THERE'S THREE WORDS TO DESCRIBE HOW I FELT WHEN I HIT THE SUBMIT BUTTON. NERVOUS, EXCITED, TERRIFIED.
Should sign up for the Open? I knew I wanted to, because for the past two years I had done the workouts as best as I could with the small amount of equipment I had at home. The prospect of doing the workouts in an environment with all the correct equipment was super exciting! But still, I was unsure.
With one day left to register, I did it. I signed up, and I hit that submit button. I knew that it would be great, and I was not disappointed!
As I mentioned, there was nerves, excitement, and general terror when I completed my registration. What was going to happen over the next five weeks? I had been involved in minor competitions before, but I had never participated in something that was literally a worldwide event. The possibilities were exciting! Amazing things happen for people during the open, and I couldn't wait to see what amazing things would happen for me. But at the same time - what if I couldn't do a workout? What if the scaling options weren't scaled enough for me? There was only one way to find out. Do it.
So, what did I learn during my first official CrossFit Open?
1. be open-minded
When the each workout gets released, you have no other option but to be open minded. The people who program these workouts are programming to push you. You're going to be uncomfortable and do movements that you hate, and there's nothing you can do about that. You need to look at each workout logically, and think about what your current capabilities are. When you know what your current capabilities are, you know how hard you can push yourself.
There's no workout like an Open workout, so you're forced to think about strategy. How on earth are you going to survive this!? If the workout requires a certain amount of wall balls, and you're not good at wall balls, you need to figure out how you can get these reps done in a good time, resting where needed, but also not wasting time.
"Break before you break" was a common theme with these workouts. What this means is, if you know you can do 10 wall balls before your body gives up, then you need to stop and have a mini-rest at 7 or 8 reps. And I do mean a mini-rest! Take a couple of breaths, shake your legs out and start your next 7 or 8 reps.
"Just keep moving" was something I told myself quite a bit. I knew I couldn't go super fast for something because I knew I'd burn out too quickly. Instead, I paced myself more and just keep moving. Being consistent and having a good rhythm will get me through the workout in a better time than if I burn out and waste one minute resting. One minute doesn't seem like a long time to rest, but trust me, you need every spare second when you tackle these workouts! Being strategic is the way to go!
3. Mental Mastery
When I was doing "regular" workouts outside of a CrossFit environment, I got really bored. I soon realised that gymnastics training was the only thing that gave me both mental and physical stimulation. I knew that it would take something like CrossFit to keep me engaged mentally and prevent boredom when I couldn't do my gymnastics training. I was right! There's nothing like staring down the barrel of a workout to freak you out! It's up to you to grab those feelings and channel them the right way if you're going to make it through the workout.
It reminds me of an interview I saw with Cathy Freeman after the Sydney 2000 Olympics. She had taken the gold medal in the 400m women's final. If it was any of us in that stadium with over 100,000 people roaring in excitement, and the expectations of a nation on our shoulders it would overwhelm us. The adrenaline, excitement, and nerves would have us in a heap on the floor. We need mental mastery to control our emotions while we do what we need to do. In the interview she said that she didn't really hear the crowd until the race was over. How does that even happen!? How do you not hear that many people yelling!? She was in control of herself. She told herself, "Just do what you know." And that's what she did, she ran 400 metres and BLITZED IT.
19.5 (the last workout for the open) was a combination of barbell thrusters and pull ups, scaled to your ability where necessary. In total, we had to complete 210 reps within 20 minutes. As I stood at the barbell ready to do my first set, I was nervous! I'm pretty sure I even thought to myself "why am I doing this!?" I looked down at the barbell, poised and ready to go. The clock signalled three, two, one, GO. The adrenaline and nerves would have me start going as fast as possible. Go go go, get those reps done! But I had to tell myself - keep it steady, do one rep at a time, and break before you break.
4. confidence and self-belief
Don't get me wrong - I have confidence in myself and I believe in myself. But there are times when you just don't feel it. You doubt your strength, you doubt if your body will make it through the workout (or whatever you're facing in life). There's something inside your mind that just feels shaken.
When you commit to something, whether it's a competition like the Open or something else, you will encounter those times. But there is something so super cool about coming out the other side of the workout and thinking "Wow, I just did that!" An inanimate object such as a barbell can reassure you, and even surprise you, that you're more capable than you feel or realise.
For a long time I've had minor postural issues that have contributed to me having weak quads (thigh muscles). Getting your body to release tight and weak muscles, while simultaneously strengthening them without your body having a hissy fit is quite a big task. It takes time and patience. So when I saw that 19.3 (the third workout) was a lot of lunges and step ups with a 15kg dumbbell, I really wasn't sure how I would go. Even if I had the energy, how would my quads react? Would they strain and make me unable to complete the workout? I was just going to have to give it a go and see what happened. I didn't do that well during the workout. Or any of the workouts if you were to compare me to every other person doing the Open across the world. But that's not the point. One or two years ago, if I had of attempted that workout during a different phase of "Operation Get-Stronger-Quads" I'm fairly certain that I would have seized up majorly and would have been in a lot of discomfort if I made it through the workout. And while my quads were most definitely on fire throughout the workout, it wasn't my legs that suffered in the days after. My body was stronger, it had more endurance, and I didn't back down from the task at hand. I did the workout one rep at a time, kept on breathing, and let my body put the doubts in my mind to rest.
I'm capable of some pretty cool things, and the Open showed me that.
5. Never underestimate a supportive community
Sometimes, it's really not fun being the last person to finish, whether you're doing the Open or just a daily workout. But it's so lovely when you have people cheering you on. And it's not just people calling out "Come on Hannah, you've got this", because it's a nice thing to say and it makes them look like a nice person. They do actually want you to succeed. When you're doing an exercise that you're not confident in, and you hear someone encouraging you and giving you a tip or saying "nice work!", it really is so lovely! It's even nicer when they cheer for you and you've never trained together, but they know your name, and they came to cheer you on when they could have chosen to encourage someone else in your heat. It doesn't matter if you go to a "regular gym", a beachside bootcamp, or a CrossFit box, having amazing people around you is just that - amazing. It's something that nobody should miss out on.
Am I glad I did the Open? Yes.
Would I do it again? Heck yeah.
Should anyone else give it a go? Absolutely. Because even if you don't become the "Fittest On Earth", you'll achieve things you didn't know you were capable of, and it will inspire you to see what else you an achieve!
"Oh my goodness! Hannah! You look amazing! so skinny!"
Yep. She said it. I was looking skinny. Just smile and say thanks!
I knew what she meant. I knew she didn't mean anything bad by using the word skinny. She has a heart of gold and wanted to congratulate me on taking charge of my health and reaping the benefits of it. But still, I lost my breath for a moment when she said it. My stomach lurched into anxiety and I felt like crying. Internally I was saying "I don't want to be skinny!!!"
But what's the big deal? Isn't being skinny a good thing?
Being skinny really isn't a big deal, especially if it's a healthy skinny and not a sick, emaciated skinny. Being skinny can be a good thing, personally I just don't like the word!
Aside from not liking the word, I reacted the way I did was because I felt that I had lost too much weight. I wasn't happy about losing as much as I did and I was desperate to put some back on as quickly as possible. I was working with a naturopath on a few minor health things that I wanted to address, and unfortunately one of the supplements I was prescribed had a mild reaction to my body in the form of a fever. This was in the peak of our Australian summer, and it took a couple of days for my body to recover from the fever (don't worry, it was sorted out very easily and I was back to my normal self in no time). I didn't realise I had lost as much weight as I did until I wore one particular bra one day. It dug into my lower chest, I just couldn't get comfortable. That night as I was getting ready for my shower I realised why it was so uncomfortable. I had lost enough weight to make my solar plexus more prominent.
That was a really scary, upsetting moment for me. I immediately felt anxious. What can I eat that will make me gain the weight back now? Please don't look at me and comment on my size! I had to consciously make myself stay calm. I had to coach myself, like I do for my team members! I had to tell myself - I know how to change bodies. I have the knowledge, I just need to do the right thing and my body will take care of it all for me.
Deep. Calming. Breaths.
And, my body has taken care of it all for me, just like I told myself. I focused on eating well, giving my body the good quality food it needed. I made sure I had plenty to eat. I didn't snack constantly throughout the day, but I made sure that I had enough at each meal to last me until it was time to eat again. I have gone from 59.9kg back up to 62.3kg over a healthy period of time. Because of the way I have been eating, there hasn't been a lot of fat gain. My body has replaced the fluid it lost during the feverish sweats on 36 degree Summer days, it's replaced some of the fat it lost, and it's building muscle. It's doing exactly what I want it to be doing.
Do I want to be called skinny now that I'm recovered? No. There are more words in the dictionary to describe my body than that word alone.
what's the point?
The point of all this, is that a compliment to you may not be a compliment to me. Or, whoever you're talking to at the time. My goals are not specifically weight loss goals. While it is a bit of a novelty for me to lose weight according to the scale, it's not something I'm desperately trying to pursue. I believe there's more to life than getting smaller. I'd rather spend my time getting stronger, fitter, and figuring out what I can hang upside down from next time I'm at a local park.
We need to be mindful about what others could be going through (or have been through in the past), and what may be a trigger for them. I know that this kind of mindfulness risks getting taken way too far where we feel like there is nothing we can say without getting into trouble, but we don't always know if someone has struggled with an eating disorder, or if they've had compulsive exercise or other lifestyle behaviours before that have really impacted their lives negatively. Excitedly telling these people that they look great because they look skinny, could be the thing that triggers them into a negative behaviour pattern again, or at least causes them some level of emotional stress like it did for me.
And it's the same when we've noticed someone has gained weight. Commenting that someone looks bulky isn't necessarily a bad thing. But if someone isn't familiar with what "bulky" means in a fitness context, they could get really confused and upset because they think you're calling them fat.
So, what can I say then?
Remember - this post isn't about what you can or can't say. There's no Word Police out to get you if you say the wrong thing! This post is simply about making you more aware of the word choices you make. So let's have a brainstorm about what could be better words to use!
Instead of saying that some one is skinny or bulky, try these instead:
When we engage this way, we still get to share our excitement with our friends and family, but we don't focus on the potentially triggering words we've been discussing throughout this blog post. We recognise the change, and we enter into a healthy dialogue which allows the other person to give you insight into what's going on, good or bad.
Be mindful and considerate. It's not too hard once you know how ;)
Once upon a time, I used to choose low fat products.
Low fat milk, cheese, and anything else that sounded like it would be a healthier choice if marked as low fat. Little did I know, I was actually depriving myself of something that my body really did need! Fat is always portrayed as the villain, the bad guy that must be avoided! Let me assure you, fat is not always bad.
When we eat healthy fats the right way, they are very beneficial to our bodies and can even help us to change how our body looks and how we feel in general.
Did I just hear you ask “Say whaaat?” Yep - you read it right! Our bodies need fat in order to not only survive, but thrive!
Quick biology lesson! Did you know that one of the main ingredients in your cells is fat? The cell wall is around 70-80% fat. And your brain - one of the most important organs in your entire body - is about 60% fat. Every moment of every day our body is making new cells in order to keep us alive and healthy. Imagine what would happen if we cut out fat from our diet? Not only would your brain and nerves suffer, but the actual maintenance of our body will be affected because your body will recognise that it is missing a vital ingredient for cell replication.
The truth about fat is this: you can happily eat small amounts of fat with each meal (a good serving size is around the size of your thumb).
The fat you DON’T want is trans fats or hydrogenated fats. These fats are everywhere and they are sneaky little blighters! The food industry created trans fats and hydrogenated fats by altering the molecular structure of healthy, natural fats so they could create food that lasted longer, tasted better and had a better texture. That’s how they became dangerous to us. When we mess with nature it messes with us. If your food comes from a package, there is a very real chance that it has trans or hydrogenated fats in it. I’m not saying that it 100% definitely has, but there’s a good chance it does include these fats. This is why we need to make our own food, and not rely on foods from factories.
How can we get healthier, natural fats into our diet? You can include more of the following foods in your diet:
The really cool thing about the plant-based sources of fats, is how versatile they are. For breakfast, adding chia seeds to your breakfast smoothie will give you omega 3 fats (very important!), fibre, and protein. Adding a scoop of avocado to your smoothie will not only give you healthy fats, but it’ll give your smoothie a nice creamy texture too! For lunch, throw some pumpkin seeds and pine nuts on a salad and whammo - extra fats, fibre and protein in one hit! And of course if you’re on the go and need some energy, grabbing some homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruits will help keep you going until your next meal (just don’t have too much trail mix - that stuff is delicious and addictive!).
Remember, fat is in foods for a reason. You don’t have to “go keto” and get the majority of your nutrition from foods with higher fats content, just don’t be scared to include more healthy fats in your diet. Your body will thank you for it, and you may even speed up those fat loss results that we work so hard for!
I was never that strong. In primary school the boys would challenge us girls to arm wrestling matches (probably not the best or safest thing!!) and I would ALWAYS lose! When it came to doing gymnastics, it took me forever to finally achieve a "circle-up" on to the low bar. It felt like it took years to gain strength for that skill, no joke!
Fast forward into my early twenties, my strength was still looking pretty darn bleak!
These days, things are looking a little different, and i'm loving it!
I first started getting into strength training in a "traditional" gym setting. Weights machines, dumbbells, and small barbells were my weapons of choice. They were all perfectly acceptable, but I soon realised their limitations for what I personally wanted to achieve, and how I viewed the human body's movement patterns.
A lot of women are scared (or at least hesitant) to try weights training. Gaining too much muscle, or getting bulky, is less than desirable. We are somehow taught that we'll end up looking like men, and will lose our femininity if we do weights. I personally don't buy into that, because everyone's perception of masculinity and femininity is quite varied. Also, regular folks like you and I just won't give ourselves the same training and nutritional stimulus to end up looking like a competitive athlete or body builder (more on that later).
Back in 2011, I decided to head to some adults gymnastics classes. Not only was I incredibly unfit, but I was weak too! Here we go again - after so much effort, so much time, I would finally achieve the basic level one skills I had learned as a child. This what one of the things that kick started not only my health and fitness journey, but more specifically, my strength training.
I started up at a gym not long after I finished my time doing those gymnastics classes, and got stuck into a number of years doing variations of traditional strength training workouts. Because I wasn't able to go back to my gymnastics classes, I decided to try pole fitness instead! Yes, my strength had improved, but there were still weaknesses. After about four or five months of pole fitness classes, I finished up and continued with my traditional weights workouts at the gym.
This time in the gym served my body really well, especially when I decided to get back into gymnastics a number of years later. Achieving old and new skills was so much easier, now that I had a solid foundation of strength and had been using a variety of training methods. Not only had I been using machines and dumbbells, but I enjoyed using various tools such as suspension training (e.g. TRX straps), kettlebells, and larger / heavier barbells.
It was during this time that I gradually built up the strength to deadlift 67.5kg, which was about 1kg heavier than my bodyweight at the time. People would often comment that I was looking fit and strong, but they were surprised when I said that I could deadlift that amount of weight. No - I did not look like a hulk! No - I did not look unfeminine! I looked exactly how they described me, a normal woman who was fit and strong. I was someone who could do a chin up, and was working towards doing more chin ups. I could do push ups on my toes! I could hold a decent plank.
What am I trying to say?
I started off with very little strength. And because of that, I had very little confidence in my physical abilities. Strength training has changed all that.
I'm more confident. It doesn't matter that I'm not hitting the same "numbers" as my friends. The fact that I can still deadlift my bodyweight is a real achievement for me, and anyone else who can. The fact that I can lift a nearly 30kg barbell over my head is something that I wouldn't have had the confidence to do all those years ago. Strength training gives you confidence. A barbell (or whatever piece of equipment you chose to use) has a unique way of assuring you that you're actually more capable than you think or feel.
Start lifting weights and not only will you have more confidence, but you'll be opening tight jar lids like a pro! It's actually kinda funny... for me, jar lids are a challenge. I hate them with a passion but I will open it!! My husband often tells me "I can help, you know!" And I'm super grateful for that because as a mechanic he has awesome grip strength. But of course, the challenge of a jar lid makes me much too stubborn to ask for help as often as I could :)
I hear it all... the... time...
"I want to get more toned."
I'd like to educate you, and reassure you of something: lifting heavy weights is not going to turn you into the Shulk (She-Hulk). As females, we are just not made with enough testosterone to allow that to happen. Plain and simple!!!
If you are wondering how body builders look the way they do, it's because they spend ALL of their time eating and training in a very specific way. Their lives revolve around it! And those really big body builders..? Supplements. You can read into that any way you like. Supplements that natural body builders use, or "supplements" (insert winky-face emoji here) that the highest of high level body builders use.
The everyday person uses strength training to not only get stronger, but to create shape. What creates that toned look? Muscle! And as females, we need to lift heavy in order to create that shape. Of course, we need to do this sensibly - start off light and progress heavier as we get stronger, under supervision of someone qualified. But still - we need that stimulus.
Remember - if you think you're getting too big, just tweak your training until you achieve what you're happy with! Easy!
Also remember - "heavy" is not a pre-determined weight range that you can google. "Heavy" simply means that you need to work hard to move the weight. Don't ever compare your heavy to someone else's heavy. We're all different, all at different stages of our strength training, and we all start somewhere.
3: More Confidence #winning!
I'm sure you're not looking to get so much confidence that you end up with your head in the clouds and a superiority complex. But because you're strong, fit and healthy, and you actually like the way you look, you're going to feel awesome and you can rock virtually any outfit you choose, Summer or Winter.
Don't get me wrong - you may not have the perfect body (newsflash - nobody does), but being happy with how you look will make a trip to the beach or wearing your favourite skirt or shorts so super enjoyable!!!
4: prevention is better than cure
And that is certainly true! Did you know that once we turn 30 years old, we start to lose muscle mass and bone density. But that's not the only thing to go. If we're not careful, we set can set ourselves up for falls, easily broken bones and extremely crooked posture in our elderly years. Strength training along with good healthy eating can prevent many of these issues.
Strength training creates strong bones, strong muscles (including a strong pelvic floor - nobody likes incontinence, right?), and better balance. We will be healthier and more confident in our "golden years" if we put in the work now.
Picture yourself when there's more gray hair on your body than your natural colour:
5: mental mastery
Confidence, shape, and healthy ageing are all very important. But one of my absolute favourite things about strength training doesn't have anything to do with a muscle. It's got to do with your mind!
When you are presented with a workout that challenges your body in more ways than one, you have to think about it. You need a game plan. You've already committed. You committed when you started training, and when you signed up to the gym (if you go to a gym). So, how are you going to get through the next 12 - 60 minutes without burning out?
When I was doing gymnastics, one of the apparatus that I trained was vault. It's quite possibly the most intimidating thing that I have had to conquer in a sporting or workout sense, ever. And I'm not even doing anything fancy on vault! It's just plain intimidating! Standing at the end of the runway, your mind tells you that it is not a good idea to throw yourself at a stationary object, let alone do it while upside down! This is where mental mastery comes in. You gain control of your thoughts. You understand the process of doing the vault, you've broken it down and done it all before. You know that once you start running, you are committed. The chances of injury are much higher if you bail at the wrong time. Run, jump, rebound, stay tight and powerful deflect, look at your toes, land. Visualise it in your head, take a deep breath, and go. There is no time to doubt your abilities.
A workout is similar. Probably less intimidating than a vault, but similar! You know what you're capable of, you know how far you can push yourself safely. All you need to do is conquer the will to be lazy and give up on your goals and stay in bed instead.
Visualise the end goal, take a deep breath and go! You should never doubt your abilities, because you're stronger and more awesome than you realise!
"I don't want to be paying for something that I can do for myself already."
"If you can do it yourself, then why are we having this conversation?" I thought to myself.
What this person said to me, and what I thought to myself, are both 100% acceptable. I wholeheartedly agree with what she said. If you can do something for yourself, without paying for help, go right ahead and do it. Because let's face it, you'd only be taking up my time, wasting your hard earned money, and preventing me from helping someone who truly does need my help. I don't want to train someone who doesn't need my help. It's pointless!
The reason why we were having this conversation, is because she felt limited. Further conversation revealed that. Despite her having knowledge of the human body and how it works, she really needed help with practical steps and advice to help her achieve her goals. She needed help with putting her knowledge into something easy, understandable, and doable.
Have you asked yourself that same question? Why should you hire and pay for a trainer? well, let's discuss the reasons!
1) Squats, push ups... what else should I do??
This folks, is the most straight forward answer you'll ever get, for anything! If you don't know what to do, get help from someone who does.
2) You know what to do, even though you've done bootcamps / group exercise before. You just don't know where to start outside of that setting.
Fair enough! Just because you know what to do, it doesn't mean that you understand everything about it. Did you know that you can hire a trainer simply to help create a plan for you? That plan can consist of what you'll do each day of the week. It can be creating fresh workouts for you to do as well as creating a workout schedule. It can be sitting down periodically with your trainer to discuss your goals and figuring out which group classes at your gym would be best suited to get you closer to achieving those goals. We're not just someone to make you sweat lots and count your reps. There's more to us than that!
3) You need accountability.
Let's face it. If something is difficult or requires more effort than we'd like to give, and we can get away with putting it off, as humans we will put it off! We've all done it, and there's no point in denying it. You might have the means and the ability to exercise under your own steam, but are you actually going to follow through with it? Genuine, non-judgey question! Because it's all well and good saying you can do it for yourself, but will you? Why not hire a PT to be your accountability partner? None of us like to waste money, so hiring someone is good incentive to help you to create a habit, and where necessary, keep that habit going strong. For example, instead of doing a full program complete with twice weekly training sessions, you can pay your trainer for a monthly program, and then tell them each week when you are planning to hit the gym. They can remind you to do your workout on the day, they can be there to high five you as you arrive and again when you leave the gym, or they can follow up with you afterwards via message. There are heaps of ways to do this and it can be really fun figuring out away that suits you best! Throw them $20 (or whatever their rate is) per week for their effort. Hey, buy them a weekly box or three of organic free range eggs if you like! Then when the next month comes around, get a program update, and repeat! What did I say before? "We're not just someone to make you sweat lots and count your reps." We are able to help you in so many different ways!!
4) You're busy, and you don't have the time to think about it all.
All you want to do is turn up and train. You work. You have kids. Maybe you work two jobs and have three needy cats. What you want is someone who knows their stuff, who understands your goals, and can help you. Why should you exhaust your already tired and stressed brain over exercise when all you want is some "me time"? The solution - pay someone to do the thinking for you! You can do in-person sessions, or have an online program. Either way works well!
5) We keep things simple for you in a personalised way.
Did you know that for general health and fitness, regular brisk walking is all you need to do to start off with? Of course you did! The frustrating thing is, we are marketed to believe that exercise (and nutrition) needs to be fancy, complex, and come complete with it's own DJ to actually get results. Newsflash - not true! All you need to do is:
6) You'll learn things.
It's true. Everyone knows how to exercise. If you can walk, ride a bike, swim or run, you can exercise. But do you know the intricacies of how your body works? Do you know what muscles control different movements? Do you know how to best target a certain muscle in just the right way, to get just the right results? When you're working together, a good trainer will teach you those things. For two reasons:
You can think of any reason you want to hire or not to hire a trainer. It's completely up to you, because you are in control of how you spend your time and money. Just remember that all Fit Pro's are different, and you can definitely approach us and see if we are willing to try a non-traditional way to support you in your fitness journey :)
"I need more motivation! I need you to motivate me!" She said, clearly frustrated by her struggle.
I would love have loved to respond honestly, but I had an idea of how she was feeling and I never want to come across as one without compassion. I didn't want to be misinterpreted or thought of as nasty. Motivation is frustratingly fleeting, and more people than I have met in my whole life struggle with it. Every single one of us struggles with it, nobody is immune!
If I had responded honestly, I would have asked her:
"Really? Are you sure?"
Let me explain why...
according to google, motivation is defined as: