My Love/Hate Relationship

Competitions and I have a love/hate relationship. I love them because they give me a reason to train every day, bring together lots of talented individuals and of course, provide for some great photo ops. And I hate them because of the nerves, the pain and the inevitable realization that I am never going to win.

Let’s start with that last one. Every competition that I have done has started with a max lift of some sort. I know this is not going to be my strong suit. Not only am I a new lifter, I also weigh 120lbs on a “heavy” day and I know I’m not going to put up the same weights as bigger, stronger girls. But that’s the beauty of CrossFit, right? You don’t need to be great at any one thing, you just need to be pretty good at everything! And throwing around massive amounts of weight doesn’t necessarily transfer over into being good at pull-ups, handstand push-ups, or burpees. However, I’ve noticed at each competition that I’ve gone to, even the smaller girls seem to be immensely strong, putting up some huge numbers, and they are ALSO great at the bodyweight movements.

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This is the moment when I start to battle with that demon known as self-esteem. Why do I work so damn hard every day if I’m only going to be mediocre? Seriously, what’s the point? And what can I change to get better? Stay more on top of my nutrition? Get more sleep? Take more supplements? Spend more time in the gym? Spend less time in the gym? Follow different programming? Hire a coach? The list goes on. I have flash backs to my middle school and high school days, where I pretty much quit every sport that I ever played if I didn’t feel like I was one of the best. Gymnastics, soccer, volleyball. I was way too competitive and hard on myself to settle for being mediocre, so I would just take the easy way out and quit.

Yesterday I competed in a team competition called Flex in the City. Team competitions aren’t so bad because you’re all in it together. You can’t get too down on yourself if you don’t do as well as you had hoped, because you know it was a group effort. However, I still found it hard to get out of my own head. Rather than looking around at all of the strong athletes and being inspired, all I could think about was how I’m never going to be as good as them. A terrible attitude, I know!

So how do I make myself feel better? How do I get myself back in the gym to train on Monday and not feel like I’m wasting my time? I remind myself of the reason that I fell in love with the sport of exercise. It’s having fun while you’re training and doing what you love with the people you love.

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It’s inspiring others not with your ability to win, but with your passion and no-quit attitude.

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It’s setting goals and looking at how far you’ve come. Over the past year, I’ve added 23lbs to my snatch, 20lbs to my clean, 30lbs to my overhead squat and 15lbs to my back squat. I’ve gone from not being able to do one muscle up to stringing 3 together in a workout. To being able to do strict handstand push-ups and chest to bar pull-ups. And I’m not going to let one competition make me forget that.

So will I do another competition? Of course. Will I go through the same internal battle of thinking I suck? Without a doubt. But will I continue to push myself to get better? You bet your ass I will. And I know that one day it will all pay off.

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The Secret to Getting Better at CrossFit

This entire post is written to explain a very fundamental concept (and also to post some of the awesome shots that Super Cleary Photo took at our comp last weekend): to get better at CrossFit, you have to…CrossFit. That means showing up. That means practicing skills. Seems obvious, right? But I’m always surprised by the number of people that seem to forget this concept, myself included.

I’ll give you an example. Like every other crossfitter, I wanted to be able to do a muscle up. So every once in a while, I would jump up on the rings, attempt one, and get super frustrated when I would fail over and over again. I didn’t understand! I used to be a gymnast, how hard could it really be?! I knew I was strong enough. I could do pull-ups and dips for days. And anyone who looked at me was always shocked when I said I wasn’t able to do one. They would say, “That can’t be right. Just try it!” That would only add to my frustration and before I knew it I would be down on myself and ready to quit trying all together. It wasn’t until I finally checked my ego at the door, starting doing drills and working with a spotter, that I began to see progress and before you know it, I had one! And then I had two! A week later I completed my first workout Rx’d (as prescribed) with muscle ups and even though it took me longer than it should have due to a few failed attempts, I was beaming with joy afterwards.

I see this with a lot of beginner crossfitters. They start going to classes, and immediately want to be proficient in all of the Olympic lifts and gymnastics movements. When they can’t do something, they get frustrated and decide that they’re just never going to be good at certain skills. They act as if everyone who is able to do double unders, pull-ups, handstand push-ups or snatch over 100lbs is just naturally gifted and was able to do everything overnight. Ha, if only that were true. I repeat: to get better at something, you have to practice. That means a few things:

  1. Show up, regardless of the workout. “I’m not going today because there are cleans and I suck at those.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re always going to suck at them with that attitude. 56811197-2014-11-16-01109
  2. Put in the work. Want to get better at the Olympic lifts? Go to barbell club or oly class or whatever supplemental class that your gym offers. If you gym doesn’t have one, find one that does. Or ask a coach to work with you. Take a seminar. Sign up for private training. Practice drills in your apartment with your broomstick (I’m guilty of this). There are countless options.
  3. Commit. If you want to get better at CrossFit, you’re going to have to CrossFit. You can’t just show up once or twice a week, on top of running and spinning and barre class or whatever other forms of exercise you’re holding on to. I’m not saying that you have to quit everything else that you love, but you’re going to have to make CrossFit your main focus if you want to get better. “But I don’t want to just CrossFit, I’ll get bored and my body will get used to it.” If this is your mindset, then I guess no one ever explained the definition of CrossFit, particularly the constantly varied part. If you belong to a gym with good programming, you’ll find plenty of variety.  When I first started, I held on to my old gym membership for the longest time, afraid, as most people are, to totally commit to CrossFit. After a couple of months, I four that I was using it less and less, and even when I was going to the gym, I was frustrated by the lack of adequate equipment (how does a gym not even have a pull-up bar) and pointless exercises I saw people doing. I finally cancelled and put that money to better use…new oly shoes and barbell!
  4. Prioritize strength. Many people who begin CrossFitting will find that their endurance builds up quickly. Rowing, burpees and box jumps? No problem! Everyone loves a good sweat and associates that with an awesome workout. But that is only part of it. Add any barbell movement, and their numbers haven’t budged a bit. At first, this is totally normal. You must learn how to clean and snatch properly before you can start throwing around heavy weight in a workout. But if a year later, your technique is somewhat dialed in but find yourself lifting the same exactly weights, you may need to rethink your priorities. Hopefully your gym will program strength and you’ll find gains there. But if you’re only showing up on squat day every few weeks, with no increase in weight because you really have no idea of your numbers, you’re not likely to get any stronger. Why does it matter if you’re strong? Well, the lighter the weights feel during a workout, the faster your times are likely to be, and the less fatigued you will feel for the other movements. Think about it.

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Listen, I know it’s hard. I have had countless frustrating days in the gym, lately more than I’d like to admit. But each time I have to take a step back, remember how far I’ve come, and keep pushing forward.

Don’t believe me? The first video below is from June 2013 and the second is from August 2014.

In the top video, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t overhead squat at all, had no idea what the hook grip was and didn’t really understand what the snatch was other than ripping the bar from the floor to overhead. How did I get better? I signed up for a snatch seminar taught by a couple of great coaches. The first day was spent doing drills. In fact, I’m not even sure if we touched a barbell, which can be frustrating when you know you’re strong enough to lift more than a PVC pipe. But each Saturday for about 6 weeks we would meet and each week we would see improvements. I can proudly say that my snatch is my best lift and I feel comfortable teaching it to anyone because I learned it from scratch. And while I can sympathize with the frustration of feeling like you’re never going to get it, I have video proof that if you put in the work, that is 100% not true. And the best part is, there’s always more to learn. Once you think you’ve mastered something, you find out another way you can improve. That’s what keeps me coming back day in and day out.

Bottom line: If you want to improve at something, you have to practice. Want to run a marathon? Get out and run. Want to be a body builder? Start doing your curls and weighing your food. Want to become better at CrossFit? Get your ass in the gym and….CrossFit!

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I Don’t Want to Look like Her

It has been brought to my attention lately that there are several misconceptions surrounding the topic of girls and looking “muscular.” Here are a few of the statements that have crossed my radar, either directly or indirectly:

  1. You don’t need to get any more muscular.
  2. I don’t want to train with her because her legs are too big and I don’t want to look like her.
  3. I’m scared of getting bulky.
  4. I’ve gained too much muscle. I should go back to only doing “cardio.”

The list goes on.

I have a few thoughts…

1. Not everyone works out purely for aesthetics.

It is often assumed that everyone is working out for “toned” arms and a six pack. But the truth is, everyone has different goals. Some people want to be faster. Some want to get stronger. Some want to improve in a sport. Some want to prevent illness. Some want to socialize. Some want to sweat. Some want to fit into their jeans from 10 years ago. Whatever the case may be, everyone has different goals and motivations for working out.

My goal right now is to become a better Crossfit athlete. This involves getting stronger, faster and working on my olympic lifts and gymnastics skills. Is it going to give me the body I want? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve seen a lot of changes in my body over the past year but that has not been my main focus, simply a result of the way that I train. If I wanted smaller traps and leaner legs, I might train differently. I might eat differently too. But my workouts and my diet align with my goals and for anyone to tell me to stop getting more muscular just makes me want to get stronger.

2. I would never walk up to you and tell you not to get any fatter.

I might think it in my head, but it wouldn’t be an appropriate thing to say out loud. So why is it ok to tell someone not to get any more muscular? It comes off as insulting and is just as offensive. Think before you speak!

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3. Everyone’s body is different.

To say you wouldn’t workout with a trainer because you don’t like their body is just ignorant. Trainers are professionals. Their job is to listen to your goals and help you achieve them, whether that goal is to lose weight, gain weight or get stronger. What they won’t do is sculpt you body to look exactly like theirs. That’s not even possible so remove that thought from your mind.

I used to look at other girls’ bodies and think, I want to look just like her. I still find myself doing it on occasion and have to remind myself that my body is my body and nobody else’s. We are all built differently. We carry fat in different places. We gain muscle differently. We have different bone structures. Once you come to terms with that and focus on things that are within your control, you’ll be a much happier person.

4. It takes years to put on a significant amount of muscle.

Someone asked me after class the other day how long it would take before she looked like me. I’m not always sure how to respond to statements like that. One thing that people don’t realize is that I’ve been weight training for years. I may not have been doing as much heavy lifting as I am now, but since the age of 16 I have been incorporating weight training into my workout routine at least twice a week and I know that has been a solid foundation for where I am now, both aesthetically and as an athlete. Granted, none of my muscle really showed until I cleaned up my diet a bit and stopped drinking like a fish, but that’s its own topic…my point is, you’re not going to “bulk up” or “get shredded” overnight. It takes a little longer than you might think.

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And to add to that, just because you put on muscle doesn’t mean you’re going to get larger. Your body composition will change as well, which means that you’ll gain lean muscle mass while you shed some of the fluff on top of it. I’ve gained about 10 pounds in the past year (not all muscle but I like my ice-cream) and I still fit into all of my clothing. I just show a little more cheek in my booty shorts 😉 Oh and I can see abs for the first time in my life. I never thought that gaining weight would give me abs! Funny how wrong we can be sometimes.

5. It’s all relative.

When people use the word “bulky,” it’s very unclear what they mean. Are they referring to bodybuilders? Competitive athletes? Do they consider me bulky? Everyone has a different opinion. Below are some of the strong women that I look up to and that I’m sure have been referred to as “bulky” at some point in their lives. I honestly can’t understand who wouldn’t want to look like these women, whose bodies represent hard work, dedication, strength and beauty, but to each their own.

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Andrea Ager

Jackie Perez

Jackie Perez

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Christmas Abbott

I think a lot of it comes down to our surroundings. If you surround yourself with people that are obsessed with being thin, you’ll start to obsess over it too. I get it – I’ve been there too. I used to want to be skinny. I couldn’t have cared less how much I could clean or snatch. I just wanted to fit in my size 0 jeans. But then I found myself surrounded by people who valued performance over looks, who saw girls with curves and muscles as admirable and beautiful rather than bulky and manly, and my outlook began to change. And that has made me a much happier and healthier person.

So what is my point here? If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you should probably keep your mouth shut. Just kidding (kind of). I guess my point is that everyone has their own prerogatives and it’s not up to other people to tell them what they should or should not do. Do what makes you happy and let other people do the same.

It’s Training Time!

So you’ve signed up for your first Civilian Military Combine. Congrats! Now you’re wondering, what did I just get myself into and how do I make sure I’m prepared? Well, that’s where we come in! We’ve got about 8 weeks to get you CMC ready, so we’ve put together an 8 week training program that includes conditioning, strength, endurance and skill work that will have you ready to crush both the Pit and the obstacle course on May 17th.

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The graphic above gives a breakdown of how each week will look. Each Friday, we’ll post the program for the following week in here.

Below is a description of each of the different program elements.

MONDAY

The Pit: This is your opportunity to practice the Pit. The first week, we will ask you to choose the Pit division (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, or Delta) that you think you’ll be doing race day. See the graphic below for a description of each. You’ll track your reps completed and use that as a benchmark for when you do the Pit again a few weeks later. After the first week, we’ll provide you with variations of the Pit (7 minutes instead of 5, heavier weights, etc.)

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Conditioning: This will typically consist of a shorter run or row or interval training. The objective is to get your body conditioned for the obstacle course as well as the Pit, and to test your work capacity after completing the Pit.

TUESDAY 

Strength: Tomorrow, we’ll be posting details on how to create a strength program, so stay tuned. If you’re relatively new to strength training and going to be doing it once or twice a week, we recommend that each session be full body. This will also ensure that you’re not focusing only on arms or legs one day so that you’re too sore to continue training the next day. Tuesdays we recommend performing fewer reps at slightly heavier weights to focus on building strength. Each strength session, we will recommend a movement that you should incorporate. For example, pull-ups, dips, seated row, etc.

Skill work: These will be focused on getting you ready for the obstacle course and will include things such as farmers carries, bear crawls, rope climbs, tire flips, etc. We know that everyone might not have access to all of these things, so we encourage you to get creative!

WEDNESDAY 

Endurance: This will be a longer conditioning piece. We’ve included recommendations – stairs, run, row, etc, as well as a time period or distance.

THURSDAY

Rest Day: This is just as important, if not more, as the other days! Your body has been working hard the past three days and needs to rest! Spend some time mobilizing. (we’ll post more on how to do this later) or get a massage. If you really need to move, go for a walk or a yoga class. Then rest up so that your body is ready to go hard for the rest of the week!

FRIDAY 

a2aWOW: We’re going to continue posting our a2a Workouts of the Week, and this time they will specifically be catered to getting you ready for the CMC.

Conditioning: Friday’s conditioning piece will usually involve stairs. The Poconos course is not flat and we want you to be ready to climb! As we progress, we’ll add objects for you to carry while climbing the stairs. These can be done on a stairmaster/stepmill or outside.

SATURDAY

Strength: This is your second strength session of the week and we recommend performing more reps with lighter weights to increase your muscular endurance. Again, we will suggest movements that you should include.

Skill Work: Similar to Tuesday, we will recommend a skill for you to practice.

SUNDAY 

Rest Day: You’ve worked hard this week! Spend some more time on mobility, eat something yummy, and get ready to get back to work on Monday!

We hope this gives you a good picture of how we would recommend training for the CMC. Obviously, we know everyone’ s schedules are different. You might not be able to start your week on Monday and rest Thursday/Sunday, and that’s fine. Adjust how you see fit. Don’t want to skip out on your favorite spin class? Totally cool – there’s your endurance! High Intensity training studios such as the Fhitting Room (aka come to Julia’s class!) are also great ways to work on your conditioning and muscular endurance.

In addition to the training program, we will be posting weekly tips for you, which will include ways to be efficient in the Pit, what to wear on race day, nutrition, etc., so follow us on Instagram – @average2athlete and @Powercakes – to be kept in the loop.

Finally, be sure and check out our Meet-ups page, where you’ll find opportunities to come practice the Pit with us! For those of you in the NYC and Pittsburgh areas, once the weather breaks, which it looks like it finally might (finger’s crossed!), we’ll be hosting meet-ups outside as well. Stay tuned for more dates!

CMC 101: What is it and why should I care?

WHAT THE HECK IS THE CIVILIAN MILITARY COMBINE?

So, you’re thinking about joining our team for the Civilian Military Combine, but you’re still not quite sure what it entails. Well, beyond encouraging you to visit the CMC website and watch their awesome pump up video, we figured it was about time we wrote a post about it.

To give you the quick and dirty version, the CMC is a combination of a short, high intensity workout, known as “the Pit”, immediately followed by a 4+ mile race packed with military-inspired obstacles – climbing walls, crawling through mud, pushing sleds – that kind of stuff. The race was co-founded in 2010 by Matt Keller and Sean Rogers, two former college roommates. As mud races gained popularity, they participated in their fair share, and while they had a blast doing them, they felt there was an element missing. They wanted to add a piece that would require athletes not only to excel in speed and endurance, but also strength and power – enter: The Pit. Moreover, Matt and Sean both have close military ties, and they wanted a way to bring both civilians and military together to raise awareness and honor those who have or are currently serving. Thus, the Civilian Military Combine was born.

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HOW IS THE CMC DIFFERENT FROM ALL THESE OTHER MUD RACES THAT I HEAR ABOUT? 

Two words: The Pit. The Pit is the revolutionary piece that is completely unique to CMC. No other race has anything like it. The combination of the Pit and obstacle course has attracted thousands of hybrid athletes that do not specialize in one aspect of fitness, but aim to excel across the board – from power and strength to endurance, agility and speed. In other words, being well-rounded instead of specialized works to your advantage here.

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Another cool thing about the CMC is that 80% of participants register as part of a team. This doesn’t mean that you have to remain with your team throughout the entire race (yes, I know some of you are super competitive), but you all enter the Pit in the same heat and start the race together, and let me tell you that knowing you’re surrounded by a team of your biggest supporters as you walk into the Pit is HUGE!

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WHERE DOES A2A/POWERCAKES COME INTO THE PICTURE? 

Having participated in a couple of CMCs in the past, we were beyond AMPED and honored when Sean contacted us about creating a team and having a presence at the race this year. So we met with him (over a workout, of course), and were immediately blown away by his energy. Those who have run the CMC before might recognize him as “the guy on the mic.”

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His enthusiasm for CMC was infectious, and we could tell right away that this is going to be a huge year for them, and that we wanted to be a part of it. As we began putting a game plan together and reaching out to people about joining our team, we thought of our good friend, Kasey, AKA of Powercakes, and thought, why not team up with another fitness powerhouse, create a super team and race the CMC together?!

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HAVE YOU RACED A CMC BEFORE? WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

We were introduced to the CMC a year ago, by our good friend and trainer, Dennys, and signed up for our very first race in New York City last April. We weren’t really sure how to train, so we just continued working out like we normally do and threw in a “Pit Practice” once a week. It was a FREEZING cold spring morning and 7 minutes of the Pit left everyone sounding like avid smokers, but we powered through, pain faces included.

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The obstacle race for this one was short and sweet, just like we like it! A prowler push immediately followed by a sandbag carry up a gazillion flight of stairs, a few walls, farmers carry, cargo net rolls, and BOOM, we were done!

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Once we finished the race, all we could think about was signing up for the next event in September, which we did immediately (after a little post-race celebration…)

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September rolled around and we were stronger, faster and ready to rock. It was a much nicer day, and the atmosphere at the venue was infectious. There were dozens of teams getting amped up to compete – from gyms, Crossfit boxes, and random groups of friends. The energy was pretty incredible. As they called our team into the Pit, we each jogged to our stations, where our judges introduced themselves and reviewed each of the movement standards with us. As the countdown began – 3, 2, 1…GO!, the butterflies in our stomaches were in full force, and we once again why the heck we signed up for this. Once we started though, adrenaline kicked in, we found our own grooves and we kept pushing. Each time we wanted to stop and just lay there on the ground and catch our breath, we told ourselves, it’s only 7 minutes! You can do anything for 7 minutes! Plus, our judges were super encouraging and kept telling us what a great pace we were keeping, which helped a ton. Julia ended up going well beyond her expectations, outperforming her April performance by a long shot with 161 reps! Kayte rock in with 153 – a solid performance by average2athlete and our entire team!

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We then had about 2 minutes to recover before we were sent off into the obstacle race. The beginning was a nice jog, which most of us used as active recovery as we were still coming down from the Pit. We were then faced with about 3 miles of obstacles, from hopping over walls to crawling through mud, climbing cargo nets and pushing heavy sleds. It seemed to fly by because we were having so much fun. Even though our entire team got separated during the course, we were surrounded the entire time by athletes who were in the same boat, facing one obstacle at a time, helping each other over walls and coaching each other along the way.

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Crossing the finish line was a great feeling, especially knowing we had a cold beer waiting for us, but the best part was watching the other athletes coming through and seeing the combined look of pride, relief, and exuberance on each and every person’s face. Pretty awesome.

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We can’t wait to race again this year – not to compete, but to run alongside our teammates as they get to take part in this same incredible experience.

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And of course, to enjoy a post-race beer with a bunch of awesome athletes!

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OK, I THINK I’M INTERESTED…BUT WILL I BE ABLE TO HANDLE IT? HOW DO I TRAIN?

Don’t worry, we have you covered! To start, this year’s Pit includes 4 different variations of increasing difficulty, so that any athlete can participate, regardless of their fitness level or limitations.

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The folks at CMC will be posting videos with the movement standards for Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta very soon, so stay tuned.

As far as training, there are several things that you can do, and we’ll be helping you along the way:

  1. a2aWOW: Those of you who follow us on Instagram may have noticed that for the past several weeks, we’ve been posting workouts that people can do at home, requiring little to no equipment. These are typically meant to increase “metabolic conditioning” – aka get you read for the Pit. So take a look and start doing these if you haven’t already.
  2. Training Program: Taking the a2aWOW a step further, we’re going to be creating a training program for you guys. We’ll put together a calendar that will most likely include a day for the a2aWOW, a day to practice the Pit, a day of strength exercises (designed to increase your pulling strength for things like climbing over walls) and an endurance day, to help you conquer the obstacle course. Be on the lookout for this to appear mid-March!
  3. CMC Meet-ups: CMC will be hosting a series of meet-ups throughout the New York area, which will give participants the opportunity to practice the Pit and meet others who are doing the race. We will be attending several of these, and will let you know the exact dates and times.
  4. a2a-Powercakes Team Meet-ups: We will also be hosting our own meet-ups and will keep you informed via social media on dates/times.
  5. High Intensity Training – Learning how to push your body to maximum capacity and increasing that threshold is going to be the biggest factor in training for the CMC. Whether you are following our workouts, training on your own or with a trainer, taking classes or CrossFitting, high intensity training is key.

THIS BLOG POST WAS SO CONVINCING, I’M IN! WHAT DO I DO NEXT?

It’s pretty simple – all you have to do is follow this link to our team page and SIGN UP!!! Use the code CMC20 for $20 off. And stay tuned for more updates!

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Join the average2athlete-Powercakes Super Team!

Join the average2athlete-Powercakes Super Team!

Big news! We are extremely excited to annonuce that average2athlete and Powercakes are combining forces to create a joint team for the Civilian Military Combine on May 17th in Camelback, PA! Those who already follow Powercakes know what a key influencer she is in the fitness industry and one of our biggest fitspirations. We’ve been looking for the perfect opportunity to collaborate and we can’t think of a better way than inviting our fitfam to run alongside us in the first CMC of the year. To sign up for our team, click the image above or follow this link. Don’t forget to use the code CMC20 for $20 off registration!

Life on the Other Side

As many of you know, I left my marketing job about 2 months ago to pursue a full time career in fitness. To some, this may seem like a pretty risky move. It completely goes against any traditional career path or definition of “success” that has been drilled into most of our brains. And believe me when I say, I’m typically a pretty risk-averse person. Hence why I put off this career move for so many years despite the fact that there was always something in the back of my mind telling me I wouldn’t be happy unless I worked in fitness. But I chose to ignore that nagging thought in an attempt to find a “real” career. I mean after all, I do have student loans to pay. I’d be leaving a steady salary and benefits. Plus, wouldn’t my parents be disappointed to find out that their studious daughter with “so much potential” and an Economics degree from Duke was just going to become a personal trainer?

So I spent two years working in investor relations and two years working in marketing only to find that I was never completely happy. Sure, I went through phases, but I always kind of felt like I was wasting my time. Going through the motions because I felt I had to, and doing enough to get by but never really giving it my all. I could never be that great at my job if I wasn’t passionate about it, no matter how hard I tried. That’s just not me. My heart has to be there. And it wasn’t.

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(I felt that this post was lacking in pictures, so I decided to show you what I’m eating at this moment. Yes, that is a chocolate peanut butter milkshake. If you haven’t had Bareburger yet, I highly recommend you get with the program.)

One day I was browsing Craig’s List (yes, they list jobs there too) for anything fitness related that I might be able to squeeze in outside the hours of 9 and 6. I was fortunate enough to stumble across a listing from the Fhitting Room. I hadn’t heard of it, but I scoured the website and everything seemed very in line with my outlook on fitness. Functional training? Strong is the new skinny? Kettlebells? I could get into this. So I sent in my resume and hoped for the best. Lo and behold, they asked me to come in and take a class! Before I knew it, I had been hired and was co-instructing alongside Eric Salvador (I didn’t realize at the time the amazing learning experience that had just been handed to me with this one), Daury Dross, Ben Wegman and Amanda Butler. All star crew right there, if you ask me.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure at first how I was going to feel about teaching. I knew I loved working out, but would I love helping a room full of people work out? More importantly, would I be good at it? There was definitely an adjustment period. I am a shy person by nature and performing in front of a room is something that is VERY far outside of my comfort zone, so it took me a little while to come out of my shell. Because I have been working out on my own for so long, things like demonstrating, correcting form and programming came somewhat naturally to me. But learning how to own a room and really inspire people, now that takes work! Slowly but surely I started to get the hang of it, and I can now say that I absolutely love it. Yes, it’s exhausting, but it’s so much fun and best of all, it’s rewarding. Especially when you see people who show up consistently starting to get stronger, starting to move better. It’s an awesome feeling to know that you had something to do with that.

Ok, back to my saga. For about 5 months, I was teaching classes, going to work and trying to figure out how to squeeze in my own workouts in between (which usually happened at 5:00am before teaching class). I was so happy to finally be able to fit my passion into my life, that at first I didn’t mind the crazy hours. But after a couple of months, I was starting to burn out. A couple nights with 5 hours or less of sleep, fine. After a third or fourth night, I start to get the old eye twitch. I wasn’t able to focus at work, my workouts were starting to suffer, and I new that I wasn’t going to be able to maintain my schedule much longer. Not to mention that I was teaching on the weekends, which meant my social life was pretty much non existent at this point (although if I’m being honest, it still pretty much is, but I’m ok with that right now).

Finally, after bitching and moaning about wanting to quit my job, I realized what a brat I was being. The situation was completely in my hands and I needed to stop whining and take action. So, I set a date for myself. December 20th. That was going to be my last day of work. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pay my rent, but something told me that this was the right move and that it would all work out. And believe it or not, things are going great. I’m teaching, training private clients and working some front desk shifts at the Fhitting Room to make ends meet. I’m able to focus completely on building out my career doing something that I love, and that is such a relief. Am I still exhausted all the time? Sure. But it’s a different type of exhausted. It’s not from lack of sleep, but from busting my ass and putting all my energy into what I love each and every day.

For anyone out there who is considering following their passion but is hesitating because of the insecurity or negative stigma that comes along with it, I hope that maybe my story will inspire you. I’m not saying to quit your job right this second, but rather, start finding ways to incorporate your passion into your life, and when the time is right, take the leap. There is always going to be a little risk involved, but keep in mind that the hardest step is the first one. Once you’ve made the decision and decide not to look back, you’ll find a way to make it work. You’ll never regret leaving something that was comfortable, but you will regret not following you heart, especially when it’s too late.

Some Make it Happen

Ok, enough sappy talk for tonight. I’d like to end this post by sharing with you a few (very random) observations that I’ve made since beginning my career in fitness:

1. I don’t remember the last time I put on shorts or pants without an elastic waist band. Or shoes other than sneakers. Or a regular bra for that matter.

2. I’m hungry all the time. And I eat a lot of bacon. And a lot of ice-cream.

3. People assume that I have hours and hours of free time just because I’m not sitting behind a desk. If only this were true.

what-a-personal-trainer-really-does1

4. When I’m not working (or working out), all I really want to do is veg on the couch and decompress.

5. I don’t really consume alcohol anymore. I just can’t afford to be hungover. That being said, I could really go for a margarita right now.

6. I need to be with someone that understands and accepts my lifestyle, which will most likely be someone in the fitness industry.

7. There are always going to be critics out there. And all you can do is try to extract any value that you can from their critique, and then forget they exist and move on.

8. A killer workout can change someone’s entire day.

9. No matter how tired or run down I feel, I’ve learned to find that last ounce of energy and run with it.

10. Mondays are so much better to have off than Sundays.

11. You really can live your dream. It’s not a myth! But it’s up to you to make that happen.

Mean People Suck.

Have you ever been called a “health freak” or a “gym rat?”  Or been out to eat with friends and afraid to order something healthy from the menu for fear of them making fun of you? Or been teased for wanting to go to the gym after work instead out to happy hour? Or for leaving a party early so you could go home and actually get some sleep? Or been given crap for saying no to dessert? (Ok, that last one rarely happens to me because I physically do not know how to say no to dessert.)

Well, you’re not alone. I used to let the negative comments get to me. In fact, one of the reasons that I started average2athlete with Kayte was because I didn’t want my friends to get annoyed when I posted anything health or fitness related to my personal social media accounts. How silly is that? Your friends should support you in your endeavors and passions, no matter what. And if they don’t, then they’re not your friends. And if they’re not your friends, then who gives a crap what they think?!

I’m not saying that you should become a totally boring person who never goes out and orders salads all the time. In fact, please DON’T become that person. You need some balance in your life.

What I am saying is that it drives me NUTS to think that people are holding back from making healthy decisions because they are afraid of being judged, especially by their friends.

Small minds

If you are one of the “haters” (I actually hate that word but am lacking a better one at the moment), please stop. Don’t discourage people from bettering themselves. Ok, maybe you don’t care about the gluten free dinner that Sarah made last night that fit her macros perfectly, or John’s Crossfit WOD from this morning where he completed a gazillion thrusters and pull-ups for time, or how many miles Rachel ran last night for her marathon training. Maybe it seems like they are bragging or showing off. Even if they are, who cares? They are taking steps towards healthy lives and in the end, that’s what really matters. Instead of being concerned about what they’re doing, you should be asking yourself, “what am I doing to better myself?”

In fact, I know first-hand how large a role social media can play in one’s fitness journey. It’s a great way to track progress, and unlike logging something in your own journal, it adds another level of accountability. It also lends itself to helpful tips and fosters healthy conversation. I am so grateful that Kayte and I took a chance in starting average2athlete, as it has allowed me to discover an entire network of like-minded people that want to share their fitness journeys, whether they are veterans or just getting started. The feedback that we have received on our blog and the people that we have been fortunate enough to connect with, just through Instagram alone, has been incredible. And knowing that today my workout might inspire one more person to get up and be active makes any criticism that I receive totally worth it.

My point: there are too many truly inspirational people out there to waste time on any of the negative ones. Let them continue to live in ignorance. Ignore their nasty or sarcastic comments. Keep doing your thing – becoming a stronger, healthier, better version of you. They’ll catch on eventually.

Excuses…we all got ’em.

Hi friends, Julia here.

Sorry it’s been so long. We really are going to try and get better at posting, I promise. It’s just that blogging takes a while and sometimes life just gets in the way. Between jobs, and second jobs, and training, and cooking, and trying to find time to be social so that you don’t become a crazy cat lady (not that I own a cat, but I could), it can be hard to find time to sit down and write a blog post. And before you know it, three months have gone by and you realize you haven’t posted and you feel like a slacker and you’re letting the world down because obviously everyone is holding their breath waiting to see what average2athete has to say next. Right?

I can’t help but think this series of excuses sounds familiar. How often do people tell me that they want to start working out but they don’t have time? Or that they’re going to start once work gets less crazy, or once they finish exams, or once they’re done moving? The list goes on. My point is, there will ALWAYS be something in the way, but if something is important to you, then you will make time for it. And if it’s not important, then you won’t. It’s an adjustment, sure. But if you really want to get healthy, you HAVE to make time. There’s just no other way around it.

I’ll give you a personal example. A few months ago, I started teaching fitness classes at a studio called the Fhitting Room here in NYC. I absolutely love it. Not only has it given me a chance to share my passion for fitness with others, but it’s given me the opportunity to meet and learn from some pretty awesome people.

Badass tfr

And some creepsters too 🙂

However, as much as I love teaching, taking on a second job did interrupt my perfectly regimented schedule of getting up and working out first thing in the morning. Since I primarily teach early morning classes, I started having to find time to work out at night after work, and then I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep, and I’d be exhausted the next day after having to get up early to teach class. My workouts started to suffer, which was no bueno. I needed to figure something out.

I knew that my schedule wasn’t going to get any better, so I had to make some adjustments. I started getting up even earlier in the morning so that I could work out before teaching. Or, if I was teaching a really early class, I’d plan a shorter workout that I could squeeze it in after before heading off to work. Sometimes I still brave the gym at night. It’s not a perfect schedule, but I make it work the best I can.

That’s probably more insight into my schedule than you could possibly have wanted. My point is, we are busy people. Life happens. There are always excuses. I’m even going to provide you with an overused inspirational quote to emphasize my point.

Excuse

End of story.

And I’m going to try and take some of my own advice and make it a priority to blog more often. And if I don’t, feel free to call me out on it.

As always, I’ll leave you with a recipe so that you can take away something of value from this post. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m going to be lazy and give you a link to a delicious recipe for Sausage Spaghetti Squash Bake from PaleOMG that I made the other week. I modified and used chicken sausage, but you could use any meat really. Or scrap the meat and make it vegetarian. The best part was, it was super easy to make and still delicious after a few days. Meal prep win.

Squash

Wonder Thighs and Bulging Bi’s (and banana muffins)

Howdy folks. Long time no chat. I’m sure y’all were sitting on the edge of your seats for the past 6 weeks, wondering, “OMGEEEEE WHEN IS AVERAGE2ATHLETE GOING TO WRITE ANOTHER BLOG POST?!?!?!” Well, not to worry because here it is!

It’s actually been a crazy month for me. A few weeks ago, I started as an Assistant Instructor at a place called The Fhitting Room, a boutique studio here in NYC that offers small group circuit training classes – think TRX, kettlebells, dumbbells, rowers, bodyweight exercises and burpees , lots of burpees.

Studio

I’ll go into the studio itself and all of the awesome people there in more detail in a later post, but basically I’m teaching anywhere from 5-10 classes/week – on top of my current job – before work, after work, on the weekends, you name it. I actually wasn’t sure how I would feel about teaching classes, but it turns out that I ABSOLUTELY love it. It’s exhausting, yes. You have to be completely on ALL THE TIME. Especially in such a small studio (classes are 12 people max), clients pick up on every little thing you do.

He changed the music too much, she looked out the window one time, he let the clock run for 50 seconds instead of 45. Woof.

I’m still trying to get the hang of my schedule – balancing 9+ hour days at work, teaching classes and finding time to fit in my own workouts. But when I’m in that room and class starts, that hour flies by and I somehow muster up every last drop of energy I have to scream and jump around. Plus I’m getting to work with some amazing instructors that I’m learning so much from already. It really is a blast. For anyone in the NYC area, I’ll be posting my class schedule here on a weekly basis in case you want to drop for some fun.

1-Burpee baby

It’s fun to torture train people other than myself.

Long story short, life has been busy. In a good way.

Ok, this is where this post is going to get a little random…this is what happens when I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about body image, and why we have it so engrained in our heads that we have to be so damn THIN. I know the whole mindset now is supposed to be, “strong is the new skinny,” but I still don’t think that the majority of thinking has shifted. And even if it has, when people say “strong” are they really thinking about the amount they can squat? Or are they really thinking “toned,” in which case, the issue is still about body image.

motivational-fitness-quotes-strong-is-the-new-skinny

Pretty sure there’s some airbrushing going on in this picture.

I get caught up in it myself. I preach about focusing on performance goals instead of weight or pant size, but at the same time, I have days where I hate my body, feel like my arms and legs are huge (even if they are muscle) and wish that I could fit into skinny jeans better. I look at pictures and feel like my arms look so much bigger than everyone else’s. I beg my legs to get more definition, my hips to get smaller, my abs to show more.

So what do I do when that happens? Do I hop on the treadmill or the elliptical for hours, trying to burn fat and consequentially burn off the muscle that I worked so hard to gain? Do I drastically cut calories in an effort to lose weight and inevitably screw up my metabolism?

The old me may have done that. But not now. No way. I take a step back, give myself a little slap in the face and tell myself to STOP ACTING LIKE A CRAZY PERSON! I remind myself why I train and why I love it. It’s not to see my legs get smaller or the number on the scale drop. It’s to squat heavier, to do more pull-ups, to jump higher, to run faster. Because those are the things that ultimately make me happy and have and will continue to make me a stronger, more confident person. What is not going to make me happy is trying to fit someone else’s unrealistic standards.

This post from Elisabeth Akinwale sums it up perfectly. She also references the book Bossy Pants, in which Tina Fey spouts out a list of attributes that every girl is supposed to have:

Caucasian blue eyes
Full Spanish lips
A classic button nose
Hairless Asian skin with a California tan
A Jamaican dance hall ass
Long Swedish legs
Small Japanese feet
The abs of a lesbian gym owner
The hips of a nine year old boy
The arms of Michelle Obama
And doll tits

We totally have all those things, right?!

Point is, no more trying to achieve and maintain a body type that is not meant for me. So my legs aren’t as long and lean as I’d like them to be, so what? They’ve gotten me through some tough ass workouts and races and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to show my “wonder thighs” some love! And as for my arms? Well I’ll take the ability to bang out pull-ups and push-ups with the big boys over skinny arms any day!

thighs

We all have those days where we look in the mirror and just don’t like what we see. It happens to everyone. So take a deep breathe and don’t get too caught up in the whole being skinny thing. There are bigger and better things to focus on that will make you a heck of a lot happier.

On that note, I’m going to leave you with a recipe so that you at least walk away feeling like you’ve gotten some useful information out of this post. I made these muffins a couple of weeks ago, thinking they would be a great on-the-go snack for when I need a quick energy fix in between work and teaching class. Well, I forget that when I post baked goods on Instagram, people ask to try them and I have a hard time saying no and the 12 muffins that I made were gone in a day. Needless to say, I’ll be making these again soon…and I will not be posting pictures!

Grain-free Banana Protein Muffins

Makes 12

2 (very) ripe medium bananas
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 scoops vanilla protein powder (I used Oxy-elite Vanilla Icecream)
1 tbsp chia seeds
4 eggs
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (2%)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Cinnamon/vanilla to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix wet ingredients in blender. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and pour in wet mixture.

photo 1

Spray muffin tin with coconut oil and pour batter into tin.

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Lick bowl.

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Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. I would remove these from the muffin pan before they cool all the way because otherwise they’ll continue baking in the pan and can get dried out.

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Note: Amazing when slathered in almond butter.

Enjoy!


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