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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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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I Work Out Because __________ .

Why do you exercise?

Is it because you feel like you have to or because you actually enjoy it? Do you have goals? What are they? Aesthetic goals? Health goals? Performance goals?

The reason I ask, other than my general nosiness curiosity, is because the reasons that you choose to exercise can play a huge role in whether or not you stick with it in the long run, and ultimately, it can either prevent you from or enable you to reach your goals.

I’ll start by describing the two types of motivation that continue to drive people to the gym, track, box, studio, garage, or wherever their exercise venue of choice may be.

Motivation Hierarchy

The first is extrinsic motivation. This type of motivation is all about external goals and can include rewards, guilt, coercion and health and social benefits. It is doing things because we feel like we have to in order to achieve some sort of physical or social benefit.

Most people (including myself) begin to exercise because of extrinsic motivation – you want to lose weight for the summer, fit into your jeans, become more attractive, be thin, get abs. Your doctor may have told you that you needed to start exercising for the sake of your health. You may like the fact that exercising allows you to eat more of what you want and not feel guilty. Maybe there’s a cute guy or girl at the gym that you enjoy staring at and hope to have the courage to talk to one day. The list goes on.

You may be thinking, ok, at least I’m getting my butt to the gym. Why does the motivation part matter?

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Unfortunately, extrinsic motivation does not always persist in the long-run. It may get you to the gym, for a bit, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing anything worthwhile during your time there and you may not see the results you want. Or maybe you did get results, but then the summer comes to an end, and somehow your schedule is suddenly too busy to make it to the gym anymore. The fact of the matter is that you’re much more likely to stay motivated and reach your goals if you truly love what you’re doing.

Enter: intrinsic motivation. This type of motivation is based on internal goals. It is the desire to do things because we want to, not because we feel we have to. We exercise because we truly love and enjoy it. Intrinsic motivation is usually tied to a performance goal, like mastering a skill or sport.

But how do you find it? Well, you need to find some form of exercise you actually want to do. A skill or sport that you want to master. You may not know what it is right now, but try a few things out. Work with a trainer. Try out a Crossfit box. Sign up for a Spartan Race or a half marathon or anything that requires you to train for it.

Trust me, I didn’t hop out of bed one day thinking, I want to lift heavy weights! And do double unders and handstand pushups and pull-ups and…no. I just wanted to look good and after doing a ton of cardio and not seeing any sort of change in my body, I was fortunate enough to start working with a trainer who changed my entire outlook on things by making fitness fun and literally introducing me to a whole new world. And that’s when I knew there was no turning back. I was hooked.

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For the first time, a new level of intensity was brought to my workouts, and soon I wasn’t able to settle for anything less. I became motivated to work harder on my own. I wanted to learn new skills and to get stronger because I finally had goals. And those goals were not tied to a number on the scale or a pant size. They were performance goals. And I reached those goals. And I set new ones. And the more I continue to learn about this whole world of fitness and all of the different things I have to learn, the more excited I get to step into the gym each day.

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Why do you think people are so obsessed with Crossfit? Think about it, there are always new skills to learn. New PRs (personal records) to hit. And once you hit those, you set new goals for yourself, and you go after those. You focus on your performance. And guess what? Combined with a little healthy eating, your body changes and you forget about the scale. You’re focused on your goals and one day you look in the mirror and think, “holy crap, where did these muscles come from?!”

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Ok, that was a little bit of an exaggeration. Apologies for the shameless selfie.

But really, I encourage you to find what you love. It might take some exploring, but you’ll never know until you try. I can’t tell you how many people think they could never be into fitness until they’re introduced to it in the right setting and with the right attitude, and then they couldn’t get enough. I’ve been fortunate enough to have someone in my life that has made it fun for me and been a key factor in finding my intrinsic motivation. And there are people, or activities, out there that could do the same for you. You just have to go out there and find them. That’s the first step. The hardest and scariest step. The rest is easy 😉

The World of Fitness Competitions

If you follow us on Instagram, then you may already know that I decided last Monday to compete in a Fitness show on June 1st in New Mexico! I wasn’t planning to do any shows in the near future, but the opportunity came up and I couldn’t turn it down!  If you know anything about competing in the fitness world, then you know that 4 weeks is definitely a VERY short prep!  However, if you aren’t too familiar with this industry, you are in good company! I get a lot of questions from people about what a Fitness competition really is:

Is it body building?   What do you have to do?  What are the divisions?  What do you get if you win?  How do I get involved? 

So, I thought I would give a little run down to help clear some things up! If you are thinking about making the decision to compete, there are a lot of different factors to consider to help you decide what’s right for you.  I am not too familiar with the male divisions, so I apologize in advance if this is a little girly!

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Female Divisions – Obviously not everyone has the same build or fitness goals, so they have created divisions for every one! If you are considering entering a show, take a look at some of the body types that are in each division and decide what suits you and your physique goals in order to help decide the best fit.  Each division is judged using different criteria….and yes, this does involve walking and/or posing in a bikini in front of a lot of people!  Here is an overview of the breakdown:

1.) Fitness – This is the division that I compete in.  While there is a swimsuit round in all the divisions, this one is unique in that it also involves a routine round.  The routine can involve anything, but should highlight your particular skills like dance, gymnastics, cheer and strength! The fitness look generally is athletic, fit & toned.

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2.) Bikini – The appearance for this division should be fit, toned and feminine with the proper conditioning.  These ladies can strut and pose in a way that best highlights their strengths.

3.) Figure – These competitors generally carry more muscle than fitness or bikini competitors.  Often, unlike the bikini and fitness divisions, these competitors may have mandatory poses, whereas bikini & fitness choose their own.

4.) Body Building – This is just what it sounds like…ladies are judged on the mass, symmetry  & leanness of their body. This division, like figure, generally has set poses.

Competitive Organizations – There are many different organizations that host shows….and they all have slightly different rules, division requirements, pro status’ and prizes (if any.)  Some of the most well known are below:

So, if you’ve decided to compete and already picked a division and organization, what’s next?  Here are some tips on getting started:

Pick a show – Choose a local/smaller show for your first one.  It’s nice to work the kinks out in a small arena so you are comfortable when you hit the big stage!

Get a coach or mentor – Thank fully, I had some friends that had competed in the past.  They gave me some great advice and connected me with my fitness mentor Sheri McCall Vucick.  Sheri gave me the rundown with tanner, let me borrow her suit, gave me a meal plan, workout plan, music and helped with my routine!  She is kind of a rock star!

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Get a Meal Plan & Diet – Depending on the coach or program you choose, they may or may not provide this, but it is soooo important! You need to have a specific nutrition and training program that will be designed to make sure you peak on your competition day! This will also include drinking a TON of water!!

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Practice your walk, posing and routine (if applicable) – Those girls who step on stage may look like it comes to them naturally, but you better believe that they have walked miles in their heels to make sure it looks perfect!  It is so important to practice walking and posing!

If you have ever read Oxygen magazine, then you know Lindsay Messina.  She has put together a great group of women who work together to prep for competitions. If you are in the New York area, check out the New York Divas.  They meet most Saturday mornings for a workout and then practice posing and stage walk.  Check out one of Lindsay’s videos on the stage walk here.

Get your gearHere is a short list of what you will need once you make the decision to compete

  • Swimsuit/Bikini – Styles may change based on the division you select
  • Competition heels  – Generally clear and not too high that you can’t walk in them!
  • Tanner – Practice this before stage day!  I love Jantana & Dream Tan, but you have to find what works for you!
  • Glitzy jewelry – The more bling the better!
  • Costumes/Gown –Depending on the division/organization, you may need themeware or a gown.
  • Music/Theme/Costume  – If you decide to do fitness, you’ll need these for the routine.

Have Support – Last but certainly not least, you have to have support from your friends and family!  Competing can be like a roller-coaster, especially towards the end and after a competition.  It’s so important to surround yourself with positive people who will help move you towards your goal!

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If you are in the New York City area and would like some additional information or help with competition prep, I also offer privates for posing and routine choreography.  Message me for more info: average2athlete@gmail.com.