Crossfit & Yoga

Firefighter Fail – Lesson in Detachment

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My intention was to become a firefighter.  Come March I’d walk with my academy mates to shake the hand of the fire chief moving from firefighter recruit to full fledged firefighter.  Alas…that’s not what will happen.  Firefighter will not be part of my resume.

CrossFit, strongman and weightlifting prepared me physically for the academy.  Upon entering the academy I felt physically strong and ready to put my body through the demands of training to become a firefighter.  The physical aspect of the academy was definitely a challenge and my body took a beating to say the least.  However, feeling like I was doing something physically was quite rewarding at the end of the day.  Looking back at what was accomplished in such a short amount of time – running 2.5miles as a warm-up (who does that?!), for example, was a win in my book.

Yoga prepared me for the mental challenge of the academy, sort of.  I have never been in the military, nor do I ever want to be.  Imagine my surprise when faced with the militaristic style of the academy!  To say I hated it would be an understatement.  It was a complete shock to the system to also find out how intensely phobic I  initially was of the SCBA.  This all boils down to some fairly deep rooted patterns within me, namely the fear of loosing control or letting go.  My very basic breath practice helped to get me through most of this, while the awareness of this pattern has pushed me to work with it so that I can hopefully one day move beyond the fear.  Interestingly enough, I learned the power of meditation during this time as well.  I used to be of the “this is too woo-woo” camp and was resistant to the idea.  When faced with the challenges I encountered the week+ I was in the academy, meditation became a necessity to maintain presence.

The combination of all the above gave me the confidence to quit the academy.  Crawling through the maze in full turnout gear on day 6 of the academy I realized that had that been an actual burning building I would’ve wanted no part in that whatsoever.  When I exited the structure I pulled of my mask and told my instructor and Lieutenant that I was done and would not be continuing.  That was the last moment I would be a firefighter.

  

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How do you identify?

 

Basically, this sums it up.

Basically, this sums it up.

How do you introduce yourself?  Hi, I’m Anne-Marie.

Then what…do you go in to what you do for a paycheck?  What you do for fun?  Where you’re from?  It could go something like this….I am a paramedic at the local childrens’ hospital.  My wife and I live near the water with our four (yes, I said four) dogs and one cat.  I have a younger sister that is mother to my two awesome nephews.  My parents are still happily married going on 40 years!  I teach a Sunday Funday multi-level yoga class on Sundays at my wife’s yoga studio, The Space Above.  Occasionally I can be found at the local strongman/powerlifting gym, Brute Strength coaching a CrossFit class or working out with my wife and friends. I graduated with my bachelors in Philosophy and Film (photography) from Hollins University almost 15 years ago (good lord, really?), but love school so much that I went back to school for post baccalaureate studies because I thought I was going to medical school and decided to become a paramedic instead.  I’ve had various jobs – outdoor education, server at a few restaurants, even a stint as a valet, a lifeguard, a dog trainer, retail sales, etc.  When I was in junior high I met the girl who would become my first girlfriend.  I played a ton of sports and was a collegiate equestrian (on the national team, thank you very much), and found the barbell in 2009 while going through a huge life transition and haven’t turned back (lifting weights is awesome)…………………………………

It looks like a resumé, right?  That paragraph could go on for endless words, sentences, thoughts, ideas, but it doesn’t really tell you who I am – it tells you what I’ve done, what I’m doing, what I like, some of my experiences.  Who I am, who you are, is a bit harder to answer, don’t you think?  All of these details give the reader an idea of what I like to do as a person, what I enjoy and how I like to spend my time.  You likely enjoy some of those things too, or know me from some of these experiences and that’s what has drawn you to my blog.

Who are you?  No, really.  Think about it.  Without the things, without the clothing, without the hobbies, without the jobs, without the hashtags…who are you?  Strip down to the barebones of your existence and see if you can discover who you are.  We’re just the same, you and I…and the person next to you, across the street, two states away.  All of these identities that we carry are just a mask making it easier to distinguish me from the person next to me in the coffee shop.

Baby Firefighter!  If you’ve made it this far, then you now know what prompted me to jot this deep thought down.  I’ve identified many different ways in my almost 37 years, and starting December 1st I’ll add the role of Firefighter to the Who am I? resumé.  You know that phrase, the only thing that is constant is change?  This sums up this whole bit of identification, it’s always in flux.  What’s important in that moment is what you’ll share with the people you meet.  Tomorrow that first paragraph above will sound and look entirely different.  Which also means this blog may look completely different as my experience as a firefighter paramedic emerges.  How does this new role look for me?  I don’t know.  There are so many unknown variables that I’m preparing to encounter on this new journey.

Go with the flow, and embrace nakedness.  Ok, so be naked when it’s appropriate, but don’t be afraid to share YOU with the world.  Embrace the change that you experience on a daily basis.  Just because you think you are who you are today, tomorrow, hell even an hour from now, you may believe you’re something entirely different.  Go with it.

Introduce yourself to me…who are you?

Be YOU! (This is the beautiful Tara, one of the teachers at The Space Above.)

Be YOU! (This is the beautiful Tara, one of the teachers at The Space Above.)

 

Liftin’ Dirty

Here’s a little something I wrote for the BruteYogi blog.  And if you haven’t signed up for the BruteYogi blog posts…sigh…GET ON IT.

Got Naked Feet?

Got Naked Feet?

Go barefoot!  No, seriously….do it.  Take your shoes off, socks too!  Maybe don’t smell your feet and definitely take the toe jam out first.  This is coming from the Brute Yogi that has some serious foot issues (Anne-Marie, if you haven’t figured it out).  Here’s why barefoot rocks:

  • Foot and Ankle Warm-up.  You have a clear path from your body and its nervous system right to what ever your foot touches.  Without the shoes and socks your feet can feel everything underneath and all of the muscles have the opportunity to work in the way that they were designed to work.  This travels all the way up the chain, the knees and hips will join the party and pretty soon everything will be working in harmony.
  • Proprioception is in its purest form without added distractions.  Shoes and socks can mask underlying structural issues as well as the ability to feel the surrounding environment.
  • You will get stronger.  Your squat, deadlift, presses all will improve in technique alone.  If the technique improves the strength will follow.  The feet are the foundation of any standing movement, strengthen those puppies and you’ll create a trend along your athletic continuum.
  • Posture will improve.  Basically see all of the above.

Here’s the deal –

  • Safety first!  Even with shoes on you wouldn’t want to drop dumbbells, bumpers, iron plates, etc on any part of your body – so be aware of your surrounds and move mindfully.  Likewise, you wouldn’t step on sharp glass or nails with shoes on, so there’s little chance of you doing that without (unless of course you’re in to that).
  • MRSA!  Ok, so it’s a real possibility that the gym floor is gross and thus your feet will also be gross once you’ve walked around barefoot for all of 2 seconds.  If you have open sores or cuts on your feet, FOR THE LOVE don’t put anyone, including yourself, in jeopardy of contracting some kind of nastiness.  Otherwise it should be pretty safe as long as you wash your feet after being in the gym, which you should probably be doing anyway.  Again, coming from the girl who used to get athletes foot from just looking at a bathroom floor, I’ve been nastiness free just from making sure I clean with some good ‘ole fashion soap and water.
  • Take it slow.  Just like the barefoot running craze, you don’t want to go naked for a marathon right out of the gate.  Just do your warm-up, use an empty barbell going through your usual oly routine or squat routine or deadlift routine or whatever it is you do before you hammer out some awesome sweat induced funness in the gym.  Maybe work up to adding some weight to the barbell or doing some light jogging back and forth on the gym floor.  Don’t go and add your 1RM to the barbell and expect to feel amazing afterwards.  There’s potential (not an absolute) that you could injure yourself if you go to heavy, decide to do an entire WOD, go for a 20 minute run or what ever craziness you think up for yourself.  Your feet are likely not used to that type of loading and having a set back is worse than spending a little extra time in the gym preparing the body for work.

Reluctantly I went barefoot in the gym after much pressure from the number 1 Brute Yogi (that’s Lisa of course).  The first day I knew I was converted.  I just owned it, and went full on naked foot for my warm-up and haven’t looked back.  It’s been over a month and I can honestly say that I’ve noticed a difference in my sessions at the gym.  My feet get super dirty but they’re so nice and warm before I start lifting.  I feel like it’s helped increase my over all strength as my joints and muscles feel better as I start adding the weight on the bar and put my shoes back on.  It also seems as though I’m recovering faster as well.  Whether or not this is due 100% to my decision to go naked footed or not, I know I can attribute at least some of this recent gym success to my feet nudity.

Day 17

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Ask the questions you’re afraid to ask – you may be surprised to hear the answers.  Identifying as a gay woman that also happens to CrossFit, play in Strongman, is a Paramedic, used to train dogs, teaches yoga….blah blah blah – has apparently opened me up to some pretty interesting lines of questioning.  Here are the one’s I hear often:

  • Can you help me with my dog? (It’s likely that I can, but it’s not my job any more.)
  • Did you see that crazy WOD? (Yup, I may have even programmed it!)
  • Do you workout? (Yes, I do.  Why do you ask?)
  • I have this rash…what do you think it is?  (Insert any complicated medical question here…remember that I’m not a doctor and I don’t likely know what’s wrong with you.)
  • Can I do yoga if I can’t even touch my toes?  (You can touch your toes, just bend your knees.  And that likely means you should do yoga.)
  • How old were you when you came out?  (How old were you when you told your family you were straight?  I was 14 or 15 when I told my parents.)
  • Have you ever been with a guy?  (Have you?  Why does it matter?  I’m a gold star…are you?)

Don’t hesitate to ask – if someone wants to tell you the answer, they will.  Just ask your question in a respectful way without any attachment to the answer.  I am a curious person and will likely ask you something some day.  The questions that are asked will likely teach you something about yourself – maybe something you didn’t even know before.  listen-karith

Listen to the answers, even if you don’t like them, they’ll still teach you.  Observe your response and reaction.  It all has meaning.  Remain a learner of life.  When you are asked, do the same.  Observer your reaction, response, your answer.  We’re curious animals, we like to know what makes each other tic.  Especially if it’s something we’re unfamiliar with.

I’ve asked some doozies of questions (and will likely again), if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have started dating and then marrying my wife (she actually proposed to me), found my bestie (I ask her a ton of questions that make her blush), learned how awesome the owners of my gym are….the list goes on….

What’s something you’ve always wanted to know but were afraid to ask someone?

Today’s total: 10

Total Points thus far 214 out of a possible 450

Day 16 – HALF WAY!!!

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So – it happened.

I ate…..

RICE!

I went in to the situation knowing full well that it could and likely would happen.  It’s cool.  I’m not skeered.

Also made the choice between the lesser of two evils.  Soy sauce – the real deal with gluten (not gunna happen) or what I could find on a moments notice at the ever so sketchy Food Lion?  I went with Braggs…so there went another point (since it is still soy and that’s not legal either).  – HOLD THE PHONE….After the original publish of this post 20 minutes ago, I have learned that this was not sin of the challenge.  How about that?  No point lost after all…it falls under the same category as the grains (ie rice) and it could be interperated to also fall under the legume category for which I am allowed one serving a day (I did opt for the non GMO based soy after all).

Don’t worry – I told my wife.  And after a rather impressive *gasp*, she admitted that she was a tad jealous.

Today’s Total: 8 – NO it’s actually 9!

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Day 15 – Let’s talk about YOU!

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A good friend of mine re-posted a blog that she wrote almost two years ago on why she quit dieting – check it out here at Body Positive Yoga.  It was wonderfully timed for this current challenge that 18 of us are participating in.  She writes I learned that dieting almost never works”  after years of she had failed attempts, years of various different exercises, doctors visits and nutritionist consults.  And I have to agree.  The word diet has evolved in to more than what I believe it’s original meaning was intended to be.  It’s defined by my Mac as the kinds of food  that a person, animal, or community habitually eat.  Our diets have evolved with the food that is available in the moment that it need to be consumed.  Here in the states we have a LOT of options for food and lots of decisions to make regarding what we put in to our bodies.  I’d like to see the word diet go back to the simple meaning and not the subset meaning of “what diet are you on?”….Paleo, Atkins, Vegetarian, Vegan, etc???….Our diets are the most manipulated and diverse of any animal, and we’re likely lucky and haunted at the same time with all of that power.  Think about it – dogs, cat, fish, bears, all eat basically the same things every day of their life without little variation.  We, on the other hand, can eat different things every single day if we wanted to.  Granted, our guts are a little more evolved to do so (I’m sure there’s some argument here), but we could change our diet almost every day with the types, quantity, quality, etc of food that is available to us (given the means to do so of course).  The rest of Amber’s post goes in to her personal evolution of acceptance and it’s definitely worth the read.  

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I’d like to highlight some of the best and worst from the challenge participants.  Everyone is working so hard and finding out little tidbits more about themselves and their environment.  Last night I asked them all to share their experiences thus far…and in no particular order….let the drumroll please….

The Best Parts so far…. 

  • Feeling GOOD!  A lot of participants echoed this thought, noticing a difference in how their bodies feel and operate.  Bonus = having random strangers validate how great we are all feeling, even if they were possibly intoxicated (we all know that’s a truth serum).  Extra bonus = having your spouse validate it (there are a few couples doing this challenge together).
  • Trying something new!  As part of the challenge bonus points were awarded for trying something new with friends.  Some chose a local ropes course with their family (super bonus! hanging out with the kiddos!).  Some chose yoga.  Some chose cardio kickboxing.
  • Becoming more mindful about the food that has been put in to our bodies – what are we eating, why are we eating it?
  • Eating out less, which means spending more time at home with family.  (I love this one!)
  • Drinking less alcohol.
  • Awareness of the bad habit we’ve challenged ourselves to squash during the month. Drinking less caffeine = more sleep. No scale = less obsession over things that really just aren’t that important to begin with.
  • Feeling more productive, energetic and motivated in every day life and living with more clarity.
  • Getting back on track after loosing sight of any type of control over diet, exercise and life.
  • Experiencing this with 18 other people, sharing in this challenge.  Since we share a group FaceBook page a lot of participants have really enjoyed the encouragement, motivation, humor, confessions, knowledge, etc.

The Worst Parts so far….

  • Loosing points without realizing it.  Sugar has been a HUGE culprit, that shit sneaks in to everything without our knowledge!
  • Once a point is lost – just going ape shit and eating everything or drinking everything that caused that point to be lost because we don’t loose more points, just more self control.  This “defeats the purpose of the challenge, which is more important than the points” one participant laments.
  • Missing foods that were enjoyed pre-challenge.  Sushi was a big one (we must all have distinct pallets).
  • Drinking less alcohol (yes, that appeared in both categories) = also goes with hibernation during challenges as we find our voices within the community….participants tend to socialize less in fear of loosing points and/or having to deny themselves the potential illegal challenge items in such situations.
  • Boredom = online shopping (more than one participant admitted to shopping more).
  • More dishes – yes…lots more dishes!  I think the wife and I do a load in the dishwasher EVERY DAY!
  • Not even half way and already getting a little misty eyed that it’s coming to an end.
  • Finding foods that are gross…

I don’t know about you, but I see a lot more positives on this list than negatives.  17 days left, tomorrow is the halfway mark!

Today’s Total: 10

 

 

Day 14 – Two Week Check In!

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Well, look at that…two whole weeks down in our month long diet and fitness challenge!  I actually didn’t even realize that until I typed it in the subject line for this post.  Originally I was going to write about the evolution of a mature athlete…..but I think I’ll save that thought for another day.  Remind me if I forget.

Let’s do a check in for these past two weeks:

  • Be prepared!  Good grief – as if #bruteyogi and I didn’t always have emergency food with us at all times, now it’s a serious situation that we MUST have food with us.  Finding challenge legal food is, well, a challenge.  So to combat that we carry a bag of food with us every where we go.
  • Eating at restaurants can be done, but is a bit boring.  We’ve had a burger or seafood steamer bucket where ever we’ve been.  It’s been the easiest choice if we are to stay compliant.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to chow down on some chips and salsa or some sushi (with the rice!).  However, I do feel great and I’m fine without it for now.  Who knows, maybe I’ll eat less grains and sugar once this challenge is done.
  • Grocery shopping was fairly eye opening.  Sugar being the culprit.  The wife and I eat fairly well already…or so I thought.  When I looked at some of the ingredients of things that we had purchased in the past I was shocked to find that a lot of things contain sugar that doesn’t really need sugar to begin with.  These are things that we won’t likely be purchasing again – exception being ice cream and butcher bacon for sure…duh.
  • Lifting heavy has not been affected by the challenge diet in the least.  WIN!
  • Making time to move mindfully has only really been a challenge on the days when I am in the hospital for 12+ hours, especially over night.  Those days I tend to make the workout a bit lighter, or practice asana (yoga), or stretch, roll and mobilize.  All good habits I am looking forward to maintaining.
  • Sleep is definitely high on my to do list every day.  With this challenge it’s meant maintaining a perfect daily score.  I’ve come close a few times these past two weeks to docking my sleep point and somehow been able to pull it off by sneaking a nap in.  It also shows me how much sleep I really need, and anything under 7-8 hours is just not going to cut it.
  • Writing blog posts each day has been really enjoyable.  I am surprised to find something to write about every day, and wonder what I’ll be writing about in two weeks….oh wait…we’ll be at the MidAtlantic CrossFit Regional Games….I’ll have plenty!  Now just to make the time to do it while we’re there. Time…yes that’s a challenge in writing blog posts and that’s also why some of the posts are shorter and much less edited than others. (Insert sheepish grin here.)

The next bonus challenge is to PR on something at the gym.  My goal is to PR on one of my lifts since I haven’t tested them in about a year.  We can grab a few more points if we PR on two things, and since I’d rather not PR on two heavy lifts in one week I’m going to try and beat one of my double under PRs (max unbroken, max in a minute, etc).  Check back at the end of the week to see how I did!  Hopefully everyone posts their personal bests so I can share with you what they’ve been working on as well.  I’m looking forward to the excitement and accomplishments!

Today’s Total: 10