My Whole Life Challenge Experience

I’ve been debating whether or not I wanted to write something about my experience with the Whole Life Challenge, and whether or not I wanted to share my “before & after” pictures. However, I came to the conclusion that, as a coach, detailing my experience may help inspire others to make changes to improve their health and well being. Although coaches can be described as “health professionals” and can often be viewed as “having it together,” we have our own issues as well. I may or may not be slightly obsessed with Cheez-It. Just sayin’…

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I would like to say that I understand that some of you may look at me and feel that I don’t have any weight to lose, or may think “What is she thinking? She’s not fat,” or that I can eat whatever I want because I’m already “skinny”. I know that I’m not fat, but I do have some weight to lose and when I gain 5-7 pounds, I definitely feel it and it shows because of my small frame. Also, at my age, I can no longer eat whatever (e.g., junk food) because my metabolism doesn’t work the way it used to like in my teens and 20s.

A couple years ago, my husband and I tried to follow the paleo diet. If you’re not familiar, with the paleo diet, you basically cut out all grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, white potatoes and other “nightshades,” artificial sweeteners, and anything processed. You’re probably thinking, “well, what the heck do you eat then?” Meat, poultry, seafood, veggies, berries, nuts, and healthy fats and oils, such as avocados and coconut oil. There’s plenty left to eat! However, at the time I wasn’t quite ready to make the switch. I was addicted to crap food and towards the end of getting my college degree. Without Diet Coke, Cheez-It and chips, I don’t think I would have made it through those days where I was writing papers into the wee hours of the morning. I think I made it one or two weeks before I was so “hangry” (hungry + angry) that I, nor my husband, could take it any longer. Food is very emotional for a lot of us, and I was not emotionally ready for the change.

This past year has been quite stressful for me as work got super busy with four people in my department retiring and my supervisor going on maternity leave early and then being out for four months. My health deteriorated because I ate whatever was within my reach (i.e., lots of sandwiches and cookies) and working through lunch, which caused me to not sleep very much. I was also coaching in the evenings after work, and getting home around 8:30-9:00pm. I also reinjured my knee, and I just let myself go. My hormones were out of whack and I felt terrible all the time. Once things at work slowed down, I decided that it was finally time to get my shit together.

Enter the Whole Life Challenge (WLC). The WLC is an eight-week lifestyle challenge where you focus on clean eating, exercising and stretching regularly, taking a daily supplement, drinking 1/3 of your body weight in ounces of water daily, and participating in weekly lifestyle challenges (e.g., getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night or not using technology during meals). I have a few friends that have done the challenge in the past and have heard and seen the benefits from it. I felt I was mentally in a better place to take on the challenge, so I committed to it. I was a bit nervous because eight weeks seemed like a long time. Was I really ready for it?

There are three nutrition levels to choose from: Performance (strict paleo), Lifestyle (allowed to have some grains, starches, and corn), and Beginner (can pretty much eat anything but bread and sugar). I chose the Lifestyle level because I wanted to work on maintaining a reasonable diet and not drastically changing it, as I felt that I would be setting myself up for failure and disappointment had I gone the Performance route. I’m glad I chose this level because I was able to do just that – I found a way to maintain a reasonable diet.

The first week was difficult because my body went through withdrawals. I did get hangry, but not like before. But after that week, I started feeling and seeing the benefits and it felt so good. I found that in the first 2.5 weeks, I lost 1.5 inches around my waist, and my workouts felt easier! I also found that I wasn’t craving the bad food and not eating my feelings. It was pretty exciting.

I was on a roll and doing so well until October 10. It was that day that I found out that a friend had passed away earlier that morning. He was a very close friend of my brother’s, and he was also like a brother to me. I was shocked and upset. My husband asked me what he could do for me and I told him that I wanted Cheez-It and a glass of wine. He was so sweet and went to the store to buy both. Although I was eating and drinking my feelings, it felt different. I’m not sure how to describe it. I guess it wasn’t so much the addiction driving me to eat and drink; it was more of a conscious decision to do so. I felt in control of that decision. The next week was difficult as I was emotionally spent and I didn’t have the energy to focus on the challenge very much. I ate crappy food and drank a lot of wine and cider. Additionally, the following weekend was a close friend’s wedding and the weekend after that my birthday! So from October 10-26, I ate crappy and drank a lot of alcohol. Thankfully, I was able to get back on track for the final few weeks of the challenge. It was difficult, but I overcame the minor setback.

My goal for the challenge was to learn how to manage my diet better and to learn how to take better care of my body through nutrition. I refuse to be a slave to medication! Through this challenge, I now understand how my body reacts to certain foods, such as dairy, grains, and starches, which has led me to not crave them as much as before. Score! And since I don’t eat much of those types of food anymore, when I do eat them, they don’t taste as good as I remember them to be.

To give a bit of history, the verbal abuse and harassment that I received from my gymnastics coach from the ages of 10-16 still affect me to this day, which is why I have had such a bad relationship with food. His negative words also still affect my self-esteem. He often called me and my teammates “fat whores” and other names that I will not repeat. Mind you, we were still in elementary school/pre-teens when he said these nasty things. That shit does not go away. Because of this, I have not worn my bathing suit in public in the past two years. One, because I have a crazy tan line due to our gym being outside, and two, because of my self-esteem issues. However, after this challenge, I am feeling a little better about myself, which is why I now feel somewhat comfortable showing my before and after pictures (enjoy my tan line!)…

 IMG_4558 IMG_4559 IMG_4560

My results from the challenge are as follows:

Weight:
Pre-challenge: 131.4lbs
Post-challenge: 126.8lbs

Body fat %:
Pre-challenge: 20.1%
Post-challenge: 18.4%

Challenge workout:
11min time cap:
800m run
75 air squats
50 sit-ups
25 push-ups
For the remainder of the time, do as many burpees as possible.
Your score is the total number of squats, sit-ups, push-ups, and burpees.

Score:
Pre-challenge: 173 (23 burpees)
Post-challenge: 183 (33 burpees)
I was able to bust out 10 more burpees!

I am pleased with my results, as my goal was to get around 126lbs, 18% body fat, and get a higher score during the workout. Woot!

Now, you’re probably wondering what my meals consisted of. Well, here ya go!

Breakfast: usually 3 eggs (scrambled-sometimes with spinach, or hard boiled) and 3-4 pieces of bacon or sausage, and coffee with stevia.

Lunch: spinach & kale mix salad with chicken and avocado or leftovers from dinner, and sometimes a vegan soup I bought from the café on campus.

Dinner: pork or beef cooked in the slow cooker with sweet potatoes and onions, tacos made with leftover pork, or steak with broccoli and/or sweet potatoes.

Snacks: Cashew cookie Larabar, apples, bananas, brown rice cakes with cashew butter, carrots, strawberries, cantaloupe

I’m glad the challenge is over because having to log points and do the weekly lifestyle challenges were a bit cumbersome, but I am happy that I am learning better nutrition and eating habits. I’m looking forward to being released into the wild and doing it on my own.

Here’s to cleaner eating and better health!

Better Than Expected: My 2013 CrossFit Open Experience

I didn’t realize that it’s been a month since my last post. I think I’ve been pondering my recap of the CrossFit Open since it ended that I thought I had posted it. Silly brain.

Well, the Open ended on April 7th and I did WAY better than I thought I would. If you’re new to my blog, I tore the labrum (cartilage) in my left shoulder diving for a base while playing co-ed softball back in August. The first week of the Open, which began March 6th, was my first full (as in full body) week back at the gym. I had been working out while in rehab but with only 1 arm, so I was a bit paranoid to have my first week back the first week of the Open.

For those unfamiliar with CrossFit, the CrossFit Open is a competition where CrossFitters from all over the world compete against each other. It lasts 5 weeks with 1 WOD (“Workout of the Day”) announced every Wednesday evening. You have until Sunday evening to complete the workout and post your results online. The workout must be completed at an affiliate or you have to upload a video to the Games site to be judged. The top 48 athletes in each region then advance to Regionals, and from there the top 3 move on to the CrossFit Games. The Games is the Olympics of CrossFit. Yes, it’s an exercise competition and it’s silly, but it’s AWESOME. These athletes are amazing and inspirational and effing phenomenal.

After attending the final day of the Games last year, I told myself that I would bust my ass and prepare myself for the Open the next year. I was on the right track, until that fateful day in August where I thought it would be a good idea to dive for a base. Even though I only had one good arm/shoulder, I continued to work out doing many of the movements modified, and it paid off. The transition into full body workouts, especially the Open workouts, was of course difficult, but manageable. Below is a brief (well, as brief as I can get – haha!) recap of each of the workouts and what I learned…

WOD 13.1
AMRAP (as many reps as possible): 17 minutes
40 Burpees
30 Snatches @ 45lbs
30 Burpees
30 Snatches @ 75lbs
20 Burpees
30 Snatches @ 100lbs
10 Burpees
Max Snatches @ 120lbs
My Score: 123

My initial goal was to get all the way through the 20 burpees (for a score of 150) and a few attempts at the 100lb snatch. Prior to my injury my max was 95lbs, and I was also much more fluid with the movement. The snatches were awkward since I hadn’t done the movement in so long, but damn, it felt so good to lift weights again. The burpees were surprisingly not as horrible as I thought they would be and I was able to find a nice pace. I was definitely pleased with my score of 123.

Here is a clip of me during my first set of burpees – so exciting, I know!

 

Here is what I looked like prior to my injury doing a full snatch (first video). Much more fluid than the power snatches in 13.1 (second video)

 

WOD 13.2
AMRAP: 10 minutes
5 Shoulder to Overhead @ 75lbs
10 Deadlifts @ 75lbs
15 Box jumps (or step ups) – 20″ box
Score: 264 (8.8 rounds)

I was STOKED for this WOD. I was hoping for something short and quick, and what made it better was that my favorite movement, the deadlift, was on the menu. My goal this workout was to keep a consistent pace and to not stop. DO. NOT. STOP. That is what was going through my head. Well, more like, DON’T FUCKING STOP, DO NOT DROP THAT BAR, was what was really going through my head. Oh, and BREATHE. I was also hoping for 10 full rounds, but I am totes cool with 8.8 rounds. There was a lot of debate going around the CrossFit community about box jumps vs. step ups. Many people thought step ups were cheating, and in a way I felt like that. However, I opted to do step ups to save my Achilles. I’m not about to hurt myself AGAIN. Step ups were permitted, so I’m going with that. I enjoyed this WOD.

 

WOD 13.3
Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 12 minutes:
150 Wall Balls @ 14lbs
90 Double Unders
30 Muscle-ups
Score: 162

I HATE WALL BALLS. I can’t lie. I really do. First of all, I suck at breathing. Second of all, being short sucks when doing this movement. I attempted this WOD twice. My last blog post was about this WOD and I prefer to not relive it. You can read about my experience here: https://ninjanomers.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/if-at-first-you-dont-succeed/. In the meantime, enjoy Julie Foucher’s performance of 13.3 (I heart her).

 

WOD 13.4
AMRAP: 7 minutes
3 Clean & Jerks (C&J) @ 95lbs
3 Toes to bar (T2B)
6 C&J
6 T2B
9 C&J
9 T2B
Etc…
Score: 63

This was another favorite of mine, but I was a bit nervous about my shoulder on the T2Bs. As you will see in the video below, there is some shoulder hyperextension during the kip portion, so since my shoulder was a bit tight it made it a bit difficult. I was hoping to get in the 70s, but I am good with a score of 63.

 

WOD 13.5
AMRAP: 4 minutes +
15 Thrusters @ 65lbs
15 Chest-to-Bar Pull-ups
*If you reach 90 reps in the first 4 minutes, you get a bonus 4 minutes. If you reach 180 in 8 minutes, another 4 minutes is added; etc.
Score: 54

Not gonna lie, I was happy that we were finally on the last workout. I was over the stress and anxiety of completing the WODs. I know it’s so silly. You’re probably thinking, “Ninja, it’s just a workout. You’re just exercising.” I get it. But CrossFit is so much more than that. It has changed my life, mentally and physically. CrossFit is accomplishment. CrossFit is pushing through the suck and refusing to give up. CrossFit is realizing my potential. CrossFit makes me better. But I digress.

We all knew some form of “Fran” was coming, but didn’t know how. Well, they surprised us with the craziness listed above. Thrusters are a essentially the same movement as the wall balls, so you can imagine how excited I was to do this WOD. I love pull-ups, so I wasn’t too worried about that. My goal was to get in the upper 60s, but ended up with 54. My thrusters sucked as usual and the pull-ups were difficult because of my shoulder. However, I’m still proud of myself for making it this far.

Overall, I did better than expected. My two main goals were to do my best and to not get hurt. Success! My two bonus goals were to beat my sister-in-law Tiffany and my friend Heather in at least one workout. Success! I beat Tiffany in 13.2 and tied on 13.4, and I beat Heather on 13.5. They both kicked my ass in all the other workouts. Tiffany lives in WA, so it was fun heckling each other over Facebook. Thanks ladies for the push!

What I’ve learned during this year’s Open is that what I eat drastically affects my performance. I also learned that I was further along in my rehab than I thought. However, I think the biggest thing I learned was that I am mentally stronger and am able to push myself harder than I thought.

Below are the scorecards for CrossFit Santa Barbara’s standings as a gym, and then our standings in the world and region.

CFSB 2013 Open Final Scoreboard

CFSB 2013 Open WW-Regional Rankings

Next year, this shit is on…

Day 1 = Angry Ninja

@font-face {
font-family: “Cambria”;
}p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

Well, here we go. Day 1 of Paleo. Woohoo. Note the lack of an exclamation point. I know going Paleo is going to make me healthier and feel better, but it’s going to take a while to adjust, which means grumpy/angry/irritable Ninja. I’m a carbivore and this diet does not allow any of that. Since I am not allowed to eat my favorite foods, that is all I can think about. Every other thought was about food, food that I’m not allowed to eat. I want my cheese! I want my french fries! Whaaaah! Okay, I’m done whining now. About food, that is. Today’s workout was brutal. Especially since I’m still recovering from my injury in APRIL (!) and the fact I haven’t been able to workout consistently due to said injury. My foot is getting better everyday, it’s just not healing as fast as I’d hoped. Oh, well. Patience is the name of the game. I’m not gonna lie, I hate thrusters. Yeah, yeah, it’s a good workout, but it sucks. Deal with it. It’s my second least favorite skill to do, right next to numero uno, burpees. And fancy that! This workout had both. Whoopie! I’m still not allowed to run or jump yet so I’ve been rowing instead of running and doing 1-legged burpees, which are tough but have been strengthening and improving my coordination. Alright, enough bitching for the night. Sweet dreams!

WOD:
I. Warm-up: 400m Run* – Mobility – 5 min grinder pt, 2x barbell complex
II. Skills – Thrusters, burpees, kipping pull-up.
III. 4 RFT (Round for time)
10 Thrusters 95/65lbs*
10 Pull-ups
10 Burpees*
IV. Cooldown – Samson stretch + 50 abmat sit-ups

*Modified with: 200m row, 55lbs thruster, 1-legged burpees! 
Time: 15:something? Don’t remember. This WOD kicked my booty.

Grub for the day:

Breakfast: eggs, turkey bacon, avocado, orange juice
Beverage: Jasmine green tea
Lunch: Chipotle salad with chicken, pico de gallo, guacamole
Snack: smoked turkey lunch meat wrapped in spinach leaves
Dinner: smoked salmon salad, banana, apple

Cravings:
Umm, everything? All sorts of bread, cheese, potatoes, soda