*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: