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!)…

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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!

Stress and Depression Are Dumb. So Are Injuries.

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(My limited ROM in my knee doesn’t allow it to bend like I want it to causing me to squat incorrectly. Oh, and that whole only having 4 lumbar vertebrae – as opposed to 5 – also doesn’t help the situation.)

[TL;DR since I didn’t expect to write this much: overwhelming stress from work and my knee injury caused me to get chubby and depressed creating a vicious cycle.  Didn’t realize how chubby I got until I saw a picture of myself taken yesterday.  Knee surgery on Friday, June 20 to fix torn meniscus.]

So, tomorrow is the big day – surgery day!  This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, but wasn’t sure if it was something that I should do.  I’ve had pain in my right knee since my ACL reconstructive surgery back in 1998, but I just learned to deal with the pain.  I would say about 5 years ago, prior to my starting CrossFit the pain started getting worse, which is why I decided to start exercising again.  I figured my being inactive for about 10 years was causing all of my knee and back pain.

I started CrossFit in January of 2010, and at first I couldn’t run.  It hurt and my endurance sucked balls.  After a few months of CrossFit and getting my body moving again, my knee pain slowly went away and I actually didn’t mind running.  I’ve had a couple of injuries (strained right Achilles, Bankart tear in my left shoulder) during my time with CrossFit, but they were caused by me doing stupid things while playing adult co-ed softball (I have since retired in case you were wondering).  As with any injury or life-changing situation, I felt a bit depressed due to the immediate change in what I was and wasn’t able to do.  The depression slowly went away as I found ways to workout around my injuries – I got really good at pull-ups during my Achilles injury and my legs got really strong during my shoulder injury.  So, you’d think that this current injury would be no prob.  Nope, completely the opposite.

Rewind to late 2013/early 2014 – I was finally starting to feel good again, normal even, and not feeling any pain.  I also felt like I was finally getting my eating habits under control.  As such, I started to increase my training and pushing myself that much harder.  No excuses.  My first full week of training after my shoulder injury was the first week of the 2013 CrossFit Open, so when the 2014 Open came around, I wanted to be ready and injury free. I started deadlifting more, my front and back squat weights were increasing.  I was stoked.  I did well in the Open – I ended up in the top 27% in the world and 29% in the region – and was proud of what I accomplished (I also placed 36th in the SoCal region for 36 year old women! Haha, if only CrossFit were categorized by age…).

Unfortunately, due to the increase in my training and my limited abilities and range of motion in my right knee due to my previous ACL injury and surgery, my knee started acting up again.  I hit a point with my squats where I couldn’t increase the weight anymore.  I was cautious with my training and slowed down when it hurt and forged on when it felt good.  As a precaution, I decided to get an MRI to make sure that I didn’t re-injure my ACL.

My friend Black Widow (BW) and I are pretty similar in abilities and height, and well, when I had long hair people would get us confused, so, we’re a pretty good match for partner competitions.  We signed up for the Dynamic Duel partner competition this past April 26, the weekend after my MRI.  That was my last full-on workout. Sad face.

The Dynamic Duel consisted of lots of heavy squats and my knee did not enjoy them.  I had practiced the 95lb squat cleans the Monday prior to the competition and felt pretty good about them, and felt ready for the comp.  Unfortunately, the overwhelming stress at work didn’t do my body good.

My supervisor went on maternity leave a couple weeks early leaving me with the added stress to figure out some of the tasks that I was to take over while she was out.  The week prior to the competition was her program’s HUGE annual review week-long meeting that I had to take over with the planning and organizing on top of my regular job.  I didn’t sleep much, my meal schedule was off, and I was working tons of overtime.  I was T.I.R.E.D.  Regardless, I was looking forward to competing with BW.

The first WOD of the competition was difficult but we managed to get through most of it.  My body was tired, but nothing felt off.  The last WOD of the day was squat heavy and it messed me up.

The WOD was:
Every minute on the minute for 10 min:
1st partner starts with 7 goblet squats with a 35lb kettlebell, then does 5 kettlebell swings.
2nd partner then does 95lb squat cleans for the remaining time in the minute.
At the top of the minute, the partners switch.

10169191_10152330702245700_648059738262056476_n(This was me waiting for my turn at squat cleans looking at BW while she was doing her goblet squats like, “I don’t want to do this anymore”.)

photo (4)(At home after the comp. I felt super old and broken.)

After the end of that WOD, my knee did not feel right.  I could barely walk and it hurt so bad.  I took a week off from working out to give my body a rest.  After two weeks, I still felt off.  This is when I received the results of the MRI.  Verdict: a small medial, posterior horn meniscal tear.  So this is the pain that I’ve been feeling for YEARS!  After receiving the results, I decided to give my body a break.  I’ve been definitely feeling physically older, and I attribute a lot of that to the stress that I’ve been feeling at work.  I had planned on doing upper body workouts and still exercising regularly.  Nope, that didn’t happen.  Stress got the best of me.

I stopped working out.  I started eating horribly.  I still wasn’t sleeping well.  I started to become depressed, which led to not wanting to workout, eating crap, and no sleep.  It’s such an effing vicious cycle.  Oh, and guess what?  Work got even MORE stressful.  So not only was I doing two positions, my student assistant quit and I, therefore, had to take on her work.  Oh, I was also voluntold to assist with planning four retirement parties all in the month of June.  Sure, I’ll do three positions and plan huge parties at the university on top of my coaching and operations duties at the gym.  Sure, no problem at all.  So you can imagine how vicious the above-mentioned cycle got recently.  I need to learn to not be so nice and to say no.

Yesterday, I had BW take pictures of me doing various squats from all different angles, so I could compare the differences in my body mechanics before and after surgery.  I knew I was getting a bit soft in the middle but I was not expecting to see what I saw in my squat pictures – my big ol’ gut chillin’ right in front of the camera (see below – enjoy!).  It’s gross and embarrassing and I’m upset that I’ve let myself get to this point.  This is what stress and depression has done to me.  Ugh.

photo (3)(Chubby little Ninja with giant spider bite on her leg that you can see bulging out!)

I am very much looking forward to having surgery and getting back in the gym and using my entire body.  My doctor said that I will pretty much be ready to start working out again after two weeks.  I sure hope so!  I also recently (as of yesterday!) hired a new student assistant to work for me over the summer and can start June 30, and I also found out that my supervisor will be coming back part-time July 1.  So, things are looking up!  As much as stress and depression are dumb, I do learn a lot from what I experience during those rough times.  Although there were days where I wanted to crawl into the fetal position and cry for days, or stab a beeotch in the ear, I forced myself to keep my head up no matter how difficult it was.

No matter how exhausted or pissed off I was from work, I found solace at the gym and from my members.  It’s amazing how much better I felt once I got there and saw my CrossFit family even after working 8-10 hours and being at the gym for another 3, and getting home around 9pm. So big THANKS and giant internet hug to my CFSB family. Y’all are pretty neat, and I look forward to working out with you again soon!  I’ll get through this, I always do.

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Patience and Persistence Leads to Progress: Maira’s First Year in CrossFit

BeforeAfter1Left: May 2013, Right: April 2014

April 15, 2013 is the day it all began. Actually, it began a few days before she joined her first class. Taking the initiative to make the call to sign up for a basic movements course in CrossFit is a HUGE step. It’s easy for some, but nerve-wracking for most. When I first saw Maira and her friend walk into my class, they both looked scared, hesitant, and had the look of “what the hell am I doing here?” all over their face. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, or how long they were going to last. That didn’t change my coaching them, but it was something that stirred in the back of my mind. As with the majority of the female athletes when they first start, they gave me every excuse as to why they couldn’t do this or that. (Thanks society for fucking up our self-esteem!) Working with them was a challenge as they had never done anything like this before and had never been encouraged to step out of their comfort zone in this way, and it was my job to break them of their negative thoughts and to convince them that they could indeed do all of this “crazy CrossFit stuff”.

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After a few months or so into it, Maira’s confidence began to grow, as did her willingness to push herself harder and further. Her negative mindset began to diminish as well. As such, she began to post pictures of her lifting on Instagram, and of course, the haters came out to express their ignorance. Did it stop her? Absolutely not. It only made her stronger – mentally and physically. (She took screenshots of some of the messages people sent her and sent them to me. It was pretty ridiculous.) She started eating better, she was smiling more, she had more energy. She was running! She was seeing results, which increased her drive to do more. Now that she was becoming more comfortable with the movements and with who she was (which is awesome, btw!), she no longer wanted to just look good, she wanted to get stronger. This pleased me so.

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Other than the community aspect, what I love most about CrossFit is that it changes and challenges your mindset and every negative thing you’ve ever been told. The workouts that we set before the athletes present a challenge. These challenges suck, but it gets easier. It gets easier in a sense that we approach them differently than how we did at the beginning of our CrossFit journey. It is our choice as to how we approach these workouts (aka challenges), and you soon figure out that having a shitty mindset gets you nowhere fast. This also translates into real life.

 

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Maira is a twenty-something single mama of a beautiful 6 1/2 year old girl. She also works multiple jobs and has to deal with the usual stress that comes with a “baby daddy (BD)”. Over the past year that I’ve known her, she’s dealt with a lot of drama (even the death of her best friend), but this woman is relentless. There have been days where it looked like she wanted to cry because she was worried and/or stressed about finances or the BD or whatever, but she still came to the gym and did work. In return, I think this new mindset that CrossFit presented to her allowed her to tackle life’s challenges in a positive way.

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Now, after a year, Maira is getting PRs left and right and out-lifting some of the guys at the gym. She’s even lifting with some of the big dogs, too! It brings me so much joy to see how much progress she has made over the past year and to see turning her into the beautiful and confident woman that she was meant to be. Nothing’s gonna stop her!

Maira, I am so very proud of everything you have accomplished this year, and I look forward to many more years with you! Get it, girl.

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