Saturday, 19 December 2015

Everything you wanted to know about the (Holy Church of) Crossfit.

Howdy! We are on the slippery slope toward Chrissy! I hope you are all feeling cool (ha) calm and collected.

So I have blogged a bit about CrossFit here. Naomi said she didn't know anything about it, and it can sometimes draw quizzical glances from people.

Some people think I spend I lot of time on this kind of contraption.

That is a Cross Trainer.

Ha! They are sooooo 2003. But seriously, very gentle on the joints and a good way to get a good cardio workout.

The whole idea behind CrossFit is as such: constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity across broad modal and time domains. It is performed in specialised affiliate gyms, called "Boxes". The owners of the Boxes pay to use the CrossFit(TM) name. The coaches have specific CrossFit certification, and usually some other form of fitness qualification. Hence, while the philosophy is the same the world over, there is variability in what goes on in different Boxes.

Each Box has a timetable with multiple classes per day, it is not like a gym where you just rock up and slog it out in your own time on the equipment.

The classes go for an hour, and are formatted roughly as follows:
1. Warm up - can be skipping, running, rowing, mobility or light strength exercises, or plyometric exercises (burpees).
2. Skills - usually concentrating on strength training - for instance we do bench press, dead lifts, pull ups, clean and jerk and snatch.
3. The Workout of the Day, or WOD - a high intensity cardio or mixed session, usually of between 8 and 20 minutes duration. For instance, last week, we did a 500 metre row followed immediately after by a 400 metre fast run. 3 rounds of that with rests as needed in between. It may utilise weights, or  High Intensity Interval Training, or Tabata.

I try and go 4 or 5 times per week. I have noted a big improvement in my speed and strength. I can lift heavy things safely. I know more about my body than I ever did.

CrossFit is heavily associated with the Paleo movement. Hence there is sometimes a religious fervour of participants.

First rule of Fight Club....

They are also very anti "big soda" and "big sugar" and "big food".

There has been a lot of criticism of CrossFit, mostly in terms of its safety. I actually thoroughly researched it on the internet before I started. Some websites said that injury was inevitable (how scary). I had a chat with the owner/head coach before I started and outlined by concerns. He effectively put them to rest. The gold standard of exercise safety is whether the exercises can be scaled to suit pregnant women, and yes, definitely they can. In fact, given the fact that I have been trying to get pregnant, that was one of the first things I asked. I also have issues with the back and knees that occasionally niggle, and that is always taken into account with the programming.

Anybody's experience in exercise is very dependent on those who coach them, and the environment, unless of course they just like to slog it out in the gym in solitude. I have to say that my CrossFit box is very highly regarded in the area (shout out to Charge Crossfit) and I love going there.

Here is why I feel this is the best health related activity I have done in a long time (or ever):

  • The exercises are scalable to everybody, and can progress to a full movement. We are encouraged to scale back our exercises as necessary, for practical purposes and for safety. We are never ever made to feel bad for scaling. For instance, there was no way on earth that I could do a pull up, so I started with a ring-row. I am now onto pull ups assisted with bands, and the band is getting lighter as I get stronger. There is an exercise called a box jump which I am working on. I am very scared of the box, so I jump on weight plates, and I am building up the height slowly. I have made significant gains in strength and speed.

  • The coaches are brilliant, they know their stuff, are friendly and approachable, and are always on hand to suggest adjustments to the exercises. They are liberal with their praise when we improve, and this is something I respond well to.
  • The environment is friendly and supportive. Everybody cheers everybody else on. The last person to finish a workout will be encouraged until they finished. Some people don't respond well to this attention, but again, I do. I have made some good friends at the box as well.
  • The environment is body positive. The focus is, in the main, getting you performing to the best of your ability. Occasionally we have 6 week "challenges" where there are points given for healthy eating, exercise, stretching etc, and the person with the most points wins a prize. This is a great motivator to getting me eating well, but it is not about weight loss. There are people of most shapes and sizes there, and I have learned that athleticism is not always related to a certain body type. As a result, I have become more confident in my own skin, and proud of what my body can do. 
  • Getting "out of my mind and into my body" is very therapeutic. There is nothing like a fast workout, or a complex movement to do this. It has helped me managed the stress of the year.
  • It puts me in touch with my masculine side. It feels good to lift a heavy weight, grunt, drop it loudly and swagger off. It feels good to "smash" a workout, and give it everything you have.  The macho blokes are onto something. However, I always check myself before I wreck myself.
  • The movements are highly functional. I used to do distance running, at the expense of other modalities of exercise, however I can see no reason why I would ever need to shuffle 10 kilometres. Instead, I can lift, I can jump, I can push, pull and sprint. If ever I needed to, I could run 5 kilometres without any stress. For the first time in my life, I have guns (biceps).
So that's me on the topic.

Any questions?

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Don't fight the flow, bro.

It is usual that, late in the year, we start to think about setting our intentions for the new year. Some people call them new years' resolutions, but that sounds a bit inflexible. I like the idea of changing the way I approach whatever curve balls life throws at me, rather than doing the same thing every day. Flexible control.

My mate was talking about healthy eating in her blog. As it happens, I have just finished a 6-week challenge with my Crossfit box. We tested a workout at the beginning and retested the workout at the end. I slashed 2 minutes 22 seconds off it. This was me afterwards

Actually not me. I know. We are practically twins. It's actually Annie Thorisdottir, crossfit champ.
I am never one for deprivation, but I did clean up my act. Specifically, I have cut out diet drinks, eaten a whole lot more vegies, eaten less crap generally and started pushing harder in workouts.

It's far easier to eat lots of veg if they are tasty, or configured in an interesting manner. Enter the microplane.

This is the best thing ever, and it makes short work of fennel and red onion to make a really fancy salad. The microplane is not cheap (like $70 bucks) but it is the bomb dot com. Neither is the baby fennel, $2 each at coles. To borrow the parlance from Faux Fuchsia, I mean it's fennel, not gold bullion.

In terms of cost per use, the microplane is a great investment. The veg don't get stuck in there. And we all know that thin food makes us thin.

Physically, I am going for gold. Mentally and spiritually, well, lots of work has been required to keep this on an even keel. I have made no secret of my ambivalence towards Christmas, yet have done my best to embrace the season. However this year has bought a particular set of challenges with it.

I would have thought that, like everything else, the pain of a miscarriage would dissipate with time. Not actually true. The tears that come on quite out of the blue some days have taken me by surprise. Hearing of each new pregnancy in a friend or acquaintance, or seeing a fellow crossfitter with a baby bump will easily precipitate this. I had not expected this to happen, yet there it is. A wise friend told me that this was a particularly hard time of the year for those sorts of feelings. Maybe.

Having finished my PhD, I am now in the market for extra sessions of gainful employment, and these proving hard to come by, for various reasons not appropriate to write here. This, plus the post-goal bottoming out, has been hard too. I have learned, though, that when something is looking too hard to come by, sometimes it is best to back away and change tack. Plan A works better when you have a plan B. I am now making arrangements for plans D and E, and I am feeling good about them.

The extra $$ are very much needed, as home renovation plans are afoot. I know! Exciting and scary! We have engaged the services of an architectural firm to design and project manage the extension. He took us through the concept drawings and 3D render, and it was really exciting to see. Then we talked costs, and bank loans, and that was somewhat less exciting. Unfortunately the design brief "please make us a palatial home at minimal cost" got lost in translation.

So 2016 looks to be a year full of challenges, some of them actually exciting. I was considering my watchword for the year, and I think it will be "patience". The second one will be "flexibility".

To make hay while the sun shines.

To manage, day by day, when things are tough, and get through as best I can.

To not be tired by waiting.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christmas.....I literally can't even.

That is probably a bit of an exaggeration.

I have come far, you see. I can now enter a shop with Christmas Carols playing, and not have the extreme urge to vomit/run screaming from the store/cry. In fact, yesterday, I even sang along to "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", in my special supermarket singing voice. I even bought a lame Christmas t-shirt and have worn it to an event.

I even plan on buying cards, writing in them, and giving them to people! Along with home-made baked goods.

I call that progress, friends. Put a red hat on me and wrap me in goddamn tinsel.

Yet I still find Christmas a bit trying. I have learned, rather than to be sucked underneath by a feeling, to ask myself why I am feeling it. It is from here that enlightenment comes.

  • Historically, Christmases were a bit trying, or a bit lonely.
  • It is a time when I have to deal with my immediate family en masse. Though we are not hostile, there are fundamental differences which cause discomfort and friction.
  • I am not really comfortable with the excesses and the waste afterwards. Food in the bin and presents you have no conceivable reason to use.
  • The crowds in the shops, the marketing, the lack of parking - it's all just overwhelming.
  • People driving like arsehats.
  • One tends to reflect on the year as a whole, on what one has done versus what one wished for a year ago.
  • Recently, the trouble in the world - it can feel a bit crass to celebrate.
Herein is what I have done to manage (and even slightly embrace) this time of year.
  • I remember some of the better Chrissies we had as kids, with the extended family, full up on turkey and ham, playing Cricket in the backyard.
  • Have randoms/friends as well as family members around. These keep everybody on their best behaviour.
  • My family have had a no xmas present policy, except for littlies. It's great, and takes the stress offa everyone.
  • I do the other shopping online. I buy, where possible, experiences rather than things.
  • I go to the shops at non-busy periods.
  • I plan meals around leftovers, and choose things that will keep a few days, to minimise food wastage.
The year has been a roller coaster. This time last year, I would've wished for a little 'un to inject the real meaning of the time. It was not to be, but I will have my gorgeous little niece.

I was at a Christmas lunch on the weekend. Each year, my PhD supervisor throws a party, buys pressies for the littlies, and has one of the blokes dress up as Santa to give the pressies out. This year my fella got the tap on the shoulder. I just want to say that my fella rocked it as Santa, the kids loved him, and he even nailed the Santa voice. One kid was most impressed with the fact that Santa wore Converse kicks. It freakin' well made my day.

Anyway - what are you guys up to?
Any other coping strategies?
Best Chrissy Evah?