2016 FRESH 15K Race Recap

Fresh 15 RecapThis past weekend I participated in Tyler’s FRESH 15K race, which has become a fast favorite of mine. It is hands down, the best local race I have ever been a part of, even in its inaugural year back in 2014. I wasn’t able to run it last year but decided back in the fall that I was going to get back into running some races and this would be my first one.

The holidays came and went. The start of my 12 week training plan approached and I was so excited.

And then the theme of this whole race preparation began, if you can even call it a theme.

As most of you know, I coach and participate in CrossFit regularly. And you might also know that the CrossFit Open begins the end of February. Also not too tough to guess how much I love CrossFit and what a big part it has had in my fitness journey the last two years. So I began my dance of trying to stay on top of everything. Not that I’m at the point of being remotely a master’s qualifier, I just want to put the very best effort into what I do, especially when the Open comes around. The plan I thought I had in place just didn’t go well. It just didn’t. I’d miss a training run, then get back at it. Got sick. Flareups with my back from an old issue. And the weeks into the training plan kept ticking by. I should also add that we are preparing to sell our house, so free time has been filled with cleaning up, organizing, putting things away….you name it.

Weeks tick by until I’m a week out of the race. Realization sets in that I’ve managed to log a single “long run” topping out at 4 miles as compared to my training plan that finishes with 8. The highlight of the week is when my Newton Gravity V’s arrive (sent to me for review which will be posted in the coming weeks, yay!) so I take those out for a spin or two. They feel fantastic as expected, but I’m beginning to adjust my race expectation. Pick up my race packet two days before….and I’m abnormally nervous.

Then race day is upon us. The morning after one of my nearest and dearest friend’s wedding. I arrive early, without family in tow, park and make my way to the corrals. It did take me more time to park and get things together at my car, so I get to the starting area with not as much time as I anticipated to spare as I’d have liked. And every runner knows where I’m going with this…..the potty line is LONG. So forget it. In a few minutes we are off. I hold back on purpose remembering when’re my long run topped out, in reflection, probably a little too much.Before really settling in before then end of the first mile it’s pretty clear I need a potty stop or I’m going to be hopping on one leg.

At mile 2, I stop. And there’s a line. Of course. what else I gong to do. so I wait, mission accomplished, and back on track. Pretty uneventful up until mile 6 or so. Thinking I feel better than expected! This is good! Shoes are feeling fantastic! See some familiar faces along the way. Remembering why I love the race experience so much.Then we head down Grande and hang the left into Hollytree. It was then I felt that my finish would not be near what I hoped or wished for. It was just going to be what it was. For those last just over three miles. I prayed. I rallied and I faded. And rallied again. I ran some hills, walked some hills. As we crossed back over into Fresh, I knew without even looking at my watch that I was not going to improve nor match that first year’s time. When you’re competitive with yourself, consistently demand improvement from yourself, and are a perfectionist, that hurts. But somewhere in that final 1/4 mile, I made a decision.

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I will celebrate the finish.

Because, you see, there was a time it hurt to run. When 200 pounds didn’t want me to run. When I was trapped in what someone else I loved’s idea of what I should be. Yeah, it wasn’t a finish I was proud of. But it was a finish. A finish that those who can’t run would have loved to been able to claim as theirs. I had nearly forgotten, in the frustration of a training plan gone wrong, why it is I love to run. Because when I took those steps at 200 pounds, running is what saved my life. Putting one foot in front of the other, kept me off meds. Kept me from losing my mind. Gave me myself back.

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So with a smile I crossed that line. For the rest of the day I celebrated that medal, that finish. Appreciating the fact that my fitness is at a level in which running 9 miles without ideal preparation is possible, to that I owe CrossFit. And when I resume training runs in the next few days, I will be working a different plan, still thankful for the lessons learned in those 9 miles, committed at a different level because I owe it to myself. Heartbreak Hill, I’ll be back.

