THE ABILITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Almost everyday I catch myself trying to “measure my success” in some form. Whether it is trying to match or best a PR lift, comparing my conditioning pieces with my teammates or other athletes, or correcting technical mistakes in movements that need to be precisely efficient – I “measure success” numerous times a day. Although all that stuff is all well and good, and it feels amazing when I realize I gain some small successes daily, I have recently been reflecting more on what success actually means to me in my life. Due to the nature of my job I am in close contact with so many different people on a daily basis. This is one of my favorite aspects of what I do. I love being able to make a difference in people’s lives. This week – while one of my clients was overhead squatting a PVC pipe – it hit me. The biggest success I could ever measure in my life, is my ability to make a difference in the life of someone else. Don’t get me wrong, my personal exercise successes are very important to me. But there is no better feeling of success than looking at someone and knowing you have made a difference in their lives. The following 3 examples are some of my greatest “successes” – because I don’t want to make this post 10 pages long, I am limiting it to 3. However, the list can go on and on.
The first is one of my clients at Equinox. He is in his late 60s and was a former collegiate basketball player, active all his life. In good health, aside from some aches and pains that come from being active. When I first got a hold of him he was exercising regularly and was excited about it. However I realized quickly that he was often uncomfortable and in pain because he had some issues that needed to be addressed. He was severely inflexible in both his thoracic spine and hips. One of my favorite measures of flexibility for both of these areas is the overhead squat. His OHS had became my little project. I knew if I could correct his OHS, that would mean that his underlying issues would be corrected as well – making his movement patterns, and life, easier and more comfortable. I’ve been training him almost a year now. A year of implementing many repetitive, boring, yet very essential drills and exercises into his weekly program. Month by month, I’ve watched him get more mobile, and be able to get stronger because he was getting more mobile. He’s completed a mini triathlon in this year, has regained confidence in his ability to move comfortably, has explained how much better he feels while being recreationally active in areas like shooting a basketball and swimming laps. One of my biggest lightbulb moments with him was when he explained to me one day “It was raining last night, and the dumpster to my house is about 40 yards away. I had to throw three bags of garbage out and without hesitation I threw my coat on, grabbed the bags, jogged to the dumpster, discarded them, and then jogged back. Only when I got back inside did I realize how awesome it felt to be able to do that.” The funny thing is that only after that statement did I realize the difference I was making in his life. Oh, and this week, for the first time in the year we have been working together – his OHS looked like this.
Pretty damn awesome.
The second success was completely a team effort. This man is a member at the CrossFit gym that I coach at. He came into the first day of “foundations” which is our introductory classes and – no exaggeration – could not do a sit-up. He was incredibly overweight and out of shape and was almost in shock that he let himself get that way. In fact the only way to get him to perform a sit-up was for me to keep a 45lb plate on his feet while he attempted one. However, he bought into what we were doing 100% – from the day he walked in. He came religiously, and started to eat the way we were encouraging him too. In his first month in the gym, he had lost 30lbs. I’m not sure if you have ever done a workout with a weight vest on? But 30lbs is ALOT of extra weight to be moving around. Currently, he has lost close to 80lbs. He can do sit-ups with ease, he can do pull-ups, running and box jumps are no problem for him. I was there this weekend as he competed in a small local CrossFit competition alongside his college-aged daughter who also has a similar story to his. This man is special, and when I watch him I know his success has little to do with me and everything to do with himself. However, there is that old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force them to drink”. That saying directly applies to this situation for me. I understand that I have the ability to lead my horses to water – to show them a better life for themselves when they are unsure if it is possible. I am proud to watch him in the gym everyday with a smile on his face because I know it represents a greater, new-found happiness in his life and in himself. He feels great about himself and in turn has caused me to feel successful to have the ability to make a difference in his life.
My third “success” is probably my biggest, constant, work in progress. When I first started training this woman she was literally the weakest person I have ever trained. We started with half hour sessions because she could not physically take an hour. The interesting thing was this woman was a busy, strong, mother of two. One of the children, a 4 year old on the Asbergers/autism spectrum, requires 100% of her effort and attention. She is one of the most amazing mothers I have been in contact with – spending countless hours making sure her son gets the help and assistance he needs at this crucial time in his development. When we first started training together she was wildly distracted, would get nervous to exercise, would present soreness and pain very easily because of her lack of strength, and just didn’t feel good about herself in general. She would cancel very often and had a clear anxiety about being in the gym, because she had so much going on in her life. It was hard for her to put everything on hold to spend time on herself. In a matter of about a year I have seen a massive change in her. We still have a long way to go but she is actually at the point where she enjoys exercising, she has gotten stronger both physically and mentally because of it. On numerous occasions she has expressed how she can now handle all the stresses in her life because of her ability to release stress in the gym. She feels her life is easier simply because she is on an exercise schedule which provides a little bit of “me time” for her each week. She now realizes the importance and necessity of taking care of yourself before you can ever take care of others. She is in no way spectacularly fit or strong, however I look at her as one of my biggest measures of success because of the progress she has had. I know the difference that exercise has made in her life and when I look at her, I am constantly reminded of my ability to make some kind of a difference in the lives of others.
I am two weeks out of the American Open and could not be more excited. My training has been still following a CrossFit style template, however as usual, there has been some extra weightlifting thrown in there to keep me moving well before the AO. I am spending some time at my coaches gym this week getting some last minute fixes and adjustments in before the big meet. I found out last week that it seems I will compete in the A session as a 63k lifter meaning I will lift on Sunday on the single platform (this was the goal all along). I PR’d my clean and jerk this past week as well as hit 90% of my max snatch twice – two things I feel real good about weeks out from the biggest weightlifting meet of my life. I’m stoked and ready. This is the first big showing of my rookie year as an exerciser.
Oh, coach and I were able to get some snatching in with the boys from the Georgetown Strength & Conditioning staff this week. They were awesome and it was a ton of fun. Hopefully I will be hanging around, coaching and lifting with them more often.
My second stop in two days on my DC college tour was to hang with one of my all time favorite coaches and greatest people out there – my former assistant coach at Hofstra, Bill Ferrara. This is Megan Nipe (his current #22 lights out shooter), Bill throwing the deuces up, and I (his former #22 lights out shooter) all hanging after their practice. Shout out to him for letting me post my blog on his office computer (apologies for the lateness of it!)
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
TAKE REFUGE IN MOTIVATION
“With the new day, comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
This week seemingly flew by for me in a whirlwind of events – for many different reasons. These reasons have occurred in both my personal life as well as my athletic life (included in detail later in this post) that have unsettled me slightly. However, through it all I have found this amazing, almost breathtaking motivation to get up every day and go after what I want even harder and stronger than the day before. Motivation is a funny thing. It can come from amazing, inspirational avenues like great people or incredible events. However, sometimes the best motivation is the kind that comes in the midst of insecurity and uneasiness. I’ve found this is a pattern in my life. When stress introduces itself, I have about three bones in my body that want to run for cover. The rest want to go out there and do the best work they have ever done. I find when things get confusing and rough patches make their way onto my path, the easiest way for me to handle it is to get lost in myself and lost in my craft. The motivation to latch on to what you love and what you trust fully – yourself – and succeed because you know you deserve to. Originally, it had been basketball. I became the player and shooter I was only after I tore my ACL. My best games and practices would come smack in the middle of some sort of chaos going on in my life. Whenever I felt uncomfortable, upset, uneasy, or scared, all I wanted was to be on some empty court with the ball in my hands getting shots up methodically. Since I have been competing in exercise, it has served as that outlet. When I start to experience those feelings because of life’s ride, I want to camp out in the gym. I want to keep my hands on a barbell and keep moving until I can’t breathe. I use the negativity as motivation and take refuge in the things I trust will always be there for me. This week I have felt so driven and focused in the gym. My new found strength and new found motivation have almost taken me by surprise. I’ve trained with a chip on my shoulder like I just lost a game by 30 points on my home court. Where some people would use the word “distraction” to describe unsettling events, I like motivation. I have dealt with some sudden changes that probably should have knocked me off my feet, but instead have sent me sprinting like a lion – hungry as ever, focused beyond measure. In the end, I always turn to what makes me comfortable. I find comfort in the motivation to make myself better every day, both as a person and an athlete.
Last weekend I experienced my first weightlifting debacle in the short career I have started here. Of course I was highly disappointed in myself, so much so that I actually thought about not even writing about it. I realized however, that would mean I wasn’t actually facing it and was almost trying to pretend like it never happened. That would be detrimental to my ability to learn and grow from the mishap. It would take away from the entire experience.
Two weeks ago, my coaches and I made a decision to have me lift as a 63kg lifter at the American Open in December. Remember, I have already qualified for the AO as a 69kg lifter. However, looking at the numbers, we made the assessment that I would probably have better success as a 63kg and would be able to get there if I was diligent about it. At the time, I was at a body weight of about 67-68kg. There was a last chance meet on Nov. 10th that I decided I would cut to 63kg for, lift at, qualify for the AO again in another weight class, and then register for the AO as a 63kg lifter. Plans are only plans until they are executed.
I spent most of my energy in the two weeks leading up to the meet trying to understand how to cut weight and getting more in tune with how my body functions in that regard. I had never done anything like this before. I never get on a scale unless I’m at a doctor’s office. Although I eat relatively well, I don’t monitor portions or time of day in which I eat – when I am hungry, I eat. That all changed. I became a consumption machine, eating specific portions of specific foods at specific times. Drinking water on a schedule. I spent most of the two weeks uncomfortable, just because my eating routine had changed and my body was a little thrown off. I have to be honest, I doubted my coaches a few times during those two weeks. I really didn’t think the weight loss was going to be possible. However, I did what they said and I was very slowly cutting weight and I felt like I was still lifting normally. The only physical difference I could feel was the fact that a couple minutes into my met cons I was getting easily fatigued. Most likely from the cut in high energy food consumption. Other than that I was staying positive and on track. I hit my openers with no problems the week before the meet as I usually do. Things were going according to plan.
After all the worrying I end up weighing in at 62.8kg, exactly where I wanted to be. No, I didn’t feel 100%, but I was excited to lift and finish through with the game plan we had put in place. I was opening with a 69k (151.8lb) snatch – this is usually money for me. However, a little technical mishap went down during my first pull and I ended up leaving the bar out in front of me a little too much. I hit 70k (154lbs) next, but missed 73k (160lbs), which was heavy – but something I could have stuck easily. Good news was that all I had to do was hit my first clean and jerk and I would successfully qualify for the AO – again. Bad news is that the same technical issue that happened in the first pull of my first snatch happened on my 91k (200.2lbs) clean opener, and then again at 92k (202.4lbs). I fixed it nicely on my third and final attempt at 95k (209lbs) – all I had to do was stick the jerk. I didn’t. I went 0 for 3 on my clean & jerks for the day, leaving me with no total to qualify for the Open as a 63k lifter. Although the plan was in place and perfectly set for me, my execution that day was off and so the plan could not unfold. Yes, not ideal – but I will work with it. I will switch weight classes down to 63kg when I arrive at the American Open in a few weeks. It is possible that my current total may qualify for an A session, however it is very unlikely. A or B really does not matter at this point. It is what it is. I just need to hunt the podium down from wherever I stand that day.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
“BUT, I DON’T WANT TO GET BULKY” …..ugh.
I have been toying around with content ideas for this weeks post for a few days now. My main focus this week has been on two things – my weightlifting and my food intake – for reasons I will explain in as much detail as possible for you all next week. However, my weirdish superstitious brain does not want to jinx anything, therefore I refuse to report on it preemptively.
This put me in a little dilemma; almost a writers block. Then, this morning I came across an article that I have since read twice. It could not be more perfect. I actually am a little jealous that I didn’t write something this spot on and perfect. The article is written by Alli Moyer. It is one of the many articles explaining “Why Women Should Lift”. I have read a countless number of these in the past year, however, this one was different to me. It caught and held my attention. I actually sat at my gyms computer for about 30 minutes trying to get the printer (which NEVER works) to work so that I could print one out and hand it to each of our female members. For one, Alli Moyer is an established figure competitor. This means her sport and my sport could not be more different. Our exercise routines to prep for competition would look like night and day when compared. We have completely different goals, our success is judged on completely different aspects of fitness. However, like I said, if you asked my opinion on the subject of women lifting weight to be more healthy (instead of being a “cardio rat”), my answer would be IDENTICAL to hers. She doesn’t approach the topic of “strong women” in a feminist, “strong is the new skinny” way that actually makes me want to puke and is pretty embarrassing in my opinion. She approaches it like the exercise professional she is. She explains, in layman’s terms, the science that all of your educated strength and conditioning coaches and exercise professionals know and are trying to relay to you. Enough of me explaining the article. I am going to let you read it yourself. READ THE ENTIRE THING. Clear your mind. Educate yourself. And trust that WE, your exercise scientists, know what we are talking about.
Allison Moyer: Why Women Need to Strength Train
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
WHAT WOULD SHE THINK?
This past week I have came across a quote, in which every time I read it, it leaves me pausing for a few minutes and actually thinking about what it is asking.
“If the 10 year old you could see you now, what would he/she think?”
Coincidentally, I celebrated another year of my life this past week as well. Around my birthday I always find myself reflecting back on where I have come as I can always clearly remember where I was in previous years. Often, the days and weeks pass me by pretty quickly. I have a busy schedule between training my clients, coaching at the gym, and exercising myself – it is sometimes hard to really live in the moment and step away from myself to see how my life has transpired over the years. I felt like my birthday week blog post would be a great opportunity to do this.
At 10, I wanted nothing more than to be a successful athlete. I was the definition of tom boy and a gym rat. Dresses and dress shoes were not an option. If I wasn’t running around like a wild woman in some basketball shorts and sneakers, I was not happy. Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird were my biggest idols and I imagined myself to be better than them one day. I looked up to hard working female athletes like that. They were on the biggest stage, hundreds of people watching them and following their story, and they were winning. If you know anything about Taurasi and Bird, you know they also always had smiles on their faces while being total bad-asses. They were clearly having a ton of fun and loving every minute of what they were doing. That was where I imagined myself. If you asked me at 10, what I wanted to be doing at 23, I would probably say playing in the WNBA after being an all-american at UConn – my face all over ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Believe it or not, at 10, that was what I worked for day in and day out. That was athletically. Professionally, (or what is I guess considered professionally at 10) I wanted to be the smartest person in the room. ALWAYS. Growing up, my mother was consistently a stickler about my school work. She always was, and still is, one of the smartest and hardest working women I knew. I expected to grow up to be nothing less than her. I knew how much she appreciated and supported my athletic endeavors but I also knew she cared about my academic endeavors a whole lot more. She set my mentality at an early age that it was cool to do well in school and get good grades. High standards were set for me early, so I had high standards for myself. I was always reading a book. I would come home and get my homework done before I did anything else. I took pride in getting the highest grades in my class (this fed into my natural competitiveness perfectly). I’m pretty sure at 10 I would still tell people I wanted to be a veterinarian. At about 12-13 I think it changed to “a doctor”. Then at about 15 it changed to “I want to own my own gym and help overweight children”. Through all of these aspirations, I just wanted to have fun. As soon as something stopped being fun, I stopped doing it.
Thinking about all of that – then taking a minute to look at my life now – things didn’t all end up as I had planned. No, I am not exactly who I imagined I would be. I wore a Hofstra jersey my entire collegiate career (very very proudly) instead of a Connecticut one. (However, we did play at Storrs my sophomore year which I know the 10 year old in me would have been in awe about.) I never made it to the WNBA, my life and mind went in a different direction. I never became a veterinarian or a doctor because frankly I had no desire to be in school anymore. However, I regret none of that, nor do I wish any of that had happened. I am confident 10 year old me would think I am pretty cool just the way I am, and that makes me happy. It makes me want to keep making a life that would make her proud. Currently, I am able to wear exercise clothes 90% of the time. I am still the definition of a gym rat. I am fortunate enough to be able to make a living off of helping people be more active and a healthier, stronger version of themselves. I made it through years of playing my favorite, and the worlds greatest sport at some of the highest levels in some of the best arenas. I now pass it on to other’s with a huge smile – because I know the joy it is capable of bringing. I have found a new sport, CrossFit, which I have fallen in love with; one that I wish the 10 year old me could partake in because I know she would be so excited to do so. I like to think I am able to make a difference in the lives of my clients and the athletes I coach day to day. Interestingly, when I really reflect I realize that no, this isn’t exactly how I would have drawn it out, but it is exactly where my life is meant to be. Taking a hard look at where I am in life right now, I am happy, thankful, and appreciative of the person I have become and what the past 23 years has given me. I think 10 year old me would be as well.
For as long as I could remember, I had a quote by Mia Hamm taped in the dead center of my bedroom mirror. It read:
“Somewhere behind the athlete you have become,
and the hours of practice you put in,
and the coaches who have pushed for you,
is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back…
Play For Her.”
This is still what I try to do everyday, except the game has now changed to life. Everyday I want to live in a way that would make the 10 year old me proud. She worked so hard for so many years to set me up for success. I would feel terrible if I didn’t follow her lead and “Play For Her”. I want to be the best athlete, the best professional, the best person I am capable of. I don’t want to ever sell her short – because she had big dreams. She had goals for us, I am just trying to carry them out as best as I can. If I can make this happen more often than not, I feel like I have truly reached success.
These past two weeks have brought a slight increase in workout volume. I’ve been focusing heavily on my gymnastics skills. I know they are the weaker portion of my exercise ability and I refuse to let them dictate my success in this sport. I am embracing my inner gymnast in as many ways that I can and trying to improve slightly on something everyday. Where I use to hate working on my weaker skills, I am now finding myself enjoying it more – sometimes even looking forward to it. I think this is probably a good sign because this sport is very much about facing anything, even if it is something you are uncomfortable with, and having the confidence to destroy it. That is the mindset I have been trying to burn into my head, especially toward my gymnastics movements. I’m sure that is going to be the key to any success I can have. In traditional Crossfit fashion, I still have to stay on top of all of my other areas of fitness. A good bunch of my metcons this week have been monotonous pieces that I really don’t like – pieces that are 80% burpees, constant running or rowing like 500m or 800m repeats – but I have approached them all as if they came up in competition. I have no choice but to destroy them. The American Open is quickly approaching – it is a little over a month away. I am lifting in a last minute weightlifting meet on November 10th in Richmond, VA, then the American Open the first weekend in December in Dallas, TX.
I will jerk 96kg. That is all.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at: