Are You Abusing Exercise?

Exercise gives us endorphins, and it’s a beautiful thing, really! 

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Having a shit day? Get that anger out, girl.

Trouble processing emotions and feel stuck? Get yo’ ass moving and see things much more clearly.

Need to transition from “part one” of your day to “part two”? Exercise is my preferred way to do it!

It’s a valid method of moving through and processing emotions. After all, emotions bring energy with them, and it needs to continue onward—lest it stay with us.

But, when do we transition from using exercise to benefit our emotional and physical well-being to using it as a scapegoat, distraction, or projection of negative emotions towards ourselves? 

When does our use of exercise turn from healthy to unhealthy?

When we’re not aware of our motivations.

Without awareness of WHY we’re exercising, we may be distracting ourselves from more deeply rooted items that need our attention.

More often than not, addressing these underlying matters is what will truly lead to contentment. Exercise is simply a band-aid.

If this sounds familiar to the use of food—either via eating or restriction—you’re right. Many women use both exercise and food as coping mechanisms, but it’s helpful to look at them in isolation. 

How do you know if your use of exercise is beneficial and healthy?

Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”

If the honest answer(s) is derived from a negative place, then we need another game plan. Examples include:

  • shame for food choices

  • disgust with your body as it is today

  • to build a body to please others

  • to distract yourself from issues at home, work, relationships, etc.

  • to prove your worthiness by being an athlete

  • to prove your worthiness by changing your body

  • to prove your worthiness by working harder than everyone else

  • to convince yourself that you’re moving towards greater fulfillment, when what you’re really seeking is deeper connection with yourself and/or others

  • to receive love, attention, or validation from others

Positive, healthy reasons to engage in exercise may include:

  • to challenge yourself and prove that you can do hard things. The key here is to ensure you’re doing this for yourself, not to prove anything to others

  • to build strength, endurance, or power in your body so that you’re a more capable human

  • to build parts of your body based on your own aesthetic preferences, while understanding that this has zero impact on your worth as a human

  • to calm or reset your mind

  • to get out of your head and into your body

  • because it’s enjoyable AF

 These will look different for everyone, and each list can continue in perpetuity.

The key is to be completely honest with ourselves when we look at our intentions, and oftentimes, this awareness is only heightened when we’re forced to take a break.

Health concerns, injuries, and various other life circumstances will force us to pause, to change our exercise routines, or to perhaps stop them altogether. 

This can be challenging, humbling, and frustrating as all hell.

We may even find ourselves in a full-blown identity crisis if exercise—especially of the intense of competition variety—has become part of who we are.

While this may sound miserable, we can use situations like this to our advantage. 

We can use them as opportunities to face ourselves, to show ourselves compassion and grace, and to identify what we truly need.

I found myself in this situation in during the Spring of 2018 when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. I had been feeling terrible for months, and that diagnosis was the wakeup call I needed to finally take a step back from my intense exercise regimen and REST.

My 4-5 times per week CrossFit habit changed to leisurely walks and some weightlifting three times per week.

I didn’t become a couch potato by any means—as my body didn’t warrant that protocol—so I was shocked to discover my discomfort with zero intense exercise.

No chasing the clock.

No pushing my body to the point of complete exhaustion.

No competing with others in class.

No using exercise to get my brain to work because I was too exhausted and overworked for it to function normally on its own. 

Rather, I was forced to sit with the discomfort. 

And I pondered. 

Why is this so uncomfortable for me?

What have I been avoiding?

What am I really doing it all for?

Some of the answers that came up included:

  • avoidance & denial of feeling physically unwell when not exercising, as the endorphins made me feel better for the hours after a workout.

  • identifying with going “all out” during every workout, otherwise I felt like a wimp, pansy, and average.

  • proving my worth to the world by pushing myself harder than others.

  • an inability to show myself grace when I’m not good at something. To not push to be better was unacceptable in my eyes, even when it wasn’t making me any happier or fulfilled in the long-run.

  • making myself feel accomplished in an area I’m comfortable with—physical activity—so that I could placate my avoidance of things I’m uncomfortable with: business ventures and some areas of relationships.

We’re pretty great at rationalizing our choices and projecting them as healthy to the outside world.

After all, very few people—if any—truly know our motivations behind our seemingly healthy exercise habits.

WE are the ones with the answers.  We may be the only ones seeing all the cards.

Therefore, it’s our responsibility to ourselves to be honest about where we are & where we really want to go.

If any of this sounds familiar, consider taking the uncomfortable route. Consider sitting with the discomfort, rather than running (quite literally) from it.

Take a break—ideally a couple months—from the intense exercise you’re used to and allow yourself the opportunity to uncover what’s lurking beneath the surface.

You can always return to your current exercising ways if you so choose—perhaps in a different format, cadence, or intensity—and you’ll be doing so from a much more positive and life-enhancing place.

Don’t let something with so much life-promoting & enjoyment potential become your worst enemy simply because you’re replacing one form of discomfort for another.

Never Miss a Monday Workout? I Call Bullsh*t

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I used to be ALL about the sentiment of this slogan, but this didn’t just apply to Mondays. I was militant about my workout regimen, and never once did I stop, sit with my body, do a fully body scan, and ask what would be best for her.

Nope. Sick, injured, run-down, stressed—none of it mattered.

I would anxiously think about my workout for the entirety of the day if I was planning to complete it in the afternoon (often the case), and I quickly learned how much I enjoyed morning workouts, as my mind was then free for the remainder of the day to think about other things.

It never occurred to me that I wasn’t actually happy in this pursuit, and I certainly didn’t consider the health of my mind or body during this time.

I was so far down the rabbit hole of hustling for a sense of worthiness—either through body composition changes or pushing through an intense workout—that I didn’t know which way was up.

This behavior encapsulates the peak of my obsession with exercise and controlling my body, but I continued to move through many other iterations as I progressed towards healing.

Not All In, but Still Too Much

Just three years ago, I was still convinced that as long as I was taking two full rest days, then it was impossible to be behaving in a neurotic or disconnected fashion. Note that these were primarily CrossFit workouts.

This frequency can certainly work well for some, and it’s largely dependent on a variety of factors—sleep, stress, nutrition, intensity and duration of activity—but it didn’t work for me. The fact that I was actually taking rest days didn’t mean shit to my body, as it was still stressed to the nines.  

I was allowing my strictly disciplined mind call all the shots and was greatly disconnected from my body.

My ego (or monkey brain) continued to play puppet master, and my body, mind, and soul were paying a serious price.

We can argue the nuances of different personality types, various life circumstances, and different goals until we’re blue in the face, but the fact remains that there are still MANY good reasons to miss a Monday. Or any planned workout, for that matter.  

  • Feeling physically run down due to emotional or mental stress

  • Illness or imbalances (such as hormonal), chronic or acute

  • Lack of adequate fuel, so it will only serve as an additional stressor

  • Injury in various degrees and forms

  • PMS

  • A general lack of downtime and rest (i.e. living in masculine energy)

  • Going to happy hour instead

  • Simply not wanting to

Some of these can be labeled as excuses, and depending on the context, they very well may be. We are the only ones who hold the answers for ourselves.

However, for those of us who are perfectionists at heart (recovering or otherwise), who often thrive in the masculine energy of constant productivity, who function with high levels of discipline, and who receive great pleasure from intense physical activity and success, these are anything but excuses.

These are legitimate, life-giving reasons that may serve us far more from a health perspective than an additional workout ever will.

Before you give credence to another #nevermissamonday social media post and throw yourself into a shame spiral for not being disciplined, hard-core, or productive enough, sit with your body and ask her what would be best for her.

Our bodies hold greater wisdom than we often give them credit for, and through this stillness, we’re able to tune into the needs of body and soul.

 Our habits and mindset related to exercise are the perfect opportunity to practice establishing and deepening this relationship.

Focusing on Food BEHAVIORS & Why Decreasing Intense Exercise is Helpful When Healing Our Relationships with Food

Yoga and walking were the only activities I did for a few months while I honed and solidified my eating behaviors.

Yoga and walking were the only activities I did for a few months while I honed and solidified my eating behaviors.

I distinctly remember my first foray into intuitive eating. I was living at home in Albuquerque, NM with my parents after graduating college while I studied for my CPA exam, and my body and mind were utterly exhausted from years of binge drinking and obsessing over my body and food.

After years of following rules, counting carbs, starving then binging, and soaking up every latest-and-greatest celebrity diet, I decided to turn inward. I declared that my body would be my guide while I leveraged a few loose (very loose) guidelines.

My main prerogative was normalizing my relationship with food, so I focused on my behaviors:

  • Eating when hungry; stopping before I was full
  • Bringing awareness to when I was eating out of boredom or another emotion
  • Paying attention to my habits of mindless eating and snacking
  • Asking myself if my choice now was worth the consequences later (it certainly was at times)
  • Only engaging in calming and stress-free physical activity, which included yoga and walking

That last item is key, because had I engaged in my usual exercise routine of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and long runs, it would have been much more difficult to practice and solidify the aforementioned behaviors.

Intense physical activity can be a hell of a lot of fun, but it forces us to pay more attention to our food, lest we risk feeling like crap, throwing our bodies out of balance, and experiencing subpar or decreasing performance.

If we’re demanding a lot out of our bodies, it makes sense that we have to fuel them appropriately via adequate calories, protein, carbs and fat. This means paying more attention to our food, not less.

For someone overcoming obsessive and neurotic food behaviors, this isn’t ideal.

Where to Start

Overdoing exercise often works in tandem with restrictive food behaviors, so releasing both at the same time can be unsettling.

However, trust me when I say that this puts you on the fast track to understanding your body, normalizing your relationship with food, and then being able to return to your usual fitness habits (if you so choose) with a much more enjoyable counterpart: the fuel.

So, where do you start?

By slowly scaling back your intense activity and replacing it with more stress-free movement:

  • Slow walking (no power walking)
  • Yoga (no sculpt or intense power yoga)
  • Strength training (that doesn’t go to failure and leaves plenty of rest between sets)
  • Leisurely hikes
  • Any mildly strenuous outdoor activity, like skiing, snowboarding, or rock climbing. Bonus points for the calming effects of nature!

If you’re currently exercising five days per week intensely, replace three of those days with one of the activities mentioned above. Please note that this doesn’t mean walking for hours either—the goal is less, not more!

Notice I’m not asking you to completely remove your favorite activity—simply to scale back temporarily.

Utilize this time to reconnect with your body and SLOW DOWN. It’s really difficult to connect and listen when we’re moving a mile a minute. Which I understand is many of our baselines, but try to keep your eye on the long-term goal here:

To be able to return to your intense activity with a newfound understanding of your body, how to fuel it, and your food behaviors—all while approaching it with a sense of calm, trust, and ease.

Weight loss is often an ancillary result of this approach too, which is shocking to most clients (as it was for me in the beginning too).

We’re taught that more is better, both in volume and intensity, but that simply isn’t true. Our bodies aren’t mechanical machines—they’re independent ecosystems that are always trying to find a place of peace and balance.

It’s amazing what can happen when we finally meet them there and decide to be on the same team.

Sounds pretty nice, right?

Before you jump into tracking macros or trying another restrictive diet that promises to provide all of your answers, ask yourself if your behaviors around food are sound.

These are the building blocks for any changes you’ll make going forward—take the time now to build your foundation.

As my dad used to tell me as a child after I attempted every short-cut in the book during my first go-round:

“Do it right the first time, and you’ll save yourself so much time in the end.”

-       Bill

 

Carbohydrates - Do You Need to Eat More?

Oatmeal is now a mainstay in my diet, particularly before workouts!

Oatmeal is now a mainstay in my diet, particularly before workouts!

I fully believe in releasing neurotic behaviors and thought patterns around nutrition and our diets in order to live at ease in our bodies and fulfill our potential in life, and this often includes paying attention to and/or counting macronutrients (fats, carbs, proteins). However, when working to overcome food and body obsessions, it can be incredibly frustrating to still feel physically unwell despite our best efforts to feel otherwise.

Feeling well physically lends itself to so much more ease around food, as we feel synergistic with our bodies. It reinforces the notion that we’re working in tandem, and it’s incredibly empowering too.

As I worked to overcome my own food and body obsessions, I continued to feel physically unwell despite my best efforts to eat a nourishing diet and listen to my body. I didn’t realize that I was still subscribing to the dogmatic, low-carb approach I was exposed to ten years prior, and my body and mind were paying the price.  While I wanted to pay LESS attention to my diet, I realized I had to pay more attention to my carbohydrate intake.

I was exposed the concept of eating a low carb diet in high school when my parents’ personal trainer told us about the latest and greatest way to shed weight quickly. I had zero concept of nutrition at this point, and he was in a position of authority, so I blindly listened to his advice. Per his recommendation, I was to eat no more than 15 grams of carbs per meal and to eat every 3-4 hours, which typically led to 4-5 meals and 60-75 grams of carbs per day.

During this time, I was also attending group fitness classes at his gym with my family and a few family friends, and all classes were high-intensity in nature. Classes typically included sprints on the rower, jump squats and lunges, battle ropes, kettlebell swings, ball slams, etc. We moved quickly from one movement to the next and had minimal rest, so my heartrate was spiked during the majority of the 30-minute classes.

What were the results of this low-carb diet coupled with a high-intensity exercise regimen?

I lost 10-15 pounds over the course of six months, stopped getting my period completely, experienced severe moodiness, dry skin, brittle nails, poor digestion, awful sleep, an inability to sit down to a meal without overanalyzing its carbohydrate content, and an obsession with completing high-intensity exercise every single day. My ease around food vanished the minute I began this low carbohydrate way of eating.

A few things I didn’t know at the time:

  • High-intensity exercise requires glycogen. Our bodies convert the glucose from carbohydrates into glycogen, and this is then stored in the liver or muscles if not immediately utilized.
  • Carbohydrates are important to the development of strength and muscle growth.
  • A diet too low in carbohydrates can disrupt and/or slow digestion.
  • Females tend to be more sensitive to decreased carbohydrate intake, and our hormones often respond in kind. I.e. our periods become irregular or stop completely, as was the case for me.
  • A diet too low in carbohydrates can lead to brittle nails, dry skin, poor sleep, and moodiness. I literally turned into a different (often terrible) human-being with zero patience and a short temper, and I had difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Calories in vs. calories out leads to fat loss. Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” had recently been released, and this touted the notion that calories don’t actually matter for fat loss, which I now know to be false. Macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) do affect our bodies differently due to a variety of factors, but calories reign supreme in the end when it comes to fat loss.
  • Carbohydrates hold water in the body. For every 1g of carbohydrates consumed, the body tends to retain approximately 3g of water. Conversely, reducing carbohydrates in one’s diet leads to a decrease in water retention. As a result, those following a low-carb diet often experience rapid weight loss due to the loss of water.  Which leads me to my next point
  • Weight loss does not equal fat loss. It’s common to see the scale drop 5+ lbs. in one week for those new to a low-carb diet, and this is largely due to losing water. For many, this is the incentive they need to continue pushing forward, as they’re under the false impression that all of it is fat. Losing more than 1% of your body weight per week increases the likelihood of losing muscle, so this wouldn’t be an ideal situation anyways.
  • Greatly reducing or eliminating one macronutrient often leads to demonizing certain foods and a poor relationship comprised of fear, resentment, and guilt.

  

It took hours, days, and months of reflection, researching, and experimentation to discover and finally believe that carbohydrates are not the root of all evil for our body composition or health.

I was finally fed up with my fear of carbs and subsequent guilt after eating them, my poor and declining performance in Crossfit, brain fog, low energy, brittle nails, and a missing period, so I decided to start adding carbohydrates back into my diet. I was TERRIFIED of what the results would be, largely due to my fear of gaining weight, but my declining health, poor quality of life, and my tumultuous relationship with food eventually became more cumbersome than the idea of adding some weight to my frame.

During this time, my diet was based on the popular Paleo templates of vegetables, meat, and additional fats. My breakfast usually consisted of eggs, bacon, and greens; my lunch and dinners included vegetables, fatty cuts of meat, and often additional fats like avocado, butter, or nut butter. I enjoyed the occasional sweet potato with dinner, but that was the extent of my carbohydrate intake.

I started adding a small serving of carbohydrates to each meal, such as a cupped handful of rice, potatoes, or sweet potato. I enjoyed oatmeal before my workouts, and I often had a post-workout smoothie that included fruits. I was eating more carbohydrates than I had been in ten years, and the rest of my diet remained fairly consistent.

The Results

Within a few weeks I had gained 5 pounds, and I stopped stepping on the scale after that point. I began to mull over the potential reasons for the weight gain. Was it water weight? Was I actually gaining fat? Would it stop or would it continue? I didn’t know the answers at the time, but I kept trucking along in hopes that my body and weight would stabilize.

My fear and guilt around carbs had also lessened significantly by this point, and I wasn’t willing to give up my newfound ease around these foods for the sake of the scale. However, I knew in the back of my mind that there would be a tipping point for my weight gain, and I would likely adjust my diet again if my weight crept up to a point where I was no longer comfortable. I didn’t place a number on this, but the sentiment was lurking in the back of my mind. Still, I continued with my experiment.

While I still didn’t step on the scale again until a year later, my weight eventually stabilized around three months later as evidenced by the way my clothes fit. I would estimate a total weight gain of ten pounds. Some of this was water, and some of it was fat.

Six months after my initial increase in carbs, my period returned after being absent for two years. This was a HUGE win for me, and I decided in that moment that I would never return to a low-carb way of eating again (barring health conditions that warrant this protocol).

As a long-time sufferer of digestive issues, I wasn’t surprised by the bloating I experienced when adding in the carbohydrates. However, this subsided within a few months, and I was utterly shocked by the overall improvement in my digestion after the initial adjustment period. I was no longer experiencing nightly bloating and frequent constipation.

In the gym, I started adding weight to my lifts rather quickly, and this came after I had remained stagnant for many months. I was working hard previously, so it wasn’t for lack of effort, but I simply wasn’t providing my body with the fuel it needed to get through high-intensity CrossFit workouts or build strength. I was able to make it through difficult workouts much more easily with the addition of my new friends, and I got my first pull-up within two months of increasing my carbohydrate intake.

I was finally able to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night. Today, shitty sleep is an early sign for me that my carbohydrate intake has dipped too low.

My mood became much more consistent, and that means consistently positive, motivated, and patient. My brain fog began to dissipate, and my nails stopped peeling and got stronger.

Some of these improvements may be attributable to an overall increase in calories.  I can’t say with any certainty due to the lack of data I have from these points in time, as I wasn’t tracking my carbohydrate or overall calorie intake. However, with many of my clients, an increase in carbohydrates with a net-neutral effect on calories has resulted in the same improvements.  This is purely anecdotal though.

As always, nuance and context are very important when it comes to nutrition. For some, a decrease in carbohydrates will be beneficial, whereas an increase might be the key to improving someone’s health and well-being, as was the case for me.

Stay tuned for Part II where I discuss how I recommend increasing carbohydrate intake with my clients, nuanced recommendations, and what I would have done differently myself!

Crossfit - Common Barriers to Entry & Why I Do It

With the New Year typically come a plethora of declarations related to increased activity in the gym.  For many, it’s also viewed as an opportunity to try new things we’re afraid of. I consistently hear that Crossfit is one of these activities, and it once was for me, so I’m sharing common fears, why I decided to finally join a Crossfit gym over three years ago, and the reasons I continue to show up today.

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After hearing about Crossfit from my older brother after graduating college, sometime after 2011, I was intrigued due to the challenge. I had always opted for high intensity internal training (HIIT) over steady-state cardio, and my workouts usually included some form of weight training. However, I hadn’t ever focused on increasing strength, and I certainly hadn’t been exposed to gymnastics skills. The concept sounded right up my alley, but I was still afraid of walking into a gym with an established community and without any previous barbell training. It wasn’t until I came back from backpacking abroad with a newfound desire to pursue goals/activities I had been afraid of that I decided to finally take the leap.

I completed the “elements” course, designed to introduce new members to the barbell movements, at a gym in Albuquerque, New Mexico and stayed there for a total of three months before moving back to Denver. I had a great experience at that gym, so I decided to join Crossfit Broadway after a close friend had recently joined and was raving about it.  He continued to talk about the owner’s Kiwi accent, so I was solidly convinced. Taking the first step into a new gym is the hardest part, and if you’re in the right place, you’ll be motivated to keep coming back. That first step can be intimidating though, and here are some of the most common reasons:

1.     I don’t know anyone and there’s already an established community – This can bring back memories of grade school for some people due to the presence of cliques at some gyms. The reality is that humans will be humans, and some cliques are inevitable regardless of the activity, group, gym, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that new members aren’t welcome, and if the overall vibe to the gym isn’t welcoming, then you’re in the wrong one. When I started at both of the Crossfit gyms I’ve been a member of, people of course had strong bonds and relationships already, but they were very open to getting to know me too. Additionally, there are always new members joining, so you’ll never feel like the only new person (at least for long).

2.     I’ve never used a barbell before – I had ZERO clue what to do what a barbell aside from back squats when I joined. And even then, I discovered that my form was incorrect for many reasons. Don’t let this be your barrier to entry! Consider it a challenge, and keep in mind that the majority of other new members haven’t used one before either.  The gym you join should have an introduction class, or “Elements” as it’s called at my gym, that provides more personalized attention on the barbell movements. You’ll likely be meeting other new members in this class too, and you can all laugh together about how awkward you feel with these new-to-you movements. We’ve all been there!

3.     I don’t want to get too bulky – this is a common sentiment among many women, but this is largely due to misinformation. It’s physiologically impossible for the vast majority of women to gain muscle mass at a rapid rate, and even then, it won’t come close to a man’s. “Toning” has become a popular topic in the fitness industry, and it’s tailored to women. But what does that even mean? In order to look “toned”, you have to gain muscle, and heavy weight training is the way to get there. It’s worth noting that everyone’s body responds differently to weight training and Crossfit, but you can always adjust the weights you’re using if needed.

4.     I hear it’s easy to get hurt – Crossfit does involve some highly technical movements, such as the snatch and clean & jerk, and we can certainly injure ourselves if we’re not careful. This is where personal responsibility and solid coaching comes into play.  We have a personal responsibility to articulate when a movement or weight doesn’t feel right to us, when we’re injured, when we’re sick, etc. It’s easy to let our egos take over and use a weight that is too heavy to execute a movement with proper form.

Knowledgeable and responsible coaching is also extremely important. I have excellent coaches at my gym who are closely watching our form, and they know our strengths and weaknesses very well. They are often telling us to strip weight when it’s too heavy, and they’ll also tell us to add more when they know we can handle it. Joining a gym where the coaches take the time to really know their athletes, their capabilities, and their limitations is key.

5.     All crossfitters do is talk about Crossfit – this can certainly be true, and I find that this is more common amongst serious competitors and those who are just starting. However, for the average gym goer like myself who has been doing it for a few years, it’s rarely a topic of conversation, even amongst my friends from the gym. While there is nothing wrong with doing a deep-dive into the movements, workouts, goals, etc., constantly talking about it is less common than non-crossfitters think. We’ve just gotten a bad rap!  

Now that we’ve discussed some of the most common barriers to entry, we can focus on why I love Crossfit and the reasons it has become my go-to form of training.

1.     I’m never bored – there are so many movements, lifts, and endless combinations of these, so every workout is different. There is such a thing as too much variation in an effective program, but with the right programming, you’ll see consistent progress while still being able to experience variety. Most of my classes and standard Crossfit classes consist of a strength element at the beginning, followed by a “metcon,” or metabolic conditioning (i.e. high-intensity portion designed to improve our energy systems), so we’re always being challenged via multiple modalities in one class.

2.     Increased strength – I have a tough time putting on muscle due to my genetics and body type, and I’m not naturally strong. Like, at all. So strength training is important to me, as it should be for all women!  Experiencing the increase in weights of my lifts over the last few years has been amazing, and I feel the difference in my daily activities.  Whenever my hip pain starts to resurface, I know I haven’t been doing enough strength training, and within just one session it begins to subside. Plus, it’s just a badass feeling to be able to do a pull-up and throw heavy weight around.

3.     Knowledgeable coaches – I started doing modified Crossfit workouts in globo-gyms and at home before I joined a gym, and while I wasn’t using a barbell (mostly dumbbells), having knowledgeable coaches has made a world of a difference. Not only do they identify improper form, subsequently make adjustments, and actually provide a progressive structure to follow (rather than piecing together random movements and workouts), they push me beyond what I think I’m capable of. Think of them as accountability buddies, and ones you love to hate in the middle of a hard workout.

4.     Short(er) cardio – long, steady-state cardio is quite popular for many, especially women. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, but it can become quite stressful on our bodies if we’re not also combing it with strength training and adequate fuel. I used to partake in long runs, and my body simply didn’t feel well after. My joints were always hurting, I was STARVING, and I was so bored. Most Crossfit metcons (the cardio portion) at my gym are typically between 5 and 15 minutes, and the coaches here plenty of groaning if it’s over 20 minutes. The difference is in the level of intensity, so don’t let the short length fool you!  I’m the type that would rather go balls-out for a shorter amount of time than decrease my intensity and drag it out for an hour. My body appreciates the shorter duration too.

5.     Customization – My gym is top-notch at this. The goal of most gyms is to keep their members coming back for years, and this can only be done with some customization due to changes in capabilities, goals, priorities, health, and injuries. At my gym, we all use different weights in our workouts based on our unique capabilities and goals, and we’re able to modify any movements due to injuries or health after communicating the circumstances to the coaches. This gives me the reassurance to know that I can continue to show up despite any physical changes or limitations I may have.

6.     Being challenged & the competition – I participated in sports all throughout my childhood and high school, and the competition and challenge is something I missed once those days had come and gone. While our scores are written on the board for everyone to see, as cliché as it sounds, most of the competition is with myself by beating former workout times, adding weight to the bar, learning a new movement, and by simply pushing through when I want to stop (almost every class). I firmly believe that physical challenges lead to increased mental and emotional strength, and this is one of my favorite aspects of Crossfit.

7.     People/Community – I can really only speak for the gyms I have been a member of; mostly my current gym after being a member for over three years. Firstly, I previously labeled myself as someone who would never workout in a group setting. I was happy as a clam waltzing into a globo-gym, doing my own thing with my headphones in, and then getting the hell out of there.  I now realize that the group classes bring a new level of competition and camaraderie to each workout, and I’m able to push myself much harder than I am when working out alone. Secondly, I honestly had no intention of making new friends when I joined my current gym, as I just wanted to get a good workout in and get out. Much to my coaches’ dismay, I’m sure, the social aspect is now one of my favorite parts about the gym. I’ve met some amazing people who have become dear friends, and we all experience a sense of community that is difficult to find for most adults in our modern world.

So there you have it! Crossfit isn’t for everyone, I get that, but if you’re on the fence or even have a slight interest, then I encourage you to give it a solid chance for one month. And don’t be afraid to try a few gyms until you find the one that feels best to you, as every gym has a different vibe. You can always reach out to me directly via email too if you have any questions!