And yes, still thankful for the finish. -m

 

 

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Why Doing the CrossFit Open is Good for You

The Open marks the beginning of the CrossFit competitive season. Here’s what most people think when they read that one word…competitive. “Competitive season, you say….like what I see on ESPN? Haha, funny. No way, that’s not for me.” I’m here to tell you it is, and hear me out because I’m going to explain why.

Some of you reading this may not CrossFit, or be relatively new to it, so here’s a brief background. The Open is the entry level to determining who participates in the year’s CrossFit Games. Anyone can sign up on the Games website, and thousands of people across the globe did last year. CF OpenBeginning the last weekend in February, and spanning the next five weeks, one workout per week is announced and demonstrated each Thursday night live on the Games website. Then athletes in affiliates worldwide perform the workouts between Thursday night and the following Monday, submitting their scores for consideration. The top athletes in their respective regions (geographical areas) with the best combined scores from all five workouts then move on to Regionals, which is a multi workout competition held over a long weekend. Those placing in the top spots at Regionals are then qualified for the CrossFit Games held in Carson, California. The games span over a week, involving multiple workouts each day, to ultimately crown the “fittest on earth”. Over time, this process has evolved and changed into the current Open we participate in today. The most notable recent development to the Open involves the addition of a scaled division, welcoming participation by athletes at all levels.

Most of us have been attracted to CrossFit because of a few simple reasons. Just so happens these are definitely the reasons why you should sign up for the Open. The first of these is community. Lots of us choose CrossFit because of the family element, the choosing to work alongside those that become our friends, cheerleaders, encouragers, our family. The Open brings a gym together. Where I coach, we hold Friday evening sessions where those participating do the Open workouts with a judge, competition floor style, with crowd support from others participating, family, and friends. Those who normally attend classes in the evening get to work alongside the morning folks. It’s energy like I’ve never felt or seen before. Lots of PRs and first time skills are born from this environment. Secondly, if you CrossFit, you’re likely somewhat competitive. Maybe with others, maybe with yourself. Whichever the case, these workouts, in these surroundings, make for quite a competitive experience. Satisfies the question on how you measure up…in your gym…in your age group…around the world. And if you’re not satisfied with the outcome, that brings me to my third reason, and that’s to set new goals. The Open is the perfect tool to use in examining your skill set. What are things I’d like to be doing in these Open workouts that I can’t currently do? Or where do I need to be more efficient to post better scores? Even if you never intend to enter a competition, becoming fitter just to live a better, healthier, longer life is just as important.

In my time being involved in CrossFit, I have heard some of the most incredible stories coming out of the Open. People overcoming things. People showing up to do the work even though they never have seen themselves as an athlete before in their lives. People defying what the world tells them they can do and doing it anyway. People ripping off labels they’ve worn all their lives. People becoming better today than they were yesterday.

And that, is why, my friends, I’m signed up for the 2016 CrossFit Open. And you should be too. -m

Saturday Special Edition: SKINS A200 Tights!

Skins review

Happy Saturday, guys! This week I’m featuring a review of some compression tights I received from SKINS over the holidays. You may have seen the long version of these tights featuring the Doughnuts and Deadlifts  logo around the CrossFit or Olympic lifting world. Been eyeing these for a while and wanted to give them a whirl during some running and CrossFit workouts. They certainly did not disappoint!

I chose to try out the women’s A200 3/4 length tights. With our crazy weather here in Texas, I figured that length would be appropriate for most of the year. When placing my order it was easy to determine the size needed, as they provide a sizing chart based on your height and weight on the website. The A200’s out of the box looked even better in person! The come in several different color selections, but I chose to go with the basic black pair. I was impressed with the stitching on all the seams as well as the quality of the reflective accents and logos. If you’ve seen my closet, you know I’m all about some flashy colors, patterns, cool branding, or something like that, so I was pretty pleased with the overall look of these. Truly a compression fit, I found that the sizing was definitely spot on, but not so compressing to the point of discomfort. Score! My usual complaint on compression fit is how overly tight they feel while still refusing to stay put after I start moving around. Length was also perfect, I’m roughly 5’3, and these stop at about mid-calf. A couple other features include a small hidden key pocket and drawstring inside the waistband.

 

During my first outdoor run in these I was happy to discover they did not roll down, move or slide. Stayed breathable, almost like cooler air entering them as I ran, while keeping my muscles warm at the same time. I cannot say enough about the support! Right amount of compression during the entire run. Definite score! In addition, I went through several CrossFit workouts in them. Lots of squatting, bending, jumping, and they still stayed put without any waistband roll! No tugging or adjusting during the workout, it was fantastic! I felt like they were able to stretch and move with me in all the right places. I’m a pretty sweaty creature when I workout, so I definitely encounter issues with tights working themselves down. Normally I catch myself tugging and pulling them up between sets of burpees and such. Not with these!

Because of the fact I’m a sweaty mess after any workout, I knew that these would have to withstand lots of laundry time. After washing, logos and seaming stayed intact, no hint of sweat odor at all! They came out of the wash looking brand new and ready for the next workout.

Ok, so what sets these tights apart from all the rest? I know there are tons of options out there to choose from, so I’ll say this. These A200s truly provide support during a variety of activities, keeping your muscles fresh during the entire workout….while looking good too! I’ll definitely be wearing these through most of this year during all my indoor and outdoor workouts. -m

Disclaimer: The awesome folks at Skins sent me a set of these tights at no charge to me for review. However all opinions contained in the this review are completely mine and based on my personal use of this product alone.

At the finish line of 2015……

Every year has its ups and downs. This one hasn’t been any different in that regard. Financial burdens, career confusion, decision to downsize and sell our home….. sure it’s not been easy. But I must say, I feel hopeful, optimistic, and excited about what’s to come in the new year.

I praise Him for the good and the bad…blessings come from the darkest places sometimes. As the optimist in me is writing today, here’s the celebratory highlight reel and what’s in store for 2016.

This past year I got somewhat away from running races, but closed out the year with a local Turkey Trot and friends. Running is where my change in fitness  very first began, so this year I’m looking to run a few races, first one being the Fresh 15K in March.

CrossFit has been a huge presence in my life this year. The GymFed family I train with is just none other than amazing. My job doesn’t really feel like a job, and watching our athletes continue to grow is just the best feeling evah! My personal fitness has continued to grow. After a last place finish in my first ever CrossFit competition, I decided there was a level of fitness I needed to strive towards before entering another one. And that I did, improving to an overall sixth place finish at Festivus. The question is, will there be more competitive appearances? Most likely, yes. The CrossFit Open begins end of February, that will be the initial focus, and then go from there. I’d like to do some others, even a team format event, but much is still in the planning.

Nutrition was and has been a huge stumbling block for me in the past. Through two Whole30 resets and adopting a mostly Paleo lifestyle I’ve managed to gain consistency. Still continuing to adjust things out to improve my workout and encourage muscle gain. Rediscovered coffee. Mostly eliminating grains, sugar, and dairy has done so much for me. Sleeping better. Workouts better. Feel so much better overall. Along the same lines I’ve been moving towards the use of more natural products and essential oils. Did I mention I rediscovered coffee? Kicking off Whole30 number three on Monday.

Towards the end of the year, I began picking back up on the blog again. I’ve received the opportunity to write some reviews on some great products which will be featured here pretty soon. With growing my blog I’ve been working on a larger social media presence, and recently found out I’ve been named a Sweat Pink Ambassador where I’ll be able to network with a community of fitness folk! And I’m super pumped to have been added as a contributing blogger for East Texas Moms Blog that will be launching very shortly! There will be some amazing content and resources for moms out there crafted by some pretty incredible ladies.So very excited to see where both these projects go!

And last of all…..I can’t list all these great things out and totally leave off what a blessing my family has been. How we have been more intentional at the end of this year about our faith together, praying together, studying the Word more together. Having Dani bring up questions and comments about Jesus, asking to be baptized, and was baptized in October. This is the part that matters. I can’t wait to see how it changes and shapes each of us.

So as we break that finish line tape on 2015 today, celebrate. All of it. The beauty is in the whole year, not just the Facebook version of 2015. Maybe there’s loose ends in your 2015, and that’s ok. Just because 2016 is arriving in a matter of hours, doesn’t mean those ends won’t get tied up. Tonight, reflect. Ready yourself. Prepare for the excitement a new year brings! -m

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Tuesday Top Five…..Workouts for Anywhere!

We are right smack in the season of busy-ness. Holiday shopping, cooking, events, and travel. Regular schedules are nearly out the window at times. School break may be coming, kidhome workoutss will be home…also a big schedule changer! So what do you do when you’ve got limited time, maybe unable to leave home, or little to no equipment…..but the day is drawing to a close and you haven’t gotten a workout in? What to do? No home gym, no worries! Here’s my top 5 totally-at-home-doable workouts!

Before you dive right into one of these, I’d suggest a brief warmup and some stretching. Both of these are key to preventing injury or strain during a workout. And ALWAYS listen to your body, if something hurts, don’t do it!

  1. “Deck o’ cards”– find a set of playing cards. Pick four exercises that you can do in your house or in the yard. Some good examples would be squats, lunges, pushups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, chair dips…you get the idea). Assign each card suit (diamonds, clubs, hearts, spades) an exercise. Designate all aces to serve as a one minute rest period. Set a timer for an allotted time (8-10 minutes is a good start). Once your timer starts, you’ll flip over your first card and do the number displayed of the exercises designated by the card’s suit, with 15 reps assigned to face cards. For example, if I flip over a 9 of clubs, and I had chosen burpees for clubs, then I would do 9 burpees. Immediately flip the next card, continuing through this until the allowed time has expired.
  2. 2. “Death by…..”-all you need here is a timer or stopwatch to count up. Choose 2 exercises like burpees and squats. Set the timer. Start with 2 of each exercise to complete during the first minute, resting until the clock reads one minute. Then begin the exercises again, increasing by 2 reps each round, resting until the clock reads two minutes. Continue this way until you can no longer complete the designated reps in one minute.
  3. “Annie”– This happens to be one of my very favorite workouts and is also one of the famous CrossFit girls. You’ll need a jump rope for this one and a timer. Goal is to compete 50, 40, 30, 20, then 10 of both double unders and sit-ups. If you don’t have the hang of double unders (which is passing the rope under your feet twice instead of once when jumping) then just do two times the number of single unders. You can also toughen this one by adding a 400m or 1/4 mile run in between each round. This one is always fun!
  4. “Tabata Style”-this is a type of interval workout. Objective here is to work for 20 seconds at max effort, then rest for 10, repeating the work and rest for a minimum of 8 rounds. Once again, you can pick from a variety of movements according to what muscle groups you’d like to work. Keep count, score your reps so you can track how you are doing. There’s also some fun tabata music out there that will count out loud for you in the song! These are always a favorite at my box!
  5. “Maximum rounds”– pick 2-3 exercises and designate how many reps you want to do of each. Than set a timer for 10-12 minutes. Objective here is to complete as many rounds as possible during the allotted time. I might pick 5 squats, 10 pushups, and 15 sit-ups as the movements I’d like to do in each round. So then its just going back through those three exercises as many times as I can until time runs out.

Once you finish, give yourself some time to cool down. Walk around for a few minutes, then stretch or do some mobility work. This is the most optimal time for foam rolling or release techniques because your muscles are still warm!

The key to staying on track during this busy time is being prepared. Keep some workouts like these handy so that if you just can’t make it to the gym or out on that trail to run, you’ve got a backup plan. I know that fitness is always more fun with friends, but sometimes we just can’t keep to those normal schedules. Having a few go-to workouts you can do almost anywhere will make you feel much better by still putting some work in! -m

 

Why YOU should be doing mobility, every day

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Mobility. It should be part of your workout routine every day, just like packing your gym bag or mixing up pre workout. Most of the time stretching or mobility work is looked at like extra stuff or for the older crowd. Well I’ve got news for you….it’s for everyone.

Let me illustrate this by asking a few questions. Do you have issues holding the barbell overhead in the correct position while squatting? Are the bottoms of your upper arms parallel to the floor in the front rack position? Does your stride shorten when running? Do 400m runs cause your outer thighs or ankles to ache? Do your heels come off the floor when squatting? Most athletes I work with would answer yes to at least one of these or I would be able to note them during a movement to some degree or another. Here’s what we do. Every day we work to grow muscle, drop body fat. Get stronger, right? Now this is not a super scientific explanation, so bear with me here. This process of creating small tears in our muscles and allowing them to repair themselves causes the muscles to get bigger, and without any stretching or mobility work, shorten. Shorter muscles decrease the length of your levers, thereby affecting our range of motion. Now this problem is not restricted to muscle alone, but tendons and ligaments suffer similarly as they are pulled on by the ever shortening muscles. Months and months of this go on, as we hop into our cars after a tough WOD or lifting session without taking a minute to stretch or use a foam roller. Muscles tighten, we lose flexibility.

If you’ve watched any professionals in weightlifting, CrossFit, or running, you recognize that they are efficient movers. Weightlifters go to a bottom squat position where they might as well sit on the ground, athletes execute pullups and toes to bar in easy rhythm, and runners elongate their stride and strike each foot softly on the ground. None of these things are possible by strength alone.These folks work their mobility, daily.

So where and how does one start to build mobility into a daily habit? Here’s a few tips to get you started!

  1. Identify the areas where you feel you lack mobility. Think about where you struggle during certain movements and that can clue you in onto where to start. Better yet, have a coach observe you in a few different movements and give you some feedback.
  2. Set a goal to spend 5 minutes working on one area after each workout. Don’t get overwhelmed here, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Pick the area you feel needs the most work and start with that. In the beginning it may feel like you’re not accomplishing much in that period of time, but as you get more proficient at the techniques you’ll be able to work through a routine faster. In addition, I suggest you do these after a workout or at least after a warmup like running or rowing. Warm muscles respond much better.
  3. Dig into some resources. There’s lots of information out there, but my favorite source of all things mobility comes from Kelly Starrett of mobilityWOD.com. If you prefer the printed word, he has a couple of books written on the subject, one of which is more focused on running. He’s a CrossFitter himself, so he understands the issues a lot of us have. In addition, don’t forget your trainer or coach should be somewhat familiar with these exercises and can definitely help you figure out some things to try. If you need pointing in the right direction I can help you out with some exercises to start out with.
  4. Invest in a couple tools. Some of these techniques can certainly be done at home provided you have the right items at hand. Over time, accumulate a lacrosse ball, foam roller, and maybe a voodoo band and some resistance bands. Without a large investment you will have what you need to work through these exercises. Some stretches don’t require any equipment.
  5. Start with one area, be consistent, and test your progress. Keep it simple here. Work with one muscle group, get a few sessions under your belt, and test how it’s working. If you’re struggling with tight hip flexors that limit the depth or comfort of your squats, try out some air squats to see how things feel after each session.

Okay. Hopefully mobility isn’t so scary to you anymore! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you’ll feel after just a few sessions, no matter your age or current ability. It all comes back to why we choose fitness, to live a better quality of life. Utilizing mobility is just another way to keep us moving well throughout the rest of our lives. Roll out! -m