THE INTERESTING CARRYOVER
A CrossFit competition is like the last four minutes of a basketball game. You’re tired, it’s not easy, but you just gut it out, you leave everything you have on the floor and fight for the win. A weightlifting meet is like being on the foul line with no time left on the clock. It’s you and the bar/hoop, you need to shut everything out and just be as technically sound as you have ever been in front of a room of eyes concentrated on you. Although I love the first scenario, the second is and always was my favorite. I’m really not sure why, that is just the way I’m wired.
Throughout high school and college, I knew no matter what kind of shooting day I was having, no matter how many minutes I played, no matter what else was going on, if the game came down to a last second shot – the ball was probably going to be put in my hands. I used to go into big games expecting to have to take a game winner that night. Sometimes this did not work in my favor. I could sit here and tell you about every missed game winner I have had since the time I was 8. The worst, and one that I hate the most, was against Cincinnati my junior year. I actually turned the ball over before I even had a chance at a shot. I’m not one to beat myself up about moments like that, but I am one to play them over and over in my head in the days after they happen – going over technicalities that I could have fixed to make the outcome of the situation different. However, there are a large number of times when I succeeded in these situations. I remember almost all of these as clear as day because that was always one of my favorite parts of being a scorer – and why I worked so hard to be good at it. I loved the risk involved. I loved the tunnel vision that happens in those last seconds before the ball leaves your hands. I love the minute your eyes find your target, you’re locked in, you finally stop thinking, and your body does exactly what it has does a million times in practice. Only this time it actually means something. Then you finally regain your mind and you realize you’ve hit the shot, and everything is right in the world.
Sunday, I realized a weightlifting meet was that – exactly. I got back those same feelings each time I walked out onto the platform. I got that tunnel vision back – I was locked into the bar. It was so freaking cool. I don’t know why no one informed me of that before! I didn’t realize this parallel was so strong until I got home that night. I wasn’t physically exhausted like I usually am after a CrossFit competition. I was more mentally exhausted, the way I used to get after a really close overtime game where you’re focusing so hard for so long in order to win. That got me thinking that although I am a rookie in this sport, this is familiar territory – maybe actually my favorite territory.
I love competing in exercise, but this weightlifting thing has something to it and I cannot wait for my next meet.
So, this past weekend I did in fact qualify for the American Open. This is still pretty crazy to me for a few reasons: 1) I have only been training my Olympic lifts seriously for 6 months and 2) my Olympic lifts really are not even that good, yet. In any event, I am really pumped for the opportunity to go and lift at the AO in December and will be working my butt off between now and then to improve in the Olympic lifts.
Before I go into any details about this weekend I need to give a huge shout out to both of my coaches who were there with me all day. The first is the coach I train under every day. An amazing athlete himself, he gave up his day to be by my side at this meet. He sees me in the gym everyday and understands what I’m capable of and how to get through to me day in and day out. I felt so much more relaxed and comfortable with him in the room. His cues and presence are familiar and is definitely no stranger to competition. The second traveled a nice little distance, 2 year old son in tote, to be there for me. He programs my daily workouts and is just a text or email away. I am always caught off guard at how spot on his coaching is even though I’m not in front of him everyday. He has invaluable experience at big time weightlifting meets and I trust him, a lot. There were times when I really had no idea what was going on during the meet and he was able to explain it, or at least just tell me what I needed to do and when. Both of these guys are freaking awesome. I owe a large percentage of my improvement in this sport to them and I’m really grateful to have had them there.
When I got to the meet on Sunday, I was really just anxious to get moving and get a bar in my hands. During my time playing basketball I was the kid that was always out on the court an hour early getting shots up and just getting comfortable with the ball in my hand that day. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more science involved in warming up for a lifting meet and I’m glad my coaches were there to make sure I was doing the right thing.
We snatched first. I really could not wait to get out on the platform for the first time and throw the first snatch. I knew once that was over I would be a lot less anxious. I opened at 62kg (136.4lbs) and hit that. However, that would be the only snatch I hit on the platform all day. I went on to miss 65kg (143lbs – a weight that I hit pretty frequently) and 68kg (149.6lbs – which is right under my 1RM). My snatch is a constant work in progress for me. A year ago, I could not snatch 100lbs. I have made some quality progress since then (which I often forget about), however I’m always looking ahead and I know I have so much more room for improvement.
Luckily, my clean and jerk, although very far from perfect, is a lot stronger and a lift that I am a lot more confident with. I knew it was going to be my savior, so to speak, and in the end it was. After only hitting a 62kg snatch, I knew I needed a 90kg (198lbs) CJ to qualify. I opened with 87kg (191.4lbs) and then threw 90kg on my second attempt. I hit them both and they both felt like it was just another day in the gym lifting. Of course they were not perfect – there were a bunch of technical fixes that would have made the lifts cleaner and easier, but that is something I will continue to work on. For my third attempt I had planned on throwing 93kg (204.6lbs), but after speaking with my coaches, we decided to go for 96kg (211.1kg). A hit at 96kg would win me the meet. I had already qualified for the American Open at this point, so any extra kilos would be a bonus. I flew under the clean and stood up with it, but missed the jerk. In all honesty, this has been the lift I have been replaying in my head over and over since Sunday because it is one that I feel I should have hit, no questions asked. In my head, it was the missed game winner that is hard to stop thinking about – even though, all in all, I did what I ultimately came to do that day.
Moving forward, I am probably going to try and lift in two more meets before the American Open for two reasons; the first being that I need more experience at weightlifting meets (the AO probably shouldn’t be the 2nd meet of my life), and the second reason is that I would like to increase my total, which now sits at 152kg (334.4 lbs). The more it increases the better placing I will have at the AO. I have the ability to do it so I will make it happen.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
OFTEN, ITS MORE THAN JUST EXERCISE
The first part of this post is going to have very little to do with me as a competitive exerciser, and more about the community of exercise that I coach everyday – the CrossFit community in particular. I know it is very cliché at this point that CrossFit is so successful and awesome because it provides a “community atmosphere”. The competitive part of me, the part that treats exercise like a sport where I want to viciously demolish everyone, cannot stand to hear that. However, the part of me that is a real person, an exercise scientist, a personal trainer by profession, and someone who has experienced this amazing community in both my greatest victories and my lowest days cannot deny the fact that THE POWER OF COMMINUTY is stronger than anyone could ever imagine. If this idea intrigues you, here is an amazing book on the subject – some incredible stories and people are between these covers.
This past weekend I competed in a 4 person-COED competition called Flex on the Beach in Long Beach, NY. One of the best run events, and most amazing atmospheres I have competed in to date. We were literally ON THE BEACH, like a few feet from the amazing Atlantic (see pictures). I was teamed up with my boyfriend, and our two good friends (Coach) Dan Tyminski and the pretty Ricklynn Long. We won, and had an awesome time. We have dubbed ourselves the “cohesive unit” and I absolutely love traveling around and exercising with them. But standing atop the podium was definitely not the best part of the day (weird right!). The best part was that I got to see athletes that I coach every day compete for the first time. There were three teams from the gym that I coach at, Cow Harbor CrossFit in East Northport, NY. Basically, for months I begged them to come compete and promised them it would not be that stressful and would be a ton of fun. (It helped that the event offered a post competition pub-crawl included with registration fee) So after some convincing, the 12 of them decided to compete. This was their first competition, but also a first for me. It was the first time I was coaching any of my athletes in a competition setting. The first time in my short CrossFit life that I now got to experience what my coaches experience as far as strategizing, worrying, and going over and over things in my head that I want to tell them.
But after being there, and getting the event underway I realized it really was about more than how my athletes exercised that day (I, myself, am a different story — in my mind it was very much about how I exercised that day). See, I really wanted them to do this event, because I knew it would grant them something way beyond competitive exercise. I knew it would bring them closer together and expose them to the strong emotional bonding that happens at these little exercise events. I knew it would allow them to appreciate their time in the gym everyday, and the people they spend it with even more and motivate them to trust in CrossFit and want to get better everyday.
Once the soreness from competition day and the pub-crawl from that night wore off, my athletes were back in the gym working hard this week. They are excited, motivated, experienced, and closer than ever. They have bonded as a group because they now understand each other on a different level. If you are a CrossFitter and cannot understand this, I suggest you find a local competition and register to compete with a few of your buddies. If you are not a CrossFitter, it is understandable why this may not make total sense to you – and to that I say try the cult out. Age, race, gender, religion and any other social grouping gets thrown out the window when shit gets tough – and as a human the most amazing feeling is fighting a battle with other humans on your side. I will go more into this in a future post.
For those of you interested in the actual exercise portion of the weekend, here were the workouts and my team’s results on each one.
Workout 1: for time
50 Toes to Bar
40 Deadlifts (225/155)
30 Burpee Box Jump Overs
(every teammate performs the whole workout, you cannot move to the next piece until the teammate in front of you is off of that piece)
FINISH TIME: 14:56 (1st)
Workout 2: for total weight
Power clean – Front Squat – Jerk – Back Squat – Jerk
Dan – 315#
Adam – 275#
Nicole – 195#
Riki – 145#
TOTAL WEIGHT: 930# (1st)
**next two workouts done in the sand**
Workout 3: 7 minute AMRAP for 1) total snatches and 2) total carries
Buddy Carry about 30 yards
KB Snatches (24/16)
*while men buddy carry down and back, females snatch, when men get back, females carry and men snatch)
TOTAL SNATCHES: 192 (tie 2nd)
TOTAL CARRIES: 28 (tie 1st)
Workout 4: for time
(Probably the silliest workout I’ve ever done in a competition but it made for some good laughs and heavy breathing – any kind of sand sprints are hard!)
Each team was given one 5 gallon bucket and three very small buckets. There was a garbage pail about 30 yards away. FILL THE PAIL WITH SAND AS FAST AS YOU COULD. Every athlete can only have their hands on one bucket at a time.
FINISH TIME: 2:37 (6th)
Finals Workout: for time
30 yard yolk carry (180/100), everyone must carry a 30 yard length
Then, broken up however you would like amongst the team
40 Muscle Ups
80 Snatches (155/105)
FINISH TIME: 11:14 (1st)
This is my favorite picture from the weekend. It was after we won the final workout.
In other news, I am 4 days out of my American Open qualifier and first weightlifting meet EVER. I am stoked, a little anxious I guess – but really more just excited at the opportunity I have in front of me. I took Monday as a rest day after my competition. I’ve also taken my foot off the gas slightly this week, but have still hit some sweet bar complexes at my opening weights for this weekend. So I’m pretty game day confident. Because I am still an exerciser first, I have kept up with my met-cons, however have dropped some of the weights and reps where appropriate in preparation for Sunday. I’m pumped and so thankful for the coaches I have helping me through this. Hopefully next week I will have some awesome news for you all.
A DIVERTED PIT-STOP
Recently, I made the decision to try and qualify for the American Open. The American Open is a national level weightlifting meet that features the best in the sport and allows them to go head to head to see who can put the most poundage (or kilos I guess) overhead using two different methods: the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. This year it is held in Dallas, TX in early December.
But wait, I thought I was a “Crossfitter”. I am, competitive exercise is currently my sport. However, for the past 6 months-ish I have been following the programming of Rudy Neilsen’s Outlaw Way. This programming is geared toward crossfitters looking to succeed at the regional and games level by putting significant emphasis on the Olympic lifts (Snatch & CJ). The reasoning behind this being that 1) teaching an athlete how to properly perform the olympic lifts teaches them an immense amount of body control, force production, and rapid muscle fiber recruitment – all very valuable in the sport of exercise and 2) many events that we do in competition contain these lifts in some form. Needless to say, following this programming day in and day out I have grown to really appreciate these lifts and have seen significant improvements in my numbers. I have also watched some big names in the CrossFit world like Elisabeth Akinwale and Lindsey Valenuzela have great success in both the sport of exercise and the sport of weightlifting and to me that’s pretty damn cool.
A few weeks ago, on two separate occasions I had some friends who know the sport of weightlifting ask me if I was going to try and qualify for the American Open. I laughed both times and told them I was an exerciser, not a weightlifter. Then, about a week later, after thinking about their comments almost every day I realized how silly I would be to not look into this more. So I did some research and number crunching (by number crunching I mean converting lbs. to kg.) and came up with this:
I weigh 150 pounds which would put me in the 69kg weight class.
My current PB total (snatch and CJ combined) is 355lbs (161.3 kg).
The qualifying total for the 69kg weight class is 152kg or 334.4lbs.
I realized I would never let this escape my mind if I didn’t actually pursue it. I ran it by a few of my coaches and got enthusiastic affirmations from them, which solidified my ideas. So here I am. I am registered for a qualifying meet on September 22nd in my hometown and am pretty stoked. Of course nerves come and go, they always do with me. I think this time they’re here a little more because this is so new to me. I literally have NO IDEA how a weightlifting meet works. I am learning more and more everyday in preparation and I am even starting to finally understand kilos!
For those of you who are unfamiliar (like I was a week ago) with how a weightlifting meet runs I will give you my best rookie rundown. You have 3 attempts at each lift. You must declare an opening weight (first attempt) and then after that can decide what you would like to have on the bar for your second attempt. Ideally I want to hit my openers, then qualify on my second attempts. In the event that I miss my second attempt, I would have my third attempt to try again. The end goal (for me) is to complete two lifts – one Snatch and one CJ – that will combine to equal 152 kilograms. I am still unsure if a singlet is required though.
My workout regiment will change very little in the next two weeks. I will continue to follow the Outlaw Way programming for the most part. Between now and then I have to decide on an “opening weight”. Thankfully I have some great coaches in the sport helping me with this. My conditioning pieces will not change (after all, I am an exerciser first) and my supplemental gymnastics work that I have recently added into my programming because of specific weaknesses will continue. That’s what was one of the coolest parts of this new venture – I am prepared without even knowing it.
However, what I think THE coolest part about this whole sport is: when I step out on that platform, none of this really matters. My current numbers don’t matter. It doesn’t matter if my current total is 50 pounds over what I need to qualify. If I don’t successfully complete the lifts there, that day, I don’t qualify. The gutty performance aspect is there – and I’m always up for that test.
This is going to be a ton of fun.
On a different note — I competed with some awesome people this weekend at the Fall Faceoff in Albany NY. Here is my boyfriend Adam (yeah, were lame and matching), my good friends Riki and Brian, and myself on the podium (Coach Daniel not depicted). We had an awesome podium finish taking home 3rd, and had a hilarious time all weekend.
LIVE UNDER THE BAR
Recently, I’ve been living under the bar. Here is why.
Looking back, I now know I was simply born a competitor. I was born to walk up to a challenge, size it up, look it square in the face, and overcome it. Not just overcome it – but actually demolish it. Then, and only then, am I satisfied. Maybe for the day, maybe for only a few hours – until a new challenge catches my interest and I realize I have the ability to be even better that I thought possible. This is the constant circle diagram that is my life.
Growing up, that diagram was applied to the sport of basketball. I have been a competitive basketball player at high levels my entire life. It started out as a fun game, something that I enjoyed to do, something that I was genetically built for, and it just accidentally became the victim of my competitive nature. I quickly learned this was not a bad thing. I was blessed with some God given athleticism and the will to work hard. I soon learned how to apply them to my competitive nature and my need to be successful so I could use it to my advantage.
After 16 years of basketball and four years of playing at the division 1 level for a mid-major college some fire in me was gone. I was still competitive, but the fun had minimized significantly and I knew my passion flame was starting to shrink. Add two knee surgeries into the mix, one that cost me my ENTIRE left meniscus (the protective cushion in the joint) and the knee pain just wasn’t worth the game anymore. I never desired to play overseas professionally or walk into a WNBA tryout; I was almost ready to walk away from being a competitor.
Then I found the bar. And started to live under it.
I was introduced to CrossFit (I will refer to it often as competitive exercise) accidentally. I didn’t think much of it – I thought it would be a cool way to stay in shape in my retired basketball days. But… naturally it didn’t take long for me to realize I needed to improve in many things and had the ability to be able to compete with some of the best one day if I worked hard – there is my competitive nature. Insert aforementioned circle diagram of Nicole’s life here. So now here I am, under the bar. Same story, different sport. Where I use to walk around dribbling my Rock with a huge smile on my face, I am now swinging kettlebells and flying under barbells with that same huge smile. I could not be happier or more excited.
My passion is back; my excitement to get up everyday and get better at something has returned. I have found something that is FUN again! The idea of “getting back in the lab and working” as I use to refer to my time on the basketball court is present everyday now. But instead I am in a gym laced with rigs, rings, bumpers, and barbells. Instead of analyzing my exact thumb and elbow placement on my 3-point shot and then heading over to the court to take 300 of them the right way; I am now watching endless videos of bar track and footwork on my Olympic lifts, or my hip explosion and body awareness in my gymnastics movements – only to head over to the gym and get a ton of reps in right.
I’m still getting use to this, still trying to fit in – until I accidentally wear my basketball shorts to do “Fran” or start to follow through on wall balls and realize I am probably always going to be a baller at heart. Something I am now okay with.
Living under the bar has been so amazing because it re-ignited in me something I thought I could never feel again. It has brought me back some of my favorite feelings – hard work, pressure, challenge, victory, accomplishment, excitement, approval and satisfaction. Just like before, every day I want to be better. I want to perfect my craft. Then I want to walk out in front of as many people as I can, poised and confident, and perform. I want to show them the fruits of my labor in hopes they will then understand dedication and heart and apply it to their own lives.
Living under the bar, or on top of the rings, isn’t easy. I don’t want it to ever be easy. Basketball was never easy. Life is never easy. That’s the great part about all of this though. It is a perfect lesson in walking up to something difficult, sizing it up and down, looking it straight in the face, and overcoming it. Not just overcoming it – but demolishing it.
Follow me as I continue to live under the bar… with a huge smile on.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at: