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.

Let your Identity Die If You Want to Reach Your Goals

 The way we adhere to our unproductive and often-harmful narratives holds us back in so many ways.

The way we adhere to our unproductive and often-harmful narratives holds us back in so many ways.

  • I don’t know how to control myself around food.
  • I’m an obsessive eater.
  • I’m not a disciplined person.
  • I’m a control freak.
  • I don’t know how to motivate myself.
  • I’m too shy to talk to new people.
  • I always give up on myself, so that will never work.
  • I failed at that before, so I’m a failure.
  • I’m closed-off, insecure, lazy, unpleasant, unworthy, un-loveable, [enter negative story].

We all define ourselves with the adjectives and words we have available, and we’re usually doing this unconsciously. Oftentimes, we’ve assumed these narratives from someone else—potentially someone we held in high regard.

Or perhaps we made a decision that wasn’t in alignment with our true, deeper values, such as lying, cheating, gossiping, failing to adhere to our responsibilities, or procrastinating, and we allow that one instance to define us. Every one of us has been here!

Rather than detaching from that one behavior, or even a series of behaviors, we begin to assume these behaviors as our identities. Rather than saying “I was emotional, zoned out, and over-ate.”, we tell ourselves, “I am an overeater”.

If we tell ourselves the latter, how do you think we’re going to act next time?

We’ll likely act in alignment with what we believe to be who we are.

We’d rather not experience the discomfort of misalignment with our “identities”, despite the harm we’re inflicting upon ourselves.

The truth is, we can reinvent ourselves at any time. Sure, there are characteristics and limitations that are hardwired into us (nature), but even then, I believe we can learn how to make subtle changes that enable us to use these to our benefit. Or at least temper them.

By adhering to these narrow definitions of ourselves, we immediately remove the possibility of experiencing personal growth and evolution.

I clung tightly to my identity as an obsessive and neurotic eater who couldn’t be trusted to make my own decisions around food, and all of my behaviors were consistent with this narrative.

By assuming this as my identity, I didn’t have to take responsibility for my own decisions, and I succumbed to this definition of WHO I was, rather than looking at my choices as simply behaviors. And behaviors are malleable.

It wasn’t until I took responsibility for the ability to write my own damn story that I was able to make changes counter to this notion of myself.

Slowly but surely, I grew to understand and accept that I was perpetuating my own suffering.

As another example, we may have made “practical” decisions at one point in our lives that truly felt right to us at the time (or didn’t, but we made them anyways), and before we know it, we and others have labeled ourselves as “practical”.

There isn’t a lot of wiggle room there, so what happens when our heart and soul are begging us to make decisions that are more unconventional? An identity crisis.

Begin to Detach

Instead of clinging to these words and stories, what would happen if we began to separate them from our identities?

There would be a world of possibilities! And a lot more personal responsibility. Rather than believing we are the victim of pre-determined traits and qualities, we would then be forced to reconcile with the fact that we’re actively playing a part in our stories. Initially uncomfortable, but also liberating AF.

How does one do this?

  • Take an honest inventory and make a list of the words and narratives you use to define yourself.
  • Ask yourself if you’re happy and in alignment with them. Are they serving you today and where you want to be in the future?
  • Be radically honest about how you’re responsible for perpetuating the story. Taking responsibility for this can be frustrating and painful, but it’s worth it! (reminding myself here)
  • Write down the behaviors you prefer to exhibit. ***We don’t want to get attached to another identity here—so focus on behaviors only.***
  • Remind yourself that your identity is always malleable (and perhaps false altogether), and this is a constant process of reinvention.
  • Put these new behaviors into action! This process takes time, but the belief that they can change is hugely transformational in itself.

In order to grow beyond our current struggles and our current versions of ourselves, we have to be willing to let our labels and narratives die. To let the former and current versions of ourselves die.  This can be scary as hell, but it can also the source of a new beginning whenever we’re ready and willing.

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

 

Maintenance Caloric Intake - What It Is & Why It's Magical

The concept of eating at maintenance caloric intake is a tremendously underutilized tool, particularly for women.

In fact, when I ask women what it looks and feels like to eat at a maintenance intake, most look at me like I have two heads.

What the hell does maintenance even mean?

 We work harder by cutting more and more calories, but this backfires at some point.

We work harder by cutting more and more calories, but this backfires at some point.

This is the caloric intake at which our bodies are neither gaining nor losing weight. In the land of dieting, we often forget about this magical state. We’re brainwashed and/or misled into thinking that if we’re not restricting and actively dieting, then the only other option is to gain weight.

NOT true.

Eating at maintenance provides a slew of amazing benefits, and this is especially true for women who have been dieting for extended periods of time and aren’t seeing the results they want in the gym.

1.     More energy and brain power

Under-eating, or eating below maintenance caloric intake, can cause symptoms that begin to become our new normal if we do it for long enough. A notable one is experiencing low energy in the form of brain fog or general physical fatigue, and the positive effects are often immediately felt after increasing food intake to maintenance levels.

2.     Gains in strength, muscle mass & performance

As someone who already struggles to put on strength and muscle mass (and let’s be real—most women have a far more difficult time putting on muscle than males), this is especially important. Have you been working your ass off in the gym, only to have nothing to show for your results?

I’ve been there, and it took a LOT of convincing myself to finally increase my food intake in an effort to see some gains. (Full disclosure: this didn’t happen until about 2 years ago, and progress is still super slow). However, it just isn’t possible for many of us to eat at a deficit and gain muscle mass unless we’re fairly new to training.

This is why it’s common to see transformations of women who are new to healthy eating and resistance or strength training. They lose fat and gain muscle at the same time—however, this occurs less frequently the longer we’ve been training consistently.

Aside from gaining strength and muscle mass, improved performance in conditioning workouts (such as Crossfit, Orange Theory, HIIT, endurance) can be felt almost immediately.

3.     Restoration of metabolic and hormonal function

Our bodies evolved to protect us from starvation, so hormones increase or decrease (depending on their function) while when we’re in a calorie deficit, and our metabolisms slow.

This is essentially done by decreasing our NEAT—non-exercise activity thermogenesis—i.e. we move less throughout the day. 

This means we need to decrease our intake, or increase our deficit, to continue to see fat loss. Eventually, we find ourselves in a hole, where our caloric intake is quite low, we’re not losing fat, we’re not gaining muscle, and we feel like total dog shit.

We may also experience low libido, missing or irregular periods, low thyroid function, poor digestion, and awful sleep.

At this point, the only way to go is up, and you may just gain back your hormonal and metabolic vitality. HUGE win!

4.     Establishing body fat set point

Our bodies tend to find “set points”, or body fat percentages where they’re comfortable and don’t easily fluctuate from.  Some experience this by not being able to hold a higher weight, while others experience the opposite.

The longer we remain at any given weight while consuming an appropriate number of calories (i.e. this won’t work if we’re always under-eating), our bodies adapt and re-establish the set point. This means we have more flexibility with our take when our bodies feel safe by way of adequate intake, as opposed to constantly feeling stressed.

Note: this appears to be largely anecdotal at this time, but many experience this phenomenon.

5.     MORE FOOD

I think this speaks for itself if you love food like I do, as this girl has a big ol’ appetite.

If you’ve been undereating consistently for a long period of time, as many women have been (and I did), then it can be scary to eat more out of fear of gaining weight. But it can also be magical, as your cravings will likely decrease, and you’ll settle in to a more consistent and fulfilling relationship with food.

This might include keeping your “standard” choices the same, or keeping your meals consistent, but adding in dessert more often, enjoying more cocktails, etc. OR you may want to beef up each of your meals OR any combination of these two approaches!

Overcoming Fear of Fat Gain

One of the biggest complaints I hear from women regarding this concept is the fear of gaining fat. There is absolutely nothing wrong with gaining fat, and someone women actually need to for health reasons, but we don’t have to increase our calories to the point of fat gain if we don’t want to.

How does one accomplish this feat?

By slowly adding food back. This is much easier if you have somewhat of a routine already in place when it comes to food, as you can simply add 100-200 calories every week to your daily total.

Please note that this is different for everyone, so this is very much a starting point. You will have to pay attention to the feedback from your body! A few lbs. are completely normal due to increased water and food mass—i.e. it doesn’t mean fat gain. Start with 100 calories per day, and if you’re relatively weight stable, begin to add more and repeat until you observe fat gain via the scale, clothing, mirror, etc.

Time to Build Your Balanced Baseline

After increasing calories to maintenance, we want to ensure we’re developing sound habits. After under-eating for extended periods of time, many women have skewed perspectives of how much food they actually need to eat, so re-establishing an appropriate intake is essential.

I discuss strategies to find your balanced baseline here, and it’s important to take the time to discover what this looks like for you.

Why?

Because you’ll be enjoying life while spending less time and precious mental energy thinking about your food, and you’ll also feel a million times better. What’s not to love, right?

Once you have remained at this caloric intake for several months, your hormones should be normalized—if not optimized—your energy is high, your mood and sleep are great, digestion is rocking, and gym performance is on par with your goals (or at the very least you feel great during and afterwards).

You are then in a much better position to make changes to your body if you so choose.

Want to add muscle? Great—start with 100-200 calories per day and see how your body responds.

Want to lose fat? Great—start by decreasing your intake by 200-300 calories per day and increasing your activity via walking a couple times per week and see how your body responds.

By discovering and hanging out at maintenance for at least 3-6 months, your body will be primed to make changes down the road.  This is starkly different from continuing to decrease your current caloric intake when you’ve been trucking along at a notable deficit for months or years on end, only to binge, rebound, and develop a tumultuous relationship with food.

Is this approach sexy? Not to the mainstream, as we don’t see physical fat loss results in 12 weeks.

More often than not, we’re staying the same (if not gaining a couple) BEFORE we can see fat loss results down the road.

But an elevated mood, physical performance, optimized hormones, better cognitive function, and a stable and nourishing relationship with food sound sexy as hell to me.

As much as your current thought patterns will attempt to convince you otherwise, I encourage you to play the long game. Your future self with thank you!

Mindset, Community, Sleep, Nutrition, Movement - Building Your Well-being Pyramid

Everyone defines their priorities differently, but there are a few elements of our well-being that almost everyone can agree upon. However, the ranking of these in order of importance are specific to each individual.

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Sleep, movement and physical activity, nutrition, community/connection, and mindset are all important to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of humans. If we imagine a pyramid and place those of greatest importance at the bottom of the pyramid and those we don’t place as much stock in at the top of the pyramid, we have our personalized well-being pyramid.

Each of these elements is important for our long-term health, and the order of importance will likely change throughout our lives in accordance with our priorities. For example, several of my friends and clients have young children, and their pyramids drastically changed after having children. Whereas many placed physical activity and movement at the base of the pyramid prior, sleep is now at the base of their pyramids.

For those who are undergoing an emotionally traumatic or stressful time in life, ensuring their mindset and community/connection needs are fully met will likely stronger priorities than making it to the gym. For those training for a specific event or competition, physical activity, nutrition, and sleep are likely going to be at the bottom. The other elements are still important, but these are currently fundamental to the base of their well-being.

Why is it important to understand this concept? Because our priorities are reflected by how we spend our time, and we can save ourselves a lot of frustration if we get really clear on which elements have the greatest impact on our well-being. Additionally, focusing on the items at the base of the pyramid often leads to having more time and energy for the remaining items on the pyramid, as we have established a solid base. For example, when my mindset, sleep, and community needs are met, I have much more mental and physical energy to focus on my nutrition and fitness.

Discovering what our own personal pyramid of priorities looks like takes some trial and error. I have come to understand that spending time checking in with my internal landscape and focusing on cultivating a strong, positive mindset is imperative for my overall well-being. When I’m present and connected, it’s much easier for me to make choices that are in alignment with who I am, my body, and my goals. 

I had to forgo this practice several times to really understand the impact. I become disconnected to my body and therefore my food choices, become easily stressed and agitated, and I lean towards a victim mindset.  Meditation or some other form of mindfulness practice is now a non-negotiable each day, even if it’s five minutes in silence drinking coffee in the morning. Spending time outside and in nature is another one of my favorite ways to cultivate presence and connection.

When I take care of the base of my pyramid, the rest falls into place more easily.

The remainder of my pyramid, with mindset at the base, is noted below, and I will walk you through how I determined where each element currently belongs.

  • 2nd Tier – Sleep – I need a solid 7-8 hours of sleep or my emotions aren’t as stable, I can’t think clearly, I don’t move well, and I make poor food choices. However, I believed for many years that nutrition and physical activity were the cornerstones of my physical well-being, and I was often under-slept as a result.  (Let’s be real; it’s also much easier to survive off of four hours of sleep when we’re 20 years old). This is a close second behind mindset, as it’s much easier for me to stay connected to my internal landscape when I’m well-rested. However, connecting with myself and cultivating presence and awareness leads to greater focus on sleep, and I’m still able to establish this connection without sleep. So, mindset remains at the base of my pyramid.
  • 3rd Tier – Community – Community and meaningful connection with others is often overlooked in the health and wellness industry, but it’s vital to our well-being as humans. During my days of food obsession and body, my only concern was becoming leaner and more fit, and I gradually withdrew from others as a result. I slowly began to feel the effects of not experiencing frequent, meaningful connection with others, and this led to a lack of motivation and purpose in my daily life, in addition to a life that was centered around myself.

When my sleep and mindset are solid, I’m able to connect with and show up for others more easily, as I have a strong connection to myself. When my sleep and mindset waiver, I’m a deflated version of myself. Mindset and sleep are the equivalent of “putting on my own oxygen mask first”.

  • 4th Tier – Nutrition – my mood, energy levels, physical performance, sleep, and hormones rely on adequate and proper nutrition, and I feel a huge difference in my quality of life when it falls to the wayside. This is why meal prep is such a consistent and important part of my weekly regimen – it’s an act of self-care that allows be to show up more fully in other areas of my life. While physical activity and movement are certainly important, implementing consistent, healthy nutrition habits has a greater impact on my overall well-being.

It took some time for me to understand how to prioritize nutrition and community for my 3rd and 4th tiers, but I learned that I’m better able to make decisions around my physical health when my emotional needs are met via meaningful connection with others. I used to choose a workout or a strictly “clean” meal in lieu of meaningful time with friends and family, and my overall well-being suffered as a result.  Nuance is important though when making daily decisions. Sometimes a meaningful conversation with a friend is more worthwhile than spending the energy and time on a healthy meal, and other times, I need to really focus my time and energy on my nutrition as opposed to a night out with friends (**This choice is made when my connection needs are met and this would simply be icing on the cake). However, I rarely sacrifice my physical well-being for superficial connection (i.e. a night out drinking with people I don’t connect with on a deeper level). Sometimes, but rarely.

  • 5th Tier – Physical Activity/Movement – this doesn’t just include strenuous workouts, as some form of physical movement, even a 20-minute walk, has a large impact on our physical and emotional well-being. Emotions are energy, and we need to move in order to effectively process them. This is especially true for me during times of stress and overwhelm. However, if I’m going to sacrifice something, my workouts and physical activity are going to fall to the wayside in favor of connecting with myself and others, solid sleep, and adequate nutrition.

Each of these elements is important to our physical, emotional, and mental well-being, but the reality is that there are times when we can’t do it all. As such, it’s important for us to become clear on the elements that are most impactful and the amount of energy utilized. Additionally, we each have unique priorities, lifestyles, bodies, and energies, so our needs will vary as a result. For example, extroverts may place connection with others closer to the base of their pyramid, while introverts like myself can get away with it being closer to the middle.

If you haven’t done so already, I strongly encourage you to spend some time in reflection to better understand which elements of the well-being pyramid are most important and essential to your overall health and well-being and to adjust your time and energy accordingly. In a perfect world, we would be focusing on each, but that’s often not a reality for us at all times.

Double up where you can (i.e. walking with friend or while calling a loved one, spending time hiking in nature, cooking or enjoying a healthy meal with friends), do your best through trial and error, and be cognizant of sacrificing your own well-being for the sake of fleeting, superficial distractions.

You Want to Be More Confident? A Better Body Won't Get You There

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Confidence is a hot topic in the social media world, and in my opinion, there is a rather large misconception about its source and the various types. There is superficial confidence, which is based on, you guessed it, superficial measures. And there is true confidence, which is meaningful, deep, and unshakeable. Superficial confidence is the most widely touted form, and it seems to be the most widely sought after too. True confidence, on the other hand, may not present in such a grandiose or obvious manner as the former, therefore causing few people to pursue it.  We live in a world heavily focused on external validation, and we’re conditioned to define ourselves by such measures, so it’s no wonder most of us are lost when it comes to developing an unwavering sense of self.

When I was studying at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, one of the most powerful lightbulb moments for me was when we were discussing deeper, underlying goals of clients.  Many women are in pursuit of a better body in order to gain more confidence, and this makes sense given the world we live in. A leaner body means being noticed by others, perhaps being approved of or validated by them, therefore leading to increased levels of confidence.  But what if Joe Schmo or the girl you’re trying to impress doesn’t notice? Or doesn’t care? Or another girl walks in with a better body? Or worse, they still have something negative to say about your appearance? Confidence is then completely shattered. This sense of confidence was superficial and was never real to begin with, so it inevitably comes crashing down.

What if, instead of working towards a goal of “I’ll be confident when…”, we can focus on being confident right now?  This requires confidence being based off of something other than our appearance, which can be very challenging in the beginning. As women, we’re taught from a young age that our value is derived from our appearance, and for men, it’s often based on financial/career success. But the only way to build true and lasting confidence is to define yourself by who you are as a person, not anything outside of yourself.

For many of us, due to our focus on our appearance (or another superficial metric), we have neglected putting in the work on ourselves as human beings. And this person is fairly easy to identify, although they can present in various forms. A typical case is one who is always insecure about her body, is always focused on improving her appearance, is never content with the way she looks, judges and criticizes others based on their appearance or another superficial metric, and is either lacking in boundaries (i.e. the pushover) or is unkind, judgmental, and gossipy towards others.  Sure, her body might look good, but she’s either an asshole or let’s others treat her like an asshole due to not having spent time developing a strong sense of self or values.

Those who are focused on pursuing superficial confidence often judge others by the same metrics they’re striving for. They like to be around the attention-seeking and often loud types (there’s nothing wrong with being loud as long as it’s authentic!), because they perceive that as a marker of confidence. They like to be around physically attractive people, as this is what they find valuable in themselves. They’re often confused by those who are physically attractive but present with a lack of confidence, as they can’t understand someone not basing their worth off of their appearance.  I know this, because I used to be one of these people.

It wasn’t until I started working on myself as a person and really focusing on who I wanted to be that I began to develop a true sense of confidence. One that isn’t dependent on the way I look or the opinions of others. Sure, I’m certainly human and my feelings are hurt by mean comments, but I don’t strive for the approval of others anymore.  Rather, I ensure I am acting in alignment with the values I hold dear and then let the chips fall where they may. If others don’t resonate with me as a result, then it’s no loss to me, as I’m not pursuing their approval. I’m pursuing my own.  

When determining the qualities and values I want to embody in my life, I took a page from Joe Rogan and wrote down all of those I want to subscribe to and all of those I won’t tolerate within myself.  I was then forced to acknowledge where I had some work to do and put my money where my mouth is. 

While I have added some qualities, actions, and values to this list since its inception and will likely continue to do so as I evolve, those that compose the foundation are honesty, authenticity, kindness, trustworthiness, and boundaries. That last one might seem unusual, but it’s something I struggled with for a really long time, so it’s a non-negotiable for me.  I’m certainly not perfect when it comes to living by these values, but it’s something I work towards every day.  When I do fall short, I’m able to easily identify these instances and course-correct quickly. It’s difficult to ignore something that you’ve clearly established as a personal value.

By peeling back the layers of the ego (negativity, victimhood, jealousy, laziness, gossip, etc.) and focusing on becoming a better human being, our focus on our bodies naturally reduces. Rather than breaking down over “cheating” on our diet when we eat a donut, we feel gross when we act in a way that isn’t in alignment with our values and spend our energy there instead.  Instead of focusing on cellulite and the size of our jeans, let’s focus on reducing gossip, spending more quality time with people who matter to us, speaking kindly and honestly, or acting in alignment with whatever values we hold dear.

This isn’t meant to invalidate the pressure we feel to look a certain way, because it’s very real, but we have the choice to spend our time and energy elsewhere. And how we begin to define ourselves will follow suit.  By becoming clear on what we value and ensuring our actions are in alignment, we can then experience a solid and unwavering sense of self that isn’t deterred by the perceptions of others.  This is the confidence we’re all seeking, yet so many of us have been living according to the misguided notion that our bodies are the vehicle to this outcome.

Let’s spend our time on our internal landscape; discovering what values and qualities we find meaningful and important in ourselves and others. We can then adjust our actions to ensure we’re living in alignment and, most importantly, detach from the reactions of others. By doing so, we develop true confidence that is based on a solid, unwavering foundation as opposed to superficial and transient metrics. And the best part is that we can do this TODAY, not when our bodies change. That sense of true confidence is available to us at this very moment regardless of our appearance.

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!