One Month CrossFit Check-In

My first CrossFit workout was on January 13, and since then, I’ve been to fourteen total classes, so now seems like a great time to do an update.

Long story short, I have drunk the metaphorical Kool-Aid. I love CrossFit. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

The Coaches Are Awesome
One of my greatest concerns going into CrossFit was that I would be pushed to do things that were beyond my current ability level and end up hurting myself. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Every single workout, one of the coaches checks in with me at the beginning to a) make sure I know what I’m doing, and b) make sure I have appropriately scaled weights or alternative movements. I still get an incredible amount of one-on-one coaching, so I never feel like I’m at risk of performing movements incorrectly and potentially getting injured, and I’m never taken to task for doing modifications or lighter weights as necessary.

The People Are Awesome
I was also concerned that the majority of the people at the box would be stereotypical power-lifting types who would judge me for not being strong, or not working out every single day, or not knowing what I was doing immediately. I have to say, though, the vast majority of the people I’ve met are “normal” people just like me who are looking to get stronger. Everyone is incredibly supportive and encouraging. There’s definitely a team mentality where everyone is on everyone else’s side, and we all want each other to do our best. Now that I’ve been there for a while, there’s at least one person I know at every class I go to, so I’m really starting to feel like I belong.

The Workouts Kick My Ass, but Give Me ALLTHENERGY
It’s weird, but true. The workouts are always different, and always kick my ass in different ways, but no matter how hard I work and how exhausted I think I am after it’s over, about 15 minutes post-class, the endorphins kick in and I feel AMAZEBALLS for the rest of the night. This is especially valuable because I go to CF before rehearsals, and the extra energy helps me get through rehearsals without feeling grumpy and sluggish.

I Can Already Tell I’m Getting Stronger
If I can say one thing for certain, it’s that CF works. I’m starting to see more definition in my arms and legs. I can do one real, good form, honest-to-goodness push up. Almost two! My squats are deeper and smoother than they were when I started. And I no longer have constant DOMS. I took some measurements last week, and weighed myself at the beginning of February so I can keep track of progress in those areas as well, but the goal truly is to get stronger, and as long as I continue to see improvements that way, I’ll be a happy camper.

I’m so happy I started going to CrossFit, and I can’t wait to see my continued progress. I just wish it weren’t so dang expensive!


Friday Free-For-All – 01/13/17

Photo Jul 14, 10 05 37 AM

We went out to a fancy dinner on Tuesday night. My father in law wanted to take the whole family out for dinner before Emily heads back to Prague. The thing is, this fancy shmancy restaurant has two locations. I assumed it was the one in Stowe, VT because that’s the original location. It didn’t even occur to me until I arrived at the restaurant that our reservation just might be at the other location. Which is in Burlington. Which is where I work. A quick text to Ben confirmed that I was indeed in the wrong place, meaning I ended up driving about 50 miles and an hour out of my way before finally ending up in the right place. Ugh. In spite of that, though, the food was excellent and I had a great night.

I had my one-on-one CrossFit “Elements” class last night. Coach Dave continues to be awesome, and I met a couple of members, which was also nice. It’s hard to tell at this point whether or not I really like CF because I’m still learning and I haven’t been to a regular class yet, but I’m continuing to try keep an open mind, have fun, and learn a lot. I’ll be attending my first actual class tonight, so hopefully that will help me get a better handle on things.

Emily went back to Prague last night. She was home for just about a month, and it was so much fun having her around. I’m going to miss her! I not-so-secretly want her to move home so we can hang out all the time, but she really likes it there, and just got a great job working admissions at a university, so I don’t think she’s moving back any time soon. Ben will be going to Prague to visit her this summer, but I just don’t have enough time off from work to make it happen, and I’m super bummed.

ringI bought a silicone “wedding ring” for CrossFit. CF involves a lot of work with bars, so I knew that wearing my wedding band and engagement ring would be a bad idea, both for the health of my fingers, and the health of the rings themselves. It feels weird not to wear anything, so I wanted to get a placeholder that I could safely wear while lifting. My friends Aimee and Andrew swear by their Qalo brand rings, but I couldn’t justify spending $20-25 on something I was just going to wear to class. I did a little snooping on Amazon and found a similar product for a whopping $8 with Prime shipping. So far, so good.

Married folks, do you ever go sans rings?


My Intro to CrossFit Class

On Saturday morning, I hauled my buns to CrossFit Burlington. The main reasons I chose this particular box are a) it’s less than a mile from my office, and b) their class schedule is the most convenient for me. I was a bit skeptical because they didn’t have any pricing listed on their website, but I was willing to just give it a shot.


When I first arrived, I felt SO out of place. If you’ve ever been to a CF box, you probably know what I mean. It’s just not like other gyms. There are no frills. Nothing is pretty. It’s a big open space with pull up bars, stacks of weights and medicine balls, and rowing machines. I was further discouraged when I got to the desk, and without even saying hello, the guy working there just handed me a waiver to fill out. Like, “OK, nice to meet you too, guy.”

Only after I had filled out the waiver did I receive any verbal acknowledgement from the desk guy. He asked if I’d ever done CF before, if I’d ever done any high intensity workout program before, or if I had any injuries or illnesses that might make me unable to complete certain exercises. After that, he said that we’d be working with Coach Dave, and to make ourselves at home until he came to fetch us. I nervously struck up conversation with the only other noob present, a guy named Rob. He was really nice, and just as nervous as I was, so I felt like I had a good companion.

Going in, I was fully prepared to bail if I felt at all like I was being pressured to do things I had no business doing, but thankfully it never came to that. When Coach Dave came over and introduced himself, I immediately liked him better than counter guy (who as it turns out is the owner?). He explained that we’d do a tour of the facility, go through the standard warmup, break down some exercises, and do a workout using those exercises. He was very friendly, clear, and checked in with us frequently to see if we had any questions.

He took us around and showed us the board where they post the weekly schedule and the workout of the day (WOD). As we walked around, several people offered greetings, told us to have a great workout, and that we were going to love it, which I thought was nice. Everyone seemed really friendly and outgoing. After that it was time for warmups, which were pretty standard dynamic warmups–high knees, butt kicks, and other similar exercises back and forth across the floor.

Next we went over proper squat form, because a squat is one of the “9 foundational functional movements” of CF. It’s also part of a wall ball toss, which we’d be doing as part of our workout. Generally, I pride myself on my squat form, but I got a few good pointers from Coach Dave, and I was DEFINITELY feeling it more than I usually do by implementing his suggestions. We also learned box jumps (which are scary!), proper pushup form, and wall ball tosses. I was already a bit tired just from learning the exercises and going through them a few times, but now it was time for the actual workout. We were to do 9 wall balls, 9 situps, 9 box jumps, 9 pushups, and then grab the medicine ball and run out to the sdiewalk and back. We’d have 9 minutes to do as many reps of the cycle as possible.

Now, 9 minutes doesn’t sound like that long, but when you don’t have a recovery period in between exercises, well, it starts to be a lot harder. I completed my first round doing full pushups and jumping onto a 16 inch box, but the second round, I had to switch back to the 8 inch box, and I did a nine count plank instead of pushups. Coach Dave had offered this as a modification, but I still expected him to berate me for not trying pushups. Instead, he shouted “Great plank, Rachel, nice!” which surprised me and made me feel good. Throughout the three reps I managed to complete, Coach Dave was encouraging and positive, never mean, never telling us that we weren’t good enough, or giving us a hard time for taking modifications where necessary.

By the end of the nine minutes, I was breathing hard, shaking, and feeling a bit pukey, but also feeling really proud of myself. Rob and I high fived each other, and Coach Dave high fived each of us as well. We took a few minutes to recover, and then it was time for the pricing/membership spiel. If we want to join the box, the next step is a one hour, one-on-one session with either Coach Dave or the owner to go over the 9 foundation movements and make sure we can complete them with good form. Many CF boxes offer a two week foundations class for $200, but CF Burlington just condenses it into this one-on-one session, which costs $50. After that, 12 classes per month are $165, or unlimited classes are $195. These prices are comparable to other boxes in the area that I’d researched, so I wasn’t too surprised. On my way out, the owner actually remembered my name and said good job, so that helped to revise my opinion of him a bit.

All day Sunday and Monday I had some pretty intense DOMS, particularly in my quads, but nothing that I haven’t experienced before after a tough workout or race, and today I feel completely back to normal. I’ve already signed up to do a one-on-one session with Coach Dave tomorrow night, so I can give CrossFit a serious try for at least one month, to see if it can get me where I want to be. I liked Coach Dave, I felt like the other box members were pretty nice, and I felt like I got a lot out of a relatively short workout. With how busy as I am, I just don’t have the time to commit to spending hours slogging away at the gym. Having a short, intense workout is just what I need right now.

Have you ever tried box jumps? Do you find them scary too?


Why I’ve Decided to Try CrossFit

I used to swear up and down that I was never going to try CrossFit. I was simply not interested. I think the Paleo diet is a bunch of BS, and I generally avoid hanging out with “meatheads” or participating in anything that might be described as cult-like. We’ve all heard the CrossFit horror stories of being pressured into fad diets, or doing too much too fast and winding up grievously injured. I turned my nose up at the possibility that so-called normal people could get anything out of CrossFit.

Lately, though, my mindset has shifted somewhat. Some of the reasons are pretty personal so I’m not gonna get into that, but suffice to say, I’m ready to commit to putting my health first.  I have a HORRIBLE family health history, including but not limited to: Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, and a selection of cancers on both sides. I need to really take care of myself or I’ll end up on the same path as my aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Also, I have made no secret over the course of my time writing this blog about the fact that I’m not super happy with where I’m at physically. Since moving to Vermont in 2013, I’ve slowly but surely gained about 20 pounds. I thought that by really committing to running, training for my first half, and then another few halves, and then my first marathon, I might finally drop the weight and get back to a better place mentally, but that hasn’t been the case. In fact, it’s gone the opposite way and I’ve GAINED weight since I started running more. I’m hopeful that really mixing things up and adding serious weight training into my routine will help me achieve the results that have been eluding me for some time now, not to mention helping to prevent the aforementioned health issues.

I definitely still have some anxiety and fear regarding CF, but I’ve been doing a lot of research. What I’ve read has led me to believe that a good box and a good trainer really have your best interests at heart, and care about keeping you healthy and helping you achieve your goals. There’s a box less than a mile from my office that offers a free intro class every Saturday morning, so I’m gonna go check it out this weekend. I know CF is pretty expensive, but I’ve decided that if I like it and feel like it will help me get where I want to be, I’m willing to pony up the cash. It’s time to stop whining about how unhappy I am and actually do something about it. Who knows, I may totally hate it and feel uncomfortable and whatever, but I’ll never know unless I try, right?

Have you ever tried CrossFit? Thoughts?


Instituting “The Dailies”

I have this little thing called the Spartan Sprint coming up in little over a month. I signed up waaaay back in February, thinking that I’d have plenty of time to do some strength training and get into shape. Spoiler alert: that didn’t really happen. So now I’m running out of time and feeling thoroughly unprepared. My schedule lately has been so busy that I’ve barely had time to fit in my running, let alone Body Pump or CXWORX.

Still, though, I need to do something. And not being able to make it to the gym isn’t really an acceptable excuse for slacking on basic strength training. Therefore, I’ve decided to adopt a daily routine of quick, simple, bodyweight exercises that I can do in my own home, whenever I have time. I’m calling this routine, “The Dailies.” I may not remember to do it every day, but at least having a plan should help me fit some strength training in more often. In case you’re interested, here’s what I’ll be doing:

The Dailies

Please Note: I am not a personal trainer, coach, or expert. This is just a routine that works for me. Please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

What’s your go-to at-home exercise?

Trying Out Pilates

For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading about how Kristen at Run Away with Me has been trying out a Pilates boot camp class. At first, she wasn’t into it, but now she loves it, and the results speak for themselves–she lost almost 5 inches over the course of 4 weeks! I was really jealous of her awesome results, but the only Pilates studio I know of near me has absolutely insane prices that I just couldn’t justify paying.

And then last week, I got an email from our office manager that our company would be sponsoring a 5 week Pilates mat class series–one class per week every Wednesday night, with a drop-in price of $12, or all five classes for only $50. At first I waffled, because I already spend a lot of money on my gym membership, and they have Pilates classes that I could take free of charge. But then I decided to go for it, because the classes are literally IN MY BUILDING. I would have to walk right by the room to go home, so it would be super easy. I’d also be in class with friends and coworkers, and $10 per class is a GREAT price.

We had our first class on Wednesday the 29th, and I’ll admit I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was actually quite familiar with a lot of the moves due to having been exposed to them in lots of dance classes. Unfortunately, I felt like I was a bit short-changed on the basic knowledge, because this class has been going on for a while and was only recently opened up to my division. This meant that everyone else in the class had been doing it for weeks, and the instructor very obviously had already given them the core principles and I was just sort of left to figure it out on my own.

Despite that, it was a very fun class. It’s a small group of ladies who are all very friendly and don’t take themselves or the class too seriously at all. And it’s a GREAT workout. My abs were sore for two full days after class, to the point where sneezing was painful. I think this will be a good supplement to running and Body Pump, since it focuses on core strength. And the timing is perfect–the last class is the last week before Chess rehearsals start up on Monday, Wednesday, Sundays, so I can just transition right into rehearsals.

Have you ever tried Pilates? Did you like it?

Body Pump Will Pump You Up

On Monday, I attended my first-ever Body Pump class.  This seems to be one of Les Mills’ most popular class offerings, and I know a lot of my run-blogging friends are fans.  I decided to give it a try because I really need more overall strength training, but I find the weight room intimidating.  Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m an empowered woman, blah blah, but still.  I don’t like it.  And I also don’t really know what I’m doing.  So to have an instructor telling me exactly what to do and when sounded really appealing.

Since I didn’t have rehearsal until 8 pm, I was able to make a 5:30 class (class is one hour), and my coworker/gym buddy Freda came along for the ride.  We got there early and approached a woman who we assumed was the instructor.  She had just finished up teaching the previous class, but was kind enough to get us sorted out before she left.  She actually said, “OK, we gotta get you set up, these people are like pirhannas, like sharks after chum.  You gotta get your equipment fast or it’s all gone!”  She wasn’t kidding.  This class was jam-packed and there were people swarming all over the place grabbing bars and plates and steps.

She gave us a quick run-down of what the class would be like–warm up, squats/legs, upper body, abs, cool down and stretch, and showed us how the bars and clips worked, and explained that we could use as much or as little weight as we wanted for each section.  After that, we just sort of waited anxiously for the class to start.

Guys, the instructor for this class was pregnant.  And she’s not even the regular instructor. The regular instructor (who happens to be her sister), is even MORE pregnant.  If you ever wanted to feel completely inadequate, take a Body Pump class taught by a visibly pregnant woman who doesn’t even break a sweat.  I can only hope I’m half as active and strong as those two when I start procreating. My personal feelings of inadequacy aside, we lucked out once again with a new release, so we weren’t walking into a class where everyone knew the routine except us.

I will say, because the class was so full, and with so many people who obviously do Body Pump regularly, I feel like there is a very real possibility for failure/error/doing exercises incorrectly as a new person.  I had never done a clean and press before this class, and could have used some more help getting that motion down.  Proper form is really important to get the most out of an exercise and to avoid injury, and I feel like while Melissa did the best she could to describe the movements well, she was more focused on moving through the routine than giving individual feedback.  Keep this in mind if you decide to try Body Pump.  Maybe seek the instructor out before your first class and try to get a bit of coaching first.

Photo Jan 26, 7 29 09 PMAside from that, this class is VERY good, and I can see why it’s so popular.  It really is a full-body strength workout, that in my (non-professional) opinion, was pretty well-balanced.  The warm up was just long enough to get my heart rate up a bit, and then we went straight into a squat track, which kind of made me want to die.  Honestly, I thought I was a relatively strong person going into this class, but now I realize that that was a fantasy.  I’m wimpy and out of shape.  After doing 3 minutes of squats and lunges, I thought my legs were going to fall off.  I kind of wanted them to.  And then we did upper body.  And then abs.

The day or two after, I had quite a bit of DOMS (particularly in my quads and the weird underarm/boob-fat area, which I think is a good thing), but nothing unmanageable, which means that I didn’t push it too hard.  I want to take this class once a week, but I’m having a tough time fitting it into my schedule right now because of rehearsals.  I’m probably going to end up having to go to a 6 am class, which is SO not my usual scene, but I think it will be worth it, particularly since I have the Spartan Race in September and have no idea how to train for it.  Full-body strength training seems like a pretty good start for lack of another plan.

Have you ever tried Body Pump?

If so, are the people at your gym pirhannas? Do you have to get to class early and fight for a spot and equipment?

CXWORX – A Killer Core Workout

As part of my quest towards a more balanced fitness program, I’m in the process of checking out various group exercise classes offered by my gym.  This past Thursday, I decided to check out CXWORX.  I chose this class for three reasons:

  1. The class starts at 5:10, so I don’t have to hang around the gym waiting for it to start (I get out of work at 4:30)
  2. The class is only 30 minutes long, which means I get home that much sooner on one of my few rehearsal-free nights
  3. The class is focused on strengthening your core, which is really important for me as a runner

Here’s a description of the class I lifted from the Les Mills website:

Exercising muscles around the core, CXWORX provides the vital ingredient for a stronger body. A stronger core makes you better at all things you do, from everyday life to your favorite sports – it’s the glue that holds everything together.

All the moves in CXWORX have options, so it’s challenging but achievable for your own level of fitness. During the 30-minute workout trained instructors guide you through correct technique as you work with resistance tubes and weight plates, as well as body weight exercises like crunches, and hovers. You will also get into some hip, butt and lower back exercises.

I was nervous before this class, especially because I attended solo.  Thankfully, I lucked out once again, in that this was only the second class of a new release, so we were all learning together.  There were also a number of other newbies, so I felt fairly comfortable.  The instructor, Betsy, was REALLY good–great descriptions of the movements, variations for different levels, what we should or shouldn’t be feeling or doing, and she called the transitions between movements really well.

This class may be only 30 minutes, but we were WORKING!  The class flowed really well, in that every time I was starting to feel like I couldn’t continue a particular movement one second longer, we transitioned to something else.  We worked our entire core, as well–back, abs, obliques, glutes, hips, and even some shoulder and arm work.  The movements that we did are kind of hard to describe, because most of them are not traditional exercises like crunches or curls.  There was a lot of rolling around and going from sitting to standing and back again, so if you’re not super mobile, this is probably not a good class for you.  I’d definitely call it more of an intermediate level class than a beginner level class, so keep that in mind if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey.

All in all, this class is a lot of bang for the proverbial buck.  Having a strong core is essential for a runner, and if the way my abs felt the day after is any indication, this class is really going to up my game.  I plan to go every Thursday.

Have you ever tried CXWORX?

What are your favorite core exercises?

30 Day Push-up Challenge

I’m starting something new today–a 30 day push-up challenge.  As a runner, I focus a lot on core and lower body strength, and not so much on upper body.  As a result, my arms, shoulders, and upper back are quite wimpy.  I think this is a fairly common issue for runners.  So I’ve decided to focus a bit more on full-body fitness for the next month, but I wanted to start small, since I’m pretty dang weak.

I found this great 30 day pushup challenge for beginners graphic after a very brief Google search.  I like that it starts out with only 3 push-ups, because in all honesty, I’m not even sure I can do three actual, non-modified push-ups.  And it works up to doing 20, which I think is a reasonable goal for a beginner like myself.

Photo Oct 23, 6 43 31 AM

Once I complete the challenge, I hope to incorporate more upper body workouts into my weekly routine, whether that’s through Body Pump classes at my gym, or dumbbell workouts at home.  I know there are all kinds of arm workouts on the Tone It Up website that seem pretty varied and challenging.

The short term goal here is to have nicer arms for the wedding since I’m wearing a strapless dress (yes, I know the wedding is only a month away, but I think that’s long enough to see some improvement).  And the long term goal is to be ready for the #nardichallenge at my first runDisney race, the Wine and Dine half marathon in November 2015.  Also, one of my ultimate fitness benchmarks that I hope to meet someday is being able to do at least one pull-up.  I would be over the moon if I could do that.

Can you do a “regular” push-up?  How many can you do in a row?

Do you find that, as a runner, you skimp on upper body workouts?

Plan/Goals for the Second Half of the Year

I started this whole running thing without any specific goals other than finishing my first half marathon.  Now that goal has come and gone (read about it here), and I find that I’m lacking motivation.

Click for Source

Click for Source

Yes, I could go ahead and sign up for a bunch more races (and I will), but for the moment, I’m kind of enjoying not being in “training mode.”  I like that I don’t have to forgo social engagements because they interfere with my running schedule, or avoid having a few beers on Friday night so that I can complete my Saturday long run.  In short, I like having my life back to normal.

That being said, I don’t want to just stop running.  Far from it.  I want to keep running and improving.  And I definitely want to complete another half marathon before the snow starts flying, which in Vermont, could be some time as early as October.  I’ve been seeing a lot of mid-year 2014 goal check-in posts, and they have inspired me to set some more concrete goals for the second half of the year, which will hopefully help keep me motivated.

So without further ado, here’s what I’ll be working towards for the next 6 months:

  • Sign up for and complete another half marathon
  • Sign up for and complete a 10k race (probably virtual)
  • Incorporate speed work and/or hills at least once a week, with the goal of consistently running 5k under 3o minutes
  • Get back to yoga.  I know this is kind of wishy-washy and non-specific, but I’m not sure what the yoga class schedule will be like at my new gym, and I don’t want to set myself up for failure right off the bat
  • Strength train at least once a week.  My hips were incredibly sore for a couple of days after my half, and I want to make sure that my muscles are able to support me on longer runs
  • Focus on recovery after runs.  I’ve been skipping the stretch and roll routine after runs a little too often, and I know that’s not good for me.  I’m pretty sure my tight calves are contributing to the pain in my foot, so I want to protect myself from injury and really limber up my muscles

That’s all for now.  I don’t want to have too many plates up in the air at once, especially since I’m still working on my #Chewsday Challenge as well.  I plan to do a monthly check-in on these goals to help me stay accountable and on-track.  I may also add or alter goals as things occur to me.

My running/training plan for the next little while will look something like this:

Monday:  Cross-train (yoga/body pump/strength train)
Tuesday:  Alternate hill repeats and speed work
Wednesday:  Cross-train (yoga/body pump/strength train)
Thursday:  Short, fast (for me) run (3-5 miles)
Friday:  Rest
Saturday:  Long, slow distance (6-8 miles)
Sunday:  Rest

Basically, I want to maintain my fitness, but not spend every Saturday recovering from a long run.  Once I sign up for my fall half, I’ll increase my long run mileage each week to get ready.

Do you set specific running/fitness-related goals? How do you stay motivated?