“Don’t Get Too High, Don’t Get Too Low” I laugh whenever I say this to myself in my head (which actually happens a lot more than you would expect) because it was something my college coach would always say. When you are a player listening to your coach repeat some silly saying like that it almost becomes comical. But then you turn around a few years later and it is so ingrained in your head, and the meaning of the phrase so clearly understood by your brain, that it is actually useful. I mean, I got it eventually – that’s good right?
This past week I found myself repeating this more than usual. Saturday I lifted in a weightlifting meet – so the week leading up to it I was pretty focused on things going smoothly and feeling comfortable under the barbell. The weekend before the meet, on Friday, I had a nice looking snatch PR (a huge breakthrough for me). Then, on that Saturday, I PR’d my clean (and actually hit it twice within about 5 or 6 minutes). Sunday I rested. That Monday I hit a 15# hang snatch PR that might have been my best technical lift to date. DON’T GET TOO HIGH. Tuesday I hit a 200# clean (from the hang) and jerk – that ties my hang clean and jerk PR. I missed the 205# clean terribly, and then could not clean 200# from the floor. I threw about 4 attempts. I actually even threw 185# to try and get mentally comfortable and missed that as well. I was just a mess, so I walked away from the bar before I got in my own head any more. DON’T GET TOO LOW. I wanted soooooo bad to go back to the gym that night and clean a little more just to get my mind right. I’m actually amazed at the will power I was able to muster up to just rest and let it go. Wednesday I went back in the gym and threw my openers – 64kg (140lb) Snatch and 91kg (200lb) Clean & Jerk – three times each. I went three for three on both lifts and was feeling all back to normal. I was actually more satisfied that I was able to come back after such a yucky feeling the day before than the fact that I actually hit all my lifts. DON’T GET TOO HIGH. Thursday was a rest day and Friday I headed down to my coach’s gym where I threw a few more lifts in front of him before we headed to Lancaster, PA for the Saturday meet.
This week of ups and downs left me thinking about how much fun this (weightlifting) actually is. See, I don’t experience this in CrossFit as much because in that arena I can just work a little harder, or push myself to move a little faster and my “bad day” can usually turn around pretty quick. In weightlifting, as much as you want to have a good day every time you touch the bar, technicalities and mental blocks often find their way in. As I have mentioned before, I have some experience with this because of my background as a “shooter” playing basketball. I have grown into the idea of never basing my practice or warm up performance on how my game performance will be. This is because I never wanted to start a game thinking “Oh crap, I’m off today”. If I was shooting good or bad in practice all week, I would expect to have a good shooting game. I tried (usually pretty successfully) to never let it get in my brain. Every shot was a new shot – and one I was going to hit. This is how I have been approaching lifting lately, without even doing it on purpose. Every lift is a new lift – and one I am going to nail. “GREAT SHOOTERS HAVE SHORT MEMORIES” is one of my favorite quotes, and I think it directly applies to weightlifting as well.
Saturday I was antsy as usual on game day. My teammate had the early morning session so I was able to watch her and try and keep myself occupied. My session was next and I was excited to snatch (strangely) because I wanted to display all the great snatch progress I had made the past week. I started warming up and was catching everything where I liked it (one of my main issues is I don’t usually catch the bar where I can stabilize it) but kept falling to my knees (something that I actually don’t do often). I was doing this at weights that I can hit pretty effortlessly. I was trying my best not to get too frustrated about it, but I couldn’t help it completely. DON’T GET TOO LOW. My coach then had me power snatch the weight to get it over my head and comfortable on my feet. It flew up and felt like a PVC pipe. I did that a few more times and we decided I would power snatch on the platform that day. Pretty hilarious, but a great strategy on his part. It allowed me to stay confident and not be so concerned with my bottom catch position. I ended up going 3 for 3 on the snatch hitting 64kg (140lb), 67kg (147lb), and 70kg (154lb) – all from the power position. That was a 15# power snatch PR and it actually felt pretty light. DON’T GET TOO HIGH.
The clean & jerk was next and this is usually the money maker for me. This is where I’m most comfortable. Warming up I felt pretty good, I was just trying to stay focused and consistent. I was opening at 91kg (200lb) which is pretty high for me, but I had big plans for my CJ that day. I went out and hit it – the clean was a little sloppy but the jerk felt amazing. That was good. My next lift was at 95kg (209lb). My current clean and jerk PR is 205lbs but I was actually pretty confident throwing this number and knew I was able to hit it. I cleaned it nicely but then let the jerk get out in front of me a little. However, I knew what I had done wrong and knew I would be able to hit the lift. My next lift was at 96kg (211lb). This 96kg was the jerk I failed on at my first meet. I went out there and did almost the exact same thing. My clean was nice, but just left the jerk out in front of me a little too much – I struggled some to save it but was unable to. I must have watched the video of my 96kg lift about 57 times. Before this post actually gets published I will probably watch it another 16 times. It actually has played with my head a little bit because twice I have missed the same jerk on the platform when both times I should have hit it. DON’T GET TOO LOW.
Overall, I came in 1st in my weight class in the Gold Cup Challenge hosted by East Coast Gold Weightlifting Club. I also added 9kg onto my total from my first meet. That puts my total at 161kg (354lb) in the 69kg (151lb) lifter weight class. That total now qualifies me for nationals and hopefully is a good enough total to make an A session at the American Open in December. That is the big show and the day I will hit that 96kg CJ on the platform. I know what I need to fix and work on and that is really the whole point of getting some experience at these meets. This is why I try and remember to never get too high or too low about a previous performance because every second is a new one. I’ve had a short memory my whole life with the rock in my hand, the bar is not so different.
This past week my training volume was turned up a little bit because I don’t have any competitions or meets scheduled in the near future. This has been a lot of fun for me because I actually enjoy working on my weaknesses and seeing improvement. In all honestly this might have been one of the most fun training weeks I have had in a long time. In next week’s post I will go more in depth about my actual training program and what I am focusing on to make me a more successful athlete.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
I am an only child. But there are people that have come into my life that have made me understand that the term “brother or sister” means a whole lot more than the fact that you were birthed from the same parents. There are a select few people that I actually consider a sibling because of the amazing impact they have had on my life and the fact that since the day they walked into my life I have understood that they will always be there when I need them just like “real siblings” would be.
My big sister, Clare Droesch, is one of those people. If you have never heard that name before, I suggest you open a new tab on your computer or smart phone/device and type her name into Google. But, please come back and finish reading this, because with everything you find on her, you might get distracted. Clare was one of the greatest basketball players to come out of New York, ever. She went to Christ the King HS in Queens, and played college ball at Boston College where she led her team to a Big East Championship over the always powerful UConn. She then went on to play pro ball in Portugal. She was a BALLER – straight up scorer, spicy attitude, lights out shooter, stud of a baller. We met when she was in college and I was a 13 year old little snot at sleep away basketball camp. I knew nothing about her before then, but she was my camp coach and I had a ton of fun that week. We ended up winning the camp championship (we called it the National Championship) which we both never got over because that is how much of sore winners we both are. I was never the kid that would lay low, I was always finding my way into trouble somehow. That year at camp I hid in my buddies room during room check because I wanted to hang out past curfew. I came to find out later that pretty much the entire camp was on lock down looking for me – whoops. I think little things like that is what drew Clare and I together, because after hearing some of her war stories later on, the hiding in the room incident was nothing.
From then on Clare and I kept in touch. She even ended up coaching my AAU team for a few summers. I wanted to be like her more and more. I wanted to be the bad ass hoop star she was, I wanted to shoot like her, I wanted to win like her – she was SO GOOD at winning. One of the biggest compliments I would get was when someone would refer to me as “baby Clare” or something of that nature. I started to pick up some of her court swag and that’s where the sister thing started.
As I got older, we became even closer. When the time came where I was being recruited and trying to figure out where I wanted to play college ball, Clare was always right by my side to give me advice and share her experiences with me in order to make my recruiting process a little less stressful. I will never forget the time I called her about a day or two after my ACL reconstruction surgery – one of the worst times of my life. It happened right before playoffs my junior year in high school. For all you non-ballers, that is PRIME TIME recruiting season. Junior summer is show off time if you want to play high level collegiate ball. Instead of getting ready for that, I was home. I was immobile, in a huge brace, terrified, depressed, crushed – I just wanted to play ball and undo the awful night I went down. I felt like life wasn’t fair and I was going to lose everything I had worked so hard for up to that point. I called her because I was sure no one else would understand how I felt. We talked for a little, I cried to her, she listened and understood. But before we hung up she assured me this would all be okay eventually. She said I would bounce back, that my dream of playing ball in college was still going to be a reality soon, and I would just have to work that much harder to prove to everyone that I could come back strong. Basically, she told me it was time to put in work. She made sense to me, or knocked some sense into me. I ended up proving her right. All was okay in the end. I will never forget that little conversation. I even remember where I was sitting in my house when I was on the phone. This is just an example of the bond we had and always will have. That’s my sister.
Another phone conversation I will never forget with Clare is the one no one EVER wants to have with someone they love. I was on the road headed to play an away game. It was early January of 2012. She called, as she would sometimes the day before I played. But this time she wasn’t calling to tell me to kill it out there or to do my thing. She called me with the crushing news that she had stage 4 breast cancer. At the age of 29. WHAAAAT?! There were tumors in her spine and hips and she was talking about chemo and surgeries and treatment programs. To make the situation even more difficult, Clare was employed without health coverage, and cancer treatment is by no means affordable. (Thank god the community banded together – like it always seems to do in times of tragedy – and setup a donation fund for her. I will include the link at the bottom.) I tried to offer the same comfort and support that she provided years back when I called upset about my injury (something that was so minuscule in comparison to this) but I was caught off guard for a few reasons. 1) No one ever expects to get that call 2) I couldn’t really come to terms with it and 3) She seemed SO DAMN POSITIVE for someone who was talking about their own cancer, it made no sense to me! But that was and still is Clare through all of this. All I could offer were similar words she had offered me years ago. I told her to work as hard as she could and to fight like hell to defend herself against this disease. She promised she would keep her head up and keep a smile on her face, and not succumb to the cancer. She has been a fighter beyond what I ever thought possible in someone in her situation. If she wasn’t already one of my biggest inspirations, this put the icing on the cake.
My college coach knew how much she meant to me as well as the entire college basketball world. She allowed me to put together a fund raiser and honor her at one of our home games. We wore pink and we warmed up in CRUSH CLARE’S CANCER tee shirts to honor my big sister and the strongest person I know. Every time I stepped foot on the court from then on it was for her. I knew Clare loved nothing more then being on the court doing her thing; and I also knew the sad reality was that I did not know how much longer my big sister would be only a phone call away.
That was the beginning of 2012. In October of 2012, my basketball life was over and I was now ankles deep in the CrossFit world. BARBELLS FOR BOOBS was coming to my gym! I was so excited because all I could think about was my big sister still fighting her battle, and winning. I taped a picture of her up on our wall that day. I did my first Grace, (30 Clean and Jerks for time at 95#) the standard BB4B workout, in 2:29. After, I didn’t feel like I had exercised enough, so I did Grace again but at the men’s weight (135#) this time, finishing in 6:38.
It’s now October of 2013. December will mark two years that Clare has been fighting this awful disease – great news is she is still winning. Unbelievably. She has been through weeks and weeks of chemo and a countless number of surgeries and procedures. Her spirit is incredible and every time I talk to her I am reminded of her strength and how I have never ever EVER met anyone stronger than her. This year I participated in Barbells for Boobs again. Over the past year, I have been getting stronger everyday in the gym; just like Clare has been getting stronger everyday fighting cancer. To honor this, I upped the weight of Grace just a little more. This year I used 155# and finished in 7:14. I rocked my I WEAR PINK FOR MY SISTER shirt as I always do.
After I had time to reflect on the day and what it actually meant to me I was almost brought to tears. I see amazing feats of strength displayed everyday by a lot of amazing athletes. However, none have been as impressive as the strength displayed by my big sister. Every time I lift, I do it for her. I wish I could lift the burden that has been placed on her, but that is just unrealistic. So instead I will continue to just try and be like her, as I have since I was young. The ability to display incredible acts of strength and determination daily, to keep my head up no matter what limits life pushes me to, and to always keep a smile on my face because someone is out there busy being stronger than you or fighting a bigger battle – those are life lessons my sister has taught me. I love you sis ! 🙂
Here is the link for Clare’s donation fund. Scroll down to where it says “Crushing Cancer Fund for Clare” and you will find the button to donate from. If you are able, any contribution would be greatly appreciated by myself as well as Clare and her family. We can all help her fight. TEAM CLARE.
Changing gears here, this coming weekend I am lifting in a Weightlifting meet in Lancaster, PA on Saturday. Apparently it is a much bigger meet than the first one I did and I know some great athletes that are attending. My strength and conditioning coach from college is actually competing alongside me, so I am pretty pumped for that! I am looking to up my total before the American Open (which now sits at 152kg) as well as get some more experience on the platform. This past week of training has brought some crazy ups and downs actually, but I am pretty content with the way I have handled it (more on that in my next post). I will be back next week with an update from Lancaster!
Photo Credits in this post go to the amazing Shaun “Super” Cleary. Check out his work here!
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
A huge part of what I do, both professionally and athletically relies upon one of the most important aspects of life – nutrition – how we are fueled day to day. Almost everyday someone asks me “How do you eat?” or something along those lines. (I try not to get offended by the fact that they think my physique, or exercising ability, is totally reliant on my diet and has nothing to do with how much weight I put overhead on a weekly basis. No one ever looks at me and says “How much weight do you put over your head and how often?” Which would be the question I would prefer.)
Anyway, I have grown accustomed to the “how do you eat?” question. I’ve grown so accustomed to it that it’s normal now. I have come to the conclusion that people are actually curious about how I fuel my body – probably because there are so many “great diets” and “proven theories” on how a human should consume food. People want to do the right thing by themselves but are clearly confused – and rightfully so. I am going to dedicate this blog post to explaining how I fuel my body and keep it moving day to day. Before I even start though, I have to make it perfectly clear that 1) I am not a nutritionist (however I am currently studying for my Precision Nutrition certification) and 2) everyone’s body will respond differently to different things, there is no cookie cutter approach to eating. Trial and error my friends.
When I originally heard about CrossFit (the cult!!!), I learned about “Paleo” for the first time. I was curious. Working on an exercise science degree in the classroom then, I knew there was something to this idea that what we put in our bodies will directly affect 1) how we perform, 2) how we feel, and of course 3) how we look. I figured I would give it a try. I was a college senior, mid basketball season, traveling around the country hooping it up. Anyone who has any experience with paleo knows that this would not be an ideal situation or the best time for me to “start”, but I am me – so I did anyway. I didn’t know any better. Needless to say, I wasn’t eating “100% paleo”. However I became more aware of how I was fueling my body and was trying to make some changes where and when I was able to. For me, the biggest issue was that I was eating too much grain. I tried to simply limit that along with the pointless sugars that I was normally consuming on a daily basis.
When I finally joined a CrossFit gym in May of 2012, I did my first and only “30 day Paleo challenge” to date. I didn’t cheat for 30 days and saw amazing results. I leaned out, had more energy, and knew this Paleo thing had something too it. Whenever newbies come into our doors and ask me what the key to success is in CrossFit, I explain that early on nutrition really is the key. I then go on to explain “paleo in a nutshell” and try and use the actual word PALEO as little as possible. I want people to look at this as a way they should revamp their everyday eating to make them a healthier individual, not as a labeled diet they are “trying”. As much as I love exercise, I do believe that our daily input runs the show. Please remember that most people I discuss nutrition with are normal, everyday people looking to lose some extra body fat or “see some abs” (I get that one a lot, it always makes me giggle). They are not athletes in training or competitive exercisers. My point in saying this is that the daily energy expenditure of these people, although greater than most of the American population simply due to the fact that they are showing up to the gym 3-5 times a week, is significantly lower than myself. Remember, the reason for eating is to support our energy levels. Therefore, my daily intake should look different than theirs, because my daily energy expenditure is completely different than theirs.
I have, through trial and error, adapted my diet to support my daily training regimen. The basis of my diet is in fact “Paleo”, but I’m no stranger to non-Paleo friendly foods like peanut butter, whole milk, tortilla chips, and even a weekend full of cheat meals. I keep my weekly diet as clean as possible, and kind of boring. I balance my carbohydrates, proteins, and fats appropriately. I drink protein shakes. However, I listen to my body. If I am not feeling “myself”, I have become pretty good at knowing why and I am usually able to fix it with a food adjustment. Sometimes it could be that I just need some quick acting sugars (M&Ms!), sometimes it is that I need an extra avocado in the day. Bottom line is, it’s not PALEO OR DIE. I don’t beat myself up trying to follow one idea of food intake. I know my body needs other things sometimes, things that are (oh no!!) not Paleo (gasp!). But, Dr. Lorin Cordain’s description of optimal food intake is definitely the best I have came across yet.
I guess the more helpful way for me to paint a clear picture of my diet would be for me to list out what a pretty typical day of eating looks like for me. Here it is:
2 whole eggs + 2-3 egg white omelet with spinach, half sweet potato, half avocado
Some kind of lean protein (chicken or turkey burgers are my favorite) with whatever kind of seasoning/sauce I want that day
As much green veggies as I think it would take to fill me up – cooked in a pretty good amount of olive oil – favorites are broccoli, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts
Half sweet potato
Identical to the first lunch but usually no sweet potato or avocado here. Just meat and veggies.
Identical to lunch except usually fish or red meat depending on the day.
I drink a Recovery shake after my workout(s) that contains protein, glutamine, creatine, and BCAAs among other things. I drink 1-2 cups of coffee a day with either almond milk or whole milk. I snack on things like Quest bars, peanut butter, tortilla chips/salsa or a chocolate bar – really no more than two snacks per day. As far as alcohol consumption, I average about a glass of wine a week.
My weekends are usually not like this at all. I take two days (Saturday and Sunday is just most convenient) and I basically “eat whatever I want”. I still always try and start the day with the above listed breakfast but throughout the day I load up on some pretty fast acting carbs, get really happy that I’m eating ice cream and having a burger, and then I’m ready to get back at my regular routine on Monday. On weekends where I am competing, I go all out . I tend to end up eating everything and anything in sight because that is how depleted my body is.
This is just what works for me. It’s the least stressful, it’s organized and regimented. I feel good doing it. I like the way I exercise under this system. My body is responding well to it. There are a million other eating approaches that have been very successful for a lot of my peers. Everyone has their own system, that’s what is so cool. Personally, I have tried Zone (I found it to be too much work for someone like me – I’m not down with weighing and measuring food, I was getting frustrated). I have attempted to try Carb Back Loading – the idea sounded great to me, but after a few days of housing half a pack of Oreo’s before I went to bed and feeling not so great after it, I stopped. But, I’m pretty sure I was really not doing it correctly because the science behind CBL actually makes some sense. I know people that have had great success on both of those methods and love them. Again, everyone is different.
My overall advice is to remember that food is fuel. Every time I put something in my body I understand that I am giving my body gas to run on, just like filling up a motor vehicle. The bulk of my intake is clean, nutrient dense foods that will keep me feeling strong and moving well, however life is always good with some chocolate chip cookies thrown into the mix!
Looking ahead, I am competing at Beast of the East this weekend in Connecticut with the same team that took first place at Flex on the Beach a few weeks ago – the mighty “Cohesive Unit” aka the Blue Barracudas. I’m excited, any weekend with them is a fun one. Plus the workouts are going to be freaking awesome. Updates on that next week !
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at: