When I started CrossFit 3 years ago I did it mostly because I was bored. Bored, you ask? Yep. Bored with my fitness routine. Bored at my job. Bored (ok and maybe a little fed up) with being out of shape and overweight despite all the work that I put into changing that. I was in a rut, and I was open to try something different.
Almost immediately just the act of getting into that gym inspired me. For a long time it also scared me, but in a good way, you know? The intensity of the work outs lit a fire in my life that burned WAAAAAY more than my quads after a Body Pump class at Ye Olde 24 Hour Fitness and seeing the changes (big and small) in my body as well as my mind kept me motivated.
As my skills grew sharper, my commitment grew more intense. The best part of this whole thing was that my happiness and accomplishments inside the gym started to run over into my outside life. It was as if the Universe opened up the flood gates of success! I was trying new things that I never had the confidence to try before: I ran my first half marathon, I participated in a spur of the moment 10 miler, I spent a weekend running 20 miles while living out of a van with 7 other people. These were things that I never would have written in the Things I Am Capable Of column prior to Crossfit. And here they were written in indelible ink. Accomplishments that no one could take away from me.
Also notable: somewhere amidst all of that I shed 100 lbs. I say that as an afterthought because honestly, sometimes it felt like it was. I had spent 30 years WORKING HARD (and I mean reeeeeeeeeeally working) at losing weight. And now all of a sudden I tweaked my diet just a bit and showed up at this gym to hang out with cool people who were a great time and did workouts that were fun, where people would cheer me on and encourage me — and with seemingly little effort (aside from showing up and trying hard of course) those hundred pounds dropped off me like a bad habit in the first year and a half.
A year ago when my weight loss hit a bit of a stand still, I was concerned. But I certainly wasn’t obsessed because there were weights to life and races to run and experiences to be had and friends to hang out with and dogs to adopt and let’s be honest: life is about a million other things besides what your scale says — FULL STOP. I believe wholeheartedly in the idea that this website is built on: health is where good food and a good life intersect. And I knew if I pursued a good life, the health results would come. I continued to do what I had been doing, live my life, and of course pursue other avenues of achievement because, well…that’s who I am. I make no apologies that I am a person who sets goals and makes lists and charts paths and checks in and measures progress. I like to tinker with actions/results. While it is sometimes a frustrating process, I am open to change.
In November of last year, while all of that was going on, I had a professional opportunity fall into my lap. It was not something that was part of my long term plan, honestly, and at first I was a little gun shy about it. (I thought about the psychology of that reaction this weekend while reading Lean In, by the way and WOW could that be a whole post in itself.) It took a lot of thinking for me to take the plunge with this job and there were MANY speed bumps. It took quite a few conversations, personal and professional and in the end it took one part convincing and another part stars aligning and as you all know, in February I was in the new role. It was another bullet point that I would not have necessarily written on that list of Things I Am Capable Of but one I was open to. Let’s see where this goes, eh?
I was quickly reminded that growth always has a cost associated with it, right? We see this in our everyday training. The only way to gain muscle is to breakdown the tissue you already have and let it repair itself into something better and stronger, and obviously more capable. This experience was no different. All of the November to February hand-wringing and hemming and hawing and ultimately diving in wholeheartedly felt just like that muscle breakdown and repair cycle. It felt like I was sprinted my heart out and when I got to the finish line, I did so gasping for breath.
When I reached that finish line, I realized that this sprint had only led me to a the starting line of a marathon and that marathon has been something I have been telling the story of for the last six months. Just like an actual race, it has been very, very rewarding at times. The challenge has been mostly enlightening, and of course the monetary benefits are actively helping Garrett and I move towards some of the bigger picture line items on our Life To Do List (You know, Weddings, Babies, Homes, Cars — all of that stuff that AIN’T FREE. :)) But in almost equal measure, it has introduced plenty of moments where I have had to talk myself through doubt just to take one more step. And then another. I have wondered how many more steps so many times. Finding my rhythm has been a constant, and at times downright difficult, task. It has taken its mental toll.
What I didn’t really anticipate — though it seems so obvious to me now in hindsight — is that it has also taken a physical toll. The intensity of my Real Life has amped up a whole helluva lot and especially between the hours of 9 and 5. When I get to my 6pm workouts these days, my mind and body have so much less to give than they did just a couple short years ago. The past 6 months for me have felt like a cascade of poor sleep (I’m back to wearing my super sexy night guard to keep me from grinding my teeth. HAWT!), weight gain (in particular, an increase in body fat all around my mid secion. HAWT!), muscle tension, and less than ideal digestion. (Please, never EVER eat dried cherries after eating brussels sprouts. That is a gift from me to you.) For some time I have been a walking, talking poster child for stress, sugar cravings, and hormonal imbalance.
I have been as proactive as possible about prioritizing sleep when I can, eating fairly cleanly, trying hard but failing miserably at my burgeoning meditation practice, and supporting myself physically with some very specific supplementation. But for the longest time I have completely avoided examining my exercise routine. I’m sure you read the same things that I read and listen to the same podcasts — whether I love doing it or not, it is a fact that high intensity exercise (just like most exercise, actually) causes a cortisol response. And all of that is generally fine until YOUR LIFE starts causing a cortisol response. And I have buried my head to that over the last few months.
But I think it’s an important thing to explore, and more importantly I think it is worth discussing in the context of a blog like this. You have been with me through a lot of my successes over the past few years, and I want to be just as open with you about my opportunities. I have begun the process of actively reevaluating where I need to go with MY fitness. I’m thinking about what my goals are in my life long term (uh…don’t die, lose some body fat, protect fertility, etc) but also what my goals are right now (calm the fuck down and stop being a cortisol factory.) And somewhere between those two things I’m trying to find a fitness routine that will help me strike that balance. I never EVER want to give up CrossFit — sorry, I’m not sorry — it is my first love. But I think my goal of showing up no matter what the workout is and going 100% effort may need some adjusting.
I came across this old Chris Kresser article the other day called Why You May Need To Exercise Less and it really helped me put things into perspective. Maybe I can figure out something specific for ME, at THIS time in MY life. I am still going to keep my CrossFit workouts around at least three times per week (though I plan to be judicious with my metcons) but I am also going incorporate some yoga, some long walks, and a little bit more “Working In” into my Work Out Schedule. I am a little nervous about the change, and to be honest I have no idea where this path is going to take me. But I am hoping as long as I am open, I’ll find my way.