We are 10 days into March. March is my favorite month out of the year, it always has been. (Yes… ahead of my birthday month – October, and ahead of Jesus’ birthday month as well.) The weather is getting warmer – kind of, but most importantly… it’s college basketball playoff season. In my opinion, no other sporting event compares. Teams you have never heard of come out of the woodwork with spectacular plays and wins and the strong favorites all year start to really showcase why they have been sitting at the top for the regular season. Survive and advance is the motto for every basketball player across the country in March. Ironically, now that I am no longer a basketball player but an exerciser for time, March is still a very important month in my season. For us, March is a qualifying month. It is our first opportunity to display and compare our abilities against our competitors. It is in fact, a “survive and advance” situation, as every week presents a new challenge. If you don’t survive the open, you don’t advance.
At this point, I’m almost already sick of the whole leaderboard thing. The app was the worst thing invented, and my brain that loves numbers and equations has a field day with all the equation opportunities that the leaderboard so stressfully provides for 3.5 days out of the week. To be honest, its really not just my leaderboard and where I stand – I’m constantly watching almost every region and every person I know in every region. I felt like Monday ended and Thursday happened right away. There were not enough relaxing days in between there for me. I need more. I have a coach that kind of knows the sport a little.. I guess, and he warned me two days into the Open to stay away from the leaderboard. I promise I am really trying, but it is just so hard for me. Maybe I’m just a rookie and really don’t know better. Maybe my number crunching gift takes over… but I really have to learn how to control it. I need to be better in that aspect. I also need to be better in understanding that all I simply have to do is survive and advance. I am in hopes that writing this post will make it sink in a little more, and maybe help other athletes out there gain a similar mindset. I don’t need to win every single workout, or beat everyone I know I am capable of beating every single week. I just need to put my butt on the line, do what I can, and survive. Then I have to move on – next week, next workout. Another opportunity to crush something. That, for sure, is something that is going to come with experience in this sport.
I can’t lie, when this workout was released Thursday night, I was not thrilled. I knew it consisted of two movements that did not play into my strengths when combined. However, I immediately put that out of my mind because at that point I didn’t have a choice. It was like drawing a really tough team in the first round of the tournament. You can sit there and think about how tough the game is, or you can come up with a plan on how to win. The positive aspect of this workout for me was the built-in work to rest component. A lot of my training consists of work to rest ratios so I knew that I would be able to capitalize on that. Coincidentally, this workout followed the fun March theme of “survive and advance”, which put a fun spin on it for me. All you had to do was survive for 3 minutes, then you could advance to the next 3. Second week of March, survive and advance, clearly Castro is a basketball fan. Going into the workout, I knew I would break up the pullups up in small sets from the beginning and go unbroken on the overhead squats the entire time. I settled on the butterfly chest to bar in small sets and went in with confidence. However, I came out only 9 minutes later – ONE REP SHORT of advancing. I was not satisfied, I knew I could not be and I knew I would have to redo the workout to have a chance at surviving the open. After talking with coach, and revamping strategy, we came up with a plan that some of my other teammates had success at an I was able to attack the workout again this morning. Thankfully I survived, at least another 3 minutes longer this time which significantly increased my score to 179. That wasn’t my goal, but it would be decent on the leaderboard – good enough for 93rd in the region. This dropped my regional standing a few spots, so I am now sitting in 38th in the Mid Atlantic region. I survived a rough one, and focused on next week… I am advancing. We will talk again in 7 days.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
This month has been extremely busy for me and I have been unable to post much – for that, I apologize. I promise I will be posting Monday night, weekly, at least for the next five weeks. I now have a lot of people a few hundred miles away from me that have watched me grow and develop over the past year. If I feel like I owe it to anyone to get back to writing regularly, it is them. These past few weeks I have finally felt “settled” and calm, after a personal roller coaster year filled with total lows and total highs. Through it all however, I have tried to place as much trust in my ability to exercise, in the program I have been following, in my coach, and in my gut feelings. In all honesty, that doesn’t always come easy for me. I am a thinker – an over thinker most times – and I am always analyzing how I could or should be doing things different than how I am doing them. Obviously, in constant pursuit of perfect results.
Sometimes trusting in the system is the hardest thing to do – especially at this point in the CrossFit season. The Open has kicked off and all those nervous, questionable thoughts seem to rush in, no matter how prepared you know you are. Last year, I was never faced with all that seriousness because I had not been training with intentions of making any kind of run in the region. I had simply found a fun and competitive sport and was just happy to be there. This year, I feel like I have expectations to meet – from myself and others – expectations that I have been working hard to meet. I know as long as I trust in the system and my ability to work, things will take care of themselves. These Open workouts have a way of making people crazy. Although a very meaningful part of the season, as a rookie, I think I need to understand that loyalty and trust in the system as a whole is the most important thing. Coach K preached for four years about the great Coach John Wooden’s “pyramid of success” – and though I could never even remember half of it, I always remembered that at the center of the foundation was Loyalty – Be True To Yourself, Be True To Those You Lead And Those That Lead You. If all of us competitive exercisers can keep any piece of mind in the crazy Open season it NEEDS to be that. Trust and believe in the work you have done up until now and are continuing to do each week. Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.
14.1 Recap: I guess I have to do this, although I really don’t want to because I want to forget this workout as quickly as I am able to. I was obviously not around the sport in 2011, so this was my first experience with this piece. It is one of those workouts that looks pretty innocent, until you’re in the eye of the storm. 10 Minutes of light snatches and double unders really didn’t shake me up, but I knew those rounds were going to be fast – so there was going to be A LOT of them. Double unders are one of my more favored movements in competitive exercise and well, I snatch often. I knew the workout was going to be a straight test of lung capacity and basically a cardiovascular race of “who can go the longest without hitting a serious oxygen deficit”. I also knew that being one of the taller girls in the sport I had a lot more distance to cover with the barbell, so I would automatically need to be more efficient. I completed 358 reps of 14.1. That was two snatches shy of 8 full rounds. I feel like I executed my plan as best as I could. I was able to complete all my double unders unbroken and broke my snatches up beginning in the third round, as planned. I feel all of the heart rate and aerobic capacity work that coach implemented into my weekly programming this past month really helped me out in this workout. I didn’t seem to hit “the suck” as we like to call it, until about the 8 minute mark. At that point, I could already see the light at the end of the tunnel and it was not that difficult to just hold on. My execution was good enough for 25th in my region. Of course, as with anything, I have been replaying this silly workout over and over in my head thinking up places where I could make up time and gain more reps. This is where the trust comes in. I know this is only a small first step in my plans for this year. It is time to turn the page and get back to work – 14.2 is only days away.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
I’m apologizing right off the bat for the delay of the Kill Cliff’s East Coast Championship recap. In all honesty, I sat down a few times to write about it right after the event and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it justice with a few paragraphs. It was an amazing event in Boston put on by Ben Bergeron from CrossFit New England in conjunction with Kill Cliff. It was not a relatively long event (one day individual, one day team), nor did it hold any real importance like regionals does, however it was pretty significant to me personally. I headed into the day up against a line-up of athletes who’s names are staples in the competitive exercise world. The workouts had been released prior, and I was able to run through some form of them before the competition. I was comfortable with them and knew, as always, that there were some I could do really well in, and some that I would struggle through. I can’t say that I was nervous, I honestly think it really never hit me until after I was done for the day that I would be exercising next to the best in my sport.
These are the athletes that I have been watching and studying meticulously since I decided that I wanted to be a competitive exerciser. I know a lot about how they move and work and what their background stories and accomplishments consist of. I’m not an individual that gets intimidated, I have played against big names in big time arenas plenty of times in my collegiate basketball career. However, I am an individual who gives respect and credit where due, I understood that I would be competing in a field that would take complete advantage of any weakness, inefficiency, or mental lapse that I exposed. My goal going into the day was to try and limit those areas of fault in order to give me the best shot at competing.
2x5m Shuttle (burpee to turn)
1 Rope Climb
2x10m Shuttle (burpee to turn)
1 Rope Climb
2x15m Shuttle (burpee to turn)
1 Rope Climb
20m Sprint to finish
*** 1 Minute Rest ***
50′ Handstand Walk
15 Power Cleans (135)
50′ Handstand Walk
50′ Handstand Walk
30 OHS (135)
This was the first workout and one that I actually enjoyed because I knew I would be able to do well on the first part which would hopefully give me some momentum headed into the second part which I knew would be on the more difficult side for me. Luckily, these workouts were scored separately which presented a good opportunity for me. I stuck to that mentality and used my strengths as a running/jumping athlete to come out in the front of the pack on Part 1. I love sprinting and climbing so this was one that made me excited and was a great way to start the weekend. The second part was heavily reliant on handstand walks. This is a movement that does not come natural to me and one that I have been working hard on lately. The first time I ever kicked up onto my hands to attempt to walk was 10 months ago. Since then I have made significant progress but am nowhere near as comfortable or smooth as the elite females I was up against at ECC. Needless to say, I did not do very well on Part 2, however, the fact that I was able to hang in and actually get through my first competitive workout consisting of handstand walking left me with a positive streak and even more of a determination to keep improving on them.
3 Rounds for time:
15 C2B Pullups
12 Lateral Burpee Box Jump Overs
9 Back Squats (125)
This workout was one I had tested all the way through prior to the competition just so I would understand how it would feel. I think it is an amazingly programmed workout – one that incorporates a skilled gymnastics movement, a highly aerobic movement, and then a decently heavy strength movement all in one. My C2B pullups have been a continual work in progress that are still very inconsistent and can get sloppy easily. I knew the key for me to do well in this workout would be the ability to maintain efficient, clean C2Bs that would not leave me too fatigued or frustrated for the other two movements. I was able to do this through the first and second round, however they did get slow and sloppy on round 3 as my muscles started to reach a state of fatigue. I know this is where I could have improved significantly in this workout and this is another strong point of focus in my daily training leading up to the open and regionals. After that workout, they made a cut to a field of 24 athletes. I made the cut and was sitting in 14th place going into the next workout.
30 Wall Balls (20#)
then 3 Rounds of:
10 Axel Bar Snatches (65)
20′ OH Lunges with Axel Bar (65)
This workout I was pretty excited for. First, I knew it consisted of movements that play into my strengths, and second, I was not happy with my performance on the previous workout and wanted to let loose on this one. Wall balls might be my favorite movement in competitive exercise. I’m not sure if its easy translation to a jump shot, my length/height, or the simple fact that I get to throw a ball over my head at a specific target a bunch of times (like I have been trained for years to do), or maybe just a combination of all three. The axel bar also seems to be a non factor for me because my hands are relatively large. It doesn’t by any means feel normal or comfortable, but it doesn’t hinder my movements. This workout felt like it was over in a flash, and I felt like I was in destroy mode the entire time. It was, for sure, my best performance of the weekend. After this, they made a cut to the top 12 athletes for the Finals workout. My solid performance on this workout allowed me to snag a tie for 11th and I slipped into the finals by the skin of my teeth.
5 Muscle Ups
40 Axel Bar Deadlifts (105)
5 Muscle Ups
30 Axel Bar Front Squats (105)
5 Muscle Ups
20 Axel Shoulder to OH (105)
5 Muscle Ups
10 Axel Thrusters (105)
This was the coolest part of the day. It was the championship heat with alot of the best female exercisers on earth. I had a smile on my face just to be there, however I knew it was gametime… especially with 20 Muscle Ups in front of me. Muscle Ups are something that have been a tireless work in progress for me. They are now at the point where I can complete them when they are presented to me in a workout, however their consistency and efficiency in comparison to the best are very sub par. I knew this going into the workout, but I also knew that the workout consisted of other movements (double unders, barbell things) that I can hang with anyone in. My mentality was to just keep moving on the rings, don’t fail on any MU’s and try and make up time on the jump rope and barbell. This plan worked through the first two or three rounds, however by round 4 and 5 I fell behind as the other girls exposed my weakness on the rings more and more. I finished the workout in 11th, and that’s where I finished on the weekend.
4 WEEKS OUT
We are exactly 4 weeks away from the release of the first open workout. This is an exciting time for me because I feel like my first real season is approaching. This season will be my first “full season” of training to be a competitive exercise and I cannot wait to see the results of my hard work. I am glad I had the opportunity to compete at the ECC because I feel like it gave me a clear idea and a reality check on where I stand among the girls I want to be considered with one day. My daily training consists of some kind of “barbell gymnastics” (snatch, clean, jerk), then some strength work (squats, bench, presses, lunges), then some gymnastics skill work, then a conditioning piece. The conditioning pieces vary greatly in length, content, and rest intervals and fall anywhere from “crossfitty” style workouts such as triplets and ladders to more single modal pieces like burpees, rowing, or running. A few times a week I do strict interval work, while doing straight “for time” or “for reps” pieces as well. My coach has recently presented the implementation of using a heart rate monitor in workout to track where we work at and build aerobic capacity. This is something that I find really interesting and think will help my teammates and I significantly when the season comes around.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
This weekend the CrossFit community was rocked by a terrible injury sustained by a big name athlete at a large scale competition. Kevin Ogar from Crossfit Unbroken in Denver, CO missed a 235# Snatch which ricocheted off plates stacked behind him — striking his back, and severing his spinal cord at T11/T12. Currently, he is paralyzed from the waist down. I do not know Kevin. My only connection is through groups of athletes and coaches that know him well. However, that really does not matter here. When I heard this news I froze and immediately got chills. I am in a community of people who perform these lifts at high intensity and heavy load almost everyday, he is no different than any of us. This was not out of the ordinary. That is the most frightening part of all of this.
