Saturday, September 29, 2012

Who I've Been

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.
-John Newton

This blog is largely about my training, eating, and racing. But I wanted to give you a peak behind the curtain, so to speak. Many people today see me and think that I've always been an athlete, one of those people who are just naturally small. They also tend to think that I've always been a happy-go-lucky woman whose always had it all together. Well, not so much.
Who I am today has grown not from my own hard work and determination. Yes, I am pretty fierce and tenacious when it comes to getting something that I want. I love competition, but even more than that, I love to win. But who I am today has actually come from doing something very unnatural for me; it's come from surrendering.

I reached a point in my life where I was pretty miserable. Oh, sure, on the outside, no one saw it, but inside I felt lonely and empty. No amount of indulgence in anything was bringing satisfaction, and I tried pretty much everything I could to bring wholeness. Living to please myself was making me miserable. I was in a proverbial downward spiral for quite awhile. Just as it didn't start from any one devastating event, it didn't end from any bright light from heaven. 

I met my husband and his family, who showed me that marriage could work for more than a handful of years. I got married and had my first son, and then another one.  Like all moms, my world suddenly shifted from my needs to my families' needs. But it wasn't having my own family that changed my life. As I mentioned, it was about surrender.

Church was a necessary part of my childhood. But there I learned religion. Rules. Josh McDowell has said one of my favorite quotes ever, "Rules without relationship lead to rebellion." He speaks of families, but it's true of religion as well. I rebelled. It just didn't make sense to me to dress a certain way, act a certain way, so that everyone would see how good I was. Hey, I was a pro at doing that! But in my heart and when no one was watching, I did whatever I wanted.
One day I finally realized that there is no such thing as a good Christian. I can't make myself be at peace. I can find true happiness--joy-- on my own. On my own, I'm a mess. So I surrendered. I told God that I was exhausted, depressed and empty. I told him I couldn't do it by myself anymore. I was done. In racing terms, it was a DNF in life my way. And instead of panicked at the idea that I had just completely turned my life over to the control of Someone else, I felt complete peace and tangible joy.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012


As I was lying stretched out on the cold concrete floor of the gym after my workout this morning, listening to my guys (my husband and sons) working out, I was once again struck by how grown up my boys have become. Hearing the clang of plates being loaded onto barbells, the bouncing thud of the weights being dropped onto power pads after dead lifts, shouts of "You got this!" and "YEAH!", I suddenly had a flashback of another weight room 10 years or so ago.

When we lived in Coast Guard housing in Miami, when Craig wasn't deployed, on the weekends we would take a family walk to the little rec room. The weight room was about the size of a hotel facility and was always empty. While Craig and I took turns doing sets, the boys would play with the "rabbits" (the spring collars that hold weights on barbells). Back then I lifted to the sounds of giggles and grunts as my little guys took turns curling 2.5 lb dumbbells.
I've spent the last year feeling like I did when I rode that giant swinging Viking ship at King's Island as a teen. I've had moments of joy, soaring inside, feeling so proud of my sons as I catch glimpses in them of the men they will become. And then suddenly something shifts, and a nauseating sensation comes as I feel time slipping and falling, realizing how far away those tiny giggles are. I'm wondering how many moments I've already forgotten, and how many more memories age will steal from me. But then again, another flash of maturity will come from my boys and my heart soars with love for them. I realize how blessed I am; how awesome it is to be a mom, and I resolve to absolutely spend as much time as possible (as much as they'll let me) laughing and loving and listening to my sons.

Monday, September 3, 2012

CrossFit vs. SPEDe Training

I won a free week at a local CrossFit gym. I've heard so many great things about CrossFit, have enjoyed watching the CrossFit games, and have wanted to give it a try. This was my perfect opportunity.
Day 1: I signed a waiver and got to work. We began with a 400 meter jog, and then some stretching. Static stretching. This confused me from the beginning. All the latest research shows that athletes should NOT do static stretching (elongating the muscle and holding, i.e. standing, bending down and touching the toes) before working out. Dynamic stretching (moving stretches, i.e. butt kicks) should be done before a workout. We were told to do 8 warm-up reps and then 3 sets of 5 of bench press and dead lifts, working at 40%, 50% and 60% of our max weights. All went well, until the instructor corrected my form on the warm-up with the bar while deadlifting. He instructed me to keep my legs straight when only using the bar,  which is actually straight-legged deadlifts-- a totally different  exercise. After completing these 2 exercises, we did the main workout: 15 minutes of 10 KB swings (the instructor called them "American," but we were actually doing "Russian"), 10- 20 in. box jumps, 10 box dips. The workout was intense; I was sweating profusely. I had a pretty good time.

Day 2: 400 meter jog warm up followed by more static stretching. I did my own dynamic stretches, warming up my body correctly. For this workout, the correct deadlift form was demonstrated, the workout was explained, and we loaded up a bar for deadlifts. The workout was a prowler sled push w/ 50 lbs for 20 meters, 5 burpees, prowler push for 20 meters, and then deadlifts until 3 minutes were up. Then rest for 3 minutes. 5 rounds. By the end of the workout, I was toast, having completed 105- 135 lb. deadlifts.  In hindsight, I should've done what was better for me, instead of trying to prove myself by lifting heavy for so many reps. But I am stubborn. My body was intensely sore the next day, and I was angry with myself for pushing too hard. And I hated CrossFit.

Day 3: 400 meter jog followed by a mix of static and dynamic stretching. I was pleased to be able to more fully participate! We did heavy cleans... max reps for 1-1-1-1. I worked my way up and after some failed attempts completed the 1-1-1-1 of 115 lbs. Then we did the workout: 21-15-9 reps for time of 20in box jumps, KB swings (called "Russian" but were actually "American"), and sit ups- stand ups (a sit up, rocking all the way up to a standing position). I finished in about 7:20. And my thought: "That's it?" It was intense, and I was drenched in sweat, but it was a much shorter workout than I'm used to.

Day 4: 400 m jog followed by all dynamic stretching. Hhhmmm. This one might have been my favorite because I LOVE endurance work, and because I never get to row. First we did skills work-- handstands, handstand push ups, walking handstands, or whatever. Then the main set: 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest for 30 rounds on the rowing machine. It was intense, and I killed it. And in honor of my last day there, I asked and was granted permission to climb the rope 3 times. I'm glad I got to go out like that!

Overall, I was reminded of how truly blessed I am to have a personal trainer/husband who is so knowledgable and skilled in exercise science/physiology/functional movement! In talking to friends who are members of CrossFit gyms, it seems that each gym varies. So, if you are going to join a CrossFit gym, do your research first. Check their website, their facebook page and look for reviews. Call them and ask if they offer a free trial. Monthly fees are steep, and their overhead is pretty low (no air conditioning, which means you are guaranteed to leave sweating heavily, even if you don't put in 100%).  However, CrossFit delivers something than many typical gyms don't-- hard core lifting, intensity, and competition. Trainers circulated constantly, checking form. But I found the short, repetitive workouts a little boring.

The SPEDe Training workouts that I do are usually about 40 minutes long. They are just as intense as CrossFit WODs, but longer and more varied. They work a variety of muscle groups and are designed to build the body in Strength, Power, and Endurance (the SPE of SPEDe; the De is development). The best way for me to explain them is to provide 4 sample workouts, which you can compare to the WODs given above.

1: 10 minute warm-up on the bike. Warm-up bench press, deadlifts and front squats. Main workout:
5 pull ups
15 push ups
20 KB swings
10 bench press
10 toes to bar
10 side lateral sumo squats w/ KB
10 deadlifts
10 front squats
10 1-1-1 dumbbell curls
Complete 5 rounds or 42 minutes.

2: Warm up: 10 min bike. Dynamic stretching and light weight set of all exercises.
Pull ups 15, 12, 10, 12, 15
Pushups 10, 15, 20, 15, 10
Speed ropes 20, 50, 100, 50, 20
Reverse lunges 10
DB shoulder press 4, 8, 10, 8, 4
Burpees 10, 15, 10, 15, 10
Sit ups 20
DB leg curls 10
Complete 5 rounds (reps as listed) or 42 mins.

3: Same warm up
5 Cleans
8 pull ups
8 front squats
15 push ups
10/10 DB rows
8/8 walking lunges w/ 25lb plate overhead
6 1-1-1 curls
10 straight legged deadlifts
10 leg curls
4 rounds or 42 mins.

4: Same warm up
8 Dead lifts
8/8 overhead walking lunges
12 overhead tri extensions
10 preacher curls
10 db shoulder press
15 bench jumps (jump over the bench 15 times)
20 v- sit ups
12 wide grip pull downs
10 sit up curls (incline sit up and bicep curls at the top)
4 rounds or 42 mins.

These workouts were not consecutive days, I pulled 4 that show a variety. Typically in a week, we do  workouts that focus on each major body part and a combo day. I love the variety and the intensity. They are most fun on days when we do a family workout and are able to compete against each other.
**Please keep in mind that I've been working out for several years. If you do these workouts, first be sure you are healthy and work at your own pace!
                                                         Me, enjoying a workout!