"She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong." PROVERBS 31:17

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Aside

DOOMSDAY PREPPING

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Since the Open ended, I – along with the many others across the world who qualified to move on – have been in full blown Regional prep mode.  This year, Regional prep is 100% different than the one I went through last year.  For starters, I am healthier.  Last year I had my appendix removed during the last week of the Open which caused my Regional prep to be a constant struggle of trying to recover from the surgery while trying to maintain my physical abilities. (Disclaimer: I don’t recommend this.  I ended up destroying my immune system with the lack of recovery time I allowed myself and actually came down with shingles the day before I left for regionals.  Competing hard for three days with shingles is not very fun.)  This year is also different because I know I will not have teammates out on the floor with me through the workouts.  In comparison to the workload you have to do as a member of a team at Regionals, going to compete as an individual is significantly more demanding on the body.  This is something I have embraced as my “progress” in the sport over the past year.  I know for a fact that last year there was no way I would have been able to handle the amount of volume required to compete as an individual.  The last difference and probably the biggest one is my shift in attitude as I work toward Regionals.  Last year I had the attitude of just being along for the ride and having a fun weekend with my team.  This year I want to do some damage, stomp on some people’s heads, and make some noise.  Being able to look back and compare last year’s non-nonchalant and almost unappreciative Regional prep period to the grind I am in now has been one of the coolest parts of my training the past few weeks.  The daily practice grind is grueling.  The volume is high, the weights are heavy, the workouts are hard.  I feel like I get my butt handed to me everyday, yet somehow survive.  I know however, that is the mark of a great program and a great coach, and one that has success on gameday.  If you don’t believe me just read the god-amongst-men (Coach K) say it himself.  Some days I walk into the gym feeling like a million bucks, and some days I walk in and want to just curl up in a ball and lay there.  I can feel every muscle in my body daily and no amount of stretching is ever enough.  I am hungry about 80% of my waking hours, no matter how much food I try and eat.  Sleep is beyond sacred.  These past few weeks I have been constantly reminded what “mid-season” feels like.

I know it’s a common theme in my posts to make constant references to my basketball days or the general flow of a basketball season. However, that is really where any and all of my experience lies in the sports world.  It was my life for 15 of the 23 years I have lived through – it is unavoidable.  While Regional prepping, I have picked up on some glaring similarities between myself as a basketball player and myself as a competitive exerciser.  Some of these have scared me and some have made me happy – either way they are undeniably there.

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Inconsistency comes with immaturity.

In high school, and also in college, I was fortunate to be “thrown into the fire” from the moment I stepped onto campus.  In both cases I was physically strong enough, skilled, and athletic enough to hang with the girls three and four years more experienced than me.  However, I learned quickly that what I was missing was the maturity and the consistency in the sport that they carried.  They had more poise and confidence in their play, they understood the ins and outs of the game, the long demanding season, and the ups and downs that come with it much better than I did.  I simply was not there yet – as much as I thought I was.  That lack of experience always results in inconsistency.  There are just as many bad days as there are good days.  But, it actually goes further than “good” and “bad” days.  There are days of god-awful, waste of time performances mixed in with mind-blowing, out-of-nowhere great performances.  If you ask any great coach, in almost any sport, they will tell you that inconsistency is the mark of immaturity.  I’ve felt this the past few weeks.  Luckily, unlike my high school and even college days, I am aware of it and I am doing my best to stay leveled and focused on being as consistent as I possibly can be.  My college coach use to tell me that good and bad days were acceptable and almost inevitable – but they could not be drastic, they could not be detrimental, and they could never be good or bad mental days.  Your mind must stay in it, engaged, confident, and focused on the bigger picture and the goal lying ahead.  The next four weeks that is one of my top priorities – limit the bad training days, and stay as consistent as possible day in and day out.

“Lights Are On” syndrome.

This is one that I thought was non existent in my exercise days but I have noticed it resurface in these intense weeks of training.  It is not something I am 100% proud of, but it is most definitely there and needs to be addressed.  Flat out – I don’t love practice.  I would much rather be in front of a crowd, lights and sounds blaring, pressure on, in an all eyes on me type situation.  Unfortunately, without hard, rigorous practice, you don’t ever have the privilege of competing in that situation.  This was nearly my downfall during the Open because of the nonchalant attitude I approach too many training days with.  I became so accustomed to this that is was hard to snap out of it for 4 of the 5 Open workouts I did in my own gym as if it was any other training day.  I know from my own coaching experiences, this is one of the most frustrating things to deal with in an athlete.  In fact, it was brought to my attention by my current coach about two weeks ago.  We had never spoke about any of this.  I had just finished a weekend competing on a team at a local competition.  He told me that he was reminded how good I was and could be after watching me all weekend.  He explained that watching me “practice” everyday had put doubts and questions in his mind that left when he watched me on game day.  Maybe some athletes would like to hear that? But I knew that wasn’t a good thing.  I’ve had enough experience in competitive sports to know that you can’t just show up on game day – it doesn’t work that way.  That conversation with him woke me up.  I have to make a conscious effort to mentally prep myself before entering the gym and remind myself that every day for the next four weeks needs to be gameday.  This is imperative so that when gameday actually comes, I will be confident I prepared myself as best I could.

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Fearless Competitiveness 

I am grateful for the part of my personality that is fearless when it comes to competition.  During my basketball days, I always wanted to “play up” or play with the boys who were usually faster and stronger.  Since I can remember, if I see someone better than me, stronger than me, or more skilled than me my immediate thought is “let me take her”.  I always thought I could score on whoever would try and guard me.  In fact, the better the defender they were hyped to be, the more points I planned on giving them that night.  I noticed I carry the same attitude over to exercise – maybe it is simply because the NYC  basketball courts raised me, maybe it’s just a permanent chip on my shoulder, or maybe it’s the constant need to prove myself.  It’s never a disrespect of any sort.  Don’t get me wrong, I 100% know and respect my competitors and what they are capable of.  I just always want to go up against them, preferably on the biggest stage possible.  Credentials, stats, and hype just don’t have the ability to get in my brain and mess with me.  Every time I stop and relax for a second and actually think about Regionals, this fearless hunger to compete with the best surfaces.  There is no nervousness to be found but instead just an almost anxious need to get out there and have my performance stacked up among my competitors.  I think this is what makes sports so fun and exciting for me and what drives we to keep working daily.

 

Exercise Update:

Before I compete at Regionals I will head up to Boston, MA on May 2nd to participate in the National Pro Fitness League combine.  The NPFL is a brand new league where athletes will compete in exercise racing (don’t laugh, I’m being serious).  I’m excited for this combine because you can pick the various lifts, gymnastics, and specific workouts that you want to showcase.  Completely opposite of The CrossFit Games, this league rewards the specialist – which is pretty cool.  I do not know what will come of this combine for me but I am excited to be attending with some great athletes and am looking forward to showing off some of my abilities.  If I get chosen to move on to Sunday’s activities there, I will be put on a team and we will basically “run pickup games”.  Yes – exercise racing pickup games.  (How did this end up being my life?! I promise I use to play a real sport.) All jokes aside though, competing on a team in the sport of exercise is a ton of fun.  I am really looking forward to next weekend.  Three weeks after that I will have my individual regional debut (May 23-25) at the Patriot Center of George Mason University.  My career record at the Patriot Center (GMU was in our conference) is 3-1 while shooting 45% from 3 point range (9-20), 35% from the floor (12-34) and 100% from the FT line (6-6).  I always loved playing in that arena and I cannot wait to get back there. I will be throwing around barbells this time instead of my roundball.  It should be an awesome time.

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To help support my Regional weekend you can purchase my uniquely designed shirt from Move Fast Lift Heavy by clicking here.  There are men’s tees and women’s tanks available on pre-sale. I hope you are able to make it out to watch that weekend and my hope is that I will see a sea of Capurso shirts somewhere in the stands 🙂 ! All of your support and efforts to help me achieve what I work so hard everyday for is greatly appreciated.  Nothing goes unnoticed.

 

*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:

http://www.3sixtyathletics.com/360blog

THE END OF THE OPEN & SOME REFLECTIVE THOUGHTS

The past five weeks seem to have flew by.  The kickoff of the annual CrossFit Games season, “The Open”, has officially come to a close.  The hype has subsided (for the most part) and the day after the Open seems to be like the New Years Day of the crossfit world. Everyone is blowing up social media for resolutions about next year and what they will improve upon or change.  For some however, the road is not over.  I was one of those fortunate individuals who survived the past five weeks and qualified for Regionals in May, representing the Mid Atlantic region, pending a video approval by HQ.  This was my first full year training as a competitor with my eyes set as competing as in individual in May.  At times, I felt right in my element, and during others I definitely felt the heat of being an inexperienced rookie.

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14.3 at Crossfit Lindy, Long Island, NY

One of my favorite books is “When The Game Was Ours” by Larry Bird and Erving “Magic” Johnson. There is some great stories and lines by both athletes in this book, but the one that always stood out in my head was a story Magic tells.  He explains that his whole life people would tell him things along the lines of “there’s always someone out there working just as hard as you”.  He says that he never actually believed it.  He knew he worked as hard as he could each and every day and there was no way someone was outdoing him.  Then he met Bird, played against him, and understood.  He said he then knew who everyone was talking about when they said statements like that.  Every week as I was refreshing the leaderboard over and over, this story would cross my mind.  The leaderboard is proof of the hundreds and thousands of people that are out there every day working just as hard, if not harder than you.  The day you feel you can take your foot off the gas pedal, or dial down the relentlessness, is the day a girl somewhere else gets better than you… and eventually passes you on the leaderboard when you go head to head.  Among many other things, the Open gave me new life and a new hunger.  I am happy and proud of the progress I have made in the sport this year, but nowhere near satisfied.  I’m growing and learning every day and that is encouraging to keep pushing on.  I am beyond grateful for my loyal fans and supporters, my teammates all over the country talking me through each week, and my dedicated coach who believes in all of us.  I’m looking forward to competing in the Patriot Center another time, and I will be there a better me than I am today.

 

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Larry & Magic. I just couldn’t mention them without a picture. Seriously, read their book.

14.4 Recap (since I never gave one last week)

When this workout was announced I was actually pretty excited.  I knew it was going to be a tough one (of course), however it involved almost every movement that I really like.  Obviously, I knew the muscle ups would be the game changer in the workout and good scores would be totally dependent on the athletes ability to successfully complete their muscle ups under complete shoulder fatigue.  This would mean that good form and poise on the rings would be needed.  I completed the row, toes to bar, and wall balls with very little shoulder fatigue and almost no respiratory fatigue.  During the cleans, I could feel my shoulders starting to fill up but I knew I had to keep moving through it to get on the rings.  I went all singles on the rings and was able to complete 8 reps.  This was about 4-5 reps below what my goal was on this workout.  However, the reality was, that was really all I was able to score.  My muscle ups, although much improved from where they started, still need a significant amount of work –  which they will get in these next two months.  I ended up placing 45th in the region on workout 14.4 with a score of 188 reps.  That held me steady at 20th in the region going into week 5.

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Burprees during ECC Championships in Boston, MA

14.5 Recap

The following story is one that I am in no way proud of.  I think it is dumb.  I would never brag about this, or want anyone else to do this.  However, it may have ended up saving my chances of going to regionals this season, and it is me in all my realness – which I never like to hide.  When 14.5 was announced, of course I was not thrilled, however I didn’t think – not for one second – that it was going to be one of the most stressful and gut checking workouts that I am yet to face in my young little exercise career.  It seemed hard, but they all do.  I was actually excited for it because it was the end of the open, we were getting closer and closer to regionals and I had my eyes focused there.  Saturday morning I didn’t feel 100% myself, I actually felt pretty sick.  I was very close to telling my coach I actually didn’t want to do the workout that day but decided against that and figured I would gut it out.  I’ve practiced and played numerous times, in some pretty big games, where I was sick or didn’t feel myself – sometimes you just have to go.  Well… 14.5 kicked my butt.  I finished just under 13 minutes – a time I knew would be detrimentally low in the region.  The most upsetting part about all of this for me, was that I knew I was going to have to do that awful piece of hell again.  Even worse was that usually when I finish a workout and think back, I can clearly analyze when and where I could make up time.  After this, I honestly could not. I really just didn’t know.  My idea was to move more steadily and continue moving through the whole piece.  Monday morning came, I was pumped, ready to kill it.  3..2..1..Go.  13 minutes later – 2 burpees to go. Time was no better, coach had to leave to head out of town.  I went home, sat with myself for about two hours calculating splits, figuring how many seconds I should be using per rep, deciding what time exactly I should start each round.  I made myself an entire map.  I headed back to the gym, loaded the bar, set a camera up, grabbed my training partner to judge and tackled it again.  Yes, for the second time in about 3 hours.  My pacing map worked, at least a bit, THANK GOD.  I was able to take 30 seconds off my time.  This still didn’t leave me with a great time – 12:26.  This was 180th in the region.  Going into week 5 I had 186 points TOTAL, in week 5 I accumulated as many points as I had in weeks 1-4 put together.  This knocked me all the way down to 43rd in the region.  It kept me safe for regionals, but the third time performing 14.5 may have saved my regional birth.  At that point it was 100% necessary.

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My footgame is slowly becoming more recognized than my face, or my exercise for that matter. The amazing Super Cleary capturing my babies.

6 Things I’ve learned from the 2014 CrossFit Open:

1) Every workout sucks.  Expect it, face it head on, tackle it with everything you can.

2) Never think “I’ll have another shot”.  I made that mistake a few times this year and it, in my opinion, is the worst attitude to have.  One and done needs to be the motto.  Your first attempt at the workout is almost always your best punch.  If circumstances happen to arise (like in week 5 for me) where it is completely necessary than so be it.  But you CANNOT go in thinking you have another shot.

3) Every week, rep, and second counts.  I realize that in all of it’s seriousness now.  If I had not performed how I was able to perform for weeks 1-4, I wouldn’t be going to regionals.  With all that hard work, I almost missed my opportunity because of ONE workout.  This is a sport of inches and seconds.  Each and every one matters incredibly.

4) Learn to turn the page. (Coach K loves me right now) We are all competitors and always believe we can do better.  Most likely we can, however it is important to understand that we are working through the Open to survive and advance.  After week 1 coach told me that if I was going to be obsessed with beating everyone on the leaderboard who I thought I could beat, it was going to be a long 5 weeks for me.  This was something I had to constantly fight.  Put up a decent score, move on, and get back to training.

5) Be proud.  The score you post every week is you.  You have been working hard to show it off, you planned for it, your body hurts because of it – honor it.  No matter where it falls on the board IT IS YOU.  If you aren’t happy with it, put the chip on your shoulder and get back in the gym to fix it.  But always be proud of the effort you put forward.

6) IT IS JUST EXERCISE!!! Every week I would tell one of my good friends my score before everyone else.  He would usually do the same with his.  Depending on the week one of us was usually freaking out, or not so happy with how they did.  Until we reminded each other that this is just exercise, it is something we started because it was fun and we like fitness.  Just like with anything else in sport, or in life – the minute it isn’t fun anymore it is adding no positive value to your life.  Keep the fun in the game.  Let’s be honest, exercise racing is pretttttty silly.

 

*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:

http://www.3sixtyathletics.com/360blog

POST 14.3: MAKE OR BREAK

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As of now, we are on the down side of the Open.  Three weeks down and only two more to go.  My “leaderboarding” was no better this week, annoyingly I actually find it fun now.  I’m not sure that will ever change.  Anyway, being three weeks in and the majority of the open over I have noticed something among the athletes.  By week three, the leaderboard seems to even out.  This year especially, where the first three workouts were so incredibly different and catered to three very different athlete types, by the end of week three the athletes atop the leaderboards are undeniably the most all around and consistent.  It always amazes me how well crossfit seems to work itself out like that as we see the familiar names closer and closer to the top each week and ultimately sitting at the top by the end of week 5.  What I have noticed though, is that week 3 – midway through this five week event – seems to be the make or break week.  This is the time when the athletes see the light at the end of the “open tunnel” and they understand that they will only be able to leaderboard shuffle two more times before real live regional cuts are made.

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Make or break week affects everyone in some way.  Some athletes are sitting comfortably at the top after three tests and know they just need to finish in a consistent manner.  Some have used these three weeks to “play leapfrog” as they hop tons of spots each week in pursuit of that “front page” of the leaderboard.  Others feel they have underachieved and have not met their expectations and they begin to get discouraged with only two more tests left.  And still others have been quietly consistent each week and know they must continue that in order to make it to the next level.  I talked about surviving and advancing last week and that idea still applies.  However, I really feel that week three is when athletes are made or broken, physically and mentally.  Here they are either made hungrier and more willing then ever to perform their best and lay it all out there, or they are broken by mental and physical disappointment and are finding it hard to see the light.  Of course, I encourage every athlete reading this to let week three MAKE you.  Let it make you hungry, inspired, pissed off, willing to fight hard.  After week 1, I explained to necessity of trusting in the system and I think as important as it is in week 1, it is even more crucial now in the dead center of the “hell weeks”.  By trusting in our system and our abilities we can find the need and want to finish this thing with the same excitement and drive we started it with.  Let week three make you a warrior. 

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14.3 Recap:

When this workout was announced, I reacted like I do every time a workout is announced.  I try not to get too high or too low on it because I know neither is good for me as an athlete.  I can tell you I was more satisfied with the movement combination than I was last week.  I would have been very excited about the introduction of box jumps into this open, however after looking at the workout closely I realized the box jumps had very little to do with producing a good score.  Deadlifts aren’t a movement I get excited about, yet when done at high rep and fairly heavy load they are actually one of my stronger points.  What I was pretty excited about was the fact that we were handed a ladder (workout with increasing weights of a movement).  I knew this would work in my favor because it would give me an advantage on the workout as I could handle the loads nicely.  I spent the weekend in New York working at The Outlaw Way camp at Crossfit Lindy with my coach and some of my teammates.  During camp, coach discussed “strategy” and the best ways to attack this workout.  Specifically, we assessed and tested (using a timer and heart rate monitor) the different methods of “box jumps”.  We ultimately decided on the step up, drop down method as that seemed to be just as fast as rebounding box jumps yet kept heart rate a lot lower.  We also spent a good amount of time talking about how to limit transition time while loading the bar.  This helped tremendously and was a big factor in the success of my workout as well as my teammates and many of the campers.  For me, I felt like I was cruising through this workout until the 205# bar.  When I got there, it began to hurt and I could no longer move as fast as I wanted to.  However, I knew I was able to just hang on and push through it until those 8 minutes were up.  I completed 167 reps in those eight minutes – clearing the 205# bar and getting 7 box jumps before time ran out.  That score was good enough for 21st in the region.  This helped my overall standing, pushing me up to 20th in the Mid Atlantic region.

*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:

http://www.3sixtyathletics.com/360blog

POST 14.2: SURVIVE AND ADVANCE

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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.

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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.

14.2 Recap

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.

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*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:

http://www.3sixtyathletics.com/360blog/

POST 14.1: TRUST IN THE SYSTEM, ALL OF IT.

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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.

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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.

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*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:

http://www.3sixtyathletics.com/360blog/

DELAYED ECC RECAP, BUT WE’RE 4 WEEKS OUT!

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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.

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THE WORKOUTS

PART 1

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 ***

PART 2

50′ Handstand Walk

15 Power Cleans (135)

50′ Handstand Walk

30 TTB

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.

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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.

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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.

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FINALS 

5 Muscle Ups

50 DU’s

40 Axel Bar Deadlifts (105)

5 Muscle Ups

50 DU’s

30 Axel Bar Front Squats (105)

5 Muscle Ups

50 DU’s

20 Axel Shoulder to OH (105)

5 Muscle Ups

50 DU’s

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.

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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.

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*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:

http://www.3sixtyathletics.com/360blog/

MOVE FOR KEVIN

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

http://www.3sixtyathletics.com/360blog/

2013: THE YEAR OF EDUCATION

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.

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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.

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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.

1. STRENGTH.
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.

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*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:

http://www.3sixtyathletics.com/360blog/

DEPTH BEFORE DISHONOR

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Exercise Update:

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!

unnamed-3*You can find this post and other posts by my peers and I at:

http://www.3sixtyathletics.com/360blog/

THE 2013 AMERICAN OPEN

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: