, by default, I'll have the body I always knew I could have.     


  1. Wow. This post is so inspiring and so motivating! I am so intimidated by CrossFit and I keep thinking, maybe when I'm closer to my goal weight, maybe when I lose another 20lbs....the thought just terrifies me that I won't be able to do that kind of workout!

  2. I know how you feel! But, every workout is tailored to whatever level you are at. You learn to push yourself amongst a great community, and surprise yourself by the things your body can do. The truth is, the way CrossFit works and why it works is because no one is in shape to do it when they begin. You learn how to get the intensity as you go. If it interests you, don't wait! You'll be sorry you did. Take the plunge!