I think the biggest thing here is that we understand what we are doing, this exercising, this “CrossFit”, is now a full blown sport – one that is growing and growing by the minute. Just like in any sport, there is an unavoidable risk of injury – sprained ligaments, torn muscles, broken bones, and unfortunately, the ones that are much much worse, like the one we all learned about this weekend. It is important for us all to understand that there is no one or nothing to blame here. That may be difficult for some of us. When something bad happens our natural human instinct is to try our hardest to find someone or something to blame. It is usually our way of trying to comes to terms with how and why something so awful could happen. We need to find the strength to trust in a larger plan – even if that seems so ridiculous. We cannot blame the sport, or the equipment, or the event. Even in the safest place and under the safest circumstances we can create, there is an undeniable amount of risk involved in any sport.
I was a junior in college when Eric LeGrand of Rutgers University’s football team suffered a similar injury during a game. I remember reacting both physically and emotionally in almost the same way I am after Kevin’s injury. I realized that LeGrand was no different than me. He put his uniform on, taped his ankles, laced his shoes up, and put his game face on to take the field in the same way I did before every game. But he never made it to the next one. I couldn’t help but make that connection when I heard about Kevin. The open is approaching and from what I hear about him, I know he must have had big plans to make a run at his region. Like the rest of us, he had to have been training hard for countless hours a week, dedicating his life to becoming stronger, faster, and better at our sport. He went out to compete this weekend as a “precursor to the season” to test himself against the best in the sport. The unthinkable then happened, life got put in perspective, and now goals have been significantly altered.
As a community of athletes, we could react to this in two ways. The first, we could live in fear every time we walk into a gym or touch a barbell. Understandable, but not productive, beneficial, or the way I would imagine Kevin would want us to react from his incident. To be as good as he is in the sport, one must carry a strong passion for it. I believe he would not want this incident to deter anyone else’s passion for the sport or for exercise in general. The second, would be with a fierce and grateful disposition every time we walk into a gym or touch a barbell. Personally, I woke up this morning looking forward to getting in the gym and snatching. I felt like I had a duty to uphold. I didn’t care that I didn’t know him, I needed to honor him. I knew, for a fact, that there was a great athlete out there that would probably do anything right now to be able to wake up this morning, head to the gym, and put a barbell above his head, to sit and analyze his lifts, then get back on the bar and make the next one better. He would probably do anything to jump on a bar and do a set of pull-ups, or grab some rings and do some muscle ups, throw himself on the floor and get back up over and over and over again, and then go out on a run. We cannot live in fear stemming from an incident like this, we need to become even more motivated. We need to be grateful for the ability to move in the amazing way we do. We are fortunate every day to be blessed with the gift of movement. Our sport honors this gift and we need to honor it back.
I want this post to serve as a reminder while everyone is training hard this preseason. When our muscles are real sore, when we are having a bad day, when conditions aren’t optimal, when we don’t do as well as we wanted to on a workout, when we just want to stop or we are just not in the mood – there’s someone out there that would fully appreciate every single second of it and would probably kill to be in your position. We are doing Kevin an injustice by succumbing to that negativity. Be grateful. Understand how lucky you are. Realize the gift your body has. Do not take it for granted, not even for a second. Go out and destroy whatever is in front of you. Leave nothing. We need to approach the gym and the sport everyday with a reverence for our abilities and a knowledge that we are blessed to be able to do what we do, and a strong desire to Move For Kevin.
Here is the fund that has been setup to donate to Kevin’s road to recovery. He is without health insurance and has a long road of medical treatment ahead of him. We can all do our part in his progress. Kevin Ogar’s Recovery Fund
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
As the cliche New Year blog post would go, I am going to take a minute to reflect on the past 365 days and what it has provided. In all honesty, this has been the most educational year of my life and ironically, I did not spend one day of it in a classroom. This past year has provided me with experiences I never would have thought I’d face — both negative and positive equally. It has made me smarter, stronger, and closer to my dreams.
About a year ago, I contacted Dan and told him I wanted to start training out of his gym – Crossfit Lindy in West Babylon, NY. I had been exercising in a crossfit gym for a few months at that point and had this idea that I wanted to participate in the worldwide Crossfit Open. I had been around some competitors, heard them talk about it, and thought it seemed pretty cool. I also knew Dan was the best in my area and knew his coaching and guidance would put me in the right direction. I was right, he has been nothing short of an amazing coach.
The first weekend of March 2013, the first weekend of the Open, I attended The Outlaw Way camp because one of my training partners was going and signed me up as well. Coincidentally, Dan is an Outlaw athlete and was there working/coaching as well. This is where I met Rudy Nielsen and was introduced to his “way”. I was blown away that this crossfit thing was actually a sport and could be practiced, planned, and seasoned as any other sport. I was then interested in this whole thing and I wanted to work hard to be good at the new sport that I found. I faithfully stuck to following The Way, worked with Dan daily and saw huge improvements. Months later I would join team Outlaw as one of about 20 athletes who are coached directly by Rudy and his staff.
My first four open weeks were pretty mediocre. I was sitting at 62nd in the region after week 4 when I got an awful stomach ache one day during training that just never went away – for about 30 hours. I finally headed to the hospital and had my appendix removed. Needless to say, week 5 never happened for me. I managed to squeak out 1 rep simply for a score. Fortunately, my intentions all along were to go to regionals on a team – specifically, the amazing team of athletes I had been training with at Lindy for the past months. I am thankful that my appendix (and also the case of shingles I got the day before we left for regionals) didn’t prevent me from experiencing and competing at the 2013 regionals with my team. It was for sure one of the coolest crossfit experiences I have had in my past year of doing this, and it made me hungry and motivated as ever to make a memorable impact in 2014.
Looking back, 2013 taught me 5 important lessons:
5. One will always be what one has always been.
Every time a new year approaches we hear the word “change” a sickening amount of times. For some reason, the date of 01/01 seems to signify a “time of change” for people. That is all well and good, however almost always people will revert back to their original form pretty quickly. I am going out on a limb here and saying, yes – actual true CHANGE is very rare. People will always be what they have always been. Maybe they grow, maybe they learn some lessons, maybe they gain some insight on their actions or whatnot. But I have learned this year, that one will always be what one has always been. I experienced this directly in other people as well as in myself. At the beginning of 2013 I honestly thought my “career as an athlete” was over. At the beginning of 2014 I now see that it is basically just starting over. I have always been a high level competitive athlete, and I will always be. Even when the day finally comes when I cannot physically do what I want anymore, my mind will never be able to snap out of it. My mentality and daily actions will always be that of an athlete. Those that can understand and identify with me in that way will be with me, and those that can’t will watch me from a distance.
4. You can never force the issue.
This was a big lesson to get a grasp on. One that I think I have been working on for years now and it probably is still a work in progress. The funny thing is that this is such a broad and inclusive lesson that it literally applies to EVERYTHING in life. I was a straight up scorer for my entire basketball career. My team always relied on me to put the ball in the basket. That was my role. Sometimes, on good days, that came easy for me. However on those days when it wasn’t coming so easy, I can’t even put a number on the amount of times I was told “don’t force it” or “let the game come to you.” Much easier said than done, however it is 100% applicable to everything in life. You cannot force something that is not meant to work, no matter how much you WANT it. Sometimes you just have to step away, relax, and let life come to you. Just like those days in the gym when the barbell does not want to go overhead – you cannot force the issue. Throwing 6 more attempts won’t help, in fact it will only make things worse. This year I learned that it’s okay to walk away from something even if you felt you haven’t succeeded – because forcing the issue will never make things better. Trust that it will happen when it is suppose to. That brings me right to my next lesson.
3. TRUST – in yourself, and the plan.
Trust is a funny thing. It’s a word that we LOVE to throw around. It sounds so noble and so easily attained, however it is one of the hardest things to get a grip on. We can talk about how we trust, or how we can be trusted, but the truth is that is not often the case. Most humans are creatures of doubt. I find this with myself sometimes. I say over and over again that I trust in a system or I trust what I am doing for myself is best or I trust myself that I actually am what I think I am. But then doubt finds it’s way in, and the trust bubble gets smaller. This year I feel I have learned how to ignore that doubt and just keep moving. I learned true trust in myself, the system I am following, and the life plan God has laid out for me. In the gym, I’ve learned to trust fully in my coaches and their advice – even when I see or hear of other coaches with different views. Finding a training system and trusting in it is a big deal amongst athletes, especially in this sport. However, I feel fully invested trust is the only way to give something a chance to work and the only way to achieve success. In life, I’ve learned to trust that the decisions I am making are good ones – even when they are confusing or unclear. And, in 2013 I have finally understood the meaning of everything happening for a reason. I just need to step back and trust in the reason.
2. Words are empty without action.
Yes, this is a cliche “lesson”, however it hit me like an 80mph baseball in the face this year. Sometimes, words seem to be put together SO well that we actually start to believe them without seeing any action. In my sport we say “if it’s not on video, it didn’t happen” – precisely because of that. No, I’m not saying everyone is a liar. What I’m saying is that it is a lot easier to talk about what you did or are going to do or have done or want to do – than to actually do it. Words require breath, actions actually require effort. I have learned this year that that effort is sometimes a hard thing to come by. This year I visited a gym that had the common military phrase “DEEDS NOT WORDS” painted across their wall. I found that phrase painted across my brain ever since. There are about a million cliche phrases I can insert in here that mean the same thing. But this year I have fully learned and understood the phrase. I no longer want to speak about what I feel I can accomplish – I just want to show people. I no longer want to hear what people have to tell me – I just want them to show me. Unfortunately, (and fortunately) words have lost a lot of their value in my life this year. I now need actions.
I have gotten stronger. I took a few minutes the other day to go back through my workout log and look at where I had started a year ago. It was actually incredible to see – so much that it brought a smile to my face. I’ve added 35 and 45 pounds to my clean and jerk and snatch respectively, 50 pounds to my squat, 30 pounds to my push press. I’ve cut almost 7 minutes from my Diane time, and almost 4 from my Fran time. I’ve gained movements that were nearly impossible for me simply because I put the time in to get stronger. That is all just the physical aspect of the strength I gained in 2013. My college coach spent four years of her life trying to get me to be “mentally stronger” and I wish she could see me now. 2013 left me no choice. It shook me around like a rag doll a bit, in a violent mix of amazing and awful. However, through each event I became stronger. Looking back, my increase in both physical and mental strength combined is something I will never take for granted. I am not who I was 12 months ago (actually that would be contradicting my first lesson of 2013 so let me rephrase that). I am exactly who I was 12 months ago, however, I have learned 5 invaluable life lessons that have now made me incredibly stronger both physically and mentally. I cannot wait for this upcoming year and everything I will have the ability to look in the eye and conquer.
*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:
As the amazing Christmas season is upon us and 2013 is coming to a close, I have found myself constantly looking back on my past year (9 months actually) of competitive exercise. Naturally, as with anything that you practice diligently over an extended period of time, I have made some advances in the sport both from a performance standpoint as well as a standpoint of understanding what is important to this sport. I often get asked what I feel helped me become a better overall exerciser in these past 9 months. My answer is ALWAYS “My squats got better”.
As a basketball player with “bad knees” – i.e. a reconstructed ACL and a non-existing meniscus, (that was removed when I was 18 after I tore it to pieces), I had been told over and over again “Don’t Squat! Especially not below parallel!”. How many of us have heard that before? Outside of the CrossFit world we have been made to believe that squats are evil and harmful. In fact, because of my less than perfect knee, I was not allowed to squat with my team in college – I was put on the leg press most days. Apparently, that was “better”. Looking back, I now understand that this was just an evil cycle. I wasn’t squatting, so my musculature supporting my knee and hip joints weren’t getting stronger, so my knees would become aggravated easily whenever I played, so my knees constantly hurt, so I wasn’t allowed to squat, and so on and so on… you get the idea. I actually decided to hang up my basketball sneakers after college because I did not want to be in pain any longer. Funny, I WAS NOT SQUATTING.
Then I was introduced to CrossFit and competitive exercise. For months, everyone who knew me would always ask “But I don’t understand, your knees don’t hurt?! There is so much squatting!”. Truth was 1) from day 1 CrossFit never bothered my knees and 2) I was an awful squatter and had no idea how much I needed to improve there. In all honesty, I didn’t know or understand how weak of a squatter I was nor did I appreciate how important it was to the sport – and to life in general for that matter. It took a great coach, some self-education by reading nerdy exercise literature, and a willingness to try anything to help me improve, to really get it. I checked my ego, learned to squat the proper way, came back on all my weights (which were not very high to begin with), and worked on improving my squat form and frequency for the sake of my competitive exercise career.
Building strength in the squat is the one of the most beneficial things that a person can do for themselves physically. These squats need to be of the correct kind. The kind we see weightlifters and babies (yes, drop something and ask a baby to pick it up) perform daily. This can not be confused with the movement we see running rampant in globo gyms everywhere where the individual is fully on their toes, glutes totally deactivated, taking 30 seconds to descend and only making it to 3 inches above parallel before returning up. Whenever I see that I cannot help but think of how high the toilet in their house must be for them to be able to perform their daily business.
Being able to squat with an upright torso, core and lumbar engaged, weight on the heels, ballistically moving out of the bottom, over and over and over again under load, is an invaluable skill to have in this sport (and in life). Not only will this help with the obvious such as workouts with front squats and back squats – but how about thrusters, wall balls, cleans, snatches, not to mention the hip power that is developed through squatting to aid in movements like box jumps, kipping pull-ups, ring dips, muscle ups and kipping HSPU. I explain this numerous times to my athletes looking to compete in the sport. I encourage them to get on a consistent squatting program and really dedicate some time to that aspect of their exercise regiment. However, I also explain this to my every day gym members who are just trying to live better and get through life more comfortably. To me, there is nothing more sad than seeing a person (who is not 90+) need assistance to sit down in a chair, or struggle to pick something up off the ground. Being a professional in this field, I understand that is able to be avoided with the use of a proper exercise program i.e. one that incorporates squats, often. Yes, squats are the answer to everything. Yes, squats should always be below parallel. Yes, squats make you a better person in general. And yes, squats will produce that mighty fine booty you are on a lifetime hunt for. Take away point of the post… SQUAT – low – fast – heavy – and often.
The new year is approaching quickly meaning the 2014 pre season is going to be upon us soon – like next week. The transition from “off season” to “pre season” was always an exciting one for me because it is the sign of new beginnings and an opportunity to begin to display all the hard work I put in during the off season. It often comes with expectations, and I’m the kind of athlete to get a chip on my shoulder from those expectations. Needless to say, I’m “chompin’ at the bit” (yes, another KK reference) to get moving. I will go into greater detail in my next post about what this all means exactly. Until then, happy squatting!
This past weekend was hands down the coolest sporting experience I have had since hanging up my basketball jersey. The 2013 American Open was a weekend filled with amazing, actually shocking athletes in a sport that was so incredibly different from what I am use to that it blew my mind. The idea that I was even a part of it and actually competed and held my own is still something that I am getting use to. I went into the weekend knowing it was going to be a great event, however I severely underestimated it. I am going to break this post into sections so I can talk about aspects of the weekend in some kind of order. My brain is still on overload trying to process it all that if I don’t do this, the post will be like a mishmosh of my thoughts.
1) Cutting Weight
This is an aspect of weightlifting that needs to be spoken about, especially if you have never had experience with a weight cutting sport (like me). When I qualified for the AO I did it from the 69kg (152lb) weight class. About 9 weeks prior to the AO we decided I would compete in the 63kg class (138lb). Since then I have been walking around at about 145lbs, so cutting to 138 was going to be just fine. Luckily, one of my coaches, Spencer Arnold, is one of the best weight lifters in the country and basically mirrors my weight cut exactly. So, he had been an amazing point of reference the entire time. I cut weight by basically eating a very strict paleo diet and drinking tons of water. About a week out I took out all carbs except for right around my workouts and I also took all my meals, split them in half, and put about 2 hours between meals. I didn’t eat after 7pm if I could help it. A home this is was no problem. However, I left for Dallas on Thursday and didn’t weigh in until 5pm on Saturday night. The discipline involved in this aspect of the sport is insane. I continued my strict regiment and also got on the scale religiously at the hotel to understand where my body was at constantly. I was basically a robot, following exactly what Spencer said to do. My biggest fear was getting on the scale and weighing above 63k and not even having a shot at lifting. Spencer was so good at coaching me on this that I actually was able to eat two full meals AND stay hydrated all day Saturday before getting on that scale. I weighed in officially at 62.2kg. Immediately after, I finished a bottle of Pedialyte, a plate of chicken fingers and fries, and two bags of M&Ms. I was feeling perfect and ready to go.
2) My Team
One of the coolest things about this weekend was that I went into a big time individual sport with some of the best people as my “teammates”. Many of them I have never met before, but it felt like we had been teammates for years. Although we were all alone out there on that platform when it was our time, the entire weekend I felt like I had a constant support system in exactly the same way I always felt on the road with my basketball teams. We all lifted at various times, and for the most part we were all there together watching and helping each other. The sense of pride that came from that was amazing and made such a positive impact on the weekend. Team Outlaw had an awesome showing at the AO and promises to have an even better future.
3) My Coaches
I can officially say, the coaches I have are among the best in the business. I have now witnessed them up against the best in the country and am so honored and grateful to be their athlete. As an athlete, I literally had to worry about NOTHNG else but performing. For 3 days, they did not stop. They handled all 15 of us, sometimes up to 3 of us at a time, with such ease that it was incredible. As a division 1 athlete, I understand what it is like to be “spoiled”, these guys duplicated that feeling. I was relaxed and confident, knowing that they had me prepared and I could trust what they were asking of me. Rudy Nielsen, Spencer Arnold, Colm O’Reily, and Jared Fleming are probably the biggest reason I had any success this weekend.
4) The Atmosphere
The entire weekend the atmosphere was unbelievable. The event kicked off on Friday morning with the youth division. One of my teammates, 13 year old Harrison Maurus, lifted in that session at 8am. Even at 8am on the first day, the atmosphere and energy was so cool. I lifted in the night session on Saturday. At this point there was two platforms running next to each other – 77kgA males on one and my 63kgA female session on the other. James Tatum, a crowd favorite and one of the best in the sport was lifting on one platform next to Geralee Vega, the overall winner in my weight class and competitor in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Needless to say, the atmosphere in the room was the most insane it had been all weekend. It was packed, standing room only. When I was on deck ready to lift I actually had lean in close to hear my coach standing right in front of me. Luckily, I love a crowd. The more people the better, the louder the noise the more I want to get out there, my smile gets bigger, I start having more fun. I told one of my coaches that competing in that atmosphere actually made me wish I was better at weightlifting. Unlike in basketball, where I had perfected the game, my technique and the understanding of the sport for years – I’m still just a weightlifting rookie with a lot of room for improvement in my technique and familiarity with the sport. Nonetheless, stepping up to the bar in front of that crowd was one of the coolest things I have ever done in sports. It gave me a new inspiration to keep perfecting my lifts and I cannot wait to get back there.
5) My Actual Lifts
I know this is the part that most of you are all waiting for. I finished my first ever national weightlifting meet in 16th among the 34 lifters in the 63kg weight class. My recorded total was 160kg (352lbs) which was 2kg short of a meet PR for me. I opened up my snatches at 68kg (149.6lbs) and hit it. I then jumped to 72kg (158.4lb) and missed. On my final snatch attempt I hit 73kg (160.6lbs), but received 3 red flags on my lift – my first “No Lift” ever. These were questionable red flags, my coaches and I are still unclear on the reasoning but it is what it is, bad calls happen and there is nothing we could do about it. So, my highest recorded snatch was 68kg. I then opened my clean and jerks at 92kg (202.4lbs) and successfully completed the lift. That was a meet PR. My next jump was to 96kg (211.2lbs). My coach and I have been working on a certain part of my clean technique that I need to adjust in order to become a better cleaner. I stepped up to 96kg and successfully made that technique change but was not ready to receive the bar where I did (because I have been use to doing it wrong for so long now) that the bar actually knocked me back on my butt – something that has never happened before. Although I wish I could have received the bar cleanly, I was confident in the pull and the technique change I had made. My original plan was to have my next attempt be at 98kg (215.6lbs), however, coach and I had spoke about the idea of attempting 100kg (220lbs) at the AO. We knew I could hit the lift, but everything would have to be near perfect. So we called 100kg. My coaches came back over to me a little bit later and told me that if we pushed to 101kg (222.2lbs) and hit it I would medal in the clean and jerk. Being the athlete I am, I’m never going to say ‘no’ to something like that. Honestly, I wouldn’t tell these guys no very often anyway – they’re great coaches. So I stepped out to the 101kg bar. I had already successfully made the lift in my head about 3 times. However, in real life my pull was off, I let the bar get away from me and could not secure myself underneath it. No lift. I ended my clean and jerk with a successful 92kg lift.
The Weekend Takeaway:
This weekend made me realize how blessed I really am. When I walked away from competitive basketball, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to continue be the athlete I always was – to travel around the world, to be a part of a great team, to have great coaches looking after me, to be competing in great atmospheres, to have something to work hard for everyday. Not a day goes by where I don’t thank God for bringing be to this and giving me another chance at doing the things I love to do.
This weekend also inspired me to want to be great even more. Being around such positive, hard working, driven and focused people made me realize there is an entire breed like me out there – a breed that I need to be around for both my continued success and mental well being. No matter how hard I think I am working daily, this weekend I saw there are hundreds of women working just as hard – and harder. That’s inspiring in itself – I don’t ever want to be out worked.
Lastly, this weekend reminded me that everything needs to be rooted in fun. The minute something starts becoming stressful, or a burden, or a negative experience, it needs to stop immediately. Sports is about fun, and recreation, easing your mind, and bettering your character. All the greats are out there just having fun, appreciating the moment and the opportunity they have worked so hard for, and simply living the dream.
If you don’t believe me about that, here is a little 2013AO, off-stage, behind the scenes, epicness. Yes, this is an exercise race at 3am in a hotel lobby. Yes, those are some of the biggest names in the sports of both weightlifting and crossfit. Yes, that is Paul Estrada winning a handstand race in space dolphin tights about 24 hours after easily snatching 146kg (321.2lbs). Crossfitters win.
*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:
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:
“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:
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:
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:
“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:
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:
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.
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.
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: