crossfit girls

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.

Do you still Crossfit?

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This has been a question I’ve been asked a lot since since shoulder surgery and since recently moving out of the “box” and into arguably the best powerlifting/strongman gym in the area. Yesterday was no different when one of my gym friends asked me if I was still in to CrossFit. She and I met through a mutual friend and in a CrossFit class I was coaching, so this was definitely a very valid question to be asking. We’ve also been training at the same gym (not known to be a CrossFit gym although it is an affiliate) for about a year together and have also competed in a Stongman comp together. Again, valid question since I seem to be all over the map this past year with how I’ve been training. So, what’s the answer?

Occasionally – if you’re talking about the clock ridden metcons that CrossFit is known for (otherwise, what is CrossFit?).

Shoulder surgery was definitely the catalyst that motivated me to be a better athlete all together. And CrossFit has been the gateway drug I needed to introduce me to Olympic Lifting, Power Lifting, and Strongman amongst other modalities. This past year plus I’ve tried my hand at 12 weeks of a hybrid CrossFit/Strongman style programming done by a friend/fellow coach, 12 weeks of Strongman specific programming that felt a little bit more like powerlifting, an attempt to program for myself along with a local box (my wife and I tested all of the WODS that I wrote for the box for over two months), and now I’m finishing the third week of Travis Mash’s “Getting Jacked” programming. I have training/working out ADD I believe. However, I’ve learned quite a few things through this journey.

  1. Leave your fucking ego at the door.  No, seriously.  DO IT.  If you’re not listening to your body and in turn doing something that you KNOW you really shouldn’t be, then WTF?  Now, if you’re getting paid to do this – and I mean that you are sponsored by Reebok, Rogue, Innov8, Again Faster, Progenex etc etc etc and you DO NOT have a day job because you’re getting paid to do this – then by all means, bring that ego to the bar because you gotta make those dolla billz.  Yet, I digress…we’re all adults here, and if 25 reps of something sounds asinine or an extra 10lbs on the bar makes your form go to shit or 30 more seconds of anything is going to make you puke like you were in college again (which you may still be anyway) then grow up, let the drama go, and say “oh, right, I can say no and still know that I just had a great workout despite xyz”.  Now, if you’re a sandbagger and you need your ass kicked responsibly, then shut up and do one more rep…otherwise, grab some water and be ok with the fact that you know your body better than anyone else and it’s ok to do your own workout as long as you’re safe and not harming anyone else.
  2. Find something that you really enjoy and what you’re good at (they will likely be similar).  I have found that I really like Olympic Lifting, I also happen to really like Strongman implements, and I really like gymnastic movements (like pistols, anything on the rings or pull-up bar, jumping, etc).  So, what does that all mean really?  I find ways to put those things in to my programming because that keeps me interested and in the gym.
  3. Figure out what you don’t like, or what you probably shouldn’t do.  I hate pushups, they are a big challenge to me, I curse them, to me they are stupid (really they aren’t, it’s a good bodyweight movement).  So, to that extent I don’t do a ton of them, although I do find ways to work that range of motion and strength because I realize that I can’t avoid it all together if I want to continue to train the way I do.  Powerlifting is boring to me, it doesn’t hold my interest.  I see the purpose of it, but for me it wouldn’t keep me going back to the gym day after day, so as a modality I skip it.  I won’t really ever compete in powerlifting, so other than a general understanding of the modality and its usage I’m ok without it.  I also know that the shape of my shoulders, structurally, isn’t designed to handle tons of overhead movements (presses, pull-ups, etc) – hence one of the reasons I had surgery, though definitely not the only reason.  That being said, I don’t do a lot of arm intensive movements back to back in my daily training sessions.  Unfortunately, it took shoulder surgery for me to realize this.
  4. CrossFit Group WODs are fun, I love CrossFit and what it’s open my eyes to.  They’re fun to coach.  They’re fun (and sometimes scary) to watch.  It’s fun and motivating to workout with a group of people and to share in a similar experience.  There’s definitely something to be said for the cardiovascular aspect of such WODs, too.  Especially for me since training more in a strength bias lately, I realize the importance of keeping the heart pumping and the body moving.  Big bonus, not only did CrossFit introduce me to a healthier lifestyle all together, but it also brought me to a box that I would meet, workout with, and ultimately marry the best WOD partner ever.  That’s worth it’s weight in gold any day.  And without CrossFit, I wouldn’t have been introduced to Olympic Lifting, Strongman, etc.
  5. I’ve never been stronger, and I am continuing to get stronger.  Realizing now that if I stayed in a “box” I likely wouldn’t have increased my strength beyond a certain threshold due to the inherent design of most traditional CrossFit programming.  I had to get out of the box and into a gym with a ton of strong ass mother fuckers to break that ceiling.  I witness people squating over 600lbs, deadlifting over 700lbs, benching over 400lbs and flipping 800+lb tires on a regular basis.  I enjoy the gains, and I enjoy the inspiration that these strong individuals provide.  “Surround yourself with the best to be the best” is the moto of the gym, and it’s true – surround yourself with like minded people who will motivate you to be a better version of yourself and BAM that’s what will happen.
  6. High repetitions can be a recipe for disaster.  Now, before you go and bitch at me about how you just did 100 back roll to supports and you feel amazing, I don’t care.  For me (and likely most of the population) form goes to shit and injury soon follows with high repetitions, especially when the pressure of a time component is added.  Now, if you’ve left your ego at the door, you might be alright because it won’t matter that it took 2 minutes longer to complete your 100 back roll to supports because you executed them all perfectly.  And higher reps equal greater hypertrophic response (google it) which equal great muscular gains (I didn’t say strength because some may disagree with that, although for me it’s definitely worked), but those higher reps are executed at a manageable weight with adequate rest between sets.
  7. Eating food is fucking fantastic.  I LOVE TO EAT.  I’ve done my share of Paleo challenges and have learned how to eat healthier, feel better, stay healthier (I’m WAY less sick), cook more and make better decisions regarding the FUEL that I put in my face.  Now, I am NOT Paleo, and if you are and it works for you I think that’s amazing because it really helps a lot of people.  For me, cutting out dairy caused me to get too skinny and loose strength.  Besides, ice cream is one of my favorite foods.  I added grassfed dairy back in to my diet after my longest Paleo challenge and have had no issues.  I still have a challenge when it comes to sugar, but otherwise I eat what I want, when I want, in the quantities that I feel keep me satiated and strong.  It is still a fight to be ok with the 15# weight gain and the tighter clothes because of the unfortunate conditioning in my past to fit in to a specific mold, but that’s a longer post for another time.
  8. Training the posterior chain and doing accessory work is BRILLIANT.  Prior to shoulder surgery I paid attention to the coaches without doing a ton of my own research.  Then came recovery post surgery – I learned a TON and keep learning as much as possible.  One of the biggest take-a-way’s was that I need to be pulling equal to, or double the amount, of any pushing movements.  I’ve also taken accessory movements seriously and in turn have experienced an increase in overall strength finally pulling more than 235lb in a deadlift, for example (a spot that I was stuck at for YEARS).  Anyone that takes my classes might get annoyed with the constant reminder of how important I feel pre-hab, accessory training, posterior chain activation, core engagement, etc are…but if I reach just one person so they can avoid injury or surgery then I’ve done my job and paid it forward.
  9. Mobility is necessary for increased strength and recovery.  If yoga isn’t your thing, call it something else.  But get your sweaty ass to the mat or park yourself on the carpet in front of the boob tube (that isn’t even a thing any more) and mobilize!  I like yoga, I teach yoga, therefore I encourage it.  But again, refer to #2, find a way to enjoy getting mobile because it really does help.  I rediscovered yoga after an inconsistent at best relationship with it in the past, and discovered that I really enjoy the entire practice – both the mental aspect and the physical aspect.  My strength has improved, my anxiety has decreased, my injuries are less frequent.

I’ll stop at 9.  I really wanted a round 10, but 9 is my favorite number and I think my quota of smart ass comments may be depleted for the day.  If you managed to read this whole thing, go check out Brute Yogi – this is my wife, Lisa’s, brain child.  You might even find me in there too, just sayin.

Day 31 – ONE MORE DAY!

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 This quote is it in a nutshell.

It’s that moment where I reflect on the challenge as a whole.  My coworkers asked how it was going today, and interestingly enough I realized that 30 days had gone by and they went by a LOT faster than I thought they would.  The challenge has gone well, very well I think.  I surprised myself in how competitive I have been throughout this month – I really do/did want to win!  I don’t know if I’ll pull it off in the end – we have until Monday to accumulate a possible 30 bonus points.  I may only grab 10 of those points and my closest competitor, er uh, participant, will like grab at least that.

Here’s what I’ve taken from this challenge:

  1. Awareness of the amount of sugar that is in our food in this country (and likely else where).  There are just some things that DO NOT need sugar.  Peanut butter for example (keep your “that’s not paleo” to yourself – it’s delicious).  Sausage – does that really need sugar?
  2. Grains are EVERYWHERE.  I think there’s an evil grain alien plot to take over the world.  It’s just empty calories, really.
  3. Speaking of empty calories – I’m much more apt to take a pause before I eat something that’s less than fuel knowing that it won’t really satisfy the need my body has in that moment.  However – I miss ice cream and will be having some this weekend.  BAM!  So kiss it.
  4. Creative intentional exercise!  Maintaining points through out the challenge I have had to get creative about exercise every day – especially when I’m working 12 hour shifts.  Stair climbs, walks around the hospital campus, too much foam rolling, yoga in the middle of my office, you name it!
  5. Writing every day has been much more enjoyable than I may have initially imagined.  My creative mind is just flowing with ideas!  It has been really awesome to be reacquainted with this habit of mine.  I have missed writing.

Here’s something I didn’t realize would happen: While I’ve struggled with my weight throughout life, attempting to look a certain way, fit in to a certain size, have the scale show a particular number, etc – I’ve realized that my happiness is not wrapped up in a number or an exterior appearance.  When I’m fighting with an image I have in my head I’m missing the point entirely by not accepting myself unconditionally.  It’s a long process to recondition my mind and I have to practice this daily or it will never go away.

So, I had to get on the scale at work today for our annual Health Risk Assessment (height, weight, lipid, glucose panel…).  If you remember – my bad habit that I was giving up for this challenge was NOT to get on the scale unless required to for doctor’s visits.  I haven’t been on a scale in over a month.  Today I contemplated covering my eyes so that I didn’t look, but I was curious.  Had the number changed while on this challenge?  How would that number make me feel?

Nothing changed.  I wasn’t attached to that number I saw, so I wasn’t excited or disappointed.  I felt the same walking off the scale as I did walking on to it.  I’m the exact same number on that scale that I was when I started (or at least really close to it).  I didn’t think I’d loose weight honestly.  #bruteyogi and I have been lifting heavy for 2+ months now and doing much less in terms of metcons.  I’d expect my strength to increase along with my muscle mass.  It seems as thought that theory is true.  I’ll post pre-challenge pictures at the end along with the final challenge photo and you can see the changes for yourself.  But what is not visible in those pictures is how I feel.  I am stronger than I’ve ever been.  My body feels good.  I care less about those numbers (pant size, scale, etc) – I care more about the fact that my clothes are snugger in my shoulders, biceps, quads and ass because my muscles are growing.  That’s what I like to feel.  I like to feel strong, I like to be strong – I am strong. 

Today’s Total: 10

We’re off to the Mid Atlantic CrossFit Regionals in the morning!

Day 27

lifting besties

 

It’s how I met my wife.  At the bar…bell that is.

Some of the best friends you’ll ever make will be met doing things that you love to do.  Yes?  I bet you can name a few.

Sometimes you create such an amazing network that those chosen friends end up more like family – more that the family you were born in to.

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Sometimes minions are just awesome.

 

 

Today’s Total: 10 (I may need to amend this tally tomorrow if I find that there was illegal sugar in a dish I had at dinner tonight with friends….I’d like to claim ignorance, but then I’d live with the guilt of possibly not knowing.  Stay tuned.)

Day 26 – Habits of Others

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I love that quote ^^^^!!!  As we gain more knowledge and get better at things we sometimes forget what it is like to have started out as a beginner.  In yoga we often refer to being in a beginner’s mind and/or a beginner’s body.  We won’t ever know everything and we’ll always find something to be a beginner at.  This challenge has given all of us the opportunity to remind ourselves what it is like to live in a beginner mindset….if we allowed it.  We may know how to eat, but we may have all forgotten how to mindfully eat, how to be mindful about our activity level, what it was like to try new things, what a gift it is to share a meal with others, the gift of a like minded community reaching for a common goal….etc etc etc.

Our challenge master noted the other day that we were over 75% complete with the challenge leaving only one week to go.  She and I both posed a similar question: What are we likely to continue when the challenge is technically over?  What are we going to miss by not being on the challenge?  Here are some of the responses.

  • Maintaing the mindful perspective of the food we are actually consuming.  If we briefly stop and ask ourselves what are we needing before we consume what is in front of us, it is a little bit easier to understand what it is actually fueling.  Let’s take a bag of potato chips for example.  Am I needing salt?  Oil/fat?  Cure boredom?  Am I actually thirsty?  Am I having a hunger emergency and this is the fastest thing that I can consume?  If I sit and pause for just a moment, is it the chips that I actually want?  Is it the chips that will satisfy me or leave me wanting for more?  Try it next time you sit down (or stand at the kitchen counter) to grab something to eat.  Your answers may surprise you.
  • The community of 18 like minded people on a similar journey, sharing experiences on a private FaceBook group doesn’t have to end…but it will likely trail off as the challenge dissipates.  That sense of belonging to something and sharing in similar struggles was a common theme amongst the posts this month.  Everyone really liked sharing thoughts, recipes, PRs, ideas, struggles, laughter, new adventures, photos, etc on our page.  We can all support each other, validate ideas, push each other to try something we may not have before and laugh together at our shortcomings.  What’s stopping us from taking this virtual community in to the real world?
  • This challenge has been a kickstart for a few participants who felt like they needed a little help regaining control over their overall health.  Me included.  The sense of responsibility and accountability in reporting our points daily has been just what a few people needed.

Habits that people would like to continue (in a more specific way):

  • Taking supplements everyday (most of us are CrossFitters, Strong(wo)men, Athletes)
  • Keeping up the hydration
  • No more coffee creamer
  • No drinking during the week – which equals no smoking for one participant (great job!)
  • Not going down the rabbit hole completely in terms of cheats – we’ll call this mindful cheats
  • Less caffeine

Seems like everyone that responded chose diet habits to stick with.  I was surprised to not hear anything about being more active, trying something new, or continuing with the other habits we have chosen (like reading 20 minutes a day).  I for one have really enjoyed writing these posts.  So much so that I started two other blogs (yet to be published).  Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed – this challenge has been the little nudge to get me going again.

Today’s Points: 10 (Almost lost one point at our sushi date – that was a hard one to stay challenge compliant!  Wowza!)